Everyone knows that there are dreams that you see over and over again. Only, many of them are illusions, and you’re simply left thinking in your dreams that you’ve ‘seen them before’.
“But,” thought Alyssa, “mine aren’t illusions at all.” This was because she would meticulously record things like the date and time of her dreams, and her physical state the night before. It was a dream she wanted to avoid ever seeing again, if possible. That is why she thought she would investigate. If she could discover the circumstances that would lead her to have that dream, then she would know how to avoid seeing it.
She started having the dream thirteen years ago. The day she became a ‘survivor of the Purge’ was when the nightmare began.
Two sets of footsteps reverberated piercingly. There weren’t normally that many employees allotted for the entrance of Augusta Tower, but it was rare for it to be completely deserted.
Something had to be going on. Hope stopped walking and scanned the perimeter. There were no changes whatsoever on the display panel of the biometric identification system. Things were all green. However, he couldn’t help but think that in itself was all too unrealistic.
This entrance, unlike that of the Academy’s headquarters, had nothing like a ‘reception area’. A majority of the researchers had been duplicates to begin with. Even though there were many who were ‘stationed’ there, there were very few who ‘came and went’. Even including Hope and Alyssa, there were only a few personnel registered in the biometric identification system, so there wasn’t any point in having a reception area, anyway.
“Quiet, isn’t it? This feels rather…”
As a dubious Alyssa was about to continue, Hope gave her a cautioned look. It was dangerous to say something careless in this silence.
At a place like this where most of the staff members were duplicates, things like noise and commotion were normally irrelevant. Nevertheless, with things being this quiet there was clearly something wrong. The building’s structure meant you could hear sounds from the other floors, and even though the staff were duplicates who didn’t have much presence, if they were doing their duties then at least some conversation would have been exchanged.
Something, he thought, had to be going on. He had a bad feeling when he received word that multiple system errors of unknown cause had occurred within the tower. Many of the errors originated in programs concerned with external communications.
The first thing that came to mind was the possibility that they had been hacked from the outside, but as he investigated, he believed instead that the problem had originated from within. This was because, from a certain point onwards, operating remotely from the system at headquarters had become increasingly difficult. It was as if someone had barricaded themselves inside the tower and was preventing any external interference…
Getting past such a tight security system and breaking in was not something that could logically be considered possible.
Academy technology was the greatest of this era. Yes, only “this” era. What if someone from far in the future with highly advanced technology and knowledge had infiltrated the tower?
It was because he thought of this that he had originally intended to conduct investigations remotely through a duplicate. However, as if because this had been predicted, errors had occurred in duplicate related systems. It wouldn’t even accept any external input for troubleshooting. Then, he became certain. There was someone inside the tower. Someone with malintent was lurking within.
As a result, he decided to go to the tower, himself. Secretly, of course. There was no guarantee that there weren’t colluding researchers at headquarters. Above all, he didn’t want to endanger people of this era. Even if a colluder was of this era, it was highly possible that the intruder was someone from another era. He thought it would be suitable for someone like himself, who shouldn’t exist in this era, to combat such an enemy.
This was why he had planned to infiltrate alone. He had slipped out of headquarters without even telling Alyssa anything. But, it seemed as though Alyssa herself had seen right through him.
“Where are you going, Sempai?”
He was caught just as he was stepping outside the entrance.
“Stop. You don’t have to say anything. I know.”
With that, Alyssa gave a wide grin. Right then, he gave up on infiltrating alone. If he were to try and convince that grinning Alyssa otherwise, not even all night and day would be enough..
Besides, truthfully, he was glad to be accompanied by Alyssa. If it was only about recovering the tower’s overridden system then he alone would have been enough, but with the added mission of locating and capturing an ‘intruder,’ he felt somewhat uneasy. With the two of them, he could leave the system’s recovery to Alyssa, and then concentrate on tracking down the intruder himself…
“Sempai, there should be security guards here, right?”
Alyssa whispered this to him in an expectedly worried tone. Hope nodded as he scanned the area. There should have been a number of armed security guards stationed in the hallway stretching from the entrance to the elevator.
