Sunday, June 05, 2005

Visiting 01 Continued Further

Heyward moves about her room on the Nothingness, holding still for only moments at a time before pacing on. She has discovered, since her transition from program to flesh, that she can no longer ever hold completely still -- to hold any position for too long results in pain; and many emotions seem to generate energy that must be used, even if for no purpose.

At present, nervousness drives her pacing. She gave Treius information -- warned him that there was a threat at hand, a close threat, and that he must be watchful. She gave him nothing specific, no hard information -- simply an appeal to observe, to be skeptical, to use reason. But she knows that it will very likely be enough to arouse curiousity -- perhaps from Treius, and perhaps from the others who were in the Matrix when she chose to speak -- Canonical and 1Strike.

They will wonder about the nature of the threat, certainly. About whom or what it is that she referred to and would not name.

And they may wonder how she came to know of such a threat. Why she has this information, and why she would not reveal it outright.

Heyward stops pacing and sits on her berth to think.

She chooses not to reveal Veneer directly. She realizes this is a choice, and it concerns her. She must find reasons for her choice, must trace it to its source -- as she has urged Treius to do with his choices.

Treius leads her reasons. She believes him to be led by his emotions, by his desire to trust others. She further believes he must be corrected of this if he is to lead No Exit with efficiency. She knows that Humans can break when faced with truth, that they can fall back into denial -- she is uncomfortably aware of her own brush with this tendency, herself. If Veneer is revealed to Treius directly, she does not believe he will respond to the threat appropriately. He must be made to see the logic himself, to follow it to the threat himself; he must reach a point where he cannot deny the danger Veneer presents, and he must reach this point of his own power. To force him to it could cause emotional reactions -- resentment, perhaps -- that she does not want focused on her.

She further fears for her own safety if she reveals Veneer outright. Her past two encounters with Veneer in the Real have made her vulnerability outside of the Matrix very clear to her -- there is no RSI reconstruction here, to cover for her disturbing lack of skill. Veneer could become violent, or he could reveal her identity to the Humans in retaliation. Both are situations she wishes to avoid.

Finally, in a confusing corner of her mind, she knows that she hesitates to reveal Veneer for reasons that have very little to do with logic. He is one of her few remaining connections with the world of the Machines. Within the system, she was in constant communication with innumerable other programs -- she was never, Humans would say, alone. Never trapped in her own mind. Though she may speak with Agent programs now -- may receive orders from Agent Gray and react to them -- it is nothing like the integration she was once a part of. Veneer knows what she is and actively seeks communication, as the true purpose-driven Machine programs do not; he allows her . . . connection. The sharing of information.

But this sharing of information goes only one way, and Veneer uses the connection for his own ends. She knows that. As long as he has remained a seemingly passive force, she has allowed communication to continue. Because she is weak. Because, in this new existence, it seems so easy to deny truth in favor of desperate emotional need.

After today, after the active threat Veneer has suddenly, overtly, become, logic cannot let her deny what her loyalty to the Machines demands. Only emotion stands in the way of her doing what she must.

She knows that Veneer will have covered his actions; this is another reason she cannot reveal him directly -- he is manipulative and quick to act; she fears he could easily turn aside accusations made against him, make them appear baseless.

She is certain he believes he left no hard evidence of his actions today.

He is wrong.

Heyward strips off her slightly singed long-sleeved shirt. The rough cloth rubs against the electrical burns spreading out across her chest and makes her flinch. The burns are not particularly serious -- but they are very real and very visible, pink and red and blistering. Clear, angry bruises crawl along her arms where Topsight held her down and she struggled against his grip.

Heyward examines the injuries and runs a finger slowly along the scar on her left cheek. Yes. Veneer leaves evidence.

She puts the shirt aside and selects another from the things Death and Taxes gave her -- a shorter shirt, with a low neckline and straps instead of sleeves. It leaves much of her skin bare and makes her feel even more uncomfortably vulnerable -- but it also leaves the bruises and parts of the burns uncovered and visible.

Heyward gets up from her berth, opens her door all the way, and leaves it open as she lies down on top of the blankets of the berth to sleep. Her brief, interrupted rest in the drone plant did little to relieve her fatigue; and she hopes that perhaps someone will come by and see the injuries and form the right questions. She is far from convinced that Treius retains any true vision, but he does seem unusually perceptive for being blinded; and Nichomachea remains sighted.

As does Veneer.

Perhaps, she thinks, even if this achieves nothing else, it is time that he sees his actions do leave . . . not-so-easily-erased tracks. Perhaps it is time that she bait him -- force him to reaction and gain information from his responses, as he has been gaining information from hers.

It occurs to her then, as she lets her herself lose consciousness, that perhaps this . . . "game" . . . can be played both ways.


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