Chapter 8 – Farewell, our fuel.
And so, the final voting is as such.
‘Preposition to have humans continue to live’ – thirty votes.
‘Preposition to wipe out humanity’ – nine votes.
‘Preposition for humans and robots to coexist’ – two hundred and sixty three votes.
-Total number with voting rights: three hundred and seven (100% voted)
-Void/invalid votes: Five.
An overwhelming majority voted for humans and robots to coexist.
After the results are out, Chief bows silently, and returns to the Village Hall. He look really forlon, and I don’t know what to say to him.
And so, we choose to head down the path of coexisting with humans, carving a new path out for ourselves.
However, the real troubles are just beginning.
I ask Viscaria in the Senate Hall of the Village Council.
Viscaria explains to me slowly.
“Three days after the meeting is over, and the total number of batteries we found is almost about five hundred or so, regardless of size. And also, less than half are rechargeable and can be used directly.”
“Then, can’t we use some of the recharging cables from the Snow White?”
I ask as a matter of fact. “No can do.” Viscaria shakes her head.
“The displacement to the surface is only about five hundred meters, but the actual distance might be tens of kilometres. We’re really lacking in cables.”
“Hmmm, so we can only use the batteries we have…?”
Viscaria grabs the beret, and seem to be at a loss of ideas as she places it on the table.
The only generator of the village is the ‘Snow White’. The ‘crystal furnace’ inside the Spindle can generate a lot of electricity, and the villages maintain the daily operations through this electricity. The cables to recharge are located all over the village, and anyone can recharge as long as they remain in the village.
But this operation is different. All electrical facilities can’t be used from the moment we leave till we reach the surface. We need to rely on the electricity we have at hand, three hundred people’s worth.
“Based on the headcount, we need to maintain at least twenty hours of battery power. Our current stock can’t hold ten hours’ worth. It’s not enough.”
“Got it. Anyway, I’ll try getting a census of the village again.”
“No other way here.”
Viscaria adjusts her cap, “I’ll go to the clinic.” And stands up, saying this,
“I’d check on the heavy facilities.”
“I’ll go check on the icemobile, even though it’s probably not going to be of much use.”
And so we head to our separate ways, looking for clues.
There’s no progress in the preparation work.
We gather all the batteries we can find, from the icemobile and the heavy machinery, to the remotes and the torchlights. However, all the batteries we can gather are either rusted or burned, probably because we have been ‘collecting’ them again, and it’s far less than what the plan requires. I thought of a plan to use the spare lighting of the ceiling when there’s a power outage, but even so, that only makes up a little bit.
But time waits for no one.
s—What can I do with the batteries…?
I roll about on my bed at home, thinking hard, trying to come up with something. But no matter how much I think, it’s all barren, and I can’t think of any ideas.
“This is troubling…haaa.”
I sigh hard. And then, at this moment,
“Yo, you dropped your skirt here.”
I leap up in shock. I narrow my eyes, and see a familiar blond in the room. My skirt is twirling around on his fingertip.
“Wait! What are you doing!?’
I snatch my skirt back from this shameless guy.
“Don’t just barge in here.”
“I tried knocking. There was no response.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m just here to cheer up Amaryllis with the conflicted look on her face while humming away.”
“I never asked you for help.”
“Don’t be shy now…oh, one bra here.”
“Return it to me, you pervert.”
I snatch my underwear from the guy. Looking closely, I find my underwear and clothes scattered all over the room, and I remember that I have yet to clean up my room in a while. The music box with the battery removed is lying there, giving a lonely feeling.
—Ahh, what do I do with the battery?
I pick up the music box that has lost power, and start to be frustrated again. If this keeps up, I will have to notify everyone on delaying the operation again. I don’t want everyone else to feel dejected after being fired up, but delaying it with no end date in mind will prove fatal.
“Just take a break for now. It’s important to change your mood.”
Eisbahn gives a rare proper suggestion.
—Well, I can’t think of anything good if I keep being stubborn about this, huh…?
I sigh, and decide to take a little rest. I lean my back on the wall, and let my body sink into the chair. My joints give off a ‘creak’, and I just feel heavy all over.
—Ahh, I’ve been really tired recently.
