Chapter 9

Ætherglow #177


“We should go look for your systers,” you say. “Do you have any way of locating each other?”

Synthesis-04 shakes their head. “We’re cut off. The server is too unstable, so we can’t find each other’s coordinates. But I know where they might go.”

They drift down the hallway to the next junction and turn the corner. “This way.”

“Where are we going?” you say.

“We all know this server too well. All our early training was here. But it’s been running for years with no admin, isolated. It’s grown out of control.”

You look behind you and the hallway has twisted up into a spiral shape. Ahead it’s still straight.

“But in our training, there was a node we were taught to go to if we got lost. Even without my memories, they’ll know that. It’s deeply embedded in us,” 04 says.

You follow 04’s path through the changing maze. “I can see why the lab computer might be able to affect you like this, since in a way you were born there,” you say. “But how is it getting into my head so easily? And why not El’s?”

“Good question. For it to slip through your defenses it would have to have data on your mind, or something very similar to it at least. But it couldn’t have gotten that from externally since it’s isolated.”

“Maybe when I first made contact, when I picked the lock,” you say. “Maybe it scanned me then. I should have been more careful.”

“Maybe, maybe...”

You stop as you see something in your familiar’s vision stream. It’s Synth, a Synth of their current age. This one is outfitted in a vest of spike-studded black leather, with blue sparks arcing between its metal points. Their hair is made of fine metal wires, and their metallic skin is coated in a layer of silver dust. The metal band around their head reads Synthesis-02. You can hear the intent of their words through the sensory link.

“I know this aura. You’re Aydan’s familiar,” they say.

You try and respond back through the connection and let your familiar convey your words to them: “It’s me! I got separated during entry. I found your syster.”

“My syster? What do you mean?” they say.

“You got separated, right?” you say.

“What is it, Aydan?” 04 says.

“Look.” You share with 04 an echo of your familiar’s senses. “I found one.” You send an echo of your own perception of the little avatar back to your familiar to show 02.

“Aydan,” Synthesis-02 says. “I don’t know who that is. Zero Four is with me. We’re all together.”

“What?”

“Impossible!” 04 says. “I’m here, and we’re not together! We were split up!”

“You have to get away from that avatar, Aydan. It’s not my syster. The computer would have backups of all of us, it could create any projection it wants of our younger selves,” 02 says. “I’ll open a gate, and you bridge to it. A two-way gate will be stable long enough for you to cross. Hurry!”

“If that was Zero Two, they wouldn’t remember what was going on! All the memories are with me! That’s an imposter, Aydan!” 04 says. “The computer probably made it out of your own memories to deceive you. Don’t listen to it.”


What will you do?

1) Open the gate and join 02: 2 (22.22%)
2) Dispel your familiar and sever communication with 02: 2 (22.22%)
3) Open a gate to any other node, get away from both of them: 5 (55.55%)
Expired 11 months ago (2023-05-08 15:08:13)