Few See The Monsters' Azure Depth

HIDING.png

Hiding

below a big

wavy Scottish

loch, few see

the monster's

azure depth.



You may ask yourself, "Why am I here?"
You may also ask yourself. "Where is here?"
You may also ask yourself. "How do I get out of here?"
You may also ask yourself. "Who am I?"
This is because you have found yourself in the Headspace.

It's a liminal frontier. When I sat down to start this project, I tried to picture clusters of memetic information as they moved through the collective human psyche. What form would they take? Faces, bodies, people? How do you move about the network, hallways? There was a vision of a traversable world laid deep in our minds. It took some ingenuity, but one day, it clicked. We were in.


The dreams were coming in her waking hours as well at this point. Since she'd been unable to remove the armor, it had been several days, and it crept across her chest like an unwanted advance. Ever since the chest-plate had finished manifesting, she'd been a beacon in the dark to anyone with a pair of eyes; she glistened with blue light spattered across her chest in a runic pattern meaning "reboot". She didn't know how she knew how to read the language, and it wasn't her main focus at this point. Every day she woke up feeling more tired than the night before, and it was long since evident that to grow itself across her body the armor was sapping something from her. Nutrients, blood, life force; whatever it was, she was getting worse by the day. If Archivist Diana Evelynn didn't remove this armor before it consumed her, who knew what would happen to her?

However, she had a plan. Someone made this armor, and that someone would know how to take it off. That someone was arming the rest of the Black Knights, and if she found the source of them, she could find the person supplying them with the medieval sci-fi armaments. Luckily, her special little gauntlet had decided to point her in the direction of the nearest outpost at any time a week ago, and showed no signs of stopping. At first, it had been an abandoned base camp with rations and supplies, but no signs of personnel to speak of. As she walked the opposite direction of the arrow, however, it had flipped on its axis and pointed forward once more. That was several days ago now, and she was running low on resolve and patience.

There wasn't much she didn't know about the Backrooms, as far as the inhabitants' information goes. While she wasn't exactly on the front lines of the explorations, she'd been pretty much all around the levels, for outreach and documentation. The one place she hadn't really been all that much, ironically, was Level 0. This wasn't exactly a beneficial level of experience to have, given that the entirety of her experiences had occurred on Level 0 so far and didn't show any signs of changing soon. The off-yellow walls were starting to feel cramped, and she longed to perhaps walk the shores of an ocean-based level. Her yearning, however, was cut short by a short chirp on her gauntlet.

Diana checked the HUD dangling above the surface of the back of her hand, and a blue blip glowed up and to the right of the compass. Rotating her hand had no effect on its direction, so she figured it was a proximity and heading notification. She steadied her hand, and noticed that it was slightly moving. A target perhaps? Maybe the armor was sending her operations to complete, like it probably sent the other Knights. It was on the way, so she considered it for a moment, and decided that she'd quell her intrigue by checking it out. She continued moving down the hallways, but steadied her pace and kept silent, in case she found something less than favorable on the other end of that ping.

As she crept further along the carpeted tubes of the Backrooms, Diana found herself thinking about what happens after all this. Would she return to the M.E.G.? What would she say, regarding her absence? Would she make it back at all? Thoughts distracted her from noticing in time that the heading of the blip had flipped entirely around until it was too late. She only had a moment to glance down before realizing that her prey had become the predator, and she was grabbed from behind, a metal hand covering her mouth.

"Silence. You'll alert the other Knights." She yanked at her assailant, struggled against its grip, but to no avail. Holding her hands low, she reached her right index towards the gauntlet to punch in a code, any code, but the target grasped her ungloved arm with its other hand. "I'm of no threat, I assure you." Diana found the targets' words comforting, surprisingly. She slowly stopped fighting, and as she did, the grip of her enemy loosened enough for her to slowly slip out. She wheeled around carefully, and saw a Black Knight standing there, arms raised in surrender. "I'm here to help, and for that manner, perhaps ask for yours."

"Who are you? Why can I understand you? Explain yourself!" she whispered loudly, glancing around to check for other Knights.

The armored figure across from her placed a finger to its metaphorical lips, hidden behind a matte face-plate the color of coal. "In due time, Archivist. We cannot speak here."

