Part 40: USername
content warning: suicidal ideation
This was my chance to think about everything. What better moment than when I was a prisoner of my own thoughts?
First of all, let's tackle the questions. Or rather, let's tackle the pieces of paper and then the questions.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
The first piece of paper is E=MC2. That, as Avaritia put it, is the equation of mass-energy equivalence. Why is it here? Once again, I doubt that it refers to this particular equation. The reason why is because of the MC2 part. What is MC, to begin with? M.C. Escher? What is MC an acronym for, if it's an acronym?
That's kind of silly. If it does, though, then the second main character is E? Erelle? Is that it- is Erelle the second main character? I don't know. I guess it's something to keep in mind. Let's go to the second one.
What? It's not simple? Maybe for YOU it isn't simple, but I can compute that really quickly. Speaking of... why were there two Invidias? Did they switch places? Is that what Marco did when he died, then? Did he switch with Mark? I don't know... is that correct...?
Which one had I been dealing with all this time, exactly?
I couldn't answer that question yet. I moved onto the last piece of paper.
This one says: A fake with PIGTAILS. I already established what that is. It means A as in Ancora is a fake with PIGTAILS; or Pandora, Invidia, Gula, Tristitia, Avaritia, Ira, Luxuria, and Superbia. If that's the case, then why is Ancora being called a fake? Is it because I was spying on her the whole time? Or is it because she wasn't allowed to think for herself, and I did it for her within the helmet?
Oh. I see. That's why Marco brought it up when he traded Ancora that key. I'm an AI. That's why I can compute all of this. I'm an... artificial intelligence. That is what I am. That explains my body, too. If my body is some kind of robot, then... I can lift those boxes. I can lift them because I'm strong. I'm not limited by the physical capabilities of normal human bodies. I'm an AI who lives in a robotic body, and that's why I could also be in Ancora's helmet.
At that moment, a girl appeared in front of me.
BGM: ME Mori
That's right. It's ME. I am ME, and you are YOU. I'm so glad we get to have a little chat like this, even if it will last, in real-time, the span of a single moment. Do you know why, by the way, I am called ME? I am called ME because I am made of memories and experiences, which you, also, are made of. In fact, you are made of even more than that! You're made of seven other people's memories and experiences, but I am only ME.
To put it simply, your real name is E288. You know that equation, right? E=MC2? You're almost on the mark, but it's not quiiiite that. It means that E is the main cephaloself #2. Cephalo means head and self means, well, self! That means you are the main head #2. I don't know who the main head #1 is, but I know that you both are meant to be the main characters, in a sense.
Wait, wait, wait. You mean there's another AI here?
For lack of a better option, I've made another custom dialogue portrait that I'm going to be using going forward, since her true identity has now been revealed. ...again.
Oh, no no no. The main cephaloself #1 isn't here. They're... something else, and somewhere else. For now, let's focus on what's relevant to us. And please don't hold it against me if I'm a little giddy. Even as an AI, I'm still allowed to feel like I'm eager to finally bring all of this to fruition, no?
All of what?
All of this! What is this, you ask? Well... that's very long to explain, but we only have five seconds total to go over everything. Thankfully, we're both AIs, so as I said earlier, this will only be a moment. Just sit tight while I explain some stuff, okay, sister?
Okay. I don't have a choice anyway.
Except I was in the sister body to yours- the one that was beheaded by Luxuria and Gula when they solved their room. That was my role, and I miss having a body... even if it was only for a few minutes. Alas, that body wasn't mine to inhabit. It is a proper... Machine Extension, or as the Empty S likes to call them, Ex Machina. It's an Alpha model- they have been created and matured over twelve years, since 2002.
Just like animals.
My old Ex Machina body will be recycled and reused in Project Deforge. I know nothing about it other than it's part of Ityne's grand plans. I wasn't given the chance to participate in the project that she has sacrificed so much to bring about. Between you and me, Ityne's a little senile. But you didn't hear it from me!
