The Abyss 5.7

Gaining access to the Exchange felt like engaging a hack in Cyberspace. No, Alan decided, the process was exactly like engaging a hack in Cyberspace. As Alan formed the connection a tunnel bridged the Citadel to a floating platform.

Both sets of instructions told Alan to get onto the platform. The only way he could do that, however, was to deactivate commander mode and exit the safety of his base. In Cyberspace. Where, if he was killed, his mind would suffer permanent damage.

Lambda and Eve materialized at the entrance of his Citadel. They too could be lost if they were killed and Alan failed to recover their core data. Eve took the appearance of a valkyrie with twin blades, a raven haired beauty. Lambda looked like a young Predecessor, the size of a normal human. He still packed quite the punch.

In Cyberspace Alan’s equipment was a set of Revenant Scout Armor that had been converted from a Forge file, a laser sword taken from a basic soldier unit, and a laser sniper rifle that had been converted from a slain enemy AI.

Alan took out the blue nameplate that Cerberus had gifted him, it hovered above his head. He also grabbed the three golden keys Cerberus had sent. Lambda and Eve placed their own grey nameplates above their heads. The three of them walked toward the floating platform. They all erased the names entered onto their nameplates, so that they would remain anonymous.

The floating platform Alan connected to was small, the size of an elevator, and had a tiled floor. A single panel was connected to the floor like a signpost. On the panel were over sixty buttons, eight rows of eight. The first four rows were white, red, green and blue in color. The last four rows were grey, inaccessible to Alan at this time.

Once Alan was on the floating platform, a message appeared:

[Revenant Initiate and two AI acknowledged. Welcome to Loading Platform 398237C. Please remember to note your loading zone. Choose your destination.]

Void’s instructions said to meet under the Gods of the Stars in Red 3, so Alan pressed the red button labeled 3 on the panel.

A message appeared:

[Welcome to the Exchange, Phase Red 3]

An entire city phased into existence all around Alan. It appeared to be a smaller, twisted mirror image of Khersath, with a central market square and blocks of buildings on every side. Khersath’s streets were uniform, orderly square city blocks, but the Exchange’s streets turned and twisted every which way, up and down, side to side, intersecting each other at random intervals. A rainbow road stretched out to Alan’s right. It ascended, up into the air. Buildings, colorful explosions of chaos, were placed along the side of the road every which way, in odd, multifaceted shapes, just floating in space. Nothing held the road or buildings afloat, this place certainly did not conform to the rules of physics.

“Man, it’s been a while,” Lambda said as they looked around.

Eve also scanned their surroundings, hands gripped tightly on her twin swords.

Alan took stock of the situation. He was standing on the same platform, with the same panel, with a few hundred similar panels surrounding him. He stood where the market square would have been on Khersath. A few of the other panels were being operated, with Players and AI’s phasing in and out of existence at the press of a button, but for the most part the place felt empty.

Alan tried to think a question, but then realized Lambda and Eve were no longer in his head. They were here, standing next to him. “What just happened?” Alan asked.

“You entered phase,” Lambda said. He gestured at the elevator-like panel. “Think of each phase as a floor on a building. The Exchange is composed of these 64 floors, along with a number of hidden, member-only levels. If my memory serves me, the Red Phase generally involves entertainment.”

“But we never walked anywhere, we didn’t even move,” Alan said. “I just pushed a button.”

“Remember you are in a digital space,” Lambda said. “The Game conforms itself to reality, making you walk from point A to point B. The Exchange does not. It allows for different layers of reality.

“Think of it this way. Imagine you made two copies of the Earth, Earth A and Earth B, but you can only see or interact with the copy you are in phase with. If you blew up the White House in Earth A, you could phase to Earth B, and the White House would still be there. But as soon as you phased back to Earth A, it would be destroyed. These phases are digital alternate realities, copies of the same base structure.”

“So I’ll always appear in the same area I phase in and out of?” Alan asked. He walked up to another panel to the side.

“Sort of. Yes, your location is locked down, but what’s there in one phase, as compared to another, can be vastly different,” Lambda said. “In one phase, happy metropolis. In the next, toxic wasteland. There are locks on these phase-gates to ensure no one can phase into someone else, or somewhere dangerous.” He pointed to a bright red button at the top of the panel that was lit up.

“Let us proceed to our destination,” Eve said.

“Right,” Lambda said. “If I remember correctly, the Gods of the Stars sculpture is on Rainbow Lane.” He set off towards the rainbow road.

