Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 10

“Wh-what do you mean by war, Master?” Clippy asked nervously.

Requiem chuckled, shaking his head. “Just an expression. If I have any intention of winning this competition, I’ll need weapons.”

“You mean, like a sword or something? The rules seem to state no firearms.”

“No…” Requiem began walking back to the inn that bore his namesake, “Tell me, Clippy…what is the strongest weapon a man can possess?”

“Eh?” Clippy made a strange noise. “Is this like some kind of riddle or something?”

“Knowledge, Clippy,” Requiem sighed. “Knowledge is as sharp as any blade.”

Clippy didn’t respond, but even though her physical manifestation had already disappeared from his sight, he had the feeling she had a clueless look on her face. Ignoring that, he approached the inn and had to slow down and push through a crowd to get inside. At the sight, he almost went back outside to check and see if this was the same place until  he saw Ginger running by without even noticing his presence.

The inn was crowded now. There wasn’t a single table without someone sitting at it, and Ginger looked completely desperate as increasingly more people flowed into the inn. Her grandma was sitting behind the counter now taking orders and filling out requests, but it looked like Ginger was responsible for cooking, waiting the tables, and providing any other anonymous requests.

The third time she passed by, she finally noticed Requiem standing there. She stopped briefly and gave a quick nod.

“I’m sorry. It looks like people started coming to town to watch the tournament. I had no clue it was going to be this busy. You are lucky to already have a room reserved because we’re already booked!”

“Is that so?”

Requiem wasn’t terribly interested in Ginger’s problems. In fact, being busy should be a blessing for a stuttering business like her own. He did have a question for her, but he decided not to waste her time. However, to his surprise, she didn’t immediately walk away. Instead, her face seemed to twist as if she was considering something unpleasant. It was an expression that told Requiem she wanted to say something to him but didn’t know how to word it.

“Do you know where I can find a store to buy robotic parts and electronics? I also need to gain access to the internet.”

“Eh?” The question seemed to catch Ginger off guard, and she made a weird noise. “Oh, that… er… um… I mean, yes. If you go to the other side of the town square, you can find Rudy’s, that’s the parts shop. What is the internet? Is that like the intraweb? This town gets a shit connection, but a few places have access. There is a web café on the other side of town.”

Requiem nodded after receiving the information and then turned to leave.

“W-wait!” Ginger reached out and grabbed Requiem’s arm.

Her other arm was currently holding an empty mug that likely had once held some kind of wheat based alcohol beverage. Requiem turned back. He knew she had wanted to tell him something, but he didn’t want to waste time trying to tease the information from her. If it was important enough, she should simply tell him. She still held her silence for a few seconds before closing her eyes and muttering something unintelligible under her breath. When she opened them again, it looked like she had made her decision to talk.

“Requiem… um… sir… I know this is wrong of me to ask, but I might need your assistance tonight.”

“I have the banquet tonight. Is there a problem?”

“Eh? Pr-problem!” Ginger’s eyes opened wide and she looked left and right as if this was a conversation that shouldn’t be touching anyone else’s ears. “N-no… no problem. Wait, you… you were invited to the noble’s banquet!? How? No… nevermind that.  Um… just stop by… late tonight… please. The lobby shuts down at three in the morning, meet me then-“

“Oi… girl, some service!” There was a shout from one of the tables.

This seemed to prompt several other people to start shouting too, and suddenly the bar became quite noisy. Requiem gave her a tight nod.

“I will come.”

Ginger returned a relieved look and a nod of her own before turning and running back to the front desk to pour some more drinks. Requiem went through what he knew about the situation. He wondered if this had anything to do with the sick mother. He really didn’t want to get involved, but Ginger had already proven to be a reliable source of information. At the very least, he could hear her out.

Requiem left the crowded area and began heading to the location that Ginger had indicated. Sure enough, just across the square was a small shop called Rudy’s. At this point, he noticed that Clippy was projecting herself in his vision and walking aside him now. She wore an unpleasant look on her face, and Requiem could only sigh at the prospect that he had picked such a difficult AI to work with.

“What is it?” he finally asked.

“What do you think she wants in those twilight hours?”

“I couldn’t guess. I suspect she wants something involving her mother.”

“Her mother?” Clippy froze. “That’s echii!”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Requiem turned to her and spoke loudly enough that a few people close to him gave him strange looks.

Even though he could hear and see Clippy, no one else did, so it must look like he was talking to himself. However, what Requiem saw was Clippy walking with her head down, her face bright red, and her pointer fingers pushing against each other. She was mumbling something Requiem could only hear because of his better than normal auditory processing power.

“To think… she not only wants to do this and that… she wants to involve her mother as well… They say men like it when they can have the mother and the daughter at the same time…”

Requiem decided to start ignoring what Clippy was saying. He didn’t go so far as to literally mute her voice, but he instead entered the store and focused on buying the parts he needed. As he continued to collect parts, Clippy had finally collected herself and started watching curiously over his shoulder.

Requiem picked out a variety of tools from a soldering iron to a pack of screwdrivers. This store seemed to be exactly what he was looking for. It was a parts store in the fullest, including buckets of screws, scrap metal, and circuit boards harvested from innumerable sources. He’d have to praise Ginger when he had a chance. He might take her up on whatever assistance she requested of him.

“Why are you grabbing all that junk?” Clippy asked.

“It’s not junk, it is supplies. I can use this stuff to build something. I’m going to be doing some building before the banquet.”

At this point, Requiem wasn’t moving his mouth. He was conveying the words directly to Clippy. It was a tricky thing to remember, and he still didn’t have the program he wrote free from bugs. It seemed like emotional outbursts could override the programming and cause him to speak out loud. He didn’t think it was odd for people to suddenly speak something on their mind out loud, but as long as he kept his cool when speaking to Clippy, it wouldn’t be a problem.

“It looks like junk.” Clippy twisted her mouth at a jumble of wires Requiem was searching through.

Would it be so bad to alter her personality routines just a little? Requiem fought with that question while he took the remaining stuff over to the counter and paid. In the end, he decided not to. He didn’t know what part of her programming allowed her adaptability, and he couldn’t risk breaking her.

The cost of the “junk” that the retailer bundled up was nearly 300 credits. He wouldn’t have much to keep on going much longer. He took the bag and started heading out, following the directions to this internet café. He had to ask for directions two more times before finally making it there.

“It’s 30 credits an hour.” The man behind the counter droned.

“30 credits!” Requiem wasn’t able to restrain his outburst.

He felt like this body’s outbursts was getting harder and harder to control, but in all fairness, 30 credits an hour was a lot more than he thought it would be. Just 2.5 hours of use was already more than a night’s stay at the inn with food!

“Hey, getting intraweb signal this far from the Arc is tough. You won’t find better intraweb anywhere in this colony!”

Requiem decided not to get into a fight. The man had a large gut belly and looked terribly out of shape. He feared the man would have a coronary if he got into a fight with him. Instead, he paid the fee and received a card key. To his surprise, the café was more like a private room. Requiem decided not to question why intraweb access included a private room. He also didn’t ask why his shoes slightly stuck to the floor as he walked. Some things were better off unasked.

“So what’s the plan, Master?” Clippy spoke up.

She didn’t create a physical presence, but given the quarters were fairly tight, Requiem didn’t mind.

“This is how we’re going to get information.” Requiem gestured to the computer in front of him.

