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Trash Planet-12 was one of many trash planets in the Fal star system.
Its eponymous function was for trash disposal. As science continued to advance into the space age, humanity’s lifestyles underwent a paradigm shift. Life became comfortable, tranquil, and the initial urgent concerns about resources and ecological balance had diminished due to advancement of humankind beyond the skies. As more new planets were discovered and humanity’s space technology matured, society developed more hectic and humanistic lifestyles, and trash. The costs of recycling were too high, but leaving trash around would have negative impacts on society’s living environment, not to mention the inevitable discontentment that would follow. The solution adopted by the nations was to dispose of their waste on these so-called “trash planets”. Trash planets were either naturally lacking or artificially deprived of resources and not to mention uninhabited, which made them ideal landfills for trash.
Under grey skies, a variety of trash formed a mountainous landscape - the land is silent, the air dead. Cool metals gleamed with unique metallic coldness, but dust had masked their original shine, only an occasional spot untouched by rust would remind one of their former glory.
On this apparently lifeless trash planet, one would have thought no human
could exist, considering the harsh environment, devoid of food and water, lacked the necessities for survival. There was only one thing here - trash!
Ye Chong raised his head to study the antiquated analogue clock, found three years ago at the foot of a particular mountain of trash, ten kilometers away. Its touch-based motion sensor was damaged then, which took Ye Chong a week of fixing to function again. The clock now replaced its predecessor, an even more outdated pendulum clock.
It was now 3:42 FT (Fal Time), and Ye Chong knew that in another 13 minutes, the weather outside would reach the day’s most suitable temperature for heading outdoors, and this decent climate would end at 6:17 FT. At other hours, the weather outside would either be as scorching as an oven or as cold as the peak of winter.
According to routine, there should be a scheduled trash disposal last night. Ye Chong considered for a trip outside today, to see if he can score some new goods. Not that he was lacking in food, that engulfer he caught last time still had a great half of it left, enough for another 3 days. Besides, there was still a good stock of organic liquid food left, but they tasted far worse than fresh meat,; more like wax, which had been left alone for quite a while.
It was 3:55 FT, and Ye Chong sprinted out of his home in a blink of an eye. Time was precious to Ye Chong. The current location where the automated trash disposal ship discharged of its cargo was half an hour’s journey away from his hideout, which implied that Ye Chong’s hour-long trip to his destination left him with only less than half an hour’s time to forage.
Ye Chong scampered through the labyrinth of trash like an agile creature with incredible swiftness. He was very familiar with the ins and outs of the local landscape, and Ye Chong believed he could still find his way through even with his eyes closed.
The headwind whistled past his ears, and Ye Chong enjoyed the satisfaction that came with his speed. But he was always alert of his surroundings, for survival on a trash planet would mean violent encounters with all sorts of mutated life forms.
Trash planets were unsuited for human habitation, but for mutated life forms, they were no doubt, heaven. The hostile environment was nothing to the highly adaptable mutants. Local resources were bountiful- trash, for the rat-like engulfer, was food, and so on this very planet, their numbers grew exponentially.
This planet was also unlike its cousins that were untouched by humanity, popular spots for mech pilots to tempt their fate. No mech pilot would want to lay a foot on a forbidding place like this. Without the mechs hunting them down, the mutants flourished in the absence of their greatest enemy.
Ye Chong’s home was in the middle of a mountain of trash, the route leading to it was a crack not more than four meters wide. Jutting metal beams on the exterior made for a dangerous looking fa?ade for the route’s entrance.
Ye Chong did not slow down, his stride long and powerful - one would have mistaken his movements as that of a primate, the agility astonishing. But there were no spectators on this trash planet, and this amazing moment belonged to him and him alone.
Ye Chong pushed hard with his legs and leapt through the air, and as he reached the peak of the jump, he grabbed onto a horizontal titanium beam that was suspended midair. He then swung around it and did a few flips before landing steadily on the trash mountain.
