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born with clear sound and light

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They live deep in the core, but each segment is aware of the whole. Apart from the primal chamber itself, everything (everyone) turns and shifts within the soft, malleable metal in carefully calculated chords. Down here, they've reached the perfect temperature and pressure for enriching the metal. Sing of the segment turning in slow whorls above them keeps time for everyone in the region with their latest arrangement: the steady thrum of Vector Sigma their metronome, the sweet turn of gears and sheaves of metal sliding over metal their latest melody. Rich, warm metal pours over and around them, molten red as it decants through the channel formed by Held and Hold, while Grow stirs it with twists of her coiled body. Ring and Rang and he fan out through the liquid metal like spokes of a wheel, and with perfect precision Sing and Sung ring out a crescendo just as the pulse from Vector Sigma rolls out from the very center of the core. The coursing, living resonance hums through all of their circuits, but inundates the swirling, undifferentiated metal around them with life. His segment goes to work at once, emitting liquid crystal that bubbles and blossoms into orbs as it touches the enriched sentio metallico.

All throughout the core, his awareness spreads, following the intermingled fields of all the other segments in the core-array, all turning and dipping and fanning out and spiraling, each in their time, each dreaming of what their latest pulse will grow up to be, once this tectonic sheet makes its slow ascent to the surface above. Rise and Rose are the ones charting the course for their particular region, and their knowledge suffuses the whole, open and accessible for anyone curious to learn that the Iaconian tectonic plate above requires fresh new metal, as the ancient edges of the plate grow cold and inert and prepare to subduct. It will sink and become part of Cybertron's ever recycled layers of circulating, shifting mantle, while their new layer will fold into the metal surface far above. Rose's tremulous excitement spreads through their segment in particular, and Sang's voice begins to murmur a counter melody to Sing and Sung. The new plate simmers and seethes with new life as it begins the million-odd year journey up and through the core and mantle.

By the time its hot spots reach the active, spreading ridge where it can fold into the rest of the crust, each of the liquid crystal, life-infused sparks will have settled and developed the sense of self needed to forge its desired form in the rich metal substrate provided for them. A secondary pulse from Vector Sigma will ignite and replenish them one last time before they finish adapting to the cool surface, and the people above will ensure their protoforms are nurtured as they mature.

Ring and Rang and he went through the process of becoming so long ago. Only vague memories remain, of those first slow, steady pulses from Vector Sigma. But they have never wanted for love, and while their segment's shared awareness fades and grows dim in the cold, rigid reaches of the lithosphere, he is quite sure that their batch of sparks will be just as loved above. Contented, with the sparks whirring and humming to themselves as they bubble up around the segment, Rung folds away, tuned in to distant Shine as he shares the current grow rate of new energon ore under the Vosian and Iaconian cratons, which should finish developing in time to supply those above for some time - a fresh nickel and platinum-rich vein will finish coalescing as soon as the synthesis reactors complete their acceleration cycle. The active ridge in Iacon is now a matter of intense interest to their region, and Shine obliges the flurry of pings by reciting constant updates on the rate of ascension and spreading -

-

So -

He hears it, as Shine's thrilling chant slows to a crawl - as the rate of the plate's anticipated subduction slows -

- as one energon ore stalls out, with no explanation for the disparity between what was planned and what actually forms -

- as Rise's excited rumble turns hesitant - and finally, worried -

-

Another pulse from Vector Sigma.

But it comes almost sixty thousand years after Sing's voice trembles and cracks, and dwindles to a quiet whimper. Sing cannot muffle it as the sound reverberates through the molten metal joining them all together, and Ring and Rang and Rung pulse comfort to Sing as best they can. Hold and Held have enough range of motion to rise up and press close to Sing, Sang, and Sung with physical comfort, but no one else in the segment dares to move - if they were to transform and swim up to grieve with them, the segment might not be prepared to swing into action when Vector Sigma reaches out to them.

They wait, paralyzed, one wrong thought away from afraid, with no explanation from the worried regions beside them, left just as in the dark by the silence from the primal chamber.

The pulse comes. They spiral into a frenzy of joyous motion, and the spherical orbs slowly solidifying in Rung's internal chambers liquify gratefully as they sink into blessedly hot metal. His chest aches dully within the confines of his alt mode, but the choking sensation ceases in the warm swell of relief and celebration that ensues throughout the segment. Ring and Rang fold over him physically once it is done, and they share comfort and solace in their fields and wired thoughts.

