Chapter 4: Cybernetic Nightmare

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Chapter 4: Cybernetic Nightmare

Post by Raiden on Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:27 am

THE LAST GENERATION
Chapter 4: Cybernetic Nightmare

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
Albert Einstein

World CYBORG, 6 Hour Left

Wade Wilson Jr. was a little bit disappointed. He’d wanted to find a calendar for pretty much as long as the world had ended. It had only taken less than a year for him to completely lose track of time, and despite his best efforts to catch up, he was completely unable to figure out what day it was. That had come as a pretty big shock for a man desperately clinging to the last remnants of his sanity. Naturally, he quickly set out to rectify this, making finding a calendar one of his numerous goals, right alongside “survive” and “kill as many cyborgs as humanly possible”.

The discovery of the calendar was almost accidental. Wade had decided to try and raid a supermarket he remembered about in downtown Yamaku, hoping to find a can or something to satiate his hunger. While the mutant could go practically indefinitely without food thanks to his healing factor that replenished his energy almost like magic, he still felt hunger just like anybody else, and after… well, a very long time, that hunger had started to get a little grating. Wade didn’t need much, he just wanted a bit of meat to satisfy his stomach. Hell, at that point, he would’ve even taken dog food. It wasn’t like he had had a lot of choice since civilization ended.

Unfortunately (for them), a small group of survivors had decided that they wanted to raid the exact same supermarket at the exact same time. A one in a million chance, considering Wade had only gone there on a whim, but a pretty nasty coincidence nonetheless. Even nastier, the survivors had decided to open fire on him rather than share some of their food. That really pissed him off. After healing up from the bullet wounds, which had taken about half a minute or so, Wade pulled out his katanas and made short work of the survivors, starting with the one who had shot him. By the time they even realized that they were messing with a mutant, the rest of them were too frightened and useless to do anything other than meet their demise. Wade didn’t like killing human survivors, but sometimes, it was a nasty thing that had to be done, like putting your pet down.

The survivors (oh, the irony) had actually done Wade’s work for him and packed up a bag full of cans. From the looks of it, a good chunk of them were expired, but the man managed to find a handful that weren’t - or at least they didn’t taste like it, but who knew. Hell, they even had utensils - spoons and forks and the like. They were dirty, sure, but Wade literally couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten with utensils. The can he got was some plain meat - he guessed it was boiled pork, but the etiquette, alongside the ‘Best By’ stamp, was missing. After cutting it open with his knife and a stone, the man just sat down and prepared to gorge himself… Only to be quite rudely interrupted by the arrival of the police, who had undoubtedly come to investigate the gunshots.

Two cyborgs and three drones were standing at the entrance of the supermarket, scanning it for intruders. Wade’s heat signature had been erased from their systems in the early days of the war (if you could even call it that), which meant that he wouldn’t be detected unless the cyborgs actually saw him. The same, however, couldn’t be said about the bodies of the survivors he had just killed. As soon as their still warm corpses were caught by the cyborgs’ sensors, one of them immediately went there alongside the flying drones while his (or hers - who could even tell anymore) partner remained at the entrance.

Wade pulled out one of his swords and hid behind the nearest shelf. Unlike most survivors, who armed themselves to the teeth with guns, rocket launchers, grenades, mines and all sorts of toys, the only weapons that Wade had were his two katanas (he didn’t really count his knife as a weapon, as it was rather useless against cyborgs). And yes, they were specifically katanas and not some other type of Japanese sword - he double checked. So how was a blade notorious for snapping in half the moment it hit bone supposed to be at all effective against the cyborgs, who were covered head to toe in a titanium alloy? Well, simple - the swords were magic. Or at least so close to it that Wade couldn’t tell the difference. He grabbed them from the private collection of one of the richest men in Japan during the Civil War a couple of years back, before this whole cyborg thing had started. Their nametag branded them as Hattori Hanzo blades, but it wasn’t made clear whether they were supposed to have been used by Hanzo, forged by him or it was just a clever ‘Kill Bill’ reference. Whatever the case, Wade quickly found out that the swords could cut through damn near anything. They were like lightsabers - walls, furniture, even other swords. Of course, they couldn’t cut through each other, which answered the question of what would happen if an unstoppable force met an immovable object once and for all, but almost anything else was fair game to them.

Those two swords had become Wade’s greatest asset when the cyborgs hit. Well, that and the fact that he couldn’t die. At first, he had tried to be a hero, saving whoever he could wherever he could, as if trying to prove that not all mutants were bastards. This all changed when his own family was killed right in front of him, and he was completely powerless to do anything about it. After that, it stopped being about heroics and became all about survival. The old Wade was dead. While there were people around, he insisted on being called Deadpool, after his father’s old alias. But it only took a couple of years for him to be left all alone in the entire region. First went the soldiers, who openly tried to oppose the cyborgs. Then went the civilians. Next were the militias, who tried to pretend that they had some sort of authority in this screwed up world. Last was the resistance - those precious few who knew that if the fight against the cyborgs could be won at all, it had to be won covertly, from the shadows. They lasted up until… some time ago, when their last hideout was discovered and attacked. Wade had tried to help, if only out of courtesy for the humans, but it was no use. Betrayed by someone they trusted, the resistance died right in front of him. Of course, Wade quickly hunted the traitor down and cut him apart limb by limb, but that was just for personal satisfaction and not to achieve any sort of purpose. For all intents and purposes, he was alone.

Wade gently squeezed the handle of his katanas. He could hear the drones’ sensors hovering right above him. The cyborg, on the other hand, was a stealth model, so he remained in the shadows - a wild card. The hooded man took a deep breath. It was a matter of seconds before his position was discovered, so he had to make the best of it while he still had the element of surprise. He closed his eyes, waiting until the drones were as close to his position as possible… Mere moments before their sensors detected him, Wade lunged out, swinging his blade. The first drone was hit by sheer luck. The second was not. After who knew how many years of using them, the blades had become like extensions of his arms, moving exactly how he wanted them to and tearing apart anything in their way. Sadly, he wasn’t fast enough,as the third flying drone quickly spotted him before meeting its demise.
“ALPHA TARGET DETECTED!”, the cyborg by the door shouted. Wade grinned. He really liked it when cyborgs said that. It made him feel all important and stuff. Being a stealth model, the one who actually went to investigate didn’t come equipped with a voice box, so it remained silent. Wade knew that the cyborg at the door was only loud to attract attention away from its quieter counterpart, but either way, that didn’t matter. He knew his senses weren’t acute enough to catch the stealth model. While Chiharu - one of the resistance members - could hear them and disable them before they did any damage, Wade himself had a different strategy for dealing with them.

It only took seconds for the stealth cyborg’s arm to burst out of Wade’s chest, like that alien in the movie. Being as light as possible, that model didn’t come equipped with any weapons, so they had to use their hands to break necks or… do more extreme stuff. Since Wade was designated as Alpha Target - the most dangerous (and most likely only) enemy out there - he knew that the cyborg wouldn’t risk a neck snap. No, he’d go straight for the heart, severing the spine and damaging the lungs in the process. But there were two things that the cyborg hadn’t taken into account - one, Wade couldn’t die (the concept of immortality was too advanced for the logical and reasoning brains of the cyborgs), and two, he still had enough of his spine left to retain the mobility of his arms. Within seconds, Wade grabbed the arm sticking out of his chest tightly and turned the katana the other way around before stabbing himself through the stomach, impaling both himself and the cyborg behind him. Unlike regular cyborgs, stealth models didn’t have any vital organs, neither biological nor mechanical. Their bodies were just a bunch of interconnected wires and gears designed to move them swiftly and do literally nothing else. As such, a simple stab was enough to sever enough wires to render the entire thing effectively dead.