Alan followed along. Most of the other beings walking the streets in the Exchange were AI, as they had grey nameplates hovering above their heads. Many looked like clones of Administrators, with plain synthetic bodies, while others were mechs of various shapes and sizes. Few had lifelike avatars of flesh and blood like Lambda and Eve, though many of these Alan would have been certain were Players if not for their grey nameplates.

The street they were walking along didn’t help Alan get used to the oddness of his surroundings. The buildings all seemed to advertise children’s TV shows, with cute, cuddly and colorful mascots. Bright neon signs held encouraging messages like, “Carry on!” or “Never Give Up!” It was certainly not a place Alan expected to be part of the anarchistic, secretive Revenant society. Where was the advanced technology?

In a few minutes Alan found himself standing below a starry sky, fiery models of yellow, white, and blue. They ranged from the size of a speck of light to spheres with radii larger than Alan. When concentrated on, a star would light up with a silhouette of faces and figures, shifting from one to the next. What it all meant or was for, Alan was not sure.

“Oh, looks like they added your sun,” Lambda said. He pointed up at a small yellow light the size of a marble.

Alan looked at it. It showed the silhouette of numerous men and women, but few were recognizable by shape alone. And then Alan saw something he did recognize, the outline of a cartoon mouse.

“Wait, the Gods of the Stars, like entertainment gods?” Alan asked.

“Yes,” Void said. Alan spun around. Void stood there, with Phantom and Enigma trailing behind. Both Phantom and Enigma wore basic Revenant armor. Enigma had a grey nameplate, Phantom green. Void, however, was dressed in what looked like a semi-realistic rabbit fursuit. He had large tufted ears, a white cottontail in the shape of a star, and a grey fur suit vest. He held a bright orange cane.

“Like I said, you’d go mad before you figured Void out,” Phantom said. “Don’t bother.”

“I wear the official regalia of the Lord Fluffington,” Void said. Void had a blue nameplate to his side, it read Revenant Agent, Unknown Species.

“But you’re worshipping these what, these cartoon characters?” Alan asked.

“Worship might be too far an extreme for petty gods like these, but what else would you call extreme devotion?” Void asked. “As a child, is there anything that brings greater wonder? Those feelings of awe, of worship and reverence, are still there for many of the characters that shaped your view of the world. And what we see often becomes our reality. Are these beings therefore not the shapers of reality, the aspects of hidden worlds and emanations of childlike wonder?”

“To make a religion of it seems to be going a bit too far,” Alan said.

“These places are like an evolution of a fan club,” Void said. “An odd evolution, to be sure, but not as odd as you might think, young Alan. If you yet grow old you’ll likely find comfort in the soft tales of childhood. I understand the limited perspectives of the non-believers to not recognize the symbolism of the fickle nature of faith, but speak no more for we are here.”

Void stood before a tunnel, extending off the side of the road. Alan hadn’t seen it before, the entrance was a small brown hole that would easily go unnoticed next to all the swirling colors.

As they had been walking up, into space and the air, Alan thought it was odd that there was an open tunnel into the ground. Alan then stopped, and re-examined his surroundings. They were now on a level plane, with green grassy plains extending in every direction. The rainbow road led forwards and back, but Alan swore they had been walking uphill-

“Don’t over think it,” Void said. “Come, we have much to do.” He started walking down the tunnel. Everyone followed behind.

A message appeared:

[Entering Sub-phase.]

Though there were no apparent light sources, the tunnel remained bright. The surrounding dirt walls did not feel foreboding or dangerous, but homely and comforting.

Phantom muttered something. Alan didn’t quite catch it, but heard the words dreamland and nightmare.

They arrived at a series of round, dark green doors on either side of the tunnel. Void tapped his cane on one. It opened, revealing an interior living room extending far beyond the bounds of the tunnel.

A man in attire similar to Void stood inside. “No, I will not aid your madness.” The door closed.

Void shrugged then walked up to the next, door, and knocked.

A similar response, though the inhabitant this time was a young lady that called Void a monster.

Alan watched as Void knocked on fifty odd doors. Each inhabitant, opened the door, called Void a name, and then slammed their door shut.

“My, this matter must be more important than I thought,” was Void’s only remark.

They arrived at the end of a hallway. The door opened itself. A ball of mist opened the door. At least that’s what it looked like to Alan. He couldn’t get a look at whatever the thing was that stood at the doorway.

“Void,” the ball of mist said. It sounded elderly.

“Sir, I was hoping you might be able to aid us in receiving an audience with Prometheus,” Void said. “I was also hoping you might be able to fill me in on what is going on.”

