[Pre-Episode Three] Terminal Purple

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Pancakei

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ISS Downrider
Cargo Bay


OSC-01 rested against the hard metal side of the particular cargo crate aboard the ISS Downrider they called home. Her now active reactor cast a green reflection across the cave as they worked.

She gripped the wayward glaive in her hands, inspecting the piece over time and time again. It was a custom crafted instrument of peace and war forged from the finest materials known during Oaklands prime, snapped in half like useless twig. Granted, it was snapped in half by an even greater custom crafted instrument of peace and war, but that was beside the point.

The Overseer eyes the makeshift repair job across the many sliding joints of the weapon. Several washers and pins had been lost in the scuffle at Alipier Observatory, now replaced with the closest available materials. She clamped down on the glaive, forcing it to re-seat along its internal tracks. With an unsatisfying metal click, the split weapon became whole once more. A quick flourish established the glaive still folded and unfolded as necessary, but the transition wasn’t nearly as smooth and effortless as it should be.

OSC-01 folded the glaive once more, returning to her usual schedule of… nothing. It had been nearly a day since the attack, but she still wasn't setled in at all. The Overseer eyed over the box once more, before her eyes fell to the other list of damages she had accumulated in the course of one horrid week. She ran a finger down the dent in her chestplate, which ended in a minor fracture that had since been filled with a cheaper mesh. Nothing much could be done about that. She was low on hydraulic fluid and her battery supply was still shot, but there was nothing aboard made to specification. And then, there was this...

"When you’re need in of a diagnostic, you come see my son. He’ll know the codes."

The Pixy units, which had been sitting dormant at the back of the box with their two remaining shells, stirred into activity. The trio of floating orbs scuttled their way over to the Overseer, taking up a not very tactical formation around them.

The Overseers lamenting was interrupted by a broad beam of artificial light entering the box, the crate door opening with a creak. From behind it, the Captain leaned into the open gap. “Things have been sorted out with Romulus and Juryrig. I thought it was about time for that conversation you talked about.”

The Overseer and joined Pixy units looked up at the captain, leaning their head to one side. “Did you bring the headsets?”

Dahlia nodded, holding up a bushel of cords and bands in her left fist. She opened the door the rest of the way, allowing her followers in.
Rhea poked her head in tentatively as the door opened, looking around the box-plagued room, before spotting the overseer and hopping the rest of the way to say “Hi” and check out how she was doing. She did have to admit she was starting to look a bit worse for wear…

“Um.. Soo what is it we are uh, going to talk about? OR uh… should I wait until I'm wearing that thing before asking?” She seems a bit more nervous than normal, as if she had a lot of uncomfortable thoughts floating about in her head.

Keith followed the captain inside the cargo bay right after Rhea, ensuring the child didn’t get herself into any wayward trouble. ”...Pardon the intrusion, friend, but Dahlia called us here without yet specifying her reason,” said the resident informant, in a more cordial tone than he was used to. Closing the Cargo Bay’s door behind him, he nonchalantly tossed his insulated military coat to the side onto a random cratetop---his normal desert outfit would serve him perfectly well outside the frozen planet of Bivona.

”In any case, it’s good to at least see you in a more repaired state.”

The Overseer did not stand to greet the trio of visitors, knowing it wouldn’t be needed. Instead, she waved them inside the box. “Some of it is a private matter, so the headbands may be a necessary precaution.” The robot folded their feathers, depositing them in a neat stack beside herself. The inside of the storage had become entirely purposed for the Overseers possessions, including a small pile of pilfered scraps and tools presumably used for the patch job.

Rhea nodded and approached, taking a seat nearby- after stopping herself from giving the robot a hug. “I, uh… So are you sure you are fine staying put back here? It doesn’t seem very nice compared to uh…” Well, she couldn’t come up with any specifically relevant examples, but between the slightly beat up appearance, and straight up living in the cargo bay, it didn’t seem very glamorous.

“Do, you need a hug?” The child finally asked.

The Overseer held up a hand between Rhea and themselves, blocking the invitation. “I am well.”

