Chapter Five

I traveled the endless desert, passing through cities, gazing at the lost remnants of an ancient world. There was nothing out there for me. The world was a place filled with broken mirrors to me, and in their glass I saw his face: cold, helpless, lonely. Ari haunted me as I searched in vain for him. Maybe after enough time I wasn't looking for him, but rather a purpose for my life.
The shifting sand never changed enough to become anything but melancholic and monotonous. The cities were always the same in most respects. My body barely moved as I drove through the desert. I lazed about as I wandered the world.
Maybe I had become the arbitrator of humanity in that I watched all and none of humanity's activities. I wandered through the dance clubs with their epileptic lights and writhing bodies that flowed as one. I wandered through the brothels with their dancers behind glass and the performers using fiber optic sex suits and the women pleasuring their customers behind closed doors with open windows. I wandered through the cemeteries filled with the dead from wars and age and trivial matters. But most of all I saw nothing I desired to see. I saw neither Ari nor Julia, nor did I ever catch a glimpse of a clue or trail towards my creator. I was alone entirely.
In Stelleen, I was able to access a Net terminal. The Marsis Empire tended to disconnect the Net in most areas that it conquered, but some of the free cities still connected in this way. This city in particular had mass connection, so much that I was able to connect in the privacy of my hotel room.
The city was cloaked in darkness then. I laid unclothed, outstretched on the bed. I held the connector plug in one hand as I used the other to part my hair and reveal the outlet hole in the back of my head. With one swift motion, I inserted the plug inside and integrated myself into the Net.
No human can completely understand what my translation was. One might as well try to understand the experience of Heaven without dying. Everything was a flow of light and information glowing and changing. I was immersed in an ocean of light and eddies and mirrors and world portals. In the real world, the world of flesh, I laid open in the manner of a crucifix, my eyes closed and moving rapidly as if in REM sleep. In the Net, I was everywhere and everything, the mistress controller. I was omnipresent and all-manipulating.
I delved into the deepest recesses of the Net in search of everything I desired. I looked for any trace of Ari, to see if he had accessed the Net at all or if there was a report of him somewhere. I sent out searches of his face from what I recalled in memory. All I could find were his original birth records and such, embedded deep in the mainframe of the appropriate division of the Information Ministry, meaning the physical documents had been destroyed, most likely. Ari was somewhere lost in the world.
I found no records whatsoever of Julia, not under her name or picture. I did, however, access all information associated with her profession, learning of prostitutes' mentality, what drove them to this state, statistics and stories, anything I could get a hold of. It left me feeling sorry and sympathetic of Julia, but if she had any shred of humanity left, she would certainly cast aside my pity.
Information on my creator was scarce. There was no data on the laboratory I awoke in, nor much of the area for that matter. Mathes, on the other hand, had a wealth of information about it, especially about the destruction. The exact reports, however, differed greatly. Some reported complete destruction and mass slaughter; others reported the city was generally destroyed, with most of the survivors being taken as prisoners. That story seemed to make more sense, considering what had happened at New Peace.
I floated around peacefully, emotionlessly, for a while afterwards. Within the Net, the master source of all computer data, I was at home. I was in a place where my existence meant something, where I would never have to worry about emotions because they meant nothing here. I could transfer all my mental data into the Net and remain here forever, abandon my flesh like the many human masses do with suicide. I would merely live here, exist here. I would never want, never desire, never care, never feel, never hurt… But what if all I had was my sorrow, my despair, my longing, my passion, my life? If I was an emotionless android ruled by emotions, was I not bound to an existence as doubting and confusing as a human's? Would this transition be tantamount to suicide? Still, even here in the Net, the real world infected everything like a plague. Humans had sex before my eyes in various ways that were less than romantic; the war continued through words and images and viruses; hate crimes and pedophiles and propaganda all in mass numbers existed and grew. Nothing was untouched by the real world, not even me. Abandoning the flesh would ease my conscience momentarily until I would realize all I had was my false humanity. This was it for me.
I disconnected myself and let my body rest. Lying open like this, all the images and data flying through my head made me believe that most humans would take this advantage to seek pleasure in a number of ways. I wondered why that was: what made the human desire for sex stronger than all other emotions and desires together? Was my lacking it the one part of humanity I did not possess in some form?

