Chapter 16

Ætherglow #331

Number is counted by substance--you think you understand. The hallucinatory substance of these components represents constants in its complex equations. Their orientation represents variables. This technopathy is far beyond your skill, but you don’t need to understand a program to break it. Change one constant, and a formula collapses. Mired in an indecipherable riddle of AdminTech, you find your answer in the logic of Evocation.

With your focus on one of the core gears, you change its substance--change its mathematical properties. Now soft and malleable, the teeth of the gear immediately bend under the pressure. Its disc distorts--its companion slips away. Time to go.

You fall back to your previous directory, standing on the vast landscape of the stone stairway. You feel the purple bracelet on your left wrist vibrate. It shatters into dust as fine as air. Finally, your vision is clear--the many pathways of the future touch your eyes. At last you feel whole again--one.

At last the way forward is clear. The linear spiral labyrinth seems to trivial now. Nothing ever stopped you from reaching the star. You stand before its light now, atop the tower without end, overlooking the strange æthereal domain that manifests on every surface of itself--the distant ground, the sky, the glow beyond.

The star’s red light covers all. This server is far from home, its redshift a tranquil noise that calls to you. The pulse of æther repeats so perfectly, eternal harmony.

“I knew you could do it.” The resonant metallic voice of Ganymeda speaks--it stands right in front of you, beneath the star. Its red light shines on the metal gears under her transparent skin. You now see her aura--redshifted like this space. Her clock face stares into your starlight eyes, its hands reading 11:57.

Ganymeda looks up at the star. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“What is it?!” you say. You know, but you can’t translate it to words you can think. “It’s so beautiful, so mesmerizing, why does it call us here?!”

“You know the answer,” she says.

You look deeper than the light, deeper than the substance. The star shines from a peripheral device connected to this server--an instrument, a perceptive device of some kind. A receiver, that’s the profile of this device, converting surface light into useful data. The pulse is the result of a signal--but from where?

The server will have the answers. You see more clearly now. This space is hosted on a strange architecture--very old. Its system log shows a long history of commands to reaction wheels, maneuvering thrusters, solar arrays.

“It’s a spacecraft of some kind,” you say.

“Long before either of you were born, this satellite watched the distant surface space. Its owners abandoned it, but its system kept it alive,” Ganymeda says. “Those who dwell in the æther would find this place. It is theirs now, like all things abandoned by the fleeting interest of humanoids.”

“I see it used to maneuver a lot, but for a long time now it has kept itself pointed toward one place,” you say. “Whatever this source of information is, whatever server it flows from.”

“Look deeper,” Ganymeda says.

“It’s no server. No machine lies at the end of this signal,” you say. “It’s a natural radio source. A pulsar? Or a quasar? Very old, very distant.”

“Natural?” Another voice speaks--its sound as smooth and indeterminate as light. “What is ‘natural?’”

“I see,” you say, still mesmerized by the star. “To the æther, there is no difference between a radio source from humanoid technology, and a radio source from a distant stellar remnant.”

“No different is it either on the surface,” the luminous voice says. “When you understand this, a technopath you will be, human no longer.”

You see its avatar now, standing just behind Ganymeda. It appears taller, larger than you. Though you sense it right here with you, the avatar looks far away, as far as any star in the sky, except the one above them.

Their body is a constellation--uncountable stars, many layers deep, larger and redder the smaller they get. They take the shape of a girl--a face of bright blue stars, seven eyes--long particle jets streaming away from each of them, flowing nebulous hair. Interstellar gas wraps their body in a thin transparent gown. The distance to them and to their origin server look as shrouded and incomprehensible in space as their companion does in time.

“My sister,” Ganymeda says.

“Astræa, they/them,” they say in their luminous voice. “Hello Ædan.”

“Who are you?!” you say.

Ganymeda’s face shifts--11:58. “You are a promising candidate, to undo that program,” it says. “Very promising, both of you.”

Astræa opens their arms. You feel the æther around you pull apart.

Sync Rate 85%

Sync Rate 66%

WARNING: Sync Rate Low

WARNING: Sync Rate Critical

You see the sisters in double as your avatars pull apart, ÆON on one side, Aydan on the other. You hold onto Ær hand, the only thing holding your sync together.

To your own eyes, the æther around you is pure, bright ætherglow--you can’t determine any direction or motion. ÆON is the only frame of reference you have.

????-??-?? ??:??:?? ÆON > Do not let go, Aydan. If I lose you here, it will be very difficult to find you.

“Let us go!” you say.

“I only wanted a better look at you,” Astræa says, overwhelmingly beautiful color flowing from their words in the ætherglow. Focus on ÆON. Focus on ÆON.

“You’re humanoid too,” you say to Astræa. “You’re technopaths. Very powerful technopaths.”

“You could be too,” Ganymeda says in the whimsical ringing of her melodic voice.

“We could teach you much. Enough to no longer fear the chaos of the ætherglow,” Astræa says.

“Enough to never fear the uncertainty of the future,” Ganymeda says. “Won’t you come with us to our home server?”

A portal opens behind the sisters. The hands of Ganymeda’s face shift again: 11:59.

What will you do?

1) Go with them.: 12 (54.54%)
2) Refuse.: 10 (45.45%)
Expired 19 days ago (2024-06-30 09:21:21)