[86 Side Stories] Fido

It is a little rude, but please, listen to what I have to say.

I was Prototype AI model 008.

It was the child of my creator, my final master, who named me ‘Fido’.

I was ‘born’ in a research lab, located in the suburbs not far from the Capital of San Magnolia, Liberte Egalite Fraternite.

The family I served included the father, my creator and AI researcher, the beautiful, posh mother, and their two sons. The older brother was in middle school, the younger brother doted on by everyone in the family.

I was created to imitate the shape of a large canine, the exterior built with soft materials.

For I was designed as such to prevent damage, lest the young child would embrace me tightly, or sometimes be violent towards me.

The final tests were done, and it would be completed when the father was done with his report. So the door opened with a thud.

Just to note, even my hearing sensors barely managed to pick up the light footsteps. The entire family hardly made any sounds, except for the mother.

Thus, it was difficult to determine who the one with the ‘silent footsteps’ was. That person was no taller than the father’s desk.

“Papa.”

Yes, it was the little brother.

“…Shin, how many times do I have to say that you can’t enter when papa’s working?”

The father brought the little brother to his lap, but it seemed there was a reason for the latter’s disobedience.

“Is the robot ready?”

“Yes. But it’s not a robot, it’s an AI…well, somewhat. Why, it’s done. Now it can play with you at home.”

The little brother’s eyes lit up.

The mother’s beautiful red eyes were sparkling like gemstones.

“Name! Can I name it!”

One had to wonder if he had an impulse to raise a pet because his friend, Miss Anrietta, was raising one (it seemed she was raising a chicken, but one had to wonder if that was normal. This is not within my understanding…)

“Why sure. Give a name after you think through it well…”

“Then I’ll call him Fido!”

The father was silent for five full seconds.

“…Well, Shin. That is the name of a dog. Calling a friend that…is a little…?”

Once the father saw my status column, again he was silent for five full seconds.

“Eh…so it’s identified as such? Now this is bad…”

No.

Not at all, father. My creator.

Truly I was utterly gracious.

Since the beginning of human history, dogs had remained Man’s best friend.

For I too was of a similar level of existence to such animals.

Truly I was exhilarated, honored.

But I had no vocal commands, so I cannot express my excitement…

The little brother stared at me with his wide eyes, tilting his head.

“Really, you’re happy too?”

“Eh…”

The father looked shocked, looking back and forth between the brother and me.

“Can you feel it?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. Why was it that he was able to understand?

The father then looked towards the older brother peeping in at the door. He was very similar in appearance to his father, and was unlike the mother and little brother who had black hair. One would say he was a rational looking boy.

“Rei, what about you?”

The older brother pricked his ears, looking as though he was trying to hear, and shook his head.

“No, I can’t.”

“I see. Hmm, is it just my imagination…?”

So my determination was doubted. Uuu. The older brother gave a wry smile while the little brother puffed his cheeks.

“Maybe it got rewritten by Shin’s brainwaves and made to imitate it? I don’t know. Maybe its emotion learning ability is now similar to Shin. Does it have to do with Shin being around?”

Truly.

My current CPU was rebuilt from my initial body, the doll of the little brother while he was an infant, having recorded the neural activity while he embraced me. Also, I did learn to imitate human actions and emotions through his growth. It is equivalent to me taking the little brother’s consciousness as ‘mine’, and to think accordingly.

Thus, it seemed I was unique to the little brother, so I thought.

I became some alterego to him, a shadow-like existence. I hope to serve him and remain by him, to protect him–…

“There wasn’t much progress for a while, but this certainly is a great breakthrough. Has the new AI model succeeded?”

Currently, the master had blazing eyes.

“Alright! I’m going to announce a transcendent model! The United Kingdom is researching on ‘Amethyst’, the neural network that mimics living creatures, and will become an existence on par with humanity…”

…It seemed the father had no idea the brothers were disinterested in his research and conclusions.

“Here we go again…” the older brother muttered as he averted his eyes. The little brother was thinking, just stop this so that I can play already.

But unfortunately, I was not done charging, so I could not move…

The father was immersed in his own thoughts, never realizing his sons’ actions, and embraced firmly the little brother that was beginning to flail his legs.

“It was created in the same year as you, Shin. Henceforth, it shall accompany you. An extra friend…but an interesting child he is.”

“Will Fido too?”

“Yes.”

The older brother looked at me suspiciously.

“The Empire’s planning to develop unmanned weapons of similar models, right? Perfect timing I guess?”

