Chapter 12

Ætherglow #229

“Hiii!” The excited motion of your hands sends a ripple of bright pastel color through the æther. Akiko happy-stims in response, and you feel a wave pass through the æther invisibly--you feel it on your skin like the texture of the soft moss of the TLA garden.

“Did you have anything planned?” she says.

“Oh, um, I guess not...”

“You’ve had bigger things to think about for tonight I guess, entities to protect.”

“Not that this isn’t a big thing too though!” you say. You feel the soft texture wave that radiates from her in response.

“It’s okay, Aydan. I figured as much, so just leave it to me.” She takes the hand of your avatar in one hand and pulls open a gateway with the other. The flow of æther pulls you along with her on a short transfer.

The sensory barrage of the gate dissolves, and you find yourself standing on the illusion of solid ground--an uneven floor made up of uncountable metal wires and insulated cables, interwoven, twisted around each other, tied in complex knots, crossing or running parallel. It extends to the far horizon and curves upwards, tracing pathways into the sky.

Giants cover the landscape--twisted structures of thick coiled cables or rigid fractals of metal spikes--trees of plastic and aluminum, bigger than you’ve ever seen. Between them, a thick overgrowth of smaller plants fills in the space between narrow paths that spread out or lead up or down as the curvature of the forest floor folds in upon itself in a three dimensional manifold. Interlaced with the dark cables and grey metal, conduits glowing bright with ætherlight run along all the walkways. They connect the plants into a vast web and climb up the tall trees, expanding out to every branch. And from the tips of the smallest wire twigs, trickles of bright sparks flow out and drift upward, joining together in a turbulent flow, expanding infinitely until it touches the untouchable ætherglow.

A wall of ætherplants encircles you. Thorns of broken wire bend away from their coiled cables. Leaves of translucent glass grow in jagged orthogonal shapes, each plant with its own unique colors and patterns. You reach out to touch a vine that grows upward into the sky. Its smooth dark surface feels cold. The more you touch it, you feel a subtle vibration, a slow pulse. It matches the subtle pulses of light flowing through the illuminated conduits, all flowing in a direction, from some unseen origin deep underneath it all to the unreachable sky.

“It’s...beautiful,” you say, turning around to look at it all. “What is this place?”

“Professor Reina’s personal domain on the server,” Akiko says. “Welcome to the Æthergarden.”

“I’ve been to some strange places down here but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“This is the unrestrained potential of a master technopath’s mind,” she says. “As her apprentice, she’s given me access to it too. So if I could show you one place in the entire æther, it would have to be this one.”

She walks in gliding steps across the coiled, tangled ground, pulling you along by the hand. Her path dives down through a narrow tunnel of wire-vines. Here the vibrations of the garden pulse are too loud to overlook. It vibrates your avatar along with it.

Emerging back into the starlight, you walk down a path lined with unusual plants. They have no color to them, beyond the thin fibrous veins of light that run through them. You reach out to touch one. Its surface is alive with texture so vibrant it’s almost overwhelming to your senses. Its texture shifts as the vibration waves flow through it, cycling from a high friction rubbery surface to a smooth one slick as ice. You touch the next plant. Its dark leaves fluctuate between the feel of a metal file with rigid grooves and the chaotic noise of sandpaper.

“Reina’s student aids who help maintain the garden get our own user access to this space in return, and our own groves to develop as we wish. This one is mine,” she says.

What will you say?

1) “If you’re trying to impress me, I have literally never been so impressed in my life.”: 3 (30.0%)
2) “I didn’t know texture could be so...bright.”: 6 (60.0%)
3) “This is such an interesting version of plants I might even say it’s better than surface plants.”: 0 (0.0%)
4) “I...have no words.”: 1 (10.0%)
Expired 8 months ago (2023-08-13 08:29:01)