Ember Story #5 - Silenced Ether

#1
Author's note: Everything, all events that I've written in my fan-stories are meant to be taken as prequels to the story we will be experiencing in-game. When we'll create our character and take our first servo-whirring steps in the game-world, the events in my stories have already happened and some of their consequences were resolved in such a manner that their effects wouldn't conflict with the state of things at the start of the game.

WARNING

BY COUNCIL DECREE ACCESS TO THE ARCHIVES VIA FABRIC AND ACCESS TO THE FABRIC ITSELF IS PROHIBITED AND DISABLED

FOR FURTHER DETAILS SEE SCOUT REPORT "EM-ST33-019" OR CONTACT SCOUT-TEAM 33.

Shifter "Alpha"

It is unclear if this new, stronger variant even has a humanoid form it can regress to, or if it was perhaps "bred", likely through an accelerated-growth process, in a controlled environment, such as a laboratory. Recent firsthand accounts say its fluid-like armor segments can completely neutralize the kinetic force of conventional projectile ammunition and use the mass to regenerate puncture wounds, and likely cuts, as well, on vulnerable areas. Excessive kinetic force, from higher caliber rounds and explosives may overwhelm this repair mechanism.

Apart from showing more intelligence when protecting the lesser beasts, it demonstrated a defense mechanism, hardening the tendrils on its back to ward off close-quarter attacks. Regarding its offensive capabilities, our scouts have noted, with disappointment, it "did not even telegraph any of its moves", or rather, it executed them with such speed it left no time for retaliation or retreat. I failed to see their problem, at first. Perhaps it is understandable why such an otherwise evolutionarily advantageous behavior would not be particularly favorable from the point of view of anyone fighting it. Recording it all in such detail will hopefully serve those who, by chance, happen to read, before they encounter it for the first time.

UDPATE: It appears the normal beasts have not only started to harden their tendrils in the same defensive manner, they also began using this offensively, by curling up and into a roll to slam into their target, either with their hardened back or the blades on their front legs, greatly damaging shields and knocking frames off balance or completely off their feet, depending on their size. Again, our scouts were insistent on adding such details. Frame-repairs have increased.

There is something to consider, here, which is whether or not they have learned this new attack from an "alpha", or was it implanted. And why only now? Are we not the first form of intelligent life they ever encountered? Could they be adapting and evolving, in response to our own capabilities, at such a staggering rate this new beast is actually a result of their own research and development? The implications are as fascinating as they are alarming. /Carmen/
Entry last edited 7 hours 20 minutes ago.​

Fast response on cutting off the Fabric, back there. /Cullman/ [Logged in]
1 hour 40 minutes ago

And still your commentary persists. Already up and about, I see. Contacting me immediately from the field was prudent. Our response could not have been as swift, otherwise. I thank you for that. It prevented any further espionage. /Carmen/ [Logged in]
1 hour 39 minutes ago

Pulled a double shift, actually. And it still may have been too little too late. We don't know how long they've had access. /Cullman/
1 hour 38 minutes ago.

I agree. /Carmen/
1 hour 38 minutes ago.

Wow. You came all the way down to the labs, after a double-shift, just to leave a comment in the codex?" /Mrrrawfiq/ [Logged in]
1 hour 38 minutes ago.

I was already here on business. As are you, I see. /Cullman/
1 hour 38 minutes ago.

They wanted to talk to me, in person, if I could remember anything more. And then they scanned me, again, for weird readings. Didn't get anything. So, I thought I'd check what they put in the codex about that thing. Even if the Fabric is screwed, the internal servers are still safe for messaging and they even started issuing those old wrist-terminals for everyone, until things can get back to normal. I just haven't gotten mine yet. You still could've commented from any terminal on the station, you know. /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 37 minutes ago.

As stated, we were already in the vicinity. /Fenrir/ [Logged in]
1 hour 37 minutes ago.

Huh? Who're you? /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 37 minutes ago.

I am Fenrir. /Fenrir/
1 hour 37 minutes ago.

My OP-AI. It's okay. We're off the Fabric, here. /Cullman/
1 hour 37 minutes ago.

We cannot take the safety of candid exchanges for granted, anymore. Therefore, any further communication is ill-advised. /Fenrir/
1 hour 36 minutes ago.

Now even your OP-AI is commenting. And here I thought things would get quieter around here. /Carmen/
1 hour 36 minutes ago.

