Aran
Paranoia Shift
 
001: Awake To Nightmare     002: Visions Of The Fall     003: Rebirth


Aran's facePost: 07.06.1997
Date: 12.05.2195
Time: Morning

Awake To Nightmare [s002]

It was raining in hell.   Cyberspace had fallen, and so had it's angles.   Man machines that walked two worlds were wrenched in immeasurable pain from their created realms.   Their metal bodies writhed with distortion, as the very bio-limbs and organs that protected them became so much shrapnel inside.  Only the ones with so few, or so much technology lived; and that was a hellish realm that was only a mockery of life.   Days and nights stretched in crimson hues of blood and pain.   A searing, uncontrollable pain of technology suddenly wrenched from their bodies, and a chilling numbness from being deprived of the heightened senses they once had.   All texture was nothing, they stumbled over shards of glass and felt no pain.   And the ones that could survive the pain crawled into bottles to kill all other sensation.   It was the bottom of a bottle in the depths of an alley that Aran found himself.    It was raining in hell, a putrescence dripping from the sooted roofs of concrete monuments and glass towers.   Aran was lying, his face half buried in a pile of pure waste.   He had taken five shots of malt liquor, trying to kill all the pain.    And in the rain that burned his very skin, he simply gave up, slipping farther into the emptiness inside for the final moments. 

Pain shattered his body through the alcoholic haze.    His digital brain screamed, what was left of his technology twisted, metal jabbing what little unmarred flesh was left.   The dark world exploded into shadows as his eyes opened.   Taken from the void by more pain.    Aran stared into a new void, a deep vast, world.....but a world full of.  Confusion, confusion and fear. Strands of blue surrounded those two voids.     A face took shape in the night, two eyes staring at him, long strands of blue hair falling over a feminine face in the rain.    A hand brushed his face, and the scream that followed scared her.   The young girl, hidden in shadows but obviously unclothed, slipped away.   Aran could still feel her hands on his face, a lingering, seeping feeling of. 

"home...."   Aran whispered.   Inside his shattered mind, something stirred, software long thought dead pictured from memory a perfect replica of that face.   Something, something about that face.....he had to, had to do something.    Aran pushed himself out of the filth and trash he floated in.   His trench coat was torn, the acidic rain eating through the worn spots.   Blood and dirt were caked into his flesh, and his hair fell over his unshaven face.   But what was more important, the feeling, the briefest touch had instilled something that had dampened the pain, and added something into the technological void.   Aran staggered to the end of the alley and lurched towards a hovercab.   "Home...."

  Aran's facePost: 07.08.1997
Date: 12.06.2195
Time: Morning

Dreams Of The Fall

Nothingness seemed to clutch all of Aran.  Something, a pulling, a tearing.   Like a gentle swarm of invisible hands reaching into his head.   What is happening, talk to me.  Massive levels of data influx is flooding the matrices of Cyberspace.  What's it doing?  Why can we feel data?!    It is acquiring.  What?!   It is acquiring data from living sources.  How is it.....

The world was lost in screaming pain.   The hands turned into razors that combed his brain.    Thin slices of liquid fire ran over his conscious thought, burning all though, leaving only raw emotion: purest pain.    Nothingness enveloped him, the pain seemed to tear into his very mind.    Aran, Aran, life levels are failing.   Jettison into realspace failed.   Emergency measures deemed necessary.      Aran felt molten iron pour through his veins, coursing through, searing synthetic flesh from his metal bones.   He could FEEL his technology frying.   Internal metal heating, burning, searing ties, wires and batteries corroding in a flood of unseen energy and torment.   The information around him in the void began to explode.    Cyberspace is dying!  Correct.   Complete system shutdown, ninety eight percent of all servers, human, neural, AI, and physical are being burned.    Cause unknown, system untraced.    Aran.   Aran didn't reply, the pain tore into his very inner being, he felt memory begin to fade.   Information, skills, thoughts, plans, dreams all faded into red and black hues of pure torment and searing, unyielding pain.  Jettisoning unit, encrypting coordinates.   Good luck Aran.
 
 

The wave of pain increased, as Aran felt the only thing he ever called family or friend was wrenched from the very depths of his mind.   The Artificial intelligence that had guided him and accompanied him through years and countless battles, was gone.    And the cyberspace faded into realspace.    The floor seemed to reach for him, the pain sharpened beyond any human comprehension to levels only the heightened senses of the man-machines may feel. 
 
 

Aran woke up, drenched with cold sweat.   He was wearing a clean white nightsuit.     Around him were cold steel and brushed concrete, solid bunk beneath him.   He found his clothes neatly washed beside his bed.    He was in his apartment.   Gingerly, he stood on his legs and staggered to the mirror.   The acidic rain had dissolved chunks of his synthetic skin, and jagged pieces of twisted metal hung from fracture limbs.   He was a mess.   Beneath the bed was a small cybernetic toolkit of sorts.    Aran pulled a drill out and stared briefly at his left foot.   It served it's purpose.

