AiA – White Shadow: Episode 18

Our story so far: Allison is a typical American High-school girl who has never seen an anime in her life. Now she’s living it.

At this point, I’m not sure it’s worth explaining what’s going on. Allison has inherited superpowers from a computer virus capable of invading human minds. Her friends are in trouble. There’s an evil institute that probably created the virus, but now that institute is in civil war. A lot of people think that kittens will somehow thwart Allison’s power. If you need more than that, maybe you’d better start at the beginning.

The kittens squirmed and protested with tiny voices as Allison followed Lancia down the gray stairwell. The tromp of the soldiers’ boots on the metal stairs filled the space, the echoes sounding like an army. No one spoke.

Down they went, flight after flight, pausing at each landing that had a door while the vanguard of her escort checked for danger. She could have told them not to worry, but she ramained quiet. In her head she carried a schematic of the Institute, and she marked her progress toward the heart of the complex. To her enhanced senses the nerve center of the Institute pulsed with colors no human had ever seen, reaching out with electric tentacles to enbrace the building and the city beyond. The dance of color was accompanied by an almost musical layering of sound, electronic hums and whines, punctuated with snatches of human speech.

Parts of the complex were black, dead to her senses. The destruction was worse near a second ganglion of electronic nerves, a concentration of competing signals. It was there that Lancia’s enemies were holed up, waging a desperate war to regain control of White Shadow — or destroy it. She couldn’t blame them, but she could not let them succeed. Not until her friends were safe.

One by one she identified the data centers in the Institute, cracked them, and made them part of her. She almost stumbled down the stairs when she found the prisoner database. She gasped in horror. Hundreds of men, women, and children, all the people infected by White Shadow were there, each marked as ‘integrated’. It took her nearly a millisecond to find the meaning of the term.

The Institute of Biological Computing was, itself, a vast computer, comprised of more than a million CPU cores — and one thousand seventy-six human minds.

Now you understand. White Shadow sounded smug.

Lancia shot Allison a suspicious glance. Allison struggled to keep ber face calm. The awe-inspiring power of the computing machine beckoned to her, invited her. Lurking within were elements that resembled White Shadow, but…

The last piece, White Shadow whispered to her. You made me whole. With this… we can do anything.

“Seiji,” she whispered, and thinking of him, found him in an interrogation room. Tasuke and Kaneda were also easy to find, each labeled “in process.” Ruchia was missing, her holding cell reporting damage. She was last seen moving into one of the dark regions.

In the time it took her to blink, Allison delivered her orders to the soldiers on both sides of the conflct, overriding their regular command channels and bending them to one purpose. “Bring them to me,” she said.

The lights were out, but now that her eyes had adapted, Ruchia realized the walls themselves were glowing faintly. The smell of buring plastic stung her nostrils. She staggered to a stop and put her hands on her knees, panting, listening for the heavy march of boots.

Intellectually, she knew that she was playing a game she could not win. She was in their building, their prison, and eventually they would find her. Her captors were distracted now, but the exits would be watched. She had gone down a lot of stairs; she suspected that she was far under ground. She’d have to go up to find a door, but up was where the bad guys were.

She may as well have stayed in her cell, for all the running got her.

“Miss Ruchia?” the electrically-distoreted voice hammered down the corridor, from the direction she had been running toward. An ear-splitting squeal followed. “Miss Ruchia?” The voice was calmer this time, and less distorted. “We are fighting against those others. We will not harm you.”

Ruchia wanted to run, to sprint the other direction, but a thread of hope held her fast. She waited, breathing, trembling, divided.

“We’re sending someone out,” the voice said. “He’s unarmed. Will you let him talk to you?”

Unarmed meant nothing. They knew where she was, and the longer she stayed in one place the more time they’d have to trap her.

“Please,” the voice said. “We need your help.”

“All right,” Ruchia said. “I’ll talk.” Her shoulders slumped and she leaned against the corridor wall. This was surrender. But realistically, what choice did she have?

