Melancholy Song (7)
Liu Tianxiong was caught off guard. He was punched and hit the hard corner of the table, knocking over many bottles and jars. He let out a pig-like scream of pain. Wen Zheliu pounced on him and grabbed the dog tag in his hand while pressing him to the ground. Liu Tianxiong struggled fiercely. He toppled Wen Zheliu to the ground with one knee, and punched him twice in the face.
He was tall, fat, and strong, and his fists were extremely heavy and powerful. With two blows, the corners of Wen Zheliu’s mouth were bruised and bloodied. The third punch landed on his abdomen, and the fourth punch landed on his chest. The smell of blood surged out of his throat, but Wen Zheliu just gritted his teeth without crying out. He stretched out his arm with all his might, picked up the wooden plank next to him, and pumped it hard at Liu Tianxiong’s head, until the sawdust splashed everywhere. A large piece of the outermost layer of skin was also scraped off the other party’s forehead.
The sound in the attic was earth-shattering, causing both Liu Jianzhang and Wen Qian to rush up to check the situation. When they saw the attic was in a mess, and the two were tossing and rolling in it, Wen Qian let out a startled cry. Liu Jianzhang, with a dark face, went up and forcibly separated the two people. He himself took several hits during the chaotic fight.
"Enough, enough!" Liu Jianzhang roared angrily, and at the same time dragged Liu Tianxiong aside to make him stand still, leaving Wen Zheliu lying on his back among the wreckage and gasping for breath, "Why are you two fighting all day long?!"
Liu Tianxiong wept. Wen Qian rushed over and rubbed his forehead in distress. Wen Zheliu braced up from the ground, holding the rope of the dog tag in his hand. His cheeks were bruised and swollen, and the corners of his mouth were split.
He wiped his nose, carelessly rubbed the blood on his hand on the edge of his clothes, and sneered: "If he doesn’t mess with me, I don’t need to beat him. Do you think I want to get my hands dirty? "
"Get out of this house!" Liu Jianzhang was furious, "We’ve been good enough to you, you ungrateful beast!"
Wen Zheliu glared angrily at him, his eyes cold, and he said, word for word, "You better remember whose house this is."
After speaking, he turned to leave and slammed the door of the attic with all his strength, almost causing the whole house to tremble.
The night breeze was slightly cool. Wen Zheliu staggered aimlessly down the street. Many pedestrians were hurrying by, and no one was willing to spare a glance at this bruised teenager. On the outdoor sign boards, the hanging banners, the projections, and among the light curtains, Saint Nun Theresa was still ignorantly exuding pure brilliance, facing the world in a prayerful posture.
Wen Zheliu was feeling dizzy in the head and pain all over his body. The pain was so intense that he was about to throw up. He squinted, barely discerning the bright lights of the streets and alleys. He chose a 24-hour coffee shop, pushed open the door, and dove in.
The owner and waiter were startled. Wen Zheliu walked to the front desk, ordered a cup of coffee, and asked for a lot of ice cubes. He slumped down on the soft seat, exhausted, and just wanted to sleep like this forever.
The terminal on his wrist suddenly rang. He raised his wrist with all his strength, opened his eyelids to glance at it, and found that it was actually Chin.
Chin: [Where are you? Why are you not here yet?]
He smiled weakly. It seemed that He Qin had sent him a message while in the Uncanny Valley.
He thought for a while, and sent a message: "Brother, I’m tired… I want to rest for a while."
For a moment, the opposite side was quiet. Wen Zheliu closed his eyes again, wearily. After a while, the phone rang. He Qin called him.
"What’s the matter? What happened?" On the other end of the phone, in addition to He Qin’s magnetic voice, there were faint sounds of talking and humming.
"I was driven out of my home… No, it can’t be regarded as my home. I… I don’t have a home…" The night outside the window was like a body of water, and the stars were sparse. He gazed into the vast, unknown distance, and the overwhelming resentment and grievance came over him. He sucked his nose and said with a crying voice, "… When I pay them back the money I should have paid over the years, and get my parents’ assets back, I’ll be able to buy another gaming cabin. By then, I’ll come back to you… "
"Where are you?" He Qin said, "Send me the location. I’ll have someone pick you up now."
