Near Two Centuries Later...
He couldn’t believe it. It had been a long time since Kaneda had decided he must have died and gone to hell. In fact, surely, what he had heard was just a trick to worsen his punishment. Nothing would actually happen. His body would not wake up.
First, Kaneda felt a tingle. In reflex, he tried to see, but his eyes remained as unresponsive as they had ever been. The sensation must have been a trick, as well. A demon had poked him.
But the tingle devolved into a burning sensation.
His mind hadn’t had nerve responses in decades, perhaps longer, so what happened next apparently short-circuited his senses. Confused, he retreated into the deep dark corner where he had kept himself safe from the hell he had been living in.
And stayed there.
Outside was nothing but light, a piercing, burning light that would surely destroy him should he bask on it. No, he would stay in there and make sure he wouldn’t go mad. He couldn’t go mad, he had a job to do.
Did he? Why couldn’t he go mad? What was he protecting himself for?
“Are you a hero, daddy?”
The door burst open, and the light came in. A ceiling made of suns pierced his mind with pain, and in reaction, Kaneda as if dragged blades across his throat to produce a scream. Reflexively, he turned around and retched, puking only God knows what down at the floor.
My hands, Kaneda thought, with difficulty.
He could feel them. He could taste his teeth, as well, and his terrible breath. He felt around his surroundings for whatever he could touch, sliding his hands across ragged, icy edges. He blinked nervously and, shocked, began to see.
“Oh…God,” he whispered, with a voice yet wresting itself from hibernation. “God almighty, I really am awake.”
KANEDA TSUI, YOUR EQUIPMENT IS READY. PRESS THE BUTTON TO OPEN THE VAULT SEAL.
Kaneda covered his eyes with his hand, but he still looked around at his surroundings, properly taking stock of them. More cobwebs and critters were slithering around than actual technology, but despite that, it was all powering up. The lights, the noise of electricity, it pushed the insects and other vermin into a hasty, mindless retreat.
Kaneda’s eyes were still squinting, refusing to get used to the light any time soon. His voice seemed to be competing with them for who stayed asleep the longest. His ears seemed to be okay, but then, they had always been.
Kaneda turned his eyes to the screen, trying to read what was on it. It should be the latest message that he had heard. However, they were too blurry. He gasped for air, trying to remember how to breathe. Kaneda couldn’t help but think waking up would have been a lot easier if he had actually been asleep.
“Are you a hero, daddy?”
Kaneda shook his head, trying to get his mind on the present. How many years had passed? How long had he been in stasis, with his brain fully active and awake? With his ears listening in on everything around him?
Of all the things to go wrong, that had been a distant worse.
“Are you a her--“
“Raaah!” Blood once again spat out of his mouth, but he had to. He had expected to live only for a couple of days, as far as he was concerned. He could maybe deal with the guilt then, but that damn error had left him an infinite amount of time to ponder and think about what he had done.
About having left his family to die.
His eyes finally remembered how to read Chinese characters, then. Kaneda confirmed the screen was saying what he had heard.
Spite encouraged Kaneda to wrest control of his faculties. Groaning, he forced his torso to bend over and up. Then he pulled himself out of the stasis bed and fell on the ground. That was a lot more painful than it should have been.
Kaneda drew strength from that.
“Come on…” he whispered, but it sounded so loud to him. “There is…no time…”
He crawled towards a closet that was standing by. Ideally, there would be people there to help him, but the lack of personnel was only one of many catastrophic consequences that had been expected. Kaneda had given them the guarantee that he could administer the adrenaline himself. Better than to trust that to robots.
He grabbed hold of the drawer and pulled it open. He reached inside and felt for needles, finding them quickly. As fast as he could, he brought it over and pierced himself in the chest, pressing with all the strength he could muster, which wasn’t a lot.
Kaneda convulsed, losing his senses once again, but then they came back with a vengeance.
Fine! They seemed to say. Here we are!
The dim light flared even brighter, and the sounds of insects crawling about made themselves noticed. Kaneda reflexively punched at the ground and then got up with a yell.
In a spasm, he moved towards the computer. Blinking, he reminded himself of what the keys on the board meant and quickly pressed three in tandem.
IT HAS BEEN 54.750 DAYS SINCE VAULT HAS CLOSED.
Kaneda closed his eyes, leaking his sadness away now that he could.
That’s… Kaneda made the math. If there was something his brain was more than ready to do, it was to think. “A hundred and fifty…”
His hands closed, and so did his heart. He looked aside and saw the big red button. Beside it was a skeleton hand. Kaneda would likely see the skeletons of the people that had stayed there in case he was only asleep for a few decades. Clearly, they had attempted to escape.
Clearly, what he had heard had not been from his dreams. They had been there, arguing and fighting each other, blaming him most of all. They had tried to disrupt his stasis and failed. They had tried a lot of things and failed. They had died crying, every single one of them.
Maybe, it was their fault that he had woken up while still in stasis. It was hard to know for sure.
Kaneda put aside those worthless, irrelevant questions, and slammed the button down. In response, a whole lot of machinery gained life beyond the walls and what he could see. Kaneda could hear a whole lot of force moving the earth outside the bunker.
Kaneda walked to the brightest spot in the room, a glass chest. It was already opened, with the weapon inside in full display.
“What are the odds this has all been for nothing? That one of the other plans worked out, and I’m about to climb back up into some future world?”
Kaneda snatched the light particle gun. It was the size of a military rifle, but it had a canister that made it feel like a heavy assault machine gun. Handling the weight was all the confirmation Kaneda needed that his physical attributes were all but engaged, having weakened not the slightest bit.
Then he grabbed the three cube-like mines, wondering if the satellite was even in the sky, still. Whether it would respond. Finally, Kaneda grabbed the helmet and the leather gloves. Then he saw the knife, which caused the whole plan to come to his immediate memory. He took it as well, sheathing it in his boot.
He had been put into stasis with the expectation that, once awake, he would immediately leave and head to battle. Kaneda heard the air blowing from a mile away, echoing from above, trailing the tunnels down to him. But he felt nothing inside his combat suit. It suited him tightly, and the leather that made it up left him feeling very little.
Nate would be able to smell Kaneda now. He would be on the way.
Kaneda walked away to grab the solar cycle. As expected, there were two skeletons, long past eroded, lying next to the exit door. But it opened for him.
GODSPEED TSUI. MAY YOU BRING AN END TO THE WORLD ENDER.
Kaneda put the helmet on, holding the weapon down with his other hand. He mounted the solar cycle that was waiting for him right past the door, at the beginning of a tunnel that was hopefully still clear of debris.
A leg went over, and he rested the gun on the magnetic grappler that the cycle had on its side. The bike, much like the light particle gun, was fully charged. The difference was that it had probably been fully charged and waiting for well over a century.
His helmet turned on with night vision, and he immediately saw the light at the end of the vast tunnel. It was daytime, so he would soon deactivate it. Kaneda worked the engine of the solar cycle, hearing the perfectly conserved piece of machinery respond like it had only been a day.
“Are you a hero, daddy?”
Kaneda flinched, biting his lip just a little bit.
That was the last time. Kaneda shook his head and knew it for sure. It was not even a question of whether he had any hesitation left in him. Even if that had been the case when he first stepped into the bunker, a decade and a half had thoroughly annihilated it. There was no doubt in him that all the sacrifices had already been made, and were long past reversing.
No. Now, there was only making good on them.
The engine roared, and the wheels skidded against the ground. Kaneda Tsui rode off into battle.
“I’ll try to be, my flower petal,” had been Kaneda’s answer.