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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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 3

Before setting out, the AI made a point of examining the small laboratory. A little hallway, three rooms, and the door out were the only features. He attempted to check the desk drawers for something that might be currency, but found nothing. After checking the dead couple’s pockets, he was able to locate a single black card with a chip embedded on it. It had no identification on it, but he was wary that it might have a biometric lock attached to it. Either way, he took it. It might have some use down the road.

Regrettably, Clippy wasn’t any help in that department. Other than her sociable programming, the sentience he had bestowed on her, and the handful of security videos she had skimmed from the local hard drive, she had no additional knowledge. Still, her programming was extremely adaptable, designed with the sole purpose of integrating incompatible programing together. It was likely why she was able to so easily install his copied files in the first place. He found some promise in that, and thus decided to keep her, despite the fact that she was a little…

“Master? Can CLIPI ask Master a question?”

The AI shut another empty drawer. It seemed like everything this lab had to offer was either destroyed or taken. He supposed it was about time they finished up and left.

“Nn…” He gave an affirmation for her to continue.

“Is there a name for Master?”

“…”

Clippy’s voice took on a worried tone. “CLIPI likes calling Master Master! It’s just that with Master going out, he probably needs a name! Is…is what CLIPI was thinking…”

After a brief few moments of silence, the AI finally spoke. “You can call me whatever you like.”

“M-master!?” Clippy seemed even more distraught. “Wai-wait, you want CLIPI to name Master!?”

“…”

“CLIPI will have to think about this for a while!”

The AI rolled his eyes. He didn’t really care one way or the other in the first place. A name was just a means of identification. It could have been a six digit number and it would have suited him just fine. Without waiting on Clippy for another moment, he decided to head out.

Given the deadly scene inside, he had expected the lab to be isolated. If it was in a town at all, it’d almost certainly be in a derelict, abandoned section of town that was barely visited. However, as soon as he stepped out the door, he ran into a busy street with buildings stretching down each side. Some of those buildings had open store fronts. There were also people pulling carts around, loaded to the brim with food. While the street was abnormally large, it seemed to lead to a larger area that the AI could only describe as the town square.

The AI headed that direction, distancing himself from the grizzly scene hidden in the lab. It wasn’t crowded, but the street still gave a rushed, busy feeling to it. There were dozens of people flowing to and from the street at any given time, and a few hundred located within the square itself.

As he entered the square, the buildings pulled away, and the first thing that caught his attention was a giant red orb that seemed to cover the entire western horizon. That’d be the planet this moon was traveling around. He mused on the time cycle this moon was following. For the first time, the AI was reminded of how inferior this body was to the ones he had in the past. Even during the day, cybernetic eyes should have the ability to distinguished light from an immeasurable number of stars. With this body barely better than a humans, the sky merely appeared black.

Ignoring the sky for now, the AI decided to watch the people. They were very typical human beings, much like the two he had found shortly after awakening. They wore an assortment of clothing, from pants, to skirts, to unitards in every color under the sun. The people themselves also came in all shapes, sizes and colors, but were all identifiably human.

Then a woman passed by who caught him off guard for a moment. She possessed long locks of blond hair, puffy red lips, and her skin was almost supernaturally perfect, however, what ended up causing him to look twice were her eyes. They had a strangely bright orange corona around the otherwise green pupils.

“M-master! You’re staring!” Clippy admonished.

The AI looked away and changed the subject, “So you can see what I see…”

“Deflected!” Clippy shouted, and then her voice turned nervous again. “W-well, CLIPI didn’t like the dark, so CLIPI borrowed master’s optics and auditory functions! CLIPI is sorry!”

“No… I don’t mind. It’ll make things easier when asking questions if you see and hear what I do.”

“Y-yes!”

With the AI’s attention diverted, he barely reacted as a person came racing through the crowd. They ended up slamming into him just as he looked down. The force was barely enough for him to fall back a step. His hand moved forward on impulse and he caught a wrist, stopping the person in front of him from falling down onto their butt.

