Chapter 11

Ætherglow #217


We should use JSL, and arrange ourselves to be difficult to spy on,” you sign. “Make a tight circle and keep your hands close to your body and we should be pretty safe.”

“I agree, that’s the most secure option,” Synth signs, repositioning themself.

“What about ÆON?” Akiko signs.

“I’ll act as a personal relay to ÆON,” you sign.

“Okay,” signs Zeta, across from you. “Let’s catch everyone up on the situation. Aydan and I were training when its gun suddenly overheated and exploded. Fæ only noticed in time thanks to a message from ÆON. ÆON’s analysis of the situation suggested the weapon was sabotaged so the main capacitor would overcharge, but we had no good leads on who could have done it.”

“That’s only the beginning,” you sign. “After that I was struck with insomnia for two days, or something, it was hard to track the time in that state. ÆON helped me again. We synchronized and Æ tried to fix my brain. During that my own mind wandered deep into the æther. It’s hard to remember what I saw... I probably could with ÆON’s help.

“What Æ found though was that my brain had been the victim of arbitrary code execution. At the exact moment of the explosion the other day, when my guard was down, someone inserted the program that was stopping me from sleeping. ÆON removed that program from me, and I apparently fell asleep so quickly I didn’t even realize I was asleep. I had an extremely vivid dream, completely indistinguishable from being awake. In that dream, um, it was upsetting, because I was betrayed and Zeta. And I woke up to Zeta coming to check on me, which didn’t help my confusion... So I talked to ÆON and found out about the cyberattack, and that the author of the code was called ‘the Sage of Sleep.’”

“The sages,” Synth signs. “The Chosen of ÆON are cryptic as any æthercult, but what I know about them is that the collective that leads the cult is called the Circle of Sages.”

“Do you know anything about the Sage of Sleep, then?” you sign.

“No. The nature of the individual sages is well obfuscated. They function as one synchronized mind when they act, usually. But this could imply they each have specialties of their own too, and that program was written by a particular sage.”

“Then it must have been the Circle of Sages who attacked Aydan,” Zeta signs.

“Not directly, I don’t think,” Synth signs. “As strong as the sages might be, I’m confident they aren’t stronger than the TLA Admins. It’s no easy feat to penetrate the academy’s defenses from outside. Even if they could, and did, the surface timing of the attack is too random to have been coordinated from the æther. If the sabotage had to do with overcharging the gun’s capacitor, that wouldn’t happen until Aydan used the weapon, and it would be completely unpredictable exactly how long it would take from activation to explosion.”

“Then it could only have been someone who was there physically, able to monitor the weapon in real time, and perform the cyberattack on Aydan at the moment she was most vulnerable,” Akiko signs.

“Okay, someone in the room with Aydan, then,” Synth signs. “That narrows it down a lot. Do you have a list?”

“Sure, I can list who’s in that class with us,” Zeta says. “Seems like any technopath, even one less experienced than me and Aydan, would have been able to insert the program, if they knew the right moment. And tampering with the gun wouldn’t have been a difficult circuit modification at all either as long as the saboteur knew the weapon system well. But they had to have private access to it and also know exactly which one was meant for Aydan.”

“The academy would have made those weapon designations not long after you enrolled, and they would have been stored in the weapons vault ever since,” Synth says. “Only faculty and engineering staff have access to the vault. And the records of which weapon is assigned to which student, only faculty are supposed to have access to that, but that doesn’t mean nobody else could see it, it’s data. Anyone good enough at picking locks could have broken into the vault too. And they kind of make a point of prioritizing making everyone here good at that.”

“Ana also said something else,” Zeta says. “The cult usually operates in a group of three agents. So it might not have been the same person who sabotaged the gun and who attacked Aydan.”

“Thoughts, Aydan?” Synth signs.

1) “That reminds me of something I saw in the æther last night...”: 5 (83.33%)
2) “We’re no closer to identifying the people involved, so we should go ahead with our plan. Use me to lure them into a trap.”: 1 (16.66%)
Expired 9 months ago (2023-07-14 07:08:14)