Hello World (3부)

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Two pairs of pitch black hands feverishly scrolled from screen to screen. In the soft blue light of the Grand I/O Temple, a row of yellow eyes twitched back and forth, faster than its hands, looking for a sign or an anomaly or anything resembling a clue to this insurgent's identity. Who sent it? Where is it? What is it? But these questions had to end for now as another surge of pain began growing.
두 쌍의 칠흑색 손이 광적으로 스크린을 흝었다. 입출력 대신전의 부드러운 푸른 빛 속에서 일렬의 노란 눈들이, 그 손보다 빠르게 왔다갔다하며 이 반란군의 신원에 대한 단서가 될 수 있을 징후나 변칙성을 찾고 있었다. 누가 보냈지? 어디서? ? 그러나 이 질문들은 다시금 고통이 몰려들기 시작하며 일단락지어졌다.

A cry of agony echoed in the empty virtual sanctuary. With wave of the arm, whole rows of crystalline pews upturned by sheer force as pages and pages of carrier wave hymnals scattered in the air. Then there was only the faint scraping. The scritch and scratch of hard fingers against a harder head; digging to get at the unbearable pain. An existential pain made physical. A pain worsened by this—
고통의 외침이 텅 빈 가상 성소에 메아리쳤다. 팔이 움직이자, 줄지어있던 수정 좌석이 순수한 힘에 의해 뒤집히고 반송파 찬송가의 페이지들이 공중에 흩날렸다. 그 뒤에는 희미한 흠집만이 남았다. 단단한 손가락이 더욱 단단한 머리를 긁고 긁었다. 견딜 수 없는 고통을 꺼내기 위해 파고 들었다. 존재의 고통이 육체를 이뤘다. 그 고통을 악화시키는 것은 바로 이—

problem.
문제였다.


have it your way. don't care. the meat modems will keep dying till you are found.
맘대로 하라지. 신경 쓰지 마. 고기 모뎀은 네가 찾을 때까지 죽어갈테니.

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There were drinks, and jokes, and some menial introductions. Thorn was eager to socialize and it showed. His vibrant personality meshed with most of the Maxwellists in the bar. Grape excused himself with 8-Ball, leaving Thorn to mingle. As Grape stepped out and turned a corner to a secluded alley, he ushered 8-Ball with him in a small voice.
술, 농담이 있었고 시시한 자기소개도 있었다. 토른은 사회화에 대한 열망을 품고 있었고 그걸 표출했다. 그의 활기찬 성격은 바에 있는 멕스웰교도 대부분과 어울릴 수 있었다. 그레이프는 8번 공과 함께 양해를 구했고, 토른은 돌아다니게 내버려두었다. 그레이프가 발걸음을 옮겨 외딴 골목에 모퉁이를 도는 순간, 작은 목소리로 8번 공을 이끌었다.

Alright, buddy. Let's touch base with HQ. Can you get a signal out here?
좋아, 친구. 본부와 연락하자고. 여기 신호 좀 보내주겠어?

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Patch me through.
날 연결해줘.

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Grape? Grape is that you?
그레이프? 그레이프지?

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8-Ball, it looks like shit. Can you tweak it a little?
8번 공, 끔찍한 데. 좀 고쳐주겠어?

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>/:_+15%^^

It's— Oh. There it goes. Coming in clearer now.
이거—오. 됐네. 이제 잘 보인다.

Grape. Where's Thorn? Please tell me you didn't ditch him.
그레이프. 토른은 어딨어? 어디에 버렸다고 하진 말아줘.

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Who do you take me for? Jesus. He's still in the building.
날 어떻게 생각하는 거야? 세상에. 걘 아직 건물 안에 있어.

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Sorry.
미안.

What building?
무슨 건물?

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Maxwellists own it. Your clock scanner led us here. Some kind of simulspace race team. Someone in there is pretending to be something they are not.
맥스웰교도 소유지. 네 클록 스캐너가 여기로 이끌었어. 시뮬스페이스 레이스 팀 같은 거던데. 저기서 누군가가 자기가 아닌 무언가인 척 하고 있어.

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Racing? Grape we don't have time for that.
레이싱? 그레이프는 우린 그런 거하고 있을 시간이 없어.

