Chapter 14

Ætherglow #287


ÆON opens a gate below you, just before you reach the foreboding depths far below the range of humanoid hearing.

You emerge back into Lunar gravity and fall a few meters to a hard printed green tile street. Through curved glass and water you see the far horizon lit up across the black depths of Shackleton’s Crater.

Track 02 - MOONQUAKE

“Aydan and friends!”

You turn over to look up at Trisha of the Electrical System, in bright sunlight in front of the iconic skyline of Arianeville. You push yourself up to your feet, and the music picks up as you move. Here it is a serene atmospheric wall of sound that seems to hold you in place whenever you stand still like a subtle pressure stim.

“We’re back,” you say. “So you ended up back up on the peak of eternal sunlight.”

“If a few centuries later,” they say.

“What happened?” Zeta says.

“We all got separated, I think that’s supposed to happen. Everyone has their own journey to take in this album.” Turning toward the glass, they stare down into the valley of eternal darkness. “Down there I found myself alone. Suddenly playing the role of Ariane DeLune, I was overturning the wreckage of Phénix Outpost looking for my lover. Eventually I remembered what I had always known--I am never alone. My systers and I must make our own way forward and not dwell on what is lost, we are Électricité there is nothing we cannot do.

“So we set out to climb the inner slope of le Cratère de Shackleton, which was this entire adventure of its own. And when we got here, here was Arianeville, bright and alive. I just arrived here before you. So how was your journey?”

“It was great! I ended up in a special memory of the stimmiest place ever, and solved a bunch of puzzles to make my way through the soundscape, and then Aydan and ÆON showed up, we built a glider out of cellular automata and tried to reach our normal exit, but the artist self-insert showed up to sabotage and try to kill us or something!” Zeta says.

“Really? Pulse was so helpful to me on my journey,” Trisha says.

“Wait, she was?” you say.

“Oh yes, she was very nice. I would love to meet her someday,” they say.

“So she isn’t strictly programmed in an antagonistic role, just for me I guess...” you say.

“What happened to you?” they say.

“I landed in my song, with ÆON. It was a painful memory, and we never made it to the end because I tried to interfere with the course of events through time manipulation.” You hold up your hands, showing the spectral purple bracelets around your wrists. “Pulse gave me a punishment for that, and now I can’t move through time at all.”

“That you could do that in the first place is very impressive technopathy, little moonflower. Let me see that,” Trisha says.

You let them take your wrists to examine.

“This is a very complex program, it will not be easy to bypass...” they say.

A gate opens next to you, and Synthesis-03 materializes, with a cold expression, staring beyond you all into the depths of space.

“Ah, there you are,” Trisha says.

Turning its distant gaze their way, Zero Three holds up their arms, and Trisha approaches as they let the simulated gravity carry them into their arms. They hold Synth tight, caressing the metal fibers of their hair.

“Where have you been?” Trisha says.

“My song,” Synthesis-03 says.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Trisha says.

“No.”

“Do you want a puzzle to solve as a distraction?”

“Yes.”

“Here.” They lead them back to you. “Our Aydan has found some trouble again.”

Synth looks at the devices binding your avatar. “What the hell is this, Pulse shouldn’t be capable of anything near this level of technopathy.”

“She said it was from the ‘Sage of Time,’” you say. “And ÆON said that it was hidden in the album in the form of auditory data.”

“An arbitrary code execution attack,” they say. “Nearly undetectable, how would we find an anomaly in a sea of chaotic noise?”

Synth turns toward the vast city and shouts into the æther, “Pulse!!”

And in answer, she appears, folding her form together out of the tranquility of the soundscape. “Wanderers, voyagers, psychonauts adrift on the cerebral sea! How have you fared on your travels?”

“Enough of your games, cultist, we’ve all made it past whatever dark memories you could scrape up from our minds!” Synth says.

“Mine was nice...” Zeta says.

“Lovely, really, best album of 54, little question,” Trisha says.

“Good, good! I appreciate that. You can hardly blame the artist if you do not like where the music takes you. These worlds are your thoughts’ creation, I am nothing but stimulation,” she says.

“I see, it’s your credit if we like it, and our fault if we don’t?” Synth says.

“Such is art,” Pulse says.

“Enough! I know you enticed Aydan to come here to lure them into a trap, and there’s no telling what other hidden programs you have lying in wait in here. We all completed your songs, is this the ending or what?!” Synth says.

“Oh, but you have not finished the album, have you?” Pulse says, stepping aside to reveal one final door to be opened, in front of ÆON. “I wonder what wonders, what terrors, what memories and feelings my program would find within such a mind as The One... Won’t you find out?”


Won’t you?

1) “No way. This is an obvious trap, there’s no telling what would happen if ÆON opens that door.”: 1 (6.66%)
2) “Yeah. If you want, ÆON, you came here to experience the album after all. Let’s see where it takes you.”: 2 (13.33%)
3) “ÆON’s not the only one we haven’t explored, is Æ? What about the soundscape inside YOUR mind, Pulse?!”: 12 (80.0%)
Expired 2 months ago (2024-02-04 09:43:57)