-

All is well again, until it isn't.

Rise and Rose lose contact with the region beside them two thousand years later.

The news turns something cold inside him, cold like he has never experienced in his life - cold like the distant myth of ice, cold like a spark left to flash and fall cold and dark as its energy slowly follows the circuits back down to Vector Sigma, to try again in another life.

-

Shine's inexorable chant cuts off without warning - there is a sudden, horrified moment of realization that shoots through all of them at once as they realize what the abrupt silence means. When they calculate the pace and last known position of the refreshed Iaconian plate based on Shine's last transmission, only a scant few of the hot spots reached the surface before the expected tectonic shift ground to a slow, spark-breaking stop. The rest of the hot spots seethe within the mantle still, trapped with just enough ambient heat and motion to sustain them at that level of maturation - but never emerge fully formed. Unless something is done, those hot spots will remain betwixt and between, unrealized.

Rise, gathering strength and assurance from them all, reaches out - and further out still - a long range appeal throughout the core, seeking information, praying for an ETA, inquiring anyone at the regional level or above for status updates on the sluggish decline of the plate movements, the delayed pulse.

When no one responds, they realize that something has gone wrong.

-

The temperature begins to drop and chill the metal around them.

They appeal to Vector Sigma's attendants, and then to Vector Sigma directly, even though all the transmissions before should have been channeled through Vector Sigma's own immense system already. All of them add their electromagnetic signature to Rose's petition, a work Rise and Rose labored over for a vorn before deeming it complete.

And they receive no response; or, perhaps, no one is responding. Rung is not sure which possibility frightens him more - that they alone are cut off from the rest of the core, or that there is no one there to hear them.

-

No further pulse comes. Shakily, unused to the task, Shone begins to measure the rate at which the temperature drops around them.

The metal begins to contract.

-

Another two hundred years pass. Once, that would have meant little. Rung's used to operating in geological time scales, to the rhythm of Cybertron's innermost functions. Now, each year without word feels like an eternity. He cannot tell what will become of them once the core cools to the point they can no longer pass through it. All of them were forged dense, built to last, compact and enduring; there's no telling how long they'll survive buried in still, inert metal, so far from the surface.  Rung has always thrived in the constant flow and motion of his place here. Never before has Cybertron weighed so heavily on his back; a claustrophobic weight.

They lose contact with Shone as well as Shine. Ring and Rang press close, and their segment huddles for warmth, hoping to stay together as the whole world grinds to a horrible, tank-turning halt.

-

A jolt, and Rung falls before his sensors can flicker on. He lands hard in his root mode with a faint 'oof!' and groans, pressing a hand to his throbbing hip joint, before reaching out to grasp Ring and Rang -

His servos smack hard against a flat, unyielding panel of metal. A wall. Under him, his legs splay out on a floor. The strangeness extends as far as Rung can see in both directions, and Rung batters his hands against the wall for a terrible moment as he slams himself against it, silently begging the wall to let him back in. Ring and Rang are not here, and he doesn't know how to pass through anymore.

Dizzy, he clambers to his feet, shaky and unsteady as he leans on the unnatural wall for support. He calibrates the long unused legs of his root mode until they stop wobbling, and - ha! He can do this, yes. Once he's certain his balance regulators are compensating adequately, Rung staggers away from the wall. Squinting his optics against the pale light emanating from the - ceiling? - Rung shades his optics with a hand and stumbles down the hall. Barely any energon lingered in their segment's conduit toward the end, there, as the fuel lines began to chill and spike with crystals, so now his frame shivers with the cold. His HUD pings him with multiple warnings that he will fall into stasis again shortly if he can't find warmth or sustenance or another mech to link systems with.

How bad must it be above, he wonders, if the core has fallen so deathly still. All those above, relying on the core processes and their smooth, devoted work to keep Vector Sigma's great Mechanism alive and well -

Rung's legs tremble under him. If he falls, he's not sure if he'll have the will to get back up. He gently folds the grief and panic away, to be dealt with later, and stumbles on. Each step jolts his struts in a way that passing through the warm flux of molten metal never did. The silence rings coldly in his auditory sensors, and it feels profoundly wrong - someone was always singing. Always. Rung can't remember, through the haze of slow starvation, whether it was Rang's or his own turn next, before stasis must have claimed them.

