Michael took a breath. "Look, I don't know what this is about but-"
The Neutral cut him off with a monotone drone. "It is about Triad, it wishes to see you. You will come with us."
Michael shuddered. The Neutrals freaked him out and the popular theory was that Triad created them purely to do just that, to get some sick kick out of making people squirm. Not that anyone really felt capable of working out it's motivations any more. His shoulders slumped, defeated. He knew he couldn't run, not from Triad. Triad was in the Aether itself, which meant it was everywhere, it was even in his head right now, if you believed the stories. One thing was certain and that was that Triad, while seemingly not taking much interest in human affairs, ruled with an iron fist and when it wanted something, it got it.
"Alright, I'm coming." He said as he stepped out of the door. The building detected him leaving as he did so and automatically secured the place, locks clicking into place and a resounding thunk.
It was raining when he stepped outside and thick, sooty drops fell from the sky to pool down on the balcony. The clouds hung in the sky, dark and angry and glared down at them as he followed the silent neutral to a waiting Mendelian craft. Michael didn't like it. He was far more open-minded than most, but being brought up in Technomancer society had given him a prejudice against the Mendelians organic machinery. The thought of climbing inside a living being repulsed him, but he swallowed his pride and stepped into the damp smelling interior of the craft after the Neutral.
The craft, from the outside, had appeared to look like a large, meat-textured wasp but inside, it was more like a normal room that had been upholstered in skin. He could see the various fluids pumping through veins behind the walls and had to swallow down bile. The Neutral took a seat in a chair that looked like a puckered hole and so Michael apprehensively did the same. The chair contracted around him like a puckering sphincter, securing him in place and he felt the craft leap into the air as the insectile legs it had been using to grip the balcony pushed it away from the edge. There was a moment of weightlessness as the craft fell until it's wings began to thrum and the shot off into the greys of the London sky.
"Where are we going?"
"To see Triad. This was stated earlier."
"We're going to fly all the way to New York in this... thing?"
"And we couldn't do this over AT because?"
"You of all people Michael should know the value of experiencing something first hand."
Oh crap. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap! Triad knew, he bloody knew.
"Look I can explain about the... the incidents. It's not what you think I-"
"Triad isn't interested in the Diving, Michael. Triad is interested in you."
Michael wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he just shut up and stared out of the window as the world sped by below him.
So, Triad was interested in him. What could a hive-mind intelligence possibly find interesting about him if not the Diving? It didn't make sense, but then again, nothing Triad did ever made sense. It was like mad guard dog, people needed it's protection but sometimes, just sometimes it would turn on it's owners or rip apart it's own home for no apparent reason. As far as he was aware, no-one had had any direct dealings with Triad in a long, long time. Curious, he connected to the Aethernet and browsed the information archives for any clues.
The last time someone had been invited to see Triad had been almost forty years ago. A homeless man from a region controlled by the Aetherics that no-one at the time knew anything about. Of course, once people found out that Triad had summoned him this man became of great interest to all three of the parties to try and work out his significance. As it turned out, the man was apparently a descendant of Dr. Johnathan Tetherson, the guy who had revolutionised and nearly destroyed the world. The man who was the reason they needed Triad in the first place.
Aetheric technology had been a boon to mankind. Tapping into the Aether for instant communication had brought about so many changes, the world had zoomed on ahead without waiting for the technology to be fully explored, by the time the problems were discovered the world was hopelessly dependant on it. It would be like asking the people of the twentieth century to give up fire to cut off Aetheric technology now.
The problem had lay with the Aether itself. Originally it was thought to be a kind of field or layer of reality parallel to our own, physical reality that interconnected all living things, an invisible network that Aetheric technology had tapped into. It was far, far more than that however. The Aether was a dimension in its own right, a plane of pure energy and information. Not only did the lives of things from our world connect to this place, but so did that of others. beings of energy and information that existed purely within the Aether and with Aetheric technology, they know had a gateway through into our technological systems.