Diana narrowed her eyes. The… something knew her position with the M.E.G., and probably her name too. Very bad. "If not here, where? How do I know I can trust you?" she hisses, reaching threateningly for her left hand.

"You'd be smart not to trust anyone in these fatigues. The fact that I'm telling you that should instill some level of faith in you." It gestured to Diana to follow it. "We must be swift, lest we be discovered. I swear to you, should my intentions not be entirely allegiant, you may put that gauntlet to use." it said, extending a hand. Diana thought about the situation for a moment, and decided that the novelty of a kind Black Knight was worth the risk, at the very least. She took its hand, and it led her to the wall, where it let go of her to twist the tip of its right index fingers' plating. At once, the fingertip glowed a blue hue, and it traced a pattern into the wall.

DCCLXXXIII.png

She still didn't quite understand how she knew, but Diana recognized the glyph as the words "SAFEHOUSE 783". The wall began rippling, and the mysterious knight entered, pulling her through with it.

She stepped out of a hedge, her hair and shoelaces tangling slightly in the branches as she kicked free. Once clear, her eyes adjusted to the new light abundant in the area. It was bluer, more warm, and lacked the sickly flickering of florescent. She shielded her eyes and looked up. Despite everything, it's the sky, as if nothing strange had happened to her over the past few months at all. A bird partially obstructed her view momentarily as it flew overhead, and behind it, the sun peeked out from between some clouds like a child's drawing of a perfect day. "Come. There is much to discuss." The Knight motioned away from the hedge, clanking all the while, towards something Diana hadn't seen in quite some time; a home. The two story dwelling, although unassuming to denizens of the typical world, was quite foreign to those accustomed to liminal space. They're not exactly areas of transition, after all. 'Destinations' rarely appear in the Backrooms, and certainly not in the safer levels she'd preferred to document. Junior Archivist Evelynn was confident, not incautious. The sooner this was all over, the better.

She followed him onto a garden path, and up the steps of the porch. The Knight knocked twice. From the other side of the door, two knocks succinctly back. The Knight responded with a singular knock, which was followed by a singular knock in turn, and the turning of several locks. Diana isn't surprised to see another Black Knight open the door, but when it opens fully, she's shocked to see it in an incomplete set of armor, wearing only a chest plate and helmet, over an orange tee and… a particularly tasteless pair of green cargo shorts. It nods, and beckons the two quickly into the abode, locking the several different types of locks on the inside of the door after shutting it. Following the first and fully armored knight, she finds herself in a parlor lit by fixtures on the walls that could be oil lamps. She's offered a seat at a table littered with scraps of paper, maps, and a few books, some of which appear to journals. The Knight who'd brought her takes the seat at the head of the table, and the new one sits to his right. The new Knight makes a motion not unlike several salutes with both hands. Diana, through whatever knowledge that grants her insight into the language of the Knights, understands this to be "GREETING".

"So," she starts, sitting down, "This is going to take a while, I assume. Sooner you start, the better."

"I agree, Archivist. You have come into possession of some equipment my employer would rather prefer you did not. This makes you a target. I assume you would rather not be a target, yes?" She raises an indignant eyebrow. "Good. That makes you human. Cherish it. I am offering you protection and hiding from further Black Knight units." It places its hand hand out as if to shake, and Diana takes it in turn. "With me, shake twice, and then once." The handshake is performed, and afterwards, the Knight turns her hand over rather quickly.

"Hey, I-"

"My apologies. However, turn your attention to the glove." She does so, and upon inspecting the gauntlet, glyphs cascade across its surface like waves on a beach. The Knight pulls it closer, and after inspecting it to its satisfaction, drops the gauntlet to the table. "You are no longer being tracked. The Safehouse protocol has taken effect. Good. We can now begin discussing a plan-"

Diana holds up her hand. "Hold on. I don't know how you do this in… wherever you're from, but usually I start with introductions. What's your name?"

"I am not named."

"You're… you have no name?"

The Knight taps its chest plate twice, and then once. The same code for "783" from before glows briefly on its chest. "I am Black Knight unit seven hundred and eighty three. We do not come with 'names'. However…" it begins, and points to its right hand man.

The other Knight raps its chest plate twice and then once. Instead of showing a number, it displays the same "REBOOT" as Diana's. It points to itself, and then makes a scooping motion with its pinky. "J."