“Ahh, Miss Zelene…she’s of the military, and has her own situation and reasons–but I don’t want to create such weapons.”

Saying that, the father patted at an old doll on his desk…my initial frame.

“…In any case, the existence of humans will ensure there will be strife. It will be tragic if people are to work hard and develop AI different from humanity, only to increase the number of enemies.”

“Hmmm…”

The older brother lazily responded, and was about to leave.

“I guess…Shin, go back now. That fellow…eh, Fido’s eating now. It’ll play with you later. Let’s have some snacks. Dad, there’s tea at the living room.”

“Yes.”

“Got it.”

The older brother held the little brother’s small hand, and led him off. The former really loved to dote on the latter, and perhaps for this reason, the latter liked to fawn around.

The father again looked towards the terminal, writing his report, and forgot the time. There was a countdown timer within me as I continued to look at the sidelong face.

The happy moments of serving the father and his family ended abruptly that night.

If I could recall the memory of that night–ahh. In human terms, it could be described as something ‘not to be mentioned’. There was noise in the data, and it was messy. Truly it was difficult to complete the replay that night.

There were military boots suddenly barging in that night.

Accompanying them was the Republic’s military crest with the five colored flag and sword. Pointed before the eyes were barrels of automatic rifles. The father and the older brother were pinned down on the bed.

The mother shielded the little brother, sobbing.

I could not cry, but I had no vocal functions, and could only remain on standby.

The father and his family were taken away to a certain place before I could respond. The empty residence was chaotic like the aftermath of a tornado.

The day ended, but I was forced into a standby mode. Why, why could I not do anything?

As a protection protocol, I was ordered not to harm humans.

Such was the reason why I existed, the father hoping I could be friends with humans.

Thus, I could not run away.

But despite that.

Despite that, I had to do something.

From this day forth.

Perhaps there was something I could do…

After much consideration, I decided to search for everyone.

Luckily, I was able to connect into the open network through self-learning.

I was not clear on why everyone was taken away, what the reasons were, what logic was involved, but surely I would understand after investigations.

First, I was to find where everyone was taken to.

The father designed my body for indoor movements, not for long distance movements. Unfortunately, I had to abandon my current body, and switch to another.

All for the sake of finding my masters, to protect them.

I uploaded my data into a transport unit called a “Scavenger”, and entered the battlefield.

For years, while providing support for the squadrons, I wandered around, seeking everyone. Over this time, countless fell upon the battlefield.

First, a male of similar age to the father.

Then, a female of similar age to the mother.

Following that, boys and girls of similar ages to the older brother.

One by one, they fell, and it never ended. All of them died there.

Finally, I had to give up.

I never found them, not the father, not the mother, not the older brother, and not the little brother I wanted to protect more than anyone.

There was no one alive on this hellish battlefield.

And I was lost about my future prospects while residing in the wrecked, dilapidated “Scavenger”.

The young soldiers in my current squad had been KIA. Even the fellow “Scavengers” had died.

If I remained as I were, the “Legion” would have dissected me and brought me to their production plant. Surely it was my deserved fate for being unable to protect the father and his family.

Clink, a little rubble fell, I pulled myself from my self-reproach.

I was startled to realize I thought that much. Never had I heard any footsteps approaching me.

Stepping on the rubble and approaching was a young soldier.

It seemed he was between the ages of the older and younger brother, one still far from being a full fledged adult, yet wearing combat fatigues unbefitting his body

One day, that cute little brother,

Having such a thought, I felt lonely.

The boy was probably the last survivor of his defeated squadron. One could tell from his face that he was lethargic, his face and fatigues covered his black hair with dust. He was completely dirty.

Compared to the brothers, his somewhat hidden eyes were showing a sharp glare, silent as he approached

Ahh. I had some ammunition and energy packs in my container. Surely he would need them.

Wait. It would be difficult for a human child to lift it though…

“Woah.”

If I had not moved my crane arm, he would have assumed I was broken down. The boy retreated in shock.

This reaction was still too little compared to the earnest smiles of the brothers.

His emotions seemed suppressed, it seemed.

He appeared desensitived to death around him, numbness towards everything.

Humans are no tools after all. Surely he would have noticed…

“…You’re, still alive?”

I turned my optical sensor forward in shock, and found him peering into my sensor.

Even though he was sober, and tried rubbing his eyes, he was completely out of sorts, melancholy and loneliness seemingly overwhelming him.

