NMD – Chapter 8: Hiding

No Money to Divorce

Translator: Helliot
Editor: NH

First Published on Chaleuria

Chapter 8: Hiding

Adrian grunted with impatience. “Let me tell you one last time, I never thought of hitting him!”

“What? Come on, if we round up all the people you’ve beat up, we could circle them around the main building of the military headquarters three times! Aren’t you the fight now, talk later type?” Fayn said in exaggeration, “Even the two of us have fought!”

“That’s cause you deserved being hit.” Adrian could not even bother to continue this conversation with him. He raised his hand to stop him before he could rebut, “Did you get the name list from ‘Specimen’?”

Fayn looked as if he wanted to keep on going, but since Adrian was bringing up business, he could only put away the curiosity within him for now.

“It arrived not long ago, the liaison officer returned just a few minutes before you did. Here it is.”

Adrian took over the stack of paper from him. Practically all instruments used to hold information were virtual screens. In days like these where physical screens were rare, ordinary citizens had practically little to no contact with such ancient means of holding information. This was a real piece of paper. “Specimen” has always been cautious in their activities, and firmly adhered to the principle of one-to-one physical message transmission; short messages were passed down by word of mouth, or written with pen—retro mechanical pens, not the touchscreen type—on the palms of their hands. For messages that were too long, such as the list of confirmed anti-AI faculty members within the Supreme Institution, they could only be written on paper.

The Supreme Institution had a very special status within the Federation. A century ago, after several generations of incessant trials from the human race and countless failures, they finally created a small, artificial, but mature planet that could operate independently. It took a huge amount of funding to maintain the normal operations of a man-made planet, causing a huge riot within the entire Federation for what was to be done on it. Some supported the use of it for the relocation of the Academy of Sciences, some called for the creation of an ecological landscape planet, and there were also those who requested it to be developed into high-level settlements. Finally, the first generation AI present at the time, “Cocoon”, suggested to turn it into a school.

Schools were a sacred existence, so the many voices of dissatisfaction that disagreed with each other subsided. Thus, the Supreme Institution settled down on it, and now most of the planet was occupied by the school, with the rest being the living areas of the faculty and staff. This was how the first artificial planet made by humans became a planet purely for education. The planet was also named after the school, it was called Institution Star.

……

Less than three years after the completion of the Federation’s Highest Institution, the first generation AI “Cocoon” announced its retirement, and humanity entered a new era of security, efficiency, and thorough optimization.

From the very first batch of students received by the Supreme Institution, they have admitted only the best from the Federation, and the graduation of these students that came in three years were the first graduates of the Federation since the ushering in of the new AI, “Butterfly”.

You could say that the Supreme Institution was born because of AI, and the hundred years of glory they received after that were also closely connected to “Butterfly”. For most of the first half-century past, this institution had repaid “Butterfly” with their unbridled loyalty. Their students have set an example for all the students in the world for their support and obeisance towards “Butterfly’s” proposals. After a hundred years have passed, most of the students of this school have come out to hold important positions and thrived in them to give birth to dozens of new aristocratic families. Together with the old family powers, they were intertwined to form a complex upper society network within the Capital.

It was not until the recent thirty years that students from the Supreme Institution began to openly reject “Butterfly’s” arrangements at the graduation ceremony. Until a decade ago, when a radical voice of anti-AI appeared for the first time on this planet, nobody would have ever thought that the wheels of history would turn this way. To think that the Federation’s Supreme Institution would actually reach a rejection rate of 46% during its 100th anniversary—this number was the highest amongst the top schools and even broke their record high of 41% last year.

To have such a high proportion of non-supporters among the students, the same definitely could be said with the faculty and staff; just that some have expressed their positions, some presented themselves ambiguously, and the rest remained silent. To get to the bottom of this, one would always have to test out the waters before they could take action, and this was why Adrian had contacted the Institution Star’s branch of “Specimen” to negotiate for information sharing with the other party.

Adian flipped over the pages and mused, “Some of their positions…can be used.”

Fayn nodded in agreement, clearly having studied the list beforehand. He said, “The liaison officer has applied for a one-on-one meeting with you tomorrow. The people at “Specimen” have briefed him about their next plans on the Institution Star.”

“Alright, I’ll speak with him,” he responded. Adrian raised his head and stretched out his muscles while asking, “How did the netizens react today?”

Fayn’s eyes glittered in an instant; he thought that Adrian was finally prepared to talk to him about Zhong Yan, so he gushed out at once, “How else could it be! The entire Federation is buzzing! God, you didn’t see it, but they were saying everything. They said you were a big bully and even brought your own gang to bully that guy; some were even trying to guess what you said to him when you bumped into each other during the afternoon; some people said that guy was trying to take over the nest, and was trying to take over the seat of the Yate family’s young master. But most of them were definitely talking about the marriage proposal. The supporters of you two have gone mad and are attacking each other with conspiracy theories—oh right, what does ‘top’ mean? I saw some people decipher what that guy mouthed.”

Adrian looked at him with his head throbbing. “I was asking…how did everyone react to the 46% rejection rate of the Supreme Institution?”

“Oh, that.” Fayn shrugged, “Not many people paid attention to that, but isn’t that normal? It just raised by 5%, hardly as dramatic as the increase from last year.”