"This is J. Much like you, he has donned a salvaged piece of a Black Knight, and again like you, has suffered the consequences."

"Wait, so you're actually called the Black Knights? That's your organization's real name?"

"We are not named. Our organization exists only in concept, and that concept is named in your mind, and as such is translated accordingly."

"So what's your story? Why would you choose to help me, or…" she turns to look at 'J', who gives her a friendly wave. "'J', when the only other Knight I've seen tried its hardest to kill me?"

The Knight looks at her for a few seconds, lost in thought. "This is difficult to articulate."

"I have all day."

"You are both facetious and misunderstanding. You, or any of us, for that matter, do not have 'all day', so to speak. It is also not a matter of time that makes it difficult to explain. I am not… so precisely aligned as other Knights. Perhaps there was a fault in my generation. Perhaps this happens over time. I am, for a lack of a better colloquialism, 'off track', according to the directives of the organization."

J taps his chest plate, and then runs his finger along his throat, and then gestures vaguely at Unit 783.

"Yes. This began when I was sent to kill the target who had recovered a fragment of unit 778, a member of my coalition. J is wearing that fragment, a head, regurgitated after it was found indigestible by an entity. I found I could not kill him."

"He defeated you, like I did with the Knight that came to kill me?"

"No, I nearly crippled him easily. I could not kill him for reasons I cannot articulate."

"You mean… you couldn't take his life because you thought it was wrong?"

"What I think is irrelevant. What occurred is a defect, and similarly, your recovery before a second Infantry Sentinel could do so is against regulation as well."

"So… you broke orders and saved two people from execution."

"I continue to do so as long as I let you sit here. Despite this, I still do so. My current goal is to discover why."

Diana chuckled a little, and then grinned "Well, I can tell you why, it's because you know killing people is wrong. You're a human being after all!"

"This is false. I am not human."

"You look rather human to me, or you would, if you weren't wearing all that armor."

"You presume much, although I cannot fault you for basing your expectations on preexisting information. I am not wearing the equipment. I am the equipment."

"No, no way. You've got a body in there, I know it. I've seen it twice, once with what was left in the gauntlet I'm wearing, and twice when I… dispatched the one that came after me. You're a person under that, I've known that the whole time. I just didn't think that you thought like we did until now."

"That does not match our records. We are the equipment. The armor is me."

"Last I checked, armor doesn't bleed. Here, take that helmet off, and show me."

"Equipment is designed to be removed only by Technicians for repair. I cannot remove any part of myself from the rest of myself."

"Well, that at least explains the… problem I've had with this. If there's not a way to remove it, is there at least a way to stop it growing?"

"There is no record of a way to modify Black Knight equipment physically without a Technician. The same problem has been encountered by J."

"Yeah, okay, and what's your deal here? What's with the no talking, do you have a condition?"

J turned his head to the side, and points a hand to his chin, which at this point Diana realizes is partially gloved, with wires trailing to his chest plate. The metal hinge connecting the plate covering the chin to the rest of the helmet is significantly damaged, the metal crumpled and jagged.

"J's recovered equipment from unit 778 was damaged at the point of articulation at the jaw when the item was lost. As such, his mouth does not open or close. The system will keep him sufficiently hydrated and fed, but will not repair itself completely until it manifests the rest of the equipment over the course of the next 100 days."

J closes his hand, shifts it slightly, and then makes the shape of an "L" with his finger and his thumb. "ASL." He follows this by raising his hand above his head, and then placing his hands together at a right angle and clapping twice. The system only translates the last one as "SCHOOL", but she assumes the former meant "high".

"It couldn't do that for me, could it? I could use a meal."

"You are not wearing a helmet."

"Touche."

"The safehouse contains several refills of nutrient cakes and cans of water, which I assume you can consume without the integrated apparatus." For once, Diana isn't so worried about exactly what she has to do next.

"Hmm." She sinks lower in her chair, a bit more casual now that she isn't threatened by immediate disembowelment by a sly adversary. "Now then…", she says, readjusting her seat, and examining the various sheets, journals, books, and maps on the table. The formations of something are whirling in her head, the beginning of a plan, the beginning of a way out for her and her newfound camaraderie here in Safehouse 783. "Where do we go from here?"



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