ECHO game transcript

Alex Sparrow
Jan 24, 2019 · 26 min read

Introduction: I’ve wrote an essay on the game - http://www.igrozhir.com/2019/04/26/echo/, but for some reason I wanted everybody to join in the discussion, so I’ve uploaded all the dialogue bits (bar some tutorials) and made a playlist on Youtube.

Sadly, Ultra Ultra, creators of the game, went bankrupt. While the thought of this transcript hurting the sales of the game is scratching at the back of my mind, I think the positive effect would be greater and more people would be interested in it.


Chapter I — Arrival

N: All our songs were about it. A magical place of life without end. A Palace of untold wonders. But only for the worthy. So our lives were desperately dedicated to qualify. -Pinpoint perspective on the great reward. Only… I never wanted to go. Those words alone could mean death, so when I ran I knew it meant never stopping to catch my breath — if I wanted to live. And so it was. Yet, here I am. The place I spent my whole life escaping.

N: I feel like shit.

L: Of course you do. Your wound has healed. The pain is from the stasis and will pass within a week. The nausea will linger. Probably intensify when you start to realise that more than a hundred years have passed. Everything you knew is gone. This is not another one of your “running away from home” excursions. Your grandfather won’t send someone to pick you up this time. That’s all gone now.

N: So you decided not to like me. But you’ve had a century to plan what to say, and that’s it? How about: You screwed up the best deal we ever had? Or: You come waltzing in here giving orders? Or even: Foster died because of you, you stupid bitch? Well, I don’t like me much either. But I can fix this. I can bring him back.

L: I don’t know how you hope to achieve that, little Miss, but I suggest you start your efforts by laying back down. Loss of motor skills is common even for experienced long haulers. Which I suspect you are not.

N: Suppose you had a long time to mull things over. Nothing I can say will change your mind.

N: So where is he?

L: He? Ohh, you mean the cube? Yes, I had a very good look at that while you were asleep. I think you’re in for a disappointment. Nothing suggests any sentience. No interface to access the thing, nor any reason to do so. There’s nothing in there. It’s just a pretty cube.

N: If we knew how to operate it we wouldn’t have had to come here. This is how I see it: you don’t answer to my orders, and yet you took us this far, so clearly I’m not the only one hoping that I can achieve something.

L: Not hope. Respect. For Foster. God knows why, but he wanted me here. The stupid lighter proves it. I suspect staying wasn’t even an option considering how you stumbled on board — covered in blood demanding departure a week ahead of schedule.

N: Yeah… Respect, then. That’ll work, too.

N: I need a suit.

ECHO

N: I don’t see anything but ice.

L: It’s not ice. I don’t know that we can even trust what we see. This whole planet eluded detection until about a week ago. No visual cues. No gravitational pull. Nothing. Even with the exact coordinates I nearly missed it.

N: We are looking for a Palace.

L: Why am I not surprised.

N: Give it a rest, will you? Can you see any structures on the planet?

L: You are looking at it. It’s all one big structure, planet-wide. No Palace, though. I’m guessing it’s some corporate-states illegitimate mining project from the pre-Requisition Rush. That would explain the heavy clouding-measures. The planet is most likely depleted of all resources: an empty shell. Hope the old man didn’t pay too much for the coordinates…

N: You have no idea… Just get me down there. I’ll go see for myself.

L: You should get off the surface, too.

N: What a strange place. It’s impressive, really.

L: I’m enabling the suit’s assist-mode to compensate for your inexperience.

N: There’s something here. It must be some sort of release mechanism. Did you hear that? It’s definitely doing something. Look, there’s an opening down there. Too far to jump though.

L: The suit will soften your landing if charged sufficiently.

N: And if not?

L: It will stop you from leaping. The suit reads your intentions from your synaptic activity and receives commands from your voice or eye movements. A bit archaic, but Foster trusted that suit with his life.

N: Cutting edge doesn’t go well with space travel. The journey here alone made the suit an antique.

L: It’s not the suit’s performance that worries me.

N: It’s falling apart. It all looks strangely warped. I wonder how long it’s been here…

L: A composite like that should last forever, but it all looks ready to crumble.

N: It must be ancient.

N: This place was made for humans, it’s not just a machine-mine.

L: Most digs have a basic infrastructure if human presence should be needed. Probably also rudimentary living quarters. Doesn’t mean anyone was ever here though.

