"I am going to fix this fake world, and no program or robot will stop me from doing that!"
|IV: The Chase|
I don’t know what to do. None of us know what to do. We’re all way too weak from our fight with Aaron to escape. Ivy especially. She looks very tired now. It’s only a matter of time before she loses too much blood. She’ll be a goner if she goes into shock out here, but there’s nothing we can do to help her right now. These damn robots are blocking our path, and the only first-aid available is sure to be inside the building. We’ve all risked too much to get this far. We can’t let these officers end our mission before it truly begins.
As usual, Yun is the first to spring into action. He tackles one of the robot guards, but the other two are quick to assist their friend. They wail on Yun, and he screams louder whenever they hit his broken arm. I want to do something, but I can do little against robots. No one can hurt robots in the physical world. They feel no pain here, and they don’t have to deal with exhaustion or fatigue. And because their bodies are made of metal, taking any hit from them is not an easy thing to recover from.
It doesn’t take long for Yun to succumb to their attacks. After the beat down, they shock him with one of their pistols, stunning him. Des, Ivy, and I share a quick look. As if by instinct, we all dart off in different directions at the same time. That doesn’t do us much good though. We’re not in the proper condition to run away from anything, especially robots. I hear the other two getting shocked, and in a short time, I get shocked too. The last thing I remember before passing out is a metal hand reaching out to grab my face. It feels so cold . . .
When I regain consciousness, I find myself in a white room. Literally everything is white. Even the chair I am sitting on. And the table. Judging from my surroundings, I must be in some sort of interrogation room. I wonder if the others have already been questioned.
Without warning, I feel a different metal hand grab the back of my head, and it smashes my head into the table. My nose starts bleeding, but I ignore it. I rub my nose to make sure it isn’t broken. It’s still straight. Lucky me.
“You will speak only when you are spoken to, Xena Modom. You have been caught red handed. I suggest that you tell the truth, and only the truth,” the robot officer says.
Ah fuck me. This can’t be good. This guy already knows my name.
“But my friends and I aren’t plotting against humanity! Please you have to listen to—”
He smashes his hand on the table with so much force that it shakes the whole room. I guess they gave me the interrogator with the lowest tolerance for humans. This may get ugly if I’m not careful.
“Silence! I told you to speak only when you are spoken to. Do not defy me again, or else.”
I feel so helpless, and I have no idea where my friends are. Are they hurt again? Are they dead? Is Ivy in shock from all the blood loss?
“Xena, I will now begin the questioning. What was the purpose of visiting this digitizing center?”
There is no way I can tell him that I came here to destroy the program that controls robots. I would be killed on the spot. Or worse. But, lying is never a good option in situations like this. I have to think fast. Part of the truth should be enough, but I have to resist using my sarcasm.
I was on my way to give one of the attractive male employees a hand job.
“We were on our way to the center to visit Qasim Desmo's father. He recently got a promotion, and we wanted to congratulate him.”
It’s not a total lie. His father does work here, and I’m going to congratulate him on his promotion. If I get the chance, that is.
“I see. Was Mr. Desmo aware that you were coming?”
Why don’t you ask him yourself genius?
“Yes. He was aware.”
I can only hope that my friends have or will tell the same story that I’m giving them. If even one of us says something that does not add up, then all is lost. The robot stares at me for a long time, and I start to get a little edgy. Did I say the wrong thing?
“We asked Mr. Desmo if he knew you were coming to see him,” it says.
Oh crap. Serves me right for being a smart ass.
“He had no idea you all were coming. Your other friends tried to use the same lie on us earlier, so we expected it to come from you as well. Now, I will ask you again. Why did you come to this facility?”
I’m stuck. What am I supposed to say? Maybe the robot is bluffing. Maybe the robot isn’t bluffing. Either way, I cannot reveal our true plans.
“The robot has to be bluffing,” I think to myself. “The robot is bluffing. Don’t change your story. That’s what he wants you to do.”
“Alright, you got me. He did not know we were coming. We were going to surprise him, but that’s out of the question now that you’ve told him we came,” I say in a slightly annoyed tone.
The robot doesn’t say anything after that. It just looks at my face with an intense expression. I think it’s trying to read my face, to see if I’m lying. Haha good luck with that you metal freak. I sit with my arms crossed, and keep an emotionless expression easily because I really am annoyed with this thing.
Finally, it speaks. “Last question. What do you know about the X.E.P.H.Y.R.?”
I’ve never heard of the X.E.P.H.Y.R. before. Maybe it meant to say zephyr, or something.
“I have no idea what that is,” I answer honestly.
“I see. Stay put. I will return shortly.”