The informant laid a gentle hand on Rhea’s head and ruffled her hair a bit, feeling a pang of pity at seeing her heartwarming gesture be denied. ”Don’t worry, kid. We… she’s gone through worse,” said Keith, taking a slow step toward Overseer Tara’s “home box”. Once inside, he leaned against the back wall, arms crossed, and turned his gaze back to the others, waiting for OSC-01 to proceed.

Dahlia held up the rear, closing the door part way behind her. The captain took a seat beside Rhea, unfurling the bundle of headsets to pass each out. Once each member had one, the Overseer raised a hand. "We'll be back momentarily," she said, to the Pixy units.

After a moment of silent relaxation, the three organic members drifted into an almost sleeplike state, their senses in the physical world numbed. One of the three Pixy units fitted itself into its Bouncer shell, stepping carefully around the now entranced crew members. The robot took position outside of the cargo crate, using its bulk to hold the door shut for the time being.


---


The entry into the Codex space was far faster and gentler than the first time around, the three crew members finding themselves laying in a familiar, never-ending sea of white. Perhaps the Overseer no longer found it amusing.

Dahlia eventually found her way to her knees, as a black drapery of digital cloth wading through the faux water ahead of her. The trichrome Overseer was already ahead of them. "I suppose we should talk over a walk."

Rhea stood and rubbed her face- still not really used to this virtual landscape, and moping over her hugs being refused, followed by her hair being ruined by Keith. But she quickly walked out towards the overseer and captain. “Are… we walking anywhere in particular?”

Latching on to the child’s question, Keith decided to increment with his own query, albeit in a needlessly roundabout twist. ”This space is freely manipulated by its host---where aren’t we going?” he mused, floating himself upright in the vast, blank sea. Still the same shades, almost like a vague old-school rendering of the quartet… though, he was grateful that despite the dull feeling of the water against his virtual counterpart, he remained completely dry. ”Forgive me, but if I might be so bold as to ask… are we perhaps visiting New Incipere?”

As the group walked through the blank canvas, the ground began to form beneath their feet. From the lake rose stones, which formed into tiles, leading them on a path ahead. Far ahead, the white horizon began to break apart into a spectacle of blue and purple, like the group was approaching a vortex that began to eat away at the blank color surrounding them. “Always an opportunist…” the Overseer commented, glancing back at Keith. “But there’s something we need to address.”

The group reached a center to the swirling tile path, from which a broad, curved room began to form, spiraling out from the center like a puzzle. The floor turned into walls, which then turned into an arched roof. The outside walls were covered in dense bookshelves, with tall, narrow windows that seeped the colorful light from the outside vortex. The room was broad enough that the other side could not be seen from the entrance. The entire place bore an eerie resemblance to the library OSC-01 was originally found in, though only Dahlia was present for the discovery.
The avatar of the Overseer turned their head to face the others as they walked through the library, their colors returning to a normal palette starting from the fringes of their dress to their head. She spoke directly to Dahlia and Keith, the message going above Rhea’s ears. Literally. “I’m sure both you are at least somewhat aware of Rhea’s… conditions.”

Though almost mesmerized by the sight of the expansive library shaping itself right in front of the group, the informant’s previously eager expression turned into one of mixed concern and curiosity as OSC-01 addressed him and Dahlia directly. He had witnessed the child’s unusual sorcery firsthand a few days ago, in the selfsame Cargo Bay---it was Keith himself who had proposed to Rhea a small training session. ”Of course. I suspect her manipulation of those crystals isn’t exactly something natural,” he said, nodding once before continuing. ”But she has yet to display any adverse symptoms besides fatigue.”

Dahlia glanced over at Keith, and then back to the Overseer. She recollected memories from Alipier Observatory, those strange flashes of purple, almost glassy sheets. It all seemed a little uncomfortably familiar now that she mentioned it. “Yes. The… purple stuff she does.”

Rhea, clueless as to the conversation literally going over her head, looked around at the library around them- a bit wide eyed at the sight, with that strange background- and started walking off to go check the books lining the walls out of curiosity. “Is… this where you were wanting to take us?” She half wondered if taking up one of those books would whisk her away to some other strange, virtual landscape that it ‘contained’ which seemed like a more reasonable conclusion than them just being full of words alone.

