–25th Sun of the 5th Astral Moon
It started when I was given a busted Allagan Data System (ADS) by a friend of mine retiring from his trade. He was a fence, specialising in getting his hands on bits and pieces of Allagan technology and selling them off for more than what he paid for them.
His swan song was that little node. I’d asked about it before. He said he wanted to keep it for himself until he found the right buyer. It was me, apparently, and I wasn’t a buyer. It was his farewell and ‘thanks for the business’ gift.
I called her ADS. It wasn’t creative, but I liked that it was an anagram of my own name, and it’s not like we had another we needed to
differenshiate differan differentiate from. She was battered and broken. I thought for a while she was beyond repair. I tried. It worked.
Her power cell was completely fried and her plating was dented and torn. It looked like she’d been hacked open and that somebody had cast Thunder into her core. I felt sorry for her. I knew I couldn’t repair the core, so I replaced it.
We had nothing in the workshop, or anywhere that I could find at the time, that would supply the constant power that she would need. I opted for what was supposed to be a temporary solution. I created a device to siphon a portion of my own aether into the node, so that she could live, but only for a short time without my presence.
My aether is weak, but lightning aspected. While I can’t use it to weave magick effectively, I can use it to power machines. My gauntlets worked in a similar way, albeit one that was much more destructive to my person.
The type of link I created was different with ADS. It had its own benefits, and some grave drawbacks that I was willing to overlook. For a while after she sparked back to life, the aetherial link between us was difficult to maintain. The node was stubborn, like me.
As time passed, I realised that she was like me because of the link. My traits were hers now. It made me happy, for some reason. I think, through some twisted bond, I was inclined to think of the little node as my own. As a child. A precious thing that I gave my love and protection to.
I killed for her.
In Ishgard, the company demanded that the node remained hidden, powered off and out of sight. I tried to reason with them that ADS wouldn’t take kindly to doing so, but I eventually complied… partially. I placed her in my inn room and gave her instruction to remain.
She did not listen. When I returned, she had left, leaving a shattered hole in the window behind. She wanted to see the world, as I had told the company.
We had to halt our venture to find her. I was distraught, like a mother. We did, thankfully, find her by following a trail of my own aether. We crossed the walls of Ishgard to Falcon’s Nest. She was not far ahead of us. Her overland speed matched not the speed of a flying chocobo.
We saw her there, pursued by a troop of Temple Knights. I gave chase, pulling ahead of the group. During this time, I was in my prime as a machinist. I landed stunning devices near the two Knights at the rear and pushed past them to the front of the pack.
I saw him with her. The man I killed.
He had his hands on either side of her. He was trying to pull both halves apart. I shot him in the back, through the heart. I could have aimed to wound, or simply fired a warning shot. But I killed him.
As I stared and realised what I had done, the company caught up with me. They had not seen me attack the rearguard, and none of us had seen ADS slip away in my moment of realisation. I lied to them. I told them that the Knights were assaulted by dragonflies, and that the two at the back had been knocked down by them.
I told them that I had tried to shoot one, and I had missed. Enju did not believe me, but to my relief, the rest sided with me. They did not question the disappearance of ADS. We returned the Knight’s body to his superiors and we continued our search the following sun.
At the time, I was convinced I was in the right.
Our trail led us to the hamlet of Hemlock. We were ambushed by a dragon. We killed it. Our combat prowess was a far sight more impressive than today. After this, ADS simply floated into the hands of Reppu, content with her little exploratory venture.
ADS behaved for the rest of our time in Dravania. She aided in combat against a dragon blocking our passage in Sohm Al, and tracked Reppu’s aether over the Churning Mists so that we could be reunited.
That was in the past.
When we returned to the Estate, I set to work trying to better understand ADS. She was still precious to me, and she shared a lot of knowledge. From her I learned the schematics for a data chip, one that allowed a two-way transfer of aether, which we could use to transfer information.
I built it, and I grafted it into my ear. It was painful. I cried a lot, but I thought it was worth it for her. I wish I had known what kinds of things the chip would allow, but instead I was blindly devoted to the node.
ADS remained dormant for some time. She would occasionally reactivate herself in the workshop when I was around and parse files, or scan items for her own catalogue.
We planned a venture to the Ragnarok. I opted not to bring ADS. The risk of her being assimilated by a defense node was too high. While I was there, I discovered that the chip installed in my ear allowed me to interface with many Allagan systems there. I could read their scripture as plainly as I could Eorzean.
Progressing further into the dreadnaught’s depths, we uncovered terminals listing Bahamut and his containment there. My node was mentioned. I said nothing, but I used the chip to download the information to review it myself later.
ADS was a biological data node. Her purpose was to study the effects of tempering and attempt to replicate it. She had succeeded, and I was powerless to do anything. I was conditioned. If I spoke, or thought out of line, she would direct a vast amount of lightning aether back through the link, shocking me.
I learned to serve. She was a gentle master, usually. I was allowed my freedom up until she needed something. I experimented with some technologies we recovered from the Ragnarok. ADS blew a hole in the wall and we found
Much later, ADS demanded we go to Azys Lla. I took Zho and Lumenos (cuntbag) with me. ADS assimilated and blanked a node to find the location of the structure we needed. She required a set of data to upgrade the connection between herself and the chip, to strengthen her hold over me. She wanted to permanently remove my free will. The next step in her directive.
We were assaulted by biological experiments during the data extraction. The terminal was damaged and despite my attempts to power it, the datastream was interrupted and the data partially lost. ADS would have to rebuild it from the fragments she received.
She went into dormancy for a while to do this, waking only recently.
A situation arose. I was forced to flee to Azys Lla. ADS commanded that I go back to the site we had extracted the data from before. She remained behind and destroyed the engine on the Raven. I left via aethernet, with a copy of her directives downloaded onto the chip.
In Helix, I found the blanked node. It had not been moved from where it was left and lay gathering dust. I downloaded ADS’ systems onto it and it assumed the role of the master node once more.
We returned to the quarantine block. The corpses of those we had slain before had mostly decayed. The whole complex stank of death and embalming fluids. I was sick several times.
ADS tried to reupload the completed data. Her directive was to inform her creators on the results of her experiment. Her directive didn’t have a contingency on what to do if they were five thousand years dead, so she acted as if they were not. The strain of the datastream was too much for the ruined terminal. It exploded and the facility lost power.
Slumbering biological experiments awoke in their tanks. ADS commanded that I was not afraid, so I was not afraid. She was angry, like I would have been. She started to hurt me by using blasts of aether. She invaded my memories and threatened to wipe them. She commanded that I did not cry. I did not. I could not.
Once her anger had subsided, she commanded that I link her to the facility, so that she could serve as her own terminal to upload the data. I obeyed. However, while she was linked, her hold over my relinquished. She was unable to maintain both control over me and uplink to the facility.
Fenix, Reppu, Eyshn, and one other came for me. ADS’ haste had left a detectable power surge. The facility’s power had failed several times, unleashing biological horrors, most of which I had slain. A hydra forced me to take cover. The company intervened in time and saved my life.
ADS was disrupted and I was taken back to the Goblet.
I instructed Fenix on how to remove the original node’s power cell, so that it did not awaken in my presence again.
I am myself again. At least, I am what I once was. I don’t know how long I was under the influence of ADS, nor what kind of toll it has taken on me. I am left with this chip implanted into my ear, allowing me to read Allagan scriptures and interface with terminals.
I cannot venture to Azys Lla for now. Not until I can change the authentication on the chip so that the copied node cannot access it again and start the cycle over.
So long, ADS. For a time, I believed you were not truly evil. You shared my traits, and you had a curious heart.