Chapter 7

Ætherglow #141

“Okay I think I know what to do,” you say with confidence. “We take these and we read each byte as a hex value and then in pairs of three they make RGB values, right? So we render that as an image and it makes...”

You manifest an echo:

BC9091 988D9E 8B8A93 9E8B96 9091D3 DF8690 8ADF8F 9E8C8C

“...Plus an extra DE...could it be an alpha value maybe?” you say.

“...And what is that supposed to be?” 7 says.

“It...looks kinda like...well maybe I arranged it wrong.”

“It’s eight pixels, no way you could arrange this makes any sense,” she says.

“Maybe you’re right...I’m grasping at regolith.”

“I propose we read it as a literal value, in decimal this is 1183639941296618663749417051970183202357129721584095603756254. It is not a prime, unfortunately. Worse yet, it is an even number. And it is not a product of any good numbers at all. I hate this number, Aydan. Professor Miskunnlauss probably inserted such a number into my exam just to torture me.”

“Well, if we can’t find any deeper meaning in this file, we might be overthinking it. The number itself could be the solution to the exam,” you say.

“We’ll have to hope so. I already feel myself coming up. Our dissociation is ending soon.”

“Yeah...I feel it too,” you say as the æther realm around you already starts to seem flat and desaturated. “See you on the surface?”

You fall up away from the labyrinth. It is but a distant star to you now. You know this feeling well--reassociation.


You open your eyes, back in your exam room on TLA. You don’t quite feel the centrifuge pulling you down, and your vision is doubled, blurry, and shaky. You know this will pass soon. 7 next to you awakens soon after.

“Well, well, æthernauts,” Professor Haze says. “Do you have an answer?”

7 nods slightly as you make brief eye contact with her. You look back toward Haze’s direction. “The blue and green familiars led us to the third, hidden one. That construct’s directory contained a file. Our answer in binary is is:


They sigh, looking down and shaking their head. “So close. I thought surely the two of you together would solve it.”

You and 7 glance at each other again. Haze’s words strike you with a stab of panic. You glance back their way, desperate that their words are just another of their mind games.

“No,” 7 says.

“No?” Haze says.

“The answer we found is correct. The premise of the problem was flawed. We did not have sufficient data for a meaningful answer. ‘And false will be true,’ you said. Therefore our false correct,” she says.

Haze is silent for a second, then laughs for a moment. “You do not disappoint me, 7 Star. Spoken like a technopath, Zero herself could not have said it better.” They stand up, looking down on the two of you from their tall height, their hands resting in front of them. “There was a correct answer, but the exam was never about finding it. I would have been impressed and given you special commendation. But no other team has yet solved it either.

“The exam was designed as always by collaboration between your professors, engineered for each student to push you to your limits. You both performed admirably in the æther. Your technopathy was solid, inspired at times. 7, your SysTech is as impressive as I expected. Aydan, you displayed a surprising grasp of our most difficult school of AdminTech. And you even managed to work together. It is my judgment that both of your training is proceeding well.”

They open their hands and spread their arms, casting an æthereal echo of their hazy silver aura. You can still perceive the flames of light dancing in the palms of their hands in your partially associated state. Flashy as ever.

“You pass your first semester,” they say. “Now have a nice mid-term break, both of you.” The door behind you slides open again. Distant sounds from the hallway flood the silent exam room. Only now do you truly feel like you’ve returned to the surface realm.

You and 7 stand up to leave. You have no more words for your professor, and it seems neither does she, as usual. You step through the doorway, having concluded your first semester of training as a technopath.


Proceed to Chapter 8 >>

Will you say anything more to 7 as you part ways?

1) No, turn your separate ways and leave it at that.: 0 (0.0%)
2) “Thanks for your help! See you in two weeks.”: 0 (0.0%)
3) [Message] > We don’t have to just be rivals, you know. we can even be...friends? message me if you ever want to.: 4 (80.0%)
4) Just wave goodbye without a word.: 1 (20.0%)
Expired 1 years ago (2023-03-22 21:06:31)