“... Can I, take a look around?” She asked, stopping herself as she looked back to the overseer.

OSC-01 looked down at the redhead, stopped for a moment. She waved the child away in conformation, allowing her to take a look around. As Rhea went back to check the bookshelves, however, she found herself particularly drawn to one that stood out like a sore thumb. A bright red binding among the sea of lesser blues and greys, that almost matched her simplified hair color.

The Overseer returned to Dahlia and Keith, resuming their private conversation. “I’m afraid it’s entirely natural, just not the kind you’re used to. Your kind is used to.”

“Our kind… Are---” Keith cut himself off, casting a glance back at the orphan child who had found herself digging through the simulation’s bookcases. He looked her up and down, scrutinizing her every visible feature, before returning his attention to the Overseer and raising an eyebrow. “---is she not human?”

Of course, Rhea had taken off almost right away, with a slight grin on her face as she was not-told she had the run of the place. Certainly, she didn’t LOOK like an alien, at least, though some may disagree on what that definition of ‘looks like an alien’ actually fully entailed. As she searched around, and found that bright red book- she thought ‘why not’ and went proceded to judge it by its cover, going for the flashiest book there. Much like how she herself tended to stand out in crowds when she wasn’t wearing a hood herself, so to did this book stand out to her, as she grabbed it off the shelf, and cracked it open for a looksie.

The Overseer nodded in response to Keith. “She’s almost a human, except for one important part. I had reasons to be suspicious, but the scans of her brain came through clear.”

Dahlia stopped, looking over at the perfectly normal Rhea, then to Keith. She leaned forward, looking at the Overseer directly. “What do you mean, brain scans?”

As the child pulled the book away from the others and took a look, two things became incredibly apparent. Firstly, this wasn’t a real book at all. As Rhea giddly opened the book, the ‘pages’ sprung from their binding to form into a surrounding halo of items, options, and data- much of it intangible. Strange words, pictures, scans, something that looked like a brain. The second thing that became apparent was the subject of the folder, now displayed

The Overseer responded flatly, releasing a free hand from her right wing. Unlike the real world, the rest of the wing seemed to just flicker away, revealing the forearm beneath. “These immersive illusions aren’t created with just some audio feed, you should know.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed and nose crinkled for a second at the obvious realization, his facial expression alone betraying his polite silence on the subject. He didn’t remember consenting to a medical examination, less so from a brain-scanning VR headset.

OSC-01 stopped that conversation before it could continue, looking over at Rhea. She brought the conversation back to universal ears. “Good choice. Care to bring it over and share?” the Overseer asked politely, extending an open palm.

Rhea couldn’t make heads or tails of what she was looking at unfortunately, but she nodded as the overseer called her- it was only then that she realized the rest of them had seemed a bit quiet, but she figured the book was probably a more important question, as she finished the trip over to hand it to the overseer. “Its, uh... Less readable than I hoped.”

The Overseer raiser her hand, lifting the opened ‘book’ along with it. The halo of files formed around them, before flicking into one clean file. “Forgive me. Your language is not my default.”

The Overseer flicked the file once more, its contents flying by quickly. Two more were conjured beside it, floating above the two adults in the room. Brain scans they indeed were, showing a rough radial perspective of the human cranium. “These are yours, should they look familiar.”

A continued gesture held a palm above Rhea’s head, another scan projecting forth from the circle in her palm, just outside Rhea’s line of sight. The brain was of a similar shape, but it was… completely different. The fissures took a far different pattern, splitting the brain into different sectors with far thinner ridges, creating an even larger, more textured surface area The middle of the brain wasn’t just an even split, but a series of segmented portions folded neatly over the other. Dahlia looked the scan over multiple times, a little perplexed by the different, far denser brain structure.

The resident informant gave his own cranial scan result little more than a passing glance and a shoulder shrug, instead opting to take a step closer to Rhea and her own scan, floating just above her. He brought his face closer to the projection, stopping just some inches short of his nose passing through the hologram altogether, and began examining it carefully, his eyes darting up and down the display. Of course, Rhea found the whole display… a bit concerning, as her personal space was somewhat invaded, she hadn’t thought anything was weird as she checked out the other two’s brain scans until then...