I relax my body, and close my eyes. “You alright?” “Yep, I’m fine.” “Good then.” I carelessly converse with Eisbahn, and it it ends.
After some time passes.
I slowly speak up. Eisbahn’s already lying on the bed, “Hm?” and he asks back carelessly.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you say me back then?”
I know my voice’s really soft here. Back then—I collapsed when I short-circuited, and it was Eisbahn who came to save me.
He gives me a smile, and says,
“It’s a man’s duty to save his lover, right?’
“Be serious here.”
“Ehh, but I’m really serious here.”
Eisbahn’s tone is as mischievous as ever.
“I never mentioned anything about going to the surface to anyone else.”
“I saw you head towards the ‘REM forest’.”
“I see…then, how did you figure out where I was? That place was so far even the communicator can’t work.”
“You entered the work tunnels, didn’t you? I followed the footprints.”
“H-hmm…you’re pretty smart there.”
“Thanks for the compliments.”
—Ahh, This is hopeless.
I shake my head slightly. I really want to thank him formally, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
I clench my fist hard, and say,
“Well…th-thank, you…for saving, me.”
Eisbahn sits up from the bed, and turns towards me,
“You’re actually thanking me for real here. The heavens are going to shoot spears down on us.”
“It’s fine. You are my savior…once in a while.”
“Savior…nice way of calling it. Just feels like I’ll be forgiven for whatever I do.”
“Wait, what are you going to do?”
I cover my body with both hands. This guy is able to casually say something like ‘the reward is your body’.
But it’s different this time.
“Can I ask you something?’
“Tell me. How did the ‘humans-robots coexisting plan’ come about?”
“…? What do you mean?”
“Basically. You thought of a third plan other than to wipe them out or let them live. What gave you the inspiration?”
“Ahh, you mean that.”
I rub my cheek with my index finger, and get down to the point.
“Well, how do I put it…’halving’.”
“Hm, you know I was a nanny robot, right? Back then, ‘halving’s the mantra from the Principal.”
Whenever the children have an argument, Principal will always teach them ‘let’s do halving’. Even if they’re sweets, or toys, he will recommend that we halve them.
“…Back then, Yuu and Fuu—ahh, they’re the children at the kindergarten. Both of the argued.”
With nostalgic feelings, I narrate. Thinking back about it now, what happened back then feels like yesterday.
“They were fighting over a ball. I was troubled as I was unable to get them to play nice. Principal came by, and suggested ‘halving’.”
—Now then, I shall halve this ball.
At this moment, Eisbahn interrupts,
“You can’t half a ball, right? It’s not a biscuit.”
“You think so too? I used to think the same thing as you. Guess what the principal did?”
I roll the handkerchief in my hands into a ball, and toss it at Eisbahn.
“We end up playing catch. “Here, how about it? Throw the ball back.” Principal throws the ball at Yuu, and so Yuu and Fuu end up playing catch, becoming happier. Before I knew it, I too was playing along.”
“Hmm…this Principal sure can mix things up.”
Plop, he tosses the ball of handkerchief back at me.
“Hmm, it sure sounds like pulling at fast one, but I really respect him back then. Ahh, there’s such a way to do this, I thought. Even he manages to ‘halve’ a ball successfully when there’s no way to do that.
Principal loves to halve everything. If children are fighting over toys, he’ll get them to play together; if children are fighting over a picture book, he’ll get them to read together.
“So, I was wondering if I can do halving about this. The future doesn’t just belong to humans or robots, but rather, it’s to be opened by both sides.”
“So, a future of ‘halving’…”
Eisbahn suddenly picks up the handkerchief ball in my hand, and twirls it around on his fingertips. His actions resemble the Principal so much, and it leaves a slightly surprised.
“If there’s a situation where you can’t ‘halve’ it, what will you do?”
This really is an unexpected question.
“Eh? A situation where I’m unable to halve?”
He unravels the ball, having it take the shape of the handkerchief again.
“Assume that you are in a river, nobody will save us in a while, and we’re running out of battery. If we just leave this be, both of us will die of frostbite. There’s only one battery left. What will you do?”
“Can’t one person just share half the battery?”
“What if you can’t? If we share half, both will die. If that happens, what will you do? Are you still going to halve it?”