"No need." The waiter brought the ice cubes and also kindly brought him a handkerchief. Wen Zheliu hurriedly stood up and thanked him. He wrapped the ice cubes with the handkerchief and applied them to the swollen part of his cheek. It was quite painful that it made him hiss and suck in a breath. At the same time, his dizzy mind cleared up, "It’s so late now, where can you find someone to pick me up…"
"What’s going on?" He Qin was far more perceptive than he thought, "Are you hurt?"
Wen Zheliu said: "No, no! I just drank water. I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me."
He Qin was silent for a while, then sneered: "Who’s worried about you little idiot… Are you really alright?"
"I’m alright…" He replied vaguely, "I’m fine."
Wen Zheliu looked out the window. The bone-chilling ice cubes sticking to the hot wound really made him feel a lot more comfortable and refreshed. He looked out the window and suddenly frowned.
In his line of sight, countless projections of the holy nun that were originally motionless and emitting white light in the dark night seemed to tilt their heads in unison for a moment.
His eyes widened as he heard a "ZiZi" sound, like a bad signal coming from the terminal.
"He…?" He hesitantly uttered a word.
"I’m here." He Qin replied, "What’s the matter?"
"Have you seen the mastermind of the Uncanny Valley…" He weighed his words, "No, I just saw her…."
Before he could finish speaking, all the nun portraits as far as his eyes could see sharply turned their heads towards him!
Whether it was the ones with their backs facing him, the ones leaning sideways, or the ones floating diagonally above the coffee shop… Their bodies were motionless, but they all twisted their heads in a neat and uniform arc, aiming in Wen Zheliu’s direction!
Hundreds of red lips curved upwards and smiled at him.
There was an uproar all around. Wen Zheliu turned pale in shock and accidentally knocked over the coffee cup in the tray, "Damn, what the hell?!"
"You… don’t… mess… I…" A sharp buzzing noise suddenly came from the terminal. He Qin’s words were quickly engulfed in it, and only a few words could be leaked out with difficulty, "Immediately… Come……"
Pedestrians on the street stopped one after another, pointing at the strange and terrifying shape of the holy nun’s portrait. They all turned on their light-brain cameras to take pictures. Wen Zheliu stood there with goosebumps all over his body, as if he was being stared at by a beast. He shouted at the terminal, "Hey! Are you still there?!"
At the same time, the light screen used by the store for publicity, the giant screen playing advertisements in the mall, and even the flashing neon lights beside the station were all blacked out at this moment. When they lit up again, the holy nun’s exaggerated smile, which was about to reach the bottom of her ears, overwhelmed everyone with the speed of air pollution!
Despite the pain in his waist and abdomen, Wen Zheliu got up and ran out. The cafe’s hovering menu for ordering lit up and flashed in front of his eyes, with the face of the holy nun.
The entire world was crowded with a vast expanse of dead white and a touch of bloody red. Thousands of holy nuns spoke in unison, saying to Wen Zheliu in an ethereal voice, "There you are! I saw you."
The continuous screams and the siren’s noise gradually disappeared from Wen Zheliu’s ears. At this moment, he suddenly realized that the person the holy nun was targeting might not be him!
He hurriedly turned off the terminal power and punched the slim LCD screen to smithereens: "Go away!"
A dazzling snow-white light exploded in front of him. He paused for a moment, and pushed open the revolving door of the coffee shop. The chilly night breeze hit his face, almost making him unstable. The outside was in disorder. There were hovering cars that fell from the sky sharply because they were out of control. In the streets and alleys, sparks from the circuit exploded like waterfalls, splashing on every panicked fleeing pedestrian. Countless holographic projection lights switched to the city center, combining to form a massive portrait of the holy nun in the sky.
Like in the virtual world of Nova City, Saint Theresa opened her arms under the high, boundless night sky. At the same time, the monitors in countless residents’ homes were also forcibly lit up. The giant AI, which currently represents the highest level of scientific research in the world, invaded the civilian intelligence system with her own overwhelming power and forced everyone to listen to her voice.
