Chapter 9

Ætherglow #182


“No! I won’t listen, I won’t fall for it! Get out of my head!” You reach out for your implant to pull yourself down into a deeper dissociation. Whatever flaw exists in your defenses must be deeper than you can see.

The room and the spectral avatars filling it dissolve. The æther fades to black. You’re floating in a space of narrow pathways, a vast tree of junctures. You start to make sense of it. The pattern forms a network of nodes, but they don’t connect to spaces in the æther, but in your own mind. Each pathway ends in a space relative to others in meaning--concepts. On this level of consciousness, there can only be you. So who else could you find?

You flow along the stream of consciousness deeper down, away from the tree of concepts and into a logical volume shared between your brain and your external memory vault. Something pushes back on you. The four triangular eyes of the æthercultist called Dyavol stare back at you from the depths.

“You. Out of my head. Now!” you say.

His avatar takes shape, with a forest of wires radiating out from under his skin, from under his eyes, from his mouth. He’s half-formed, in a shifting, uncertain state.

“I only offered you answers, Aydan. Resolution! Closure!” he says.

“I don’t believe you! I don’t need comforting lies to live in. I’ll decide my truth for myself!” You take hold of his unstable avatar. “Get out!” You pull him up as you fall back up to the æther. The room with Synth reconstitutes, and you drag the cultist up through your inner gateway. Now the spectres and Synthesis-04 are gone.

“You!” Synth turns to look.

“My most promising child,” Dyavol says. “My greatest creation! My sole survivor...”

“No. He’s dead. You don’t tell us who we are, what we do. We’re nobody’s creation but our own!” Synth says. “And you’re dead too. With one more command, I’m putting an end to all the ghosts haunting this place.”

“Stop!” Dyavol says, his voice unstable and distorted in your æthereal interpretation of its sound. “Zero Six, activate! Obey!”

“We don’t answer to you anymore.” The console behind Synth lights up. Bright cracks of light start to form in the spaces between the wires covering the walls.

“You can erase me from your mind,” Dyavol says, his avatar losing cohesion. “But always, you will answer to someone.” His body starts to melt into the glow. “Always. A tool to serve a higher purpose...”

“Shut up.” Synth manifests their æthereal weapon and fires, disrupting the avatar’s head and bringing its full collapse.

You feel the pull of gravity release you. The space is dissolving into the random patterns beyond it.

“Let’s go, Aydan.” Synth reaches out to you, and you float across the room to take their hand. “To the surface, now!”

Feeling gravity pulling you down again, you open your eyes, staring up at the dark ceiling of the warehouse hallway. It was a very hasty reassociation. The surface still feels unreal, and a terrible vertigo keeps you lying on the floor.

“Welcome back,” Électricité says.

“Ugh.” The confusion in your head is overwhelming, you cannot speak.

You see El pull Synth up to their feet and hug them tight.

You look into the near-æther, but see nothing around you. Only Synth and El’s signals shine through that space. Emptiness.

“It’s over,” Synth says. “That was worse than I thought it would be.”

“What a terrifying entity,” you find the words to say. “He was so deep in my head, I would have believed anything he said.”

“You didn’t, though,” Synth says. “Great job.”

[Synth liked that]

“He was the most frightening technopath I’ve ever known,” Synth says.


“What do you think can make a cyborg that dangerous?” Synth says.

1) “The machine side, that follows routines without question, even if they’re harmful.”: 1 (12.5%)
2) “The human side, which can be cruel for no reason, and enjoy it.”: 7 (87.5%)
Expired 11 months ago (2023-05-13 17:28:20)