It leaves the room at an unusually quick pace. I assume it’s because he went to get more of his robot friends to finish me off. I end up being alone in that room for at least half an hour. Needless to say, the boredom is nauseating. I think about how the day has gone so far. I look at my green hair. It’s starting to get a few blue strands. That only happens when I’m really stressed out. Ugh.
I think about my parents. Then, I think about my new friends. I’m still confused about why they want to protect me so badly. Do they have any ulterior motives, or are they genuinely nice people? They seem to be the latter. Ah, thinking about them like this reminds me of how Aaron was in the past.
Back then, before our break up, he was so kind to me. He was a true gentleman, and he would never lay his finger on any girl, unless they touched his stuff. He rarely resorted to violence. When he did, it was for the sole purpose of protecting me from harm. He was my prince, and I was his princess. I was 14 then. He was 16. But everything changed so fast in a matter of days. I wish that things had ended on a better note between us. That break up won’t ever leave my memories. We were at a park in Seattle. It was very late. When the clock struck midnight, the park lights lit up all of the ponds and streams that ran through the area. It was a truly beautiful sight to behold.
“Xena, these green lights make you look even prettier. It reflects nicely off your hair,” Aaron said.
“Aww thanks. But these lights are nothing compared to all the stars.”
He looked up at the stars. Clearly not amused, he looked at the ground, and he stared at his feet. His expression, somber.
“They do look nice. Too bad I don’t care about astronomy.”
I nudged his shoulder.
“You don’t find any form of science interesting. What do you do to entertain yourself when I’m not around?” I teased.
“I train. You know that.”
I looked at him with a longing expression. He always focused on his body. There was more to life than becoming stronger than everyone else. Why couldn’t he see that?
“Aaron, I’m a little concerned. You spend so much time making yourself stronger. . .”
“There’s no need to be worried. I’m getting stronger to protect you.”
“But that means you can use that extra strength to hurt me. You’ve been angry much more lately, and I’m getting a little—”
“So what do you want me to do? Be a lazy bum who sits around doing nothing?!”
“No, Aaron, please don’t be mad. I’m just . . .”
“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t feel. You have no idea what it’s like to be me!”
I got up slowly, and I began to walk away. The spark between us was long gone, and it was time move on.
Bad move. He got up and followed me.
“Hey! Where do you think you’re going?!”
“I’m going home Aaron. It’s late.”
He grabbed my shoulder, and he turned me around.
“Aaron, I’m leaving,” I said sternly.
I tried to walk away again, but he grabbed my arm. I attempted to brush it off of me, but he was unrelenting.
“Let go. You’re hurting me.”
“Are you breaking up with me?”
“Are you breaking up with me?! Don’t you dare lie!”
His facial expression had a mix of rage and depression. He was far too unstable to handle by then. I had to get out of there, and quickly.
I sighed. “Yes, I’m breaking up with you. I’m sorry but—”
He slapped me hard across my face. He had hit me so hard that I lost my balance, and I fell on my back. I looked up at him completely shocked because he had never hit me before. Terrified, I turned around, and I tried to crawl away, but I was too slow. He kicked me in the back. The hit was so strong that it made me lose my balance, and I fell flat on my face. He flipped me over. Then he kicked my ribs, and he followed it up by stomping on my stomach. I begged him to stop hitting me, but he just wouldn’t give up. He pinned me to the ground, and he punched me in the face; again and again and again.
“Aaron, stop. Please. . .” I said weakly. It was no use. He was determined not to let me go; even if it meant ending my life.
Just when I was sure he would beat me to death, I was saved by an unlikely hero. It was an awkward looking, skinny kid with glasses. He threw a rock at Aaron's back, and then he held him in a choke hold until Aaron ran out of breath. After Aaron passed out from the lack of oxygen, the mystery kid rushed back over to check on me. I couldn’t get up, so he held me, and he carried me all the way to the hospital. Before we got there, I spoke to him briefly before slipping into unconsciousness.
“Who . . . Who are you?” I asked.
“Qasim. Qasim Desmo, but you can call me Des,” he replied, smiling a little smile.
I snap out of my flashback when the door opens. The robot interrogator has returned.
“So, now what? Are you gonna let me go or what?” I ask sarcastically.
“Cocky little human. I could kill you right now, and no one would care,” it replies.
This thing does not scare me. Not even a little. I want to know where my friends are. More importantly, I want to be able to complete the mission. My friends and I have important work to do. I don’t want to wait any longer.
“Where are my friends?” I demand.
“That is for me to know, and for you to find out,”
“Bullshit! We’re all innocent. Tell me where they are now!”