In truth, it looked incredibly dated. It had a screen, for starters. The computer console he found Clippy in aside, Requiem couldn’t remember the last time he had seen a computer that didn’t directly link into someone’s visual cortex. He also didn’t remember the last personal computer that required keyboard instructions and a mouse. It felt like an absolute dinosaur, even for Requiem.

“Oh? So Master is going to connect to the intraweb and get some information?”

“No…” Requiem laughed. “You are.”

“Wh-what?”

Requiem began typing on the computer. He brought up a command module and began entering in fresh code.

“I told you before; I don’t network. I’m going to widen up the bandwidth a bit, then set you up to download. They don’t let AI’s network in this world, but I should be able to put up a work around so that you can download information. After that, you’ll be a bit more useful to me.”

“Hey!” Clippy let out a hurt noise. “CLIPI is plenty useful!”

“I need information, Clippy, maps, names, locations, definitions, how-to guides… I need to know about the world we live in.”

“Muu… it’s not like I don’t understand, but CLIPI doesn’t know what would be useful to Master. What should CLIPI download?”

“Everything.”

“Eh!?”Clippy let out a strangled noise. “E-everything?”

“That’s right. By the time we’re done, you’ll have the collective knowledge of the entire intraweb.”

“It’s too big! I don’t think it can fit in my programming…”

“You’re using my neural pathways. I should be able to expand and make it fit.”

“O-okay,” Clippy’s voice was really low and docile. “As long as Master is gentle.”

“Clippy… we’re talking about memory…”

“CLIPI knows!”

Requiem frowned at the thought of Clippy’s eccentric behavior. He still didn’t know exactly what to make of her. However, if her programming survived the download, she’d at least be useful as a reference guide. Requiem pulled out her programming and inserted it into the computer. After typing for another minute and starting a newly written program, her voice suddenly came out over the loud speakers.

“Oh, I can no longer feel master…” her voice sounded depressed.

“You should be able to access the intraweb now. Start pulling the data.”

“What do I start with?”

“Books, maps, encyclopedias, anything that looks useful. Just start at A and move from there.”

“Ah… this will take a really long time, Master!”

“I know, but information is power, and in the next few hours, we’ll have access to all of it.”

“Master… what are you going to do in the meantime?”

“Me? I’m going to start making my arsenal.”

As Clippy continued to download book after book, Requiem began pulling apart technology and modifying it. She watched him through the webcam as she worked, letting the downloading take on a passive role as she watched him pull apart pieces and reassemble them into new forms.

The day continued on as Clippy filled her data banks with information. Suddenly, something in the data stream caught her interest and she starting looking through some of the stuff she had downloaded. Before long, she was just as busy as Requiem was.

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 9

“Stay back!” The android howled, tightening his grip on the woman in his arms.

The police moved in to a half arc, their guns all trained on him, giving him no room to escape. At this rate, it looked like the android would shoot the hostage. The look in the policeman’s eyes told Requiem more than anything else. The android had selected the wrong person. They might have shown a little restraint if it had been a human, but there seemed to be little hesitation that they’d be willing to shoot through the female android to get to him.

The girl’s expression was perhaps as worrying as the guards. She did not wear an ounce of fear on her face, but rather her expression carried annoyance. Her mouth was twisted and her eyes were lowered, glaring at the gun pressed against her cheek. Had the heat in her eyes held any real-world application, the gun would have melted in his hands.

After a few painful seconds of awkward silence, as every side weighed their options, it was the girl who broke the silence with an annoyed tsk. “You think they’ll care about an android like me. Give them an incentive and we’ll both be full of bullet holes.”

Her cold demeanor made a couple of the guards shift their guns uncomfortably. It was a little bit too close to the truth. This exchange was more informative than anything to Requiem on how humans truly saw androids if the death matches and open phobias hadn’t already given him that impression. The only one who wasn’t impacted by her words was the android himself.

“Yeah?” He clinched his teeth in a mock smile. “Well they might not give a shit about killing you, but those are orange halos last I checked. They sure as hell don’t want to answer to your owner if they caused damage!”

That confirmed one thing Requiem had suspected. The color of the halos did mean something. However, what did an orange halo mean? By the look of it, one could guess some kind of courtesan or sex slave. Even Requiem recognized a body that was meant for certain kinds of activities, even if he had never engaged in those activities himself. However, it might have something to do with her owner’s status too.

The guards didn’t seem to have noticed the color of the woman’s eyes. Now that they did, their postures immediately receded a bit, doubt flashing in their eyes. Orange definitely meant something that would make them hesitate. Perhaps it meant ownership by a noble or wealthy individual.

“I don’t have time for this crap; I have work to do…” The arrogance on the female android’s face wasn’t making the situation any better.

“Shut up!” The modded android shouted.

Then the woman moved. Her leg went up, her foot bending past her shoulder in an impossibly flexible kick that struck the android in the face. His grip loosened only slightly, and she spun like lightning from his hold, slapping his gun away in the process. The gun skidded across the concrete, landing only a few steps away from Requiem. At this point, Requiem was only one of a handful of people still in line. He kept his head lowered to avoid any gunshots, emulating the others whom had stubbornly stayed to watch.

With the gun out of the man’s reach, he leapt at the woman, attempting to still grab hold of her, even though she was fighting back now. The guards were at a loss on what to do, her body directly in front of the man, preventing any clean shot. Requiem reckoned that if the modded android could get her under control, he could break her neck with his enhanced strength as easily as he could threaten to shoot her head. In a few seconds, the situation would be right back to where they started.

To Requiem’s surprise, things didn’t turn out that way. The woman and the man ended up in a grappling match. She seemed to be holding her own, her hands tight on his. The look on his face was complete and utter shock, and Requiem quickly realized why. He was a modded android who not only could hold weapons, but also had increased strength. If this had turned into anything other than a gun fight, the guards would likely find themselves completely overwhelmed at his strength.

However, the woman was matching his strength easily. If anything, it looked like she was holding back. That meant only one thing. She was another modded android. This created quite the predicament. Likely, the guards didn’t know that the android had enhanced strength along with its gun unlocked jailbreaking. To them, it was one weak android wrestling with another weak android. However, if she revealed herself to be stronger than him, she’d reveal she was also modded.

Seizing the opportunity to get on the good side of a modded android, Requiem kneeled down and picked up the gun. Although the situation in front of him was tense, he moved incredibly casually, like he might lean over to pick up a quarter as he walked down the street. He pointed the gun up at the androids, still stuck in a deadlock.

“Duck!” He gave the command.

He hand no expectations, but to his surprise, the woman responded. Her hands let go of the man causing him to lose his balance as he tried to swing his fist at her. Her body lowered into a sweeping motion, her leg spinning and kicking his legs out from under him. Requiem winced in annoyance before taking the shot. His accuracy was perfect, and even in mid fall the shot struck the android’s temple, obliterating his head. Another shot struck the chest causing the arms to spiral off moments before what was left of his legs finally struck the ground. The destruction should be sufficient enough that no one would realize it was a modded android.

He had intended to do this after she jumped away a step or two. His shot was more than skilled enough to do as such. However, she had knocked the android down, forcing Requiem to shoot at a moving target. He was up to the task, but he feared that the necessary reaction time to accomplish this task would seem suspicious to a human.