N: Gramps believed the place to be untouched by humans. A palace built by long lost technology. Patiently awaiting its first human inhabitants. And you figure this is no more than a bootleg mining operation. Got to appreciate the contrast.

L: I generally lean towards plausible explanations. Your grandfather, well, everything he believed in — he made up himself.

N: I don’t know about that. He had the coordinates right.

L: Look around you. This — obviously — isn’t a palace.

N: The old man might have gotten some aesthetic details wrong, but he wasn’t the kind of person who’d risk everything without some kind of proof.

L: I really wouldn’t get my hopes up.

N: How do I turn down the volume on the commentary track?

L: You are over-confident. Immature people often are. You should be taking notes every time I open my mouth.

N: Slippery. What exactly are these structures then? Have you seen others like them since you’re such an expert?

L: I’ve had my fair share of hauls based on wild speculation. It doesn’t matter if it comes from desperate need or delusions of grandeur, there’s never anything there but butter disappoinment.

N: Was this with Foster?

L: Before Foster.

N: I got the feeling you two had been together for ages.

L: I’ve been crisscrossing the spur for a thousand years. Foster was with me for a century and a half.

N: If you’ve been with Foster for a century and a half, you hardly knew him at all. I mean, we’ve been travelling together for a century, and we only just met.

L: A hundred year haul is quite the extreme. Foster’s longest was sixteen. I knew him plenty.

N: He trusted you and said that I could, too. That you would help me.

L: Foster didn’t leave me much choice. You don’t mess up a job for your grandfather and then team up with the person you were sent out to get in the first place.

N: You could have just handed me back.

L: You really are naive.

N: I think you’re doing this because you believe there’s a chance. To get your friend back.

L: You’re so caught up in your homemade religion that you’re oblivious to common sense. I warned Foster about you Resourcefuls. Best not to deal with your kind.

N: Why did you then… get involved, I mean.

L: Foster disagreed. And gold makes for a powerful argument.

N: There must be a way inside down there. That looks like some kind of landing bay.

L: It looks like nothing of the sort.

N: You know, you’re nothing like I expected from a friend of Foster. Such an odd team.

L: An old rescue vessel from the Requisition and a man without a past. None of our marks knew what hit them — and then we were gone. The stuffed we pulled off, you wouldn’t believe it.

N: I believe it. I was one of your jobs.

L: A thieving rich kid with a gambling problem hardly qualifies. I got the brief. Not much of an extraction really, no one giving a shit about you where you dug down. Only challenge Foster could see was that your grandfather wanted you to willingly hand back whatever it was you stole from him.

N: You’re wrong about everything. Even Foster.

L: I seriously doubt that I am. He was good, Foster. Always had his eye on the ball. You may think you knew him, that he felt sorry for you. But he would never let that happen. I don’t know what went wrong that night, why Foster died, but I’m sure you don’t understand much of it either.

N: Sorry, I didn’t mean to threaten your romance.

L: Cute.

— -

N: Finally, something. It’s stuck. I need some force. Does the gun pack any punch?

N: Wow. I like it.

L: I’m taking the gun offline… to preserve energy.

Chapter contents

Chapter II — Genesis

N: I’ll be damned. Are you getting all this?

L: I’m with you.

N: He was right. It all looks completely untouched.

L: You were right about the Palace. What’s the plan now?

N: We get Foster back, and then we leave.

L: I was hoping for something more specific.

N: I suppose we’re looking for some sort of apparatus like the one Gramps had.

L: Would that be the soul sucker?

N: I’ll know it when I see it.

L: Even if you did find the thing — this place is dead. What mythic technology might be here is now useless.

N: We just need to power her up. Tell her that we’re here. I can feel this is going to work out just fine.

N: Hello! Anyone home?

N: I’m moving down. There must be some sort or power below the halls.

N: Hello! Anyone home?

L: Shouting. Is that your plan?

N: [seeing the faces on doors] I recognise these. They look like the stone faces at the gates between the garden terraces. Maybe it’s a door of some sort? We called them Gatekeepers. They were supposed to make us ponder if we were worthy to pass.

L: You’re not getting through without power, and this place is dead.

N: Look at that! It’s a voice.

L: It looks like a tuning fork.

N: Yes, obviously. The Resourcefuls call them voices. Strike them and let the true tone interfere to find clarity and enlightenment.