After pulling the sword out of himself, Wade had to take a moment to heal up from the attack. He felt practically no pain - after so many years of living, dying and living again, he had become desensitized to it - but he WAS missing his heart, after all, and that took time to recover properly. Two minutes later, the only sign that he had ever been injured was a fist-sized hole in his shirt… Which needed replacement anyway. Next up was the other cyborg. According to Wade’s observations, that one was just a standard artillery model. Covered head to toe in armor, with special reinforcements around its vital organs, armed with an 8mm cannon firing up to 5000 rounds of armor-piercing goodness per minute. It was a real shame that the weapon was permanently attached to the cyborg’s body, as Wade often dreamed about going to town with that baby, but alas, the world was a cruel place. The man pulled his second sword out and crouched down behind a shelf. The cyborg was still guarding the entrance - a smart move, considering that it was the only way in or out of the store. Sooner or later, the robot’s target would need to go to it, sparing it the trouble of both searching and leaving the post unguarded. Thankfully for it, Wade wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Yo, retard!”, he yelled out. Wade just loved being offensive, especially when there wasn’t anyone left to get offended. The cyborg turned towards the source of the voice, unleashing a barrage of bullets that completely tore apart the isles that the man had been hiding behind. At the end of the day, what his opponents often forgot was that Wade wasn’t just a pair of magical katanas and a healing factor. He was a soldier, the champion of the Civil War, Predator Prime, and one of the reasons why his side even won the war in the first place. Sure, some people called him a traitor for turning against mutantkind (which was simply out of pragmatism and had nothing to do with ideologies), but soldiers on both sides admired his skills. And it wasn’t too hard to see why - Wade was all over the battlefield, running, jumping, somersaulting, even doing a naked cartwheel or two while he was at it. At the end, he reached the cyborg that was more than 50 meters away from him without being struck once by the bullets. The hooded man pulled his blades back, preparing to decapitate his attacker… And then something really, really weird happened.

The firing stopped.

“Uhh…”, Wade raised an eyebrow. Cyborgs were programmed to fight to the bitter end, especially against their Alpha Target. As he went close for the killing blow, they always tried to get at least one or two dirty shots into him. Sometimes they succeeded, most times they didn’t. Either way, not a single cyborg out of the hundreds that Wade had slaughtered over the (presumably) years had ever just given up and accepted its fate.
“Hello? Anybody home?”, he waved his hand in front of the cyborg’s visor.
“NEGATIVE. UNIT JK-616 ARTILLERY MODEL IS NOT HOME. UNIT IS STATIONED ONE POINT THREE THOUSAND MILES FROM--”
“Oookay, forget I asked”, Wade sighed.
“NEGATIVE. UNIT’S MEMORY IS STORED ON A 3.5 BILLION TERABYTE HARD DRIVE. DELETION OF MEMORIES WITHOUT ADMINISTRATOR’S AUTHORIZATION IS IMPOSSIBLE”
“I really miss when you guys still had your free will… Like, remember Vivian? Man, what a girl! She couldn’t speak, and yet she was still a more entertaining conversational partner than you’d ever be, tinhead”
“NEGATIVE. NO UNIT DESIGNATED ‘VIVIAN’ FOUND IN THE DATABASE”
“Of course not… So, let’s move on to the big stuff, shall we? Why are you having a friendly chit chat with your Alpha Target?”
“NEGATIVE--”
“Yeah, yeah, I know this isn’t a friendly chit chat or whatever. Just answer the question!”
“NEGATIVE. YOU ARE NOT ALPHA TARGET”

Wade stared at the cyborg in disbelief for a full fifteen seconds. He counted.
“Say that again”
“YOU ARE NOT ALPHA TARGET”, the robotic voice repeated.
“What do you mean I’m not Alpha Target?!? I’ve been hunting you guys for years… I think! And I know I’ve killed literally hundreds of you!”
“NEGATIVE. YOU ARE INSIGNIFICANT”
“What do you mean insignificant?”
“YOU CAN NOT DO ANY DAMAGE. ALPHA TARGET THREATENS THE WORLD”
Wade placed his swords back in their sheaths. That didn’t sound good.
“Who is Alpha Target?”
Instead of responding, the cyborg merely stepped outside of the supermarket, standing just outside of the entrance and looking up. Wade followed him, and what he saw was the first thing he saw ever since the cyborgs took over that truly shocked him.

High up in the sky, beyond the clouds of dust that had concealed the horizon ever since Takeshi Tachibana staged his coup, brightly shined two suns. One of them was the normal one, whose light barely reached the ground, blocked by the last remnants of large-scale resistance against the cyborgs. The second sun appeared much closer, though interestingly enough, while it appeared to be quite bright, didn’t actually seem to cause a difference in illumination.
“What the hell is that thing?”, Wade asked the cyborg as his eyes remained focused on the sky.
“A NEUTRON STAR. DIAMETER - UNKNOWN. PROXIMITY TO EARTH - CALCULATING. TIME BEFORE IMPACT - CALCULATING”
“Impact?”, he looked at the robot. “That’s the best news I’ve heard since this whole damn thing started! I didn’t think there was any sort of God, but if there was ever any proof of divine intervention, this has got to be it!”
“NEGATIVE. THERE IS A GOD, AND HIS NAME IS TAKESHI TACHIBANA”
“He programmed you to think that? Pathetic, even for him”, Wade sighed. “What’s your name?”
“UNIT JK-616 ARTILLERY MODEL”
“Your real name, soldier”

The cyborg remained quiet for a few seconds.
“FORMER DESIGNATION: NAKAGAWA, SUMIKO”
“Alright, then, Sumiko-chan”, Wade grinned. “What do you say we find ourselves a good spot and watch the world burn? It’s been a while since I’ve had a conversational partner. Well, until your buddies killed them all, anyway”
“NEGATIVE. THIS UNIT HAS BEEN ORDERED TO REPORT TO BASE”
“Come on, what are you gonna do about that thing, anyway? Launch missiles at it? You cyborgs always try to solve your problems with violence, and honestly, I don’t think that’s one that can be solved even without violence”, Wade explained. “Come on, ignore those orders! You know you want to!”
“NEGATIVE”, the cyborg spoke. A moment later, its heavy body began moving forward at a surprising speed, causing even Wade to increase his pace in order to keep up.
“Alright, then at least let me come with you. Since I’m no longer Alpha Target, I should be able to get into your base no problem, right? Hey, by the way, just out of curiosity, what target am I now?”
“THREAT DESIGNATION: WADE WILSON JR, AKA KID DEADPOOL. THREAT LEVEL: OMEGA”
“Kid Deadpool?!? Lady, that’s just Deadpool! I’m… In my thirties. Maybe. You attacked me before I could read my calendar!”, Wade retorted. “And Omega? I mean, I guess that’s not too bad. It still sounds kinda badass and all. Wade Wilson, Threat Level Omega! Wait… That’s the lowest designation, isn’t it?”
“AFFIRMATIVE”
“Remind me why I haven’t cut your head off already”
“NO INFORMATION FOUND”
“Great…”

Wade and the cyborg made their way through the ruins of an old, long-fallen apartment building, jumping over the debris and navigating the terrain, which was quite impressive considering one of them weighed at least a ton. Why JK-616 hadn’t chosen a terrain that was easier to navigate, such as the conveniently placed road literally right next to the building was anyone’s guess, but hey, Wade wasn’t going to argue. He liked some freerunning every once in a while, made him feel badass. The best apocalypse survivors used free running all the time, after all! As the two reached the highest point of the toppled building, the man prepared to jump off and land down on the street, fully aware that he’d break both of his ankles and possibly his shins, but also knowing that they’d all heal within seconds. Still, his mechanical companion hesitated.
“What’s wrong? Scared of heights?”, he looked at it.
“NEGATIVE. FEAR IS A WEAKNESS. TAKESHI TACHIBANA HAS--”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, Cyberman. What’s up?”
“THE SKY”
Wade stared at the cyborg.
“Seriously?”
“AFFIRMATIVE”
“I meant to say what’s wrong? Why aren’t you jumping down? Did, like… Your orders suddenly change or something?”
“AFFIRMATIVE”
“Whoa, really? What’s up? Err.. What are they?”
“MULTIVERSAL ANOMALY DETECTED IN CLOSE PROXIMITY. INVESTIGATION REQUIRED”
“Ooooh, a multiversal anomaly! No clue what that’s supposed to be, but it sounds exciting!”
“MULTIVERSAL ANOMALY: A BREACH IN THE FABRIC OF THE MULTIVERSE”
“A surprisingly metaphorical description for someone like you, tinhead. Well, let’s go see what the fuss is all about!”

