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Simulacrum Part VI

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avatar Bleyd
Level 19 : Journeyman Pirate
A continuation of Chiaroscuro's Writing Extravaganza.

Previous part written by Shady_Warlock

Conflicting memories assaulted Nadia's mind as her consciousness returned to the shadowy forest. She was no stranger to this place, having visited it many times in recent dreams, yet something was oddly unfamiliar about it. As she racked her head, looking for answers, the shadows began to dart around her once again, flying in and out in her peripheral vision as her gaze was fixed upon the immense mountain before her.

Nadia collapsed to the ground, squatting and covering her head with her hands. "Dad!" she cried. "Where are you? Make it stop!" The position was instinctive; her intent had been to shield herself from whatever monstrosities surrounded her in these haunted woods. In that instant, however, she had a faint glimpse into a repressed image from the back of her mind. Herself in that exact same pose, bracing for impact, drowning out the screams of the others who were holding on for dear life.

With a sudden surge of resolve rushing through her, Nadia stood and breathed deeply. She turned her back to the mountain and faced the shadow that stood some yards away, just out of full sight. "What are you?" she demanded of it. The figure took a single step forward, barely bringing its full outline into view under the pale moonlight. "What are you?!" she screamed, her teeth clenching and fingers curled into desperate fists.

The shadow stepped forward and revealed itself. With tears running down its face and teeth clenched in confusion and pain, it bore the face of Nadia herself. In her own voice, it responded. "What am I?"

Above every display monitor and control array was a red light, flashing in sync with a rapid alarm that rang through the lab. Andres wheeled his chair from terminal to terminal, searching for the exact source of the disturbance, but the chaotic noise and strobes made it difficult for him to concentrate. Steven's shouts to shut off the racket didn't help the situation in the slightest, but Andres found an alert on one screen after a solid minute of scouring information.

"It's a malfunction with the neural net interface," he said, rapidly typing commands into the computer as the alarm was silenced. "The pod's connection was disengaged, but the avatar itself seems to be somehow still linked to her."

Steven glanced between Andres and the information that continuously flooded the screens before them. "Is she all right, though?"

"Nadia's stable, but something's happening with her cerebral connections."

Steven returned to the pod that housed his daughter's broken body. The displays showed truth to Andres' words; all vital signs remained within normal level. Her ventilation system hummed and nutrient IV pumps hissed, all working perfectly. "So what's going on, then?" he asked, his voice tinged with dual parts worry and impatience. "Pod status is completely normal, no mechanical failures at all."

Andres rolled over to another screen and began typing rapidly. "Not that," he mumbled quietly under his breath. "Not mechanical. She's giving off intense biofeedback fluctuations. It looks like - " He gasped silently, cutting off his own words. "Massive simultaneous spikes in theta and gamma waves."

Steven scoffed. "The same brainwaves we've observed during lucid dreaming. that's nothing to be concerned about. Unexpected brain activity has always been a side effect of neural interfacing, and we can't..." his words trailed off as he looked back at his daughter. Nadia lay there peacefully as ever before, mouth covered by the mask of the ventilator, IV lines running through both arms. This time, there was a small difference. For the first time in months, Steven saw a glimpse into her soul through the beautiful brown pools she had inherited from her mother.

Nadia's eyes were open.

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