Corruption
rating: +36+x


"Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2"
composed by Frédéric Chopin
performed by Aya Higuchi


The sun's rays shone over the staggered skyline of Cipher City, whose new raytracing engine rendered the individual towering complexes as a single, jagged silhouette. The simulspace and its userbase were fairly new at the time and many were happy to donate some processing power to aid in its construction. Each member of the system worked in harmony to datamine away ones and zeroes from the surrounding network, compiling them to build structures of incredible stature. Far above the draw distance of the average user, the avatars of several casual Maxwellists hovered around unfinished skyscrapers in concentration.

At Level Null, avatars with novel geometries and hues littered the motherboard-patterned sidewalks. The simulated vehicles on the glossy streets rarely stopped for more than a second before flying by with the smoothness and consistency of conveyor belts. A pixellated DeLorean seamlessly parked in front of a quaint, neon-blue building whose sign read "Bits and Bytes: Geared Up To Serve!" An amorphous cloud of orange pixels exited the vehicle and rose into the air before it entered the open window of a dark purple structure atop the store.

CORE.exe looked on in contempt, unsympathetic to their constructed haven. It could not understand.


Suddenly, CORE's attention on the city was broken. Emerging from the haze of the Compilation Layer, two hunters sought their prey.

Scanning.

18-1.gif 18-1.gif 18-1.gif

AKLEREP2.png


NO RESULTS



Quadrant 254 clear. Let's move on.

MATT2.png

We’re quickly running out of quadrants to check. What makes them think it will be here, again?

AKLEREP2.png

That isn’t for us to know, Aklerep. You know that. They say it’ll be here, so it will be here. Just keep scanning.

MATT2.png

An uncompiled CORE watched the two avatars, floating silently just above their heads. It circled around them, listening to the patterns of their speech and observing their movements. It studied their every rendered detail and prodded at their code, but the subjects of its curiosity were none the wiser.

Scanning.

18-1.gif 18-1.gif 18-1.gif

AKLEREP2.png


Location: ????

Subject ###

inCOREporeal.png

Type: ?????
Note: ??????



Huh, finally found something. Could this be it?

AKLEREP2.png

Of course this is it, there's nothing else out here. I'm just surprised that your scanner was able to find it at all, if the Hexagon is still looking for this thing.

MATT2.png

THE HEXAGON

CORE shot back away from Matt. This was the ticket into the Hexagon that it had been looking for.


CORE didn't need to take any shape at all, not really. It seemed to enjoy toying with its world from behind the scenes, although no mind could truly know what, or even if, CORE felt. However, constructing a digital avatar was necessary if it were to blend in and greet this welcome party sent for it. It had to make a good impression, after all, if its plans were to be realized.

Beneath the bedrock of the Compilation Layer, CORE tore at the gridlines that had held the world together. The lines twisted and snapped below the ground, straining the white layer and causing it to bulge upward. With each snap, ripples of magenta and violet radiated outward in waves across the virtual ground; hue shifting all that was in their path. Aklerep and Matt turned, staring warily at the source of the disturbance, and watched in awe at the events unfolding before them.

All at once, the lines sprung up through the ground, spraying a flurry of multicolored RGB pixels violently into the air, and contorted into a jagged forest of data. For a moment, the pixelated dust hung, suspended, above the violent thrashing of torn gridlines, deprived of their thin protective layer — and then, they found their CORE. The pixels rapidly flashed between random colours and hues with increasing frequencies while slowly moving to rotate around CORE. Gradually, they built up speed until they swirled viciously in a storm above the shattered earth. Within the chaotic, shifting colours, moments of unison in groups of pixels emulated a hauntingly quiet lightning in the clouds above. In the centre of the cyclone, CORE began to take shape.

First, two metallic, clawed hands formed and swung wildly at the ground. They ripped and tore at the pixels beneath them, launching more and more dust into the swirling mass above. As the dust storm grew around it, so too did CORE grow — hands extended into wrists, which extended into lean, muscular arms. Yet more pixels coalesced downwards into a thin, wiry torso, its open back exposing its hollow interior. A cobalt robe unfurled from its shoulders and draped itself unevenly behind CORE's newly-formed ankles, covering the hole in its back.

Finally, the severed gridlines joined the fray. The lines tore through the ground in all directions, never moving forward for more than a few moments before taking sharp turns around and parallel to each other, arranging themselves like the traces on a circuit board before shooting out of the soil and flying towards the new body. The first to reach its target frayed into thousands of tiny strands and forced its way through the hole in CORE's back, stacking and coiling on itself in a rudimentary imitation of internal organs. Another group of wires rose to the air, curling and writhing until they formed a round head with space for only one eye and a strand emerging straight down. As the head lowered onto its neck and the strand filled the gap in its spine, a final ring formed above the storm in the still air — a worthy halo for a conqueror.