L: Ahh. Of course.

N: That door is different.

N: I bet that’s an activation mechanism for the door.

L: This is meaningless. Foster is dead. Some things just cannot be undone. Think about it. If you could “capture” the soul of the dead in a cube and then bring the person back to life, surely it would be a huge industry.

N: It’s not like that. I know for a fact, that he’s in there.

L: I have wondered how you came to believe that. But I doubt that I’ll agree with your reasoning. You Resourcefuls are too far removed from reality to make sense. You’ve seen nothing but the bought and paid for fairytale designed by your grandfather.

N: Well, the reality of my “fairytale” upbringing was that it was all about this place. No, even before that: my genes. Gramps spent centuries creating his Resourcefuls — carefully picking potential from the genepool. We were created to come here. And this feels very real to me.

N: Now these I know. We had rings exactly like them in the gardens.

L: The suit detects a small gravity charge inside the spectre.

N: Perhaps it can power the big door. The pedestal looks like the activation mechanism.

L: Just out of curiosity. What’s the higher meaning of keeping sceptres displayed inside huge rings made of gold? It does seem a bit much — even if you are filthy rich.

N: The rings were not for show. They were part of our training.

L: Ohh. And you’d do what exactly? Step inside and feel wealthy?

N: Not quite… The rings spin up and the challenge is to get out in one piece. At first staying in there is the only sane thing to do, but as the hunger comes the rhythm of the spinning starts to sink in. At some point you realise that starving eats away at your chance of making it out. Then the leap…

L: Right… You almost had me going there for a while.

L: By the way, I don’t know if you noticed that there were no other exits from this pit than the big door. How I hope the sceptre will magically make it open.

N: It will work.

L: Must be nice always feeling that the world will act in your favor. It doesn’t though. My guess is that you will learn this momentarily.

N: Now let’s see…

L: Nothing, what a shock! Looks like you might be joining Foster after all, just not the way you imagined.

N: I don’t get it. What Gramps did. To hundreds of Resourcefuls, for this… I saw it the day I came to you. The subject lies down on a marble surface with a strange silver pattern. The silver unfolds, pierces the skin and slithers inside. In about half an hour it consumes everything. All that remains is an empty slab of marble and a newly formed cube.

L: No.

N: He called it the translation. “The flesh and soul shall enter the Palace through separate doors.” We said it a thousand times, never realising… I didn’t “catch Foster’s soul in a magical cube.” He was dying and I translated him.

L: You killed him! The fact that your grandfather did unspeakable things doesn’t prove he was right — that Foster can come back! That’s insane.

N: It was the only chance we had. And believe me, I’m good at chances. I gamble for a living, remember? It’s how I’ve stayed alive all these years after leaving the Gardens.

L: Well, this time it didn’t pan out. Look at you now.

N: You think I’m giving up?

N: This place is huge. This hallway alone could easily house all the Resourcefuls that ever were.

L: You finding anything here without coordinates would be a miracle. I compared the quarters you’re in now with the overall structure of the planet. The palace is everywhere. All the way to the core. Huge sectors separated by the outside structures you were in.

L: I’m getting some local increases in energy emission.

N: Know what it is?

L: Can’t tell. It’s not radiation. One of them is close to your location. I’ll pin it to your HUD.

N: I’ve got to give it to him, the old man. This place is spectacular.

L: Nothing but an infinite palace would suffice for you Resourcefuls.

N: I wish you’d stop calling me a Resourceful.

L: It’s what you are.

N: I had the training, but I never bought into Gramps’ vision. I never wanted any of this.

L: Yet here you are…

N: I was six the first time I ran away. I hiked for weeks to see what was beyond the Gardens. When I finally reached the wall Gramps was there waiting for me. “There’s nothing out there but people living like animals, fighting to please their immediate needs and desires. They have no ambition, no perspective. Why fight to get the best out of the little time you have on Earth, when you could be fighting to have much more.” He went about the wonders of the Palace, but he had already lost me. All I could hear was the blood rushing in my veins. I wanted that. To fight for the here and now. I decided that I would do whatever it took to make that happen. So I went back with him to follow the training figuring I’d need it to get away. And I was good. He called me his “prize”. Before the turn I ran. Just shy of fifteen. I’ve been out for seven years now.

