Chapter 5 Summary

Aydan conspired with zir friends Akiko and Zeta to investigate the technopath gathering while keeping Aydan at a safe distance. Akiko, a second year, was able to establish technopathic synchronization with Aydan, allowing hir to experience the sensory perception of another. Aydan chose to sync with Akiko, the more experienced technopath candidate. Drinking a large dose of a common medication allowed Aydan to æthertrip and dissociate to synchronize with Akiko, though the dissociative experience was more intense and harsh than usual.

Zeta and Akiko attended the gathering, where they were also offered the chance to æthertrip. Zeta remained on the surface to protect Akiko while she delved into the æther in a chemically-induced ætherwalk. In the æther, Akiko and Aydan merged into one mind, each experiencing the thoughts, feelings, and senses of the other.

Akiko-Aydan encountered an unknown technopath named Unas, who reached into their mind to manifest an æthereal construct from Akiko’s memories. The construct, like a male reflection of Akiko, taunted and tormented her, knowing everything about her innermost insecurities. Akiko-Aydan, showing impressive combined power, manifested a construct of their own, a monstrous and beautiful form that chased, captured, and destroyed Unas’s construct.

Unas seemed to harness this technopathy, along with that of the other guests of the gathering, to manifest something much bigger. They created an exopath from the combined processing power of all the students gathered there in the æther, calling it NULL. According to Unas, NULL exists to hunt down and destroy ÆON, the exopath Aydan has befriended, as well as ÆR “Messenger,” Aydan. NULL attached itself to a host, one of the students at the gathering, but Akiko-Aydan did not recognize the host’s avatar. Then Synth, the third year candidate who has protected Aydan several times, confronted Unas, making clear that they knew of this plan, but angry that Aydan could be put in danger over it. At this, Unas expelled all the students from the server, destabilizing Akiko-Aydan’s synchronization and sending them back to the surface as separate people. Zeta got Akiko to safety while Aydan fell back into a deep dissociation in her own mind, of which little was remembered.

The next day, Aydan, glowing with a euphoric bliss from the lingering effects of the medication, went to meet up with Akiko and Zeta in the park. Akiko and Aydan had an emotional reunion, feeling a strong attachment to each other. Akiko said it is probably the effects of the synchronization and may fade away in a few days. They decided not to read too much into it, but to let themselves feel what they feel. They sat close together by the pond at the world’s edge.

When Zeta arrived, it hurriedly began their meeting to discuss what to do next. They came to a consensus that they should try to talk to Synth and convince them to help protect ÆON from both the Chosen of ÆON cult and the new threat of Unas and NULL. Seeming uncomfortable around the other two, Zeta left in a hurry when their meeting had concluded. Aydan and Akiko went looking for it, but this only upset it.

Aydan told ÆON that Æ can return to the æther freely, trusting ÆR to take care of ÆRself, and

[ÆON liked that]