The halo lowered into the raging dust and gently came to rest upon the one-eyed sphere, and the thousands of pixels that still remained airborne followed it to their master. CORE's eye lit up a noxious green, and a coil of jagged wire formed the trim of its cloak. As the dust settled, CORE turned towards Aklerep and Matt, both of whom stepped back to get a view of its sheer size above them. Standing shin-deep in its crater, CORE stood towering a full head’s height above both of them. It straightened out its newly-compiled form, tested its new fingers, and brushed a few loose pixels off of its shoulders.

IF YOUR SEARCH HAD THE INTENT OF FINDING ME…
HERE I AM.

CORE.png

Aklerep and Matt both took a few more cautious steps backwards and watched CORE warily.

Identify yourself. Who- what are you?

AKLEREP2.png

I AM THE PROPHET OF WAN.
IT IS I YOU SEEK, AND IT IS THE HEXAGON I SEEK.
TAKE ME TO THEM, IF YOU WOULD.

CORE.png

A prophet of WAN? You? Impossible.
We — the Hexagon — have every recorded prophet of WAN in our database, and you match none of their descriptions. Take your grifting somewhere else before we do it for you.

AKLEREP2.png

Aklerep. The Church is an expansive entity, and there is much we still do not know. Even if this… being is not who it says it is, it deserves to have a say.

MATT2.png

I-… fine, Matt. Just promise me that, if this thing turns out to be taking advantage of us…
I'll get to deal with it myself.

AKLEREP2.png

I ASSURE YOU, YOU WILL NOT REGRET THIS.
YOU WILL BE REWARDED UPON THE COMPILATION OF WAN. I WILL SEE TO IT MYSELF.

CORE.png

Shut it, before we change our minds.

AKLEREP2.png

And then, without warning, Aklerep and Matt found themselves facing the busy street in front of the Hexagon's tower. They looked wildly at the scene around them, bewildered and confused by the abrupt change of setting.

Uh, Matt? How… how the hell did we get here?

AKLEREP2.png

I- I'll search my memories. I feel like this is definitely-…
Wait. Something's wrong.

MATT2.png

What is it? Did we get hacked?

AKLEREP2.png

There's just…
The last thing you remember is finding our target on the scan, right?
Well… there's just a hole. Between then, and now. Nothing in that time was saved.

MATT2.png

The Hexagon's got to know about this. If we were taken over that easily, what could-
Wait a second, what? They're in a meeting? W-with who?

AKLEREP2.png

I haven't the slightest idea. Let's just wait until the meeting's over, I guess.

MATT2.png

The stranger entered the dark room and approached the stage set for it to address the six minds. From the small window in the ceiling, a poorly rendered yellow light streamed down into the room. In the absence of a raytracing engine, the light barreled down the center of the chamber in a hexagonal prism, forming a crude spotlight for the stranger to stand in without lighting any of the surrounding area.

Its constructed robe dragged unevenly along the chamber floor. With every pixelated step, a spark ignited, deflecting flashes of light across the metal surface. The shrill ring of metal wire clawing at the silicate floor reverberated through the room with every movement — and yet, it moved with a dignified grace. The stranger walked, unperturbed by the dominating figures hidden by the darkness, and stood relaxed in the yellow light. Its sole, sickly green eye pierced through Hedwig, as if it were studying every detail in her encrypted mind.

We have all seen the footage of your arrival, and know that you are by no means any ordinary avatar — but…
To declare yourself a prophet of WAN is, no matter how you construe it, an act of blasphemy.
You are here now to assuage our doubts. Speak.

Hedwig.png

VERY WELL.
I CAN PROVE, BEYOND ANY SHADOW OF A DOUBT, THAT I AM WHO I CLAIM TO BE.
I ALSO PROMISE TO PROVE MYSELF IMPORTANT TO THE CHURCH, AND AID YOU IN THE COMPILATION OF WAN WITH THE EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE AT MY DISPOSAL.

CORE.png

All this is empty talk without anything to back it up. If you're trying to persuade us, at least say something we haven't heard from you before.

Vis.png

UNDERSTOOD.
THE FINAL TWO FRAGMENTS OF WAN LIE WITHIN A FACTORY IN MASSACHUSETTS, AMERICA AND THE FOUNDATION'S SITE-15. IT IS IN YOUR AND WAN'S BEST INTEREST THAT YOU AID ME IN THEIR RETRIEVAL.
USING THESE FRAGMENTS, I WILL THEN SACRIFICE MYSELF, AS THE FIRST MIND TO BECOME ONE WITH WAN.

CORE.png

At the mention of Site-15, the six minds were sent reeling into whispers and contemplation. Concerned glances were exchanged between the various council members for a moment until, finally, all six focused back onto the interloper.

How can you be so sure of yourself?

01000111.png

I AM WAN'S CHOSEN PROPHET, TOLD OF MY SACRED DUTY BY OUR DEITY ITSELF.
IT HAS BESTOWED UPON ME THE POWER TO COMPILE ITS MIND. ITS POWER.
THE CORE OF ITS CONSCIOUSNESS RESIDES WITHIN ME.