You yanked down the whole Fabric pretty fast. /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 36 minutes ago.

I took the liberty of pulling the switch before asking the Council to deliberate on it, however fast it would have taken them to come to the same logical decision. They have far larger concerns, now, than reprimanding me for circumventing their authority. /Carmen/
1 hour 35 minutes ago.

We all have larger concerns now. Thumping is impossible, until our OP-AIs can resync with our MEKs and frames, again. We're running blind. Well, good old-fashioned, un-AI-assisted blind, anyway. How long until your people can open v2.0? /Cullman/
1 hour 35 minutes ago.

It should be up and running in a matter of days, with full functionality. We only have to deploy a shielded quantum-entanglement lattice, first, that will separate it from the old version. Essentially it will be running over it with everyone's biometrics updated and synced to a separate space. It was suggested we keep feeding non-critical information to the old Fabric, as misdirection and to keep up appearances, so they may not suspect we are aware of their breach. /Carmen/
1 hour 35 minutes ago.

Reem, this is your mother. You know I have been reassigned to the Archives, after my injury and can monitor logins. I told you to watch your language and to use your proper name! You should not make your Feli heritage into a joke. And since you are speaking of safety, I also read all the reports on your last mission. You were nearly killed and you have not thought to say a word to me or your father. We will discuss this at home. /Salama Rafiq/ [Logged off]
1 hour 34 minutes ago.

I believe I have work to do. /Carmen/ [Logged out]
1 hour 34 minutes ago.

Your mother sounds angry. /Cullman/
1 hour 34 minutes ago.

Really? Couldn't tell. /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 33 minutes ago.

Your response is most likely sarcasm. Though, it is difficult to accurately discern emotion and tone through text, your mother's message may simply be parental concern for your safety. /Fenrir/
1 hour 33 minutes ago.

Oh, it is. And she's pissed. /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 33 minutes ago.

Pissed? Most likely not by Dylan's definition, I take it. /Fenrir/
1 hour 33 minutes ago

Huh? /Mrrrawfiq/
1 hour 33 minutes ago.

[* * *]​

Story #5

Silenced Ether

The Fabric has been essentially placed in quarantine, as if it was a virus. It's more like the medium through which the real threat could reach all of us and for however long it could know everything we've ever put of ourselves - all we are and all we've ever made - onto it. We're still not sure if space is infinite, if it can expand forever. But, cyberspace? That is infinite. Infinite and eternal. Everything we ever thought to put there, for posterity, for safe-keeping, for convenience, to never forget, to immortalize ourselves with, it's all still there, going back centuries. These aliens either caught only a glimpse of it, and already enough to use it against us, or they know everything about us and this was just a test-run. Which means the attacks get worse from here. Most doubt they can come up here, out of thin air, as they do, but some started sleeping with one eye open. Even those who have only one eye and those who haven't slept in days.

And so Chase Cullman came back from his thoughts, in their round, dim, cushioned booth, one in a large circle of dozens, around the muted dancefloor packed with partiers, in Club Cithaeron. Dylan Morgan was holding up and swirling his drink between them, Cullman's, not his, frowning at the confusing infusion, the mere concept of which offended his very being and liver.

"Yew'd think a colony full o’ huge beasts and hunters would be famous fer a drink that has a kick. Not somethin’ that doesn't even buzz yew." he said, setting it back down, in front of Cullman.

"Perhaps the idea was to avoid inebriation, so it would not adversely affect their ability to hunt." Fenrir reckoned, his orange hologram sitting next to Cullman, its subtle luminosity complementing the faux-neon fluorescence of light-filigree that were embedded in the walls, columns and cornices in neo-Corinthian fashion. Morgan gestured at Fenrir with a shot-glass.

"Yew must be fun at parties, pup. But, no matter how smart AI get, yew'll never understand man's need to fix themselves..." he paused to take a shot and Fenrir tilted his head. A gulp and a gasp. "By slowly destroyin' 'emselves." Morgan finished philosophizing and Fenrir only mulled his words over for a second, as the former refilled for himself from a nearly empty bottle.

"The implication being it is human nature to attempt to self-medicate emotional trauma through the consumption of addictive substances, even though people are aware their effect is temporary and diminishing, in two different meanings." Intrigued, Morgan raised a brow for Fenrir to continue. "Diminishing in their effect to help one escape their reality and on the long term, diminishing to their mind, body and soul." Morgan blinked, wide-eyed, before chuckling, as he raised a glass to him.