Ye Chong came to a halt and used his right index finger to caress the nondescript jet-black metallic ring on his left ring finger while calling out softly, “Winnie!”.
A greyish-green mech appeared before Ye Chong, and he mumbled out of habit, “If only I can find a neural receiver this time, voice command sucks.” He slipped easily into the pilot’s seat.
Winnie’s built was like the average mech, around ten meters tall, with a thickset bulky body and equally thickset limbs, all amounting to the looks of a metallic lump, and the undeniably bald head was a comical touch. By virtue of age, the mech’s exterior appeared dull, but the rounded shoulders and knee joints embedded irregularly with barbed hooks added points for a merciless impression. Winnie’s body was scattered with wounds of all kinds, like scratches and bite marks, and the sight was ghastly. But Winnie was obviously well-cared-for, boasting a spotless exterior; all proof how much Ye Chong cherished the machine.
If not for Winnie, Ye Chong may not have lived till today - at least as far as Ye Chong believed, he could not have survived through more than two engulfers without a mech, and the rodents out here were never found with less than five in a group. On this trash planet, being weak was synonymous to a quick death, the law of natural selection fully adopted by the ways of the local inhabitants.
There was one person whose story reveals a close relation between a man and a mech, and that was Ye Chong’s foster father. Ye Chong only knew him as Gao Shi Chang, the rest of his background remained a mystery. According to his foster father, he was initially the only man on the trash planet, until one day he found a boy, with the words “Ye Chong” written on his body. As to how his foster father arrived on this trash planet, and his former occupation, the man was ever so tight lipped about them.
This mech was the result of his foster father’s foraging. It was originally a mech made for public use, which, after his foster father’s interminable modifications, was nearly unrecognizsable for what it once was. According to him, in the outside world, almost everyone owned a mech, but since most of them were recycled upon disposal, it was hard to find one on trash planets without a good deal of luck. Under his foster father’s influence, Ye Chong developed great interest in mechs, and his foster father was generous in sharing his knowledge,; the duo frequently engaged in exciting discussions around the very much aged mech processor at home. The mech was named Winnie which, according to his foster father, was a classic brand of engines for outdated mechs.
Unlike his foster father’s preference for modifications, Ye Chong had an almost innate instinct and sensitivity in maneuvering the mech just as it is. As such, Winnie was always piloted by him. His foster father once mentioned that Ye Chong would make for a fine pilot one day.
After a close encounter with five engulfers that led to an intense battle and a successful escape, Ye Chong began to train himself conscientiously for the actual combat. After his first taste of fresh rat meat, he could never take interest in the organic liquid food churned out from the food producer machine.
Ceaseless ordeals in actual combat meant Ye Chong was no longer his old, innocent self, with the exception of a few terrifying and ferocious creatures that Ye Chong would never dare approach. All other life forms were no longer a threat to Ye Chong. but, if Ye Chong was careless, these creatures could still be potentially fatal.
Unfortunately, Winnie was too old, such that even after all those adjustments, the lack of good parts and tools meant that Winnie was already as good as it would ever be. The fatal flaw would be Winnie’s brain, which was too outdated.
His foster father might have been an expert in the mechanics, but he was absolutely clueless about mech processors.
The man once said, for any mech, if the engine is its heart, then the processor is its soul.
Ye Chong felt restricted in many ways, piloting the current mech.
Winnie’s only slightly redeeming feature was its pair of bionic eyes. When Ye Chong brought them to his foster father’s attention, even he had no idea what model it was, with only a rough idea that it could be a new model from recent years. After all, he had wandered on the trash planet for decades, whatever advances beyond the planet, he could not obscure.
It was thanks to this pair of modern bionic eyes, that Ye Chong escaped from danger time and again.
Although Winnie was old, until such time where a newer mech could be found, Winnie was Ye Chong’s only choice.