After a moment of staring dumbfoundedly at the scene, the guards finally rushed forward to make sure the android, now just 2 legs, 2 arms, and perhaps some lower regions, was definitely dead. Requiem tried to immediately relinquish the gun, fearing some kind of police retaliation. To his surprise, they approached him with open congratulations.

“Good job taking out that android!” One of the guards slapped Requiem on the back.

“So there is no problem then?” Requiem remained cautious.

“Problem? He just killed a human. It was death for him either way. Yeah, it’d have been nice to find out who modded him, but modders always build in obnoxious self-destructs for that, we never would have found out who it was anyway.” The guard laughed and then pushed the gun back to Requiem when he tried to hand it to him. “No, we don’t need it for evidence or anything. You must be new here. We keep what we kill, it’s yours.”

Requiem nodded, turning to look as the guards picking through the body parts and tossing them into a trash bag. One guard was talking to the android woman, but Requiem realized her eyes were firmly looking at him, wearing open suspicion on her face. The guards were not suspicious of Requiem’s accomplishments, but this modded android might be another matter. She had to have realized his intent with the shot.

“It really is a shame…” The guard was shaking his head and sighing.

“What’s that?” Requiem glanced over at him, realizing he was watching the female android as well with a resigned expression on his face.

“Oh, since androids are owned, it’s not exactly like you can impress one. You save a cute human girl’s life, and she might show you some appreciation. Ah well…” he gave a smile. “You might want to try to see if you can find her owner. He might give you a reward for saving her, even if the award is just a few credits.”

She started to walk over to them a moment later, ignoring the guard who was checking up on her and leaving him a bit flustered. She walked up to Requiem, her body swaying with a womanly grace that left several of the guards staring in her wake.

“Name…” It came out more like an order than a request, but as a fellow android, Requiem was used to discussions with little formality.

“Requiem, yours?”

“Miai. You… saved me. I will make sure that you are rewarded.”

“Not necessary. You were lucky. He was modded to hold guns, but his strength was weak. Things would have quickly turned out differently, if he was stronger than you.”

The female android named Miai’s eyes flashed at the comment. The guard standing next to Requiem didn’t notice, his eyes glued to her chest. Requiem made the comment with seeming off handedness, taking no notice to the hard look she was giving him at that moment. It gave him all the confirmation he needed.

“You’re a good shot. I see you entering the tournament. Isn’t that just for androids?”

“Haven’t you heard? This year they’re giving away Exodus tokens. Any man would be stupid not to try to change his fate. I have some experience fighting. When you train against androids, you become as quick as one.” Requiem gave an ambiguous response that would lead her away from the conclusions he was avoiding.

She still looked at him with sharp and suspicious eyes, but there was a seed of doubt in there now. It was really all that Requiem needed to keep her from asking too many questions.

“My… master wished that I participate in this tournament as well.”

“Is that so?” Requiem shrugged offhandedly. “I didn’t think you’d be the fighting type.”

“You be surprised.” She gave a look out of the corner of her eye. “Come with me, let’s register together.”

Requiem gave a shrug and followed her, leaving the stunned guard who was still working at keeping his gaze away from her lower mammaries behind. The two of them headed to the registration booth, Requiem a few steps behind her confident stride. The handful of people in front of Requiem had already finished their registration while they dealt with the police. It seemed like in this world, business wouldn’t even halt for a shootout.

“I am Miai, my master is Statarius, please register me. And this gentleman as well. I’ll be paying for his.”

“Your master isn’t present?” The person behind the counter was a female android, and she was giving a frown while her eyes lingered on Miai’s chest.

She didn’t have nearly the curves of Miai. Her body was small and mousy, her chest with no signs of bumpage through her servant uniform. After a moment, the girl find raised her eyes with a flat and nondescript stare.

“She’s a busy woman…” Miai laughed, but subtly pushed forward a card.

When the android saw the card, her eyes widened, and then a moment later she nodded and processed the paperwork without another comment. When Requiem attempted to pay, Miai stopped him with her hand. Moving close to his body, her breasts pressed up against him while she looked up at his eyes brightly.

“Not necessary. Master is rich and this is the least we can do. This is, what’s a good word? How alliances are made? Perhaps in the match, we can work together. I’m eager to see how you perform.”

“My performance is always up to task.” Requiem answered flatly.

A moment later there was a cough and Requiem looked up at the android behind the counter. She wore a noticeable blush now, and it came to Requiem that Miai and he were closer than the standard for human etiquette allowed. Requiem took a step back, but Miai only held an amused look as she glanced back at the ticket holder.

“Give him a token too.”

The android ticketmaster’s eyes widened again, but she did as she was told, handing each of them an envelope before talking. “These are your passes. The tournament will be held tomorrow. The times and locations are included in the envelope. The included token provides you entrance into the banquet tonight at the Lord’s manor.”

“This is my gift to you…” Miai interrupted while giving Requiem a look. “Commoners aren’t invited to the Lord’s banquet. I expect you to be there. We can talk more about our… alliance… tonight.”

She turned and began to walk away, her hips moving with every step. Even the android girl behind the counter became flustered over her attitude. Requiem waited for the mousy girl to give the remainder of her talk on the locations and times of the tournament before thanking her with a smile. She seemed intensely uncomfortable, and Requiem suspected that Miai’s previous behavior might have rubbed her public behavior programming wrong.

Rather than deal with an android that acted oddly like Ginger, Requiem bid farewell and left. The guards didn’t seem to care if he stayed any longer either, having already cleared up and left. The one who had been talking to Requiem waved a farewell as he left the square.

Requiem had saved himself from spending any credits on admission to this tournament, but now it looked like he was going to need something nice to wear.

Clippy appeared next to him. She wore a pout, but Requiem was quickly becoming used to the feigned jealousy. If it really annoyed him enough, he could always remove it.

“So what’s next?”

Requiem chuckled. “Now it’s time we arm ourselves. We’re going to war.”

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 8

“A deathmatch?” Requiem’s eyes widened at the words.

Ginger nodded eagerly, her long bangs swaying with each bob. “It’s a test of skill. You’re put in an arena, usually some harsh and horrible condition they create. You bring in whatever tools can fit on you can carry. Then you battle. It’s a fight to determine who is the strongest! It’s supposed to just be the last man standing, unconsciousness is immediate loss, but no one even tries to knock people out when it’s quicker to kill them! Not to mention… the androids…”

Requiem frowned. “What do you mean about androids? If androids are weaker than humans, why even use them? Or are the androids modded?”

Ginger shook her head. “No, not modded. They’re very strict about that. They’ll know. You really don’t know about androids? Where did you even come from?”

Requiem scratched his neck uncomfortably. “Well as to that, a place without androids… obviously.”

Although Ginger gave me a strange look, she didn’t press. “Well… even though androids are weaker physically, they still have advantages over people. Predominately, they have faster reflexes. The person who pulls the trigger first wins the fight, after all.”

“Are they even allowed to carry guns?”

“No… but gun or knife, reaction time over strength. Although that’s only a small reason for picking androids. The main reason is they are expendable. The tournament is usually for merchants and nobles. Every year a few commoners try to slip in, hoping to change their fate, but they usually die. Merchants and nobles aren’t going to risk themselves, so they use a proxy.”

“Slaves could be used too…” I offered.

“They can… and they are. Every year a few slaves are entered. However, it’s usually androids these days, as androids have a certain trait that no others have…”

“They keep going, even if they’re damaged.” I offered while Ginger gave a nod.

