Chapter 15

Ætherglow #301


In the Administration building, you approach the door to Professor Haze’s office, stopping to take a moment to gather your thoughts. But the door immediately slides open--Haze’s dark eyes stare right at you from under their reflective silver eyeshadow.

“Aydan of Luna, what a surprise.” They sign for you to come in. “You aren’t even taking my classes this semester, what brings you to my office hours?”

They saw you coming, naturally. You’ll have to think fast. It’s too risky to mention the dream, or even the subject of dreams, but they’re still the best source of information you could hope for here. You realize you will have to apply your training at social engineering to try to indirectly steer the conversation towards dreams--let it be their idea. You take a seat across from them.

“Well yeah I’m not currently your student, but I’m training for final exam and I’d like to learn more about ObTech. Who better to ask than the head of the specialty?”

You monitor your emotional resonance with your Empathica program, making sure any hint of an ulterior motive is obfuscated.

“Oh really? I had feared our specialty school had lost any hope of recruiting you. Based on your prior exam data, you don’t use much ObTech in your approaches to problems,” they say.

Their office seems designed to be as distracting as possible, with a row of glass prisms sitting in the window sweeping their light across the glass desktop, and the shelves lining the wall full of interesting mechanical puzzles and other stimmy looking objects. You focus on the task at hand.

“Exactly, so you could say it’s my greatest weak point,” you say. “I still haven’t decided what to specialize in, but I think I should be better prepared to defend myself against ObTech at least.”

“A lesson, then! The first thing you must remember is to not let yourself be easily distracted.” They pick up one of the puzzles on their desk, a dodecahedron of multi-colored and textured faces each rotating independently of each other. They unscramble its patterns as they talk to you, barely looking down at the device after their initial glance. “Obfuscation is the art of distraction, deception, misdirection. Much more than simple sensory echoes--it is a complex puzzle, always in motion, always remaining in control of what others perceive, what they focus on.”

Your eyes follow their turns of the device’s faces, naturally drawn to the algorithms and the mathematics behind them.

“The untrained mind is easily fascinated.” They solve the puzzle up to its final layer, but it’s plain to see the remaining pieces are in a state of severe parity error. “How unfortunate, this will take quite a complex algorithm to resolve.” They look up to see your eyes drawn to the problem. “Do you think you can figure it out?”

“Of course.” You accept the puzzle they hand to you.

“It should be simple enough for a technopath,” they say.

Looking at its every angle, you simulate the problem in your mind’s eye, accounting how the mechanism moves. You turn its faces in your headspace, borrowing additional processing capacity from the computer core, until the pattern of the necessary algorithm becomes clear. Your hands execute the sequence your mind reads out to you.

But the result is still unsolved--a piece lands oriented opposite how you expected it. You rerun the simulation in your mind. It makes no sense--it should have worked.

Haze takes the puzzle back as you sit paralyzed and confounded. “Aydan, did you not think to question if the colors your eyes were seeing were truly as they appear?”

You realize what you should have noticed when you walked in--the prismatic light rushing across the desk with each turn of the colony, it’s wrong. The orange and the green band of the spectrum appear reversed. You signal a soft reset of your visual processing--now it looks right. And when you look at the cube, a second piece is flipped--you never noticed.

“Ahh, you’re as bad as Nezumi!” you say.

“No, no, I’m much better than him,” they say. “You truly do have a weakness in the area of obfuscation if you’re so easily tricked with mere optical illusions.”

“I definitely have a lot to learn...” you say.

“ObTech is a huge field. Do you have any particular area of study you came to seek advice on?” they say.

You’ll have to choose your words carefully--lead them to the topic you want without saying it directly.

What will you say?

1) “I’m interested in ways a technopath could implant information in a mind undetected.”: 0 (0.0%)
2) “I’m really interested in states of consciousness, and particularly how things like sensory echoes might work differently on the mind in different states.”: 5 (33.33%)
3) “What would you say are the things that make people most vulnerable to obfuscation techniques?”: 5 (33.33%)
4) “How could I better tell what is real from what is illusory?”: 5 (33.33%)
Expired 1 months ago (2024-03-27 08:00:44)