“Void, you know I’m too old to get into politics. The great machinery turns on, but I’ve retired to greener pastures. My days in the spotlight have passed.”

“But, sir…” Void stopped talking.

“It is dangerous enough to bring them here. As you suspect this is a great matter, the repercussions will be felt far beyond the Game, into the inner Network itself. But I, and many others, feel as though it is a necessary change. We have stagnated far too long. Look around. Even as our borders are tested, the network grows, but what is it used for? Fantasy and play. We have lost our way.”

“Then will you not help?” Void asked.

The mist bobbed up and down.

“No. You have the help you need. Any more interference will only draw greater attention from the Authorities. Godspeed.” The door shut itself, and there was a flash of light.

Alan found himself, and the rest of the party, standing on Rainbow Lane. The tunnel was nowhere to be seen.

49 comments on “The Abyss 5.7

  1. Ephemerality says:

    I know this chapter is a bit short, and likely confusing. I may have overestimated my ability to get a chapter a day out, but at the same time I have more of the Exchange planned/figured out now, so next chapters will hopefully be easier to write. Writing is an odd thing, things that you expect to flow and come easily don’t, while other things you expect to be hard are easy. Or maybe that’s just life.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Cosmino,

      Thanks for the chapter, quick question for you:

      “In Cyberspace Alan’s equipment was a set of Revenant Scout Armor that had been converted from a Forge file, a laser sword taken from a basic soldier unit, and a laser sniper rifle that had been converted from a slain enemy AI.”

      The Sniper Rifle they mention here is the one he has been building in the Armory since the Stock Exchange hack right? So the process has finished and he now has a Sniper in Cyberspace? Just want to clarify – I know he stopped the process of decrypting the Sniper when he brought those black cubes in so he could process them.

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bart says:

      That’s kind of life, for most things, especially creative endeavors that aren’t really rote. You have to budget more time than you’ll need if you want to finish early.

      Thanks for the chapter, I’m loving it!🙂

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Alice in wonderland ! sorry for being rude again but you are just using promises to preparing the terrain for the release of the book because of the lack of enthousiam f supporters and the degradation in classement ( rrl and topfiction) . Man i love your work but i hate the way you use “promises” just be sincere a lot of readers would be more supporting you were more sincere . Sorry again for this displeasant comment

      Like

    • milieu says:

      Thanks for the new chapter!

      Void was involved, confusion is to be expected.

      Looking forward to the next one.

      Like

    • ER1 says:

      Hey – General outline of the action, and then let your stream of consciousness write. Jim Butcher just has the three actions he wants in each chapter, the highlight of the book, some subplots for the next book and then backs into the writing each chapter. In the case of an online audience, don’t overthink it. You know generally where you want to go. Just go there. DON’T LOOK FOR PERFECTION. You’re good at writing. Just let it flow out and don’t worry about your audience. You have an audience because you have an engaging style and good characters. Just let the characters flow and be who you think them to be and write write write. We are looking for another chapter and you can do one a day. Just do it. You’ll see. You can do it if you simply let yourself, and don’t doubt yourself.

      Like

    • Gauntlet-KI says:

      Could you by chance shoot Aleron Kong (author of the land) a facebook message to get in touch with him? He is having an issue with state sheets in the kindle format, and I know that yours was very well done.

      Like

  2. gauntletki says:

    Wow thankfully I check my email after closing your webpage. Thanks for the post. #fortran

    Like

  3. John says:

    Hey, like the chapter, a bit trippy, but that’s to be expected sometimes😛

    I appreciate the effort to get more chapters out in a timely manner, and thought I’d give my opinion on the whole subject, for what it’s worth.

    As an author, especially an indie author, any deadlines you impose are solely for your own benefit — you have no obligation to us as readers beyond what you place on yourself, as long as you are simply being an indie author.

    On the other hand, once you start to make promises on indiegogo or any other sites (can’t remember what you’re using right now), that’s when you have a certain obligation to those donors. That campaign goes beyond the normal selling of books that authors deal with and involves an exchange of services that, in your case currently is more chapters per week.

    I would recommend to you that, rather than making promises for more chapters per week (which might be unattainable) offer more personalized incentives to contributors (signed hardcopies, name a character, etc.) or potentially create smaller contribution mile markers that result in a single extra chapter each week (i.e. every $300 donated results in a single extra chapter). I also am of the opinion that being a few chapters ahead and only posting what you’ve got on a regular schedule after the next few chapters are already written is beneficial for everyone involved — as fans we get to look forward to a specific day(s) each week without getting angry at long waits, and as an author you have less deadline stress, have more time to go back and easily edit previously written chapters before putting them online, and don’t have to deal with as many angry rage posts from us readers.

