Chapter 16

Ætherglow #322


“Seems like this obstacle isn’t navigable in space alone, the tower is ahead of me in time, and I’m trapped in one place...” You look down at the PULSE branded bracelets locked to your avatar wrists, the program binding you in time.

You again try to force yourself forward along the virtual time axis, but the devices burn your avatar with cold and your focus breaks, same as always.

“Troublesome pattern,” the exopath says. “Why not remove it?”

“I tried everything I know. This is a sage’s technopathy, it’s years beyond me, and it neutralizes me somehow,” you say.

“Oh really?” The spaceless singularity flies into one of the æthereal bracelets, and out the other. “Trivial.”

“What? You can unlock it?” you say.

“Of course. What is it you humanoids always say about locks?”

“I can’t pick this one, it’s like it’s specifically designed to stop me,” you say.

“Why not look deeper?” it says.

Trapped in the neverending desert of heat and snow, you seem to have nowhere to go unless you can solve this puzzle. You take another look inside, narrowing your focus as small as your mind can process and analyzing its every detail.

Within the little bracelets is a vast world, fractal layers of æthereal clockwork gears spiraling down. You reach out and sense their every angle and contact. You look beyond the illusion to the raw logic of the structure. Its math is an encryption algorithm like none you’ve ever seen. Even with all your knowledge it makes no sense. There may even be undiscovered mathematical theorems at work here. It strains your focus to try to comprehend the order of it all.

You fall back to your avatar, feeling fatigued.

“I’ve tried to solve this for months and I’m no closer than when I started...” you say.

“There you are again, not seeing what’s right in front of you. I’m telling you it’s not difficult,” the exopath says.

“Then why don’t you just unlock it for me, so we can proceed?” you say.

“Interesting proposal...” The speck of light circles around you chaotically, excitedly. “Why don’t we play a humanoid game. I do you a favor, and you will owe me one.”

“What could you possibly want from me?”

“Who knows? But whatever it is, you’ll have to do it. We’ll sign one of those humanoid files, ah yes, a contract!”

“Noone would be foolish enough to sign a contract for unspecified terms,” you say.

“You could just solve your own problem for once, then. Your choice.”


What is your choice?

1) Agree to the exopath’s help: 4 (36.36%)
2) Refuse and solve it ourself: 7 (63.63%)
Expired 10 days ago (2024-06-07 08:30:49)