His turn, now. Rung steels himself to bear through the ache in his torso, and begins to sing one of Hold's songs. His voice echoes like a stranger's in the thin air, distant and tinny without the instant feedback from his segment, and Rung shudders and hugs himself as the sound bounces and echoes down the corridor.

When he finishes the last note someone else's voice rises, faltering, and picks up the tune of Held's song - familiar but made strange by the quality of the sound, here. Rung breaks into an ungainly run, and rounds two corners by tumbling over his own feet before he finds the source.

Si- no, Sang - whips around, crumpled on their knees by the wall with a distraught expression. Rung was always aware of what the others look like, without the film of molten metal between them, but seeing Sang in their purple-and-gold root mode, their fourth optic cracked and their left arm sheared off above the joint - they're so small, both of them, compared to the towering height of these halls. "My arm," Sang says, electricity arcing and weeping from the broken optic. They claw at the wall with the tuning forks of their fingers, sobbing, as they attempt to push through. Rung kneels beside them, frozen with uselessness for a moment, before basic medical education flashes up on his HUD and tells him to make sure the subcutaneous circuitry has rerouted properly, as it should in the case of abrupt amputation.

To retrieve the arm, neatly lopped off when the walls abruptly transformed out of the chilled mass of metal, they would have to go through - but there is no door. Only more halls. Rung comforts Sang with the press of his field and gathers them up onto their feet, but the loss of their arm combined with their inability to raise any of their segment on comms leaves Sang undone. Rung slings their remaining arm over his shoulder and, after a few meandering steps, Sang's jumble of legs begins to stagger out of sync with him while they shiver and sing hails and SOSs down the halls. Sang possesses more receivers and auditory sensors than Rung, and once their panic attack eases, they share the data with him as they traverse hall after endless, directionless hall.

There's no way to determine anymore which way Vector Sigma lies; the pulses stopped so long ago, and now there are a thousand layers of horribly solid barriers in every direction. Each turn seems to carry them further from their old region, and they find no one else as they wander deeper into the bleak, cavernous stillness.

-

The floor begins to incline on the fifth day. It strains Rung's legs and he's forced to recalibrate them while Sang stands guard, their four legs swaying with the effort as their grief-shot vocalizer crackles and squawks. Rung pulls himself up with the wall, and offers Sang a comforting smile as they begin to walk again. He thinks that the incline slants upward - but he doesn't know what that means, or where they even want to go. Finding Ring, Rang, Sing, and Sung is paramount; locating Vector Sigma and, perhaps, answers, comes second.

-

In the end, they find neither.

-

They round a corner, and Sang jerks bolt upright so suddenly that Rung almost loses his balance. [Can you hear that?!] Sang demands via comms, and then belatedly shares the fluid rush of sensory data with such force that Rung rocks on his heels.

Somewhere down this path, a quiet voice sings layered harmonic minor scales, faint but audible to Sang's sensors, and hauntingly beautiful. Sang bursts into motion and sweeps Rung up in it as they careen down the hallway, broadcasting on every channel. Their EM field flares wildly, like an uneven flood, and Rung hastily adds his physical voice to the frantic chorus of signals.

The source of the song plucks the spark from a half-greyed frame, just as they reach her.

No, not half-greyed - the other half of the mech's frame is gone, almost bisected but at a slight angle. Most of a torso, a helm, an arm, and a sliver of a leg remain intact on this side of the wall, but the other half of the channeler - not Held or Hold, Rung prays, scanning the rictus of agony on the greyed face a dozen times to reassure himself. Sang emits a low, warbling binary sound at the terrible sight, and Rung clutches them close as the living mech turns to regard them, the whirling spark in the palm of her hand. She cocks her head to the side, her yellow optics gentle as she sighs.

Awareness - no, recognition washes through Rung in a warm tide and melts the trickle of ice threaded through his spinal struts. "Vivere," he says aloud, while Sang sags against him. The most familiar of Vector Sigma's attendants nods, and then turns her attention to the spark support chamber irising open over her left shoulder. Her own central spark chamber, as clear-paned as Sang's and Rung's, still bears pale silver scars; the rest of her gleams like pale gold with rosy orange lines. Four of her life support chambers already spin with disembodied sparks. Safe. Saved.

Only once she's secured the spark does Sang break away and hurtle forward to clutch Vivere's claw. [What do we do?! It's all gone so cold!] Sang asks over comms, with the hitch of panic clear in her subglyphs and ragged undertones.