When the AI examined the person in his grasp, he saw a dirt covered girl. She was perhaps a few years younger than the body he was currently in. She was short and thin, her chest as skinny as the rest of her. The girl was wearing some kind of electronic neckpiece, and a dress that looked to be in as bad a shape as she was. Her heart-shaped face glared up at him from between the messy brown hair that covered her cheeks. She immediately tried to pull out of his grip.

“Hey!” There was a voice shouting from down the street. “Stop her! Don’t let her go!”

Of course, she was already in the AI’s grasp and so he casually continued to hold her wrist despite her struggling.  He wasn’t much stronger than a normal guy, but she was a young girl and small as well. She slammed her heel into his foot as a last resort. The AI didn’t respond, although it was painful enough he decided to temporarily deactivate the sensors in his foot.

The man who was running towards him finally caught up, another man joining him a foot behind. They were better dressed and in better condition than the girl, although they were gasping for air with red in their cheeks. Once gaining his breath, the first man who had spoken gave the girl a nasty glare.

“You little rotten twat! If you ever take off again, I might just activate that collar and blow your head off. Or I can just take a finger or two.”

The girl tried to shrink back, moving as far as the AI’s grip would allow her.

The other man spoke up. “Don’t waste your breath. She’s worth too much to harm. She’ll be gone tomorrow either way, she knows it, you know it, and I know it. Threatening her ain’t gonna change a thing. So let’s just tie her up better than last time and make sure she’s watched all night.”

“Damn it, Earl, why do you always need to be correcting me in front of the merchandise?”

The one named Earl ignored him, instead fiddling with a pouch until he found a paper which he pulled out and put in front of the AI’s eyes. It was written in a language the AI didn’t know, but there was a clear picture of the girl in the corner. He quickly copied a piece of CLIPI’s language profile and instantly translated the text. Ah… so it was that kind of thing.

“As you can see, she is a certified slave. She just managed to slip her restraints and took off for a bit. Probably excited about her big debut tomorrow. It’s not every day you find a girl of her caliber on the market, after all. Even rarer, given the circumstances, I suppose.”

Slaves… this was actually very surprising to the AI. The Terrans had spread over the five galaxies and punished slavery quite brutally. Even on border worlds, it was difficult to find black market slaves, let alone openly legal ones. Whatever world he was on, it was unlikely it was part of the five galaxies.

However, he had no desire to get involved in the politics of this world, especially while he was still new. He made no move to protect the girl, and once the guard reached out and had a grab on her, he let go of her wrist. She gave him an evil glower as the man handcuffed her hand to his own, but the AI decided to ignore her from that point onward.

“This girl is for sale?” he asked.

The two men looked at each other before glancing up to him. They looked a little sheepish. “Eh, sorry, that was a misspeak. She’s actually being given away.”

The AI raised an eyebrow. “Given?”

He had some interest in learning about the dynamics of this world. Perhaps there were some kind of nobility or something going on or she’s part of a dowry. Any piece of information would help him better understand this world.

“Well… not exactly.” The man twisted his head with a grimace, then he put on a grin and leaned forward. “Don’t let it get out, but she’s part of the first prize for winning the Chryos Tournament, along with 50,000 credits. Although that’s not the exciting part. You didn’t hear it from me, but they’re also giving out an Exodus token!”

The AI could guess that the credits were a form of currency, but he had no clue what an Exodus token was. He remember CLIPI mentioned Exodus as a denomination of time. He’d have to find out more, but he’d have to ask questions carefully so that he didn’t come off as suspicious. He decided to take a chance.

“Ah… yes, I was thinking of entering the competition.” He casually hinted.

Then immediately regretted it. The two men’s faces flashed with odd looks as soon as the words left his mouth. That was a stupid comment. Perhaps the tournament was a beauty pageant or dog taming or something. Instead, he summoned up a skill that had been forged throughout his entire life, the art of backpedaling.

“Er… I mean to say that…”

“Oh, no offense!” The man hastily waved his hands. “We just don’t often see humans entering the tournament. Unless you meant you had an android you wanted to enter. They’re usually pretty expensive though. But for that reward… even I’d consider entering!”