I tell him the answer I have in my heart.
“I’ll give it all to you.”
Eisbahn widens hi eyes in shock. “Well, that’s because.” I then continue,
“You saved my life before, so this time, it’s my turn to save you. There’s only one battery, so I’ll give it all to you. Then we’ll have saved each other’s life once—and that’s halving.”
At this moment, he’s looking at me in utter shock.
“What is it?’
“…Goodness.” What he says next leaves me perplexed. “You’re always like this. Treasure yourself more.”
I stare right at him.
“What, did you just…?”
I give Eisbahn a suspicious look as he suddenly changes his tone. He then seem to realize something’s amiss in his tone, “Ahh…” and he stammers.
“Hey, did you just say something weird?”
“No, nothing at all…”
He shows a rare falter in his eyes, and then, he seems intent on trying to cover something as he averts his eyes.
“Just a little slip up.”
“Really? Sounds disgusting to hear you talk with a serious tone.”
“As I said, it’s a slip up.”
“Your tone sure sounded serious there.”
“Anyway!” He probably didn’t want to get involved in this topic again as he raises his voice, saying, “Isn’t this because you said something strange? Anyway, your answer just now isn’t even ‘halving’.”
“Well, that’s not true. Since you say so, the basic premise itself is that your question is too weird. ‘two people, just one battery’. There’s no way such an extreme situation can happen—”
Suddenly, a flash fizzles through my Mind Circuit.
—Two people, one battery.
Two people, one.
“I got it! There’s this method too!”
I grab Eisbahn on the shoulders and shake him hard. “He-hey, what’s with this out of a sudden?” He exclaims.
“I think there’s a way to solve this battery issue!”
Thirty minutes after the emergency meeting was called, all the Senators are gathered in the Village Council Hall.
Viscaria widens her eyes in shock.
“How is it? Not a bad idea here, right?”
“Not bad, great idea, actually. No doubt that this is worthy of the ‘Grand Prix’.”
This is my idea.
—Have two people share one.
Humans and robots, share the same battery through ‘halving’—this is the idea I came up with.
Every Cradle contains a large battery to maintain a person’s life. My idea is to connect the robots to these batteries.
We’ll pull the cables from the batteries of the Cradle, and connect to the circuits of the villages. The villagers can move freely without any electricity. Also, the batteries gathered that aren’t used can be used to replenish the units for this operation. Now we have three hundred people’s worth of battery power ‘appearing’.
“In that case, will the lifespan of the batteries in the Cradle not run out?’
“No problems.” Viscaria answers Götz’s question.
“The batteries of the Cradles are massive, and us robots won’t cause much burden if it’s one to a unit. Only about ten percent will be used up if we spend about twenty two hours over a period of twenty four hours recharging.”
“Then, we need to do something about the battery, right?”
“We’ll need to do simple connections by ourselves. Leave this to me.”
“We’ll leave it to you.”
If there’s insufficient battery power, we’ll just borrow from humans—looking back, it’s not hard to think about it. Why nobody has ever thought of it is largely related to the mental characteristics of a robot. We robots will offer our parts for humans, yet we never thought about using this logic the other way around. This causes a psychological blind spot, a blind angle of an idea.
And so, we slowly progress forth on the issue of the battery because of my suggestion. I’m really grateful to ‘Principal’ for giving me the ‘halving’ inspiration, and also to Eisbahn, to whom I’ll give a-thousandth of that thanks.
Of course, there is still a whole load of issues, like a possibility like the generator on the surface being unable to work, or countermeasures in case the villagers or the Cradles malfunction. However, the issue of the batteries remains the biggest challenge, so solving it is a huge boost to our operation.
Going at this pace, if we solve all the issues one by one, we’ll definitely be able to return to the surface—so I have such a hope in my heart.
However, a bigger crisis looms upon me, as though my thoughts are read.
A day after the battery problem’s solved.
The Snow White malfunctioned.
The first report comes from the emergency wireless channel.
“Snow White’s output is dropping! Hurry!”
Viscaria’s anxious voice can be heard through the wireless, and I immediately get off my bed and dash towards the REM forest.
I arrive at the REM forest, and see Viscaria completely focused on working the control panel. Her actions seem to reflect the seriousness of the situation.