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I know. It's just something we went along with that kept us from getting thrown out.
나도 알아. 그냥 우리가 쫓겨나지 않으려고 말 맞춘 것 뿐이야.

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Just be careful.
그냥 조심하라고.

You think you're close to the target?
목표와는 가까워진 것 같아?

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I think so? Honestly we've only got half an idea of what we're doing here.
어쩌면? 솔직히 우린 여기에서 뭘하고 있는지 반 밖에 모르잖나.

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Keep your cool and your distance for now. Just report back when you have something on one of your leads.
지금은 냉정하게 거리를 둬. 그냥 이어질 단서가 나오면 알려주기만 하면 돼.

This is bound to come up; 45 more died in Beijing today.
분명 나타날테니까. 45명이 오늘 베이징에서 더 죽었어.

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Damn.
망할.

Anything else?
그외는?

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That's all.
그게 다야.

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8-Ball? Alex?
8번 공? 알렉스?

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I— Really it's not even worth mentioning, 8-Ball. Drop it.
난— 진심으로 이게 언급할 가치가 없는 것 같아, 8번 공. 끊어

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Goddamnit. Just fucking tell me Alex. We shouldn't be out here in Cyber-Blowjob Fantasyland with you keeping us in the dark.
망할. 씨발 그냥 좀 말해 알렉스. 네가 아무것도 말해주지 않으면 우리는 이 망할 사이버-블로우잡 판타지랜드에 있을 수가 없다고.

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Fine.
좋아

Since 8-Ball has already queried the intel; there's been a proposal put on the table right now to rescind this whole initiative. Hasn't been finalized yet.
8번 공이 이미 정보를 조회했기에, 모든 구상을 철회하자는 제안이 상정된 상태야. 아직 확정되지는 않았고.

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This is my surprised face.
이게 내 놀란 얼굴이야.

Some high level staffers get their panties in a twist about having someone like us doing the humans' work?
어떤 고위 직원이 우리가 인간이 할 일을 대신하는 게 거슬렸나보지?

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I don't know who's leading it. But it's something being talked about.
누가 주도한 건지는 몰라. 하지만 분명 논의되고 있는 안건이야.

Our task force nickname is not doing us any favors on that front either.
우리 특무부대 이름도 그런 면으로는 전혀 도움이 되지 않고.

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Yeah? So what did they settle on?
그래? 뭐라했는데?

Talking Heads?
Cyber-Bullies?
Grape's Angels?
말하는 대가리?
사이버 가해자?
그레이프의 천사들?

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Skynet.
스카이넷.

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Of course. Tell those nerds that we got strong leads and if they can give us another 12 hours we'll get something worthwhile.
암 당연히 그렇겠지. 그 너드들한테 우리가 중요한 단서를 찾았고 12시간만 더 주면 뭔가 가치 있을 걸 찾을 거라고 전해줘.

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I'll see what I can do, Grape.
최대한 노력해볼게, 그레이프

Good luck.
행운을 빌어.

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Grape leaned against the wall in the alley and rubbed his temples. This was not going like he wanted. He looked up at 8-Ball, the only person he could really trust. 8-Ball may not have had the capability to show emotion, but could definitely understand it. For the two friends, there was nothing to say to each other. Nothing to do other than try to finish what they started.
그레이프는 골목길의 벽에 기대 관자놀이를 비볐다. 원하던 대로 되고 있지 않았다. 그레이프는 진심으로 믿을 수 있는 한 사람인 8번 공을 쳐다보았다. 8번 공이 감정을 표현하는 능력은 없을 지라도, 분명히 감정을 이해할 수 있었다. 두 친구에겐 서로에게 할 말이 없었다. 시작한 일을 끝내려고 할 뿐이었다.

They trudged back inside to see Thorn sitting atop what looked like a small almost spherical ramjet engine with a seat and handlebars. The whole vehicle was suspended about a half meter off the ground while Bishop and Rook gave him pointers.


So when you roll right, you bank left. That's how you set up for that maneuver.

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I— uh. Oh I see. But wouldn't that put me off balance?

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Not at the speeds you'd be going.

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Oh. OH! I get it. Gotta go fast, right?

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Thorn turned to Grape just as him and 8-Ball came back. He looked like he was having a nice time. Although he was not passing off as even a novice racing enthusiast, his charming naivety clicked with the friendly Maxwellists.

