"I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence - and exceed it." - Stephen Hawking
It was an expanding space. The universe within his head stretched bigger, further, to the point where if he took a step forward, he felt that he would fall into the void. There was a tingle of electricity running down his back as the neural network reconnected and the universe pulled into his mind like the air of a balloon being sucked into his lungs.
"Okay," he heard the swank voice echo as the network readjusted. "The new quantum processor is in. Give it a minute to form its neural pathways."
"Thank's Doc," he replied, his eyes readjusting to view light after reconnecting to his brain. Green and yellow came back first. "And the processor?"
"Upgraded as per request." He heard the clink of tools settling down on the tray beside him as orange, red, and blue began returning to him. "Up you go."
The chair behind him launched up as the rest of the colours flooded back. A rush of blood pumps into his head and the vertigo nearly sent him back to sleep.
He rubbed his eyes clear for clarity. "Thanks. How much do I owe you?"
Moving across his vision and to the desk, the good doctor pulled off her gloves and typed into the computer while speaking aloud. "One thousand kilq with a hundred and twelve service cost charged to Shou Kenta. Doctor Miura Hihwawn."
"Right. Put it on my card."
"Understood." Miura replied, clacking away at the keyboard.
Shou sat up, stretching his body and setting his bones in cracks. They were in the cyberspace of his workshop; A small clean room for Shou to work on his cybernetics without fear of infections. He looked back down on the surgery seat while a small pool of his blood coagulated at the headrest from where the doctor had to open into his brain to connect the new neural network. He registered a mental schedule to clean up the chair and rubbed the back of his neck where the malleable metal panel shifted foreignly from his skin.
Doctor Miura finished her work at the computer and stood to height. Her green surgeon's gown was lightly speckled with his blood. Underneath her surgeon's cap, a single speck of blood stuck onto the end of one of her short brown hair. Her elven ears prickled at the cold of the room.
"What's the occasion?" she asked. "You don't usually ask me to do upgrades."
He grinned widely as he swung his stump of a left thigh over the side of the seat. "I've done it, Doc."
She looked to him quizzically. "Really?"
He grinned playfully and nodded. "I think so. Haven't tested it yet, but everything seems fine on virtualisation."
"Wait, you need a quantum processor to..."
He pointed to his head. "Yeah. Thanks for that, by the way."
"Woah... wait a minute. I didn't come here to facilitate your suicide."
He laughed. "It'll be fine. It's only suicide if it fails."
He picked up his cyberprosthetic leg and pulled the straps onto his stump. The power cell glowed a bright cyan and the motors whirred to life as it connected to his neural network. He took off his bloodied gown and tossed it unceremoniously on the ground to be cleaned later, leaving for the door, naked.
"H-hey... Kenta! Are you serious?" Miura called out from behind.
With a simple cheery wave, he entered the decontamination chamber where hot disinfectant sprayed his body from nozzles embedded in the wall. Shortly after, high pressured air blasted him from all sides, further ruffling his already messy onyx dark hair while drying him and clearing him of dust.
Once the chamber depressurised, the glass door that led out slid opened and he skipped away, still naked.
He was now in his workshop. A large old glider hangar that had half collapsed on the south side and patched with scraps to keep the air in. The further half had been shoved full of machineries and salvaged parts. The other half were filled with workbenches and heavy machineries. A metal ladder lead up to a walkway. Working on the second floor across a balcony was a young woman in a white singlet and blue overalls tied half worn at the waist. Her brown hair tied into a short bun protruded from a red cap.
At his footsteps, she turned away from her workbench and immediately covered her eyes. "Shit! Shou! Put on some clothes."
"Sorry, Miu." He doubled back and grabbed his white hoodie and black jeans off a rack. "In a rush."
"Are you..." she leaned over the railings. "Are you doing it now?"
"Yup," he replied, slipping on his jacket and hopping into his pants. "No time like this time."
He rushed across the workshop towards the pressure door opposite that served as an exit.
"Don't you want to wait for Arnold? He should be back soon."
Skipping the rest of the way, he ignored her continued pleas. "Get Reggie ready for me!"
With the press of a wall button, the pressure door slid opened and Shou went through it. Compressed air blasted away particles and he pulled his hood up as the room was doused in red light and the entrance behind him closed. Tugging his lapels, a grey, translucent aeronium mask electrified across his face and he breathed in the processed oxygen as the light above turned from red to green and the gate that led out grilled opened.
Outside, the world was on fire. That specific entrance of their workshop faced The Burning South head on. In the foreground, the lands were charred of barren stone, blackening in swaths the further the view. In the distance, random acres of ground ignited in flames as exposed ores and oil caught the heat. The background was of mountains, spewing lava every other minute in an ever changing landscape of red. The part of his skin exposed to the heat tickled and pricked as the rustic, Tainted air wrapped him. Far behind, the echoes of an explosion rocked the sky, signalling another battle in the war.
Katoki, the continent of giants, symphonied by the Titan War that had raged on for hundreds of years in a land dystopia. That was where they lived.
And it was in that baking heat he waited. A minute passed. Then two. Hot air was starting to seep into his mask and sweat into his sleeves.
A rumble came from the right of the building as the giant sized garage door three stories high slowly swung opened outward on its hinges. From within, his partner lumbered out. Reggie, the Regalia mech.