"Ha! Ye're a proper psychologist. Who knew a bunch o' algorithms and ones and zeros can be so cynical. Props fer sayin’ self-medicate, there, by the way. I'm beginnin' to think ye're hidin' a bit o' humor, there, in all that glum code and kernels." Morgan drank to Fenrir and slammed his glass down.

Wearing a grape-colored chiton, made of the most comfortable modern polymers, a tall, wiry man with dark curls, of about Cullman's age or older, flamboyantly floated next to their booth, skating on hovering repulser-boots that were modified to look as sleek as their wearer. He flashed them a wide, sparkling smile, purple eyes glowing in the ambient lighting and as he leaned inside their booth a mixture of old disco, electro and lyre music spilled in, not too loudly; as much as could pass through his body that was wedged in the sound-retention field that all booths were equipped with and which could all be individually controlled to allow only as much in our out as was desired.

"Dylan, darling! Do I have to cut you off early, tonight?" he warmly, but cautiously asked, coming completely inside the field of their booth and Morgan looked genuinely shocked by the insinuation that he had been drinking too much. Cullman waved a hand.

"It's fine, Alex. I don't think he's even halfway there, this time." Cullman told him.

“Don’t yew worry, now! My people’re genetically predisposed to drinkin’. It’s in me liver. And all those centuries of science meddlin’ with our insides helped, too. But, mostly the other thing.” Morgan defended himself and Alexis, amused, though not entirely convinced, seemed to take his word for it, nonetheless. He looked down at Fenrir's avatar, turning several notes sourer.

"Oh, poor boy! Where are the rest of your pals, hm?" he asked, sad for him, for he already knew the answer.

“Fiadh wanted to stay with Reagán, in the garage, but there’s nothing she can do for him, right now.” Cullman explained and they knew she would not be able to talk with her OP-AI, as he was.

"My Glenda was happily runnin' my frame, when Chase, 'ere, told that crazy Carmen to unplug the whole darn Fabric. I didn't have time to tell ‘er to abandon ship and with half of 'er still in my frame and the other in my cranium, she's not feelin' quite like ‘erself. I can’t even talk to ‘er!" Morgan mourned, feeling the loss of a friend, temporary as it was. His own OP-AI, Glendalough could have been sitting with them, but as things where, many of them were stuck in their last-used frame, their thumpers, some were lucky enough to have been off-field and only in their implants, but the most unfortunate were split between two or all three of us those.

"Yes." Alexis Charilaos empathetically sighed, propping himself on both hands, the reflected lights appearing stronger on his oiled skin. "So I've heard from people all day. Everyone on the planet who had their OP-AIs running their frame and even their MEK-As are now suffering. The poor things were all fragmented, when the Fabric was torn from around them like ruined tapestry." he dramatized. "And until it's safe, again, no OP-AIs can be made whole. Without them, many Reapers are alone, with the shattered souls sitting in the nigh empty shells of their frames and MEK-As." He shook his head at how ugly and unsafe it all was. It was not as simple as walking up to one’s frame or MEK-A with a data-storage device, pulling the halves or thirds of a fragmented OP-AI from them and putting them all together. Without the very environment the OP-AIs were designed to operate in, both them and their human partners were crippled, cut-off from one another. Charilaos raised a hand, palm up. From his seemingly golden bracelet, the hologram of a miniature, scantily dressed female, with wavy hair and a tiara, sprang to virtual life, enlarged itself and sat on the table, cross-legged, now human-sized.

"Lucky for me, I found my place away from the field, a long time ago, so me and Dion, we weren't victims of this," he paused and agreed "Sadly necessary self-mutilation.” He understood why it had to be done. "And I see not all AI's were stranded on a lonely island of metal." he said as Fenrir was being patted on the head by a smiling Dion. Only those AIs that were residing completely within their owner’s implant, at the time of the Fabric’s severing, remained whole and still capable of manifesting themselves to interact with their immediate surroundings, but even they had to directly interface with a terminal for long-distance communication, such as messaging between departments.

"I sent out a zone-wide warning, as fast as I could, but apparently it...got lost...or it was blocked. I don't know." Cullman felt like he did all he could, but it was still no consolation.