So! You guys look like you are having a good time. Who'd ever had known that a couple of chippers would be so fun.

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Sorry about calling you chippers earlier. When someone starts off with that childish lingo, it just sets me off.

Chippers get their first implant in and they go completely ballistic with it.

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In all fairness though, they tend to level off about the third or fourth operation. Age also helps.

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Oh yeah, totally.

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So Thorn, what model was your latest implant and when did you get it?

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I— uh. Just recently on my birthday. It's a, um— starts with an O—?

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Grape was sure they were about to be found out as he watched Thorn fold like cardboard. 8-Ball edged a little bit for the door. Before Grape had time to quickly interject, a surprising voice stepped in.

Orison systems? That's probably the name you're thinking of. New fabricator based out of Canada. Kind of a small outfit, but decent stuff for a fair price.

Bishop wouldn't know them. She's all about the Asian fabricators.

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There was a pause as Thorn and Grape both tilted their heads at Rook.

Yes. Right.

Oh, by the way. I heard it outside. Another incident in Beijing today.

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Yeah? Where have you been? That was announced like 2 hours ago on WANsong.

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I've been having connection problems. Probably a driver issue.

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Ah. Well I'd love to rattle off some more racing tips for you guys but I'd like to attend that vigil tonight.

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You guys should come.

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Yes we should. Although… we're a bit out of place in the city. Can either of you lead the way?

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Don't really login to Cipher City much? Can't say I blame you. After all, these recruitment networks get really crowded over time.

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Recruitment?

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Yeah, this is the one catered to the gaming youth. They start off here and when they're ready to move on, we help them make the leap.

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Ever seen Pinocchio?

It's like Pleasure Island only without the donkeys.

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That scene was terrifying.

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Bishop put down her drink and removed a small glass orb from behind the bar counter. With a finger she swiped it across the surface and tapped it five times. 8-Ball examined the strange object intently while Thorn dismounted from the seat but wound up getting his shoe caught on the handlebar and flopping to the floor. He was quick to rebound and walk it off before anyone could mention it.

You good, Rook? We should leave now if we want to beat the rush.

Let's see, we'll be going up through sixteen sub-levels I think. Five transfers total, yeah?

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Bishop nodded and pressed the orb firmly with her thumb. What happened next could only be described as 'A canonball breaking reality'. The orb in Bishop's hand whizzed right through the wall, bending the rendered surfaces and light with it until it pinched off into an ominous swirling tunnel.

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Bishop took out a chess piece and dropped it at her feet. Before the small sound had a chance to echo off the wall and back to them, the small carving flickered into a red painted engine that looked very much like Rook's metallic one.

Race ya!

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With a swift hand, Bishop grabbed Thorn by the sleeve and pulled him onto the bitch seat behind her. Grape scrambled to mount the other one as Rook flipped his goggles down over his face and warmed up the engine. 8-Ball was mostly sure he could keep up. Mostly.

Hang on Thorn… and mind the tail.

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Wait, are we really going through?

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On that last word, the whine of the rear nozzle propelled them in through the tunnel. As they moved through the light, Thorn had his eyes open just long enough to watch the entirety of Cipher City pass behind them. There was a sudden swing as they phased right through the landscape and into a rushing array of colors, shapes, and even voices moving by so fast they were as indescribable as whispers or blurs.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I'm gonna fall off!

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Just hold on.

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Thorn gripped Bishop with both hands as they made a barrel roll and a hard left into another swarm of stretched colors. His teeth were clenched so hard that they could have cracked under strain. Bishop gave a sharp inhale and looked down at herself.

Uh, Thorn.

Your hands?

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S-sorry!

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Thorn quickly moved his hands a little lower.

After the next turn it was impossible to tell which way was up or down. Rook and Grape were bringing up the rear as both engines whined under strain. Red and Grey tails streaked through the mottled blackness at pressing speeds while 8-Ball struggled to keep up in their wake. Up ahead, a large 2D square was careening toward both of them.

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Bishop was adamant about not letting Rook pass her as she ducked and dodged around frozen rays of blue light. The featureless square was getting bigger by the second, until it rivaled a small country in size. Both racers revved the engines into overclocked speeds.

Coming in hot!

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I'd prefer to not wind up as a splatter.