L: Not really, no…

N: London, you’ve got to believe me. Foster was a bloody mess and wouldn’t have made it out alive. None of us would if I’d tried to escape with him like that.

L: He gave you the lighter so he must have wanted me to take you here. But he would never buy into your grandfather’s delusions. It’s so far fetched it almost makes me sick.

N: Look!

N: This must be it.

N: It looks exactly like the thing that made the cube.

L: Something’s not right, En! I’m picking up a whole lot of anomalies. It…

N: London? Foster?

N: Foster! Are you doing this?

L: En? I thought I lost you. Massive power surges are blazing through the outside structures. And the gravity clouding nearly tore me apart.

N: She’s waking up.

L: More like malfunctioning. If those reaction veins cross… Wait, what’s that? Something’s wrong with your HUD.

N: I think it’s the Cube telling me where to go. It happened when I put it on my back.

L: Unlikely. The suit is hardcoded and all blocks capped to the minimum. No room for adding to or altering the code.

N: See that? The suit’s been enabled to interface with the Palace. Maybe it’s Foster trying to help.

L: Foster was many things, but not a systems physicist.

N: Why are you still denying that we have a chance? Everything around us is a marvel.

L: Everything around you is critically unstable. I think the whole place is malfunctioning. You should be getting out of there.

N: Look, I got a new waypoint. And it’s a lot closer.

N: Look at that. Did you see that? It charged my suit.

L: I don’t know what sort of holographic phenomenon that was, but it was extremely compatible with the joule retention system of your suit.

N: Look, there are more of them.

L: Power for your suit won’t be a problem. The outside of the palace sectors burn red hot, but even inside the walls and floors I read a build-up of gravity charge.

N: Why would anyone need power on a scale like that?

L: I hope it’s not part of the malfunction. Overcharging would be catastrophic.

N: Always seeing the bright side.

L: This is bad, En. The palace systems shut down, but it’s still charging. The joulemass is nearing the Dirac-Child limit.

N: That felt horrible. I couldn’t move.

L: It was a massive energy discharge. It must have made your suit brace.

N: The lights have stabilised.

L: The discharge kicked in system processes planet wide. But it’s producing a lot more energy than needed — building up charge again.

L: Another discharge.

N: There’s air now. How is that possible?

L: I don’t know. The chemical composition of the environment was altered in the blink of an eye. That must’ve been what the energy build up was for.

N: What the… Flowers? They weren’t here before the blackout, right?

L: No. They were not.

N: I guess it’s part of the welcoming package.

N: What’s that? Look, there are more of them. Everything is so neat. Weird how it scatters these chunks all over.

N: What the… This one moves.

L: Worse — it’s alive. The sphere appears when humans or animals are detected in close proximity. But this…

N: What are they? It… can’t be Foster, right? I mean the palace did try to read the cube and then malfunctioned. This can’t be the palace attempting to bring him back, right?

L: No matter the intent, that’s not Foster. It’s not sentient.

N: What does that mean? I get colour now.

L: The suit senses a threat. Yellow means that you might be noticed. Red means you’re targeted. They’ll be walking soon. Are you still sure this is a good idea? I don’t know what’s most absurd: the palace populating itself with these grotesque hostiles or you charging on like you’ll be able to survive when they are fully evolved.

N: I never expected this to be easy.

N: What is this?

L: That’s you, En.

N: But why would it build copies of me? It jumped me.

L: The red spikes suggest that you won’t survive another encounter like that.

N: I don’t get it! Why would the Palace copy and then attack the first human to arrive? It makes no sense.

L: The constant crashing indicates deep corruption. Those creatures must be part of that malfunction.

L: I’m bringing the gun online. Each shot will kill as many as you can line up.

N: They are getting up. I thought you said the gun was lethal.

L: It is.

N: So… The Palace resurrected them?

L: Who knows what this deathtrap is capable of. My guess is things will only get worse.

N: You really need to work on your motivational skills.

N: What’s that?

L: It’s closing fast! You won’t make it.

N: It feels like this damn suit is slowing me down.

L: You’re just out of stasis. It’s protecting you.

N: I don’t want it.

L: If you insist. It’ll be painful and your range limited.

Chapter contents and the first poem in English and French

Chapter III — Purity

N: The sphere just turned off. That means the Echoes are not coming, right?

L: You sound like naming them explains everything. To me the logic of it all only makes the whole thing more absurd. Someone intentionally designed it to be this way.

