“I think Triad was breeding itself a replacement. Trying out an experiment.”
“A replacement? Me? Are you sure you're feeling all right because that sounds completely insane.”
“Hear me out. You always felt like you were missing something, correct?”
“You already know this.”
“And we know Triad is an immensely powerful being, due mostly to the fact it has a massive Aetheric signature on account of being what it is, namely a fusion of three people. Three souls.”
“I think that Triad was trying to create a being, a single being, with the same Aetheric force it had. Like you can grow a flower by using a cutting, growing a clone of the original, maybe Triad figured out a way to do the same with the soul.”
“Great, so not only am I a clone in body, even my soul is fake.” Michael groaned, slumping.
“No, Michael, just shut up and listen to me. I think that yes, you were created from a 'bud' of the original Michael Tetherson but the original Triad kept locked up for some reason. Remember how her died? I think maybe he was Possessed.”
“So what, I'm part human and part demon? This keeps getting better.”
“Maybe, but I don't think so. Triad's never shown any interest in Possessed before. Michael must be special, the only thing I can think of is that it has something to do with his father.”
“That makes sense, I guess.”
“Before, back in the hospital I saw something happen to you when the other Michael died. His soul didn't just disperse, like a normal person. It was like it was absorbed down that thread and into you. Over time, both souls began to heal to grow into full ones, but they were never complete, however, when they came together, there was a surplus. You have a stronger signature now than anyone on the planet, bar Triad itself.”
“And I'm meant to replace Triad am I? Don't I get a say in that? Did Michael get a say in that or was this” Michael yelled, gesturing to himself, “the punishment?”
“I'm sorry Michael, it's just a theory. I think you should talk to Triad. That's the only way to know for sure.”
“Well, that might be a bit hard at the moment, without using an AT.”
“Michael, you're almost as strong as Triad. I'm not sure but I think you could resist possession now, like Triad can.”
“That's quite a risk to take, what if you're wrong?”
“What if I'm right? This could be your last chance to get a straight answer from Triad.”
“Maybe you're right. If demons are getting through, the first thing they'll do is try to kill Triad.”
“Then we head to Triad's tower and sort this thing out once and for all.”
Michael stood up and helped Gabriella to her feet and escorted her into the main room. Ursula was waiting for them.
“What's the plan?”
“We see Triad and save it if we can. I might not like what it's done to me, but I've got a feeling I'll like what the demons will do even less.”
Ursula spoke to the air “Max, you heard the man, set a course.”
“I'll meet you there.” Michael said, looking at Gabriella.
“What? Where do you think you're going?” Ursula asked, puzzled.
Michael just took a few steps back from them and grinned. He felt his connection to the Aether, focused and felt the truth of Gabriella's words. He was stronger, underneath the flesh, his shadow deeper than all the rest. He Dived.
“Holy crap!” Ursula shouted as Michael vanished, the air collapsing in on the vacuum he left behind with an audible clap. “What the hell just happened?!”
“When we were being chased by the demons at the University, that's how we escaped.” Gabriella said.
“You knew about this?”
* * * * *
Michael's mind filled the universe, however, he wasn't alone. He existed purely in the Aetheric plane. He was in the land of demons. There was no time, no space here, only being. This wasn't where he had intended to go.
What are you?
Who are you? You're not Triad!
There shouldn't be others, you're not part of the pattern. Ahh, you are Triad's doing, aren't you?
I said, who are you!?
Hahaha, you seem familiar somehow. What has Triad done to you? How did you get here?
Tell me who you are!
Michael felt himself being pulled apart, as if he was being dissected, particle by particle, by an immense machine, each piece analysed and catalogued in clinical detail.
You're like Triad, like myself, but you're not a hive-mind, not a hybrid! Tell me what Triad has done! TELL ME!
Not until you answer me!
Insect! You're nothing. If you wont answer me, perhaps your master will.
Michael felt a presence unfolding about him, it felt familiar. Triad joined the shared mind-space he had and he felt it suffer. It was caught in a mighty grapple by a mind of equal strength, the other mind, the one that questioned him chuckled. Michael realised, he had reached his destination. He reached Triad all right, just it's Aetheric self.
