Kaire knew she wasn’t falling, whatever the Librais might be trying to pull on her. There was nowhere to fall to, or from. It was just how the connection was translating this experience – moving from one level to another.

It took even more effort to hold on to her instincts this time – falling always brought that on – but she managed it, and forced the deception away. Her feet brushed solid ground and she landed, rising to her feet on a greenish glassy surface, suspended in a black void. Now they were getting down to it. If the ‘cathedral’ above had been the equivalent of a human’s conscious mind, this was the subconscious, where the deep connections ran on.

Kaire looked around. But there was just plain blackness above, below and around. She sensed movement within it, but not much more than that.

/clever trick
/little nuisance
/now what will you do

She licked her lips, then gave a small nod. Okay. A sacrifice and a risk.

Deliberately, she deepened her connection to the Librais, cutting back another precious layer. The blackness around her ripped to shreds, revealing a world of shimmering greenness. It fluttered past her in complex ribbons or fat glowing spheres, some intertwining and rippling together like mating DNA strands. Kaire had a moment to appreciate its beauty, then winced as the Librais dug at her.

/so
/banru
/are you
/how intriguing
/i’ve never had a banru operator
/would you consider opening a little more
/i’d love to know what your greater powers think like

“No.” Kaire looked around. “Where’s your connection to the Evinthei Archive?”

/if you won’t play
/find it yourself

Thoughtfully, she reached up to one of the larger ripples. It responded at once and dived down towards her. As soon as it touched her fingertips, all the data it contained downloaded into her, just as she wanted. But -

Kaire gasped and recoiled, shaking her head as if a hornet was flying near her hair, and hissing a curse.

/oh dear
/bite back
/did it
/funny
/i wouldn’t have said that was dangerous

Kaire got a grip on herself, and managed to raise her head again, shuddering. Stupid, stupid! But it was too late now. She’d have to deal with this later – Athellus would have something to say, no doubt…

Now, concentrate. Think like a retrieval program.

Or, better, just think like yourself.

“Evinthei Archive,” she shouted, not only with her voice, but with her mind and her self. “Come on, where are you? Give it up! Don’t make me force you!” Her fists clenched with concentration – enough to make the tendons on her neck pull taut.

A glowing sphere from below looped over in its path and rose up to her. It expanded out into a torus, bright light emanating from the middle. Kaire dusted off her hands, then carefully reached into it, like putting her hand inside a long sock. As the data started flowing back, she allowed herself a smile of triumph. Here it was – information on the Generator Well… power assignation… there. She ‘read’ the information and then knew it, like she knew her own name. Her mental map of Nones was marked with two ‘x’ symbols, indelibly, telling her where to go.

Kaire relaxed and started withdrawing her hand from the torus. And the Librais struck, right through the weak point she had been forced to make, cutting deeper than she would have dared let it go.

/well now
/wait
/wait a

The green glow of the ribbons and spheres winked out. Then colour began seeping back into them, bright red this time, smouldering as embers.

Code scrolled rapidly across the void, error messages replaced with words that translated themselves to Kaire as:

/SYSTEM FAILURE
/SYSTEM FAILURE
/SECONDARY MODE COLLAPSE
/REINITIALISE … … …
/SECONDARY MODE FAILURE
/SYSTEM FAILURE
/PRIMARY MODE ONLINE

And as if in agreement a soft chorus began rising around here, a chorus as if all the souls the Librais had claimed in its long life were singing out their displeasure, their pain.

Kaire looked to left and right, and said almost conversationally: “…well. Shit.”

 

 

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