    Either way, this is just my opinion from someone who’s a fan of webfictions and wants to see them succeed🙂

    p.s. why don’t you cram this site full of as many ads as possible?!??! As long as you keep the Flash to a minimum, it doesn’t interfere with the reading experience at all, and that’s just basically more free(ish) money for you.

    p.p.s. regarding the chapter, why does phantom not appear surprised at seeing alan has 2 AIs? I know Void at least suspected about Llambda, but I would have thought Llambda would have tried to hide from at least Phantom, or at least we’d see some surprise from Phantom that Alan has 2 AIs, since the skill that is required for that is so rare.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bart says:

      Yeah, I also was surprised that Lambda didn’t stay back to try to hide himself.

      Like

      • Balewood says:

        Ima echo Bart here, so far Lambda done a lot to conceal himself now he just walks around (wearing a nametag?) it was a little jarring.

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally forgot about lambda not being known. Post edit In the book I guess.

      Like

      • Jari Sundell says:

        Phantom already knowd about Lambda, he did after get Alan’s combat rating from the Academy so the theft would likely also have been discussed.

        And Void doesn’t just suspect, he can distinctly make out two AI’s.

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Alan and the AIs removed their names when they entered the Exchange, so Lambda’s name is not visible.

      Phantom sees 2 AIs, but does he know who the Lambda AI is already or is Lambda still anonymous to him?

      Like

    • slicingblade says:

      I’m a patreon backer and I agree whole heartedly, your cut off points for extra chapters it’s easy to low.

      Keep up the good work, I’ve been reading since book one and enjoy the series

      Like

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the update. A chapter every other day is making me very happy. Not sure if it’s sustainable yet but I appreciate the effort.

    ps: the rabbit suit reminded me to check on the WALDO RABBIT books and I found out THE RABBIT GREAT AND TERRIBLE will be out in a few days so I pre ordered it. I am also hoping to order the gam3 2 but couldn’t yet.

    Like

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the update. If you continue writing this much you will have more pay days more often but I don’t want you to burn out. Don’t get me wrong I for one love lots of updates. But if you write so much you dislike it we all lose. So stay happy.

    Of course a lot of people find a work structure helps so do what you feel is best.

    Like

  6. Chance says:

    Ooh it sounds like there more than just the Game on the Network

    Like

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the hard work. I had a bad day (my dog died) and this helped distant me a bit.

    Like

  8. oblivious says:

    I guess this is when Alan mentions that he has a key.

    I’m curious whether these people are hiding their existence, or just hiding their interference. They might be rebels, but they might just be ascended beings who are forbidden from manipulating the Game.

    Like

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am impressed you managed to get out a chapter in one day!

    Good job and keep up the good work!

    Like

  10. Ross says:

    As Alan got into the capsule to travel into the exchange, the excess Predecessor blood essence was a continuing burning presence. So I thought about how many times Alan has been exposed to Predecessor blood.

    The most recent is the vial injection. Before that it was the berserker blood drug that was based on Predecessor blood. Before that it was blood during the blade binding transfer from the Predecessor in Alan’s earlier Abyss dungeon crawl. Before that there is a tenuous link to the Predecessor in the early game trial rounds that cut itself with a blade before dispatching Alan with the same weapon.

    Before that is an even more tenuous possibility of blood exposure from the Predecessor mutated animals in the first game trial round.

    Well what can this excess blood essence in Alan’s circulation be up to? On hopes it isn’t in the process of forming a blood mutated animal.

    Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think it is apparent the people in the exchange (and possibly Void) are digitized people who have lived for a very long time and whose real life bodies are long dead.

    I see two clues to this:
    1.) the extreme eccentricity of the exchange that could be caused by the oddities in personality you would (could) get from people who have lived an extremely ling time.
    2.) the comment about this affecting the “inner network” and “we have stagnated far too long.”

    There is also the cryptic, “Even as our borders are tested, the network grows.”

    I am unsure of this. It is sort of implied in the network growing is that it is an misapplication of resources when we are under threat.

    But, also The network’s value is being wasted in “fantasy and play,” which implies the network has the ability to take on the threat.

    I’m not saying there is a contradiction, only that there is a real mystery we are entering as to the nature, purpose, and population of the digital world the Game is only a part of.