”How… peculiar,” he said a few long seconds later, backing away and giving the child a comforting, yet forced smile. She was yet too young to be allowed to worry about things like this. ”I trust you know… why?” asked Keith, directing his full attention to the Overseer again.

Rhea, also looked to the overseer, looking a 0lot more concerned than she was going into this- before looking to see how the captain was reacting. “Uhh… is there a problem?” She asked, purposefully not looking up.

“No, everything is fine.” The Overseer glanced down at Rhea, then at Keith and Dahlia, speaking firmly and privately. “I’ve never been trained in neuroscience, but I’ve had the misfortune of seeing enough scalps in my time to know. That is a brain evolved and cured through Arcadian blood.”

Dahlia’s blue eyes widened in disbelief, looking at the Overseer, both at the previous scalping implications and the revelation. An Arcadian descendant, of all places. “You’re joking.”


The digital Overseers eyes flattened, head shaking. As she did, Rhea started paying a lot of attention to the people’s reactions around her. Between the shocked expressions, slight head shakes, and all that… she was pretty sure they’d been having a conversation over her head the whole time. Despite what the overseer was saying, it couldn’t be good if they were going about it like that, right? It would… at least explain why she thought it’d been pretty quiet for a ‘walk and talk’.

”In this very expedition, no less…” Keith said, taking a step back with raised eyebrows. Quite the shock, to be sure, but there was yet time to see whether it would be a welcome one, or a dangerous factor. ”With the Arcandum Union out and about---” He cut himself off before finishing his sentence. Crouching down in front of Rhea so they both were on the same level, the informant reached out to put his right hand on her shoulder reassuringly, but wore as neutral of a poker face as he could manage from years of experience. ”...captain, should we…?”

Dahlia looked at the Overseer. ”How much so? Is it the source of her.. Abilities?”

The Overseer confirmed, catching on that the child in question was starting to notice their private conversation. ”Thin-blooded I’d assume, but clearly a part of a successfully integrated strand.” The Overseer paused, looking towards Keith. ”I don’t believe her knowing her heritage is going to cause her any harm. Her abilities, however, may be a different situation altogether.”

After a moment of having the uh… ‘pleasure’ of having someone give you the terminal cancer patient shoulder pat, Rhea leaned back ever so slightly and said “Please, that’s not helping.”

Keith wasn’t used to dealing with potentially delicate social situations after years of solitude. Diplomacy wasn’t exactly something that came naturally to the ex-sergeant---seeing that his attempts at helping the child ease her worries had, instead, only aggravated her anxiety, he let out a heavy sigh and stood back to his full height, adjusting his desert scarf so that it would cover his mouth as he spoke. The Overseer allowed it. ”Rhea, you are, quite possibly, a... thin-blooded... Arcadian descendant; which would explain your unusual crystal sorcery,” he said, speaking directly to the child, and concluding that giving her the unaltered truth was the best course of action. ”Please do not be alarmed.”

Dahlia kneeled to meet the height of the girl, waving at the Overseer to bring her hand down. “It seems that you’re a lot like us, but your brain structure is… different.” The Overseer begrudgingly lowered the hologram to allow Rhea to see it in full detail. After a moment, the scan sprawled out to be compared with a number of other diagrams. Some were clearly human, others, not so much. Green lines connected sectors of the child's brain map to others that had been catalogued in the past. Many of the matches didn’t look normal at all.

Rhea took a moment to soak all of that in. She figured she probably had… some, connection to those Arcadians, from that documentary before… but, didn’t think it meant she wasn’t human.While it made her feel better that she didn’t have something drastically ‘wrong’ with her brain… having to look at the image before her and think ‘THAT is what’s in my head?’ Instead of… what’s supposed to be there, was still pretty unnerving.

“... So… I’m an alien… Gotcha...” Perhaps if she had known her parents, this would have been a greater shock to her, but in a way, this only made herself feel just that little bit of extra distance from… everyone. No family, and not even of the same race as anyone else on the planet. While she was less panicky now, this was all depressing in another sense for the girl. She looked down at the ground, and then examined her hands like they’d somehow look different when thinking ‘hands of an alien’... Nope, still all too human looking.