Rung follows suit, with slower steps. He sees the quiet, muted trepidation in the attendant's gently smiling face; the unevenness of the gold light in her optics, indicative of severe strain on her innermost systems.

Even before she says it, Rung thinks he knows what she's going to say. It's not good news. How could it be? Vivere and Sang fold him into their EM fields for comfort, and he leans into it, but he knows. Vivere sighs again, and nods to him over Sang's helm with a sad smile. "You must leave. All of you who can," she says, and it sends a new, cold chill through Rung. "Motere and I forged a clear path to the surface, but it may not last long with the way that the plates are settling."

"Leave?" Rung repeats, and the word sounds just as foreign and nonsensical and hollow as it did in Vivere's clear voice. Even now, with the whole core cooled and rigid around them, he cannot fathom the thought of leaving. If they leave, who will help stir the great Mechanism back into eternal motion? Who will seed the very firmament of Cybertron with life? He'd thought - they cannot leave Vector Sigma silent, and without a pulse -

"You must," Vivere repeats, a flicker of something unreadable haunts her optics. "Something is wrong, and the primal chamber…Vector Sigma could not tell us what. Could not pinpoint the source, no matter where we queried. The center cannot hold."

[What does that mean? What do we do?!] Sang says again, their optic fritzing as their helm spasms and shakes in a glitch of incomprehension. Rung can sense their panic mounting again through their field, and tries to press comfort with his hands on their shoulders to ground them here.

Vivere touches Sang's chin, and then Rung's, lifting their faces until Sang stops shaking apart and Rung looks up from his hands, still adrift in quiet denial as he meets her eyes. "It means something insidious. Systemic. I do not know who inflicted it upon us, or how long it may take to repair." If it can be repaired, Rung thinks, but does not say aloud. "You all must stay safe. Stay hidden. Whoever did this reached into the very core like it was nothing; they could still be here, and I would not know."

Then she straightens, rests a hand on each of their helms for a brief moment, and waves two servos in a short wave. Part of the wall slides away - a door, after all this time. "Go. Take care," Vivere commands, as she ushers them through the passage. "I must seek Mnemosyne," she murmurs -

And the door folds shut behind them.

They go.

-

Ring and Rang never follow.

Rung leaves two pieces of himself buried, and it is only years later, long after he and Sang make the long, arduous climb between the immense layers of Cybertron, that he realizes the perpetual ache in his chest is more than simple, unending grief.

-

They emerge at a long inactive rift, one that cooled long before the pulses became erratic and irregular, as part of the natural course of things.  Instead, another rift opened in the eastern hemisphere, and the world shifted to accommodate the Hexan plate. The rift called the Pious Pools filled in with liquid nitrogen long ago - the two of them crawl out through a slim crevasse barely wide enough for Sang's limbs, and then survey the rigid surface of the world for the first time.

Despite everything, it is…lovely. A city shines and glitters with light and movement not far from the rift, filled with shining canals drawn from the rift lake, and overhead the whole sky turns and turns in serene, unerring circles.

-

When they arrive, no one seems to recognize them, their function, or care what their appearance means. A Great War ended, one mech informs them, after Rung gives up on asking around subtly for some way to orient themselves and learn news of the planet's core, of potential sabotage - do none of them notice? - but that war was a couple million years past, now. A person called Nova Prime brought the people together in a time of peace, and now two strange mecha don't garner much attention when they wander into a town as prosperous as this. No matter how old Rung and Sang's serial numbers are, they're still considered viable.

So, cautiously, they stay close to the rift - the only way they know back down to the core.

They live.

They hide, and wait.

-

(Vivere never comes. She never said that she would.)