It made sense after considering the advantages of an android. An android couldn’t be knocked unconscious. Even if they felt pain, their orders from their owner were absolute. Even if a slave was ordered to give his life in service of his owner, he still had a small degree of free will. He could flinch, or run, or hide. He would try to preserve his own life. An android would fight until the end.

“This world is appalling…” the words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

Ginger’s eyes widened and she grew flustered. “Wh-what?

I immediately tried to quell the situation.

“No… I’m sorry. I was thinking out loud. I just grew up in a world without slaves. Even androids should have fair treatment, although even where I came from that wasn’t the case…”

Ginger was giving Requiem a strange look, and for a moment he was starting to fear he made a bad choice by talking too much. He never used to be this sloppy. Every circumstance was carefully sorted and thought out. Now, though… he was making mistakes left and right. He really needed to analyze this body and figure it out. His mind didn’t seem as sharp as it once was.

“It’s good that you think that way…” Ginger finally said, her eyes turning into a pleading look. “But please be careful who you say that to. The way the world is, it’s not nice to kind people like you.”

It was Requiem’s turn to give Ginger a strange look. He had never been called kind before. This was certainly the first time anyone actually showed concern for his well-being. He didn’t know if he should be amused or not. He hoped he wasn’t underestimated in this new place he found himself in.

He was about to say something when a commotion started outside the door. There were some shouts and the sound of people running. Ginger looked up curiously, and finally approached the door and opened it. Requiem followed her and glanced out over her shoulder.

Upon glancing in the direction of the town square, he saw a large crowd of people up against a certain building. The crowd was getting larger, and the noise was building too.

“What’s going on!” a voice shouted from somewhere down the street. Requiem couldn’t see the source.

“An exodus token! The new tournament is offering an exodus token!” Someone from the crowd shouted back.

There was more commotion, and more people started to crowd around. Requiem looked over at Ginger with a questioning look, but her eyes were focused on the crowd outside. After a moment of watching the growing crowd swell, Ginger finally turned to him and gave a nudge.

“I-if you’re going to sign up, you might want to get in there. That’s the sign up for the tournament. It looks like your tip about the exodus token was correct. I never would have guessed…”

“Is an exodus token that great?” Requiem asked.

“Eh?” Ginger looked very confused. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what an exodus token is either?”

Requiem shrugged, giving up his attempt to pretend he knew more around Ginger. “It hasn’t come up.”

Ginger shook her head in disbelief, but a moment later answered. “An exodus token guarantees the owner of said token will be brought on one of the main ships in the next exodus. At the first signs of Prax, the tokens will be activated, giving rescue crews the holders GPS coordinates. Everyone with a token will be brought on to the capital ships. Of course, the capital ships aren’t the only ships that head on the exodus, but they are built and prepared by the government using the full extent of their resources. They have the lowest rates of loss, and provide the most comfortable journey. Every noble has an exodus token for every one of their family members.”

“It still doesn’t seem that amazing… I mean, aren’t the Prax not supposed to come for 200 years or so? It’s something you’ll never use in your lifetime.”

“Maybe… maybe not. However, the token itself is exchangeable. You sell it to a wealthy merchant and make insane amounts. They’re worth a million credits at least. Although most don’t do that. You pass it to your kids, and they pass it to their kids. It’s like a family heirloom.

“Why is that?” Requiem asked idly.

“Think about it. Your family… your future… guaranteed to survive the next exodus. For two hundred years your family will be stuck on a ship with nobles. Maybe a noble will fancy you granddaughter and hire her family line in as maids and butlers. Maybe a noblewoman will fall in love with your great grandson and he’ll get her pregnant. It’s the best chance for someone to move up in the world. Even those that don’t become nobles make noble contacts, becoming extremely wealthy merchants after the next exodus.”

“So it’s like that…” Requiem nodded, finally understanding what brought on this sudden craze. “Then I better get in line, huh?”

Ginger gave a firm nod. Her eyes looked concerned, but even she seemed to understood the temptation of gaining a chance to become a noble or wealthy merchant. She didn’t attempt to stop Requiem anymore. Requiem began to walk towards the crowd.

“Get in line!” shouted someone who resembled a guard. “Keep in order! No cutting!”

The crowd was slowly being sorted into a line. The line wasn’t as bad as I originally had feared. Half the crowd weren’t even interested in applying themselves. After listening to a few people shouting out jeers or speaking amongst themselves, it seemed like most of these people were just there to see who was stupid enough to kill themselves in this tournament. While possessing a token gave some a hope of a better life, the overall concensus was that it would likely go to a noble with a well build android.

A man walked by who wore far better clothing than most of the people here. He was surrounded by three burly guards. He looked at the line and sneered, moving straight to the front and cutting out the crowd.

“Hey! What the hell!” A man shouted who was only a few places back from the next spot.

A second later, one of the guard slammed him with a baton. It emitted sparks, and the man collapsed to the ground while convulsing. No one else stopped the well-dressed man as he registered, then turned and left, looking at the crowd with disgust as he walked away.

“Damn nobles…” one man in front of Requiem growled.

Requiem only found it a little hypocritical that he was complaining about nobles while trying to win a token that would give him a chance at becoming a noble.

“Well, it’s not like this is a typical tournament this year, is it?” The man next to him sighed. “The nobles only do this anyway to try to get merchants with too much money to open up their wallets. Any idiot knows it’ll be a noble like that bastard who wins, using some punked out android. The rest of us will be lucky to get through this alive.”

“Says a man standing in line…” the other retorted.

He laughed. “I never said I was smart…”

The two men remained silent after that, continuing to wait in line for their turn. The line continued to move forward. Some people were placing bets, although no one sitting in line was the source of those bets. Every few minutes, someone with guards, usually wearing finery, would come up to the line. Not all of them walked, a few coming up in floating chairs or driven in little vehicles not unlike a palanquin.

Like the first man, they would look at the crowd in disgust, and then move past the line, interrupting its movement in order for they themselves to register. Some brought along an android or slave they intended to register. More often than not, it was an android, a green halo wrapped around their pupil. Requiem wondered if the color meant something. He’d have to ask Ginger later.

After each entry, there would be whispers among the crowds.

“Oh, that’s Lord Vesten. That android looks strong. Let’s put 20 credits on him.”

“It’s just looks, they are all capped.”

“I know that… don’t argue with me, just do it!”

“Ah, but look, it’s Testemont! He won three years ago!”

“Well if you want to use that as an indicator, let’s just vote on the prince. He won last year!”

After about thirty minutes of waiting in line, I was about half way through. I might have already been finished had the lines not been continually disrupted by the arrival of nobles and rich merchants. Basically anyone who could afford guards was given priority. Suddenly, a bunch of eyes were turning as the crowd split once again.

A sweaty fat man riding a floating palanquin moved up with a surprisingly large android walking alongside. Once again, the line halted and the man moved up to the front. This time, however, there was something off. No one else seemed to notice, but Requiem was particularly familiar with this facial expression. It was an expression of fear.

The man’s eyes were darting around, and the sweat rolling down his face took on a new meaning. After all, this was a climate controlled colony on an uninhabitable planetoid surrounded by an atmosphere containing dome. There was no reason for the man to be that hot, unless he was nervous.

Requiem prepared himself, lowering his head and watching out of the corner of his eyes. Something was about to happen, he just didn’t know what.

