Chapter 13

Ætherglow #250


Your next step is to see if the issue is isolated to you or if anyone else is experiencing it. You step outside your room, keeping your terminal and ÆON’s device tethered to you--it’s disconcerting enough to be cut off from the network around you, being completely alone would be unbearable.

It’s not too late to bother someone, although you’ve never done it before and it feels awkward. The nearest person would be the girl next door, 7☆. You stand before her door, wishing you could just send a message before disturbing her. Technopathically suppressing some social anxiety welling up in you, you quietly knock on her door.

You wait a minute, and wonder if you should try again. As you lift up your hand, the door slides halfway open. 7 looks out from behind it.


“Hi 7...sorry to bother you. I’m having a technical issue--”

“Oh no, it isn’t just me this time...” Covering her face, she shakes her head. “No, no, no...”

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. It’s happened a few times. You can’t reach the æther, right?” she says.

“That’s right.”

“I’m sorry this is affecting you too. I can’t figure out what’s causing it.”

“Maybe I can help? Put our minds together on the problem?” you say.

“Oh, sure, okay.” She lets the door open the rest of the way, sliding over with it to halfway stand behind the wall. “You can come in.”

You step inside 7’s room. It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s identical to yours, and Zeta’s, and anyone else in this building--a small space with its floors, walls, and ceiling covered by a soft purple carpet in panels separated by strips of bare metal, furnished with only the bed, desk, and closet. Yet her room is anything but a copy of yours.

The light panels around the ceiling’s edge cast a dim, magenta light on the room. The curtain is shut tight, taped shut, blocking out any sunlight. Scattered items of clothing cover the floor, leaving walkways through the narrow space. Other than uniform pieces, they are all black, like the black shirt and black and grey plaid skirt she’s wearing. She looks shorter than usual, not having either her magnetic uniform boots or her tall black boots she wears otherwise.

Her desk is half-covered by a disorganized pile of wires and little devices--with panels of knobs and switches, and ports where cables link them together--and exposed PCBs of half-dismantled devices around a stand holding a magnifier and a soldering tool. The other half is taken up by a cluster of little white tiles that glow in the strange light--mahjong, seems pretty popular but you don’t really know how to play it.

It’s what’s on the black curtain and the wall around it that catches your eye--stars, shining bright as they slide over the reflective metal and the panels between, projected by a small device sitting on her desk. Something is familiar about their motion as they spin in a circle. It’s the same rate as the colony’s rotation.

You stop and consider your orientation in space. Based on the view from your window, this one must face the front of the colony. You can’t normally see the stars in that direction, because of the colony front wall. But from the look of it the display is a model of the region of space that would be visible in that direction at this time of month.

Above her desk, a lot of printed sheets cover the adjacent wall, taped in place and overlapping each other. The white points printed on the black surface shine in the light--part of it must be UV-spec. They form a large chart of a certain region of the sky. A web of markings covers them--fluorescent ink that glows under the UV light--with certain stars circled and lines drawn between them. But on the opposite wall, a similar array of printed images faces it. You recognize this pattern intimately, though it’s hard to call to mind its image surfaceside--the pattern of orthogonal constellations visible in the æther of the local server. From both walls, strands of pink string stretch from the points of certain stars--held in place by magnets--and up to points on the ceiling.

You aren’t surprised to find the ceiling also covered in a chart of prints taped in place, but this one you don’t recognize. It’s composed of the integers 0-9, circled, and linked together by a labyrinth of arrows, and other lines marked by other numbers linking them together. Certain stars on either wall connect by string to certain circled numbers. It all looks so deliberate, but none of it means anything to you.

You turn back around to 7, with the pale blue pigment of her hair shining in the strange light.

What will you say?

1) “Nice place! Stimmy light.”: 5 (33.33%)
2) “These diagrams are very interesting but what...does it mean?”: 5 (33.33%)
3) “What are you building here with these PCBs? It looks intriguing.”: 1 (6.66%)
4) “So, you like mahjong.”: 0 (0.0%)
5) “So, about the problem at hand...”: 4 (26.66%)
Expired 6 months ago (2023-10-13 07:57:59)