“The output of the crystal furnace is weird!! Ahh, it’s dropping by half!”
I see the panel show ‘49%’, and the numbers behind the decimal point continues to drop, like a slot.
“What’s the reason?”
“I don’t know! The extraction purity of the crystal furnace is dropping massively….! Anyway, if we’re lacking in fuel—ahh, damn it, it’s 40% now!”
“What about the emergency fuel…!?”
“There’s some out there!”
“I’ll go get it!”
I carry the bag of fuel—crystals of extremely high purity, put it on my shoulder, and ladder up the ladder used for inspecting the Snow White, hurrying to the top of the spindle. The spinning speed of the spindle is slower than anyone else, and the light is clearly a lot darker than usual.
I spend about thirty seconds to arrive at the top of spindle.
“Viscaria, I’m here! Open the furnace!”
A strong blue light gushes into a corner of the spindle. The refilling hatch leading to the crystal furnace is opened, and I remove the safety installation holding the fuel in, pouring it all in.
“How is it…?”
I release all the fuel I have in hand, and ask Viscaria who’s below me.
But reality is cruel.
“It’s useless! Twenty, nineteen, eighteen…ah, ahh!”
Viscaria’s voice becomes increasingly softer.
Finally, the spindle grinds to a halt, and the spindle output stops at ‘0.00%’. Red warning lights can be seen all over the control panel, and Viscaria lowers her head weakly.
“…Well, that’s enough already, Amaryllis.”
Her calm voice echoes throughout the room.
“W-what’s the matter?”
I ask worriedly. The spindle slows down gradually before me, and finally stops.
Viscaria shakes her head, and mutters,
“It’s completely stopped.”
All the senators receive the message, and gather at the Snow White again in an hour.
Upon hearing the report, Chief quietly closes his eyes.
“I’m really sorry.”
“No, this isn’t your fault.”
Chief says slowly. This is the first time we’ve officially talked to Chief ever since that Meeting.
“Then, what is the reason?”
Chief closes his eyes, and asks,
“The crystal furnace itself isn’t really damaged at all.” Viscaria flatly answers, “But the extraction rate of the energy.”
The reason why the Snow White stopped was basically due to depreciation. Having worked for years, the crystal furnace is increasingly filled with impurities, and the extraction rate is thus lowered. At this point, it’s at its limit.
“I thought it could last for another hundred years. Didn’t think it’ll wear out so soon.”
“Can we not insert all the emergency fuel, and have it start working again?”
Götz asks, “No.” and Viscaria denies him immediately.
“A massive amount of energy is required to get a non-functional furnace working again. That type of fixed volume is like eroding rocks with water.”
Viscaria lowers her beret further, and grits her teeth. It’s not hard to imagine that for her, the technician-in-charge, this is the outcome most regretful to her.
“Then, what do we do?” Eisbahn leans on the wall, “Tomorrow’s the deadline.”
He looks up at the Snow White, and frowns. Even he, usually so cheeky, gives such a grim look, and this clearly shows how dire the situation is.
I too can’t answer.
The Cradles have spare batteries, but they can only last for twenty four hours as they are for emergency use. Also, the crystal furnace is the only generator in the village, and it stopped working. Thus, recharging the Cradles’ batteries from the outside won’t work. Even if we do continue to search for the portable batteries we gather, it’ll only last half a day. If that happens—
Our masters will die.
—Why, did it end up this way.
The sudden reality is so cruel, as though we’re informed of a terminal illness. The Snow White loses its usual luster, and my feelings become increasingly dejected as the room is only lit by luminous lights.
The room is filled with a short silence.
Everyone is unable to say anything, cornered by the despair. Nobody can answer the question, the question of how to restart the heart of a patient that has stopped. Unlike a human, the Snow White can’t be revived with electric shocks.
Breaking the silence here is the oldest person in the village.
“The most important thing here is the ‘purity’, isn’t it?”
I lift my head. Chief merely has an eye opened, glancing aside at me.
“Chief, what did you just say?”
“As I have said.” Chief calmly states, “Due to many years of operating, the crystal furnace has lots of residue and impurities mixed in the lowers the purity of the fuel to the minimum. This is the same rationale as a rechargeable battery being unable to do so after a certain number of times…so, if a fuel of extremely high purity is to be added, the extraction rate will increase, and the Snow White will be able to restart. Is that right, Viscaria?”