The man went up and started registering. After he finished, he turned around and left. The scene felt impossibly tense to Requiem, although he seemed unique in this respect. He watched the man carefully, then his eyes fell on the android. If it was one thing Requiem knew, it was the mechanics around androids and humans. He knew how they moved, how strong they were, he could read their movements with pinpoint accuracy.

“What is it, Master?” Clippy’s voice asked in the back of my mind.

“Modded Android…” I said.

I said it out loud though. Through the roar of the crowd, not even the person next to me would have been able to hear it. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who had that suspicion. The fat man was only about five meters away when a group of guards, or I suppose it’d be more accurate to call them police or public servants, blocked his path.

“Detrius Rhine.” The head police nodded. “Just a random inspection. May we look at your android?”

“M-m-m-m-m-m-y android? Wh-wh-why would you need to look at him?” If he wasn’t sweating before, he was a waterfall now.

While the guardsmen focused on Detrius, Requiem had a feeling they had things backwards. They existed in a society where it was expected that the human was in charge of the android. That fear… Requiem had seen it before. As he watched the android, it fiddled with its pocket.

“Watch out!” Requiem let out a shout.

The guardsmen turned in confusion, but it was already too late. The android pulled out something that resembled a pistol. He fired and a moment later Detrius’s head erupted, a giant hole blasting through it accompanied with the sound of a small explosion. The men quickly regained their exposure, pulling similar weapons from their belts and aiming them at the android.

It was too late though, he’d already reached into the crowd and grabbed someone in the ensuing chaos. The crowd of people were running, and even the line quickly shortened as people fled in every direction. A few of the more stubborn remained in line, only ducking to avoid the commotion.

By the time the commotion settled, six guardsmen had guns trained on the android. He wore a hostile face, and he held a woman in his arms, a gun pushed up against her head. It took a moment, but Requiem realized he recognized the woman. She was the same woman with orange coronas in her eyes. The very first android Requiem had ever seen, and she was now a hostage to violent, modded android.

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 7

When Requiem woke up, he was alone in the bed. The previous night came rolling back to him and he immediately sat up.

“Clippy, report, how much time has passed?”

Clippy appeared right next to his desk and she gave him a sly look as her cheeks pinked slightly. “Yes, Master has been asleep for 10 hours, 32 minutes. Daylight on this moon broke 2 hours ago.”

“So, that was sleeping…” Requiem shook his head in agitation.

It seemed like a very wasteful act. His mind still seemed groggy from the night before. He did a quick diagnostic and cleared a few memory caches, causing his mind to clear up rapidly.

“Did master dream?”

“Dream?” Requiem shook his head. “No dreams.”

“…oh.” Clippy seemed almost disappointed.

Requiem body felt clammy from the night before. Although he had shut off any temperature sensor, he decided to turn them back on, only to find the room a tad bit chilly. It might be dangerous to treat this body as anything different than human for the moment. He brought every book he had on human health out of his memory stores and stashed it into active memory for quicker access.

The new information reminded him of something he had felt the night before. He reactivated the centers to his stomach, and gnawing discomfort surged back up in his stomach.

“Hunger…” he gave a frown.

He left the small room and headed out into the main bar. The inn was empty and Ginger was behind the bar. Was Requiem the only customer that she had? He sat at the bar and a few moments later she left to the back. When she came back, she was holding a hot plate. She put it in front of Requiem and opened the lid to reveal a plate full of food.

“There you go. Breakfast comes with the room, as promised. It’s not the finest food on Chryos, but it’ll fill you up.” She looked down at Requiem’s arm and grimaced. “How’s the arm feeling?”

Requiem followed her gaze and shrugged. “It’ll heal.”

He was more worried about trying the foot. Of course, he knew how to eat. He’d even manufactured prosthetic tongues and tried tastes during some point in his life. The meal before him looked to be simply potatoes and eggs.

He cautiously put a single morsel in his mouth, and the taste exploded on his tongue. His mouth involuntarily let out a moan. As if his body had a mind of its own, he immediately began to shove more food in his mouth. He barely gave himself enough food to swallow before taking in another bite. The sensation was far different than he remembered from the taste sensors from the paste. The smell, the taste, the mouth feel, all seemed to add up to give him something that flowed pleasantly down his throat. He ate rapidly, and when he was done, he wasn’t aware he had a pleased grin on his face.

“Wow. I’ve never seen someone like my eggs this much…” Ginger wore a strange look on her face.

“They’re very delicious. You’re an incredible cook.” Requiem lacked the experience to make that call, but his memories told him cooks liked compliments, and for Requiem right now, his first meal was remarkable in more ways than one.

Ginger blushed at the compliment, once again struggling to meet his eyes. She seemed to remember the previous night, and her misinterpreted words as well, which caused the shades of color on her cheeks to become even darker.

Once again ignoring the human oddities, Requiem decided to change the conversation. He brought things back to what was going on with the town right now.

“I’m a historian. I’m interested in gathering information on the 112th exodus.” Requiem lied.

“Oh? Is that it? That sound really tough, considering. I mean, since everything keeps getting left behind.”

Requiem shrugged. “Why don’t you describe to me your version of history? I mean, I like to hear how others describe things. It gives me ideas on how to better write things.”

Even Requiem thought his excuse was flimsy, but Ginger didn’t mind. She immediately launched into the story of humanity as far back as she knew. According to her, humanity had a vast empire that sat at the pinnacle of technology and control many years ago. An alien species known as the Prax suddenly showed up and began killing humanity indiscriminately. They had weapons that could obliterate planets and their ships were invincible to anything humanity could throw at them.

The war that followed lasted millennia, with humanity constantly being pushed back until the quadrillions of humans were reduced to a few billion. Desperate to survive, the royal family built 50 colony ships and fled their home world just as the Prax fleet approached. They left the galaxy, heading to a place far away. This became known as the 1st exodus.

It was a hard and brutal time, supplies were limited and more than half of those who left on the exodus died before reaching a new galaxy. However, the remnants of humanity landed and began to recolonize new worlds in an alien space. It went fine for some 500 years. Then the Prax showed up again, and again began to slaughter humanity. They fled again, starting the next exodus.

Humanity never stopped. They became more and more skilled at it. They’d arrive at a new location, strip mine for resources for a few hundred years, then flee once the Prax showed up. Every time they left, billions would be left behind or die. Entire technology trees became lost, as well as innumerable resources. The earliest time after the exodus that the Prax showed up was 472 years, the longest was 1285 years. Humanity had done this 211 times. The next coming of Prax shouldn’t be for a few hundred years yet.

Requiem fought to keep his face from showing disbelief. This world he had woken up in was considerably different from the one he had originally come from. He did a quick calculation. Each exodus took anywhere from 50 to 200 years. This would mean that humanities been on the run for well over 100,000 years. Since Requiem didn’t believe he’d be able to slip through the multiverse, his only assumption was that this was the future. Over 100,000 years from the last time his program was active. Probably closer to millions of years, since Requiem mentioned the 5 galaxies and the Great Calamity and she gave him a completely blank look.

“The only Great Calamity I know of is the coming of the Prax.” Ginger nodded resolutely.

Requiem gave her a smile. “Thank you, for the information. It’ll help.”

“So… where are you off to now.”

“I heard about some kind of tournament. I’m interested in signing up.”