During the middle of last year, a serious case of AI misjudgement erupted in the Capital Star: a young girl who could be considered rather popular in several forums was wrongly convicted in a civil dispute. The entire situation continued to ferment for several months, and the Supreme Council had to apologize and admit the mistake of the wrongful conviction.

Even though the Supreme Council had repeatedly stated that this was only one amongst a very small possibility of mistakes due to “Butterfly’s” routine program updates and was only a technical issue, having nothing to do with any other factors. However, the frenzy of the public has not stopped, information continued to be leaked in these recent years, whether they were actually true or not, causing the devotion of the people to come to an end as they begin to question: could the Supreme Council manipulate “Butterfly’s” judgement to some extent? Has “Butterfly” lost the impartiality that it had always upheld? Has artificial intelligence produced the awareness to suppress dissidents towards itself?

No matter what it could be, any possibilities could easily be enough to evoke a sense of crisis in people. By the end of the year, when the major institutions conducted some investigations of the people, they found that the support rate for restoring human autonomy had already broken through the 30 percent mark.

“There were some big issues last year that riled up the people after all, such a steady increase is already quite impressive for such a smooth year.” Adrian continued, “At the end of it, what they did last year was not optimal. Only when the citizens can think for themselves, and recognize the problem, will they…”

Fayn interrupted him, “What do you mean? I think it’s quite good. In the end, it’s that evil little moth who harmed someone by making a misjudgement, only then did ‘Specimen’ latch onto the opportunity to push things further and stir up the people’s emotions. It was just a process to speed things up. Some people are just blindly devoted to that damn moth, they’ll never wake up from it if nothing big ever happens. But then again,” Fayn waved the name list in his hands, “where does this organization come from? Were they behind all the big scandal reveals that’s been coming out these past few years? It’s incredible how much you can do with a few sources, like that misjudgement case last year; it’s amazing to think they actually got the files from the Capital Star Central Hospital. And also this faculty name list…some positions are really high up, how did they get in contact with them? Should we investigate?”

Adrian rapped his knuckles on the table and slowly spoke. “It doesn’t matter, cautiousness is the way to survival for these underground organizations. They would be dead sooner than you can even start if it’s that easy to investigate. As long as they don’t reach into Navi, we can let them be.”

Right as they were talking, Adrian received a message from Wei Lan reporting the progress of Zhong Yan’s treatment.

……

Zhong Yan was laying on the bed with a quiet and relaxed expression. The drug had worked its magic in his body and he was already feeling much better. But he felt very exhausted, and a little sleepy.

The room was kept at a consistent, reasonably warm temperature, but the temperature of his body was still gradually falling. Suddenly, he felt a little chill and wanted to cover up with something. Zhong Yan looked around him; besides the coat left behind by the bed, there really was nothing else to cover himself with.

He gave up his search and covered himself with the coat again when suddenly, he was hit by a hard object. Confused, Zhong Yan felt around the area and pulled out a camera that was no longer in its original shape.

Adrian opened the door and entered just in time to see Zhong Yan sitting on the bed, fiddling with the wreckage of the camera in boredom.

“What’s this?” When he saw him enter, Zhong Yan raised the item in question and asked him, “Is this the patrol camera from the school?”

Adrian pulled a chair for himself and sat at the furthest corner of the room, “Yes.”

Zhong Yan was confused. “What did you destroy it for?”

“Nothing, just didn’t like the look of it.”

For some inexplicable reason, the question made Adrian unhappy—he did not say it, but Zhong Yan could hear it in his voice. As a tactful person, he did not continue to question him, and instead switched to a different topic.

“I want to speak with my assistant. Is the signal blocked in this room? Can I go out and contact them?”

“No. Did you think I’d let you out and give you the opportunity to spy on the structure of my warship?”

Zhong Yan’s mind was in a much sober state than before, and he always remained composed when his mind was clear. He spoke to him calmly, “Your warship is a highly-equipped standard small Federation warship.”

“It’s been modified. There are secret weapons hidden everywhere beyond this door, do you not see me coming over personally to watch over you? It’s the middle of the night, are you not done messing around?” Adrian said with impatience, “I let you sleep on my bed, so before I change my mind, you better get to sleep.”

Zhong Yan was at a loss as to how he was to react to how unreasonable the other man was being, but it was indeed quite late. After all, this was the Institution Star where the graduation ceremony had been held just the day before. Many people were still gathered here, so it would not be appropriate to go out again at this time…He silently accepted the other’s suggestion, and prepared to leave tomorrow.

Only…he was actually getting a little thirsty.

Zhong Yan opened his mouth, but closed it again. Adrian had told him not to call him by his name, but he was afraid that asking for water without even a prefix would make him even angrier. For a moment, Zhong Yan could not think of what to call him. Of course, he could choose to accept Adrian’s request and call him “Commander Yate”—just like the hundreds of millions of people in the Federation who had no inkling of a relationship with Adrian.

Adrian’s focus was completely off him right now, and he was working on his own virtual terminal; probably dealing with military documents.

Zhong Yan pondered about it, but finally decided to try. “…Fellow Student, can you help me get a glass of water?”

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