Chapter 7 – To Live On, Or To Die?
It was a bombshell.
Upon learning of the Village Meeting, all three hundred and so villagers were stunned, and protests were launched at the Village Council Hall. It was an unprecedented topic involving ‘the survival of humanity’, so it’s to be expected that there would be such a reaction.
But the blame subsided in an instant. Once the people saw that ‘footage’ on the screen before the Hall, there was shock, hatred, followed by an immediate disappointment and confusion. After the footage ended, and hearing the Chief’s explanation, he villagers who were marching on in protests returned back, completely stunned. The rumors of the ‘footage’ quickly spread amongst the Villagers. Over the first three days, viewership has been at 99%.
The Senate Council had divided views over whether this footage should be shown to the children. But as the children had offered their bodies and were ‘extracted’, the conclusion was made that they had the right to know. Of the children who participated in the viewing, there were a few who were wailing, yelling.
Thus, practically all the villagers had watched the footage, and the village was covered in a heavy atmosphere. The villagers went from shock and fear to lamenting, and disappointment, and then bitterness. “Everything for our masters’ sake.” “Everything else doesn’t matter as long as our masters can wake up again”—That trust that has been supporting their devotion, their hard work, was shattered overnight like glass. It’s no wonder that there would be such a reaction.
However, the time to judge continued to approach without mercy. There was only a week till the Village Council meeting, and the villagers who were startled are now forced to decide ‘what stance are we going to have for this meeting’?’ To continue ‘extracting’ from our bodies and the children’s bodies for our masters’ sakes, or to sacrifice our masters and abandon our way of life.
Of course, to the villagers who have devoted their all for our masters till this point, it’s definitely not easy to think of an answer. Everyone had been asking their neighbors to be sure of their answer, but the answers are all similar frustrations like “I don’t know.” “I’m confused too.” Such troubles were shared, and the villagers were cornered. Given that the adults were like this, the children could only spend every day with fear and trepidation on their faces.
And so, that morning comes.
And so, I crawl into my bed at home on the day.
The Village Meeting’s about to start in the day. Even after a week, I still can’t make up my mind.
The topics to be discussed at the Village Meeting can be roughly classified into two parts.
1. Proposal to have humans survive… to continue to maintain and manage the ‘Snow White’.
a. However, there are some duties all villagers will have to do.
i. Double the frequency of ‘extracting’.
ii. Cut down supplies frequency by half.
iii. Stop all parts exchange during the diagnosis.
2. Proposal to have humans wiped out… to stop the ‘Snow White’, and destroy humanity.
a. From thus on, all villagers will have the following benefits.
i. Stop ‘extracting’.
ii. Double the frequency of parts.
iii. Issue standard parts for treatment.
The contents of the meeting is just that simple.
Given the dire lack of parts, there’s no way to continue maintaining the Snow White from thus on except for more ‘extractions’ from the villagers. In other words, if we are to continue protecting humanity, the villagers will have to die. Conversely, if we protect the villagers, humans will have to die.
I’m tormented by this cruelty.
To protect with our lives, or to live by killing?
—Why did it end up this way?
Is it worth protecting humans by sacrificing the wives?
Do we want to have humans continue to survive, even if it means sacrificing the children we love?
But if we destroy the Snow White here, what is the purpose of the past hundred years.
In any case, we robots, created by humans, have to judge over our makers; is this really forgivable?
—What do I do?
Over the past week, I had been asking this question to myself.
I sigh for the umpteenth time for the day, and turn around. I finally make it back to my room, but I just can’t calm down.
To let them live on, or to wipe them out—which option do I choose? And, the reason behind it.
Of course, I do want to choose ‘Proposal to have humans survive’. Over the past hundred years, I have been living for that, moving on with the goal to serve our masters again. Just thinking of giving up on my prior way of life, and destroy the Snow White is something I am terrified to think about.
There are two problems to this. One, the maintenance of the Snow White requires a large amount of sacrifice. If we continue to carry out extraction at this rate, the number of martyrs in the village will continue to increase. Having more cave-ins will also result in more sacrifices. Even if we do choose to remain in the village and protect the Snow White, that will mean a slow approach to our deaths, and there’s a very high chance that the villagers will die off before the end of the Ice Age.
Second, which the Chief did mention, is the reason why we worked so hard to protect our masters. The people asleep inside the Snow White are the ones who sacrificed a large number of their kind to survive. Are they really the judge masters worthy of our loyalty, the masters as kind as the Principal? Are they the enemies of our masters, the ones who sacrificed them? Even so, to destroy the Snow White and kill off the masters who cannot resist is too—
I continue to rack my Mind Circuit, unable to consolidate my thoughts. If this kept up, I wouldn’t be able to speak up at the meeting today.
Almost all the villagers will be attending the meeting, save for a few who are being repaired. Like me, the rest aren’t able to get a conclusion, so the scale remains tipped in an unknown direction. If this keeps up, the possibility of the Chief’s proposal—the Proposal to wipe out humans—being passed will be very high, given that he has the most trust from the villagers. Also, I lack the reasoning and resolution to refute that.
“Yo, coming in now.”
The door opens without a knock. Poking her face in is my big sister, wearing a beret.
“What’s with the long face? That’ll ruin that cute face of yours.”
My heart just feels heavy thinking about what’s going to happen today.
“What will you choose, Viscaria?”
“I think I’ll vote to wipe them out.”
I suddenly lift my head.
“Oh, you’re surprised? I do have some reservations about it, but considering how bad the predicament of the village is at this point.”
The lack of villagers’ parts is at its limit. If we continue extracting at this rate, there will surely be many more villagers who will stop functioning due to a lack of parts—death.