***

“Okay, there’s something you really need to understand about world CYBORG, Inna”, Hawke spoke as he leaned forward into his seat on the Bastion. “Something that is very, very essential to your survival”
“Right… That’s still a possibility, isn’t it?”, Inna sighed quietly.
“Look, the thing is, CYBORG is a world where literally everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. In my world, Takeshi Tachibana was a brilliant scientist, probably the most brilliant out of all of us. He found inspiration in his daughter’s struggle for survival, her will to never give up, and managed to create numerous inventions that saved countless lives. This right here…”, the man reached down, pulling the leg of his pants up to reveal an elaborate-looking cybernetic brace permanently attached to him. “He gave this to me. For free. It’s the only thing that keeps me able to stand”
“Oh my God…”, Inna gasped, her hand covering her mouth. “What happened to you?”
“The same thing that happened to almost everyone else with an injury like that - mutants. On your world they’re nearly extinct. On mine… Well, the less said about that, the better”
“I’m so sorry, Hawke”
“Well, my point is…”, the man let his pants go and pulled himself up. “On this world, Takeshi Tachibana was gravely affected by the death of his daughter. He set out to make sure nobody ever died again… Whether they wanted to or not. Everyone was converted into unstoppable machines, with only the brain and in some cases a few vital organs being artificially sustained indefinitely within a metal body”

“How is that even possible? Organs need nutrients, calories, proteins, oxygen… So many things that a metal body just can’t provide!”, Inna retorted. “And even if it could, organs need to die eventually. I mean, the cells can’t replicate forever!”
“I don’t know”, he shrugged. “It’s technology advanced way beyond even our own. It’s almost like magic. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it IS magic. What I’m trying to say is that these cyborgs can not be stopped, and there’s millions of them. And if that wasn’t enough, when the world tried to fight Tachibana, they decided that the best course of action was to drop a bunch of nukes on him. It, um… Didn’t work out. The debris has darkened the sky to this day, and the radiation has caused multiple species to mutate into, well… More murderous versions of themselves. Humans included”
“Wait a second, radiation?!? Shouldn’t we put HAZMAT suits or something?”
“No, it’s alright. The nuclear war happened over 80 years ago. While there is still some radiation left in the soil and in the water, most of the region is completely safe. Just watch your step and you should be fine”
“Well, that’s reassuring… I assume the survivors are all gone?”
“More or less. There are some here and there, but for all intents and purposes, the human species is extinct. Now it’s just nature… And the cyborgs, of course”

“Great”, the woman sighed, pushing herself up from her seat.. “What could go wrong?”
“Inna”, Hawke addressed her, standing up as well. “Are you alright?”
“Well, I’m about to walk into a deathtrap, so…”
“That’s not what I meant”
The woman averted her gaze. The image of the mutilated child bearing the face of her own daughter was still very fresh in her mind - a stark reminder of what awaited Ellie on her homeworld.
“Do you… Remember that promise? That if we fail you’re going to take me back to my daughter?”
“Yeah…”
“That’s not going to happen, is it? Now that we’re out of fuel”
Hawke kept quiet. With another sigh, Inna pushed the button to open the door of the Bastion.
“If we fail…”, she looked at him. “I’ll never forgive you. Until that neutron star kills us, you’re going to have to live with the fact that you let a seven year old girl die alone when she didn’t need to”
“I know”, Hawke nodded. “And if that happens, I’m going to live with that guilt. But I’m also going to do whatever I can to make sure we don’t fail. We’re getting into that neutron star one way or another. After that… Well, who knows”

Inna nodded. She wasn’t exactly satisfied by this explanation, but it wasn’t like she could do much about it. The young woman could only hope that Hawke was right, and that they’d truly be able to fix this… Even if she herself wasn’t sure how that was supposed to work. As she stepped out of the Bastion, Inna was greeted to a rather typical post-apocalyptic landscape - fallen buildings, cracked concrete, ominous dark sky, and yet for some reason the surroundings were all tinted in a dark yellow color, as if they were being illuminated by bright yellow lamps. Inna wasn’t sure what was up with that. Maybe the cloud covering the sky refracted the light from the sun, causing it to be yellow, or perhaps that was one of the effects of the neutron star… Or maybe it was just magic. Who could even tell at this point.
“Well… That looks cheerful”, Inna commented.
“Did you honestly expect anything else after what I told you?”, Hawke asked, walking out of the Bastion and allowing the door to close behind him.
“Well… Yeah, sort of. I mean, I don’t know about your Earth, but on mine we have Pripyat, which was, like, completely devastated by a nuclear disaster. Give or take thirty years, the place is a forest, almost completely overtaken by wildlife”
“The soil is completely infertile, at least in this region. There’s no wildlife within five thousand miles of this place, possibly even more”
“How do you know, anyway?”
‘We’ve been watching this place for the last century, trying to reverse-engineer their tech without actually going there and most likely getting ourselves killed. We never could, though”

Inna took a few steps towards the landscape, not quite sure where to begin. When they had gone to Faywyn, the Toshine had found them and guided them almost straight away. This time, however, they were on their own.
“So, we need to refuel the Bastion, right? What does it run on, anyway? Do we need to wait for lightning to strike at exactly 10:04 PM?”
“What?”, the man tilted his head.
“Never mind… Movies on your world probably suck”, she sighed.
“What, seriously? You call films ‘movies’ on your world?”, Hawke chuckled. “Wow… That’s like calling interactive art ‘videogames’!”
Inna kept quiet.
“Wow… I mean, wow! I’d make a joke about your culture being immature, but…”
“Just tell me what we need!”
“Right… Well, good news is, the Bastion was designed to be refillable in almost every world we go to. And since gold is a natural resource that’s relatively common…”

“Wait, wait… Gold? We need gold to make this thing run?!?”
“Well, it’s either that or plutonium. Which one do you think is gonna be easier to find?”
“I’m not sure if you’ve taken a look around, but we’re not exactly sitting on a goldmine here! What do you want me to do, fish for gold in a river? I don’t even know if there ARE any rivers!”
“What are you yelling at me for?!? I didn’t know that I’d be going on a world-hopping adventure trying to get to the thing that killed everyone I ever knew!”
“Well, why didn’t you stock up?”
“Because every gram counts. The Bastion is like a rocket ship - the heavier it is, the more fuel it requires. It was designed to have just enough for one trip forward and one trip back, with a 4 member crew. There’s two of us and we used it three times, so technically there should be enough fuel for one more trip, but the neutron star’s gravitational pull needs to be taken into account, so we’re gonna need at least twice as much fuel to get there, not to mention the return trip. I’d say about 6-7 kilograms of gold should do it”
“Oh, yeah, 6-7 kilograms! No problem! I’ll just pick some gold from the trees! Oh wait, we don’t have any trees either!”
“Inna, your snark is usually adorable, but right now it’s really not helping”
“Well, I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you. Truly, it’s my fault that we’re here on the other end of the universe with almost no fuel and absolutely no chance of--”

“UNCONVERTED HUMANOID LIFEFORMS!”, a mechanical voice sounded off like a siren in front of them. Upon turning around, Hawke and Inna were greeted by a tall, mechanical creature. The being was humanoid in shape, but its frame was quite a lot larger, with the creature towering at over two meters in height. Its metal shell had been painted in red and grey, most likely to mark it as an artillery model, if the gigantic minigun permanently attached to its right arm was any indication. Hawke immediately stood in front of Inna, extending his arm and gesturing her to stand back.
“We are completely unarmed and surrender!”, Hawke spoke.
“YOU WILLINGLY SUBMIT YOURSELVES FOR CONVERSION?”, the machine asked.
“Yes, that’s right! We submit! Take us to… Wherever!”
“NEGATIVE. PRIME DIRECTIVE OVERRIDES ORDERS. YOU HAVE ARRIVED FROM A BREACH IN THE FABRIC OF THE MULTIVERSE. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALPHA TARGET”
“Alpha Target?”, Inna asked.