When the first incursions occurred, nobody noticed. The Luna Computational Project was in full swing and was taking up most of peoples time. Most people attributed the minor glitches and weird occurrences to the overload on the system the new influx of instant communication was imposing on the worlds computational resources. The LCP was designed to turn the moon, so far a fairly useless lump of rock, into a massive computer using nanotechnology to rebuild it piece by piece at the molecular level. Robots were everywhere, AIso, even semi and arguably fully sentient ones were starting to emerge from peoples research., So much was happening that no-one noticed when the demons, as they came to be called, slipped in through the back door.
Machines and computers became possessed, automated factories stopped their usual work flow and built hideous mechanical bodies designed for nothing but murder to be possessed by yet another demon just waiting to escape it's Aether prison and experience physical reality. AIs could no longer be trusted, no-one could tell if one was truly an AI or a demon in disguise, mass panic rippled across the globe like wildfire. Just as things were reaching breaking point, it got worse. People who'd opted for direct implants of Aetheric Transducers, or ATs, started becoming possessed. For a while their conscious, living minds had acted as barriers but they just weren't strong enough to hold the horde off forever. Eventually, the fell, just like the machines.
There was no reasoning with them, no communicating. The demons seemed to relish the sheer joy a physical reality too much to even think about what they were doing. Destruction seemed to be their ultimate celebration of this fact and they indulged heavily.
But the lessons learnt about earlier hadn't gone unnoticed. People had been the last to succumb, perhaps, just perhaps and composite being, a being with a consciousness greater than that of any human could could back the tide. Two projects came into being. The Luna AI project and the Hive project. The first was to create a massively complex AI that would make use of the entire Luna computers capacities. It's sheer complexity and scope would lend it the same abilities as a human to resist an million fold and it would be able to act as a firewall for the Aether, locking the demons back were they belonged. Hive, however, was something far more distasteful, a fusion both physically, mentally and aetherically of multiple human beings into a composite whole. They would sacrifice their lives to become something greater than themselves. No-one wanted to volunteer for that and no-one could agree who should have that kind of power, Hive would be a conscious entity in full control of the worlds communications system and the firewall that would protect them from harm, putting all that power in one being's hands was an incredible risk.
It had been a mistake to pursue the Luna AI project. When the AI came on line, it seemed to work. The incursions stopped and for a while peoples lives returned to normal. Then another disaster came. The Possessed had been working in secret to open another hole into the world from the Aether and on New Years Day 33 CAT they deployed it. A virus that fooled the AI for just long enough for a single demon to get through, but it had nowhere to go. The AI managed to isolate it with the Moon's computer systems but this was no ordinary demon. When it couldn't escape, it did the next best thing. It fused with the AI.
After that, the world turned to hell. Johnathan Tetherson had been working furiously the whole time on a solution. He'd become the leader of the Aetheric faction, those whose sympathies lay closest to his, to the paranormal that the disasters had most assuredly proven. He was working on an Aetheric bomb, a device to annihilate the Aetheric signature of anything in it's blast. A soul destroyer. The Moon/Demon hybrid was changing it's course, crashing into the Earth in one final demonic celebration of destruction and there was no time left. Dr. Tetherson deployed the bomb manually himself while still in the blast area, destroying himself and the presence in the Moon. However, the Possessed were still at large and there was nothing from stopping this happening again, not without the AI to firewall them.
They had no choice. The Hive project was the only option. It was decided that the leaders of the three factions would become the Hive to avoid one party having more control than the rest. Johnathan Tether was dead so his replacement came forward to take his place in the Hive. Three parties for the three technologies of Aetheric technology - the Mendelians and their biological mastery, the Technocracy and the mastery of all things computational and mechanical and the Aetherics, those who studied and used the powers of the Aether itself, the most mistrusted of the lot. They joined as one, each went to sleep as themselves in one being awoke. That being was Triad.
Triad was interested in Tetherson's son, and now he was interested in him. The records stated that the son had never been seen again after that meeting. Michael was worried. He was very worried indeed.