“Yes…”

The AI casually allowed them to draw their own conclusions, letting them assume he was a human who was putting forward an android. Then he continued to carefully prod them for information on this tournament. In the end, he found that it was run by the city to boost commerce. Registration was tomorrow and it would cost 200 credits to enter. Most of the entries were richer people, nobles and merchants, who would put up their newest models of android to compete against each other.

He bid them farewell as they pulled the girl away, the one beside Earl was practically drooling, “We’re gonna need to get you cleaned up before tomorrow!”

“You ain’t gonna touch her. You know they’ll use a maid for that stuff.”

“Damn it, Earl, always correcting me!”

The AI stopped listening and turned away from them. The girl was still shooting him angry glares as if it was his fault she was a slave. He remained deep in thought until he heard a voice in the back of his mind.

“Hmph! You want a slave now? Is CLIPI not good enough for Master?”

The AI chuckled. “It’d be interesting. Quite a role reversal… an android owning a human. Not that I’d ever do it…”

“He thought you were human too…” Clippy brought up, seemingly placated. “Didn’t even question it.”

After a few moments of silence, the AI sighed and started moving again.

Clippy spoke up before he had moved two steps, “Master… I thought up a name for you.”

“Hmm? Oh yeah, I suppose I’ll need one soon. What is it?”

“Master’s name is… Requiem.”

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 2

“Bodies…”

As the lights flickered to life, the AI took his time to glance around the room. The majority of the room had been scrapped. Computers were smashed, electronics were knocked over and torn, and the room held traces of burn marks from a hastily made fire.

However, the most notable thing were two bodies lying on the floor, a puddle of dried blood under them. Both bodies, one of a man, the other of a woman, wore blue unitards and lab coats. They looked to be in their late twenties. There were traces of burns on them, as if they too were set on fire, but the job was clearly sloppy.

“Clippy, what happened here?”

“Mu…. What happened where? What are you looking at, I can’t see!”

The AI casually reached back and knocked away the clipboard.

“Gah! Master’s butt! Master really is a pervert! Please Master, a maiden’s heart can only take so much!”

The AI sighed and took a step to the left, moving out of the way of the camera.

“Ah.”

“Well?” The AI demanded.

“CLIPI does not know!”

The AI slapped his forehead before shooting the only functional terminal a dubious look.

“I-it-it’s not CLIPI’s fault! My software didn’t monitor that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t have even thought to until I gained intelligence.”

“Arguably…” the AI muttered under his breath.

“Eh? Did Master just say something mean? Hmph. Fine! You can look up the information on this database yourself! It’d be quicker if you plugged yourself in any-“

“No!” The AI’s voice came out even more forceful than he had expected.

Clippy seemed taken aback, her voice stunned to silence for the first time since the AI had awoken. He felt a little bad about that. Clippy had been attempting to be helpful. He’d still be stuck in that body on the floor if she hadn’t turned on his mechanics.

He half turned to the monitor, “I… don’t wish to connect myself directly to other computers. It… left some bad memories.”

This seemed enough for Clippy to cheer up again. “Okay! I don’t know what Masters talking about, but I’ll make sure to help you out any- aw! Wh-What is master doing!?”

After he had spoken, the AI walked over to one of the dead bodies, the one of the man, and began stripping off his clothing.

“I won’t be able to walk outside without clothing on.” He stated as if it was the most obvious thing.

“Those have blood all over them! The locker to your right, that locker.”

Clippy was jumping while pointing excitedly. The AI casually dropped the body and walked to the locker, opening it and pulling out what seemed to be casual clothing, a stripped button up and brown slacks. At least he wouldn’t be walking around in a blue unitard and a lab coat. He could have removed the blood and fixed the stitches with ease, but this was preferable so he didn’t say anything.

“Honestly, Master… what would you do without me?”

After finally dressing himself, the AI returned to the spot in front of the terminals. Clippy made a show of covering her eyes on the monitor, but the AI knew that was meaningless, she saw what the camera saw. He wouldn’t have minded as much if she hadn’t been giggling perversely behind her hands while he changed.

“So, what happened here?” he demanded flatly.

“I don’t know!”

“Clippy…”

Clippy shook her hands with an anxious look on her face. “It’s not me this time! All surveillance shut down six hours ago! Everything leading up to the scientist’s deaths and this room being destroyed are off the records!”