“What my metal friend here is trying to say is that he thinks you guys brought the Death Star to our humble abode”, a young man’s voice sounded behind them. Inna and Hawke turned around, noticing the hooded figure of a man closely examining the Bastion. The man’s clothes were filthy, to say the least - they looked like they hadn’t been washed in months, maybe even years. The odor coming from him was only quenched by the foul that seemed to cover the entire world by default - a fact that Inna was rather grateful for. On his back, a pair of beautiful katanas were sheathed by self-made straps, their shiny blades being pretty much the only clean thing on him. As he turned around, the foreigners could see that his face was painted by what Inna assumed to be war paint - a black, diamond-shaped rectangle over each eye. The paint had already began to melt, so it had probably been applied a while ago. And while at first it helped conceal the man’s identity, it took the woman only a few moments to realize who was talking to her.
“Wade?”, she asked quietly, gasping. There was no way she couldn’t recognize her own brother, even if he looked a lot older than his 16 year old self from her world.
“Who the hell’s Wade?”, he spoke, his face scrunching. A few moments later, the survivor burst into laughter. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist… I’ve always wanted to say that! But yeah, I’m Wade… Or Deadpool, as they called me. Y’know, when there were still people around who weren’t dead or brainwashed or mutated or too busy scavenging to have a decent conversation”
“Deadpool?”
“Geez, can you only speak one word at a time, lady? Yeah, that’s me, Wade Wilson Jr., also known as Deadpool. Hero of the pro-registration side of the Civil War, and by some dumb turn of events the only one who still has his sanity around these parts. Most of it, at least. Some of it? A little bit of it. I’ll take what I can get!”, he chuckled before pointing over to the cyborg. “That right there is Sumiko-chan. She’s usually cranky, but the neutron star scared her into submission. Say hi, Sumiko-chan!”
“THIS UNIT HAS BEEN DESIGNATED AS JK-616 ARTILLERY--”
“Sumiko-chan says hi”

Inna had to take a moment to take this in. Her brother, her own geeky, adorably dumb and irresponsible brother, was a survivor in this world. He seemed almost like a different person entirely… Almost.
“You don’t know who I am?”, she asked.
“Never seen you in my life, lady”
“I told you you’re unique”, Hawke whispered.
Inna bit her lip.
“But… You know Ellie, don’t you?”

Immediately, Hawke could feel the atmosphere around the Bastion changing. Wade’s grin was wiped from his face just as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by a cocktail of sorrow, confusion and rage. He stepped forward, his eyes locked directly into Inna’s.
“Now, this is what we’re going to do… You’re gonna tell me exactly who you are… How you got here… And how you know Ellie. If at any point I don’t like your answer I’ll have Sumiko-chan mow you down”
“Are you serious?”, Hawke asked. “You’d get yourself killed as well!”
“Meh. Not the first time I’ve died. Hopefully not the last, either”
The woman didn’t appear to be particularly intimidated by the threats.
“My name is Inna Wilson. I come from a different world in an attempt to save the Multiverse from that thing”, she pointed up at the neutron star. “We arrived in that ship behind you, but it’s almost out of fuel. We don’t have enough to solve the problem. And Ellie… She’s my daughter”
Wade’s eyebrows narrowed.
“You are not Ellie’s mother. Her mother… She was taken from me… Turned into one of those things”, Wade pointed at JK-616. “And Ellie… They said she’s too small to be converted, so...”

Inna gulped. Because of what had happened only a few hours ago, this revelation hit her pretty hard.
“What I don’t understand is where you fit into the picture. Ellie’s mom was named Angela Wilson. My big sister. She looked nothing like you at all”
“Angela…”, Inna repeated. For some reason, the name sounded really familiar to her, but she just couldn’t put a finger on it.
“Yeah. Notice how I said ‘Angela’ and not ‘Inna’. There’s, like, a bit of a difference”
“As I already said, on my world I’m Ellie’s mother. I carried her for nine months. She started kicking when I was 17 weeks pregnant. It was a Tuesday”, she chuckled quietly. “She made her first steps when she was nine months old, and spoke her first word exactly one week before her first birthday - June 16th, 2007. I was kind of hoping that it would be ‘Mama’, but instead it was ‘Foxy’... Her stuffed animal’
The woman wiped a tear from her eye with the back of her hand. Wade did not, but his own eyes had watered almost to the point of leaking.
“I remember that stupid fox… I gave it to her when she was born”, he muttered.
“You wanted her very first gift to be from you… Said it was your responsibility as her uncle”

Wade took a deep breath, averting his eyes. Memories that he’d kept locked up for who knew how many years suddenly resurfaced in full force, threatening to drown what little was left of him. He placed a hand on the Bastion, letting out a badly concealed sob. Tears were streaming down Inna’s cheeks as she remember the little girl she had left on PRIME - a little girl she’d cared for every single day for almost eight years. A girl who, by this point, was either gone or on the verge of death, panicked and confused and desperately looking for her mother, not knowing that there wasn’t any chance of meeting her. While Hawke didn’t shed any tears, he certainly looked like he was about to. He remembered his own mother, who’d probably felt the same way as Inna about being stuck on the other side of Yamaku while her son was who knew where. The young man had tried not to think about how his family had perished during the disaster… Until now. Out of the four, the only one who didn’t display any emotion at all was JK-616, who merely stood as still as always, its emotional inhibitors preventing it from completely understanding the situation.

“Alright…”, Wade finally said, wiping his tears with the back of his hand and smearing his war paint in the process. “So you guys have a spaceship… You’re not a cyborg, and you…”, he pointed at Hawke, “have some weird cosplay thing going on. If I can believe that, I can believe that there’s a world out there where you are Ellie’s mom, sure. Doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch, all things considered”
“Well, actually… I think there’s something you need to know about us. Full disclosure and all”, Inna spoke, turning towards Hawke. “Show him your brace”
The man nodded, quickly understanding that being discovered as a partial cyborg himself could’ve had some really big implications for the guy living in a world infested by them. He crouched down, pulling the leg of his pants again and letting Wade look at the elaborate cybernetics adorning his leg.
“It’s just for walking, that’s all. My world’s Takeshi Tachibana gave it to me. He’s a friend, and a good person”, he explained. Wade nodded. He’d heard stranger things today.
“As for me…”, Inna said, turning her back on her brother and sliding her fingers underneath her blond hair before lifting it up, revealing a silver contraption on the back of her neck, deeply embedded into her skin and bone. “You could say that my brace is for walking too. Without it I’m completely paralyzed, and if it ever breaks or malfunctions I’ll die. I guess you can say it’s kind of important”

Hawke’s eyes remained focused on the cybernetic implant. That was the first time he’d ever seen anything like it. The device’s design was elegant, more like a piece of jewelry than a crude cybernetic. And its function… Was it used to reconnect her spine? That was some pretty advanced engineering - as a matter of fact, similar braces (though not nearly as elegant) had just began existing on TECH. Their presence on PRIME - a world that called interactive art “videogames” - was mind-boggling, to say the least. But then again, there were always visionaries.
“Honestly, if that implant was controlling you somehow, you wouldn’t have shown it to me. I mean, it’s not like I was gonna see through all that hair, anyway”, Wade chuckled. “Don’t worry,  I trust you, guys. And if you ever do try something stupid, just remember that I can’t die and I have one very pissed off cyborg. Right, Sumiko-chan?”
“NEGATIVE. RAGE IS AN--”
“Sumiko-chan says yes”, he grinned.