Mechs. One of the three Titan types, the others being 'sentient' and 'golem'. Made of metal interior with hulking plates of armour, the mechs were the fastest but often smallest of the three, and the Regalia model was the fastest of them all. But unlike its combat ready brethren, Reggie lacked the heavy armour plating it once wore, torn off long ago in battle without means of replacement. Instead, it was scaled with scrap metal, its interior parts visible from certain gaps. At three stories tall, the Regalia model was a scout mech with multiple interchangeable parts. Its arms could be replaced with siegebreakers. Its legs with dragonhoofs. Its head could be installed with a thin wing shaped helmet, holding eight different cameras and sensors which was what Reggie wore; Though one of the wings were chipped out, revealing a broken thermo sensor beneath.
Shou clapped loudly and Reggie turned its head. Its head gave small tilts of a wave, and with earth crunching under its feet, Reggie approached its partner.
"Well," Shou began. "Ready to get going?"
Reggie tilted its head in worry.
Even though Shou had outfitted it with a speech generator and speakers, his friend hadnever used them. Instead relying on screen texts and physical gestures. He was sure it was not because Reggie didn't understand language, as it understood their speech fine. Perhaps it was just a quirk, or a lack of the AI's ability to formulate new conversations. The latter was unlikely, as the physical signs were a method of conversation. Shou would need to be a much smarter man to understand the complexity of an AI's thought processes.
"Don't worry, buddy. I know what I'm doing," Shou reassured. "Bring me up!"
Reggie knelt down on its knee and put his palm down. The hand was just large enough for Shou to stand comfortably on as the mech raised him off the land. The arm bent, gears and pistons shifting as the mechanical limb twisted unnaturally behind it, bringing Shou face to face with the Regalia's spine.
Years ago when Shou first found Reggie, the mech had its spinal corridor damaged, breaking its connection to its bio-cell and rendering some of its rear equipments useless. Over the years, he, Miu, and Arnold had managed to repair most of the damage but did not have the complicated industrial tools to fully reconnect the cell circuitries. They also could not afford a new bio-cell. Reggie could still move about, but anything too extraneous burns it out quickly. So they cobbled together a workaround which Shou was staring at.
An empty custom pilot pod stood where the spine should be. The space was small and had two controller bars extending out from the back. On the floor were two metal shoe-like protrusions that opened like bottle cases.
Gripping one of the edges of the outside of the pod, Shou pulled himself up and off Reggie's hand. Stepping in, he turned his body about, facing away from the Titan as a thick aeronium glass windowed him off from the outside. After the pod depressurised with a stutter, he removed his hood and aeronium mask. He set his two legs into the protrusions in the ground which closed and locked him in. The right mechanism hissed as it connected to the bio-cell in Shou's cyberprosthetic leg. The connection will give Reggie the energy needed for more complex motions, running Shou's bio-cell in tandem with the Regalia's own half efficient bio-cell. Though still not what it once was, it was an affordable repair that worked.
He reached above to a taut wired helmet and pulled the headgear down over his head. A glass visor lowered over his eyes as the screen lit up, overlaying his field of vision with graphics. Stretched across the bottom was a feed of Reggie's wide range 270 degree visual feed. The top left had graphs and bars showing various statistics.
Shou then rested his arms on the metal controller bars and slipped his hands into the pneumatic gloves on each end, testing the fit with a grip
Shou exclaimed excitedly, "Pilot ready!"
The arm bars and leg clamps moved pneumatically and Shou shifted his body to match into Reggie's kneeling position and slowly, they rose, getting on their feet. Their arms slipped to the sides as they fully stood upright.
He did not pilot Reggie. He simply sat in its shell as the Titan moved and the pneumatic bars and clamps moved him. Occasionally, Shou will take the arms or the legs, allowing Reggie to focus its processing power on more critical manoeuvres. But it was an inefficient process. Sometimes they'd fight for control, both of them deciding different paths. It was these differing opinions between him and Reggie that convinced Shou of one often rejected opinion by the masses of scholars, engineers, and programmers.
Titans were alive.
And he was about to prove it.
"Alright, partner," Shou grinned giddily. "Run neural connection executable!"
There was a clapping sound behind his back as the magnetic cable connected to his new quantum processor. In a flash, his mind flooded with information. It wasn't a screen of green binary like in the movies, or streams of memories flowing by. They were thoughts, ideas being created and destroyed. Some of them were his. Others felt foreign. He was thinking faster, processing more information with the same ease as before. He felt that if he took his school tests again, he could ace every single one without a hitch. His mind had never felt clearer nor more filled simultaneously.
He raised his hand to look at his palm, and while he could see his gloved fingers clenching and opening with his own eyes, he could also visualise the giant Regalia mitts of Reggie doing the same in his mind.
"Intruder alert," he said, only to look up confused. "Did I say that?"
It wasn't a voice but more of a thought, like what one would do while thinking to themselves. It had no specific tone that identified gender or type, but was not a monotonous blend either.
"What's going on?" he asked
We are interfaced.
"So the warning was you?
It is us.
They looked towards the northern horizon as plumes of dust rose from an approaching vehicle.
"Unidentified vehicle tracker."
Engaging weapons systems.
Shou unwittingly smirked and he wondered if Reggie could express emotions, and if it was feeling the same excitement as he at the chance to test out their new abilities.
Author's Note: Hi everyone. Thank you for reading Tearha: Titan War, which will continue to release a new chapter every week on Friday until its completion. If you like what you've read so far, and would like to support my writing, you can buy one of my books at my website. Or you could check out my Patreon to help out for the long run. Of course, just sharing, commenting, and reviewing helps a bunch as well!
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