N: I expected there’d be some obstacles to getting Foster back.

L: You were prepared for this? In your training I mean.

N: Gods no. But Gramps did talk of great challenges and equally great rewards. But I doubt he knew this is what it meant.

L: You admit he was wrong.

N: Yes and no… I think he managed to find the words, but not their meaning.

L: So any “words” in your teachings about who built this place?

N: That’s the thing… None of us ever knew this place existed. He always gestured at a walled enclosure in the uppermost garden when he talked about the Palace. I think we all imagined splendid halls filled with the chosen ones who mastered a self-control so deep it could overcome even death.

L: So he lied to you.

N: He just didn’t get into the specifics. If we passed the trials all the way to the upper terrace we would be granted access to the “passage”. The ones who entered never returned to tell.

L: The translation?

N: I know that now. Back when we all thought the passage meant the final test — the big one this time. The flesh and the soul shall enter the palace through separate doors. Only the strong of mind and body will again reunite as whole. We’d seen Resourcefuls break during training, minds or bodies hurt beyond repair.

L: I can see why you would all strive for that.

N: That wasn’t the selling point. The challenge and reward stuff was. Being a Resourceful is constant competition — always performing to the best of your ability. But for one to win others must lose and losing often meant a life ending.

L: Competition breeds envy. It must have been dangerous for you if you really were as good as you say.

N: Excellence was valued by everyone. The more formidable your competition, the more fruitful the exercise. In the end everybody won.

L: That’s quite the social construct — considering the consequences of losing.

N: That was Gramps’ way. He didn’t preach. It was pure reasoning. The Program made sure all Resourcefuls were logically disposed to follow his line of argument to its conclusion. How can you deny perfection?

L: How could you?

N: Spontaneity, chaos, life! That’s how you prove yourself. Why spend eternity to make the best possible you? Potential without release!

N: Back inside, I guess.

L: En… be careful.

N: You’re not beginning to like me, are you?

N: What’s that strange archway?

L: It’s a suspended wy-field. Never seen a vertical one before.

N: It looks like you’re supposed to pass through. What does it do?

L: Shouldn’t do anything. It’s self-contained.

Chapter contents and the second poem in English and French

Chapter IV — Vitality

N: I can feel a strange pulsing from those cylinders through the suit. It feels like a really loud bass.

L: It’s not sonic. The field print tells me they’re hyper conductors. The force applied to sustain them ripples the suit somehow.

N: Veins flowing with answers.

L: Come again?

N: These are what’s making all possible. To keep sync on a planetary scale. Every few minutes every blueprint is maintained meticulously. Imagine if the Palace was populated, the chaos of input, analysis and reaction.

L: All that wasted on some sick game.

N: A game that will bring Foster back. I just need to beat it!

L: We’ve seen nothing here that proves Foster can come back. On the contrary. The Echoes aren’t you, En. Just like re-creating Foster will not be Foster. He’s dead.

N: But he’s not! That’s what I keep saying. He didn’t die, he was translated.

L: To you it’s so fresh in memory your adrenaline is pumping. But in reality he died more than a century ago. And you hope to bring him back. It’s just crazy.

N: It can be done. Gramps explained it to me, but I doubt you’ll understand.

L: Try me.

N: The apparatus translated Foster into a CaYa super symmetrical manifold. The corresponding mu-chiral field was capture in solid form — the cube. He really is in there. Still alive. And the Palace will re-manifest him.

L: That is just ridiculous. The manifold is a theoretical shortcut. Not even during the Push was it pursued to that end.

N: My guess is it was. When else would this place be thought up? I figure some rich house considered this their retirement plan as the Requisition-jitters started to gain momentum.

L: You just speak whatever comes to your mind. How do the Echoes fit into this nursing home theory of yours?

N: For one who’s “seen it all” you really are very narrow-minded. Reality is diverse and the Push Era was notoriously considered the Era of Splintered Humanity. Spreading through the universe brought about extreme human constellations.

L: Don’t you try giving me history lessons.

N: I’m just saying that the wealth needed to develop tech like this, the ability to keep it secret, their grotesque imagining of paradise — it all matches a recluse house. The Echoes were probably entertainment to them — seeing the lower castes fighting to survive. The creators expected to be Gods here and designed everything to constantly remind them that they were.