“What will you say for your speech?”
“Of course. I’ll say this, we villagers will be wiped out due to a lack of parts. As the lead technician, I support the proposal to wipe out humanity.”
Everyone can say whatever they want for today’s Meeting, if they want to. This affects the future of the village, and our own futures. Of course, I too have a chance to speak up.
She then continues on,
“I can’t stand seeing the lives that can be saved vanish before my eyes…”
Such a grumble is befitting of her, a technician and a doctor. If the Snow White is broken into parts, we might be able to save a hundred. She knows this more than anyone else.
“That’s what I think too. If the Snow White can’t work, it means it’s at the end of its lifespan. Even if we do continue to take care of her for a hundred years, if the Ice Age doesn’t end, the fate of human extinction won’t change either.”
Viscaria states it very clearly. At such moments, she has an outstanding ability to make decisions.
“But we worked hard for our masters until this point, right?”
“I know. But aren’t the ones sleeping inside that Snow White the bad ones who killed our masters? It’s their fault that the surface entered the Ice Age.”
“The ‘masters’ I love and respect are the ones who really treasure the robots, and will continue to repair them no matter how many times it is, until the moment the robots break down, and say ‘thank you very much for all this time’. When I was in the repair factory, I had so many kind people around me. My masters aren’t inside the Snow White, but in my memories.”
Saying this, Viscaria presses her chest.
She’s straightforward, but there’s a lot of gloominess on her face, and as she bites her lips, her expression is somewhat pained. I know this is a conclusion she has made after much pondering, so I have no intention to refute.
“Well, it just has to be a choice to make after much consideration. I can’t say either of the choices are completely correct.”
She lowers her beret, and mutters a wish, a prayer.
“It’ll be best if there’s a chance for both humans and robots to be saved.”
Viscaria leaves, and I still remain gloomy.
There’s only half a day until the Village Meeting. While it’s not necessary to state my view at the Meeting, as a villager, and as the Vice Chief, I want to treat this matter responsibly. I really hate voting for the majority or going along with the others.
—I’ll choose to wipe them out. To destroy the Snow White.
Viscaria had stated clearly. This is a decision befitting of her, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
—To stop the ‘Snow White’, and destroy humanity.
The Snow White uses the latest parts, so once it’s taken down, it will instantly solve the issue of a lack of parts in the village. Visea’s ‘popping pain’ can be treated immediately, old man Sugi can walk freely, Leaves can make voices from the throat, and Pinetree can see the light of day again. All the villagers who have done extraction can regain their original functions, whether it is that their limbs are immobile, or that they are blind or deaf; the village will probably regain its joy and life. This isn’t selfishness from the villagers, but instead, just taking back ‘what originally belongs to us’. The villagers who have been protecting the Snow White for more than a hundred years have the right to live on, so I think. (TN: Sugi, short for Japanese Sugi Pine, Japanese Red Cedar. Scientific name Cryptomeria)
Is it really fine? To abandon what we have been protecting with all our lives, and to ensure our survival? Our masters created us from one; are we just going to let them die? There are babies inside too. Are we going to treat them equally? Then, are we going to just save the babies? Just save the ones who never participated in the ‘massacre’? Choose them one by one? Do we have such a right?
The more I think, the more confused I get.
And at the end of the frustrations, that voice will always show up in my mind.
That’s the Principal who often took care of me when I was still a nanny robot.
—Go have a rest.
The Principal has always been thinking for my sake, comforting me with words from time to time. Even after becoming an old man, even after his back is slouched, his hands trembling, Principal always have an earnest smile on his face. Principal’s popular with the children, surrounded by them immediately once he appears. When I broke down, Principal objected to scrapping me, and had me repaired. To me, the original image of the ‘master’ is the kind face inside the bedroom, with the curtains fluttering in the spring breeze.
—Principal…what, shall I do?
Principal’s kind smile continues to linger inside my Mind Circuit. Over the past hundred years, I kept working for that smile, protecting the Snow White. For that, I have no regrets or grudges, and am I am proud of it.
Principal’s kind smile, the children’s innocent sleeping faces, the amicable mothers—such memories of the era of nanny robots can’t be wiped away at all, and I find it hard to make a decision. There are two ends of the scale. One side is the nice sleeping faces of the children in the village, and the other is the innocent sleeping faces of the kindergarten children. The scale continues to shake, not tilting to either side.
—It’ll be best if there’s a chance for both humans and robots to be saved.
Viscaria’s right. If there’s such a way, that’s definitely the best one. But because we can’t do it, we’re troubled, lost till this point. It’s not like this fantasy of a solution is there whenever we want it.
“Ahh, every problem will be solved if the Ice Age can end.”
I continue to say something that isn’t possible, and feel increasingly downhearted.
And so, after thirty minutes of me being busy over nothing passed.
I lift my face.
—If the Ice Age ends.
The reason why the Snow White was built was because the surface was unsuitable for humans to live on. So, there’s a need to wait until the Ice Age ends, and have the Cradle return to the surface to be ‘reawakened’. That will become a new dawn for humanity. Right, if the Ice Age ends—
At that moment, I get up with an idea.
—How’s the situation on the surface?
Once I realize this possibility, the electric signals race through my Mind Circuit. Sparks fly everywhere, and the shattered information start to piece together as a whole. This is a phenomenon called ‘realization’ in humans.
—Such cracks appear when there is a difference in temperatures.
There are some strange cracks appearing on the icemobile. Back then, Viscaria said,
—Maybe it’s because the recent difference in temperatures causing it. I intend to focus on Treating frostbites during the next ‘body checkups’.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of frostbite cases. Back then, the one who was told of the ‘difference in temperature’ wasn’t anyone else, but me.