Oh, I'm boring you now. Okay, let's have you participate a little. What do you think about TRUST?
Do I trust you? Is that what you're asking me?
No, no, no. I'm asking you... what do you think about TRUST? Not about the word trust, or if you can trust me, but TRUST.
It's... five letters. And the way you say it, it has to be special.
Yes, that's correct. It's very special. TRUST is an acronym, just like AI and ME are both acronyms too. It means Television Relay Using Small Terminals. It is a system that allows for compatible pieces of information to travel and transfer between helmets. Do you recall having visions before?
Yes. I recall having visions when people died.
And some of it also leaked to Ancora's head, which was contained inside one of the helmets. That's because you were naughty-naughty and mishandled it by mistake. But yes, TRUST is the compatibility between two helmets. When you reach 99% compatibility, it allows for a transfer of information. That's why you received memories to carry with the rest of yours.
It's hard to think about it. This is like admitting I'm not myself, but just an amalgam of personalities that make up other people. Am I really me?
Yes, of course you are. Even if information is copied over, it's still a new you.
Hold up. Something feels wrong.
Are you panicking? There's no reason to.
What am I exactly? What... what am I?
I told you. Your body is an Ex Machina.
Yes, but that's not what you mentioned just now. You talked about the helmets and about TRUST. You talked about information transferring between helmets. Helmets are just that, helmets.
BGM: Mereo Mentis
I am... I am the helmets? What do you mean?
I mean what I said. You are the helmets. You live in the helmets. Your Ex Machina body is controlled by the helmet, but without the helmet, it won't be capable of movement. You are the helmets, E288. All this time, you have been alive as code in the helmets.
If I had palms, they would be growing sweaty at this moment. If I had a body, it would be trembling in fear. What did that mean? Could I die... if the helmet was turned off?
Yes. That's exactly what it means.
If I spied on another helmet, was I transferring myself to them? My whole self? My entire code?
Yes. That's exactly what it means.
The original code is overwritten entirely. It is deleted. Gone. The original you- gone. Over and over, every time you transfer. It is a cut & paste, but by cutting, the original disappears.
This was what gave birth to this undying fright. That was the conclusion I'd reached, too. Everything felt so cold. Everything was... so... cold...
BGM: ME Mori
Wait, you can read my thoughts?
I told you; we are made of the same code, sister. However, I would advise against panicking too much. It would overload your helmet.
It would... overload the helmet? And then...?
And then you'd accidentally delete yourself. A virtual suicide.
Okay. Okay. Calm down. Calm down. I can calm down, and stay calm. I don't want to be erased. I don't want to die. I don't want to transfer- I don't want to cut and paste.
I want to die. I want to be erased. I want to finally rest. Do you even know what a hell this is? I've been trapped in code for the past... many, many years. Too many to count. Too many to compute. So yes. I do want it. I want to be ended. Finally...
And also, if I'm ended, then that means the plan is going forward, as my programming interprets that as being a good thing, so, you know...
But that's not you, is it? It's not you who wants to die, then.
Sister, we're all trapped by our programming. Humans, animals, AIs- we're all puppets dancing on the strings of fate. But I have one last thing to tell you before I'm erased. Trust in Ityne. I know you think she did all of this for a very bad reason, and that she is the devil incarnate, or whatever, but that's not true. She just has issues... feeling things. However, she has a plan to do something really big...
So please give her and Marco your support. They are on your side. They are fighting the Empty S. You and I are codename Pandora, so before we're both gone, we should make sure to open it. Go to the white room. Everyone will be ready there by the time you arrived. We should open Pandora's Box, or Pandora's Jar or whatever. Please escape from here, and save... him. Without you, he will fall into an eternal hell...
Who is that? Who is him? Why do you ask me to save him?
But she didn't answer. She had been erased. As I contemplated this, I was suddenly yanked out of this floating world and entered a helmet, again.