“Eh, ah, yes.” Viscaria blinks once she’s suddenly mentioned. “That is true. But, there’s a need for crystal plants of extremely high purity, a type that can get a major generator working at once. Where do we find such a thing in the village though—”
“There is fuel. Of that level of purity at that.”
And then, what Chief says next leaves everyone stunned.
“That will be me.”
Viscaria and I question in unison.
“My body is made of a highly pure fuel called ‘Crystal Lead’. The purity of the fuel will improve if you throw me into the furnace and burning me, and the extraction rate will increase noticeably—the Snow White shall be revived.”
“Wh-what are you saying here? Burn you, Chief? You got to be joking.”
“I was originally created for this purpose. From head to toe, my entire body was created to be a robot containing the most important fuel, simply living for this purpose. The reason why I was assigned the purpose of Chief is all for the purpose of fuel preservation. I do call it ‘saving energy’, but I have been offering my body to the Snow White as fuel.”
Faced with the sudden words from Chief, I’m momentarily left unable to comprehend.
—Chief is fuel? Crystal Lead?
“I shall repeat this again. If I am thrown into the furnace, the purity of the fuel will increase, and the Snow White will be operational again. When this happens, all the conditions for the operation will be at hand. Today, I shall bid farewell to everyone.”
“Chief, you’re kidding here, right? It’s just the usual lame joke, right…?’
I anxiously ask, and Chief shakes his head,
“I really am sorry.”
There’s no smile in his eyes; he’s as serious as ever.
—Chief’s being serious here…!
Once I realize this, my body immediately heats up.
I lean over, and raise his head.
“Please, enough with the foolish words! Everyone’s finally going to the surface! A new life is about to begin! What are we going to do without you around, Chief!?”
“It’s fine. There’s still you here. And also Viscaria. Götz too. And Eisbahn. And everyone else…my mission comes to an end.
I bring Chief to my chest, embracing him.
“Didn’t we work hard over the past hundred years!? I don’t want to bid farewell here!”
“But if you don’t burn me, the Cradles will die.”
“E-erm, right! Ev-everyone, let’s think of something together to get the Snow White working agagin. If we gather our thoughts, we’ll come up with something good! Hey, let’s do this, okay, Chief!?”
“Unfortunately. There is no time left. Everyone in the Cradle will die tomorrow…there’s no time to hesitate.”
“I suppose I shall be fuel here. This is a fiery man at work. Gahahaha!!”
Unwilling to give up, I embrace Chief with more strength.
“I-I’m not letting go! I’m not letting go until you give up on that idea, Chief!”
“Yes, Chief.” Viscaria too extends her feelers, as though trying to hold Chief down, “It’s terrible to say goodbye here. It’s fine. There’s definitely an idea. Let’s all go to the surface together.”
“True is that! This village needs you, Chief!”
“Yeah old man. What’s with you acting cool at your old age?”
Everyone surround Chief.
“Seriously, you people are too kind…”
“But I too have my responsibility as Chief…and it is time to go our separate ways.”
“Let go of me now, Amaryllis.”
I exert more strength.
And so, Chief lets out a little sigh, “I don’t want to do this…” he mutters, and shouts,
“Let go! This is an order!”
Before the voice trails off, my body shivers, and my hands cupping the Chief loosen.
“Stay still. This is an order.”
Immediately, my body’s frozen in place.
I can’t move my body, I can’t move my fingers, I can’t blink.
—You’re kidding…an override code!?
Everyone else is the same. Time seem to have stopped as everyone remains rooted.
“I shall be honest.”
Thuck thuck, Chief’s head hops onto the Core of the Snow White, the top of the ‘spindle’. The ‘Crystal Furnace’ is over there.
“I am a ‘supervisor’. I am tasked by humanity to observe if the Snow White is operating as normal—in other words, I am sent here as a ‘spy’.”
The sudden confession leaves me stunned.
“That ‘secret room’ was a guard room meant to watch over the village, and through the are numerous displays installed there, I watched over every single action in the village. The robot lying in the room was my ‘colleague’, who malfunctioned in the process.”