“I already told you—”
“I’ve had enough of this! You’re just trying to frame me and my friends! I bet you and your metal cronies know that. You always pick on humans just because you think we’re inferior life forms. Well let me tell you something. I am going to fix this fake world, and no program or robot will stop me from doing that!”
The robot doesn’t reply. It has a shocked expression, but it doesn’t move. I didn’t think my words would have that much of an effect on it. A few moments later, someone walks through the door. He is wearing a black suit, and he looks like he is in his late forties. I recognize him from before. It’s Des’s father.
“That will be enough officer. These kids will be my responsibility now. Thank you for your service, and I apologize for the inconvenience.”
Mr. Desmo we’re not kids. Have a little respect will ya?
“Hmph. You better find a way to control these brats. Don’t let me see them again.”
The robot storms out of the room, and I flash it a taunting smile on its way out. Mr. Desmo walks up to me, and examines my bloody nose.
“Xena, you’re bleeding. Do you need first-aid?” he asks.
“No sir. I’m okay,” I reply. “Where are the others?”
“The other three are in my office. There I can explain everything.”
“Ok. Sounds great.”
We make our way to his office. It's a surprisingly long walk for being indoors. The inside of the facility is so state of the art. It almost looks futuristic. It’s at least one hundred stories tall. The place is also super busy. People are constantly in a rush, yet the traffic has a unique flow to it. Almost as if it has a pulse.
When the walk is over, Mr. Desmo ushers me into his office. The other three sit, talking casually amongst themselves. When they see me, the two boys lift their hands to wave. Ivy jumps from her seat, and she hugs me tight. Her arm and clothes are still blood stained, but she looks much better than she did earlier.
“Rogue! We were so worried about you. Did they hurt you in any way?” she asks frantically. At first, I’m confused because of what she calls me. Then, I remember the code names we had agreed on before we entered the facility.
“Don’t worry Bushido. I’m fine. My robot interrogator had no backbone at all,” I reply. Everyone laughs, and it’s the most relaxed I feel since I first met the group. After we finish chuckling, Mr. Desmo locks the door behind him. He shifts his glasses around (something that Des also does a lot) and begins to speak.
“I apologize about the unfortunate interrogations you all had to go through. You won’t have to worry about those robot officers anymore. They are always looking for people to arrest.”
Why am I not surprised?
“I am aware of the injuries some of you have sustained, but luckily, none of you will need to go to the hospital. The process of being digitized will automatically heal you all.”
Yun looks completely dumbfounded. “Mr. Desmo, how is that even possible?”
He adjusts his glasses again, and puts on an eager face. “When you are digitized, your body is converted from cells to electrical energy, or electrons. During the transfer, all injuries are automatically fixed, for the electrons arrange themselves as your body would be when completely healthy. Any injury, even life-threatening, will be gone in a snap.”
“Yes. It is. But now is not the time to sit around, mouths agape, at our technology. You all have a job to do.”
“Right!” we all reply in unison.
He leads us to the digitizing room. It is a very large room, with ten large cylinders. Those have to be the digitizing chambers.
“I want the one in the middle!” Ivy yells.
Des gives her a soft shove on her healthy shoulder. “It doesn’t matter which one you choose,” he says smiling. We all get in our respective chambers, and the doors close slowly. It’s dark inside the chambers, except for the lights that shine from the circuit board patterns. We hear Mr. Desmo one last time before the digitizing begins.
“Your friend – the one you call Electrode – will monitor your health points, location, and mission progress. And before you go, there is an important fact you all should keep in mind. If you die in the Digital World , your physical body will be stuck in a comatose state indefinitely. Please be careful and good luck to you all.”
I skip a heart beat at that last thing he said. Stuck in a comatose state indefinitely. I hope none of us have to suffer that fate.
The circuits around me begin to spin, faster and faster. I hear a buzzing, and I feel a pulling sensation. It is like going down the most intense roller coaster in existence. I zip through a tunnel of binary code for about a minute, and as soon as it begins, it’s over. I see Yun, Des, and Ivy standing in the same positions as they were in when they were in their chambers. For whatever reason, everyone’s clothes changes slightly. Des’s glasses are now futuristic looking goggles, Ivy’s hair tie has circuit board patterns on it, Yun’s shirt is now a vest, and my attire has turned into a one-piece, skin-tight suit. It feels surprisingly comfortable. I observe my surroundings, and we must be located in some sort of digital forest.
“This . . . is it,” Des says quietly. His face shows that he is more excited than he has been his entire life, yet he somehow manages to remains calm. “At long last, we’re in the 13th Dimension.”