net.work part 2

For those who have read (and liked) the story so far, here is the second part. Read, comment, enjoy!!

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“Xen. Xen.”

She could hear them call.

“ Xen. Xen.”

Begging, pleading calls.

Xenobia was running through the streets. Her hand-held cannon’s ammo cartridge was empty, forcing her to switch to las-gun mode. The electrical charge was weak; she only had four, maybe five good shots before it was completely drained. When that happened, Grimwold’s men would surely catch her. She was not about to let that happen. For not the first time, she wished her Councilor was beside her barking out strategy and talking trash to the enemy.

“Xen. Xen.”

She could hear the footfalls getting closer; the voices were growing in volume. This was her last chance for escape. She must not be captured again!

“Xen!”

Urgently, the voices called to her. She saw a machine graveyard ahead and dashed toward it. Entering, she dove for cover behind rusted skeletons of ancient vehicles and long abandoned hunks of machines. She peered around her shield, judging the distance between her and her father’s men. Hoisting her cannon, she took aim. Her finger squeezed the trigger lovingly, caressing it. This was it. This was –

“Xen, dammit, wake up!” Councilor’s voice cut through the air. Xen opened her eyes, and blinked. Then blinked again. She pressed her finger to her eyelids, forcing them closed, then opened them again. She was no longer outside in the still, dark night. Somehow, she had been moved inside while she slept.

Not trusting her sight, she rolled onto her back and covered her eyes.

“This is not real. Not real. Not real. You can’t be in here. Councilor is dead. Dead people don’t move bodies. Wait, am I dead? No, I’m dreaming. I got shot out there running from Grimwold and now I’m imagining that I made it home. Yes. Yes, that’s it. Makes perfect sense. I’m hallucinating from the pain,” she muttered rapidly to herself.

“If we had hands, we’d slap you,” Councilor stated. Xen spread her fingers and peeked through the spaces. Seeing nothing around her other than open space in the dim light, she resumed muttering to herself.

“Stop cowering and listen!” The Voice snapped. “We have a story you might like to hear. It’s about your mother and him.”

Removing her hands from her eyes, Xenobia let her arms fall to her sides. She pressed her palms against the cold floor, and pushed herself into a sitting position. Now upright, she could truly see the room she was in.

Dim and cool, it was a lab of sorts. Computer parts, wires, boards and chips littered the place. Virtual monitors winked in and out, information flowing and changing faster than she could read it. A soft humming noise behind her made her turn her head and look; a large, old-fashioned mainframe sat behind her.

“We built that, you know.”

“What?” Spinning her head around and still seeing no one, Xen sighed. “Where are you? I know you said you’re dead and all but where -”

“In there. In the mainframe.”

Gasping, the woman said, “No. No way. How is that even possible?”

“That’s why you need to listen. Get comfortable. It’s a long story, and it starts here, in this room.”

“Here?”

“Yes. At the end of the last century, a scientist overseas managed to create a chip that would record all of a humans sights and sounds. It would record every moment of a person’s life, from birth until death. Included in the specs was the ability to retrieve and playback data for outside viewers. This chip was known as a ‘Soul Lock’.”

“That’s amazing, but what does it have to do with my mother? And how are you inside the comp?”

“Stop interrupting, you ungrateful brat.”

“Sorry.” Chastised, she pantomimed the act of zipping her lips closed.

“As we were saying, ‘Soul Lock’ was created. However, the technology never made it to the mainstream markets because of the wars. People lost interest, even though having those chips would have made family separations and lost history more accessible.”

One voice stopped, and another picked up the thread.

“Years passed, and a young man named Gregory Wole landed on our doorstep, begging to see Her Ladyship. He claimed that he not only revived the Soul Lock technology, but had in fact improved it. Her Ladyship grated him an audience, but was more taken with the man than his work.”

Impatiently, Xen fidgeted, hoping that Councilor would hurry and get to the point before she lost all feeling in her lower body. Concrete floors and her butt just did not make a good combination. Sighing, she returned her attention to the story. It sure was hard to focus when you had nothing to focus on.

“… called his invention ‘Mind Sweeper’ after some old game. While it was a vast improvement, the side effects were decidedly unpleasant. Complaints of nausea, headaches, and vertigo came pouring in. Some even stated missing time and memories, which was to be expected as that was the whole point of ‘Mind Sweeper.’ It was a not a sight collector, but a memory collector. The nanos that were released upon implantation of the chip literally ate your memories, and sent them via satellite to a Vault. Her Ladyship was incensed, and ordered the program terminated. Gregory was to be arrested.”

“But that never happened, right?” Xen thought she knew this part of the story.

“Correct. Her Ladyship took to her bed, ill with headaches and dizziness. Gregory Wole vanished.”

“Bastard.”

“Sometime later, after you were born, the opposition to the femarchy, as they called your family line, boasted of a new, dangerous leader. They said that he, and he alone, could control minds, and knew everything about everyone. They were afraid of him, yet they worshiped him. He was their god. He called himself Grimwold, and his goal was to destroy us.”

“Still is,” she spat.

“Yes, but we now have a weapon. We have the technology to counter his.”

“Really?” Xen perked up. “What is it?”

“It’s you, My Lady.”

Xenobia laughed. “Oh, that was a good one. Seriously, what is it?”

“This is no laughing matter, Lady.” As the words came, the air directly in front of her face shimmered. A ghostly figure appeared before her, sitting cross-legged on the floor, mirroring her.

“Oh my god.” Xen lifted her hand, and reached towards the image. Her fingertips brushed, then passed through the woman on the floor. “Oh my god.”

“Holographic projection. We told you that we are inside the mainframe, but that is not entirely true. The program originates here, but we are everywhere and nowhere. We are part of the fabric of the net now.”

“How is this possible?”

“The night you were taken, when Grimwold’s men came. We’d been secretly working on this machine for months. It was about ninety percent functional at the time. When they ‘killed’ us, they did not bother to ensure that we were actually dead. Our heart had not stopped, and our brain still functioned. We simply gave the nanos free reign to eat all they wanted. When they tried to transmit to the Vault, we blocked the passage and rerouted everything back here.”

“Vault?” Xen whispered. “You have Mind Sweeper in you? Or rather, you did…”

“Yes. And you do, too. The difference is, you were born with it. And when Grimwold implanted the chip in your hand, he unknowingly left open a back door for us.”

“He’s been tracking you all along, hoping to glean your plans from your mind. We’ve been sending him false data.”

“We can take care of him once and for all, but we need your consent.”

“My consent? You’ve been inside my head, literally, and now you’re asking for my consent?”

“You must understand, Xenobia. It is our job to protect you.”

“Like you protected my mother.”

Silence.

“Oh, so now you have nothing to say?” Xen challenged.

“What’s more important, Xenobia? The City, or your lost mother? And she’s not truly lost, either. Haven’t you listened to a thing we’ve said? We can access her memories, from the time she met Grimwold to the time she died. If you want them, they’re yours. But we need you in order to keep The City safe from Grimwold and his band of ragtag warriors.”

Tears that had been locked away now flowed. Xen looked down, hoping that Councilor could not see her face. Her shoulders shook as she struggled to regain her composure. Forgetting the lack of solidity, the transparent woman sat forward and tried to grasp the crying woman’s hand. Xen jerked her hand away as if she’d been shocked.

Without lifting her head, she said, “All of them.”

“All of what?” The figure cocked its head, confused.

“My mother’s memories. I want all of them.”

“You’ll have them. We swear.”

“Then tell me what I need to do.

 

Part 3

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