But, forget about security guards, there wasn’t even any sign of the researchers. Perhaps they were kidnapped before they could notify headquarters, or perhaps… they were erased. If they were erased, then it was the handiwork of someone who had information from within the tower. The fact that all of those stationed here were duplicates meant that was information unknown to the outside.
“But, if the perpetrator was an insider, what would be their purpose?”
Alyssa gazed at the Hope’s fingers, which were operating the elevator to the higher floors, and tilted her head.
“If they were an insider, then you would think they would first destroy the means for travelling to other floors. After all, they’re out if they get outplayed and the system is stopped.”
The elevator to the upper floors began ascending at the exact same speed as when he had visited before. Indeed, if this involved someone familiar with the tower then this would be something unusual.
“So, the perpetrator is not an insider.”
“It’s odd, regardless. If it was an outsider, then they wouldn’t have been able to operate the elevator. They would have to disable the biometric identification system to get to the other floors. Yet,”
“The identification system is working as normal. And, there’s no evidence of that, huh?”
Only occurrences of errors in programs related to communications and the system for the remote operation of duplicates had been confirmed.
“Never mind the elevator, it shouldn’t even be possible to get into the tower. Oh, wait. If they used gates like Serah and company then it would become possible.”
“The gates inside the tower shouldn’t be usable by anyone other than Serah and her companion.”
He had heard that there existed only one copy of the artefact, which acted as the gate key. Plus, those two were already headed for the future.
“Serah and Noel aren’t the perpetrators.”
The elevator stopped. Since they weren’t an insider and it became harder to believe than it was someone from outside, it seemed more and more likely that they were someone who had come from a different era.
“Huh? Sempai, we’re not going to the top floor?”
“Whether the perpetrator is an insider or an outsider, they would likely seize the central mainframe first. They would hack the terminal from another floor and observe.”
“It would be a pretty bad idea to get into a clash right off the bat, huh. That’s just what I would expect from you, Sempai!”
Look who’s talking, smiled Hope wryly. Despite such compliments, Alyssa had to have been thinking the same thing. As they hadn’t yet ascertained their opponent’s identity or motives, it was better to avoid as much direct contact as possible.
It was as he entered the room closest to the elevator and began operating the terminal.
Alyssa yelled the instant he thought he heard a gunshot. Alyssa had been quicker than Hope to notice. He was blown backwards. He realized he had been thrown against the wall from the impact on his head and back.
No. It wasn’t a wall. Unexpectedly, his vision flipped upside down. When he realized, he was tumbling down the walkway. It was the entranceway that was down the path that continued on the opposite end. It had been locked until now, but perhaps it became disengaged the moment they were blown back.
When he heard another locking sound, he stood up in panic. Alyssa was still in the room. He tried unlocking it, but the control panel would not respond. He heard a scream. The sounds of gunfire continued.
If it wasn’t possible to unlock it from this side, then he had no choice but to go around from next door. Fortunately, the control panel in the adjoining room could be operated without any issue. He impatiently disengaged the lock, and stormed into the room. However, the instant Hope entered, he froze on the spot.
There were monsters. Why were there military beasts which should have been kept in the Academy’s experimental labs here?
He didn’t have time to think further than that. He concentrated fully on throwing his boomerang. It had really been years since he last used the item, which he had kept with him in place of a good luck charm. He was so intent on saving Alyssa as quickly as possible, he even used magic. ...Or so he thought, since he couldn’t really remember.
He dashed between the slow-moving monsters and then out the room. He wasn’t sure if he had killed them. It was as he was about to take the walkway back into the previous room. Unintentionally, Hope’s feet stopped before the entrance. It was blood. Duplicates didn’t bleed. That meant, this was…
There was no sign of Alyssa in the room he burst into. All of the walls had been scorched by gunfire, and there were cracks of various sizes running through the panels of the terminals. As well, there were indeed bloodstains on the floors.
“It couldn’t be…”
If that was how it was going to be, then I should have refused to allow Alyssa to accompany me no matter what had she said, he thought with deep regret. But, Hope immediately lifted his head up. It was because he realized something glittery was dancing around in his vision. They were particles of light he had seen before.