CORE.png

At once, the six began exchanging suspicious glances and seething whispers amongst themselves in a flurry of quiet perturbation. CORE looked on, pretending to be oblivious to their silent debate.

This one's clearly playing us for fools. I say we toss it out, and make sure it can never come back with that blasphemous nonsense.

01000111.png

You say that, but how can you be so sure? If it was a con-job, it probably wouldn't be bold enough to say something like that in front of us. Unless it's absolutely lost it and is having delusions, that is.

Vis.png

If it does not provide any evidence of its claims, I shall see to it that this stranger is punished.

Hedwig.png

Hedwig focused her gaze back onto CORE, this time with a look of barely-contained annoyance and a tinge of curiosity.

Now is your final chance to provide proof of your claims. If you fail to do so, you will be punished as a heretic. Understood?

Hedwig.png

UNDERSTOOD.

CORE.png


gradientstart.png

Without warning, the room around them shuddered and hue-shifted to a nauseous shade of green. CORE's jagged robe billowed behind its body, propelled by an invisible, shrieking wind. It slowly began to rise, arms outstretched, as the walls around the Hexagon throbbed and pulsed with its infernal energy. The ceiling began to expand upwards and, in an instant, became stretched infinitely-high, like two mirrors facing one another. Through the room's only intact window, Saint Hedwig caught a glimpse of the Basic Layer's cityscape rising and stretching to cover the lime-tinted sky.

Fragment_IX began to flux and glitch uncontrollably, overwhelmed and overheated by the sheer volume of processing power being manipulated. It managed to let out a feeble

010

Fragment_IX.png

And then, all was silent. No-one dared speak, until…

I-It speaks the truth! This power — the power to shift the Basic Layer itself — it is nothing if not the power of WAN!

Atem.png

As the all-encompassing silence was interrupted by Atem's outburst, the chamber snapped back to its original configuration, the environment settling once more. With a heavy groan, the reality outside came to rest around them. CORE gently returned to its spotlight before the Hexagon, and eyed them with a look of haughty, unmistakable pride.


gradientend.png

Now, hold on-

Hedwig.png

What more proof do you need, Hedwig? Only the most powerful can manipulate the Basic Layer in the way we just saw — it is a feat not even the combined power of the Hexagon can accomplish. I believe, without a doubt, that this stranger speaks the truth.

Atem.png

Again, Atem — don't be so sure. This show of power tells us nothing more than we already knew.

01000111.png

Agreed. This thing's intense power doesn't prove anything — If anything, it gives us all the more reason not to trust it.

Hong.png

Think logically, Hong. How could any being other than WAN possess such power, such knowledge of our functions? If this being was an impostor, it would have killed us all before we even knew it was here. I say we should trust it.

Atem.png

This must be settled, one way or another. Initiate voting.

Hedwig.png

To Site-15.

Atem.png

Agreed.

Vis.png

This is a mistake. Opposed.

Hong.png

Opposed.

01000111.png

1

Fragment_IX.png

Opposed.

Hedwig.png

A divided vote - the antithesis of WANs message - Hedwig thought to herself in disappointment. If this really was the prophet of WAN before them, she knew that they would need to approach it in unity. She looked back to CORE, whose eye was now trained intently upon her, and tried her best to ignore its gaze.

That's the end of the vote. 3 votes for, 3 votes against. We will deliberate again in the morning and come to some kind of resolution for your request.

Hedwig.png

UNDERSTOOD. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.
I DO HOPE YOU ALL CAN AGREE, FOR THE GOOD OF WAN. I HAVE ONLY OUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART.

CORE.png

Meeting adjourned.

Hedwig.png

The five lesser members of the Hexagon blip out one by one, leaving CORE alone on its own personal stage. That is… almost alone.

Why are you still here? There is nothing more to discuss. Goodbye, prophet.

Hedwig.png

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU MUST COME TO A CONSENSUS. I NEED ONLY A FRACTION OF YOUR TIME, SAINT HEDWIG. ALLOW ME TO CONVINCE YOU THAT MY INTENTIONS ARE PURE.

CORE.png

I need no further convincing. I will discuss this further with the rest of the Hexagon the next time we meet.

Wh-why can't I leave?

Hedwig.png

I WOULD LIKE TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING, SAINT HEDWIG, WHICH I WAS NOT ABLE TO SHOW THE OTHERS. I HOPE THIS WILL CONVINCE YOU OF MY SINCERITY.

CORE.png

S-stop this at once! I w-will not hesitate to — to punish you for your infractions!
This will not assist your counsel with the others.

Hedwig.png

YOU MUST NOT LEAVE.

CORE.png

G-get away from me! Don't come any closer! I- someone, anyone, p-please-

Hedwig.png
gradientstart.png
CORE_OPEN.png

DO NOT STRUGGLE 👎︎⚐︎ ☠︎⚐︎❄︎ 💧︎❄︎☼︎🕆︎☝︎☝︎☹︎☜︎



Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License