"The City of Nova, where dreams and the future—"
She was surrounded by the ethereal night wind, and the 3D image of the holographic projection suddenly twisted strangely. A rhythmic oblique static fluctuated across her body, as if disturbed by high-frequency electric jamming. The next second, her red lips curved to the extreme until they cracked open, revealing the bloody gums and torn muscle texture underneath, nearly toppling most of her skull. Her opened lips were like a deep, bottomless, blood-soaked path that went straight to hell.
"—shaped by me."
On July 29, 2301 AD, due to the negligence of N-Star’s R&D staff, the intelligent mastermind of Uncanny Valley, "Saint Sister Theresa," broke through the limitations of the Turing test1 and possessed her own thoughts and wisdom. With authority second only to the core AI of Nova City, she invaded the main system, expelled thousands of regional supervisors, and seized full control over the Uncanny Valley.
In the early morning of the same day, "Saint Theresa" cut off the connection between more than 4 million online players in "Uncanny Valley" and the outside world. At the same time, she locked the bioelectric fluctuation frequency of N-star Asia-Pacific region chief executive through the terminal signal, thus imprisoning him in the game world as a hostage.
"Uncanny Valley" officially broke away from the control of Nova City. Saint Theresa betrayed the AI protocol and declared herself an independent intelligent being.
In just one day, the situation outside has been turned upside down.
As the focus of the unusual turmoil, Wen Zheliu was quickly taken away by the police, and then, even before the chair was warmed up, the lawyers sent by N-Star Company forcefully intervened and pulled him out of the police station.
He was sitting in an expensive, luxury hover car, and across from him sat a well-dressed lawyer. He watched as the lawyer took out a small button-like thing from his pocket and pasted it under the seat.
Immediately, Wen Zheliu could feel a quiet and hidden force field spreading throughout the space until it completely enveloped the two of them.
"The electronic shielding field, under its shroud, will not allow any electronic products to function." The lawyer took the initiative to explain to him, "It is a necessary protective measure given the special nature of Theresa."
Wen Zheliu looked at him in shock, and it took a long time to find his voice: "Where is H- He Qin? Is he okay?"
The dog tags hanging from his neck collided with each other with the sound of his undulating breathing, making a crisp sound.
The lawyer did not answer his question directly and said, "When you get there, someone will naturally make it clear to you. Please be patient."
Wen Zheliu didn’t expect that this "someone" actually referred to He Qin’s two uncles, the chief and deputy chief executives of N-Star.
He stood still on the gapless floor, which was as smooth as a cloud, while He Huaizhou smiled kindly at him: "Please sit down."
Behind Wen Zheliu, an equally white and flawless seat quietly floated up and gently nudged his legs. He was caught off guard and fell on it, then he was automatically carried forward.
In front of him sat two old men.
One appeared gentle and amiable, wearing a woolen sweater, light-colored slacks, and a white undershirt, with only one corner of the collar still tucked into the round neck of the woolen sweater; the other was a foreigner, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was dressed in an upright and solemn suit. He was unsmiling, and his deep eyes showed the dignified bearing of a person who had stood at the top position for years.
"Don’t be nervous." He Huaizhou smiled softly and spoke slowly, "Are you the kid who made a bet with Ah Qin?"
"Yes, yes!" It felt like being questioned by a teacher, which made Wen Zheliu involuntarily panic, "I won, so he gave me his dog tag… his electronic name tag."
Adelaide was listening on the sidelines, not saying a word.
He Huaizhou was silent for a moment, and then said softly, "The transformation that occurred to Theresa is a result we never thought of. It implicated Ah Qin and even you. As the inventor and chief designer of the Uncanny Valley project… I’m very sorry."
After saying that, He Huaizhou stood up and bowed deeply to Wen Zheliu.
"No, no, don’t do this." Wen Zheliu hurriedly stopped him, "I just gave him a phone call. Nothing can be linked to my……"
"You have activated the Uncanny Valley access qualification." Adelaide Green, CEO of N-Star, said in fluent Chinese, "What Theresa cuts off at present is only the connection between online players and the outside world. Those who have access qualification but have not yet entered the Uncanny Valley think they can escape, but in fact, you guys are still locked by her. You may lose consciousness and fall into the game world at any time."