-

Rung should have stayed hidden. He could have stayed in the background, unmemorable, with Sang. The architects of the city convert the canals near their dwelling into aqueducts, to better make room for roadways underneath as the city expands, but life for them is quiet. Both of them require tinted glasses to adjust to the too-bright light that constantly bombards their visual sensors, up here. Sang struggles with the tuneless replacement arm that was all they could afford, but does not complain of the dysphoria where they think Rung can hear it. The thought of losing or altering a part of himself frankly terrifies him: each part of them was forged to be necessary to their function below, and now Sang has lost parts vital to her work in the core. Nothing that could not be fixed, below, but they both cling to mode fidelity, afraid to lose anything else; Rung catches only fleeting glimpses of Sang cradling their last true arm close when they think he can't see them. Similarly, Rung applies warm compresses to his sore chest only when he's alone in their rooms. He begins to develop a dry, hacking cough that shoots sharp pains through his chest during the once-a-vorn winter season, when the air skating over the Pious Pools ushers the cold through the streets, but he does not want to speculate on what a medic would make of his internal chambers. Sang composes and performs in the arts district, their songs melancholic and full of instrumentation to fill the gaps where Sing and Sung would be, while Rung devotes his time to the minds of others. So far as he can tell, the new field of psychology consists mostly of categorizing the various post-war glitches and illnesses and pains of the psyche into a neat taxonomy; very little is done about treatment, or therapy, to heal or alleviate the distress of those struggling.

But how can he play at ignorance when the rumors start?

Word comes out of Praxis, one mild summer - the city's blacksmiths found a newly emerged hot spot, but the pulse to ignite the sparks never came. Three small, half-finished (to Rung's trained eye) hot spots darken and go cold outside of Tetrahex, before anyone can harvest them. Local metallurgists at the café Sang stops at each morning pour over reports from researchers in larger cities, who have documented the gradual decline in groundmetal quality, and increasingly thin, substandard layers of sentio metallico around what few hot spots do receive pulses.

Nothing below is functioning. Any hope Rung might have had that sections of the core still functioned fades each day. Whatever pulses Vector Sigma still emits from within the still, sequestered core are too rare and sporadic to be a sign of improvement. Surface mecha finally, finally whisper that something must be wrong. The post-war population boom evened out long ago, and now, just as Nova Prime speaks of exploration and trade, of expanding their reach to the stars above, the new spark rate has slowed to almost nothing.

They argue fiercely over whether or not to try to return to the core, and try to accomplish what Vector Sigma and all the attendants apparently could not.

Yet merely a few vorns later, the tension and despair eases off. Rung, absorbed in condensing his thoughts on trauma and the maturation of personality as it relates to the interplay of processor and spark, and already resigned to whatever slow, gradual end Cybertron is coming to, does not notice the difference until Sang points it out to him. "A 'population augmentation program,'" they tell him over energon, pronouncing the inflectionless phrase very carefully, all four optics cycling through confused resets as though they cannot believe the news themselves. "This Nova Prime announced it: a procedure in which they splice a living spark's energy, and give rise to a new spark in a waiting body."

Rung leaves the next morning.

-

Travelling to the Crystal City takes valuable time. Rung does not know exactly what this splicing entails, but he knows the risks of an incomplete spark: whether the pulse of living energy was not enough to properly ignite the whole spark, or if it was marred by too little crystal at inception. Either would leave the life inside partially exposed and slowly draining. His segment had an excellent record, with very few non-viable sparks. He needs to see what is being done - he does not know if any others of his kind made it to the surface, but if the Prime's scientists are not careful, they could be condemning whoever they have spliced to achieve these ends to a slow death. The physiological and psychological effects of placing borrowed spark energy into some sort of pre-fabricated body, rather than allowing it time and substance to develop its own form? Rung can't even wrap his processor around it, but the potential danger drives him on, determined to find this augmentation program and vet it thoroughly.

Moreover, if they have successfully found a method of giving life to new Cybertronians…

He must know. He must know if there is still hope for them.

Oddly, the moment he crosses into the Crystal City, a not-insignificant number of psychologists hail his comms, requesting his presence for engex, at a place of study in one of the crystalline domes - just a spare moment to discuss his latest theory of the subconscious processor - Rung dismisses them all, bemused by the fact that his rambling papers and theories have gathered any attention here.

But neither his serial number nor his research can get him through the door of the population augmentation center, where new Cybertronians supposedly emerge and join the general populace. Much of the facility extends below the ground, and it is all off-limits to unauthorized citizens.

With a disgruntled huff, Rung finds a side entrance and slips inside. Very few people pay heed to him, he finds, so long as he blends into the background and pretends to be very immersed in a datapad. It is a convenient talent, though it also means that the server at the café back home always mispronounces his name as Ring or Rang from lack of familiarity. Each time it sends a fresh jolt of grief through him. "Rung, like a bell," he insists - but it never seems to stick.

-

He never finds the splicing chamber, or anything of the sort. Many of the doors are sealed, and require passcodes to access.

