Chapter 16

Ætherglow #323

“No deal, who knows what you’d want from me,” you say.

“Fine. Let’s see how good a technopath you really are, then,” it says.

You focus back down into the depths of the binding program. It’s so complex, rows of moving parts stretching out on several axes of logic. Despite your intuitive grasp of the flow of processor-time, clearly whoever created this understands time much better. But there’s no time like the present to learn. That’s what machines do, after all, they learn.

You watch, listen, feel, trace the flow of the virtual machine. Time passes strangely in the æther. Heavy processor loads slow it down, yet idle moments freeze it in place. Loops turn back around to the time they started in, or shift sideways on another time axis as iterations progress. There is no passive time here, time is an active force, created by computation.

No, that isn’t quite right either. There is still entropy, as information degrades on its path through long æther-space. Space and time can’t be separated, and entropy cannot be reversed. Or can it? The original data retains full integrity, as if never touched by the hands of entropy. It therefore exists further back in time.

Looking forward in time is challenging--few can see it like you do. The future is a web of probability and causality--the further out you could look, the more entropy you would see, the less accurate your vision. The past is much easier. Anyone can see the past, as long as it was preserved. But the further back you look, the less the probability that it remains intact.

Processor logs are a high integrity component, critical for technopathy. Through that alone the past can be reverse-engineered. But what good is deciphering the past when your objective looms ahead in the future?

Except, you realize, looking around at the continuous world around you--left and right, forward and back, above and below, all are connected. Time is just another geometric axis, to borrow an Earth-centric term. Time is a dimension of space, even an untrained child knows this. The depth of past, and the depth of future, they join at a critical juncture--you, the observer. And just like the dimensions of space in this realm, time is one.

You fall back to your avatar perspective and turn yourself around on the time axis, looking away from your goal, into the path you’ve traveled.

“Giving up already?” your exopath companion says.

“No.” You take a step backwards in time. You feel intense vibration in the æther around your right hand. The bracelet glows bright. You reach inside, through the labyrinth of logical layers, and grasp at the heart of the machine. The gears turning around it seize up. Their fragile forms shatter. An error cascade spreads outward through the program. The bracelet binding your right wrist shatters like glass into fine sand, falling upward into the cosmic glow.

The left remains. You try to look forward in time, but the barrier stands in your way, the cold burns your avatar. But you turn and look backwards--the way is clear. The log files reveal their secrets. The tapestry of the past joins together and the crystal clouds behind you clear a path, across the curved landscape, to the twisted tower ahead.

You rush toward it--at last its shape grows, approaching. You stand before the great spiral tower, of black liquid glass glowing with pale sound.

“Well you are full of surprises, little Ædan,” the exopath says.

“Every lock,” you say. “That’s what we say about locks.”

The tower’s heavy doors await you. But beside them, a stairway winds up along the outside.

“Ah, but now your path diverges. Would the Ædan dare to step inside this place, where improbability meets absurdity? Or would the Ædan choose the more comforting, more perilous route, through that which is known and understood?”

What will you do?

1) Open the doors and enter.: 0 (0.0%)
2) Ascend the spiral staircase.: 1 (9.09%)
3) “Inside and outside are one.”: 10 (90.9%)
Expired 8 days ago (2024-06-09 09:05:51)