A Protracted Game: 1.1.10f

Hoshi felt a need to understand what it was the Collaborative wanted from her. She knew Aurora would be her way into the Collaborative’s secure network.

A Protracted Game: 1.1.10f
If you haven't read the Previous Chapter, please do so before starting this new installment. If you'd like to read this installment on your favorite e-reader or would like to print it out, in order to save your eyes from strain, see the directions under "Read First" for an offline copy of this installment (and others). Happy reading! —G. Michael Rapp
Note. 1.1.10 will be a ten-part installment, featured over the span of two or three weeks, depending on what comes up on my end. Those installments will be featured on RoyalRoad, on Substack, on Wattpad, and on this Website.

Hoshi felt a need to understand what it was the Collaborative wanted from her. She knew Aurora would be her way into the Collaborative’s secure network. While Aurora would usually scoff at an opportunity to break into something, she felt such things were below here, Aurora had taken a keen interest in breaking into the enigma that was the Subaru Collaborative. Aurora found an ingenious method, something that required a good deal of engineering on Aurora’s part.

Her skein had injected Hoshi with a special serum. “Best not to ask,” Aurora said, through her skein. “Plausible deniability and all, you know.”

“What does it do?” Hoshi asked, rubbing the injection site with her hand.

“Let’s just say,” Aurora began. ”It’ll offer an in that the Collaborative won’t expect. I won’t say any more—that is, until you’ve come back. It may not be successful. It may, in fact, be easily defeated by their internal security apparatuses. Call it my Hail, Mary.”

When Hoshi left the Somnium for the first time, in nearly two decades, the thought she had wasn’t on Aurora’s hacking weaponry. Instead, she was focused on other things. She preferred to dream about the Wasteland, her home. Although she’d been exiled by the Game Masters nearly two standard decades before, she still dreamt of its virtual wastes, its virtual heat, and its very real and unreal peoples.

Hoshi felt differently when she left the planetoid. She’d expected to be treated more like a client and less like some estranged member of an eclectic family. As Hoshi approached the Somnium, Aurora chimed in, appearing in Hoshi’s peripheral vision.

“I’ve got something you’re probably not expecting,” she said to Hoshi.

“What?” Hoshi asked, feeling a bit disoriented.

“My hack worked, Hoshi,” Aurora reported. Her spectral form had been updated since their last meeting. Probably from the latest outward traffic. It wasn’t hard to get updates from sunward, but it meant Hoshi’d taken days, possibly weeks to get back from conveyance.

“They’re a derivative of someone known as the Founder,” Aurora continued. “If my math is correct, the Founder could be Ishmael. At least that was his username when our information verse was much smaller and less spread out. Ishmael is your genetic ancestor. His DNA is stored on the planetoid and elsewhere. The only thing is, they don’t know, exactly, how many of you so-called splinterings exist. You could be the only one, or one of millions. The Founder was a bit paranoid, even with his own organization.”

“What does this mean for me, Aurora?” Hoshi asked, feeling a bit annoyed with Aurora.

“I don’t know,” Aurora admitted, a puzzled look scrawled across her face. “I’m working on that. We have some leverage at least. I have begun deploying, secretly I might add, communications buoys, in order to transmit data toward a secure trunk line. The data couriers will deliver it to us once we get to Mars. I should have enough information on them by then—again, if all goes well.”

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