We’re all left dumbfounded as Chief continues to talk about the truth. That ‘secret room’ was a space suitable for humans to live in, that once the Ice Age ends, the humans waking up intend to live there, and observe all the actions of the villagers.
At this moment, Chief closes his eyes. His face is filled with deep wrinkles, like the ripples rising from the bottom of his heart.
“You all do want to know why I became the Chief, right? Remember that there was no election, and I was elected as Chief, right? That’s because the humans have programmed it in your Mind Circuit. This ‘override’ too is the same. In cases of emergency—like for example, you have some intentions to damage the Snow White, I will have the privilege to ‘purge’ you all.”
Chief opens his eyes again, and looks around. He looks at each of us in the eyes, affirming something.
“But I never made such an order, and I can’t. You’re too serious, too hardworking, too devoted…there was no such need.”
With the white mist engulfing the ‘REM forest’, a robot head continues to narrate, with four wax sculpture-like robots remaining still around him.
“Ever since we came to this village, I’ve changed. I’m supposed to invigilate over you, but before I knew it, I enjoyed living with you. Working with you, laughing, crying, singing, dancing with all of you—I enjoyed every single day. Before I knew it, I forgot my mission. It will be great if such peaceful, normal, ordinary daily village life could have continued.
With nostalgic feelings, Chief continues on. The spindle gives off a deep brown glow behind him, like a faded photograph.
“But seventy years later, the Snow White’s reserve parts have finally depleted, and the villagers started extraction. The villagers have all become worn down to keep the Snow White running. There were even deaths…so I started to think, the humans just sleep there without doing anything, and you work so hard to offer your bodies, wearing out, dying. What’s the point of this? What’s with the discrimination and difference? Is this really fine? Is it really fine to die protecting humans? In any case, is there any worth in protecting humanity? Are those culprits who left humanity unable to live on the surface going to live on by sacrificing robots? What kind of future awaits us? I was frustrated, and the conclusion I had was—”
Chief then raises his voice
“The preposition to wipe out humanity.”
—So that’s how it came about…
I finally understand; I finally understand the reason why Chief suddenly said to ‘wipe out humanity’. It sounded sudden, but it was a conclusion Chief came to after much thought.
“I called for a village meeting. I find it most appropriate to have the villagers decide the future of the village. No matter the outside, I shall abide. But you lot exceeded my expectations, discovered a third option, and found a way to coexist with humans. Once I personally witnessed these, my mission’s done.”
“…Open.” Chief then mutters, and with a rumble, the spindle trembles. The outer wall slides aside, and a blue light emits from the furnace.
Chief hops up, and moves to the opening of the furnace. My body shivers, but I can’t do anything due to the override. Stop, don’t go. I keep looking at the Chief, but Chief replies with a kind smile.
“I love you lot, everyone in the village. You’re all so serious, kind, honest, brave, purpose-driven, treasure your comrades, and never do anything to hurt others. I love you for these reasons, and thus, I want to protect. You lot are worthy of a bright future rather than the selfish humans. Hmm…even at this point, I am still trying to defend myself. A foolish Chief I am.”
Chief then states his ‘will’.
“…Amaryllis, you are the one with the highest standing in the village, and thus forth, you shall inherit my title as Chief. I shall leave the village to you… Götz, you will be the vice Chief. Continue protecting everyone with those sturdy arms of yours and your loyal heart…Viscaria, your skills are the lifeline of the village. As Amaryllis’ advisor, please provide the steady backbone to the entire village…Eisbahn. You are so unlike these stubborn, serious selves, but do offer your assistance when they are in trouble.”
The opening of the crystal furnace slides down. The fuel…Chief rides on it, and sinks into the light.
“This shall be goodbye…remove order.”
The moment the order is removed, I get my body moving, leaping over as I try to catch up to Chief.
“Chief, wait! Don’t go!”
The moment Chief vanishes into the furnace, he smiles,
“This is a form of saving electricity…”
And so, Chief vanishes into the blue light. The opening is completely sealed, and the spindle glows. The light races through the surface of the Snow White like a web, dazzling like the sun. The efficiency is restored to almost 100%. The Snow White awakens, like the icy face of a girl becoming red with life.
Those were Chief’s final moments.