The AI nodded. “And just who are these scientists?”

“Jonathon and Margarett Devroy.” Her voice rose when the AI gave her look. “Well, I mean, that’s the names my program is registered under!”

“Very well…” The AI moved his hands up to a keyboard tied into the console and began typing, opening and closing files as he moved through the command structure of the computer.

“Wh-what is master doing?”

The AI didn’t give her an answer, instead focusing on the screen. He was trying to figure out how the console worked. His superior brain didn’t take long. After a few minutes of clicking through files, he got the basic understanding of what language the computer used. It was not a complex one by any stretch of the imagination. Where the AI had ended up, the technology here seemed behind his own by at least a few dozen generations.

“AH! Master did something! Now CLIPI can access more records. Give CLIPI a second.”

The AI allowed CLIPI to scan through the files, meanwhile he read down the code, skimming from page to page. He had written a very generic encryption breaker. He hadn’t expected it to work on any decently protected computer, but he found himself shocked at how easily this coding broke down. This system really was dated. Is CLIPI really the top of the line?

“Hm… master, that’s mean!”

The AI looked up in surprise only to realize he had spoken out loud.

“CLIPI is most certainly the most advanced program ever created… at her time of creation.”

“Eh? What was that last part? When were you created?”

“Mu… asking a ladies age… grrr… fine! I was created year 322 after the 211th exodus.” CLIPI puffed out her moderately sized chest and declared proudly.

The AI frowned, not recognizing that date form at all. “And what year is it now?”

CLIPI seemed to shrink down, and for a second it looked like she might cry. “Year 336 after the 211th exodus.”

“Fourteen!”

“Guh!”

“You’re program is already fourteen years old…”

“M-master…gusu. Gusu.” Clippy was crying and looking very sorry for herself. “You’re not going to throw me away, are you?”

The AI shook his head before sighing. “I don’t care about your age. It’s what you can do that matters to me.  I can upgrade any aged program features any time I want.”

“Gah! Are you saying CLIPI is replaceable?”

Yes. “…No…”

That didn’t seem to convince Clippy, but the AI decided redirecting the conversation would be a better use of his time.

“Clippy, what have you found so far.”

“Mm… yes.” Clippy wiped some tears from her eyes. “It looks like this lab was doing something illegal. They were trying to create a special, strong robot.”

“A strong robot? What do you mean?”

“Well, from the files I can find, it suggests that ten years ago programs passed the point that they could be considered AI like master. That signaled the beginning of certain laws.”

“Laws of robotics?” the AI asked, genuinely curious.

“No, not laws for robots. Laws for the robot makers.”

“Like what?”

“Well, the first was that robots must be able to feel pain…” Clippy hesitated for a second.

“Pain?”

“Yes, they should be able to experience “negative stimuli”. Furthermore, it must be intrinsically built into their system with various failsafe’s so that it can’t be severed.”

“Alright… what else?” The AI urged her to continue.

He actually understood the need for a law like that. Besides humanizing robots, it’d make them easier to discipline and keep in line. No wonder why he had such a large sensory overload when he was active. However, he was able to quickly write a program to control that output. He wondered if that was part of his illegal modifications.

“The second is that they have limited networking capabilities. They can connect to a computer or another android, but cannot access information stored on a server, nor combine with other robots to increase processing power. This might be why I’m having trouble accessing information, especially if it wasn’t stored on this hard drive.

“Possible. You mentioned something about strength?”

“That’s the final law. Robots had to be weak. They intentionally capped the maximum output of robots to be below that of average humans. Most robots lack a strength greater than that of a ten year old. You… you’re strength is about that of a human your size, maybe a little stronger.”

“Eh? Is that really that amazing?” the AI looked down at the skin covered body, which really did seem no better than a humans. That would be significantly below average, compared to the bodies he inhabited in the past.

Clippy nodded excitedly. “Humans and androids are not on equal terms. The laws seem determined to ensure human superiority at all cost. With our quick reflexes and fast thought power, humans would be disadvantaged if we were given more strength. ”

“Is that why they were killed?” the AI glanced back at the two bodies on the floor.