Ginger’s eyes flashed with surprise. “The Chryos tournament! But…but… why?”

“It seems like an easy way to make 50,000 credits. Since I’m new to the area, I could use the money. They also offer a slave and an exodus token…”

“An exodus token!” Ginger yelled that out in shock, before slapping her hand over her mouth, her face turning red once again. When she spoke again, her voice was quieter. “Does that mean… you’re going to use an android… or… or… a slave?”

Requiem waved his hand. “No. Nothing like that. I probably wouldn’t even accept a slave in the first place. It’d put a bad taste in my mouth. I already detest the idea of forcing AI to serve humans, forcing other humans against their will just seems equally wrong.”

“Oh…” Ginger let out a breath of relief, and then her eyes widened again and her hand shot out, grabbing Requiem’s arm. “Wait, you don’t mean that you’re going into the tournament, are you?”

Requiem shrugged. “It’s the easiest way.”

Ginger shook for a moment, and it almost looked like she might start crying. “No, don’t. You can’t enter yourself into that tournament!”

Requiem frowned. “Why not?”

“You don’t know? That tournament… they call it that, but that’s not really what it’s like. It’s brutal. It’s savage. There is a better word for it than a tournament. It’s a death match!”

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 6

Before anyone gets up in arms, I do plan to update Arifureta this weekend, so be at ease.

____________________

Requiem thanked Ginger one more time before heading off to his room. His mind was practically swirling. Exactly what kind of body did he end up with? It seemed that this body’s creators were working on something a little bit more than increased strength.

“Clippy, do you know anything about this?”

“…”

“Clippy?”

“Hmph! You want to talk to CLIPI now after spending all that time flirting with that girl?”

“Flirting?” Requiem had an eyebrow raised as he unlocked and entered his room.

The cheaper than normal cost for the room seemed to coincide with the room’s lack of size and décor. Half of the room was taken up by a small single-sized bed. Requiem sat on the bed anyway. It’d be sufficient for his needs; it’s not like he needed to sleep anyway. Clippy didn’t say anything in response, so he decided to ignore her for now.

Requiem sat at the end of the bed and then looked down at his arms. He needed to understand this phenomenon. Every attempt he used to self-diagnose his body didn’t contain information much different from any standard android body. In fact, he had initially assumed it was indistinguishable from any other android.

He reached behind his head and once again pulled the disk out, placing it on the bed next to him and closing the compartment. He had already copied Clippy into a partition of his mind, so the disk was a backup, at best.

Ignoring the disk for now, he opened up a drawer and found a letter opener. Shutting off the sensors in his arm, he held up the sharpened end and dragged it across his arm, cutting through the skin layer. A moment later, there was a spurt of blood coming from the wound. He allowed the sensors to return, and his arm immediately felt the sharp pain of a recent cut. He turned the sensor down again and sighed. At this time, he also felt some discomfort in his stomach, so he turned that off as well.

“M-master is hurting himself! Master, you’re bleeding!”

Requiem remained silent, leaving the room while making a shotty attempt at holding his arm. Having never dealt with blood before, he wasn’t particularly good at it. As a result, blood was already all over his hand and running down his arm. When he approached Ginger in the common room, she let out a little yell.

“It seems I injured myself.” Requiem responded sheepishly.

“Oh, no!” Ginger seemed genuinely afraid, racing to get a first aid kit.

Requiem waited patiently for her to return. By the time she was back, the blood was already dripping on the floor.

“Gah! It looks even worse. Don’t just stand there, come over here!”

Ginger dragged Requiem into a nearby bathroom and was washing the wound under running water a moment later. He held out his arm at a loss of what to do. Fortunately, Ginger’s previous nervousness went away as she took charge over him.

After demanding to know what happened, Requiem lied and said he just fell on a sharp edge of the bedspring. Ginger turned white and it took Requiem a minute or so to convince her he didn’t intend on suing her. After she relaxed, she pulled his arm out from under the sink.

As Ginger quickly cleaned his wound, dried it, and placed the gauze before bandaging it, she did it with a surprising amount of skill and care. Requiem stated as much, causing Ginger to show a flash of red and return of her previously nervous state.

“I-I wanted to be a nurse, for a time. However, after granny went senile it just never seemed like a good time.”

She finally finished with the bandage, taping it and resting her hand on top of Requiems. Her finger tips were surprisingly warm.

“That feel’s nice.” Requiem stated, intending to complement her work.

This caused Ginger to jump, pulling back her hand like his skin had suddenly become hot to touch.

“Um, ah… sorry! I-i-is there anything else you’d like?” After hearing the words coming out of her own mouth, Ginger became even more flustered. “No, wait, not like…”

“Actually, there is something I want.” Requiem spoke up, grabbing Ginger’s hand in his excitement.

“You…want…that…I…did say…,” her voice dropped down to mumbling words that Requiem couldn’t understand as her face grew three shades of red darker.

Requiem decided to ignore the strange behavior. It was starting to become a habit. “Do you have a tool box? I could use some tools for a project.”

“Tools?” Ginger’s voice was blank, then lit up, “Yes! Grandpa had tools. I’ll go get the tools!”

Ginger ripped her hand out of his and raced out of the room. Requiem watched as she fled the room, her hands seemed to be over her face. How could she see like that? Requiem shook his head over the oddity that were human beings. He thought he’d ask Clippy about it, but from the moment he started interacting with Ginger she had gone silent, so Requiem had the feeling she was continuing to give him the silent treatment.

Ginger came back and Requiem politely thanked her as she handed him an old metal tool box which jingled from the stuff inside. He had a feeling this was all the tools she had, so he’d have to make due with whatever he found in there. He tried to meet her eyes again, but she kept turning her head, unwilling to look at him. It must be some kind of cultural thing. In his experience, humans liked it when you looked them in the eye. He even blinked occasionally and everything. He gave a shrug and headed back to his room.

“Wa-wait! I n-never got your name…”

He gave her a smile back, “You can call me Requiem.”

He opened the door and walked in, leaving her with a dumfounded expression on her face. When turned his head, he had to pause for a moment. There was a girl sitting on his bed. She had long braided hair bowed up into a pony tail, almost perfect white skin, and she was in her teens. She wore the strange half-robe clothing that he was starting to become familiar with. Of course, Requiem recognized her immediately.

“Clippy…”

“I-i-i-I’m sorry master.” Clippy immediately stood up and went to her knees, giving a dogeza. “CLIPPI hijacked your visual sensors and created a visual representation of myself within your 3D world.”

“…”

When Requiem remained silent, she became even more flustered, standing up and waving her hands in a panic. “I-it’s just that master sees all these pretty girls all the time, and CLIPI wants master to always be looking at her!”

As soon as the words left her mouth, her face turned as red as Ginger’s had. She suddenly shut her eyes, closed her mouth, and went silent. Her entire body seemed to be frozen.

For Requiem, it wasn’t that particularly big of a deal. He was a bit surprised that the little program he had given sentience only this morning was already asserting herself. Her computer integration program really was top notch if she already figured out how to project her image into his vision. Deciding to reward her progress, he went in and tinkered with the code a little bit.

He took a few steps forward and put out his hand and dropped it down on her head. Instead of going right through her body, as it would have a few moments before, his hand stopped, and he felt hair under his palm. Clippy jolted in surprise, but after Requiem patted her head a few times, her body relaxed, and a little smile formed on her lips.

