Chapter 13

Ætherglow #260


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Now is no time for panic. You send the command to suppress cortisol and epinephrine. Doing it this much, you’ll surely pay for it later, but now the important thing is to stay calm. Ignoring the spectre surrounding you, you look further, trying to identify any external data source.

You reach out with your signal sense. From your chair you touch every corner of the room. Yet the transmission doesn’t seem to come from anywhere. You only strongly feel it is coming from everywhere.

“Can’t find me?” Unas says. “Why not ask your little god for help?”

The voice emanates from every wall, from the light panel above, from the circuits in the door in front of you, from the air entering your lungs.

“I suppose it isn’t with you. Poor Aydan, can’t touch the æther and call on your exopath. Have to solve your own problems for once,” they say.

“It’s just an echo, it’s just in my head, malware in my system, it’s not real,” you tell yourself.

“Yes, Aydan, believe whatever the admin tells you, cling to your comforting lies,” Unas says. “I’m just a voice in your head, aren’t I? Nothing to worry about. You’ll be out of here soon, and back with your protector. I’m surely no match for ÆON, so powerful it can see through time itself...”

You ignore it. You resist it.

“Don’t worry, your admin will come and take that troublesome, defective device away. Only seven more seconds,” Unas says.

The door opens. When it closes and your eyes readjust, it’s just you and Admin Vanitas again. But curiosity seizes you, and you open your system log, just to put your mind at ease. The timestamps...

Unas’s last words... 2254-10-01 19:31:12

The door activation... 2254-10-01 19:31:19

“Well Aydan, I spoke to my colleague,” Vanitas says.

“They were here again...” you say. “As soon as you left. I scanned deep, I couldn’t find any signal source in the room.”

“That all but confirms my suspicions,” she says. “Astra agreed with me too. Give me your terminal. Your collar, too. I’m going to have a full diagnostic done. We will get to the bottom of this.”

“Yes, Admin.” You reach to the side of your neck and unclasp your interface collar. You pull the terminal from its mount on your forearm and place both on the table.

“Also, 7 explained your actions to my satisfaction. As punishment for unauthorized tampering with academy hardware, I’m activating you both to assist the engineering crew in your spare time for the next month. You will receive orders.”

“Yes, Admin,” you say.

“Don’t do something like that again, and if you do, don’t involve 7 in it.”

“Understood.”

“Now you may return to your room,” she says. You hear the click beneath you and you can lift your feet from the floor again. The door opens. You instinctively try to suppress your vision from the flash of bright light, but nothing happens. You remember as you reach up to touch the skin of your neck. You feel so...human.


“But, Admin...”

1) “How will I train and study without my interface?”: 10 (66.66%)
2) “If I don’t have so much as a terminal, what if something happens and I can’t call for help?”: 3 (20.0%)
3) “...nevermind, I’ll deal with it.”: 2 (13.33%)
Expired 5 months ago (2023-11-05 09:27:58)