”Human or not, I believe I can speak on behalf of the captain when I say you are still welcome in the ISS Downrider,” he said, still holding the hem of his scarf between thumb and index finger. Dahlia nodded in confirmation. The informant shot a glance to OSC-01. ”We’re all misfits here, trying to glue together our broken pieces.”

Keith let go of his hold on his scarf, crossing his hands behind his back and, for a moment, simply observed the library scenery. He couldn't even begin to imagine how many lifetimes of information this place held… ”This might be too personal a question, kid, but… what’s the earliest thing you remember?”

She looked up a little before responding “... standing in line at the oprhanage’s cafeteria...” She half mumbled. It probably, in all honesty, wasn’t her earliest memory, considering most people, though they would say something or another is their earliest memory, didn’t actually know for sure.

Dahlia sighed, letting her head hang for a moment. This was, a lot of unexpected information to take in for the captain, she couldn’t even imagine what was going through the mind of the actual child. The captain racked her brain for the words to say, but they just wouldn’t form clearly.


The Overseer had remained silent and still, only now casting away the projection of Rhea’s alien feature. “As grim as it sounds, dumping was a common tragedy in the days of the Republic of Avisten. Particularly around home military types- some blame the degradation of familial ties.”

The Overseer went silent, unsure if to continue. Eventually, the facade gave in and her head drifted. Her tone became just marginally more sincere. “I knew a few closely who had gone through similar.” The Captain glanced up at the Overseer, a bit surprised by the shift in attitude. “Some of them I can direct you to entire exhibits on. The ones I remember though…”

OSC-01 fell quiet, looking outside the window into the colorful vortex of data rippling outside the facade they stood around. She looked down at the lost child. “My favorite were these two little girls, much alike. Their parents were more interested in the pursuit of power than their children, so they were left behind without a whim. These two girls were left to survive in the Nepherian badlands, and survive they did. They depended on each other, and learned how to thrive off of nothing but what the land provided. The both of them made it through one of the harshest environments to grow up alone in, and when the time came, they went on to do great things.”

The Overseer paused, finding a way to wrap up this bit of historical recollection. “Sometimes you’re born into a family. But sometimes, you make it yourself.” The Overseer looked directly at Dahlia and Keith, the former of whom had been taken aback by the story, not one that had been recorded eons ago.

Rhea was silent, for a time as she listened. Comforted… somewhat, by the overseer’s story. It sounded at least a little similar to what she had been going through in middle-of-nowhere freeze-your-butt-off-ville. And, certainly, she at least wasn’t going to be freezing her extremities off there anymore.

Reflecting on the Overseer’s tale, Keith spoke up after a few respectful moments of silence, adding his own, though minor in comparison, experience. ”Military types, indeed. The draft back home didn’t exactly help... “ The ex-sergeant crouched low to the ground near Dahlia, keeping his gaze glued to the library’s floor. ”I’ve met many men on the battlefield who resented having to leave their families behind to fight for a cause they didn’t believe in. Spouses left alone, children without their parents…”

He sat down from his squatting position, looking at the orphan child as he continued. ”There are circumstances in life we don’t get to choose. All we can do is make the most out of the situation we’re given.”

She gave a shuddering sigh, and put her hands on the back of her head as she stared up, trying not to cry. There was still… other things, to think about. “I… uhm… thank you all… But, I have to ask.. Are my powers… dangerous? Beyond the uh, obvious...” She finally asked one of the BIG questions.

She’d seen enough to guess at it already- the Arcadian general using it to skewer people was practically nothing- no, the big concern was the oh so similar purple stuff that were in those weird devices, and they’d even found a big lump of the stuff back in the facility. What was almost terrifying, were the people in the crew that had been using the stuff- one was mutated, and the others… Quirky at best.

The Overseer fell quiet at the question, cycling it over knowing she was the only one who could answer. The pause was long enough for the captain to notice, looking closer. ”...Well?

