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Entering the void

Michael Foord
Below him blinked the northern commercial edge of Delta Region one. The
hot red glow that flickered, just out of focus, was the information
traffic between complexes and the merry blues and greens comprised the
funhouses that lined the data avenues. Whole realms of pleasure or
worlds of data exchange and manipulation exist in convenient bright
boxes for the hapless wanderer to sample like confectionery.

It had been like walking through a neon electric street in Tokyo's
glittering night. Bewildered by the barrage of utter newness that
assaulted his senses - heightened as never before by the visua-stem
total interface, his latest toy that even now had parts of the wrapping
still encasing its sleek black moulded resin body whilst balanced
precariously on the edge of his desk; area after area plied their 3D
Technicolor cyber-wares at him - screaming at him, enticing and seducing
him to use THEIR, fantastic, better than the rest, once in a lifetime
opportunity (and for a moderate fee only) you too, like thousands of
happy customers etc.. Meanwhile strange entities and abstract
structures, that appeared like glowing metallic sperm but in fact could
only be other users or packets of data/explorer programs, flowed past
and round him.

The immersion was too great, the area too busy and the choices too many.
Nihle regretted passing over all the guide programs that had clustered
round him on entry, anxious to explore unhampered he was now out of his
depth and bewildered - all his years (few) of navigating data structures
via his old fashioned monitor and even the upmarket visual feedback
interfaces he had tried out in the Naviscape store had left him
unprepared - so he just rose above it. Exalting in the freedom of his
new rig he soared and turned a few times before simply floating above
and beyond the grid and past the apparently solid pipelines that
demarked the data burst lines on the fringes of the commercial sector.

It sprawled out below him, stretching almost endlessly out, but
surprisingly few layers thick at this seemingly arbitrary entry point -
the eternally busy abstraction of his eternally running neighbourhood.
Something was bugging him; Nihle turned and directed his gaze down. A
small luminous triangle, trailing gradually fading pixellated dots, was
circling below him. He flipped and shot off sideways, it beetled after
him, following his arc with a slight bumbling wavering gait and settled
bobbing gently, as if swaying in a cyber breeze or floating on a digital
sea, just below him.

He swiped at it, still marvelling (and loving) the impression of body,
hands and feet, in this cyber non-world. If he relaxed he could feel his
`real` arms lying prone by his side far away in another world
altogether, but the visua-stem interface looped directly to his
kinaesthetic senses and here his arms responded as they should -
comprised of light though, not flesh. He suspected that even major
internal organs and the body's inner machinations were replicated - that
if he explored he could find this out. However, having no desire to
disembowel himself, body of light or no body of light, he merely
thrilled at the realism of the bio feedback and neural stimulation as he

The triangle squawked and fluttered ((real noise) - amongst the hubbub
of Delta he had not had a chance to take in the sounds - here he was
free and nothing could have prepared him for it); it blinked once more
and Nihle gasped as a visual array, easily twenty metres across,
projected up in front of him.`NEW USER` it blared, in garish fluorescent
colours, `Your visit to Delta Region 1 has been logged. We notice with
regret that you have not yet availed yourself of any of our extensive
facilities` it continued, `let us recommend for you.`, `a damn advert, a
subroutine` Nihle cursed to himself, but all the same his presence was
logged and monitored, he felt his anonymity fading and a vague sense of
nervousness creeping slowly up on him. He swiped again at the advert and
it faded. `Upwards` he cried, to the world in general and no-one in
particular , how far through voidspace he could travel he could only
guess - but the rumour was that it stretched out to infinity and his new
rig incorporated black slice technology - theoretically unlimited
access, beyond the finite capabilities of any previous rig. In the
blackness above him, stars glittered and possibilities reeled before
him, all he wanted now was peace to think and explore who he was now -
clothed in light.

For what seemed like an age he drifted, the mass of the populated area
receding behind him and utter quietness surrounded. Propelled by sheer
impulse of will he seemed bathed in the mysteries of the ages - exactly
what he was capable of, what rules governed his existence, motion even
perception he didn't have a clue - but damn was it fun. On the edge of
his perception he noticed a faint reddish glow, a dot, and it was moving
tangentially around him. His eyes followed it round as it curved a
tracer in the emptiness. Out to his left another was swinging in toward
him, he blinked another, this one green, was above him and then another
below and two more to his right one yellow one blue. They swirled and
turned, moving with in graceful curves - a symphony of silent colour,
one by one they moved around and above, numbers growing gradually.

These machines were breathtaking in their grace - it was hard to believe
that these fluid, sensitive spirits of transluscent radiance were
mechanical, digital at heart as they wove back and forth dancing between
each other and through each other, colours changing and transmuting as
they spun and dove. Then the many became few, several surging around the
dancers then subsiding in a ripple of darkness that twinkled like the
elements slipping through a veil out even from the nothingness they
inhabited. Those remaining seemed to intensify and slow, moving more in
harmony - the colours reflecting each other, still oblivious to the
presence of Nihles observing mind - pulling each other round and in like
a seething many coloured ball of light. As they melded a glow emerged,
moving out in a wave like syrup - ne noticed it as its pulse hit him, or
rather enveloped him as its shell moved outwards and everything changed.
The dance became a hum , a rythym with a barely audible pulse and throb
that described the writhing vapours as they struggled to merge and the
hum rose until it was a scream - the golden light glowed and speeded and
the pulse became a melody and a smell and a pressure until it had
invaded his every sense and was no longer a ball of colours but all life
itself and then it all twisted and vanished and Nihle was on his own
again in vacant space - nothing around, for aeons, mega-metres.

It failed he thought, the mechanical attempting to give birth to
creation and it failed, nothing was left. But why?, what was it doing
out here. All he had wanted was some spce to think, and that he had
found. He had assumed it was some throwback from voidspace, some
consequence of inner machinations played out in deep void, a necessary
part of what was at base a machine, a huge calculating device. But part
of him wasn`t sure, it had to be more than just calculation, day to day
energy exchange and bookkeeping in glorious technicolour - it had seemed
to have a point, and then it had gone. It had left him. He turned to
jack out, casting one last awe-inspired glance at the virtual heavens
and stars in the deep black, and far buried in a nebulae somewhere,
something blinked.
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