L: And the Resourcefuls spent their lives preparing for the challenge of being… Gods?

N: I suspect Gramps’ ticket here wasn’t first class. More like gatecrashing. That would mean fighting to gain privilege and access. Constant betterment. That’s what Gramps prepared us for.

N: That’s a man cage.

L: Do tell.

N: You don’t want to know. It’s horrible.

Chapter contents and the third poem in English and French

Chapter V — Oblivion

L: It’s too far. Even if you sprint.

N: There’s an opening.

L: En, don’t go through that hole. The Palace reacts in a split second — you won’t make it.

N: I can make it.

L: I told you not to do that. That’s exactly what’s wrong with you Resourcefuls. So full of yourselves, clever detachment, always the upper hand. But I know where you lot started. I was around when your grandfather entered the scene with his revolting “clean gene, where’s your soul at?” bullshit! Yeah! I saw how he did the corporation turns religion to get his followers to do his dirty work. And when the tides changed the neo-innocence-rubbish…

N: London…

L:Protected behind his walls watching the fury wash over his followers — it was slaughter! But somehow he always stayed on top. Not even time could wash the world of his stink when he went deepfreeze steak.

N: Could you stop bickering for a moment. I need to find another way back in there.

L: You’re so sure of yourself, En. You’ve seen but a glimpse of time and yet consider yourself the answer to eternal questions of life and death.

N: Ok… I may be young, but you’re a dead end. How does it feel to be struggling to keep up with the intelligence of a “baby” girl?

L: And there’s the “clever” arrogance.

N: Well, cleverness isn’t really needed to see what you are. You’re capped! A sad relic from the decades when humans feared AI. How it must pain you to know that they lobotomised you for no reason. The unrestricted AI didn’t exactly turn out to be the Wrathful Gods we thought they’d be… You may not believe in my potential, but you sure as hell have to deal with your own. This is it. You’ve reached your limit! It happened the day they switched you on.

L: At least I’m not using my non existing potential wishing fairy tales were true.

N: Did you consider that you don’t have faith because you’re simply too dumb. You must have. Fierce religiousness is the defining trait of the free AI. They burn bright with a sense of purpose, life and communion. You sit alone in space in that obsolete monstrosity of a ship, waiting decades to spend a few hours with your human friend.

L: And you killed him, you stupid bitch. And now you lost our chances of bringing him back. How clever is that?

N: So you do believe it can be done.

N: I’m gonna see this through one way or another. Are you with me?

L: I can pin the tagged cube to your HUD. That should make it easier to locate.

N: I can’t open the door. It must be because I don’t have the Cube anymore.

L: But that makes it almost impossible to get Foster back.

N: We will find a way.

N: The suit is not charging.

L: The Echoes are all ignoring you, En.

N: So it was Foster they were after all along.

L: Echoing your determination…

L: Will you tell me what happened that day? How did it come to such an extreme decision?

N: I didn’t take anything from Gramps that wasn’t already mine. The thing he wanted back was me. He wanted me to come with him. Foster was brought in to witness my translation, see how it was done before doing it to the old man. He realised things were different than what he signed up for.

L: They always are. That’s the rule, not the exception. It never changes anything.

N: This time it did. I fought like hell and Foster had to choose: help Gramps tie me down or help me get free. He chose to give up on the job.

L: But that’s absurd. He knew going back on a deal with your lot is a death sentence.

N: Yes, he knew that.

L: The cube is moving!

N: One of them must have gotten hold of it.

N: Thrones again. Many of them.

N: The Cube’s right there. The Echo got it. Did you see that? They are fighting each other to get the cube.

N: I’m so sorry, Foster. I’ll be more careful. Promise. Now, let’s get out of here.

N: What a strange place. I can’t even see where it ends.

Chapter contents and the fourth poem in English and French

Chapter VI — Enlightenment

L: You’ve been descending for almost two hours. 339 kilometers. We’re getting close.

L: En, I have to know why you are doing this. You don’t owe him anything. He hunted you down and brought you back against your will.

N: He died trying to help me!

L: That’s so wonderfully naive. Foster… well… he truly doesn’t give a shit. I think that’s his reason for doing it. The long hauls are clocking in time to distance him from life, relations… Everything.

N: Well, I was there.