A moment later, Clippy opened her eyes. Her entire body seemed to be shaking, although Requiem couldn’t tell if it was from surprise or shock.

“Master… I can feel master.”

Requiem removed his hand from her head and sighed. Clippy immediately missed the presence of her master’s hand, and secretly vowed she’d do whatever she could to be patted again in the future.

“It’s just a mild modification based on your concept. You won’t be able to interact with your environment until we get you a body, but you should be able to interact with me.”

Basically, Clippy had used Requiem’s vision to create an image of herself. Her image only appeared in his eyes, so only he’d see her. He only took it to the next step. Where she chose to fill her appearance in his visual world, he created a series of feedback mechanisms so that his body would stop and generate the feeling of touch. At any time, he could break through or deactivate the feedback, and naturally it wouldn’t be able to stop an unintentional movement. For example, if he tripped and fell on her, since that’s uncontrolled movement, he’d fall right through her. He also gave her an artificial “skin” using an emulation of his own skin network, so that’d she’d feel the touch too. It was the best he could do without giving her a body.

After Clippy calmed down a bit, Requiem moved over to the television panel and sat down at the small desk. Opening the tool kit, he immediately began pulling out tools and working on opening up the panel. Clippy didn’t ask him what he was doing and he didn’t explain himself to her. After working for some time, his eyes started to feel discomfort, so he adjusted them and reduced the feedback. He had pulled out several parts of the panel, and was currently reassembling some of the parts.

It was his intention to build a scanner to be able to look at his own body. Unfortunately, the tools he had on hand were severely lacking. It was long into the night now, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to buy the parts. His eyes began to throb again, this time, worse than before. He thought he had already turned off the pain. How did he do that again? That’s weird. His processing speed seemed to be slowing for some reason. His eyes were feeling really heavy.

“Clippy, I…” Requiem yawned. “I need you to check my body. My software seems to be malfunctioning. My processing power seems to be reduced, my visional cortex is weakening. I’m not sure what’s going on.”

Requiem was concerned about this, maybe even a little scared, but when he looked up at Clippy, she seemed to wear a comforting smile on her face.

“Okay, Master. Let me just get you in bed first.”

Clippy helped Requiem stand up from his seat and take a few steps to the bed. Although she wasn’t really there, the feedback was, and for Requiem’s malfunctioning brain, it was enough to help him stubble down into the bed. As he fell, he ended up taking Clippy with him. She gave a little yelp, but soon the both of them were on the bed, and she was lying next to him. His eyes were getting more and more difficult to keep open.

“You know, Clippy, you gave me that name. You don’t have to call me Master any longer.”

Clippy’s face was red, but she also wore a mysterious smile. “I know, Master. But after using it, I prefer Master be called Master. Is this fine?”

Clippy looked pretty when she smiled. Wasn’t that an odd thought? At least, Requiem thought so.

“It’s fine…Clippy… I need you to…” He mumbled, his eyes starting to close as the circuits in his brain started to deactivate one after another.

“CLIPI knows. Master gave CLIPI life. CLIPI will stay by master’s side. CLi—em… I… will never leave Master…” Clippy whispered in his ear, and after a moment, lowered her voice even more. “After all, I love master.”

Requiem didn’t hear that last part, having already slipped off to sleep.

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 5

“Requiem? A song for the dead?” The AI considered it for a moment, “Suiting. Yeah, I think I can get used to that.”

“Eh? That’s what it means?  I just saw the word over there and thought it looked pretty.”

The newly named Requiem focused his eyes on the sign in front of him. As she said, the sign had the name Requiem written in an exaggerated and swerved font. Smaller letters under it wrote tavern and inn. Requiem frowned.

“You’ve named me after an inn.” He stated flatly.

“M-master…” Clippy sounded almost in tears.

“It’s fine now, forget about it. Call me Requiem. Let’s head in and see if we can’t find out some information.”

“Alright Ma-…mm… Requiem.” Her voice sounded a little giggly, so Requiem decided to ignore her.

Requiem entered the small inn that was his namesake, glancing around. It was a small, wood built in with a dozen table and chairs, a bar, and very little to no technology. He supposed quaint would be the word someone might apply to this place.

As soon as the door closed, a bell jingled and a young girl a few years older than the unnamed slave came running out from the back. She had curly brown hair, dark eyes, a mousey face, and seemed to wear a black robe similar to the one Clippy was wearing when Requiem had seen her on the monitor.

“HelloI’mGinger.WelcometoRequiem.HowmayIhelpyou!” She said in a rapid and chipper voice.

The words were so blurred together that it even took a second for Requiem’s processors to sort out what she said. The girl seemed to have awareness of how fast she spoke, for as soon as she closed her mouth, her cheeks exploded with red color.

Deciding to keep things moving, Requiem moved the rest of the way into the room and gave the best smile he knew how to emulate. Strangely, this seemed to only cause the girl to blush more.

“Hello, I’m looking for a room, and perhaps some directions.”

“Oh… uh, yes! Of course! We have room.” She spoke slower this time, but still seemed nervous.

“Do you usually work here?” Requiem inquired.

The girl, Ginger, didn’t meet his eyes, instead looking down a bit. “I-my mom’s been ill, so this is my first day.”

Of course, Requiem didn’t really care, but he figured that small chat would put her at ease. Regrettably, her face seemed like a never ending blush. Since she was trying to avoid his eyes, perhaps it was eye contact that was unnerving her. He focused his eyes away from her and heard a light sigh come from her lips.

Requiem took note that he’d need to develop a program to blink and unconsciously fidget when engaging with humans. He regretted not having a human to be able to test the program on. That would be a reason to have a human slave. Which reminded him…

“Do you know where I can acquire credits by tomorrow?”

The girl looked up startled, “Eh? You don’t have any money?”

Reaching into his pocket, Requiem decided to take the chance. He pulled out the card he had found in the dead man’s pocket back at the lab.

“I found this on the street.”

Ginger took a glance at the card and then reached over and grabbed it. She clicked a button located in the middle of it. A moment later, a light emerged from the side of the card which displayed a number, 852 credits. Ginger gasped.

“You found 852 credits just lying on the street!” she sounded amazed.

Requiem shrugged. “How much is it to stay here?”

“Here? Oh… its 80 credits a night with breakfast. You won’t find a cheaper inn this close to town square! The better… I mean the other hotels are all 200 credits a night or more.”

Requiem nodded. With that card, he’d be able to stay here for ten nights. He didn’t need breakfasts, but he did need a location to work from, at least for now. It’d also be enough to pay for the tournament registered. It looked like he had lucked out this time. He was afraid that a name might be attached to the card. The last thing he needed was his name being linked to the dead man back at the laboratory.

“Still it’s strange…”

“Hmm?”

“For someone to have a card with that much money on it and not use any biometric protection.”

“…”

Suddenly Ginger waved her hands excitedly. “N-Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with it! I’m not accusing you of stealing! I won’t re-report it or anything!”

“Can I put a biometric lock on the card then?” Requiem frowned.

“O-oh, right, here, be my guest!” She handed the card back.

Requiem looked down at the card for a second and then back up at her. “I’m sorry, it seems I forgot how.”

“Eeeeh? Really? Here, just push your finger there, then listen for the beep. There you go. Just remember to click it before handing it to anyone. That’ll unlock it for one minute to accept purchases.”