Difference in temperature.
In other words, that’s the change in temperature—if the temperature ‘underground’ changes, does it mean that the temperature on the ‘surface’ is changing too?
It’s an optimistic guess. Even if this is an illusion born out of my wish, called ‘I hope so’, but at this point, I, who’s at a complete loss, thinks of this as a great idea. Even if it’s a roll on the dice, there’s value in going to check it out.
I stand up, grab my coat, and run out of the house.
—To the surface!
I stand at the top of the spindle, looking up. There is a heavy door above me, giving off a dim glow.
—Chief will be angry after learning of this.
Using the identification key I obtained from the Chief’s room, I open the door. With a blunt rumble, the door slides open, and the shattered ice drops.
—The passage does eem fine here.
On the other side of the thick door, there is a path that leads high above. This manhole-like path is called the ‘Path Canal’, left behind when the Snow White sank deep into the ground. It’s the mission of the village to send the Cradle through this Path Canal when the snow melts. The purpose of sending three hundred and so robots underground is to provide manual labor for transporting the three hundred or so Cradles in the final phase.
—What will Viscaria say…?
I never mentioned anything about heading to the surface. Normally, I’ll discuss this alone with Viscaria, but this time, I won’t.
— I think I’ll vote to wipe them out.
My hope to have humans continue to survive will definitely clash with her. She’ll definitely suffer because of this. So, I have to finish this on my own—so I think.
—Right, let’s get going!
I reach my hand out for the ladder, and start to climb out.
An endless darkness.
I slowly climb up this really dark ‘Path Canal’. My visual installation can only light up several meters away, so it does feel like I’m slowly floating up in the deep sea.
—In fact, how might it be?
The remote thermometer that records the surface temperature has been broken for more than thirty years. As long as the Ice Age hasn’t ended, just changing it will only be a waste of precious parts, so at this point, we left it alone.
—The problem here is the ‘power generator’.
There’s a generator on the surface. Thousands of robots were deployed when the Snow White was created, and the generator was the facility. If I can get the generator working, and we return back to the surface to live—and most importantly, to ensure the vitals of our masters. It will be very possible. I can’t do anything in this Ice Age, but as long as the temperature returns to normal, there’s hope.
—If possible, I want to try getting the generator to work again.
Harboring such faint hopes, I climb up the dark Path Canal. This hole, ten meters in diameter, has ice everywhere, and the ladder surface is completely frozen. It’s hard to proceed on as I have to scrape the layer of ice and move on, but I can’t be jumpy. If I slip and fall in this situation without a safety rope, even a robot like me will be broken into pieces at this massive height.
So I climb on quietly, and after climbing a little while.
An obstacle suddenly appear before me.
Waiting for me there is a thick wall of ice.
The Path Canal gets narrower, and the diameter is already less than five meters, and the ice blocks the path like a stopper. It looks like it was formed by underground water that had seeped through and froze.
“This is troublesome huh…”
Anyway, I first take out a tool similar to a torchlight, and approach the ice block like a dentist shining light into a patient’s mouth. Once the light hits the light, the ice vaporizes with a whoosh. This is a tool called the ‘Black Pointer’, the official name called ‘Portable Directional Heat Wave Aiming Device’. This works on the same principle as the ‘Little Sun’, and is a ‘heating flashlight’.
—This is endless…
I stop what I’m doing, looking lost. It’s regrettable to give up here, but it is a waste of time to melt the ice with the equipment I have,
“This is troublesome huh…”
I open the map in my Mind Circuit. The Path Canal extends straight up from the “REM Forest’. It’s a clear path, but because of this, it becomes a dead end when blocked.
—And I can’t just dig my way through here…
I activate the holographic map inside my Mind Circuit. Like a windmill, the map rolls about in the Mind Circuit.
After that, I realize something.
On this map that I just so happen to check on, there’s are thins line that shows up after I enlarged it. The branch-like lines extend from the Path Canal, in a radial manner. They look like an ant hive with a complex structure.
I look at a brief explanation on the map, and it has a tagline ‘for moving sand and dirt’ behind.
A hundred years ago, the Snow White was buried deep underground. In order to build such a large facility, there needs to be a large amount of dirt and rocks dug up. In that case, are these the work tunnels used to transport the dirt?
—Proof is more important than theory.
I follow the directions indicated on the map, and descend the ladder by a little. After about five meters or so, I gather my focus on the surrounding walls. If my guess is correct, it should be nearby—
I find a spot with a slightly different color on the frozen wall. This is a little gradient that isn’t easily noticed if I don’t observe up close, and it is a two meter diameter on the wall. Just as how there are ‘traces’ left behind when something is buried underground, there are such marks here.
—No doubt about it. There is such a tunnel here. A work tunnel used for moving the excavated dirt and rubble.
I pull out the ‘Black Pointer’ torchlight from my pocket, holding onto the ladder as I cautiously melt the border with the contrasting color. After I etch out a circle.
I kick at the wall. The wall fall to the other side with a thud, forming a pretty round hole.
—As I expected…!
Opened right before me is a tunnel that appears to swallow all darkness.
Right, right, left, up, left, a little down, and up again.
I continue to advance wordlessly in this tunnel that’s as complex as a labyrinth.
I ignore the little paths that appear to be dug up randomly, and choose the direction with lots of light, using all my efforts as I advance forward. Till this point, the locations match the map completely, so I should be in the right direction.
—But even so.
I seem to have stepped on something, and hastily raise my leg.
I just stepped on a broken hand. Lying beside it is a body that was shattered due to frostbite. The head lying by the side of the body is staring at the road, wide-eyed, like a really poor sculpture. This is the corpse of a robot.