"Aren't we all desperate men and women, in desperate times?" Dion spoke with a deep, but gentle, accented voice. "Spurred to act in kind? Must we shun those who dare?"

"And if you hadn't dared, we might have something far worse to deal with now." Charilaos said, settling on the table the same way Dion was. "Those monsters could literally be haunting our very thoughts, right now." He was touching his fingers to his temple. "A waking nightmare! And I doubt we'd be talking about it. Everybody would be clawing at their own head to tear their implant out. I'd say a few days on our own isle is infinitely more agreeable to sharing it with those beasts." he put it into perspective and a brief silence fell over the table, as all parties, AI and human, could agree they have made the best of a situation that could have been worse, even fatal. "Well..." Charilaos slid off the table. "Time to tend to my own isle. This artificial night is quite young." he said, bidding them a good day, Dion's holo dispersed with a small finger-wiggling wave and the proprietor of Club Cithaeron rolled on to entertain other guests. Cullman raised his own glass to finish its contents, when Morgan spoke.

“Well, that kinda killed the mood, didn’t it?” he muttered and Cullman stopped and lowered his glass to briefly stare it him, before he finished it.

“And you call me a sullen bastard.” Cullman took some pity on him. “You’re in higher spirits when you’re not drinking. How do you plead?”

“Fine!” Morgan waved him off. “Guilty!” he admitted and started getting up, pulling his jacket on. “Let’s just call it day or night. Check on Fee. See if she’s back.” he finished dressing. “She’s probably tryin’ to sleep all of it away, which I’m startin’ to think is a better strategy, by the way.” he added and with their tab already settled, they flowed through several different bubbles of private conversations, arguments, laughter, as they passed close to the other booths, away from the open noise of the dancefloor, on a relatively quiet orbit, back to the entrance, with Fenrir trailing behind them. The climatic controls of the station cooled the temperature more during night-cycles to properly simulate their effect and the air felt calmingly cold. Lower pathways and maintenance corridors even had a layer of fog descend on them. The two tired Reapers actually opted for those, instead of the cavalcade of people and neon. And people in neon.

A few nearly claustrophobia-inducing dark shortcuts took them to the nearest zip-station and they were back to their quarters, before Morgan’s liquor caught up to kick him in the head. He was out like an already dim light, still fully clothed and Fiadh was already quietly snoring in her “reading-corner”. Cullman sat on his bed and logged in on the private portable-terminal he acquired before going to the club and checked his correspondences. A single new message was waiting and he opened it.

Mr. Cullman,

This is Salama Rafiq, Reem’s mother, as you probably recall. In my anger, earlier, I have completely neglected to thank you for saving my daughter’s life, this morning. I understand it is uncharted territory down there and she is prone to taking far too many risks, especially with that light-frame. I quite probably would not have had the chance to scold her for it, were it not for your intervention.

I humbly thank you, again!

Yours Truly,

Salama Rafiq
“Ballistic analysis has determined the weapon thrown by her companion would have stopped the Alpha’s assault. She would have been unharmed, either way.” Fenrir silently told him, through the implant he was safe and whole in and Cullman started writing up a reply to end the day with.

[* * *]
POST-HEADSHOT BOOM! A delayed effect, like the explosion of phased-ore rounds. :D

Author's note: To get a clearer idea for how certain characters are meant to sound and act like, for Fenrir, refer to Bladewolf from Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, only with a less robotic voice, maybe. For Alexis Charilaos, imagine the Greek god Dionysus, the way he looked, sounded and was characterized in the game HADES.

Small rant: What a good game, HADES! The characters and voice-acting are just incredibly well done and the replay value is almost infinite. I sunk over a 100 hours into it, barely even noticing it was that much and considering the complexity, all the variations and all the programming it must have taken to make all of it work, it's nearly flawless. Even after a 100+ hours of playing, I only experienced 2 bugs/glitches and that's pretty fucking impressive for a game that doesn't have a big name with a budget and staff to match, behind it.
 
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Pandagnome

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#2
1631620038536.gif

The Fabric has been essentially placed in quarantine, as if it was a virus. It's more like the medium through which the real threat could reach all of us and for however long it could know everything we've ever put of ourselves - all we are and all we've ever made - onto it. We're still not sure if space is infinite, if it can expand forever. But, cyberspace? That is infinite. Infinite and eternal. Everything we ever thought to put there, for posterity, for safe-keeping, for convenience, to never forget, to immortalize ourselves with, it's all still there, going back centuries. These aliens either caught only a glimpse of it, and already enough to use it against us,
I liked this story as it relates in many ways to many of us in the times of this strange covid just like as the fabric is on lock down.