The drill bit tore into metal and cybernetics alike.   Aran removed the offending limb and began to work on the others.    It was like piecing together a puzzle.  Old pieces of cyberware were patched and plugged to fit into his current state.  From his knees down he was pure chrome and steel.   One hand was a mass of wire and metal, steel razors barbed into hidden slots in his fingers.  But he was alive.   And fading in and out of memory was the image of a blue-haired girl and a touch.    Aran pulled a small panel away from one wall.   Twin PLE disrupters, with charged batteries.   He slid them into cavities in his legs.  Moonlight streamed into his apartment, reflecting off of pure chrome in the mirror. 

Cyberspace is dead.   My body is useless.   My tech is lost.    I'm nearly dead, and most of my kind already are.   My AI is lost.    That thought hit him hardest.   But it is out there.   Pre-encoded message.  Finally.   Aran. Cyberspace fallen.  Jettison unit.   455, 223, 12, ENE.  CD343.   Message ends. 

His eyes lost focus with reality as his optical heads up display generated a map and began to trace the coordinates.   455, 223, 12, East North East. 

He stared out of his window.   200 miles east of his apartment, his AI was residing in something:waiting.  Waiting for it's owner to reclaim it.   Waiting for  a chance to be whole again.   Aran pulled his trench coat on and felt his mirrorshades slide over the guides in his skull, locking over his eyes.    First things first.   His automap sped over the grid by grid layout of the city, finally landing on a small section of town outlined with wasted industrial buildings.   BIODOC LOCATED.

  Aran's facePost: 07.17.1997
Date: 12.07.2195
Time: Unknown

Rebirth

Metal legs felt no pain as he speed over a wasteland of glass and concrete.    Towers of glass and steel, monuments to man and machine, towered above.   Rain seemed to pour from the sky.    Men stayed indoors, away from the toxic flood.    But what of those who are more than man?       Aran leapt into the air and cleared a metal fence.  As he landed, his legs shattered concrete below.   One eye remained in the world of realspace, one concentrated on the hud map showing his current position.  Finally, slowing only slightly, Aran jumped through  a glass window. 

"Aran?"    The voice was older, but still recognizable. 

"Doc."   Aran stood up. 

"Dear God."   The old man walked away from his table, staring at Aran.    "Caustic burns, metal fragmentation, cybernetic destruction on a scale I've never seen. You...you were in?   Weren't you?  When cyberspace fell, you where in it.?!" 

"Yes." 

"And you lived!?    Get on the table!  Now!    We might not have much time." 
 
 

Aran felt the impulses of electricity that shut his brain down, anesthetic having no effect on cybernetic beings. 
 
 

He stood in the midst of a group of doctors. 

"You understand what this operation will do?"   One asked. 

"Yes." 

"That you will be giving up almost three quarters of your flesh for genetic, cybernetic and robotic implants." 

"Yes." 

"The operation takes seven days." 

"Yes." 

"The pain, the pain kills over 40% of those who undergo the surgery." 

"Do it." 

"There are other risks." 

"DO IT!"   Aran yelled.   13 years old, barely capable of navigating the realm of cyberspace.    He had encountered a group of people, kindred spirits, people who told him about their way of life, their being.  Who they were.  "Make me a Technomancer." 
 
 

For eight days and eight nights he was awake, floating in a sea of pain and suffering.    While his flesh and bone were stripped and replaced.   He could almost feel his humanity slipping away.    Each new device was a flood of pain, his brain absorbing all the information of how it worked, how it operated, how to react to it.    Every new adjustment, every genetic alteration bringing new pain to his life.  Until, finally, when all the world seemed to crush into his very heart and mind. 
 
 

"It's over.   You can wake up Aran."      The voice sighed.      He was tired.   Aran checked his internal clock.   Elapsed downtime, 76 hours.   He stood up and felt concrete beneath synthetic flesh.    In the mirror was the man he remembered, all the bare chrome and technology hidden beneath leaves of pseudo-humanity. 

"I had to replace most of everything.   You're sporting three new limbs.   You're kidney had to be replaced totally, and most of the localized organs dealing with poison filtration and digestion.    Went off the deep end for a while, kid?" 

"Yes." 

"You're ready.     I don't know what you're doing, or why.   I don't ask questions.  But be careful, kid." 

"I'll transfer money to your account when I'm finished.   If not, my lawyer knows of your service, tell him.   He'll sort it out." 

"This about your AI?    I know it's gone.    Pulled clean out, no trace.  Like it jettisoned itself." 

"It did.  It also told me where it was being taken."    Aran slid his mirrorshades up into their socket.   "But not why." 

"Kid, I put something in your software banks:  A firewall.     Something I've been working on.    I don't know how it will hold up against any kind of frontal assault, but maybe it can keep what happened from happening again, or at least dampen it.   Might give you a chance." 

"Thank you."   Aran pulled his trench coat on.  "But you would've been better giving it to the Glitch who crashed cyberspace." 

"Why?!" 

"Cause I'm gonna brainfry him.   Flatline."  Aran growled.       This time he left through the door, the rain stopped to a trickle.     Now he could hail a cab without scaring anyone to death.   He had 200 miles to travel, and a piece of himself to regain.   As he passed a door, he felt a wave of deja-vu, like walking into his home.  Scan, all bio-readings.   Aran stared at the door. Nothing but a pulse shielding, and some IR markings.   Witches.   Nothing else.   Aran continued into the night.

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