“Nobody in your squadron is alive, right? How about you come along with me…?”

That boy.

He had beautiful bloody red eyes under the sunset, resembling that of the little brother somewhere out there–

That boy was Master Shinei Nouzen, and I decided to serve him.

As I was saved, i decided to repay, for if was the father’s wish for me to be good friends with humans. I never thought he had the same name as the little brother, with the same else. I knew it was atonement for my sins, so I could not leave.

Most importantly, Master Nouzen was a kind fellow, different from initial impressions. I wanted to be by his side, to support him.

After that, I served alongside him for more than four years. At this point, the Eastern frontline, 1st area defense squadron ‘Spearhead’ was where he was affiliated with.

There was light control at night, and the battlefield in the morning came. They raced everywhere under the rising sun, and at this moment, Master Nouzen exited the barracks.

Over the four years, Master Nouzen had grown taller, his voice deeper, his face resembling more like an adult’s.

He was about the same age as the older brother I saw for the last time.

Ahh, no, I lost myself. I had to greet him, but I had no vocal functions.

“Pii.”

Good morning, Master Nouzen.

“Hm? Ahh, morning, Fudo.”

Yes, Master Nouzen had been calling me ‘Fido’. It was a name granted soon after I served him, and though a coincidence, I was elated.

Then, the vice leader Master Raiden Shuga showed up.

“Pii.”

Good morning, Master Shuga.

“Oh, it’s you. You’re pretty early Fido.”

It might have been just me, but I had a feeling that soon after he met Master Nouzen, Mastrr Shuga was able to understand my thoughts, and knew what I was about to say. Unlike the others, he would talk to me once he knew what I was thinking.

Master Nouzen and Master Shuga exchanged no words, and instead stared towards the “Legion” controller area under the Eastern skies, still lingering with the breath of day.

It seemed they, along with the squadron no more than 10 people, along with the masters of the mechanic crew, were on teeter hooks . The reason being…

“There’s half a month until the special scouting mission…”

This special scouting mission required them to enter the deepest parts of the “Legion” controlled area, with nowhere to retreat. Master Nouzen and the others would surely be issued this order of inevitable death half a month later. Master Shuga glanced aside at Master Nouzen.

“Better not bring this fellow along.”

“Yeah…”

Master Nouzen flatly answered, and looked towards me with bloody red eyes.

“Fido. You…”

The moment he was about to speak up, he hesitated.

Master Nouzen really did not want anyone to die.

“You want to die along with us?”

“Pii.”

Nn. Certainly, Master Nouzen.

I am fine with wherever we have to go, the second and last dearest master who named me.

The special scouting mission.

It was a happy journey of freedom for Master Nouzen and the others, who never left the battle areas until their departure. Despite that, the process remained cruel.

The supplies were running low, and they had accumulated quite some fatigue. The further they advanced, the more powerless they seemed to be. They were constantly wary and tense. I knew very well that Master Nouzen and the others were being worn down, day by day.

Anyone would have expected that to happen, just a matter of time.

The moment the blades snapped would be the day they lost to the “Legion”.

Down fell the units of Master Kurena Cucumila’s “Gunslinger:, Master Theo Rika’s “Laughing Fox”, Master Anju Emma’s “Snow Witch”, and Master Shuga’s “Werewolf”. They were either worn out in battle, anchored, or disabled. Master Nouzen’s “Undertaker” was the only one left.

Master Nouzen himself had been slicing through countless Löwes before, and at this point, Master Shuga and the others took on the “Legion” themselves. However, the swarm remained endless.

The “Undertaker” optical sensors picked up on a new wave of “Legion”, but it was in no condition to deal with them. Master Nouzen must have prepared himself, for clearly he was acting anxious.

However, I was no target to the “Legion”, for while the “Scavenger” remained an enemy to them, it was not equipped with armaments and was deemed a lower threat.

However, if the “Undertaker”…Master Nouzen and the others are to die, the “Legion” will aim its guns at me.

…I really was helpless all this while, from the beginning to the end.

In the past, many around me had died, and I could only watch. If I were to live on for someone else, it would mean I would give up on that person.

All my actions were for the sake of finding my initial master, so, allow me to serve Master Nouzen until the very end.

At this point, I had no reason to live on and lose my master again.

A Löwe took a sucker punch to the flank, and recovered. Shin saw it suddenly appear by the side, ramming towards Fido.

The shot just missed the “Undertaker”. Some of the surrounding “Legion” focused their targets on Fido.

“–Fido!?”