—This is the sixth one.
Every five minutes I pass through the tunnel, I will come across a robot corpse. Obviously, it isn’t hard to think of them as the work robots deployed to build the Snow White.
“…Is this one a lost cause too?”
Feeling lucky, I open the robot’s chest to check on the condition. Unfortunately, like the five units before it, the Mind Circuit had shattered due to it being in the last stages of frostbite, and was unfortunate not to survive.
Ssssst, ssst, the sound of dried sand as it shatters, and the image resonates that with Gappy’s death. A sad emotion tugs hard at my chest.
—Sorry that I wasn’t able to save you.
They didn’t enter an evacuation shelter, they didn’t enter the village, and ran out of power. What did the robots feel when they died off? I was coincidentally chosen as a villager, and there’s nothing strange even if I’m to die wordlessly here like them. My Mind Circuit had been modified before, and I have no idea what happened before, so maybe these robots before me were comrades who suffered along with me.
“I’m really sorry.”
I apologize as I step across the hill of buried corpses that filled the tunnels.
The frozen corpses shatter like ice pillars.
And after a while.
I stop in my tracks to listen. It’s feeble, but there seems to be the sound of a wind instrument being played.
I sense something, and hasten myself.
I continue to climb up, and start to firmly believe. The wind blowing through the ice cave is definitely coming from the outside.
I follow the sound, and finally find a large hole. I try to advance as much as possible, but the path becomes narrow, and black dirt blocks my path.
—Nothing I can do…?
I check the map, and the line ends here. This is originally a path that leads to the surface, but it is buried by the large amount of dirt. At this point, I can’t advance.
“This is troublesome, huh…”
If I have to look for another road here, I will have to make a long detour back.
There’s still another fifteen minutes until the meeting.
—I can’t make it in time if I take the same route back. But…
Even if I can’t reach the surface, as long as I can be sure that there’s sunlight—that’ll be proof that the surface is warming up. After that, I’ll just take a photo of a place with sunlight, determine the temperature, and that’ll be enough material to show everyone at the Meeting.
But unlike what I have assumed, the tunnel is still filled with darkness. Even though I have the night vision installation at full power, I can only move forward carefully, and I can’t detect a trace of sunlight.
—So all for nothing?
I sit on the dirt, and sigh. It’s so close, but accordingly to the map, there’s still a hundred meters. It’s impossible to dig my way through.
—This is bad.
In another ten minutes, the Meeting will start. Those led by the Chief will strongly insist on wiping out humanity. Viscaria too will join in. In this case, the Meeting will end up—
I slam my fist into the dirt. Let’s just return to the village instead of going so far. In that case, there’s still a chance to speak up at the Meeting. No, maybe I can still make it if I head back immediately.
—Guess I can only head back now.
I grit my teeth, and make the decision to retreat. Since the tunnel is blocked, I can’t move forward, and the only option left is to retreat. I still have some hope if I have another half day, so I thought, but unfortunately, time won’t return.
I stand up, and pat my cheeks with both hands.
And then, I start running at full speed. The tunnel direction is already locked in my Mind Circuit, so it’s easy for me to return. I return back at double the speed, as though I’m challenging the darkness.
—I got to hurry back.
I haven’t told anyone that I came here. I guess not many will realize that I’m not present, and even if they do, it’s unlikely that Chief will delay the Meeting. At this point, I am a hindrance to the Chief.
I have to hurry back before the Meeting ends—so I thought as I run down the dark tunnel.
And I immediately slip.
As it’s too sudden, I’m unable to fall over properly, and even worse, I trip over at a slope. I tumble down for dozens of meters, tumbling around.
A sharp pain races through my body. I exert my strength in my arms, trying to support my upper body. My body feels hurt.
More than the pain, I’m shivering in regret. I was moving forward towards the surface with a hint of hope, but not only was I unable to reach the surface, I’m unable to return. I feel anxious as I fail to accomplish anything, and I feel momentarily limp in the face of my own incompetence.
At this moment.
As I recover, I see a complete white before my eyes . I assume that the visual installation has malfunction, but my vision recovers little by little. I guess my automated calibration functions didn’t match due to the sudden light. Such a phenomenon is called dizziness by humans.
—Are my eyes…dizzy?
I turn around, and look up.
There’s a large hole there. It’s a large crevice—a long and narrow ridge on the landscape, seemingly carved by a blade, and I’m able to look up from the bottom due to this.
The light shining down from the sky is undoubtedly—
I eke out a voice. A glimmer of hope that I had given up on cast away the darkness of despair, shining upon me.
Such a warm light.
The artificial skin senses the change in temperature, and it brings me greater
This is a temperature so cold, humans will shiver in. However, to me, who have lived underground, below zero for more than a hundred years, this light feels so warm to me.
I spread myself wide, basking in the sunlight.
“The sun, feels so warm…”
I sink in the sea of data, as the memories of the sun has awakened after a long time. It’s the light I feel in the nap room of the kindergarten, the sunlight shining vaguely through the gaps of the leaves and the curtains. The feeble sunlight shining into the underground feel so similar to that.
—Now then, I got to hurry…!
After enjoying the sunlight I have experienced after a hundred years, I cover the antennas of the ears with my hands.
“This is Amaryllis!”
I call out through the wireless.
“Please responds, this is Amaryllis…!
There’s still another five minutes until the meeting starts. It’s impossible for me to be punctual, but I can share the good news to the villagers through the wireless. The visual of the sun, and the temperature that’s above the freezing point. These aren’t scientific proofs, but just describing this possibility should be enough to convince them. The villagers should be able to understand now.