OSC-01 looked over at Rhea, speaking honestly. ”Yes… very.” The Overseer continued, giving explanation. ”Arcadians and Nepherians both developed the ability to channel echyllis through natural means, but in different ways techniques. Most Arcadian youth showed signs of polykineses in their early teenage years, perhaps younger. Without a parental or trained guide, most of them wouldn’t even know how to use it, or even that it exists.”

OSC-01 paused for a beat. ”For you to know all you know already, it means you likely have a potent disposition to the material. Unsurprising, given the nature of that ‘Bivona’s development. If true, that’s a blessing and a curse you may have to bear for life.”

Dahlia frowned, but the phrasing of “Bivona’s development” caught her ear. It may be a little rude to ask an out of context question in a time like this, however. Keith was much in the same metaphorical boat.

Rhea nodded a bit- she was… expecting that too, really. IT wasn’t like it was that big of a gut punch to hear that her powers might make her crazy sick, but it sure did suck to have confirmation of it. As she looked around, her hands still raised up to the back of her head to help stay cool, around this big ol library… She felt like she had to ask. “... I, don’t suppose you could teach me anything that would help?”

If nothing else, she was willing to work with her strange, deadly powers. Certainly, the fact that she wasn’t just swearing off of them on the spot with what she’s heard, it was a brave decision.

The Overseers head hung low, knowing that next question was coming. It wasn’t long before an answer was produced- albeit not one many wanted to here. “No.”

The avatar of OSC-01 looked over at the fake bookshelves surrounding the grouping. “With all these centuries of knowledge, I can tell you a lot of things. Some you might even learn. But I cannot teach or train you to use your ability.”

Rhea winced at that- and looked around the library. “Nothing on how to use echyllis, in here?” she asked, somewhat in disbelief, and awe- how could it possibly be that esoteric of a subject? While she’d be happy to look through some of this stuff… it was a little unbelievable that none of it would help with her... problem.

The Overseer looked down at the little one. "There is plenty to read and watch, but you won't be able to learn through text alone. Echyllis channeling has its mental roots, but there's a deeply physical, emotional side to it as well. Something only learned through a guiding, knowing hand and experience." The Overseer rested a hand on her chest, over where the reactor would be stored. "A machined stream of echyllis may flow through my skeleton, but nothing like yours. I cannot provide."

”You might come to possess a better grasp of your powers as the Downrider expedition progresses,” the informant said to Rhea, but nudged the captain lightly on the side with his elbow. ”We are going after the remnants of Arcadia, whatever our individual motives, and for better or worse.”

Keith gave a sudden, sour look before speaking, disliking having to breach this particular subject. ”I… could train you with what I’ve learned in the military, but I don’t know the first thing about magic.”

Rhea looked between them all… and gave a nod. She, would do it. On her own if she had to, but what help they COULD provide to make sure she didn’t mess something up… would be appreciated. “Yeah I… Thank you. I'll do my best, yeah? Though, uh… I mean, you, did say before that… nevermind.” She finished with that, after looking briefly at the captain. Really, staying here for longer than it took to drop her off at another civilized world… wasn’t something she was, entirely expecting. Even if everything about this expedition’s goal did relate to her past, pretty strongly.

The Overseer shot an eye over to the captain with a look that said the ball was in her park now. “If the kid is going to remain safe, she needs a family figure.”

The Captain gulped just a little bit, caught in a situation. On one hand, the expedition was absolutely not a safe place for a child to be, especially with the interference. On the other hand, there was absolutely no guarantee Rhea would fare any better being dropped off at a rallypoint or city. The wild frontier of space held no structure, no guarantees.

After a moment of thought, the Captain turned her attention to Rhea. ]“Rhea, I know you have nowhere else to go. This expedition as you’ve seen… it has risks. If you want to be dropped off elsewhere, we can arrange that. If you want to stay…”

The Captain shot an eye up to the Overseer. “I'm sure we can find a way.”

Rhea allowed herself a small, lopsided grin at the… roundabout offer from the captain. “Well, I mean… I don’t really have anywhere else to go...” Truth be told, she’d love to stay… and, not just because for the past while she’d had… relatively stable living conditions, even if the other members of the crew were crazy, at least, they were people she could actually talk to. But… well, there was this vague feeling of unease, that was hard to place, about staying, despite knowing she certainly wanted to. Maybe, that she wasn’t quite sure she belonged.

