Chapter 10:

Project: Aftermath

Project: Overthrow

“This motherfucker almost got me killed.” Kurai stood over Daiki, who was now deeply unconscious in the lab, feeling both uptight yet sorry for him. “He coulda’ at least warned me before ‘telepathically’ controlling those droids to butcher every moving thing - or at least tell them to kill everyone who’s maybe not me.”

“It’s like he had no control over his body…I’m still shook, and trust me, I yelled and yelled at him and he still didn-”

“Who the hell listens to you anyway, Masumi? That proves nothing.”

“I was not done, thank you very much.” She glared at Kurai. “Before you rudely interrupted me, I was gonna say that I eventually got to him. It makes me wonder… If I hadn't, what would have happened to him? What would have happened to us?” Masumi questioned, while the two of them picked up Daiki to gently rest him against the wall.

”Who knows…but there ain’t no point in questioning the possibilities. When it comes down to it, we won. He needs to do some fessin’ up to us, though”

“Yeah, I guess so… Oh, and thanks for getting me out of the capsule. I was getting really claustrophobic and the guts all over the floor from that brute we fought doesn't help.”

“I’ve seen much worse in my old days. This is tame.”

“Okay? Can we just get these people out and leave now? It’s really starting to smell.”

[The coast is clear! I’m not sensin’ anyone approaching yet, but you two better be on your guard anyway,” Bingus spoke through their earpieces. “Near the AI, there should be a bar that says ‘power supply.’ Crank it down, then flick all those switches off. Lastly, jab that large green button, BUT, make sure you do it in that order. Or else, you might be scoopin’ corpses out instead of survivors! Heh.]

“Roger that,” Kurai responded, aimlessly jambling with the lab control stations. He dragged his arm across random switches and buttons, in hopes that one would somehow trigger the capsules to deactivate and open.

“Kurai, did you literally not hear a word Bingus said?”

“Yes. Pull some switches, press some buttons. It ain’t that hard.”

“I’ll do it. Make sure Daiki’s hanging in there.” Masumi thoroughly followed Bingus’s instructions, cranking the bar, flicking switches off, and lastly hitting the ejection button. As a result, the twenty or so cryo-freeze capsules opened, a vacuum sealed steam hissing through the gaps. The outlanders’ bodies unfroze from contact with the humidity, and they awoke. Some of the older ones struggled to step out, and Kurai rushed to assist them safely, while the younger ones were already on the floor walking freely, though confusedly. One boy, however, struggled to jump from the height of the capsule due to his small size, so Masumi lifted him from under his arms to set him to safety.

“Hm?” Masumi noticed the boy weeping over her shoulder, wiping his tears with his fist. Saddened, she set the boy down and patted his red hair. “What’s the matter?”

“...T-they took me from my Mommy. I really miss her,” he spoke.

Masumi crouched to her knees, giving the boy a comforting smile. “I will take you to your mommy. I promise. What’s your name?”


“Sho, that’s such a cute name! I won’t leave you until we find her, got it?”

“G-got it.” Sho wiped away his last few tears.

Masumi stood once more, noticing an older lady approaching her.

“W-where am I?” she asked Masumi.

“It’s…a lot to explain right now, but please, nobody worry!” Masumi shifted her attention to speak to everybody. “You’re all in safe hands, and we’ll be helping you return to your homes!”

The people reluctantly gave each other glances of disapproval in Masumi’s proposition.

Eventually, a man spook up. “And how can we trust you? Who says you won’t keep us separated from our families and lock us up like dogs as they did?”

“Yeah…yeah, what that guy said!”

“He has a point…we’ve been experimenting on up until now. I wouldn't doubt it if we continue to be.”

“Well…uhm, W-we want-!” Masumi struggled to gather calming words, glancing at Kurai as if she needed desperate intervention from him, clearly out of her expertise.

“Oh, and I suppose you’d rather us just leave you here, right?” Kurai paced around the Outlanders, sticking a cigarette in his mouth and bringing a lighter to it. “Who knows what those sons-of-bitches would do to your helpless ass’s when they find out you escaped. Test subjects? Life prisoners? Nah, more like death. Persecution on the spot. No mercy, no hesitation.”

