Chapter 16

Ætherglow #311

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“In just 25 months, all you will hopefully be handed off to your sponsors, technopath certifications in hand. Whether you are EvoSpecs and master the destructive potential within your minds, or SySpecs, CommSpecs, ObSpecs, AdminSpecs providing support and logistics, you will all function as one united weapon on the battlefield--cells in a distributed mind with a singular purpose--a living weapon without ego.” Professor Azar signs her lecture to your Practical Arts I class.

“Restraint? Remorse? No concern to the technopath--your minds are yours to control, you need feel only what you want to. Far beyond many of the primitive constraints of humanity are we. And yet, still we remain chained to the fragile balance of mortality--fully dependent upon a biological mechanism whose life can be so easily severed, and never can be restored. All your classes have hopefully instilled deep in you by now that indispensable first rule of technopathy--protect your mind. But what good will that do you if you fail at the first prerogative of every living organism--protect your body?

Standing in one of the meadows of the TLA garden, chest-deep in the tall stems of leaf-blades and flowers, you face your training partner, your opponent--7☆--you and her seem to gravitate to each other in training scenarios, without a word spoken, signed, or transmitted.

“Weapons check!” Azar signs. “All candidates verify clear and simulation mode.”

You check the coilgun in your hands. Turning it over, you visually confirm no magazine is inserted. Tethered by hardwire to the device, you command its shell to confirm its operation mode--SIM. The weapon has nothing to shoot, and will not activate its electromagnets, but the interactive program you’re running will simulate the trajectory of æthereal bullets, and your target’s neural interface will simulate the sensations of impact and the pain of injury.

You send your weapon status verification to Professor Azar, and your eyes glance up at 7, unarmed.

“In this exercise, milliseconds count!” Azar signs. “Defenders--you find yourself caught at a disadvantage--unarmed, or disarmed, and facing an armed technopath. Defend yourself!” She signs to begin the exercise.

You raise your weapon--the reticle appears on your visual field, flashing bright red as soon as it crosses 7’s body. You know against 7’s reflexes there’s no time to worry about lining up a perfect shot. You pull the trigger.

But as your nerve signals are on the way to execute that muscle contraction, your visual processing catches the reticle’s change to an X.


And it fails to fire.

Around you, you see a few of your classmates recoil, before recomposing themselves, while others, holding guns like you, look down at their weapons in confusion as their opponents stand unperturbed, like 7.

“Alright, you who failed to hit their target--how did they do it?” Azar signs. “Kaz?”

Looking down at his terminal, Kaz answers, “She sent an echo to the weapon’s target identification process, making it interpret that I was pointing it at myself. The company asset damage fail-safe overrode the firing process...”

“Clever!” Azar signs. “Vik?”

Examining the end of the barrel, they answer, “He managed to disable the muzzle plasma window, then the simulation added atmospheric drag in the acceleration phase that reduced the muzzle velocity far below lethal levels.”

“Risky, but if it’s what you can do fastest it’s a good approach,” Azar signs. “Aydan?”

“She triggered the hull breach fail-safe. The weapon believed it was pointing at a pressure-bearing wall with a potential projectile velocity to penetrate it,” you sign.

“Impressive. That is one system most would not dare to disable, but one of the more secure systems as a result. Well done, 7,” Azar signs. “Let’s switch roles now!”

You disconnect from the gun, pull the sling over your neck, and hand it off to 7.

“Confirm clear and SIM,” Azar signs. “Good. Ready!”

Stepping back a few meters, you breathe deep and ready your defenses. 7’s magenta eyes lock onto your position.

“Defend yourself!”

What will you do?

1) Send an echo to the weapon’s lidar processing, making myself invisible to it.: 0 (0.0%)
2) Target 7’s eyes and send a false image of my position.: 1 (9.09%)
3) Direct an echo at 7’s visual processing to change the position of the reticle in her visual field.: 5 (45.45%)
4) Falsely trigger the weapon’s OVERHEAT fault.: 2 (18.18%)
5) Signal the weapon to eject its magazine.: 1 (9.09%)
6) Emotionally flood 7’s mind with remorse at killing a helpless target.: 0 (0.0%)
7) Message false ADMIN orders telling 7 to stand down.: 2 (18.18%)
8) Strike first--overwhelm her neural interface and paralyze her firing hand.: 0 (0.0%)
Expired 2 months ago (2024-05-08 08:53:57)