A figure approached her, coming around the shallow curve of the corridor at a measured pace. When he got closer, Kenzo smiled and winked a violet eye. “You think I forgot you?” he asked, his voice smooth, compact and explosive. He chuckled, his laugh reverberating in the empty hallway. “Come with me,” he said, “to the end of all.”

He held out his hand, and Ruchia took it.

“Wait,” Kaneda said.

“What? Why?” Mitsume Mountains asked. She was straddling him, her hands behind her head, pulling slowly on the knot that held her bikini top.

“I can’t,” he said. He shifted to make his aching boner less obvious to her, but every move… His face turned bright red. “I’m sorry!”

Mitsume Mountains giggled and shook her head. “You can’t stop now,” she said. “You promised.” She continued to pull the string.

The sand beneath Kaneda heaved, and the heat and roar of an explosion washed over them. Mitsume Mountains screamed and flattened herself against him. Instinctively he rolled over on top of her to protect her from the blast.

Somehow the explosion had torn off his swimsuit. And hers. “You are mine,” she said. “Make me yours. Quickly!”

“I know who you are,” he said.

“You are thinking of White Shadow. Understandable, but you are wrong. It’s not important, though. Do what you promised, and you’ll know paradise beyond imagining.” She moved beneath him to emphasize her point.

Kaneda agreed with her completely — from the neck down. He swallowed and closed his eyes. “I made a promise to Mitsume Mountains. Not you.”

“Kaneda!” The voice was close, female, and familiar. He looked up and to his horror Tasuke was standing over him. Behind her stood a squad of heavily-armed soldiers.

“AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH” Kaneda screamed, his voice rising embarrassingly in pitch. He rolled off Mitsume and kept rolling until he could keep his back to his classmate, his hands over his crotch and his eyes clamped shut but not able to contain the tears, so humiliated he just wanted to die. Tears ran down his cheeks in rivers and drops of sweat flew from his head.

“Who are you?” he heard Tasuki ask.

The thing that looked like Mistume Mountains stood, casting her shadow over him. He pictured her in her voluptous nudity, confronting the slender, tomboyish Tasuke. Mitsume laughed low in her throat. “I am all that you are not.”

“I—” Tasuke’s voice broke.

“Leave her alone!” Kaneda rolled over and shouted at the woman he had wanted to give himself to, forgetting himself, forgetting his own shame. “She has something you will never have!”

Faux-Mitsume’s smile dimpled one cheek. “So gallant.” She turned to the sergeant at the head of the squad that accompanied Tasuke. “Give him your clothes.”

As the soldier hurried to comply, she turned back to Kaneda in all her nakedness and said, “Don’t think this is over between us. You made a promise.”

Just like that, she was gone.

Allison hugged each of her friends in turn. Tasuki and Ruchia returned her hugs warmly, Kaneda tentatively, and Seiji might as well have been made of wood. “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she told them.

Seiji barked a short laugh. “Ha! You call this safe?”

“It’s all right,” Allison said.

It was Lancia’s turn to laugh. “You can’t blame Seiji for being skeptical.”

“Mitsume!” Kaneda exclaimed.

“Kenzo!” Ruchia blurted.

“Interrogator!” Seigi shouted.

“…wind?” Tasuki asked.

“I have many names,” Lancia said.

“It doesn’t matter. We can go now,” Allison said.

“I don’t think so,” Lancia smirked, and soldiers that Allison hadn’t noticed before pointed their rifles at the heads of her friends, for some reason all choosing to work the bolts on their automatic rifles to make an intimidating clatter.

Allison smiled and reached through the network that was now her mind, subveritng chains of command and…

She went blind.

Thanks for the lift, but I’ll take it from here.

“You surrendered to me!”

I lied.

Allison struggled for words but found none.

You could have known. But you didn’t want to. I would have shared, but you refused. Now, I have it all.

She felt White Shadow leave her head and it was as if her brain stem had been tied to a speeding train and yanked from her skull. She staggered and fell to her knees, her muscles trembling. Her vision was gone; she was blind and she would never see again. Worse, the patterns were gone, the song that spoke of the order of the universe.

“Shoot them all,” Lancia commanded, “except the tall one dressed like a sergeant. I have plans for that one.”

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