The room went silent, the outlanders shaking. Only the heavy gulp registered amongst them.

“Or…” Kurai calmly strided around them. “You can shut the fuck up, and let us help you. We want nothin’ more than to bring you home.”

The outlanders considered his two options. After a few affirmative nods and exchanged words, one of the men approached Kurai.

“Let’s get out of here.”

- -

For the first time since an eternity, Masumi watched the sun rise from beneath the earth. Despite the trash-littered miles of land it shone upon, such a rare delicacy to witness surpassed that reality. The warmth of the rays and the fresh breeze that grazed her face made city life in Tokyo meager in comparison.

Kurai pointed each outlander, now freed from Haven’s control, to their families. Hugs, smiles, and tears melted away the grief of the families, as for the first time in years, they were united once again.

“Mommy!” The small boy who Masumi held closely excitedly jumped in the air, continuously pointing at a certain lady in the crowd. “Mommy! Mommy!”

He grasped her attention after a few calls, and a short red-haired lady covered her face from disbelief, running toward the two.

“SHO!” the lady collapsed to her knees, tightly hugging the boy as if to never let him go again. Tears of happiness and fulfillment streamed down her face. “I…” she struggled to convey herself through the weeping. “I thought I’d never see you again. I thought I had lost you forever.”

Masumi clenched her teeth to restrain crying herself.

The lady kissed her son on the forehead, then stood, clearing her throat to regain her emotions. “I…I can’t thank you enough.” She bowed to Masumi. “You’ve given me my world back.”

“D-don’t worry about it!” Masumi waved her hands in front of her. “It was the least we could have done!.”

The lady extended her hand toward Masumi. “I’m Aiza, by the way. How did you find all of our missing people? I feel like I have more questions than I can ask!”

“Nice meeting you Aiza, my name’s Masumi, and no worries - I don’t doubt that you do! There’s no easy way to really say this, but these people - your son, they were subjects to a secret project that feeds brain waves for a…development that…Haven was conducting.” Masumi bit her lip, wondering if she had spoken too much.

“I didn't want to believe it,” Aiza responded. “I had inside intel that contained leaks about a project like this, but there was no solid proof to build a basis off it. I’m not one to conspirisize, so I refused to connect two and two together. I should have known…”

“Wow, even the city-dwellers are oblivious. I’m beyond impressed that this possibility even went through your head!” Masumi peered at Sho, who tightly hugged Aiza’s legs. “In the lab, each occupied capsule had a subject code next to it. With a quick search within Haven’s secured databases, we were able to find detailed descriptions about everyone- including their homes. Thanks to that, we were able to get them home safely!”

“That makes much mo-” Aiza cut her sentence, her attention averting to a loud cry.

“Why didn't you bring my wife?! WHERE IS SHE?” a young outlander man cried at Kurai’s feet.

In return, Kurai furrowed his eyes, giving him a stern glare. “The hell is with you? Stand up like a man!” Kurai practically yanked him to his feet, jarring the man enough that his cries abruptly paused.

“You think we didn't try? Huh?! You think I’m happy knowing that those sickening experiments got to her before we could?” he yelled at the man.

“No…no, you’re lying…” he wept.

Kurai planted his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Many years ago, I lost my wife, too. Not just her, but my whole damn family. Gone. Did it hurt like shit? It tore me. But you’ve gotta look forward, and face the cruelty of the world. That’s how survivors like us are born.”

The man restrained his tears, but they only accumulated faster at Kurai’s deep words. “Thank you…” he managed to say between the breaths of his cries.

“I can’t begin to imagine the suffering our people withstood.” Aiza’s stomach turned from the thoughts. “Not just them, but their loved ones. Us outlanders have lived through multiple lifetimes of struggles, and even so, we can never catch a break. If only…there was something that could be done.”

Masumi felt the second-handed pain, yet stuttered to find words that could express it. Regardless, she made a new internal vow.

“I’ll forever be in your debt, Masumi. Thank you, again. With Sho, I can finally start a new chapter of my life.” Aiza smiled.

“Trust me, I did little compared to who you really should be thanking. He’s not here today, but I wish he could have seen his reunion. I bet it would have meant a lot to him,” Masumi shifted the credit.