There was a dent on the Löwe, for it did not anticipate a brutal hit on its flank.

It was impossible. The “Scavenger” had never attacked them before.

The “Scavenger” was not purposed to combat.

I was created by Man, to be friends with humanity. I will fulfill that wish.

Such is my raison d’etre. In no certain terms could I harm anyone.

However.

The “Legion” was truly pitiful to be created by Man, to be ordered to deem humanity its enemy, and abandoned by the country that had ordered them to do so.

Thus, there was no way I would have no friends.

The “Scavenger” systems had no real combat ability, but it was possible to distract it by a few seconds.

I, being only 10 tons heavy, was an eggshell compared to the 50 ton Löwe. I used all the tools stored within me, tools used to pry “Juggernauts” and “Legion” open, and swung at its armor.

The thick Löwe armor was difficult to pry open, and before then, my threat level might increase.

At this moment, another Löwe cannon,

Was pointed at me.

The moment my systems were rebooted, I was seemingly abandoned on the barren wasteland.

Despite that, my systems were not reacting, and had vanished from my consciousness. That…

Master Shuga looked down at me with a grimace, and bitterly said,

“…Shin. This guy.”

“Yeah. Can’t be fixed…the core’s wrecked.”

…Is this the end?

While I was prepared, facing it in reality was somewhat lonely and sad.

No longer will I be able to serve by your side.

Luckily, while the “Juggernauts” of Master Shuga and the others were damaged, they themselves seemed safe. The five youths looked down with various expressions.

“…So this is where you fall? Aren’t you the trash pick? Do your proper job man…”

Master Rika.

Are you crying for me? Truly I am honored.

“You made it all the way here.”

“Our apologies. We cannot go along with you.”

Master Cucumila. Master Emma.

No, you should not be touching my damaged body. You will hurt your hands.

“Thanks Fido. We’ll accompany you soon, I guess.”

Master Shuga.

No, not at all. Please make sure that day will not arrive so soon.

And finally, the lanky shadow, I knew my master was kneeling by my side, even though my optical sensors had failed.

“–Fido. This is your last mission.”

Master Nouzen.

Oh, my last master. What is the matter?

Ahh, but, even then.

Even if you do abandon this damaged me, as long as it is your order, I shall fulfill it…

Farewell. There was the sound of thin metals rubbing against each other. Master Nouzen was holding the aluminium plates of all the KIA.

He brought everyone who had fought alongside him, and died before him, to the very end. Such was the proof of the promise Master Nouzen had agreed to and abided by.

“You witnessed our journey here—we command you to continue to do so, until you rot away.”

Nn. Yes. Master Nouzen.

Certainly. It really is an honor.

You really do trust me, for you are able to entrust your mission, your proof to me.

Truly there is nothing greater.

Thank you for your farewells….

………………………………………

Suddenly, at the top of the utter darkness, there was a familiar group of people there.

Was it my hallucination?

Father, mother, older brother?

Are we no longer alive? Are you here to welcome me? Will they forgive me for being unable to protect anyone, being unable to find them…?

…Why?

The little brother isn’t here?

Why summon me back?

Where is the little brother?

What exactly will I be entrusted with…?

There was a voice.

A voice not within my database. It was the shrill voice of a young girl.

“Uwwoo, guess thine cannot move…what the matter is?”

Sorry, but a corpse cannot move. Even if I am ordered to…I cannot do anything.

“Guess it does not want to. Thinks it is dead.”

Hmm, so it is. You can just leave me be.

“Pull yourself together, even though you are in a different country. If thine as the familiar one returns, Shinei should be somewhat relieved…”

–Shinei?

The name of my last master.

Is he by your side? …Alive?

The same name as my initial master, the one with the same eyes…

……

Ahh.

Why had I never realized this…

“Aya!? Why out of a sudden!?”

“It started? Out of the blue…”

Master Nouzen, dressed in an unfamiliar steel colored uniform, looked more matured than when I last saw him.

Yes, children will grow into adults. Even the little brother…is no longer the young self.

“We commanded you to continue to do so, until you rot away. Didn’t I tell you to do so?”

“Pii…”

Ehh, well…I am too embarrassed.

But…I just want to serve by your side.

Do you forgive me for serving you again…?

I harbored much trepidation, but Master Nouzen–simply smiled.

“Well…it’s good to see you again though.”

“Pii.”

Hmm. So am I, Master Shinei Nouzen.

My first and last master.

Allow me to fight alongside you until the very end.

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