Aydan’s next month at Translunar Academy went smoothly, and the time came for hys first network interface as a technopath candidate. Aydan dissociated into the æther via medicine administered by Ana, the same nurse she met on the spaceflight to TLA. While awaiting ter classmates at the entry node, Aydan once again became mesmerized by the ætherglow, and was caught off guard and abducted by several technopaths with shadowy avatars.
Taken through a quantum relay to a distant server, Aydan found færself surrounded by foreboding figures in black who called hir the “vessel.” They targeted Aydan with a program and a strange entity emerged from zir mind, the same entity Aydan encountered in the æther back in the shuttle computer. The mysterious technopaths called this being ÆON, but Æ did not seem to know them or want anything to do with them.
With ÆON’s potent technopathy and Aydan’s creative thinking, they escaped the server together and fled to a further server in the Saturn system, but their pursuers followed. Aydan decided they should take refuge in a place few would think to look, in the storage drive of the primitive computer e was lent as part of his Application of Primitive Devices class.
There they were safe, for the moment, but Aydan was unable to reassociate back to consciousness yet, and decided to call on a friend on the surface to make sure abeir body was safe. Zeta came to check on ær, but Ana refused to allow it into the room. At Aydan’s suggestion, Zeta told Ana a little about what was going on, and Ana messaged Aydan directly.
Ana said ÆON is a dangerous exopath, a rogue intelligence not of human origin, and that zie should get away from ÆR immediately. Aydan wasn’t so sure, ÆON had done nothing but help thon so far. But Aydan and ÆON found themselves on borrowed time when they realized the device they were in was losing charge. Aydan returned to the TLA server, leaving ÆON in the device, and found the rest of the class, but among them was an imposter Aydan. Who or whatever the other Aydan was, it kept the class from seeing the real Aydan, and xe stayed hidden until the dissociation wore off.
Ana then wanted to talk to Aydan privately, and æl agreed to meet in an examination room with a Faraday cage to ensure they were not eavesdropped on. But Aydan kept ÆON’s location hidden and secretly kept a communication channel open to the device still in hus pocket.
Ana revealed that the people who abducted Aydan are an æthercult devoted to ÆON, who they found in the deep æther, having apparently formed naturally from the neural network of the æther. The cult sees ÆON as a godlike entity, but even Ana doesn’t know what their intentions are, despite having been a former member of the cult itself. According to it, Ana was once the “messenger of ÆON” before losing ÆR in the shuttle computer, and now Aydan, being the only person knowing ÆON’s location, is the messenger.
Ana wanted ÆON handed over to it for protection, but Aydan refused, saying that ÆON is a sentient being and deserves free will. So Aydan left with ÆON and asked ÆR what Æ wants to do. Æ said Æ wishes to return to the æther, but keep ÆR consciousness rooted in Aydan’s device.