“Have him come by some day! Thanking him personally is the least I can do. He’s changed many lives.”

Masumi looked down to the ground, a hint of sadness showing through her face. “He’s been in a coma for almost a week now after a battle where he sustained serious head injuries. I’m…worried, but when he wakes up, I’ll let him know for sure.”

Aiza narrowed an eyebrow while contemplating a thought. “Say, this kind of sounds like a certain person I knew not too long back.”

“O-Oh, is that so? What’s his name?”

“It was Daiki.”

Masumi’s mind ran a marathon.

WHAT?! She knows Daiki?! How?! No…don’t tell me…is that his ex?! I didn't know he was into such…feminin ladies! I mean look at her, she is equipped in the front and back! Oh no… is that his type?! How obscene!”

“Uhmm…” Aiza nervously smiled.

“Sooo, how exactly do you know Daiki?” Masumi asked, her smile twitching.

“It’s kind of a long story.” Aiza giggled, rubbing the back of her head.

The vagueness of Aiza’s response heavily mis-led Masumi’s presumptuous thoughts. “W-were you friends?” she gestured for Aiza to continue talking.

Reading her reactions like a fully opened book, Aiza managed to hide it and attempt to disprove any misinterpretations. “Sort of - before he decided to leave me.” Her attempt at clearing the situation only dug it deeper. Noticing her mistake, Aiza quickly corrected herself. “It’s not what you’re thinking, I promise. We only aided him in his recovery. Just ask him for yourself.

“You bet I will be!” Masumi shook it off, realizing how off-course she had taken the conversation.

“They’ve all been claimed by their families, Masumi,” Kurai called. “Best we get goin’ before dusk.”

“T-Thank you.” Sho waved.

“I told you I’d keep my promise, see!” Masumi ruffled his hair.

- -

“Rghh…” A warm light caressed Daiki’s eyes. Instinctively lifting his arm to shield the sun that disturbed his rest, only then did he realize his fatigue from the uncontrollable jittering his wrist had from the movement.

“Agh!-” Daiki flinched his body from a sharp pain radiating from his head, turning to a side position on the futon he laid over. His body felt bedraggled, as if a one-ton crate had crushed every bone and ligament. Memories of the prior events flashed in his head, from the visions of Masumi’s screaming face and the vile Shareholder's pulped body.Hands still shaking, Daiki grabbed the temples of his head, while reliving the trauma like it was hours ago.

“What’s that sound?”

He jerked his head at the quick footsteps, unwillingly raising his guard. After Masumi’s small stature peaked from the corner of the doorframe, he calmed down. “...Masumi.”

“Daiki!” She threw her whole body at him from a yard away, embracing his torso with her arms. She planted her head on his chest, seeking the warmth of his body heat, until her face burned a vibrant red and he felt herself melt from embarrassment. In contrast to her hug, she shoved Daiki with his arms far out in front of her, awkwardly stepping away from him. “Uhm…sorry.”

“That’s…all right,” Daiki was not one to feel social discomfort, but this situation managed to make him feel otherwise.

“Oh shucks, get a room, you too!” Bingus appeared out of nowhere, startling both Masumi and Daiki. “I didn't intrude somethin’, did I?” he snickered, tauntingly closing his face toward Masumi.

“Bingus, I swear to God I’m gonna murder you one day.”

“Oh! I’m so scared!” He tightly hugged his own body to mock Masumi’s threat.

“Lover-boy finally came to his senses, huh?” Kurai leaned against the doorframe, smoking a cigarette as usual. “He’s got some explaining to do.”

“You, too?!” Masumi whined, hoping that she and Daiki could have had a longer moment.

“Tch!-” Daiki groaned from pain while he attempted to lift in a sitting position.

“Wait, don’t move!” Masumi guided his body back under the futon. “Your injuries were deadly, especially to your head. You underwent multiple episodes of concussions, so much so that it’s a miracle you’re even talking right now, let alone alive. It’s like the coma rejuvenated your brain injuries…”

“H-how long was I out?”

Masumi, Bingus, and Kurai glanced at one-another, wondering if they should tell the honest truth.

“Fourteen days.”