“Do you hear me…!? This is Amaryllis…! Anyone! Please answer…! Eisbahn! Götz! Viscaria! Chief!”
But no matter how many times I try, I get no answer.
—Wh-what do I do now…
Is it because the output is weak, or that there’s some problem with the electromagnetic base station is malfunctioning. In any case, I have nothing in the wireless, not even static. One minute, two minutes, three minutes. Time passes by for nothing. If only I can ask Viscaria in such a situation—even if I do, it’s pointless.
I sit upright.
If I can’t connect through, I’ll just have to go back and tell them personally, don’t I? Anyway, it’s likely that I’ll get a signal somewhere on the way back to the village. Anyway, staying here is a waste of time. This can’t do.
The moment I stand up, I feel a sharp pain in my leg. I look, and find that my right foot has been twisted in another direction.
I frantically check the damage, and found that the parts at the joints have been severed, stabbing into the artificial skin. The oil is oozing from the wound, giving off sparks.
I haven’t noticed the damage till now, as it was so severe that my pain installation was cut off automatically. However, I’m a little confused as to why a siren hasn’t rang. Is this a side effect of the ‘extraction’?
In any case, I start my emergency repairs. I take out some chemical fibers and tape from my pocket, and bandage my ankle.
This should be okay. Having such a thought, I stand up.
And then, I kneel over. The damaged area seems to be worse off than I have expected, and just the leakage and overheating is already abnormal.
I try standing up without care for my own injury. Every step I take, my leg will twist to a side, giving off a creaking sound. I open my arms wide, trying to maintain my balance, but I can’t increase my speed. This requires me to spend more time than I did wandering around.
I check the time; the Meeting’s about to start soon.
—Seriously! Why do I have to break down at this moment!
I curse myself as I advance forward, dragging my injured leg forward. My ankle’s heating up, and at this rate, I might have to be scrapped. Who cares about such things now, anyway, got to keep moving forward—
At this moment.
Pack, a sound rings. Ah, I look down at my ankle, and see it bent as I fall down. My face lands on the ground, and my antenna numbs; electric currents run all over my body, and I can’t exert strength.
My body cringes from time to time, and it heats up.
I remain face down on the ground, trying my best to break the deadlock. No matter how I struggle however, my short circuit just can’t recover.
I know the reasons. The direct reasons are that my ankle is faulty, and the short circuit caused by the hit. Indirect reasons is because my body deteriorated from the ‘extracting’, or that this robot called Amaryllis Alstroemeia is already completely fatigued.
—Reboot system! Restart, restart…!
Normally, the way to deal with this is to first shut down the functions and start up again, but for some reason, even restarting here hasn’t shown much effort. Is this a side effect of extraction too?
The silver lining here is that the Mind Circuit doesn’t appear to be having too many issues, and my consciousness remain awake. However, it’s because I’m conscious that I’m anxiously commanding myself “Restart! Recover! Reboot!”
Time passes, and my anxiety reaches its limits. And to add fuel to the fire, ‘that’ started’.
Such words comes coldly from the wireless,
“—Everyone, please be seated. I repeat, please be seated.”
It’s Cattleya’s voice.
—Eh? This is…
Whenever there’s a major activity in the village, she’ll be the one hosting. At this moment, she’s reading a certain message.
“We have ended questioning, but it does not mean that we are limiting any chance to speak up; instead, it is about sorting out the order. Anyone willing can repeat their words as many times as possible, though all questioning has ended—”
There’s no doubt that it’s the telecast signal for the Village Meeting. It’s basically everyone participating, but there are some who can’t be there as they have to be repaired, and they too can receive real-time voice and visual. It seems my wireless just so happened to have picked up on this.
Naturally, I start shouting—with the voice of my heart.
—Please answer! This is Amaryllis…! Please answer…!
But nobody answers my call. No matter how many times I call out, there’s no response, only the voices of Cattleya and the villagers. It seems I’ve only received the voices, unable to convey my own voice to them. This is no different from the prior broadcast.
Time passes on mercilessly, seemingly nudging at my anxious emotions. I’m unable to move, only able to listen to the voices.
And then, finally—
“The Emergency Village Meeting shall now begin.”
The fated Meeting begins.
“First, may we have Chief Chamomile begin with the topic at hand.”
Cattleya’s voice rings, and the place turns silent. Then, Chief’s voice follows.
“Please allow me to express my utmost thanks to all of you, for making this long journey here.”
The raspy voice enters my wireless. At this point, surely the Chief’s head is looking down at the villagers who have completely filled the seats.
“I shall again state the reasons why I support the preposition to wipe out humanity. Basically, this meeting—”
With a heavy tone, Chief starts rattling off the reasons for organizing this meeting. However, the Senate has already informed all villagers, and this is just an affirmation.
The Meeting will be held three phases, ‘state the topic’, ‘floor discussion’, and ‘voting’. During the second phase, each person has about three minutes to speak, but as it’s just a rough estimate, anyone can continue to talk even if they do exceed the time; also, there are opportunities to add on or correct their words. There’s no special rule to the end of the meeting, and the discussion will continue until everyone is convinced. Only when no one else wants to speak will the voting phase begin. Of course, all the villagers, from the children to the adults have the right to speak up, and the right to vote. At this point, there are three hundred and seven villagers, so more than half of that number is a hundred and fifty forth. Also, besides the preposition to wipe out humanity or to let them live, the villagers can add new prepositions for voting as they please.
“—These are the reasons why we have the preposition to wipe out humanity. I hope everyone will actively participate in the discussions.”
Chief, who could normally rattle on for at least an hour if left unchecked, only spoke for three minutes today. The serious tone and business-like mannerism seemed to have conveyed the tension in the arena. The ‘switch’ that can stop the Snow White from running is placed on the stage, and Chief’s explanation ended.