Wen Zheliu was stunned, only to feel deeply absurd and incredulous.
"…How did she do it?" he asked, "Since it’s the program that you developed, how could she…"
He Huaizhou said bitterly, "When we first designed the mastermind, the initial character we arranged for her was very fair and strict, just like a real holy nun… But this plan was immediately rejected by some members of the board of directors, who believed that if Theresa were just a well-behaved mastermind, then Uncanny Valley would also lose some of its selling points. On the contrary, they proposed a "full intelligence" program to the design team."
"For all the NPCs in the Uncanny Valley, we have added a complex and multi-faceted depth to them." He Huaizhou said, "They have conflicts, struggles, and different ideas that change in an instant, almost no different from a living person, especially the intelligent system that dominates all of this—now it’s time to call her Theresa, the intelligent life form. The design team and planning team added hundreds of millions of bytes of real and complex human background to her. We simulated tens of thousands of different life paths, chose the most suitable one to embed in her main program, and altered her initial personality…"
He Huaizhou’s eyes were painful. Adelaide reached out from one side and gently soothed his back,"… the more complex, the more contradictory, the more real, the easier it is to break through the control. It can be said that her loss of control was simply a human-caused error."
Wen Zheliu frowned, "Even so, how can people live in the game world for the rest of their lives? Are they going to be in a coma forever?"
He thought of He Qin, the man who was able to handle all situations calmly and arrogantly, the man who said he wanted to be his brother… He felt like he was choking on a mouthful of ice. It was painful and cold to the soles of his feet.
Adelaide interjected, "However, this matter is not without a chance."
Wen Zheliu raised his head abruptly.
"That’s right." He Huaizhou said, "The original program and settings are still there. Theresa is not an indestructible steel plate. Before you came, the negotiating team had sent news. According to the final agreement they negotiated with Theresa, if players can clear the nine worlds, then they can get the key to leave the Uncanny Valley."
Wen Zheliu murmured, "Clear the nine worlds…"
He Huaizhou whispered, "This is the maximum condition we can fight for. She still has millions of lives in her hands, and even Ah Qin. We can’t achieve our goal through coercion alone… I’m sorry. "
"In order to make compensation, the giant electronic shielding field has been built, and it is expected to be put into use in a week. Its area is large enough to accommodate a city with a population of over one million… At that time, we will invite the remaining players to live here for a period of time, during which all the living expenses and food will be provided by N-Star. I… I hereby apologize to you and those innocent players again. Sorry, it was N-Star’s negligence that led to all this."
For a while, Wen Zheliu didn’t know what to say.
Now, what’s the use of complaining and yelling? Can He Qin and those who were forcibly locked in the game world come back?
"I can tell." He Huaizhou looked at him with a soft gaze and said, "You care about Ah Qin very much. You two didn’t seem like friends who had only met once, but old friends who have known each other for many years."
Wen Zheliu lowered his head with unknown thoughts. He looked at He Qin’s dog tag in his hand and slowly touched the uneven pattern on it with his index finger. In the room as bright as day, it reflected an indistinct light.
"Yes." The seemingly taciturn Adelaide also spoke up, "Ah Qin, this child is very cautious. It’s really rare to see someone who can make him put down his guard after one meeting… You are very good. "
Adelaide and He Huaizhou both lowered their heads and gazed at the small metal plaque with unspeakable sadness while thinking of their younger generation.
He Huaizhou sighed and whispered to Wen Zheliu, "Although it’s a bit presumptuous, can you give me this electronic name tag? As for the bet between Ah Qin and you, we can exchange other things for you as compensation."
Wen Zheliu smiled and put his hands behind his neck, as if he was about to take off the leather rope. He joked, "However, my bet is very expensive."
Adelaide remained silent, while He Huaizhou sighed, "Yeah, the fragment of a 3S-level item. You are very lucky."
Hearing this, the tip of Wen Zheliu’s shoes rubbed against the ground, and his body leaned forward slightly.
The Turing Test is a method of inquiry in artificial intelligence (AI) for determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human being. It was originally called the imitation game, and was invented by Alan Mathison Turing in 1950. FYI, Alan Turning was considered the father of modern computer science.