Chapter 13

Ætherglow #255


🌒

2254-10-01 19:09:29 Aydan > sorry ÆON, we have to split up a while

2254-10-01 19:09:30 ÆON > I will see you soon.

You signal your door to open and pull the cable from ÆON’s vessel. Gently as you can, you slide it across the floor into your room. It comes to rest under some clothes on the floor. You shut the door.

“What luck...” You sigh.

2254-10-01 19:09:41 7 > you’ll be okay Aydan. I was the one who actually tampered with it

2254-10-01 19:09:45 Aydan > it was my idea, though...

2254-10-01 19:09:53 7 > she won’t risk my enrollment, I’m too big of an investment. she’ll punish me somehow but, I can handle it. you just stick to the facts and say you didn’t touch the hardware. it’s not like you could lie to an admin if you wanted to.

2254-10-01 19:09:59 Aydan > I can’t believe they caught us like that, it should have looked like an ordinary power cycle...and we’re hardly the only ones to take a look inside academy propety.

2254-10-01 19:10:07 7 > just stay calm. you will be okay.

In a few minutes, the elevator ahead of you opens. Two third years in green step out--a taller girl and a shorter enby--coilguns in hand at low ready.

The taller girl speaks, “We have orders to take you to the admins.”

“Let’s go...” you say.

“Come on, then,” the enby says.

“Wait, remember the procedure,” the girl says. “Scan them for weapons.”

“They’re just some firsties?” the enby says.

“Just follow the routine, they might be testing us,” the girl says.

The enby looks you up and down. You feel their internal terminal making requests of your system--the flow of data between you.

“Clear,” they say.

“Let’s go,” the girl says. Your magnets release.

🌒

In the Administration building, your escorts lead you to the back, beyond a heavy door into a hallway of bare white walls. They take you into a small room, devoid of any color, and insulated against sound. Only a table sits here, with two chairs on the far side. They point you to them, and the two of you take your seats.

“Wait here,” the third year girl says. Then your magnets engage, rooting you to the floor. They leave, and as soon as the door shuts, you realize this room is also a faraday cage. Where your sense of the æther had returned at some point, it instantly vanishes again. The only light inside is a dim panel on the ceiling, and the only time you’ve heard such silence was when Akiko disabled your hearing in the æthergarden.

“I’ll have to ask my third year friend if this ever happened to them...” you say, if only to break the eerie quiet.. “You doing okay?”

“I’m fine. I got to talk to 5 on the way here, she’s fine. Still don’t know what the connection issue was, she couldn’t tell either.”

“Well that’s the least of our problems now...”

The door opens. Along with the bright light from the hallway, you feel something hit you in another sense, just as bright. A massive stream of data passes through your terminal.

You see nobody enter, but once the door closes, she appears, allowing your eyes to see her--Admin Vanitas, a woman tall and slender, with long black hair woven in elaborate braids, tied off with purple LEDs. She wears the long white coat of a TLA Admin. Without her hood, you see her face this time. The black tattoos cover the sides, reaching down her neck and beyond. You recognize the lines--the server architecture constellations visible in the TLA home æther, the same as 7 has all over her wall.

“Explain yourself.” Her words are as much data as sound. They echo inside your head, making her seem to be all around you. Yet, her voice is soft--disarming, impossibly calm. You suppress the anxious response to her unsettling presence.

“Forgive me mother,” 7 says.

Admin Vanitas turns her lavender eyes to direct her piercing stare at her daughter. You can feel a residual emotional reaction from her, even as guarded as 7 is.

“Admin,” 7 says. “We were experiencing connection issues. No software solution existed, so we escalated to power cycling the transmitter. I performed the test myself. The responsibility is mine.”

Vanitas stares down into her eyes for a minute, silent. “Strange things are happening on TLA. That femboy nearly died in a weapons sabotage incident, you know. I have my eyes on all academy hardware, no matter how small. Don’t you think I can see what you do, on my world?”

“Forgive my impulsiveness, Admin!” 7 says, not breaking eye contact with her.

“That’s just it. You’re not an impulsive girl. You’re a good girl, so why? Was it...” She turns her gaze into your eyes. You have to look away--her eyes might as well be the Sun.


“Was this your influence?” Admin Vanitas says.

1) “I never touched the transmitter.”: 5 (38.46%)
2) “It was my idea to do it.”: 6 (46.15%)
3) “I tried to stop her!”: 0 (0.0%)
4) Stay silent.: 2 (15.38%)
Expired 5 months ago (2023-10-25 06:59:45)