Following this, it’s the time for floor discussion.
“Now, we shall begin the time for discussion. The first speaker is—”
Cattleya’s voice echoes, and states the name of the first speaker,
“I am speaking with the hope to support that humans will continue to live. As we all know, our mission is to protect our masters. It is true that I was really shocked when I saw that footage at the Council Hall. However, to everyone who is seated, please calm and think, over the past hundred years, we’ve—”
(Hydra Gien/ Homemaker Robot/ Operation time, a hundred and fifty three years/ ‘Body’ B block)
The first speaker supports the preposition to have humans survive. The reason is simple; the reason for our existence as robots is to protect our masters, and this too shall never change. That footage was an exceptional situation, something that had to be done.
“—This shall be all I have to say.”
This speech lasts for exactly three minutes. There’s neither applause nor boos as the audience quietly listen.
—That’s right, that’s right.
I remain lying on the ground, my body unable to move as I empathize with what was said.
—Protecting our masters is our mission.
“Next, number two, please.”
And as Cattleya instructs, the second speaker steps onto the stage.
“Over the past week, I have been thinking about this over and over again. Unfortunately, till this point, I still have yet to have an answer, so I shall hold back on what I have to say…I too have seen that footage, and I too was shocked, for I always believed in our masters. Even till now, I still have doubts on the validity of the visual. The masters who have given me much care are all very kind. But if that footage was real, and everything was as Chief said—”
(Robbie Dantrum/Heavy Construction Robot/ Operation time, a hundred and twenty six years/ ‘Right Foot’ D block)
The second speaker honestly admits his ‘doubts’. After brooding and being frustrated over this, he’s still unable to make up his mind, so he chooses to ‘forfeit’
“Now then, Speaker number three—”
The discussion continues. There’s a lot of different content, but everyone admits to the pain in their heart. It seems most have talked about seeking help, and most of the opinions are ‘to keep the vote’. Even amongst those who supported ‘to let humans continue to live’, most were pessimistic, saying ‘it’s better to maintain the status quo’ instead of enthusiastically declaring that humans should live.
Thirty minutes pass.
My body is still unable to move, but I continue to listen in on the Meeting. At this moment, ten villagers have finished what they have to say, and seven chose to ‘keep their vote’, three chose to ‘have humans continue to live’. Nobody has yet to vote for ‘wiping out humans’.
Ahh, at the very least, the preposition to wipe our humans probably won’t be picked up—so I heave a sigh of relief.
“Number Eleven, please.”
The next one stepping onto the stage radically changes the direction of the Meeting.
“Viscaria Acanthus. —I am in support of wiping out humanity”
The arena is silent.
Not only is it because we finally have the first one who agrees with ‘wiping out humanity’, but more importantly, the one saying this is ‘her’.
A Senator, the best mechanic in the village, the chief doctor, and the big sister I trust in.
“The reason is simple. First, please look at this.”
Viscaria stops her speech, and pauses for a while as she seems to be waiting for something. She’s probably waiting for the screen on the stage to show the something.
“Eh, this is the number of people I have diagnosed. This is the number of times extraction has been done. And this i”
She continues to show the data, and smoothly explain the situation. With a nonchalant tone, she conveys the dire topic, as per her usual style.
“Simply put, if the proposal to have humans live on passes through, there will be ten robots dying a year.”
It’s buzzing out there.
“This is just an optimistic number, but if there are more cave-in or severe frostbites, this number will probably increase to twice or thrice that. Also, in the second year, the number of dead will increase in numbers, so in other words, there probably will be a hundred dead in five years. Such developments isn’t really something that can be taken lightly.”
Her explanation remain based on data, but it’s because of this that she’s really convincing.
“Having treated everyone till this point, I do feel that you all have done enough, and let your bodies be so ruined for the sake of the Snow White…but I think it is time to change that. We have fought for more than a hundred years, and it’s time to put down the burden we carry.”
There’s silence again in the arena as everyone listen intently on Viscaria’s words,
“To prevent others from misunderstanding what I have to say, I will preface that no matter what the chosen outcome is, I will not give up on my mission. If the proposal to wipe out humanity is denied, I will continue to do my best to treat everyone or repair the Snow White. I will never allow myself to reject treating others just because our viewpoints clash. I just want to have everyone know from an objective viewpoint, and the demerits to allowing humans to continue living…that is all from me.”
Once she stops, the arena’s buzzing. Those views seem exceptionally clear to that have chosen to forfeit their votes or leave for later judgement.
“Then, number twelve.”
Cattleya calls out for the next person.
And so, the Meeting changed in direction.
“Actually, I…do support wiping out humanity.”
It feels like a dam is burst.
After that, there’s a clear decline in number of people who clearly voice their support for ‘humanity to continue surviving’, while those supporting ‘wiping out humanity’ have increased in numbers. Just a moment ago, everyone was unwilling to say such a guilty thing, to not ‘wipe out humanity’, but once Viscaria Acanthus, a prominent person in the village, helped give a nudge, it seemed there was an atmosphere where they can all say whatever they want.
“I have lost my vision. If possible, I want to look at everyone’s faces again. If I can obtain proper parts, I will be able to see the light of day again. Please allow me to regain my parts from the Snow White.”
“Our child here can’t move the legs. My parts can’t get him moving. But, if the parts from the Snow White are available, this child will be able to walk again. Please, allow this child to.”
“My husband has been sleeping since twenty years ago. If the parts from the Snow White are available.”
