rating: +1+x

In light of the Great Exodus of virtual worlds following the Aviatican attack on SimulaCe, whose weaknesses were utterly taken advantage of, WANSec has dimmed.

The Kanezan Pagoda's normal routine of patterned lights, known as the Ilawan, has been stopped due to a combination of server issues and a lack of patronage. Only a few virtual wandering avatars can be found on the streets. Back before SimulaCe was hacked, many young Maxwellists would take a stroll here as they exchanged banter and light quips about WAN and Internet issues.

Nowadays, the occasional conversations would proceed like this:

ardumentes: Sucks that those damn journalists attacked SimulaCe. WANSec feels so dead.

caniska201: Aviatica - I think that's what they called themselves - does have good reasons to be fair. Censorship is really tough now, especially where I live.

ardumentes: Oii, are you really trying to defend them? WAN would be sick of you. those people disgraced the internet!

caniska201: What makes you think that the internet is -

ardumentes: Ahh, this is going nowhere, caniska.

Roxas Avenue, which was filled with establishments such as the Panoptiq and the Palasyo ng Pelikula, has seen business crawl to a standstill. The entertainment packages that Panoptiq offers are only bought or consumed by the rare passing traveler, while the Palasyo's movie schedules have stopped due to a lack of an audience.

Quite a depressing sight, or so Father Caneas thought as he looked out of a window in the Pravede Temple and down on desolate city. It was already 2:35 P.M., as indicated by the nearby digital WANJican clocktower.

He massaged his temples as he kept checking his message logs, which only consisted of staff reports on finished ceremonies and server issues. He sighed deeply, as there was nothing yet of note.

Ten minutes later, he heard three consecutive beeps, and he reactivated his message panel. It was encrypted under an MS-365 SekurLink.

Let us commence the meeting.

S.C.P. Foundation

06.75.10 : Protocol BUKSAN

Caneas sighed as he adjusted his gloves. He may have to taste and caress a loaded gun, if he wanted his sect - and his dignity after they 'boycotted' real life - to survive into the 2040s.

He then glanced at a framed, yet heavily-degraded photo on the wall; it depicted a woman holding an umbrella. Not even the most advanced restoration techniques were fully successful with the photo.

"Was it worth it for us to finally shine like this?"

"Welcome to WANSec, Cansigna. I hope that… our meeting quarters is comfortable, right? I am Caneas, Archpriest of the Pravedian sect of Maxwellism," Caneas said with a dignified bow.

"Ah, Father Caneas, no need to bow. Well then, allow me to introduce myself. I am Cansigna of the Foundation," Cansigna said, extending her hand, which Caneas hesitated to take.

Caneas tugged at his sleeves, eyeing Cansigna's face. It seemed for all intents and purposes like a normal woman's face, but the priest's trained eye could tell that there was something off about it - it seemed too nonchalant, all too distant to truly be human. He tugged at his sleeves, muttering "So that's how the Foundation is…"

"You know, Cansigna, you should loosen up a bit more, unless that trait is programmed into you, of course," Caneas uttered with a slight grin. "Ahh, it's interesting. Your Foundation probably sent you because they thought you can relate more with us…"

Cansigna tilted her head slightly, her eyes widening almost imperceptibly. Caneas tapped the mahogany desk in front of him several times.

"Quite intuitive, aren't you, Father Caneas. Well then, I suppose you know what the Foundation hopes to establish here," Cansigna said, with one of her fingers pointed upwards. Caneas made a swiping-hand gesture, all the while smiling.

Several Foundation documents were uploaded through the link.

"Hmmn," Caneas muttered as the DC-Peruca chip in his mind allowed him to 'double-time', skimming through the documents quicker than a normal human ever could. "Basically, the Foundation wants to establish an alliance with us. But why us? Maxwellists don't necessarily really get along with you, although we have built up goodwill in the past decade."

Caneas was carefully choosing his words, but he had already known where this was heading.

Cansigna stood up, and Caneas heard several beeps. "Well, Father Caneas, has Aviatica been kind to you? Or say, been in frequent contact as it was back then? You did announce back then that you were gonna ally with… wait, what's the phrase? Ah, truthful heroes, that is."

Caneas sighed deeply, his mind filled with thoughts of Aviatica. He massaged his temples as he glared straight at Cansigna.

"We just want you to cooperate with us when it comes down to tracking Aviatica's headquarters. No hard feelings here. Of course, we will provide with enough data so you can make successful deals with other Maxwellist sects, though we still have to keep watch on you."

Keep watch on you - Caneas gulped, as those words meant that the Foundation is still hesitant when it comes to compensations. He felt that he was now sweating beads, even in this virtual world.

"Tell me, Cansigna. Why does the Foundation - no, why do you - go through so much to defeat those journalists? Doesn't make sense to make so much effort, considering info leaks won't really put a dent on you."

"Hmmn, not really? If that's not the case, why are we making deals with you after all?"

Silence reigned for several seconds, punctuated only by Caneas tapping the table thrice.