"Fourteen days?"

“There’s just no way.” Daiki, feeling defeated, threw his head back, wondering about his survival. Then it hit him: The infusion must have sped my cognitive healing. In exchange for this extraordinary ability, It’s as if I’ve given up a part of what makes me human. It’s…unnerving.

“Hey, Daiki…” Masumi said.

“What is it?”

“I simply can’t forget what I saw that day. His screams of agony - the torturous, slow death you made him suffer. That was not the Daiki I came to know. That was a monstrous imposter.”

“I…” The brewing guilt was enough for him to lose a response.

“I saw the footage,” Kurai intervened. “What Masumi is saying here is a severe understatement, kid. You’re hiding dangerous stuff from us. and I ain't gonna gonna let you an inche near- unless you fuckin’ explain. Now.”

“He just woke up and is clearly in pain. Kurai. Can it not wait like a day?”

“A ticking bomb is what he is. That day could cost us everything.”

Daiki could no longer harbor the burden to himself. Trust was one of many tools in his arsenal—something disposable. At least, that was what he used to think. Embarking a relationship with the people he met only grew him closer to his single goal; most importantly, however, they gave him the support and drive he was missing. Daiki realized that his bonds meant more to him than any secrets, and so he made his decision.

“He’s right, Masumi. I’ve…been selfish. Hiding secrets all for my own desire. What kind of a person am I?” He took a look at his palm, questioning himself. “But no longer. I’m letting go of that.”

The three of their attentions had been caught, and they eagerly waited for Daiki to reveal anything.

“I’m from the year twenty-fifty-three. In other words, thirty-five years in the past.”

“HAH! Good one.” Bingus laughed, completely brushing it off.

Annoyed, Daiki provided some context. “During my home era, Haven was a widely expanding cooperation, not the country-dominating hierarchy it is today. Their rise was imminent, the first red flag shown when they bought their competition instead of beating it. The monopoly had begun to rule the market, but never did we expect them to triumph above the authority of the government.”

“It’s as the history books say, though maybe not so… explicit,” Masumi commented.

“Yeah. Tell us something we don’t know.”

“I was the leader of a rebellion,” Daiki got to the point. “Each of my comrades had suffered some way or another from Haven’s heinous acts. They…took my sole purpose in life from me. They stole the final wish my parents left - to protect my sister. Conducting inhumane tests within those capsules to advantage her intelligence, I refused to let her suffer. With our tragedies to drive out desire for justice, we planned a large attack, but the final clash against Haven resulted in a devastating defeat, with my comrades losing their lives. Not only did I let down my parents, friends, and sister - I let down the future of this world.

“But…for some twisted fate, I was the sole survivor along with my closest comrade. All I remember was being on the brink of death, and a vow he whispered to himself to make sure I live no matter what. As a last resort, he injected me with an unstable nano-tech enhancement I had developed off of Haven’s mistrials. The transfusion failed to react, which forced him to lock me in a cryo-freeze capsule to preserve my weakened life. Next thing I remember…” Daiki shook his head. “I was awoken by the outlanders to a city of ruins, and thirty-five years later, I was born as the first advanced sentient. The key to unlocking the brain transfusion was time, something Haven neglected to give, and the injection prevented my brain from killing cells due to decay, ultimately sparing my life while taking effect all those years.”

Daiki lifted his head, facing the three of them with a stern look. “In other words…I’m what Haven’s been striving to create all these years…the first human AI.”

Not a single one of them said a word, as none could do justice to the story they had just heard.

“That’s how you were able to hijack the MOS that day…”

“Precisely. In desperate situations, it feels as though every neuron in my brain fires to my AI instincts, temporarily transforming me into a merciless android where I have no control over my consciousness. Someone I knew called it overdrive. That’s what you witnessed that day, Masumi, and I’ll regret it forever.”

“Sounds like a fabricated story to me.” Kurai flicked his cigarette bud to the floor.

Masumi, upset from his doubt, opened her mouth to say something back, but held it after he decided to speak more.

“Or so I woulda’ said if I hadn't seen the effects of it for myself. Sometimes, you gotta see it to believe it, and I know my eyes don’t deceive,” He nodded.

