Chapter 16

Ætherglow #312


7 raises the gun. You reach past it through the near-æther and into her system--her visual processing. You know what the input from the targeting program looks like, it’s fresh in your memory. All you need to do is shift its X value a bit to the side, and she can’t hit you. Execute.

Before your eyes can process the flash of the weapon LEDs, your visual field lights up with warnings--you feel the impact in your chest. Your meat-side reacts with an adrenaline surge suppressing pain. Log files race through lines faster than your conscious mind can follow. You start to feel the fight-or-flight response from your old instincts before your system intercepts it. The warning messages one by one flash green and clear from your mind. You remember--it was just a simulation.

Sound rushes back to you--the panic response had overridden your situational awareness. Looking around, some succeeded at stopping the shot, and others failed, like you.

“Okay, now attackers who managed to overcome defensive technopathy, how did you do it?” Professor Azar signs. Standing up on a little hill of soil, already much taller than anyone in your class, she looks down on you all with the fiery orange LEDs of her eyes as the Sunlight hits her from behind and casts her long shadow over you. “7?” she signs.

“I noticed an inconsistency between sight modes as I aimed. So I diverted to using the backup sights on the gun and didn’t trust the reticle in my eyes,” 7 signs.

“I see you’ve practiced well at weapon sight malfunctions,” Azar signs. “Aydan, you can do better than that, use your creativity!” She turns away from you as her shadow shrinks in the rising Sunlight and pulls away from you. “How did you do it, Deianira?”

The tall girl across the field signs back, “It tried to falsely indicate a weapon malfunction. I called its bluff and sent an override command to fire anyway.”

“Very EvoSpec thinking,” Azar signs. “But you’re overly dependent on the conveniences of this training exercise. In a combat scenario, it’s entirely possible your gun had a malfunction. Forcing it to fire anyway might damage it, and you.”

“What if the alternative was getting shot myself?” Deianira signs.

“If you find yourself in an enemy’s sights and the best thing you can do is shoot them, overriding an error message could save your life. Hold onto that instinct, but refine your judgment,” Azar signs.

“Yes, professor!” she signs.

7 looks down at the weapon in her hands. She handles it so naturally, like she was trained with them from a young age like you were. But being an Admin’s daughter, that makes sense.


Tired from the long training exercise, the colony’s gravity feels as strong as the day you arrived. Even after eight months on this world it gets to you sometimes. 7, beside you, seems to handle it fine--she must have lived on TLA a long time.

You’re beside each other because you’re going back to the same place, but you haven’t exchanged a word since class ended. 7 will never initiate communication. Will you?

Will you try to talk to 7?

1) Say something.: 0 (0.0%)
2) Sign something.: 2 (20.0%)
3) Send a message.: 7 (70.0%)
4) Leave her alone.: 1 (10.0%)
Expired 2 months ago (2024-05-15 10:15:40)