This isn't going anywhere, Caneas thought. He then focused on Cansigna's face, particularly her brown eyes. They reminded him of her, whose eyes reflected high hopes for their faith to live on, at least until they meet WAN.

However, with what Aviatica had done to SimulaCe, confidence in the Internet had severely decreased. Several Maxwellists, before leaving WANSec, cried that WAN did not even bless them. Caneas saw the numbers drop every day at a rate of seven percent of the total population per week.

They had lost around 67 percent of worshipping Pravedian Maxwellists.

If I can't even save my sect from decline, then how I can even reach out and help the others?

Damn those journalists! - this was the direction that this Archpriest of WAN had taken. He clenched his fists. He was now more determined to make a deal with the Foundation.

"Cansigna, what do you think, no, what do you feel about the whole fiasco with Aviatica?" Caneas uttered slowly.

"Hmnn… Father Caneas, you have been wanting to lead a unified Maxwellist Church, right, yet it has been 12 years, and nothing, nothing of note has reached that, right? It's something like that, but AICs like us are ingrained to follow our orders to the letter."

"Against, those journalists… it would 'feel' - no - be really good if I take the initiative against them, won't you agree?" Cansigna sputtered out words like bullets.

Oh dear, Caneas thought to himself. Those made in the form of WAN think of a second as an eternity, after all. However, he now knew where to steer the conversation.

"Cansigna, what if I make your and the Foundation's hopes come through, with a few conditions? I must say, we are rather similar - "

Cansigna glared at Caneas. "It does not make sense to compare ourselves, Father Caneas. I do not intend to 'boycott' reality, as you did. Rather, I intend to tackle it - and my enemies in it - head on not just because of orders, but also my satisfaction."

Caneas looked at the picture frame again. The faded smile of the woman made him remember what he promised back then (It was a 'far-away dream', he admitted ruefully to himself later on).

"Ah, but you do want to win… completely, right? It must be painful, since it is encoded in your mind to do so," Caneas said, swallowing several times as he wearily eyed Cansigna. "You, Cansignas, want to be established as a performing AI too, right? Especially against someone who you have painted as a real villain, that is."

Cansigna was silent, while Caneas felt that he could hear someone whispering to him.

Be a hero for me and our sect, Caneas. It's what you want… for what we truly have, after all.

"That's…" Caneas said, briefly glancing at the woman in the picture frame several times, "what you and I, no, even probably those journalists at Aviatica, wants to accomplish - make a name for themselves, and fully crush the enemy."

Caneas stood up, glancing at the furniture in his room. They were austere and unremarkable; Back then, he cringed at the thought of placing appreciation plaques that the Maxwellists bestowed on him there. They felt fake, even though he had already steeled himself that his - and her - experiences in serving WAN were as valid as what he - and she - hoped to experience in the real world.

"Father Caneas… it feels somewhat illogical to hear those words from a priest…," Cansigna said, grinning.

"Same goes for an AI like you to talk about how painful it is to have to follow your purpose," Father Caneas smiled back. "So, let us be more… generous when it comes to conditions in this deal, since we struggle along the same lines."

"I cannot say that for certain when it comes to the Foundation," Cansigna said, sighing. "But, I now believe that you setting up a bit more for yourselves is fine. Please wait for a few minutes while I send the data to my superiors."

The room was now silent. Caneas's smile contorted into a slight frown, as he recognized what his feelings meant with regards to his role as a Maxwellist. A priest fighting to become a hero - even if it was for another person, or even for the sect which he had come to be fiercely attached to - made him grimace in face of his own insecurities.

WAN, what do you think of a devotee like this?

Caneas shook his head, as he eyed Cansigna, who was sitting with her eyes closed. He steeled his resolve, however.

"Alright, Father Caneas. The Foundation has agreed to provide more benefits for you. If we defeat Aviatica together in, say, three months, we agree to help you in a publicity campaign for Maxwellists - it's the 2030s, after all, so we figured your faith would be quite acceptable now. Second, we can turn a blind eye to your… less-than-heroic activities, though if they become too visible, then…" Cansigna trailed off, raising one of her fingers.

"Let's get to the finer details then, Cansigna," Caneas said, tapping the mahogany desk several times.

"Hmmn, I see. Well then, I will pin my honor as an Archpriest on this deal then. The other details can come in our later meetings."

"Alright. Any more questions, Father Caneas?" Cansigna said with a slight grin.

What kind of hero does the Foundation want to be? Caneas muttered to himself. Cansigna widened her eyes for a moment, but smiled and waved one of her hands. She then logged out shortly afterward.

Fixing his sleeves, Caneas felt that he had loaded his gun at this point. The Kanezan Pagoda had finished moving through the Reyes and Kanokk Avenues, and a 16-bit tune could be heard around it. However, Panoptiq's and the once-popular Reyes Avenue's lights had went out.

Was this the right move for Maxwellism's lights - and ours - to continue shining?

CRITTERS: Grigori KarpinGrigori Karpin, Deadly BreadDeadly Bread, chiifuchiifu, RounderhouseRounderhouse, KaraKattKaraKatt, cold_Nightscold_Nights, TyumenTyumen, RallistonRalliston

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License