A little less than a month must have passed by the time I reached Mathes. All my traveling and learning and searching had taken me so far around that I finally finished my journey to the devastated city. I felt drained, more alone by that time, and the sight of the ruins did nothing to alleviate this feeling. The city had almost become overrun by the desert, the sand sweeping in to cover the streets and all items left out.
The very image of the desolated metropolis was enough to dishearten me before I even entered the city itself. An overwhelming color of gray filled the place: the gray of blasted buildings barely standing, the gray of ash carried by the wind flowing through, the gray of charred remains. I became covered in gray shadows the moment I stepped inside the ruins.
I walked along the endless roads of the city, taking in the sight of everything and nothing. In essence, there really was nothing left, the Marsis Empire having done its work well. A thought crossed my mind: if Mathes had been attacked for the same reason New Peace had, was it possible that my creator had been captured like I had, and he may still be surviving somewhere, albeit under Marsis control? A far chance, to be sure. Still, I had nothing else better to do.
There were few remaining mementos to haunt me as I walked. I saw no children's toys, no skeletons embracing, no broken statues, nothing but ash and falling structures; oh, and mirrors, of course. There were always mirrors to show my face. They reflected my hollow heart and face, my emotionless state and lack of life. I came upon a young girl's room in a home only mildly destroyed by the attack. A mirror was shattered upon the floor, and all the shards looked up mockingly at me. I could not help but stare at them, feeling the enmity of my existence. At last I had to leave that place, but I took with me and placed in my backpack a pretty doll in a blue dress, so delicate yet surviving, so like me.
Something surprised me in that empty city: after much traveling inside, I came across a dirt mound near a blasted park. It appeared to be a grave, despite the fact it couldn't have been made before or during the attack. Had someone else come here as well? Was I not the only one seeking old memories in this fallen place? In the center of the grave was growing a yellow rose, such a beautiful, yellow rose. I had almost believed such lovely things no longer existed. Someone loved the person they buried and wished that their memory would endure…
I reached my hand out to caress the petals, but I was interrupted by gunfire. Fighting had started here somehow, but who could be left to fight, and who would dare forsake such a holy place? I looked to the sky and witnessed planes flying over head, warships traversing the air. A battle was starting here, most likely between the Allies and the Marsis Empire, and I was caught in the center. I had left my hoverbike back at the city entrance in my assumption that I wouldn't need it, and now I was sorely afraid.
I started running as bombs once again struck this city. Any buildings that hadn't fallen before now shattered from the force of the attacks. Machineguns fired from all directions as troops most likely ran into the metropolis to kill each other. All manner of sounds emerged as I hid within the ruins: gunfire, screams, shouts, explosions, plane motors, distant tanks. The war had returned to Mathes as if to add insult to injury.
Buildings crumbled around me as I desperately attempted to make my escape. For whatever reason, I thought that I seemed at first to be less frightened than I had been in New Peace, though I barely contemplated the thought. I rushed into an alleyway and became surrounded by troops of both parties. They fired their guns immediately while I held my head and screamed. Their bullets flew past me narrowly and struck the soldiers. The Marsis soldiers cried out as they fell dead to the ground, and two of the three Allied soldiers were struck down as well. Even though the last one tried to say something to me, tried to convince me to go with him while he clutched his bleeding arm, I ran away. I couldn't trust anyone that lived to kill others.
The battle continued, and I continued running. The sounds of the explosions and the dying were terrible, but I had heard them all before. I ran with the knowledge that I could escape if I tried hard enough. I did not doubt that; however, I never expected to be as afraid as I was becoming. It grew to the point where I was tempted to hide in one of the buildings for a while and clutch my doll to my chest for comfort. I could always hope the battle would simply end after a time and both parties would drift away; after all, they weren't fighting for Mathes, a graveyard in the desert. They were fighting each other for spite, just as foolish humans do.
I was not given the chance to be cowardly or even brave. Instead, that Allied soldier I had seen before finally caught up with me, shouting for me to go with him. At the time, I knew only fear to drive me on, so I was not about to hope he and his friends were more decent than the Marsis Empire. To my surprise, though, he tackled me in an alley, trying to be careful and gentle despite everything. I tried to fight him off, but three other Allied soldiers came and put handcuffs on me to restrain me from breaking their necks. I shook my body in one last desperate attempt, but one of the men, a medic, injected a tranquilizer in my system. I could have started the systems to remove the foreign substance, but I didn't see the use. I allowed myself to be taken away with them, all the way back to the plane waiting for them. As I ascended into the sky, I tried to force my mind to be blank, but I carried fear for my future, and I carried a great swell of pity for the humans uselessly dying on that ashen field.
I wanted to cry.

AN: Just some quick notes: First off, this is the end of part one. Sorry if it seemed a little quick. Those of you who thought the angst level was a little much, take care in the fact that Part 2: The Children's War focuses more on the other end of the emotion spectrum. Another thing: I'm gonna change the name of the Internet in here eventually (I called it the Net in here, but I really need a different name; any suggestions?). Lastly, there'll be better explanations soon for things like Molly's computer abilities (and oddities) and the truth of her existence; there'll be more storyline, basically. Well, thanks for reading and hopefully reviewing! ^_^