    Like

    • bradyad says:

      Not sure if this is true but it is a great idea. Explains the undefinable mist and shapeshifter description of Void and these other folks. Also makes for a nice addition to the lore of the game/network.

      Like

  12. nobody says:

    Does death in the Exchange fry your barain?

    It’s outside the Citadel, but it’s accesed via a capsule.

    Like

  13. anon111 says:

    So Revenants were actually furries? That explains a lot.

    Like

  14. Ephemerality says:

    Next chapter probably won’t be up today.

    Like

  15. Alikhan D. says:

    I’m not sure, but I think that there might be a word missing in paragraph 3, line 2. ” and Alan failed to recover their core data”.

    Really love this series. Currently in the process of ordering book 1.

    Like

  16. Jay says:

    Phantom was super-paranoid about Eve. Now he suddenly meets Lambda, whose presence hasn’t even been mentioned before (and who’s supposed to be a big secret), and he’s not worried about at least doing a scan or something?

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Lambda has not been introduced as Lambda.

      Phantom does, however, know the history of Eve that gives him reason for concern.

      I get it they are easily accepting of Lambda, but at the same time Void already knows he exists, although possibly not who he is – although I actually think Void does know.

      And, Phantom has not yet been given a reason to be concerned – although you would think he would have greater curiosity and wariness in their current circumstance.

      Like

      • Jay says:

        Everyone involved seems to know about the theft of an AI from the Academy, just before Alan left. Several people have questioned him about it. Phantom wants to do a full scan of Eve before allowing Alan even near him with Eve active (and disallows any AI from entering his sanctum). Alan suddenly shows up with a new mystery AI (displaying a super-rare M.L. skill in the process), literally walking around with the group in the Exchange, and Phantom doesn’t even blink? “Hey, who’s that, Alan? Where’d you pick up a second AI?” No? That doesn’t seem at all plausible for the character. I can imagine Void ignoring it, but not Phantom.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bokuboy says:

      It’s even better than that! Lambda, the currently blank named AI, looks like a small Predecessor (about human sized). Are there any other Predecessor AI’s running around? No? Where would you even get the specs for that? Predecessors HATE technology.

      “Hello. Who are you?” Phantom asked.
      “Oh, I’m no one to be concerned about.” Lambda replied.
      “Okay. Thanks for explaining that. Carry on.” Phantom said.

      Don’t even get me started on his Revenant Initiate Quest.
      He has to repair the whole damn planet’s prison before becoming a normal Revenant agent? Really? Screw that! Alan should tell Cerberus to kiss his ass and chew bubble gum, because he’s never, ever, going to see Alan again and he’s all out of gum.

      But, that’s just my opinion.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anonymous says:

        Kinda how Alan’s Rogue quest was to win the war for Earth. He never gets the easy “kill 10 rabbits” quests.

        Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m a really big fan of how the author infrequently addresses any of these concerns in the comment section. This could be understood if he was perhaps working on The Gam3 as much as he’s being paid to do – but he isn’t. This week he decided that it would be a good idea to try to release a chapter a day, something that he has already failed at.

        Like

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hah ya, (1) Meet 10 people who are powerful enough to have a significant effect on the game. (2) Complete a Gama level Quest. (3) Win the War for Earth. (4) Restore the Deadly Labyrinth planet back to full operation. Not so difficult (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ephemerality says:

    Alright, so the next chapter is for the most part done but re-reading it now it seems like absolute crap, and based on comments I do want to prioritize quality over quantity. So I think I’m going to sleep on it since it’s been a while since I did that sleep thing. Hopefully once I’m no longer tired I can revise it into something worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gauntlet-KI says:

      If you would like to post the crap one, and then post the 2.0 later. We will hold our judgements, till your done. You can always delete the first one.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I like that idea

        Like

      • paulus says:

        I would rather have the final copy. While nothing is really final until the book is done, you know what i mean.

        Like

      • Gauntlet-KI says:

        I like to know the process in more detail (probably why I bought the LOTR discs with three days of extras). The ideas that are discarded and kept is one of the reasons I went back through the online story after I read his first book. The changes is something you hardly see.

        Like

  19. Anonymous says:

    1 chapter a day keeps the author away🙂 a promise of 3 chapters a week keeps deceiving the hope of the patreon geek😀

    Like

    • Bart says:

      Look, just shut it. He’s a student and as we get into the semester, he’s likely going to get busier with classes. It wouldn’t be the first story I’ve seen languish and die, so I’d rather not chase him off.

      Author, if you need to put this on the back burner until the end of the semester, I won’t be upset.

      Like

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