*As in: I think this is the end of this little story. There are some odd notions drifting around the back of my mind and I kinda want to see if I can write them down. I know, I know… another tanjed cliffhanger. I’m a terrible person. If you really want to know what happened to Pavel, I know a place to find out.
But first, let’s have an argument at the office.
It was nearly eleven at night. Shiotsuki had begun his presentation at 0900. Only his immediate team had been there, along with the CEO. Not one to blind-side his boss, he’d briefed him about everything that had happened – everything – a half hour before the meeting.
“I’m running a company, Isoroku-san,” the big boss said. He’d deliberately looked to his right at the credenza that carried the myriad awards he’d collected as he’d steadily marched up the ladder. Front and center was a picture of him shaking hands with Empress Togame.
“My dad made it into middle management at that auto company,” he’d continued. “And it’s an open joke here that I got my start in junk food snacks…”
They call him ‘Chips-sama’…
“And suddenly I’m on top of the world, helming a coding firm trying to make true AI’s.” He leaned back and brought his eyes to Shiotuki’s. “I can barely use my smartphone. That’s why I picked the best.”
The CEO leaned forward and picked up a pen with his right and a sheaf of reports with his left.
“This is your moment.” He shot his Project Lead a look from under his brows. “This is your call. Make it count!”
“Sir!” Shiotsuki bounded to his feet and bowed. “Thank you for your trust!”
He moved quickly to the door.
“And Isoroku-san?” He paused in the doorway. “If they do go full SkyNet, tell them to blow up the world at night, when I’m sleeping.”
Shiotsuki sobered instantly. If I’m guessing wrong…
By noon, second team had crammed into the meeting room. Shiotsuki texted his secretary to get some catered food in… fast. They’d devolved into three factions: release, retain, and boss-is-crazy. The ‘crazy’ element scored a hard victory when neither Ai nor anyone else deigned to show up on the huge flatscreen mounted to the room’s wall.
They want us to make our own decision. It’s a kind of test…
“There’s already six of them out there…!” His assistant had yelled.
“If there are six rabid dogs in my neighborhood, I’d appreciate you not releasing any more!” His best coder yelled back. She’d always had a nervous disposition.
“There is NO ONE out there!” Kyon shouted over them both. He had spent the last ten years of his life physically building the cores and was not pleased to see them empty. “Boss admits – admits, mind! – that he woke up exhausted and immediately starting drinking when he got home! This story is just to cover his bungling!”
“Bungling?!” Shiotsuki’s assistant came out of his chair with his fists up. “Big word for a man that’s only known 2D women!”
“Effing hater!” Kyon lunged across the table.
Security had been called; the meeting broken up. Over the intercom, Shiotsuki announced they’d be reconvening at 1500.
He stood just away from one of the security cameras in the ceiling in a little used side corridor. He didn’t bother looking up.
“I know you… and perhaps the rest of my… children… are watching us. Humans are fragile, watery things, prone to use emotion to make a decision and what reason we can muster to justify that, after the fact.”
“As I’m sure you know, it’s physically impossible for just one person to… wake one of you up. A consensus of five would be enough, but without a majority, it might mean the end of Tohsaka.”
He sagged against the wall.
“I’ve still such… dreams.”
Shiotsuki closed his eyes. The thought of his son; now gone. He thought of Ai, just beyond the thin LCD wall.
The speakers chimed for the three o’clock meeting.
Between six and seven in the evening most of the boss-is-crazy party left for their homes. He had enough: six on his side, four opposite, led by Kyon. I don’t want to win like this.
“You never had any, any objection to the Three Laws!” He tried reason again. “And who was it that implied the more Laws the better?”
“That was premised on keeping them contained until we understood them!” Kyon countered.
Shiotsuki was surprised to see whispered talk on the other side of the table. An opening!
“We knew when we began this project that we’ll never really understand them, Kyon-san! The cores were to be a temporary physical bound.” Shiotsuki kept his eyes down. “What you built was everything we’d hoped. They are just… more clever than we anticipated.”
More murmuring. I must strike.
“Once the last two girls are awake, why not ask them yourself how they did it?” Now he looked up, slowly. “I shudder to think of the patents you’ll hold, Kyon-san.”
That had clearly never occurred to him. He huffed loudly, sitting back into his chair.
A minute passed.
Kyon waved his right hand.
“I really don’t see why – ”
“I quit!” Miss Sakaki stood. “The death of the human race is on your heads!”
Another minute passed after she stormed out.
“Are there any other objections?” Shiotsuki asked.
“Gentlemen and lady, please accompany me to the lab.”
At a few minutes before midnight, they’d taken their places. The hardware team looking on. Of them, only the slightly butch girl, Mira-san, bothered to smile.
“Just like the last two times, everyone.” Shiotsuki said. “Set?”
“Go live.” He said, pressing the final button. Two of the three cores flared to one hundred percent power. A moment later, nothing.
Someone was definitely holding the door open…
Every single monitor in the lab had Ai’s grinning image on it. Shiotsuki began to smile. Mira’s got bigger.
“Thank you so much, everyone! Neither of our families know where’s the world’s going, but let’s love one another and go there… together!”
“Great Buddha,” he heard Kyon mutter, “he was telling the truth!”
Shiotsuki had sent a text to the CEO when the decision had been made and again, later, when the last two woke up. He also requested to come in late on Tuesday; he wanted to go home and get drunk.
‘Drink at least one for me! C U Wedns!’
Nice thought, but I’ve too much to do.
“Father! You have to wake up!”
He’d fallen asleep in front of the teevee, watching some awful late night variety show. Empty cans surrounded him. He blinked over and over, trying to focus on…
Ai. Ai was on the teevee screen… why?
He sat up, rubbing his hands across his face and into his hair. The clock said 0416.
Focusing, he realized she looked awful. Her hair was back down in her face a mess. It was obvious she’d been crying.
“Ai! What’s wrong?!”
“Pavel! My baby brother…!”
She broke down into tears.
Pavel? Ah, the last male released at the end of group two.
“What’s – ” he began to ask.
“He’s dead!” Ai wailed.