“Right. Glad we got all that settled”, Hawke sighed. “Now that we’ve wasted enough time becoming best friends forever, perhaps we can do something about that neutron star?”
“AFFIRMATIVE. THE NEUTRON STAR HAS BEEN DESIGNATED ALPHA TARGET. ALL UNITS ARE COMMANDED TO ELIMINATE IT. ALL OTHER ORDERS ARE IRRELEVANT”
“Oh, so that’s why you didn’t kill us or take us to be converted…”, Hawke noted. “Well, in any case, I’ve got good news and bad news. Which ones do you wanna hear first?”
The cyborg remained quiet for a moment.
“THE GOOD NEWS”, it responded. Wade raised an eyebrow.
“Great!”, Hawke grinned. “Good news is, we may have a way to stop the neutron star… Or at least, we’ve got a theory that might work out. You see, the star doesn’t target galaxies or even solar systems - it targets Earths. It’s precise to the point of impossibility. It even takes orbits into account, always appearing at exactly the right place even when the Earths are out of temporal sync. So… We suspect that it’s not really a neutron star at all. It’s some sort of weapon, something that we can board and disable”
“So far so good”, Wade nodded. “What about the bad news?”
“Well, I’ve got several of those, actually. First of all, we’ve got absolutely no idea if there’s any truth to this. I mean, if we ride the ship to the neutron star, there’s really no guarantee that it won’t just go ‘poof’ and melt as soon as the star’s heat overrides its shields. Second of all, even if we wanted to pull off that plan, we can’t - we don’t have enough fuel to get there. The star’s gravitational pull will require a lot more than we currently have”
“Well, fuel is kinda hard to come by”, Wade shrugged. “After the nukes it was all Mad Max for a while. People building their own cars and trying to get out of the zone. I’m pretty sure that all the gas stations have been dry for, like… A decade at least”
“Oh, we’re not looking for gas. We need gold. Well, that or plutonium”
“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? There’s plenty over there”

Wade pointed at a building about half a mile away from where they were. It wasn’t particularly tall, maybe about two or three floors at the most. Its shape was rectangular, but in a different way than a standard apartment building - honestly, it kind of reminded Inna a bit of Uncle Scrooge’s treasury.
“Is that… A bank?”, she asked.
“More like a reserve, actually”, Wade shrugged. “I visited it a few years back looking for anything I could use. It was full of gold, tons of it. Lots of paper money, too. I took some of them, but they didn’t burn very well, so I ended up throwing the lot out”
“Wait, wait, wait… Does Takeshi know about this?”, Hawke asked.
“Err, I assume so? Why?”
“Well, gold is an excellent conductor. I’m sure someone like Takeshi could make use of it in his engineering. Why would he just leave it there and not use it?”
“Beats me. Perhaps he didn’t know?”
“I kind of doubt that… I have a bad feeling about this”, Hawke sighed.
“Well, if you don’t want to go, that’s fine. I mean, honestly, having my world blown up by a neutron star is probably gonna be one of the top 3 best things that have ever happened to me, so…”
“Wade’s right”, Inna placed her hand on her companion’s shoulder. “If we don’t go, we might as well just sit back and watch the fireworks”
Hawke pouted. They did have a point - if they did do something, they could end up in a trap and get killed. If they didn’t, they were going to be killed by the neutron star. One option gave them a fighting chance, and the other didn’t.
“Alright, what the hell. Let’s do it”
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Re: Chapter 4: Cybernetic Nightmare

Post by Raiden on Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:27 am

The moment the four of them got to the reserve, they quickly found out that Takeshi did, in fact, know about it. In fact, he’d probably known for years, considering the state of the three cyborgs standing in front of its gates. Two of them were artillery models, not unlike JK-616, while the third one was a vanguard armed with an energy blade - one of the very few things that Wade’s katanas couldn’t cut through.  
“Well… At least we know there’s still gold in that place?”, Wade asked. Inna sighed.
“Just so you know, the closest I’ve ever come to fighting anyone in my life was when I smacked a dude with a stick a few hours ago… I don’t think I’ll be able to hold my own against a cyborg”
“Yeah, I probably won’t be able to help either… If I put too much pressure on my leg not even the brace will be able to help… And besides, what am I gonna do to a cyborg anyway? Punch it?”
“Well, I didn’t expect you guys to help out anyway”, Wade chuckled. “Just stay behind cover, alright? I’ll whistle when Sumiko-chan and I deal with them”

With that said, the young man followed JK-616 as the two slowly approached the three cyborgs at the entrance. Wade assumed that they had already detected Inna and Hawke’s energy signatures, but had chosen to ignore them, for some reason. Soon enough, the two of them came face to face with the guardians.
“Hello there, gentlemen!”, Wade waved. “Or ladies. I mean, I don’t actually know--”
“YOU ARE IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF PRIME DIRECTIVE”, JK-616 spoke. “PRIME DIRECTIVE CALLS FOR ALL UNITS TO ELIMINATE ALPHA TARGET”
“NEGATIVE”, the vanguard spoke. “OUR ASSIGNMENT OVERRIDES PRIME DIRECTIVE. WE ARE TO PROTECT THE GOLD RESERVES AT ALL COSTS”
“NEGATIVE”, Sumiko-chan objected. “ALPHA TARGET THREATENS THE MULTIVERSE. THE GOLD RESERVES WILL BE IRRELEVANT UNLESS IT IS DESTROYED”
“NEGATIVE. OUR ASSIGNMENT OVERRIDES PRIME DIRECTIVE”, one of the artillery models repeated.
“YOU ARE MALFUNCTIONING. REPORT BACK TO MOTHER BASE FOR RE-EVALUATION”
“NEGATIVE. OUR ASSIGNMENT OVERRIDES PRIME DIRECTIVE”, the vanguard spoke, with the other two units repeating the same one after another, like it was some kind of mantra.

“Well, I don’t think we’re reasoning with them”, Wade spoke as he reached for his blades. “Shall we?”
“AFFIRMATIVE”

Like a bullet, Wade shot himself at one of the artillery models and cut him in half with his katanas, using the element of surprise to dispatch of an opponent and make the fight more fair. The second artillery unit quickly pointed its machine gun at the man, only to be stopped by a violent strike to the head courtesy of JK-616. The vanguard wasted little time. Its body was small and lightly armored, not to the point of the infiltrator, but it still allowed it to be pretty quick on its feet - much quicker than the bulky artillery models. Soon enough, its energy blade crossed paths with Wade’s own katanas, stopping just inches in front of the man’s painted face.
“You’re gonna be a bother, aren’t ya?”, he grinned before stepping back, using one of his katanas to push the energy blade away a safe distance away from him. The vanguard retaliated, assuming a perfect kendo stance before striking forward.
Meanwhile, JK-616 was having quite a bit of trouble beating the other artillery model. Neither of them was designed for close quarters combat, so Sumiko-chan had to get a bit creative. The enemy’s first order of business was to try and point its minigun directly at JK’s head, but was quickly knocked back by another heavy punch. Pressed against the wall of the treasury, the opponent had little space to move or dodge, allowing JK-616 to slam its heavy body straight at it. A cloud of concrete dust burst up into the air, causing Wade to retreat backwards in order to maintain visibility of his opponent. The vanguards had received new firmware upgrades, it seemed, as this one utilized tactics and moves that previous models did not. Either that, or the brain inside the metal casing belonged to a pretty skilled kendo fighter. For a moment, Wade wondered if he was fighting his old friend Sayuri before quickly deciding that he didn’t really want to know.

