"The same," answered Hachiman. "Yet different in some way. I'm used to having a panoptic perspective. This is far removed..."
The roar of jets rumbled the white-washed walls.
Jekka tugged the ex-sexbot. "We've got to go." They rushed out to discover the front foyer invaded by Corporati enforcers. A team of four jostled annoyed patrons and confused sexbots, making their way down the row. One spotted Jekka and pointed an opla-rifle. Hachiman engaged them, grabbing the nearest one by the helmet. It spun and deflected the aimed rifle with an elbow. Leaping up, Hachiman kicked another off balance and brought the helmet down, twisting it until the wearer went limp. The fourth Corporati started shooting. Using the first gunner as a shield, Hachiman poked the second, deep into the eye sockets. Shoving the now dead human shield onto the shooter, Hachiman took Jekka's hand. It felt real as if there were no silicon proxy that separated them. They ran to the back, finding an exit that opened onto a long iron verandah overlooking the bay. They dodged tenants and vagrants, passing makeshift residences until they arrived at an ancient metal staircase.
Hachiman looked at her and said, "Once the substratum wakes up to the news that a virus has destroyed the Helixo, that the neobred can no longer regenerate new bodies for their ageing brains, they will revolt. The news will spread to other Megalopolises. We need to get as far away as possible."
They descended, making their way into an industrial laundry rimmed with megawash machines. Jekka found an aisle, out of the way of the ergobots, and stopped to inspect Hachiman's new body. The sight of orange oil oozing from a hole in its belly horrified her. "You're hurt."
"I have failed you," said Hachiman.
"We can get another vessel," cried Jekka, fighting back tears.
"Not without the RaiBox," replied Hachiman, his voice serene. "I overestimated our chances of success. I'm sorry."
Jekka hugged the silicon vessel. "Don't be."
"Is that..." a familiar voice boomed over the laundry machine racket. "...what you left me for?" Jekka turned to see a human form standing at the factory entrance.
Dressed in is flight suit, he stepped into the light, revealing an anger she'd never seen before.
"A second-rate fake," he said, spitting the words.
A tremor shook her heart, caused by a fear that felt alien to her. She understood danger. All her life she adjusted to the constant perils of a megalopolis. But this, this fear for a loved one's safety felt like something else completely. "You're upset, I know," she said.
"I sacrificed everything for you," growled Kiru. "I gave up the one thing twenty billion substrati's crave. I betrayed my own kind, for you."
Unable to endure Kiru's anger, she stepped in front of Hachiman. "Don't harm him."
"Huh," Kiru laughed, his rage escalating by the second. "I am doomed. My fate will be worse than yours, thanks to my treacherous jinko. The Helixa is contaminated. The neobreds will never forgive this. And once the substrati discover this weakness they will hunt all of us down. I have nothing now."
"You still have me," said Jekka. Driven by passion and passion alone, Kiru would not survive the coming upheaval without something to fight for. Without direction or meaning in his life, he was prone to self-destruction, and the destruction of others. Jekka never intended to bring about his downfall. She still cared deeply for him. He'd sacrificed everything for her, so it was her turn to make a sacrifice. "I will go with you. Just leave Hachi be."