Chapter 3

Ætherglow #54

“There’s a device connected to my terminal that nobody would think to look for,” you say.

“I see. Understood.” ÆON opens the portal and steps inside, pulling you along with it. This time your flight through the incomprehensible relay space and the passageways through the æther in between has the distinct impression of falling. You know intuitively that you’re returning the way you came, that the reach of your consciousness is shortening. Sparing no moment to stop in TLA’s server, you fall straight out of the entry node. But there on the brink of returning to your own organic brain, your path diverts.

You emerge in a room barely large enough to fit you both. If your body had matter here you would probably not be able to stand without hitting your head on the ceiling. It’s a stark contrast to the infinite-seeming æther beyond. The circuit pathways you see in the dim stars here are much simpler. The imagery here is simple as well, a few metal containers crammed into this narrow space, rendered so poorly your perception picks out individual pixels around their edges.

Being safely connected to the primitive æther space of your 21st century computer, you send the command back up to your terminal to sever the æthernet connection on a software level, hoping it will be enough to make you untraceable. Only then does ÆON let go of your hand.

“Ah, thought you were planning on keeping us connected forever at that rate,” you say.

“I am sorry for any discomfort, though I felt none in your mind. Whenever I separated our avatars, the strangers ætherlocked you, but they could not bind me.”

“What do you mean, whenever?”

“Many potentials occurred, I chose always the path with the highest probability of success.”

You look down at your avatar, still intact, and try to make sense of what it is saying. “Is this like in the shuttle? You told me K was going to do something, as if you knew the outcome. Are you…saying you see things before they happen?”

“You do not?”

“I--no, I do not…”

Before is a strange word. In this world, æther, your perception of time flows at a rate dependent on the movement of information through points in surface space. In surface space, you would experience a constant perception of time. If I wish to know the potential of an action, I simply look at it from a greater distance. I suppose your mind cannot.”

“I sort of understand, I think. A little. So in practical terms, how far ahead can you see a…potential?”

“There is no meaningful objective way to measure time here as you have in surface space.”

“Well, setting the notion of linear time aside, we need to figure out what we’re doing now. We seem to be safe here, but I can’t return to consciousness until the medication they gave me wears off… And I can’t just return to the school server, they already captured me there once.”

“You can contact another of you,” ÆON says.

“I could send an encrypted message to someone’s terminal through the local server without anyone in the broader æther being able to identify me. But there’s only a few people I have public keys for…and if this happened right here in the school server, I have no idea who to trust…

“Who will I message...”

1) message ADMIN, security alert channel: 0 (0.0%)
2) message MEDIC, medical emergency channel: 0 (0.0%)
3) message Vik: 0 (0.0%)
4) message Zeta: 100 (100.0%)
Expired 2 years ago (2022-03-02 19:31:00)

NOTICE: this poll was conducted on Ætherglow's previous home site. After total loss of the server, we only had records of which results won, not exact vote totals.