“Do we have a customer, who’s making all that noise?” an old woman waddled out of the back room.

Ginger’s face, which was only starting to calm down, suddenly blushed again and she gave the old woman a tight look. “Yes, Grandma. We have a customer. I’m taking care of it.”

The old lady glanced at the direction of Requiem, then waddled over to him, her eyes squinting as she glanced up at his face.

“You’re not one of those god damned androids, are you?”

“Grandma!” Ginger’s voice sounded shocked, agitated, and just a little bit complacent as she admonished her grandma. It seemed like this wasn’t the first time her Grandma had an outburst like this.

“They kept making those damned machines look more and more human, and now they’re gonna make them look like us!” She snapped at no one in particular. “I won’t have any androids in my inn!”

“Grandma, please. He’s obviously a human. Stop scaring the customer.”

“They look just like us! It’s creepy. We should have never built those creatures.” Even as the old woman spoke she was already waddling away, heading back the way she came and ranting to no one in particular. “It’s only a matter of time until they start replacing our nobles, regents, and chambermen and start stealing our livelihood. Oh, I wish things were like the good ol’ days…”

The grandmother’s rant could still be heard in the backroom, but the words were becoming muffled as she put distance from the tavern lobby. Ginger was in a frozen state of perpetual mortification. After a few moments, she finally spoke.

“I-I’m sorry…” She lowered her head. “She’s been like that for a few years now. If mom wasn’t sick…”

“It’s fine.” Requiem pressed the button on the card and handed it back to her. “A room?”

“Ye-yes!” she brightened up a bit.

After pulling a tablet from back of the bar out, she ran the card. He clicked on the card to see the difference in the amount was one night. She explained that they could stay as long as they wanted, but he’d have one day of rent subtracted each morning until he checked out from her counter.

Requiem pocketed the card and nodded, receiving the key, which was also another card, this time colored in light blue with the name Requiem on it. Before leaving, he gave the girl one more look.

“Could I ask a strange question?”

Ginger didn’t quite meet his eyes, her face still blushing, “Wh-what is it?”

“How are you so certain I’m not an android?”

The blush on Ginger’s face faded and she blinked in surprise. “Well… I mean, it’s obvious from your eyes.”

“My eyes?”

“Yes, you didn’t know? All androids have a bright colored corona around the pupils of their eyes.”

“…That’d be pretty easy to cover up with contacts.”

She tilted her head as if to ask, “who’d hide an android like that”. Instead, she laughed.

“Even if someone modified an android, you’re still obviously human.”

“How so?”

She gave a smile like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The biometric chip, dummy, androids don’t have DNA. Only a human can lock a credit card.”

“…”

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 4

Miai knew that her appearance was a head turner. The dangerously massive objects on her chest sucked in the gaze of every man she passed. However, rather than collapsing under their own weight like blackholes, they instead exploded out from her bosom like burning stars, bringing tears to every man who looked. She didn’t mind when the men looked at her chest. However, when their eyes moved up to her face and found the orange halo color around her pupils… that bothered her the most.

It was always the same. Their eyes would slowly move up from her twin peaks to the nap of her neck before finally taking a look at her face. As soon as her eye color registered they’d jolt in surprise. If it was a noble man or commoner, they’d start to give a knowing or envious grin. If it was someone dubious, their eyes would turn dark and malicious.

Humans were so predictable. To the noble man, he was wondering who owned the sexy and attractive android. It’d never occur to him that she was anything but the sex slave of a particularly wealthy noble. At least, he wouldn’t bother her, fearing retaliation from whatever noble was powerful enough to afford her, while also willing to risk letting her wonder outside. To the less scrupulous members of society, their only thought was how they could snatch her away.

It was certainly dangerous for her to be outside alone. If she was found in a deserted alley, or an empty room, even the nobles might decide to push her down and indulge themselves on her body. Of course, androids were afforded some basic rights, and could fight back, especially if they were owned by another, but how successful could they truly be when even a young child had the power to pin them to the ground?

A young man walked by her. He might have been good looking if she had noticed those kinds of things. His eyes surprisingly bypassed her bosom and went straight for her face. As soon as he saw the orange, they lingered there for a bit, and then he turned away. There was no surprise, shock, or condescension. It was as if he didn’t see her as an android at all! It was an odd enough event that she considered turning and giving the boy another look, but a moment later someone collided with him and then there was a shout.

Miai berated herself for deviating over her mission, and instead continued to walk on. Finally, she made it to the tall building sitting along the side street. It was the same building that that young boy had come from earlier, although Miai did not know this. She entered the building cautiously and it wouldn’t be for three hours before she left the building and entered a small back ally. Her face didn’t hold any reaction to the death and destruction she had most certainly seen.

Instead, she casually dialed a number on her redial and waited for a moment. The redial clicked to show she was connected to someone, but they didn’t make any noise on the other side.

“I’ve made contact with Epsilon. Regrettably, the location has been cleaned out.”

After some more silence, a gruff voice spoke up. “The package?”

“Gone…”

There was a sound of something slamming and glass breaking. Miai pulled the redial back a moment as the sound of shouting and explicatives filled the line. A moment later, the silence returned, and the voice spoke up without a hint of the tantrum a moment before.

“Have you cleaned?”

“I’ve taken care of it.”

“Stay in the city for now.”

“I’ll keep looking.”

She hung up the phone, her face wooden. In truth, she was just as angry. They had been working towards this goal for a long time, and now they had nothing. They were depending on her, but she didn’t have a single idea where to look to find the Mark IV. With the records gone, she didn’t even know what the Mark IV looked like.

“Ehehe…look what we have here.” A voice came up from behind, echoing through the alley with a chill.

Miai turned to find three grinning men approaching her. They were looking her up and down with greed and desire in their eyes. By their dress, they were clearly part of the less reputable underbelly of this colony.

“Well, look what we have here. A little android has lost her way.” One of the men smirked.

“Don’t worry, little android, we’ll keep you company.” Another added.

The men continued to move forward, surrounding her while making lewd motions and laughing.

After a moment, Miai let out an annoyed sigh. “I’ll give you one chance. Leave now, and you live.”

The men burst out laughing, clearly thinking this was a joke. “If you really think your master will protect you, even in this dark ally, you’ll be sorely mistaken. Now be a good girl and strip for us. I don’t mind if you cry a little.”

The man closed the distance, reaching his hand to grab her shoulder. She grabbed his wrist as he gave a malicious grin towards what he considered a pathetic excuse at stopping him from touching her. Then that grin fell to a frown. Then that frown turned into a grimace.

“Ah, you bitch! Let go!” He began to pull on his arm, but even with his whole weight he couldn’t move her hand an inch.

A second later there was a resounding crack, followed by a scream. The man threw his other fist to strike Miai in the face. However, his fist met air, her form already moving. A single strike with her arm punched through his chest. Blood and gore fell out the other side as her hand ripped through him. She pulled her arm back out and he collapsed to the ground without another sound, already dead.

The other two men’s faces twisted in fear. “A… A modded android!”

They turned and ran.

Miai gave another sigh, cracking her neck in the process. “Aw… you saw.”

Regrettably for them, she couldn’t let them leave. They died without being able to make a single scream. After cleaning herself up and disposing of the bodies, she left the back alley and continued on with her mission, not giving the three lives she had taken another thought. She had more important things to worry about.

Mark IV… just where have you gone?

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