“Is this crystal?”
When they had been pursued like enemies on Cocoon, he had seen it on a number of occasions. Where these crystal particles floated about, there was always a fal’Cie. Thinking back, he thought perhaps that he had seen these same glittering particles when he was fighting monsters in the room next door, too. Only, his first priority was Alyssa’s rescue, so he had left without ascertaining the fact.
Was a fal’Cie behind all of this? But, the Cocoon fal’Cie were still in hibernation, and the Pulsian fal’Cie showed no interest in humans. He didn’t think there were any fal’Cie that would go to the trouble of infiltrating a man-made facility.
“Could it be, the Proto fal’Cie…”
Since the Proto fal’Cie Project had been suspended, Proto fal’Cie Adam didn’t exist in Hope’s memory. However, in timelines where this amendment had not been made, that was not the case. The Proto fal’Cie Project was continued, and Proto fal’Cie Adam gained centralized control of the City of Academia. It was said that in this timeline, both Hope and Alyssa had been killed in an uprising of the AI.
However, the timeline was corrected by Serah and her companions. Based on Serah’s words from the future, Hope had decided to suspend the Proto fal’Cie Project. Proto fal’Cie Adam had ceased to ever exist.
Only, even when an ‘event’ completely disappears with the correcting of the timeline, it seemed that the same could not be said about people’s memories. There was a researcher in the Academy that had faint recollections of the AI uprising. For some reason, it seemed he could not go near a certain specific location within the Academy’s headquarters. In reality, even though nothing had happened, he knew it to be ‘where he was killed’.
A number of those people like that gave testimonies, but they were in the minority, and most of the cases were dismissed as their ‘figments of imagination’. Why had such ‘afterimages’ appeared within people’s memories, and on top of that, why were they unable to find any regularity in it? They created a research team in attempts come upon an explanation, but results have yet to surface.
Regardless, in the timeline from before the correction, Proto fal’Cie Adam had existed. There were likely people who retained just the slightest memories of that.
Maybe someone who could freely travel time had salvaged files concerning the Proto fal’Cie Project, which should have been suspended. Or, had they by some means, perhaps retrieved Proto fal’Cie Adam from a timeline which should have disappeared after being corrected?
If a fal’Cie is somehow involved, then this spells trouble, grimaced Hope, inadvertently. Alyssa had been kidnapped by such a rather troublesome enemy. However, it was fortunate that the bloodstains left on the floor had not been a pool of blood. While Alyssa may have been hurt, it was likely that she was still alive.
At this point, he finally felt he needed to call for outside support. However, Hope was left stunned as he sought to establish communications with the outside. The communications device was broken. He confirmed it was operable just as he was leaving Academy headquarters, so it was possible that he had crashed into it while fighting the monsters.
Since the communications device was unusable, his only choice was to use the terminal to contact the outside. Only, none of the terminals in this room could be used. He would access an undamaged terminal, and restore the communication systems… Would he make it in time? Would the kidnapped Alyssa be unharmed until then? Alyssa’s rescue was his first priority, right now. He was going to find Alyssa, who was being held somewhere in this tower. Contacting the outside would come later.
Hope glanced at the floor again. The bloodstains continued towards the walkway. If he made it there, then maybe he could figure out Alyssa was.
The bloodstains left in droplets stopped before the elevator. That elevator was stopped on the fifty-first floor. Perhaps that meant Alyssa had been taken to the fifty-first floor.
Hope looked up at the elevator that was stopped on the floor immediately above.
I don’t want to die. It’s something that everyone thinks. Maybe when people reach the state of being utterly miserable, and filled with despair, then there are some who wish for death. But, even so, there are no doubt those who do not wish to die. I think, rather, it is those who want to live no matter what, who are in the majority.
I think people are probably more desperate to live than they believe. It’s not just me. Sacrificing another to prolong your own life, even if it meant feeling regret, is something you wouldn’t think twice about.
Could you sacrifice yourself for someone you loved? No way. It’s just not possible. I hate that kind stuff. If I didn’t, then I’d just never be able to think seriously about what it means to die.
Hey, Sempai. Would you save me?