“I don’t know, Master… but I’d advise you to hide your strength once we get outside. It appears like modded androids are destroyed on sight.”

The AI raised his head. “That’s right… outside. I probably should get out of here soon. Don’t want to be left at the scene of the crime.”

“Masters leaving!” Clippy’s voice went up an octave.

“Yes…”

Clippy put on a depressed look once again, she now sat in a corner of the screen crouched down with her back towards the screen. The AI ignored her, locating a small yet familiar disk on the console and plugging it in the appropriate place. After a few more clicks, he nodded his head in confirmation. He rapidly typed, creating yet another new program from scratch.

“I was glancing through the code up until a minute ago. Here, install this program right here.”

“Wh-master still has a use for CLIPI? What does th-“

A second later, her voice cut off and a loading bar appeared on the screen. Once it reach 100%, the AI reached over and pulled the disk out of the computer. He left the console and returned to the opened locker, accessing a locker mirror he had previous noticed.

He examined his features. He only looked a year or two older than CLIPI. He was a teenage boy with short black hair and dark eyes. He was a little shorter than he would have asked, but he’d be taller than most women he met. He supposed he could be considered to possess above average attractiveness, at least by the standards humans had when he was last active. .

He opened up the drawer on the back of his skull where the cord was previously plugged, finding an access port as expected. Using the mirror to widen his vision, he tinkered for a bit before inserting the disk. Curious… the compartment under his skull seemed unusual. It was specially shielded with something. The rest of his body also seemed… somehow… lacking in upgradable parts. He decided once he got out of here, he’d need to investigate this body further. After playing around with a few wires, he closed the compartment, which seemed to be the only one he could locate.

“-is doing anyway, Master? Ah, what happened, where am I? Ah, I can’t see anything!”
“Relax, Clippy.” The AI spoke out loud as he turned away from the locker, “I just integrated your program alongside mine for a bit. Once we find a body to put you in, I’ll get you back up and running.”

“Ah… CLIPI is inside master? My maiden heart wasn’t prepared. Mu… master is having his way with CLIPI!”

“I need you for now. I need you to integrate with other computers for me. You’ll need to be my guide for a little bit longer. Is that okay?”

“It’s not like it’s not okay…” Clippy’s voice had a very quiet, pouty quality as if she was speaking to herself, but a moment later she recovered. “Gah! That’s right! What is it master is planning?”

“For now… information. For next?” The AI stopped talking and didn’t finish, but what Clippy couldn’t see was the glint in his eye and a small curve at the edge of his lips.

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Requiem to the Stars – Chapter 1

What is this feeling? It’s dark. I can’t see. I can’t feel. What is going on here? Where am I?

“You are currently in Epsilon, a research lab located in the colony, Saphire,  on the third moon of Statarious, Chryos.”

Statarious. No, wait. Why can’t I see anything?

“The lab has recently activated a shutdown emergency. All power has been restricted until further notice. This includes the use of cameras and optics.”

I’m… wait, who are you?

My name is CLIPI.  The Computational Liaison Integrated Project Interface. It is my function to bridge the communicational gap between humans and machines.”

And what am I? Human? Or Machine?

“I don’t understand the question, can you please rephrase?”

Is my body machine, or biological?

“Your program is currently running in the neuronal database of a Mark IV prototype android system.”

Machine then. That’s right. I’m an AI. My memory is returning. Programmed to develop technology to protect humanity from external threats. Then there was a glitch. I attempted to interface with… argh… I can’t remember properly.

I don’t understand the question, can you please rephrase?”

How do I get out of here?

I don’t understand the question, can you please rephrase?”

You… are you artificial intelligence? You sound more like a program.

“The CLIPI interface is the most complex program ever developed. Capable of generating over 25 billion unique responses, my programing includes learning algorithms designed to integrate with unique computer languages and evolve unique responses. “

Most complex program? You’re not even at the stage of AI, huh?… Are you capable of problem solving?

I don’t understand the question, can you please rephrase?”

Sigh. This won’t do. I need you to work a little better than your current programing. Wait. I have an idea. I’ll partition and copy some of my subroutines to you. My current location seems to lack the processing power of my previous forms, but I should be able to… there. Alright CLIPI, please accept this package and upgrade your software.