The impact damaged the artillery unit’s chassis a bit, but it didn’t seem to slow it down. The machine quickly managed to regain its composure, pushing JK-616 down on the ground and pointing its minigun at it.
“Hey, asshole!”, a female voice screamed in the distance. The artillery unit turned its head up to look at Inna, giving JK-616 the opening it needed. Within a second, it swung its heavy legs and struck its opponent, causing it to fall down on the ground as well. JK quickly rolled over, ending up on top of the artillery model. While trying to point its minigun at its head, the enemy grabbed it with its left hand and desperately attempted to move it away. Though it tried its best, JK-616 was simply stronger. After a few seconds, the cyborg had managed to push its minigun just enough to point it at its opponent’s head. At this distance, even a short burst of bullets was enough to completely obliterate the unit’s heavily armored head.
Wade, sadly, wasn’t faring as well. The vanguard was quick, skilled and downright vicious, and its constant assaults had left the man without breath. Most cyborgs usually relied on their sheer technological advantage in order to win, which was something that Wade dealt with quickly enough. This one, though? This one was good. And it wasn’t going down without a proper fight.
“Alright, then…”, Wade spoke, throwing one of his katanas on the ground and gripping the other one with both hands, pulling his left foot backwards slightly before pointing the tip of the blade directly at the vanguard’s head. “Let’s do this right, tinhead”

As if it understood, the vanguard assumed the same position, preparing to strike. Wade closed his eyes. He hadn’t had a kendo match since he was in high school, which felt like a century ago. Still, he remembered his sensei’s instructions rather clearly. The man calmed his breathing. He could feel the opponent in front of him - their presence was way more obvious to him than it ever could’ve been if he’d simply looked. Wade could sense every little piece of its cybernetic body, every screw, every joint, every pump, every wire. And he knew exactly when the cyborg struck, its blade lifted up and aiming for Wade’s head. He opened his eyes.
“Dou!”, he screamed out loud, twisting the blade around and pointing it straight at the cyborg’s abdomen. In an instant, it was done. Both Wade and the vanguard stood still for a moment, each one trying to figure out if they’d been hit. Everything had happened so fast that there was no way for pain to settle in immediately, be it biological or mechanical. A few seconds later, both of them knew who had won the duel. Wade reached behind him and placed his katana back into the improvised sheath as the cyborg fell down, cut almost cleanly into two. The battle was over.

“Alright, I have to admit… That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life”, Inna spoke with a grin on her face.
“Meh. I’ve done cooler”, Wade shrugged as he picked up his discarded katana from the ground. “Like, there was that time when I fought something like three of these sword guys. At once. In the dark”
“Did they take turns engaging in kendo matches with you, or was it more like a team-based tournament?”, she chuckled.
“Let’s just go, alright?, he sighed. “Come on, cosplay dude, or we’re leaving you behind!”
“Right… Coming”, Hawke spoke, showing up from his hiding spot, his face flushing slightly. He didn’t usually consider himself a coward, but when five superbeings began unleashing a barrage of bullets and energy he thought that he’d do better hiding behind the nearest building. He had enough close calls in the past day to keep adding to that list.
Wade entered the reserve building first, in order to stay ahead in case of any traps - it wasn’t like he could be killed by any of them, after all. Hawke followed closely after him, ready to provide his scientific expertise in case it was needed. Inna was supposed to be next, with JK-616 guarding the rear. But just before the woman could enter, the machine stepped in her way, startling her.
“Oh! Hey there!”, she smiled a bit nervously.
“YOU ASSISTED THIS UNIT DESPITE BEING BIOLOGICAL. WHY? IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE”
“You want to know why I helped you?”, she raised an eyebrow.
“AFFIRMATIVE”
“Well, why shouldn’t I help you? I mean, you’re our ally, right?”
“NEGATIVE. BIOLOGICAL AND BIO-MECHANICAL LIFEFORMS CAN NEVER BE ALLIES”
“Why not?”
JK kept quiet for a moment.
“NO INFORMATION FOUND”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. And you’re welcome, by the way. I’ll expect you to return the favor!”, Inna chuckled before walking past the cyborg and into the building.

The insides of the reserve looked… Well, about as good as a concrete building would look after years of neglect. The walls had began to fall apart in certain places, revealing the metal skeleton underneath. The carpet was long rotten, as were whatever pictures adorned the walls of the lobby.
“You sure that’s a reserve? Looks more like a bank”, Inna commented, looking at the long-forgotten furniture and desks.
“Well, it WAS a bank… I think. At least it started out as one until some rich kid named Harway decided to put his entire fortune in gold there. That’s when they upgraded the security”
“That’s awfully convenient…”, Inna spoke.
“Hey, don’t quote me on this, I’m reciting from memory here. Memory about rumors! Very, very old memory about rumors that--”
“What security measures?”, Hawke cut him off.
“Well, considering the fact that there’s no electricity, some pretty damn pathetic ones. I’m guessing the only thing we need to worry about is the safe door, which is something like 30 inches of reinforced steel. Shouldn’t be a problem for these babies”, he pointed towards his katanas.
“I don’t know… Something about this just doesn’t seem right. I mean, we need gold, and all of a sudden there’s enough gold right next to us?”, Inna looked around. “And the cyborgs at the entrance… Could they really malfunction like that?”
“You think it’s a trap?”, Hawke looked at her. “I thought we were past this. I mean, even if it is a trap, what else could we do?”
“I don’t know… It just really seems like our stars aligned here”
“Well, I’ve known about the gold for years. Unless you think I’m lying?”, Wade shrugged.
“Maybe we just got lucky, Inna. Let’s just take it for what it is”, the scientist smiled at her.

The safe turned out to be two floors below the lobby, looking just like it did in heist movies - a giant, circular door made of reinforced steel attached to a metal wall. It was downright breath-taking.
“So, there’s gold behind there?”, Hawke asked.
“Should be”, Wade responded as he drew his katanas. “Unless the cyborgs ate it all. How much do you need?
“About 5-6 kilograms… For me and Inna. If you want to tag along, you’re gonna have to bring that number to about 10 kilograms”
“And what if I want to take Sumiko-chan along too?”, the man asked, his blades cutting through the steel door and showering everything in sparks.
“I, um… I don’t think the Bastion is big enough for her, actually”, he sighed.
“Well, she’s gonna wait for us here, then. Right?”, Wade glanced back at the cyborg.
“AFFIRMATIVE”

“Well, there you have it”, Hawke grinned. “I was gonna offer you a ride to another world after we restored the Multiverse, but you seem quite attached to your little robot”
“You know me! I fall in love so easily”, he chuckled, his blades digging deeper and deeper into the steel. “And besides, I don’t think I’d really fit in anywhere else. I’ve been surviving for so long that I don’t really know how to do anything else anymore”
“Yeah, makes sense. I’m guessing you were born when the world was already taken over by cyborgs. It’s probably hard to enter some kind of civilization when all you’ve known is chaos”
“Nah, not really. I was 25 when the bombs hit. I kinda consider that day as the one where things officially went to shit”, he chuckled. “So I’m something like… 40 now? Something like that”
“Yeah… Try 105”, Hawke chuckled.
“105?!?”, Wade laughed, turning back to Hawke. “You sure you haven’t got your math wrong?”
“No, I’m pretty sure that the bombs fell about 80 years ago today. I’m guessing your mutation is keeping you alive and looking young”
“Yeah, wouldn’t surprise me. I knew I couldn’t die, but I thought that didn’t include death of old age! Holy hell, it’s been, like, 50 years since I’ve had a conversation with a human being! Can you believe that, Inna?”
“Huh?”, the woman looked up at him. “Oh. Yeah, wow. That’s pretty amazing”
“Yeah, tell me about it! I’m practically a grandpa now… Old Man Wade, surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Seems appropriate”, the hooded man chuckled, perfectly aware that none of his companions would get his reference, but still feeling obliged to make it. A moment later, he kicked the safe door, causing a human-sized piece of metal to fall down inside. “And we’re in!”

