Chapter 9

Ætherglow #172

[CW: child abuse]

You suppress your fear. It’s just an echo, you remind yourself. You’re just feeling the emotions of Synth’s memories. You look back up at the cultist-scientist’s face. The illusion reaches out and touches your head, and you feel a sharp static discharge from your interface collar. You flinch and shake your head, and then the figure in front of you is gone.

“Aydan,” El calls to you from down the hallway. You hurry to catch up.

The complex at the far end is a cluster of rooms--mostly empty except a lot of overturned tables and chairs, and some old broken monitors hanging on the walls. Synth leads you into a small room near the back, with just a single chair. A dusty sign marks the door: Exogenesis.

A vision floods your senses. You are sitting in the chair--strapped to it. You try to move, but your restraints only tighten down more. And in front of you stands the tall scientist with four triangular metal-framed eyes, who you caught a glimpse of earlier.

“Who are you?” You hear the distance echo of his voice, with a mechanical distortion to it.

“Type-02,” you answer in a child’s voice.

“What do you do?”

“I protect the system! I guard our secrets.” You feel a moment of euphoric bliss as some liquid passes through the IV in your arm. The vision dissolves.

“Did you know, El, Aydan,” Synth says, “with a neural interface, headmates can be implanted in a mind?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it,” El says. “Exogenic headmates. Technopaths can pick them up in the æther, but nobody really agrees whether they really came from outside or if the technopath’s mind created them as a trauma response to what they encountered.”

“If you try hard enough, you can insert them from outside,” Synth says.

You see a vision of a white wall. You’re sitting motionless, staring, confused, uncertain, drifting out of consciousness.

“Headmates can also be destroyed,” Synth says as your vision returns to normal. “We have no memory from before we came here. No memory even of our original self. Everyone in this head was their creation. 00 for analyzing and planning. 01 for self-maintenance and regulation. 02 for protection. 03 for social interaction. 04 for memory allocation. 05 for combat. 06, well, you get it...”

They leave the room as another flash of memory appears before your eyes--just a momentary image of the eyes of the four-eyed scientist.

“Who is that person?” you say.

“Which one?” Synth says.

“The tall one with the weird eyes,” you say. “The one we keep seeing.”

“You must be seeing something a little different than me,” El says.

“He was just talking to zero two in that memory a moment ago,” you say.

“I saw a woman, or enby, short, with a visor over her face,” El says.

What will you say?

1) “No, they were definitely tall, with four eyes. Back there and in here.”: 6 (85.71%)
2) “I guess we’re just interpreting Synth’s memories a little differently, nevermind.”: 1 (14.28%)
Expired 11 months ago (2023-05-02 15:22:54)