"The implication being it is human nature to attempt to self-medicate emotional trauma through the consumption of addictive substances, even though people are aware their effect is temporary and diminishing, in two different meanings." Intrigued, Morgan raised a brow for Fenrir to continue. "Diminishing in their effect to help one escape their reality and on the long term, diminishing to their mind, body and soul." Morgan blinked, wide-eyed, before chuckling, as he raised a glass to him.
This part interested me how this holds true with some even using certain drugs to unwind/escape.
They may say it is for pain management, to clear the thoughts, to escape from the very exsistance of reality they are in.

The fabric is like the social world we live in full of social media full of voices interconnected, reducing the connections and manually linking to just a few controlling the flow is a balance act too much and too frequent could make anyone unstable!

Even the mind and body needs a holiday without it so it sure makes sense that sleep is a good option.
The Feli's do have their power naps perhaps it is why they are reactive like a mini recharge of the mind.

Wearing a grape-colored chiton, made of the most comfortable modern polymers, a tall, wiry man with dark curls, of about Cullman's age or older, flamboyantly floated next to their booth, skating on hovering repulser-boots that were modified to look as sleek as their wearer. He flashed them a wide, sparkling smile, purple eyes glowing in the ambient lighting and as he leaned inside their booth a mixture of old disco, electro and lyre music spilled in, not too loudly; as much as could pass through his body that was wedged in the sound-retention field that all booths were equipped with and which could all be individually controlled to allow only as much in our out as was desired.
The introduction of Alexis gave the mood that not everyone was just sitting down there were those that moved around and even danced.

I like that the sound retention field controlling the volume and how much can flow unless you go past it i'd guess or would they just have some very good noise cancellation ear pieces / head gear for that hmm

"Lucky for me, I found my place away from the field, a long time ago, so me and Dion, we weren't victims of this," he paused and agreed "Sadly necessary self-mutilation.” He understood why it had to be done. "And I see not all AI's were stranded on a lonely island of metal." he said as Fenrir was being patted on the head by a smiling Dion. Only those AIs that were residing completely within their owner’s implant, at the time of the Fabric’s severing, remained whole and still capable of manifesting themselves to interact with their immediate surroundings, but even they had to directly interface with a terminal for long-distance communication, such as messaging between departments.
That is like how certain folks in villages are self sufficient whilst those in the city would be reliant on the tech and its network to manage.

Author's note: To get a clearer idea for how certain characters are meant to sound and act like, for Fenrir, refer to Bladewolf from Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, only with a less robotic voice, maybe. For Alexis Charilaos, imagine the Greek god Dionysus, the way he looked, sounded and was characterized in the game HADES.

Small rant: What a good game, HADES! The characters and voice-acting are just incredibly well done and the replay value is almost infinite. I sunk over a 100 hours into it, barely even noticing it was that much and considering the complexity, all the variations and all the programming it must have taken to make all of it work, it's nearly flawless. Even after a 100+ hours of playing, I only experienced 2 bugs/glitches and that's pretty fucking impressive for a game that doesn't have a big name with a budget and staff to match, behind it.
I love bladewolf the voice is good to hear that with a less robotic that will be interesting.
Have not played Hades and after having a look at this video they seem like a good team just how Em8er team i am sure are too!


 
#3
@Pandagnome Oh, HADES can be tons of fun for even those with less patience, like myself. And like I said, every character has such great voice-acting it really gives every one of them a unique personality.

And I was actually making a bit of a parallel with the whole COVID lock-down and how people got isolated, but also, that much like in the real world, the people in Em-8er, although many still socialize in person, a lot of them do rely on technology to connect them too much. And if it was suddenly taken away or reduced in any way, many would have serious trouble adjusting. Not me. I don't have a social life, or a social circle, outside of work, anyway. More than 3 people for me is a crowd. And I'm fine with that.

And I imagine Alexis as a free-spirit, who once was a pilot and could still take up the fight, if necessary, but he helps out in his own way, providing an escape for many and strives to alleviate their pain and sorrow, not with complete abandon, as he does set a limit to just how much debauchery he allows.
 
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