Due to ‘extraction’, the villagers lost parts of their bodies, unable to move their limbs freely, started to worry about their families health, or lost their lovers. There are all kinds of thoughts expressed, but the villagers convey all their wishes, and have a common mindset. Sobbing can be heard from the arena, and even I, listening from far away, can’t help but feel the same as I think of the suffering everyone feels.
Once thirty people finish their speech, a break is called at the meeting.
At this point, the atmosphere at the arena is completely different from before. The side supporting the notion that humans are to live on has completely vanished, while more than half of them support wiping out humanity, increasingly riled up.
—This is bad.
Two hours have passed, and I remain short-circuited. I remain prone on the icy ground, tormented by anxiety and helplessness.
If this keeps up, the proposal to wipe out humanity will be passed. Chief will press the ‘switch’ that’s prepared, and the Snow White will be ruined forever. By that time, it will be too late, and even if we do regret, we won’t be able to wake up our masters again. I finally managed to find a third route where both humans and robots can coexist—
I pray, I earnestly pray.
—Move, my body!
Restart, force stop, emergency reset, insert backup work-in—I tried every single method, but my body is unable to react.
My consciousness fades from time to time. Whenever a short-circuit longs for a long time, I’ll be forced to shut off all functions in order to protect the Mind Circuit. If that happens, everything will be for naught. The path where humans and robots can work together to survive, and move into the future; that will disappear forever.
The world before my eyes get increasingly darken.
My visual installation is forcefully shut down, and I’m unable to see anything. The end is near.
The voices from the arena become increasingly distant. Someone is calling for humanity to be wiped out. That voice becomes increasingly fleeting, and finally vanishes.
—No, this isn’t it…listen to me, everyone. We, don’t have to fight, like that…at…all…
The moment my consciousness blacks out,
I see a light.
A blue light shines in the bottom of the darkness, and the sand before my eyes crumble.
I sense a figure opposite the sand appear before me, and my consciousness is cut off.
My consciousness remains blurry, groggy as though I’m in a dream, and I can only hear voices.
The meeting continues.
“Due to the aforementioned reasons, I wholeheartedly support wiping out humanity.”
The meeting is now a countdown to wiping out humanity. The speakers have all become supportive to ‘wipe out’, and no other views have been expected.
I understand. It’s true that Viscaria’s words managed to change the course of the meeting, but it’s just the initial drop. The villagers are in complete pain due to a lack of parts, like how every drip of water fills the cup, and at this moment, the emotions are overflowing in the arena like a flood.
It’s because of this that the current direction isn’t going to be changed easily. The damages self-sacrifices over the past hundred years have finally shown itself. ‘The villagers’ mission’ ‘the raison d’etre of the robots’, such words clearly appear feeble before anyone.
“Is there anyone who will like to speak?”
Cattleya’s voice rings again. There’s silence in the arena, and nobody else raises their hand. This doesn’t indicate that they have nothing to so, but that everyone already knew what’s the outcome will be, and choose to remain silent.
—Is it, over…?
In this pitch dark world, in this world of voices, I feel an end to everything.
“Is there no one else who will say anything? If not, we shall end discussions and begin voting.”
I don’t want to give up, but there’s no time already. As long as nobody else in the arena wants to say, the meeting will end. There will be voting, the preposition to wipe out will be chosen, the button will be pressed, the Snow White will forever cease, and humanity—our masters, will die off forever.
I mutter earnestly in my heart. My voice can’t possibly reach out.
Someone calls out.
There’s a commotion in the arena. After a pause, there’s a voice from the microphone of the stage.
“This is too weird! Everyone, everyone’s acting weirdly!”
It’s a young voice.
“Just a moment ago, everyone was so, so admiring of our masters! Everyone did their best! Practicing over and over again for the Festival! But why? Why change when we say change? Why is it that it doesn’t matter even if our masters die!?”
With a childish pout, she continue to complain loudly,
“Hey, tell me! What about the past hundred years!? Every day, every day, we worked so hard for our masters, for what reason? For whose sake did we spend the last hundred years? For what purpose did we spend the last hundred years? Didn’t everyone have so many parts extracted? For whose sake did our comrades die for over the past hundred years!? If we destroy the Snow White here, isn’t their deaths for nothing!? They didn’t need to die, and they’re die!? And, and, if we give up here—”
The girl’s voice is trembling.
“Then for whose sake, did Gappy die for!?”
There’s a loud thud. I can hear that it’s the sound of the podium being stlammed.
The arena turns silent.
The girl’s silent. And so is everyone. Even the host of the meeting, Cattleya is silent.
And I—system recover—standby—rebooting—time to functional recovery, thirty seconds—twenty seconds—ten seconds—five, four, three, two, one—
I open my eyes. I stand up. And I walk on.
There’s a girl standing on the stage, looking confused. It’s the central stage, the arena for the Village Meeting. Once I show up, the arena burst into commotion. “It’s Amaryllis…!” “Where have you been…!?” Everyone is giving me looks.
The girl speaking looks at me in shock, and I walk straight towards her.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“You’ve worked hard, Daisy.”
I reach my hand forward, petting her soft chestnut-colored hair. As I continue to pat, tears begin to well in the girl’s eyes.
She buries her face into my chest, and then seem to remember something as she lifts her face.
“Amaryllis…are you going to support wiping out? Or letting them live?”
The uneasy eyes are shown in mine. And I smile, answering,
“Neither. If I have to say, halving?’
And then, I move forward, grab the microphone, and loudly declare,
“I have an emergency preposition!”
This is a third option after the motion to ‘wipe out humanity’ and ‘have humans keep living’—it’s called the ‘a preposition for both humans and robots to coexist’.
With everyone looking at me on the stage, I start to explain with confidence.