Bingus scratched his head, unable to read the room. “Sooo, shit. Is he in or not? Stop beating around the bushes and cut to the chase.”

“Welcome to the gang, Daiki.” Kurai smirked from the side of his mouth - the first time any of them had seen that look in him. “AI on our side? Those bastards don’t stand a chance.”


A month later…

Dressed in modern streetwear, Daiki strolled through the heart of Tokyo, Shinjuku station. The midnight city flourished, with the bars and casinos bustling with rich folks looking to lose themselves in gambling and liquor until sunrise. The city may have changed since his era, but the sounds of traffic, chatter, and ads were as urban as he remembered. As expected for the massive commercial center, Haven propaganda was posted on every advertisement in sight, with not a single spotlight offered to other companies.

Daiki peered into the sky, watching the clouds separate from the sky-scrapers that nicked the orbit of earth. Although the naked night was mostly obscured, he saw a glimpse of the glittering stars.

“I'll never forget those nights with Aiza. The same stars she turned to hope for…perhaps are the ones that seem to guide my path, too.”

He found himself in his thoughts while enjoying his walk towards his destination.

“She didn't hold back scolding me when I visited again. After abandoning her like that - I definitely deserved it. The punch straight in the gut from Marko? That…maybe not.”

“I made a difference. For once, not one towards my own ambitions, but for the sake of others. Aiza reunited with her son…”

Daiki reached his arm into the sky, pinching the stars between his fingers.

“ me hope of reuniting with Nera.”

The lights of the screens posted on every corner reflected off the glass surface of the buildings, and Daiki glanced to take a look at himself.

However, what he saw in the reflection felt like a spear suddenly piercing his heart, causing his legs to numb from fright. Daiki stumbled on his locked legs, where he witnessed not only his pupils glowing a vibrant blue, but the sclera of his eyes divulging into a pitch black void; darker than anything he had seen in his life.

Although unsure of what had taken affect, he trembled while grieving the possibilities.

“W-What…?” he reached with his fingers to touch under his eyelids. Though, after the horror of what he saw, his hand trembled while doing so.


Daiki nearly jumped from the incoming call he heard through his earpiece. Realizing it was only a ringtone, he shook off his gut sensation and tapped his earpiece.

“Y-yeah?” he spoke.

[“...What’s up with you? This morning, you were all over the top but now you sound completely deprived of emotion. Guys are so confusing,”] Masumi noticed his shift in behavior.

“Just get to it.”

“I know more than anyone how convoluted you can act, but this is sudden - even for you. Are you alright?”

“My bad, I’m fine,” Daiki avoided it. “I’ve almost reached the destination. Right around the corner, I see the building you described. Who am I meeting with anyway?”

[“You’ll see for yourself. If anything goes wrong, call me or Bingus. We’ll be on guard.”]

“Got it.” Daiki hung up the call, squeezing through a group of people to cut through a corner.

In front of him stood a modest building, minute in size when compared to the surrounding sky-scrapers, since he could see where the tip came to an end. Rotating the revolving doors and entering, he was surprised when it was completely ghosted of life.

“Must be abandoned.”

He started towards the elevators, which somehow operated despite the interior's rusty state.

“Floor forty-three…”

Daiki tapped the corresponding button, causing the elevator to slowly rise. He felt at unease, unaware of what could be awaiting him on the other side. Here he was, nonetheless, as he watched the elevator doors separate.

In the empty room laid a large conference table, with a peculiar man to fill a seat in the corner. He sat relaxed, with his legs crossed and his chin over his first, an impression of a grin peeking from the corner of his mouth.

Daiki narrowed his eyes, unable to recognize the individual. The man appeared in his late forties, a scraggly beard covering his aging face with a slicked back hairstyle. He watched as the man stood, revealing a fit stature in spite of his age.

“You’re one tough son-of-a-bitch, Daiki,” he profoundly smiled.


Daiki widened his eyes from sudden realization, recognizing that voice from a mile away- even if it had come from a body much older than he remembered. His dropped mouth shifted to a smirk, and he walked towards the man.

“Thirty-five years after shoving me into that damned capsule, and that's the best thing you’ve got to say, Akito?”