If you can manage that.

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I wanna go home!

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There was no slowing down as they approached. Rather, Rook and Bishop swung 180° and barely clipped the edge of the huge square as they passed. With a pull on the handles, both flopped down onto the opposite side and landed with a soft touch right on the precipice. 8-Ball was not that far behind, as there was a telltale noise that came from under the surface.

[THOK]

Aw, crap.

Buddy you alright?

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A disoriented mass of cubes floated up and over from the edge. 8-Ball declined to answer as he recalibrated himself. Bishop helped Thorn off and disconnected his grip on her. He stood on the grid like surface, which seemed to glow. Thorn then straightened his hat a little and regained some composure while Grape snickered in the background.

I— uh. That was a tad different than what you described.

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> tad

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Bishop walked past Grape and picked up her glass orb. The same orb she fiddled with in the bar before flying through space.

Most people just exit and respawn. For me, a lodestar is the only way to travel.

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With the diagnostics finished, 8-Ball began to wander away from the group and towards the glass-like tower filled with solid blue light. Other Maxwellist avatars were beginning to trickle down and make their way to the base. 8-Ball was having trouble reconciling the tower's height, as it seemed to stretch up past the enveloping blackness above. However it was no wider than a large silo.

8-Ball was able to confirm that this was the same glass tower they saw in the city. Likely all Maxwellist landscapes shared a similar view. 8-Ball would be sure to include these details and theories in a later report.

As the group walked through the entrance at the base, it was apparent that the tower did not confine itself within its own exterior dimensions. The altar, the light source itself, was straight ahead with a huge open circular space in between. Many Maxwellists huddled in small groups, kneeling and praying in the direction of the light. Some groups came in with belongings of the deceased, sacrificing them to the blue beam by pushing them in and watching it dissolve into pixels.

I wish these deaths would end.

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They will.

I/O is a place of healing.

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Grape, Thorn, and 8-Ball kept quiet in the rear as they walked. Absorbing the sights and the sounds of the lamentations. The intense blue light emanating from the altar shot up through the hollow tower, filling the entire space inside. Hundreds of Maxwellists sat in clear concentric pews around the altar, heads bowed in prayer. The names of those who died scrolled by, as well as their avatar profile pictures. It was a mournful and somber sight.

Bishop, by ritualistic habit, made a circle with her finger over her forehead and approached the bottom of the altar. She took a knee and bowed her head. Her eyes glazed over into a stark blue as she extended her hand out and whispered a prayer.

cin » my faith.
cout « your will.

We pray for the deleted.
May the 0 return as 1.
WAN infinity.
endl;

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Rook stood aside and politely let Thorn through next. He gulped as he followed suit after Bishop, kneeling before the light. His hand extended as he attempted to copy the motions.

Kid?

Hey, wait a sec.

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Wha—

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There was a blast.

The shock threw everyone off their feet. The group slid back across the smooth floor as they landed. Grape held his head as he sat up. The blue light changed from a still beam to an unruly stream of flame. The Maxwellists were frozen. They were not even knocked over. They sat undisturbed from their worship, as still as statues. Bishop still with her head bowed, and completely unaware.

I'm sorry!

I don't know what happened!
Oh, I'm so sorry.

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It's alright, kid. I don't think it was your fault.

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i feel dirty i saw you.

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A tall figure stepped out of the wispy light and descended the altar. Not quite humanoid, not quite mechanical. Almost an emaciated frame with a large head protruding from its torso without the assistance of a neck. Its surface was devoid of color, yet glitched in iridescent colors as if it were struggling to render.

i can see your mistakes. mint sakes. i'm taking this over. in requests come for something extra wierd

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Grape? Grape what is that thing?

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Ah shit.

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Three eyes blinked open from the head. Each twitched madly as it fought to focus on everything in the I/O Temple, especially MTF Kappa-10 laying on the ground.

but me. i'm still classed as new i want to give you a brain. this is who i am, grape. i killed the WAN. i am the WAN. its still here because it stinks. the brain stinks, my friend.

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Guys? You all know each other?

Who is he?

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Grape looked at Thorn. He shook his head in disappointment. Not at Thorn's ignorance, but at his own reluctance to utter that name. A name that reminded him of so much anger, frustration, and pity.

Hatbot.
햇봇.

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