Day 97. 107 pages, 45,661 words.
For a few moments as she dropped into the deepest part of the archive depression, Predericon seemed to float. Her perception slowed and narrowed sharply, and she watched her feet and legs descend into the dark hole in the centre of the floor with a sort of detached fascination.
This, she was aware from her studies of the archive, was a side-effect of recursive infospace, and she did her best to ignore it. It was not relevant to her, and getting caught up and distracted by it could prove far more immersive and dangerous than her deep dives through the rest of the lower archives. She risked permanently dislocating her senses into an inefficient analogy of computer-time in the fleeting moments it took her to fall through it, and would simply snuff out by way of severe aneurysm the instant she passed through to Segment Thirteen.
Not a bad way to go … but not particularly nice, either, when one considered subjective time-lag. And in any case, she had no intention of going at all.
That final plunge, into the densest part of the archive’s illumination, was disorienting but not as difficult to bypass as she’d expected. She was quite well-travelled by this stage, and her experience had left her ready for the alluring tangle. The data in the archive light was folded and refolded, condensed and recondensed, until it hit a semi-infinite recursive limit that was at once a nonsense roar and a blinding glare through which Predericon seemed to drift. It was only a split-second, however, while the platform’s gravity drew her meat downwards. A final shriek of knowback, a gentle ringing in her ears, and she was through.
She landed in gloom, rather than the pitch black she’d expected, after a drop of only about six metres. Her boots connected with the floor and she absorbed the impact easily, even though the pack across her shoulders was heavy and she’d had no real idea what to expect.
If anything, upon leaping she’d really just expected to tumble away into a bottomless chasm. Nonsensical, considering that she was still inside the platform and Segment Thirteen could only be so large. Still, with the potential to completely shut off illumination and taking into account the fact that the Destarion had thorough control over her interior structure and environment, she didn’t think it had been an unreasonable expectation.
She looked around. She was standing in a chamber with a smooth, featureless floor, the walls dimly visible all the way around and a darker blot on two opposing sides that were probably doorways. The source of the illumination, obviously, was the circle of white archive-light through which she had just dropped, acting like a lamp in the ceiling even as it had appeared as a black hole in the floor from the other side. As she studied the room, such as it was, the light was gently eclipsed – not so much that she was plunged into darkness, but the shadows around the walls and the darkness of the doorways seemed to gather a little closer. She looked up.
The Bookwyrm was standing on the barrier between Segment Twelve and Segment Thirteen, its narrow feet planted on the white light like it was a circle of invisible glass. The strange being looked down between its feet at her, but did not react when she raised a hand in acknowledgement. She reminded herself that the barrier was solid darkness from that side – and the Bookwyrm might be blocked by other, non-physiological means from seeing into this Segment as well. It had known nothing about what existed beyond recursive infospace, after all, referring to Segment Thirteen simply as ‘the darkness’.
Lowering her hand, Predericon looked around again. The Bookwyrm, she reflected, hadn’t necessarily been wrong. Although the floor and walls here appeared to be the same pale enamel as everywhere else on the platform, the circle of white datalight from the archives was the only illumination. The edges of the chamber, and the doors leading off, were certainly dark.
The ceiling, and the opening back to Segment Twelve, was too far for her to jump and catch with her hands – not even if she took off her pack, which she was pleased to find was still heavy with the Bookwyrm’s nutritious cakes – in the unlikely event she even could simply pull herself back out into the archive. Doing so was just as likely to fry her neurons as she re-entered the high-intensity folded data from the wrong direction, anyway.
There was no sign of Lelhmak or Gyden … but then, as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she saw a glowing phosphorescent marking on the side of one of the doorways. The Xidh character Laz.
Smiling, Predericon shifted the pack on her upper shoulders and started into the pitch-black tunnel.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.