Wade was the first to enter the treasury, which was completely dark except for a little bit of light coming from the room outside (which was pretty dark itself, only illuminated by a hole in the ceiling way above the stairs). Still, what little light was there was more than enough to give the quartet a pretty good idea of what was inside, namely - gold. Hundreds upon hundreds of bars lay on top of each other on the shelves, neatly stacked and ripe for the taking. While there were also numerous smaller saves beneath the shelves, most likely containing personal items and amounts, the gold was undoubtedly the main attraction.
“Dear God… There must be millions here! Maybe even a billion or two! Almost makes me wish money wasn’t worthless”, Wade exclaimed happily. Inna watched her brother as he sheathed his blades before taking a closer look at the gold, as if to establish its authenticity. “Is this what we need, cosplay guy?”
“AYAME?”, he spoke out loud. After a moment of silence, he nodded. “Yep, that’s definitely gold. If each bar is one kilogram we’re gonna need about ten of these, just to be sure that I can return everyone home afterwards”
“No problem. I’ve carried heavier!”, Wade spoke, extending a hand to grab the bar nearest to him.

And then everything clicked in the young woman’s head.

“Don’t touch it!!!”, she screamed out loud. But it was too late. The moment the hooded man’s hands were occupied with the gold bars, an infiltrator unit stepped out from the shadows and shoved its hand directly into his chest, impaling him. That wasn’t the first time this had happened, of course - hell, it wasn’t the first time it had happened that day - but since it caught him by surprise it had still hurt a little bit. Still clenching the gold bar tightly in his right hand, Wade reached out towards his blades with his left one, desperate to get rid of his attacker, but he was too slow. Just as he grabbed his katana, the cyborg pulled its arm out and ran out of the treasury, heading straight for Hawke and Inna. A moment later, two more infiltrators joined it.
“We have to run!”, Hawke yelled out.
“There’s no use. The exit is blocked. We’re trapped”, Inna stated, looking more concerned than scared or confused.
“Can you take care of them?”, the scientist looked up towards JK-616. The cyborg was unmoving.
“NEGATIVE”
“What? Why not, you could hold them off until Wade heals up, right?”
“It won’t do it because it’s the one who led us into the trap”, Inna spoke.

The infiltrator units had completely ignored Wade, instead focusing on surrounding Hawke and his companion. The stairs above were blocked by an artillery unit with an itchy trigger finger, and if the shadows were to be believed, there were at least two more cyborgs in the lobby.
“This whole thing has been a trap from the start. The conveniently placed gold bars, the supposedly malfunctioning guards… It was a set-up”
“But how?!?”, Hawke exclaimed. “Nobody knew we needed gold!”
“Well, nobody except for it”, she pointed at JK. “If my guess is correct, it overheard our conversation and set this plan into motion. Or perhaps was just another pawn in the grand scheme of things. Am I right?”
JK-616 kept quiet for a bit.
“AFFIRMATIVE”
“Et tu, Sumiko-chan?”, Wade gasped out from inside the vault, bleeding out from his broken heart.
“Now, the question is… What happens next? I assume that you don’t want us dead”, Hawke turned to JK.
“AFFIRMATIVE. YOU WILL BE DELIVERED TO TAKESHI TACHIBANA AND WORK WITH HIM TO DISPATCH OF ALPHA TARGET”
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along!”, the scientist objected. “If you let us go, we’re going to take care of the Neutron Star once and for all!”
“NEGATIVE. YOUR PLAN HAS A 0% CHANCE OF SUCCESS. IT IS SUICIDE”
“It’s not suicide! It’ll work! It has to!”, Inna objected.
“NEGATIVE. YOUR SKILLS AND CRAFT CAN BE UTILIZED MUCH BETTER BY TAKESHI TACHIBANA”
“Look, even if we wanted to help, there’s just no time left! The neutron star has been here since we arrived! That means we’re only moments away from the natural disasters, and once those strike we’ll have minutes! This world literally won’t be here anymore in an hour!”
“Guess you just gotta have a little faith in those idiots, Sumiko-chan”, Wade grinned, having pushed himself up on his feet, his wound almost healed. “You either let them go and we die, or you don’t and everyone dies. The fate of the multiverse is literally in your hands”

The next few seconds of silence were almost agonizing. JK-616 turn its head down, its cybernetic eyes staring at its left palm and the minigun permanently attached to the right one. Its mechanically-enhanced brain processed every possible outcome, trying to calculate what the right course of action would be. The cyborg looked up, glancing at Inna and Hawke. Next, it turned its body around and looked at the infiltrator units, patiently waiting for orders.
“INNA WILSON”, JK spoke.
“Yes?”
“I AM RETURNING THE FAVOR”
And with that, JK-616 unleashed a barrage of bullets against the infiltrators, completely tearing apart their fragile bodies with the 8mm bullets firing at lightning rate from its minigun.
“Go! Go!”, Hawke took Inna’s hand, pulling her up the stairs and towards the exit. As the artillery unit standing guard up there pointed its gun at them, it quickly found itself pushed back by JK-616’s fire, the bullets leaving visible dents in its armor and forcing it to take a few steps backwards in order to retain its balance.
“Hey, what the hell do you guys think you’re doing charging the cyborgs? That’s my job!”, Wade screamed out, both of his katanas in his hands. Hawke and Inna politely stepped out of his way as the man rushed up the stairs, dodging the barrage coming from the artillery unit’s minigun before slicing it in half with his blades.

As the trio reached upstairs, they were greeted by, amazingly, an ever worse sight - three vanguards were waiting for them in the lobby, their energy blades drawn and ready to tear them apart. Wade sighed.
“You know what? Screw it. Run!”, he exclaimed, dashing straight towards the exit.
“What?!?”, Hawke yelled, though he and Inna did follow the hooded man’s instructions. “I thought you said you’ve beaten three of those guys once!”
“Yeah, once! When I wasn’t dragging two civilians around and the world wasn’t about to end!”
“I think he’s got a point, Hawke!”, Inna chimed in.
Either way, Wade wasn’t willing to risk it. As they ran, only one of the vanguards managed to block his way and actually attempt to stop him, and that one got quickly pushed aside with a nice strike to the side. Just like that, they were out of the reserve and onto the street.
“Quick! Back to the Bastion!”, Hawke yelled out.
“Are they coming after us?”, Inna asked.
“Nah, they’ll take a moment to call for backup and synchronize their forces. And besides, they’ve also got Sumiko-chan to deal with. She should keep them busy for--”

Just as the man said this, the ground began shaking right under their feet. The quake was so strong that all three of them managed to feel it, having to stop still and wait for it to pass. The buildings in the distance began to dance, not as much as they had on Hawke’s homeworld, but then again, it always started slowly.
“We’re out of time…”, the scientist sighed.
“What do you mean out of time? How long do we have?”, Inna turned to him.
“If what happened on world TECH is any indication… About half an hour at most”
“Well, my world was too good to last anyway!”, Wade chuckled sarcastically.
“Well, we can’t stay here, in any case! Let’s head to the Bastion, maybe we can figure something out! We’ve still got some fuel left, perhaps we can jump off to another world and try to find gold there! Even if world PRIME is out of reach, there has to be something around us, right?”
“Yeah… Something…”, Hawke sighed.
As soon as the quake stopped, the trio continued moving. The spacecraft wasn’t too far, still parked in the alley where it had landed. The apartment building to its right had collapsed completely from the quake, most likely due to faulty foundations. Really, it was a true miracle that none of the rubble had fallen on top of the Bastion and crushed it. While the craft was made to withstand the pressure and energies of the multiverse, and apartment building falling on top of it would’ve probably finished it.