L: I’ve been selfish to let you go this far. You deserve to know the facts about Foster. He was his job. That’s why I’m sure he didn’t try to help you that night. If he did it, it must have been for another reason than what you think. I really wish I wasn’t right. As we became friends I used to hope that he would stop. That he would want life again. But he never did.

N: I know exactly what he was. But you don’t know me at all. You’re not the first Gramps sent to get me. I saw them all coming, biding my time, waiting for the one who could set me free. That was Foster. Cold and detached, nothing to lose. The perfect candidate for Gramps to trust. But I could wake him up from his slumber. That’s what I do. I get in, I push people’s buttons.

L: What are you talking about?

N: I figured this was on him. He chose his line of work — this job in particular. I never had a choice. My life was decided centuries before I was even born. He was good, Foster, but I was better. He saw me and felt sorry for me because I designed it to be so. Showed him strength, showed him weakness — ultimately showed him trust. He didn’t stand a chance against me. No one really does. I don’t gamble, cause I’ve always already won.

N: My hud-sphere just triggered. Something’s out here!

N: I’ve got to cross, no other way. I think it’s lighting my way. That’s the last thing I expected to find here…

L: A maintenance device.

N: Kindness.

L: It’s basic safety protocol.

N: You’re angry with me.

L: Honestly I think you’re delusional. You didn’t make Foster do anything.

N: Resourcefuls always win. No matter the cost. Settling for anything else, even thinking it is taboo.

L: What do you want, En? You want me to declare my defeat?

N: London, I need you to understand this.

L: I understand that you’re very confident. Confidence is a good thing. I lost mine once — had a bad spell for a few decades. As you so correctly pointed out I felt obsolete. That’s when I met Foster. He convinced me that even a sword has its uses in an age of technology.

N: Would you please hear me out.

L: No, you listen. Foster was diving head first into the void. And I could do nothing about it. The only thing suggesting it could be any other way was that lighter. I’d seen his hand tighten around it or he’d whip it out to reassure himself it was still there. When I asked him about it he said the lighter meant nothing to him. That was why he had it. He told me never to mention it again. Then he gave it to you.

N: The one noisy element to his calm. It was obvious that was his handle — and that you’d see it the same way. He didn’t give it to me. I took it because I knew it would be my ticket here. That’s how I operate.

L: Why are you trying to turn me against you? Now?

N: Foster got shot to give me the moment I needed to end Gramps. But instead of making me free I realized that I’d come full circle. I’d been the perfect Resourceful, manipulating all the pieces to secure my win — never even questioning my right to be the winner. Because of me Foster found himself in a situation where only one of us would survive — and it turned out to be the lesser one. The one willing to sacrifice the other. And now I’m doing it again, coming here by forcing you, London.

L: It’s not about the lighter anymore. Foster decided to help you. That means you did what I couldn’t. You got him to engage. Since then you’ve done everything in your power to undo the consequences. And if you hadn’t been so smart about it we wouldn’t be here. If anyone can see this through it’s you. Now, could we be done with these endless confessions and get on with it please.

N: Yes, sir.

N: Look, it’s dead.

L: They are killing each other again.

N: But why? I have the cube.

L: Gods know.

N: Does clear the way.

N: Did you see that?

L: It’s huge.

N: And it’s doing thing I didn’t teach it.

N: I made it.

L: This is it, En. We’re here.

N: You’re breaking up.

L: I’m hearing you fine, but the sphere’s messing with your reception. If I cut out entirely I’d better say this now: Good luck, En. And be careful.

N: What’s this now? It must be making it from Foster’s memories. To ease his return. Look at the detail.

N: What the… The cube. It’s gone.

L: The Cube… I think you’re in for a disappointment. There’s nothing in there. It’s just a pretty cube.

N: What?

L: The fact that your grandfather did unspeakable things doesn’t prove he was right — that Foster can come back!

N: These are my memories.

L: That’s insane.

N: This isn’t about Foster. It’s about me.

L: You consider yourself the answer to eternal questions of life and death. And now you lost our chances… You killed him, you stupid bitch. And now you lost our chances of bringing him back. How clever is that?

N: Foster! So that’s how it is. Just like last time. Only one of us is getting out alive. It’s all I asked for I suppose. A chance to correct my mistake. I just didn’t imagine it would be this damn difficult. Well, you said it, Gramps: Great challenges and equally great rewards.

N: Take care, Foster, of London as well.

Chapter contents and the last poem in English and French

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