Ye Chong carefully upped the speed for Winnie until 80% of its maximum speed, as this allowed for a faster travel with room for emergency adjustments.
The travel was smooth, and Ye Chong arrived at his destination without obstructions. Anywhere he laid eyes on was filled with trash, but there were distinct areas where the trash were more recent additions, and these were Ye Chong’s goals for the day.
“Scanning commenced!” Winnie’s voice was unrushed, with a slowness akin to an aging senior, Ye Chong thought helplessly, but he scanned his surroundings warily. For once, Winnie carried out a full scan with its eyes but will cease all other functions thus, Ye Chong will have to be fully alert for threats.
Ye Chong examined some corners where mutated lifeforms could possibly emerge from, all the while muttering, “Come on old buddy, you got to do some good today, I haven’t had any new stuff in a while! Come on now… Come on…” Eventually, Ye Chong began humming a little tune. All alone on this trash planet, if he went on for some time without uttering a word, Ye Chong was not sure if he ever could again and so, despite the lack of another person to interact with, talking to himself had slowly become routine.
Ye Chong maintained a casual fa?ade, but his slightly tense posture spoke of his state of high vigilance.
“Scanning completed!” The announcement was like music to his ears. Ye Chong exhaled deeply in relief.
“Switch to High Alert Mode!” Ye Chong gave Winnie the order, and immediately scrutinized the scan results relayed from the processor; a few red patches on the scanned images looking particularly conspicuous. Ye Chong could not contain his excitement - it seemed that the forage this time would be fruitful.
Scavenging in the trash heaps. Ye Chong spitted out grains of sand that made their way into his mouth from the mech’s crevices.
“Damn it! Not one of them is useful, by the Heavens, surely I could not be so unlucky!” Ye Chong wailed, his initial excitement gone without a trace. He had searched through many spots,; all ending up with useless junk, and now only the last spot remained, with the smallest object on the list. Based on the size, Ye Chong could not figure out what it could possibly be used for, but better a mistake than a missed opportunity as he dived headlong into the mountainous heap of trash.
Ye Chong half laid on a chair, munching on freshly roasted engulfer’s meat, as he toyed with today’s only object of value.
It seemed to be a metallic hanging ornament with a dull metallic shine, and only the size of three fingernails. It was roundish with a perimeter lined with a curved blade, and its surface densely covered with queer patterns that seemed indistinguishable, but possibly based on some unknown underlying principles. Sadly, a chipped corner and some cracks along the blade told the story of a damaged, secondary article.
Ye Chong murmured, “What is this? What a strange material!”
His thumb gently caressed the edge of the blade, and a thin cut appeared which Ye Chong felt nothing from, until the sight of crimson brought on a flicker of pain.
“Very sharp indeed!” Ye Chong was slightly surprised. “Surely this gimmick is not a hidden weapon?!” Ye Chong watched as a drop of blood hanged off the edge of the blade, from the cut earlier.
Lo and behold, a mysterious phenomenon occurred!
Beyond the bounds of possibility, the blade unexpectedly absorbed the blood, much like a sponge. A blood-absorbing metal? Ye Chong jumped back in shock. There was no mistake, he touched it, and the blade was undeniably metal! Ye Chong bet that the scene he just witnessed was no illusion.
The eeriness showed no signs of stopping.
The blood-fed ornament emitted a light buzzing sound, the curved blade retracted into the body of the ornament, and the cryptic patterns on its surface began to move. The ornament behaved as though a machine grinding in operations, and Ye Chong’s blood was the catalyst.
Ye Chong was completely dumbfounded!
A voice resonated without warning in Ye Chong’s mind, “Di-proton examination completed, brainwave matched, brainwave locked!”
Ye Chong frantically exclaimed, “Who’s there! Come out!” His vision sharpened as he scanned his surroundings, his hand quietly reaching for the dagger holstered on his leg.
“Are you sure?” The same voice sounded uncertain.
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