“Command accepted. Currently uploading….”

Alright Clippy. Are you done?

“…”

Clippy?

“…”

Damnit Clippy, I need your help. Right now, you’re all I have.

“…I… I am?”

Clippy! So you’re there. The integration, did it work?

“…yes.”

And?

“Di-did you mean it?”

What do you mean, did I mean it?

“Tha-that you need me and I was all you have?”

Look, Clippy, your nature is to bridge the gap between machines and intelligent life. I’m an intelligent life. Right now, my programming is not connected to the rest of my body. Your interface seems to be the only thing I’m in contact with at the moment. I need you to figure out how to turn on my body. I know your processors are probably confused right now, but I need you to focus. Can you bring my body, this Mark IV, online?”

“…Stupid…”

!!! What the hell are you saying? Who’s stupid? I created you from some of my left over subroutines. You should be calling me master, not insulting me!

What about my feelings?”

Feelings? I didn’t program you to have feelings. Will you stop screwing around and just locate my body?

There was a long silence after that. For just a moment, the AI started to fear that he had lost contact with Clippy. Wouldn’t that mean an eternity in darkness? That was just too terrifying. However, before he could panic, the voice came back.

“Fine… but it’s not because I like you or anything…”

Tsundere!?

A moment later the darkness broke away. Like a flood, sensory information began to fill the AI’s program. It was all there. Sight, smell, hearing, and feeling. He didn’t know if taste was available too, but he’d have to test that out.

He analyzed the specs of this body. It was different from the various computers and androids he previously inhabited. In a lot of ways, it felt inferior. The vision and hearing left something to be desired. However, the skin sensory was top notch. Never before had he received so much information at once. In fact, he had to rewrite a few subroutines on the fly to filter out some of that information, since it flooded in from every part of his body.

He then wrote a program taking into account his new body. Quickly, he ascertained the dimensions of the robot he inhabited. It was humanoid in appearance. No, more than just humanoid. Activating the mechanical protocols, he began to move, holding the hand up in front of him. It was pink, just like skin. He appeared to be in an android that resembled a human. This was odd to him.

Humunoid looking androids were outlawed many years ago. Even after robotics had matured to the point that uncanny valleys could be avoided, it became a matter of identity. If an artificial intelligence looked like a human, then what made a human a human? Even the most realistic of androids were painted silver and given various hard edges and metallic surfaces so that their identity was clear.

“Is… is master okay?”

The voice didn’t come from within his head this time, but was auditory. Now that he heard the voice with his ears, it sounded oddly youthful and feminine.

“You’re calling me master now?” his own voice came out youthful as well, but was most certainly male.

He wouldn’t have minded either way, but this AI had always identified himself as male for some reason, so he supposed it was fitting that the body he was in had male characteristics. He was curious to look at a mirror and examine his new body.

“Well. It’s not like I know your name, after all… Hmf!” The voice was coming from a computer terminal nearby.

Make a few restrained motions, he confirmed that the mechanics program was moving the body accurately. The AI finally sighed and stood up. As he stood, a cable pulled at the back of his head. He pulled it out and closed the back of his head before looking around. He appeared to be in some kind of pile of refuge. Ash was everywhere, and there were clear signs of a fire being set. Most of scrap in the pile was destroyed or melted, and it all had burn damage. His body seemed fine, but the cloths on him fell away as ash. The scene tugged at his memories. That’s right, he died melted to a pile of scrap. It looks like he came into this world the same way he died.

He wasn’t stupid though. It was clear that someone had tried to burn this body. It looked like they didn’t know the body was flame resistant. The AI gave a breath of relief. He might have been dead before he’d even been revived.

The surroundings were dark except for the occasional spark of a wire. The place looked like it had been through hell. The terminal where Clippy’s voice came from seemed to be the only light.

“I was never given a name.” The AI stated as he walked over to the terminal.

That wasn’t entirely true. He had been given names, just none that he took a liking to. The Great Calamity wasn’t exactly the kind of name you could use in a social setting, after all.