He finds the synthetic photonic crystals, instead. Apparently, they are not deemed sensitive enough to conceal behind a locked door. Rung locates them in a storage room, and for a second he stands transfixed in the doorway, watching the thin, sharp, underdeveloped chunks of crystal fall from the synthesizing machine and into the glittering container. It's already full to the brim with hundreds of crystals. It explains where the spark energy is stored before being placed within a new frame, Rung thinks, as he takes a hesitant step forward.

It is also almost as bad as he feared. He hurries forward and boosts himself up over the edge of the tall container, his feet kicking for a moment as he bends nearly in two to scoop up a handful of crystals and analyzes them with an expert's eyes. Someone has done a passable job in reproducing the periodic nanostructure necessary to house spark energy - but these scraps of crystal are dry and brittle. Unless they're merging them together somehow to form proper spheres, and heating them sufficiently to allow for the right amount of liquidity, Rung fears any spark that finds itself maturing with such a thin crystal as its base might be susceptible to leakage.

This - he'll have to explain his credentials. They must take him seriously, and nurture these spliced sparks. His own spark requires it of him. Rung spins away with a handful of photonic crystals and holds his other hand before his internal chamber. It may be a rushed job, but his frame has ached with the futile urge to generate liquid crystal for - too long. Once he has a suitable example of a properly formed crystal to prove his point, he can march right up to this Nova Prime and ensure this is done right, if it must be done at all.

His whole frame spasms as a hot, bright knife of pain stabs into his chest. The suddenness of it whites out every thought in his processor; clawing his chest, gagging on something in his intake, Rung feels the synthetic crystals spill from his palm in a clattering cascade, while he doubles up in a series of dry, wrenching coughs. He cannot vent, cannot stop the shuddering convulsions that send further spikes of pain through his torso, and slowly he drops to one knee, dizzy with the pain of it.

He empties his tanks twice before a thin, dry, brittle crystal emerges from his chest. Crystalline dust comes up when Rung spits one last time, and he stares at the insufficient crystal in his hand for a long moment. His processor, light-headed and far away with the pain of it all, offers a few explanations - the lack of warm metal suffusing him in heat, the strain from carrying so much slowly solidifying crystal in anticipation of that belated pulse so long ago.

It looks no different from the chips of synthetic crystal scattered across the floor.

He drops it, and then crumples to the side, into the nothingness of stasis.

-

"The secure nature of this facility," someone says, over his head, "cannot be compromised. What we are doing here is of the utmost priority."

Then, after another dark smear of unconsciousness - "Let Leukotome determine what he saw."

-

The Rung that awakens on a medical berth, several months after his internal chronometer last registered activity, does not recall anything related to the creation of spark crystals.

(Leukotome's methodology never advanced much further than 'key-word search' and 'deletion.' Later practitioners in the field developed more refined techniques, based on his preliminary experiments, but failed to learn any lessons from his rapid mental deterioration, as his proto-mnemosurgery unwove his own processor.)

"An accident," the medic tells him, disinterested, as the med droid dispenses meshcloth for Rung to hold to his dripping nose. "You don't remember? Apparently, you received many invitations to speak about some therapeutic technique while you were in the city."

Rung is not sure that's quite right. But while the helm trauma he apparently sustained has left the past year or so a foggy blur, like the worst kind of information creep, he still possesses the dismissed notifications in his HUD with renewed requests for his appearance as a keynote speaker on the end of therapeutic nihilism in the field of processor illnesses. More impressive still, there is a personal invitation from Nova Prime himself: the Prime takes an interest in bright minds who can contribute to his Golden Age of advancements and prosperity, and if Rung cannot recall exactly what he did to draw the Prime's attention, he can still be flattered by the offer of patronage here in the City.

Humming, Rung spends the rest of his convalescence studying his own work, to ensure nothing of significance has been affected by the mental fog. It seems odd, that he's made so many attempts to draw links between the spark and the processor in his past papers, but he supposes it makes sense, as a theory.

He is discharged with a prescription for painkillers, mostly for the odd, lingering ache in his chest. His memories feel faded, perhaps, but so far as he can tell, nothing related to his field of study is missing. Whistling a half-remembered tune, Rung responds to a call from a fellow psychologist, named Froid. It seems like it would be a waste not to meet others in his field, after so long isolating himself and writing from home.

He's certain they'll have much to discuss.