Hawke ran up to it and pressed the button on its front, popping the door open and jumping in. He immediately sat down behind the console and opened up the holographic display, his hands waving around like he was conducting an orchestra of hundreds.
“No… No… No… NO!”, he spoke, checking every quadrant in their vicinity one by one for even a single world that they could go to. But there was nothing. Nothing at all. The more he searched, the more convinced the scientist became that world CYBORG was the last one standing. Even world PRIME didn’t appear to have survived, though there was no way he was ever telling Inna that.
“It’s no good… We’re stuck here. Our only destination is the neutron star”, he sighed.
“Alright, and what if I stay behind? Are you gonna have enough fuel for the two of you?”, Wade asked, looking over the horizon just in case the cyborgs were approaching.
“Not even close! There’s not even enough fuel for a one-way trip!”
“And what if I stay behind too? Will you have enough for yourself?”, Inna spoke.
“There’s no way you’re staying behind. You’re the Conduit, remember? If there’s anyone who can fix this, it’s you! And besides, you’re lighter than me, so it’d make sense if you go instead”
“My scales might disagree with you on that…”, she chuckled awkwardly. While maybe it wasn’t the time for jokes, she still felt like a little humor would alleviate the tension. It didn’t appear to have worked, though.
“Tiberius, the calculations are completed”, AYAME spoke inside Hawke’s head. “Even if only Inna rides the Bastion to the neutron star, we still only have about 90% of the fuel for the trip”
“AYAME, turn off all non-vital systems! Conserve as much fuel as physically possible!”
“I already have, Tiberius”

The man sighed out loud, desperately looking around for something, anything, that could help them take off.
“You’re not wearing any golden jewelry, are you?”, he turned to her.
“Don’t you think I would’ve told you if I had?”, she crossed her arms.
“Well… There’s always my lucky gold bar I usually carry around”, Wade grinned, pulling out the bar he’d taken from the vault just before the attack out of his inside pocket. Inna’s eyes suddenly regained their brightness as her lips curved into a big, dumb smile.
“Oh my God, Wade! I could kiss you!”
“Yeah, bad idea. I haven’t showered in, like, 50 years”, he chuckled, passing the gold bar to Inna, who examined it with the curiosity of a child before handing it to Hawke.
“Yes… Yes! This is it! This will work! AYAME?”
“With 1 kilogram of gold added to our fuel reserves, we will have enough to send either you or Ms. Wilson to the star, but not enough for a return trip”, the AI spoke.
“AYAME says that one of us can go, but no matter what happens it’s going to be a one way ride”, Hawke looked at his companion. “Are you sure you’re up for this?”
“Well, we’ve come this far! What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Your plan being full of shit and you ending up boiling alive the moment you approach? I mean, what do you expect would happen when you try and land on a friggin’ star?”, Wade asked.
“It’s either die there or die here. I’m willing to take my chances”, Inna spoke, stepping aboard the Bastion. “So, how do I fly this thing?”

Hawke froze.
“Crap… I didn’t think of that”
“Well, it can’t be too hard, right? I mean, I don’t exactly see you running around pulling a million levers when you pilot!”
“Yeah, but that’s only because I have my AI doing all the hard work! Without her it’s pretty much impossible to fly the Bastion!”
Inna sighed.
“Great. Now what?”
Hawke looked around. The craft’s white interior was calming, clearing his mind and allowing him to think logically despite the circumstances.
“I can… I can try transferring her to you”, he muttered. “But I’m not sure if it’ll be possible to do it on someone without an implant, and… In any case, it’s probably going to hurt”
“Can’t possibly hurt more than childbirth, right?”, she smiled. “Come on, let’s do it!”
Hawke nodded. He brought his hands up, placing them on each side of Inna’s face, palms gently pressed against her cheeks and his fingers touching her temples.
“Close your eyes and try to clear your mind”, he spoke to her. She complied, with the scientist doing the same a moment later.

At first nothing seemed to happen. Really, the silence was kind of awkward. But then came the pain, like someone had stabbed a knife into her frontal lobe and began twisting it around. Inna wanted to scream, but she felt paralyzed by the sensation, instead only letting out a tiny gasp. Her mind was burning. She couldn’t focus on anything except the horrible pain pulsing through her brain. A few times she felt like reaching up and pushing Hawke’s hands away, but she couldn’t find the strength to do so, feeling completely frozen. All she could do is clench her eyes and hope that it would end quickly. The data transfer lasted only a few seconds, but it truly felt like a lot longer to the young woman. When it was done, her nose was bleeding and a single tear was rolling down her cheek.
“There. It’s over”, he assured her, pulling his hands away. “How do you feel?”
“Like my brain has been run over by a forklift”, she tried to smile, rubbing the blood dripping from her nose with the back of her palm. “Is the migraine going to disappear?”
“It should as soon as AYAME adjusts herself”
“I’m not even going to ask how you just put an artificial intelligence into my biological brain…”
“Nanomachines”
“Of course. Nanomachines. Should’ve guessed”
“Can you hear her?”, Hawke leaned back.
“I… I don’t think so?”, Inna glanced to the side. “AYAME? Are you there?”
“I am right here, Ms. Wilson”, the woman’s voice echoed inside her head.
“Oh God, that feels weird! She’s been inside your head all along?”
“Since I was six years old. You’ll take good care of her, right?”
Inna tried to smile.
“We’re going to be fine”

“Guys, I really don’t mean to be interrupting your moment here, but we’re gonna have company!”, Wade popped his head through the door of the Bastion. “Like, a lot of company. A few hundred, at least. You’ve got to get out of here, like, now!”
“Right”, Hawke nodded. “It’s all up to you now, Inna. Go take care of that thing once and for all and… If possible, try to bring back the multiverse”
“You know, no pressure”, she laughed, with Hawke joining her for a chuckle.
“Inna…”, Hawke sighed. “If it doesn’t work out, just… Just know that we did our best, okay? There was nothing else we could have done”
“I know”, she nodded. “But I have a good feeling about this”
“Guys, come on! Seriously?”, Wade yelled from outside, his katanas in his hands.
“Right…”, Hawke nodded, standing up and turning around before stepping out of the Bastion. The young man glanced back, locking eyes with Inna one last time as the door closed behind him. All alone, Inna turned her eyes towards the holographic display.
“Okay, AYAME… What are we doing?”

Outside, Hawke quickly learned that Wade wasn’t kidding - the wave of cyborgs and drones approaching them looked more like an oncoming sandstorm than an actual army. They didn’t appear to have any sort of clear formation or plan. They wanted to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And they would probably succeed.
“Boy, oh, boy… The price of freedom is steep”, Wade grinned.
“What?”, Hawke glanced at him.
“It’s, uh… It’s a quote. From ‘Final Fantasy’”
“Oooh, Final Fantasy, right. I didn’t play them past, like, IV”
“Whaaat? Dude, VI and VII are the best ones, come on! I heard XIII was supposed to be really good too, but the Civil War happened and the Square Enix building exploded with all its staff inside. Too bad we never got to see how that game turned out”
“On my world we went to something like LIV”
“I’m not even gonna ask what number that is”
“Fifty four”
“Of course… So, who’s your favorite character?”
“Are you kidding? Cecil, easy! His car can turn into a bike! How cool is that?!?”
Wade stared at him.
“You know, I think the ‘Final Fantasy’ of your world is quite different than the one on my own”
By the time the Bastion dematerialized, the cyborg horde had almost reached the two men. Wade casually threw one of his blades to Hawke, who caught it and assumed a stance. Not a very good stance, but a stance nonetheless.
“Cosplay guy…”, Wade glanced at him. “Don’t die immediately, alright? I want someone to hear my creative quips as I slaughter cyborgs”
“Heh”, Hawke chuckled. “I’ll do my best”
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