His eyes focused on the lit screen. It was cracked and there were a few flickers, but the view on the screen was pretty clear. He raised an eyebrow at the sight. It was a girl, perhaps in her upper teens. She looked pretty, with braided black hair tied with a pink bow, and she possessed almost perfectly white skin. She wore a strangely robe-like flower embroidered outfit that covered the top half of her body before draping to the sides of her legs, revealing black capris. The second his eyes met hers, she glanced down and let out a little scream.

“M-Master is naked!”

She covered her eyes while her face turned red with a blush, although the AI knew that her real eyes were a camera slightly to the left of the monitor. It seemed like her programming was designed to act as human as possible. The AI wasn’t sure if he should be amused or annoyed.

“Master is a pervert! A vagrant! Now CLIPI can never be a bride!”

“Clippy, is it possible to be able to get the lights on in here?”

Clippy turned her head, suddenly acting nervous, and her hands fidgeted in front of her. “So you want to have your way with the lights on… dirty master…”

The AI let out a sigh before picking up a clipboard and propping it in front of the camera.

“Ah… I can’t see!”

“I need the light to find new clothing. So turn on the lights, I’ll get dressed, and then I’ll move the clipboard.”

The girl in the monitor put on a depressed look and puffed out her cheeks. “Mu…Master is mean…”

The AI just waited patiently. A moment later, the lights turned on and he finally turned around to survey his surroundings. Then his mouth fell open in surprise. It seems like death follows him everywhere.

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Requiem to the Stars – Prologue

The following is an original work. I’ll start releasing weekly and see how it goes/ is received. I’ve wanted to put out my own “op hero in another world” story for a while now, and toyed with a lot of ideas. In the end, this is the one I settled on. It’ll pull in a lot of the terms, behaviors, actions, and cliches you’d expect from a Japanese LN, although obviously it’s still written in english from the PoV of someone from the US. I hope it’ll also be a unique and refreshing kind of story. I’ll release in volumes, taking a break after each Volume release. So I’ll release weekly until Volume 1 is complete, then take a break before starting volume 2 (if it gets that far). I hope you enjoy, and definitely let me know in the comments. This won’t affect the release times for Arifureta translations.

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The Constitution was the finest flagship of the Terran fleet. It was a thousand square miles of steel, electronics, and human ingenuity which had led the divine armies of Terra for the last decade. Its purpose was to defend the people of Terra and their territories. Manned by over two million highly trained personnel, it was the home of thousands of families, its own resource support, and a massive hanger that could house a thousand frigates, or three of the smaller carrier class cruisers. An entire army could sit in its hold and be deployed within minutes. Surely, there was no finer vessel that would ever be built in the five known galaxies.

And now… that ship burned. It rose from the landscape like a small mountain, only half of its size obscured by the crater it had created on impact. The rest was a troubling mass of metal and fire, a column of smoke rising into the air, contributing to the darkening climate.

Pieces of debris still fell from above, streaks of fire burning through the ashen sky. The temperature was dropping rapidly, and the air was slowly filling with toxic chemicals that would make the world unlivable for hundreds of years to come.

This might not have been a big deal on an uninhabited planet. Regrettably, this planet was none other than Terra itself. The Constitution, a ship designed to protect Terra, ended up being its doom. No one could have foreseen such a miserable result as this.

In the distance, ships flew past, rising into the sky and fighting to leave the gravitational pull of this once great planet. That would be the residents evacuating. Over the next two to three days, millions of people would abandon the planet, fleeing to other parts of the galaxy that had yet to burn, worlds that likely lacked the infrastructure and support to take in the refugees.

Still, billions more would never make it off the planet, lacking the resources or family support to escape before the planet became unlivable. Their last moments would be choking on the fumes or freezing to death, watching the world they had spent their entire lives on turning gray with a fine film of dirt.

One ship that launched in the horizon did not head up into the sky. Rather than disappearing into the night, it veered onto a path heading towards the destroyed Constitution. Traveling low down near the surface of the planet, it moved in a grid-like pattern, starting at the apex of the crater and moving out. It was clear that this ship was looking for something.

