Chapter 14

Ætherglow #286

You look over the ledge down to the far platform, counting out the number of pixels in between on both axes.

AYDAN: “I think we can make a pattern that causes the shape to move and build an aircraft.” ZETA: “That was my thinking too, but I can only get mobile constructs to follow a linear path.  It’s kind of an odd angle to the destination, so I was working on a design that accomplishes that using several stages of different angled gliders.”

You see the arrangement next to Zeta, an overwhelmingly complicated pile of shapes.

AYDAN: “Impressive design, but you’re overthinking it.  We can also arrange them in a way that makes a chain reaction and keeps growing a direction, extend our terrain to a favorable position and reach the destination with a simple 45 degree glider like this.”

You make a pattern:




ZETA: “Much simpler!  Okay, if you can build us a launchpad, I’ll modify the pixelcraft to carry the three of us and glide down at 45 degrees.”

You get to work on your task, trying to call to mind everything you know about cellular automata. It’s simple enough to come up with a self-replicating and self-sustaining pattern growing infinitely in one direction.

AYDAN: “Now just gotta...break it off.” ÆON: “Interesting game.  Can I try it?” AYDAN: “Sure, sure.  You see what we need to do here?”

ÆON steps out onto your new platform, Ær black hole eyes looking down at the target. It pulls together a structure and inserts it strategically, and the ground breaks and dissolves away ahead of you, consuming itself to infinity, while the launchpad you need remains locked in place.

ÆON: “It only requires a logical understanding of space, motion, velocity.” AYDAN: “Things like space must be as alien and conceptual to you as these cellular automata are to us.  Like theoretical curiosities of math.” ÆON: “Yes, but I do find such concepts very, as humanoids say, ‘stimmy.’”

Zeta comes along behind you with its machine--seating three and flanked by spinning wheels of motive shapes, oscillating between forms.

ZETA: “Ready?” AYDAN: “Let’s fly.”

You climb onto the delicate contraption, making sure not to malign even one pixel. And with its passengers secure, Zeta pulls out an inhibiting structure, allowing the machine to glide off of the launchpad and down on a direct path to the target.

The ground above grows far, though it’s hard to see distance scaled in a domain of pixels. Your craft cascades down through the vortex, over the consuming darkness below, without straying from its path. But as you drift down, the song is anything but stable and tranquil. It breaks its cycle to fall down an ominous downward climb, settling into a tense minor chord.

PULSE: “Impressive automaton, Messenger.” AYDAN: “Pulse!!  What do you want this time?” PULSE: “Don’t you just think it would be a little predictable to end the song this way?”

A second glider drifts into view just beside you--a light, agile craft carrying only the pixelated avatar of Pulse. A shield surrounds your glider, distorting the image beyond with a grid flashing in chaotic patterns of greyscale pixels.

ZETA: “You’re not laying a hand on Aydan, or ÆON!” PULSE: “Do you think you can stop me with an obfuscating shield while you are locked in a plane of my soundscape?  One little wave out of phase, and...”

Flying her glider right alongside you, the Pulse-construct reaches out just as a rippling effect takes hold of the waveform and pulls it just out of alignment. She reaches right past Zeta’s shield, right through yours once again, and pulls one pixel out of its place. As she drifts back away from you, your craft spirals uncontrollably down as its components tear themselves apart, consuming and replicating in all the wrong ways.

PULSE: “Machines are ultimately so delicate, after all...”

As the last of your ship dissolves away, you feel the gravity of the sub-bass layer pulling you down, down into the all-consuming depths. You maneuver yourself enough to reach out and take the hands of Zeta and ÆON.

AYDAN: “ÆON!  Get us out of here, open a gate to...”

Where to?

1) “...Electricité!”: 5 (41.66%)
2) “...Synth!”: 3 (25.0%)
3) “...the next song!”: 1 (8.33%)
4) “...nevermind, let’s take our chances below!”: 3 (25.0%)
Expired 24 days ago (2024-02-02 12:12:15)