Keith scratched the hair near his right temple, watching over the uneasy orphan child from his seat on the floor. ”I’m sure you’ve noticed it by now, but most of us in this ragtag crew of misfits don’t have anywhere else to go. No offense, captain,” he said, getting up from the cold, hard floor. ”but ISS Downrider is a second chance for us. You’ll be welcome here too, kid, but we can’t decide for you.” All children must grow up at a point in life, and start carving their own path---that is what the informant believed in.

“I… Well I didn't say I wanted to be dropped off, did I?” The child responded, a bit of a cheekier grin now- before finally putting her arms down, and looking to Dhalia. “Um… I'd be happy for you to have me aboard, captain?” She half asked- just a little sheepish about it.

The captain smiled, looking away for just a little bit. “Of course.” A lot was going through the back of her mind, she needed to find that box of hard hats no one ever used. If she was going to stay, she needed to be protected.


The Overseer stood patiently as the group returned to their feet. She could have hurried the process, but it would have seemed a touch rude. “I can search this databank for information that may be relevant, but it will take time to compile it into an exhibit." Dahlia looked around at the endless curve of digital bookshelves surrounding the group, once more taking in the massive amount of potential data surrounding them.

“Well, I’d appreciate it, Osco.” Rhea replied. Even if they were just text, or, maybe videos, they would be… more helpful than nothing. Maybe give her some ideas on what directions to take with her efforts… between that and Keith’s help, she’d probably figure a few things out… maybe.

“... I, uh… Well, should we be, heading back now, do you think?” Most of her questions if not directly answered, were at least given some hints to. And… really, this, slightly numb feeling she had, kind of made her uncomfortable in this place.

“Very well,” remarked the Overseer, “If you’re ready to leave, look to the sky and simply relax. I shall remain, for now.”

Rhea nodded, and did as instructed. Man, she kind of still wanted that hug though. Not for the overseer this time… though, but more for herself. Maybe next time. Dahlia glanced at the Overseer. She wasn’t quite finished, but it’d have to wait until a better time. She followed suit.

Keith remained stoic, gazing up at the sky and trying to imagine constellations in what would otherwise be a featureless black sea. He closed his eyes after tracing stars in his mind to form a shape he was vaguely familiar with, letting out a deep breath. ”...thank you, captain,” he said, an absentminded gratitude muttered more to himself than to any of his nearby companions. ”For this second chance of ours.”


The trio felt a tingling sensation run about their spine as all around them dissipated into a pure absence. The feeling of submergence flowed about them briefly as their senses flared up, before the sharp cool air of the cargo bay returned to their skin. The three were still in the same position they had left their awareness in, within the dark shipping container. The Overseer themselves had not come back with them, instead resting in an almost inactive state.

A broad beam of light broke into the darkness of the shipping container as the Pixy bouncer opened the door once more, wordless. The three slowly got to their feet, Dahlia rubbing the strange feeling of sleepiness away from her head. Rhea was the first out the door, in a bit of a mixed state of emotions. Keith followed close behind, glancing at the Pixy unit briefly as he established how long they had been under- not long at all from the looks of it. The entire stroll must have lasted under a few minutes.

Dahlia stepped over the debris of cables, stopping at the edge of the doorway back into the cargo bay. The blue-eyed captain eyed the wide lense of the Pixy unit for a moment, before looking back at the slumped Overseer. She asked one last question before she departed. "...You do care, don't you?"


---


Deep from within the Zen datascape that comprised the Codex, the avatar of OSC-01 walked slowly among the bookshelves. The bookshelves themselves began to cycle faster around the library, like a never-ending conveyor belt that ran until nothing was left to produce.

"...You do care, don't you?"

The Overseer looked towards the sky where the message originated, but said nothing. Spending the moment still, a blank bookshelf rose from the floor of the library. The Overseer solemnly raised a wing, ushering in three new colored files to her side. The files found their place stacked among the blank shelf, taking their resting form of uniformly shaped books. The Overseer rested once more, saying nothing as the entire facade began to pull away into the white abyss like colored string, continuing until nothing was left of the image but a blank slate.
 
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