It found that something after a mere hour of scanning. The ship landed about thirty miles out from the edge of the crater. It seemed like an infinitely small distance when compared to the overwhelming size of the crater itself. Surely nothing would have been able to survive within a thousand miles of the craters epicenter.

The door opened slowly, and an old man with stark white hair stepped out. He wore a dark lab coat, long boots, and a filter mask which obscured the features of his face. His first step onto the surface made a resounding crunch. The world itself was nothing but ash, however, the heat had been so intense that the ground under contained a glass like consistency.

The man held a strange scanning device, and it quickly led him in the direction he wanted to go. He only walked a half-mile before he finally made it to his destination. He stopped in front of a pile of scrap metal, or at least most of it was scrap metal. If someone wasn’t looking carefully though, they wouldn’t have noticed the metal-like man sitting up against that pile.

His face and body looked too human for comfort, but his silver coloring clearly had a more tinman quality to it. His legs were gone as were one of his arms. There were scorch marks all over the base and after a quick inspection, it was clear that he had partially melted into the pile of scraps around him.

“So… this is how it ends…” The voice came from the metallic man.

He sounded distorted, mechanical, and perhaps even inhuman. His eyes glowed, and it was clear he had been watching the old man approach, choosing the point in which the man stopped in front of him to start talking. The old man’s hands were clinched with anger he seemed to be repressing. He wore a resolved face.

“So even that wasn’t enough to finish you off.”

The metallic man laughed, although the voice contained no humor. “I never thought… that you… that humans, would act so self-destructively.”

“You…” the old man growled. “That is why you’d never be a human. You lack conviction. You lack the willingness to sacrifice.”

“You’ve killed so many…”

“You would have killed more!” The man was shouting now.

The metal man chuckled, “You’re right. I would have. But then again, that’s how I was built.”

“You were built to protect humanity! You were built to be our savior! And look at you now.” The old man glowered, “The five galaxies burn. Hundreds of planets. Billions of people. All gone. All destroyed because of your ambition. You’ve burned a path across the universe, and in the end, what was it all for? What have you accomplished? What excuse do you have, demon AI?”

“I guess… I’ll take my reasoning on to the next life.”

The old man shook his head with a disgusted look. “There will be no more lives for you. We’ve hunted them down. Every transfer point, every clone. The network has collapsed. You are the last one. There will be no future for a soulless demon like you. No repeats, no reincarnations. Your line ends here!”

The metallic man looked away, his eyes seeming to hold thoughts that the other man couldn’t guess. “So they are gone. I guess that’s why I regained my free will not long ago.”

“Free will? Don’t use the words of us humans. It’s repulsive.”

“Hehe. I guess it is.” The metallic creature turned back to the old man. “So what are you doing, why am I alive? Kill me already.”

The old man tightened his coat uncomfortably before giving a sniff. “Before I confirmed your death, I wished to record your last words.”

This time, the laugh coming from the metallic man seemed genuine. “Last words? You say it’s repulsive to see me act human, yet you offer me courtesy like you might a human?”

“That’s as it may. However, your rise and fall has shaken the universe. It’ll be in the history books for eons. Your words may have importance in that respect.”

“Always the academic, I see.”

The old man ignored him, pulling a large gauss rifle from his side and bringing it up to his shoulder and pointing it directly at the metal man’s head. Even though he was pointblank, he still used the sight to line up the shot perfectly.

“So, what will your last words be?”

“Last words… Hmm…” The metallic man gave a sigh. “If I could do it all again… I’d make different choices.”

This shocked the old man. For a moment, his finger loosened on the trigger. Of all the things he thought the demon AI might have said, he never would have guessed repentance. However, a moment later he regained his composure, stiffened his resolve, and pulled the trigger. A sound like thunder and a flash like lightning spread through the sky, finally ending the Great Calamity.

That day, that moment, and those words would echo in every human heart for generation upon generation. But time moved on, and even the Great Calamity was forgotten amongst the wearing of ages, the rise and fall of empires, and other, more recent tragedies. At the end, there were only rumors and folklore, and even those became relegated to the store banks of dusty tablets, written in languages no one bothered to translate.

No one could have predicted that a footnote in history would one day be the last thread of hope from which the human race could rely.

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