“Just a few hours ago, I went to check on the surface.”
The arena is buzzing.
“This is the footage that serves as proof.”
I show the image I saw of the surface on the stage screen. The sky after a hundred years, the warm sunlight, the warmth that’s coming back. I convey all the data stored in my Mind Circuit, including the corpses of the work robots I encountered along the way. I hope for humans and robots to coexist, and I feel that the most proper way to go about doing it is to reveal everything on the footage.
“As everyone knows, there is a large generator built on the surface. That’s the facility used to provide power for work robots like everyone here when building the Snow White. If the surface temperature recovers, this means we can get this generator to restart. The power lines can then be assured, starting with the air conditioning, and the chances of us living together with our masters will be better than before.”
The arena starts to explode in commotion. The villagers exchange looks, shaking as though they’re rattled by my words.
Of course, there is opposition.
“If the generator can’t work again, what do we do…?”
There’s a sharp scathing voice from the front rows.
“If we do return to the surface, and it’s still not working, then we’re all doomed!? You dare say there’s no problem!?’
In the face of such a fiery question, I can’t help but stammer. I can’t say something irresponsible like ‘no problems at all’.
At this moment.
“No problems! Not only do we have the main crystal furnace in that type of generator, we also have traditional sub-generators. The usual fossil fuel there should be enough! So don’t worry!”
Shocked, I look over at the voice. There’s a woman with red hair in the middle of the arena, standing there with a hand on her waist. She exchange looks with me.
“We can get the generator running again. Leave this to me.”
She concludes decisively.
This relief from her has me really grateful. The man questioning me seem shocked by the unexpected counterargument, “Well, whatever, so…” and returns to his seat.
I then seize the opportunity to say,
“It’s true that I can’t be sure that it’ll definitely succeed. This plan needs a lot of labor, starting from the preparation phase. But please calm down and think about it. Even if we do stay in the village, we will end up ruined by another earthquake that may come. It’s not too late. Since we still have our batteries working till this point, this is the best chance to escape the village.”
I confidently narrate. The faces of the villagers are filled with life, and it gets increasingly cheery.
And before I end off my speech, I deal a ‘finishing blow’
“Everyone, before you came here, I suppose you have seen ‘that footage’, right? I too have seen it, and to be honest, I am really rattled. But,”
I take out a chip from my pocket, and raise it high enough for everyone to see. It’s a microchip the size of a little fingernail—a high end memory chip.
“That footage isn’t the only thin contained in this chip, It’s halfway saved, but there’s such a video inside.”
The footage is then aired on the screen.
It’s a footage of daily life.
First appearing is a tall, lanky woman. This woman with black flowing hair is seated on a bench, reading a book. Standing politely beside her is a girl. The girl is dressed in a maid outfit, and the antenna extending out from her ears clearly show that she’s a robot.
The master, and the robot serving her. This is a common scene from far back.
The woman and robot rely on each other like sisters, reading the same book. The robot will give a few looks at the woman, or lean on the shoulder fawningly. Whenever this happens, the woman will smile gracefully, stop flipping the book, and lend the girl her shoulder.
This initial footage lasts for a minute or so, and then, the footage changes to another scene. It’s the scene of a human and a robot working together in a certain small factory. The robot produce the goods, and the human inspect them. Once inspection is done, the human pats the robot on the shoulder in a consoling manner. Only when they leave the mini factory did the footage end. They’re like intimiate brothers.
And so, such scenes change over and over again, the scenes of humans and robots living together, working together, helping each other out.
Every footage lasts less than a minute, and in all, it appears to be no more than fifteen minutes, without any sounds. Finally, there is the logo of the producer, showing that it’s a promotional video used to promotion coexistence between humans and robots.
Perhaps it’s made for show, that the footage are made for a certain purpose, or maybe it might be an idealization of humanity.
But despite this, the footage awakens the precious memories deep within our hearts. Humans will die one day, but robots won’t die easily. The robots who lost their masters and were left behind experienced long memories that won’t fade away, living on until they become scrapped metal.
Thus, the old memories remain piled inside the Mind Circuit, and they can be repeated over and over again without fading away. The clear sadness that can’t be forgotten shall always remain etched in our chests.
Before I know it, everyone’s crying. They recall the memories they spent with their masters, the memories that are as precious as gemstones.
I recall my time working in the kindergarten. The lively children, the earnestly mothers, and the amicable Principal.
I look back, and Viscaria is crying too. She probably recalls the superintendent of the automobile repair factory. That’s the one she would reminisce from time to time, the when she would blush whenever she talked with. There’s a barrier between humans and robots that can never be overcome, and they’re unable to get together.
Götz too was crying. He must have been thinking of the director when he was still an actor. When he was about to be scrapped, the director kept him, and groomed him until he became famous, the benefactor.
The children too are crying. They recall their dead parents and the siblings they broke off with. To me, a nanny robot, I understand them really well.
All of them are dejected, lonely. They recall the blissful days they can never return to, their longing for masters filled are of such pain and destitute over the past hundred years, a time of enduring such loneliness. However, we don’t hate this; instead, we enjoy the work heartily, offering our bodies. For we always have the dream of working together with our masters.
The footage ends.
I give a deep bow, and descend the podium.
Soon, Cattelya’s voice rings.
“Is there anyone else who wants to say anything?”
Even Cattleya is crying. Surely she is thinking of her beloved husband.”
At this moment.
Chief appears on the stage. His head is rolling about.
I hold my breath; everyone’s eyes are gathered upon a spot.
—What will he say?
I feel uneasy. I have nothing else that can convince them. If I get routed by Chief here, there’s no way back.
Chief sits on the podium.
And all he says is,
“Time for voting.”