I caught your little toy, Triad. Tell me, how did you create such a thing? It's quite an enigma.
Don't you recognise him, Tetherson? Say hello to our son.
MICHAEL RUN! THE DEMONS, HE'S USING THEM, THEY AREN'T THE PROBLEM!
He felt Triad stop fighting the other Triad and shield him from the other being that was interrogating him. He didn't wait to thank it, as soon as he felt back in control he made his move.
* * * * *
Michael fell out of mid-air, landing hard on the metal plating of walkways around Triad's tower. He gasped for breath, shaking from shock. What the hell was that thing? He didn't have an answer but whatever it was, Triad had helped him escape. Was this what Triad had created him for? The creature had seemed threatened by him, confused. Triad called him Tetherson... is he? Could that be? He knew it to be true.
Michael picked himself up and looked around. Luckily there were no Neutrals. He couldn't believe it, Doctor Tetherson was alive, in the Aether and was working with the demons, but why? You're like Triad, like myself, but you're not a hive-mind, not a hybrid! A hive-mind! Tetherson had become a hive-mind, but how? It didn't make any sense, he was killed when the bomb went off, he wasn't a hive-mind then, how could he be now. How could he even be alive for that matter?
He wasn't sure of the answers, but one thing disturbed him more than anything else. Say hello to our son. Our son. Ours. Triad never said anything by accident. He suddenly felt very cold as a chill ran through him. He hoped the others arrived soon, he suddenly felt very, very afraid.
He didn't need his AT any more, he realised. When he'd Dived he'd done so without even activating it, even the weird otherworldly one inside himself. Triad had forced him to develop this skill before he even knew he had it, before he could even use it. No doubt the extra soul he had strengthened his link to the Aether, giving him the ability to tap into it through sheer will alone. It was both astounding and terrifying at the same time. Tentatively, he reached out for information. He wanted to learn more about Tetherson, about his death and his life. He wanted to know about Triad and the the people that it used to be. There was a lesson somewhere in the past and he was determined to learn it.
As soon as he connected to the Aethernet he felt the cruel, probing barbs of alien entities clawing to find a way into his skull but he flicked them back like nothing and they cowered from his touch, like creatures of the dark fearing the waving of a flaming torch. Feeling whole and learning of this new found gift, he grew in confidence and chased down whatever knowledge he was seeking. Facts and figures raced before him.
Jacqueline Mathers, leader of the Aetheric faction after Tetherson's death due to her experience as a gifted Seer/Prophet. Also, former lover. Went on to become the Aetheric's component of the Triad hive-mind, though not before baring a son.
Doctor Johnathan Tetherson, discoverer of the Aether and progenitor of the Aetheric sciences. Strong believer in cross-discipline studies and the bringing together of different philosophies and ideologies to achieve great things. Tetherson was horrified by the factions that emerged from the development of his technologies and was a strong proponent for unity, despite being leader of the Aetheric faction. It is noted the Aetheric faction was historically non-aggressive towards the other factions, much in part attributed to the actions of Tetherson. Tetherson died in an explosion caused by a bomb of his own design, see: Aetheric bomb.
Aetheric bomb: a device based on Tetherson's later theories about Aetheric space. Designed to cause an explosion causing feedback loops in Aetheric systems, such as those of living things. Untested, the bomb none-the-less became the next weapon in the arsenal of Mutually Assured Destruction nations stockpiled in case of war when the effectiveness was proven in the only detonation in history that destroyed the Lunar AI/Demon hybrid and cost Tetherson his life.
Michael resurfaced from the world of pure information that was the Aethernet and thought about the things he'd learnt. Triad was his mother and Tetherson his father. The child of two hive-mind before they became what they were. That meant something. The Aether was the field that connected all living things. He was connected to both of them, a bridge in human form. There must have been a reason Triad had kept him in the dark, had toyed with him, cut him off from his own soul in order to strengthen it. What had Triad wanted with a bridge?
He searched again, this time for the current news. He was horrified but what he found. The world was in panic, it was just like the Fracturing before, the demons were coming through taking over everything they could lay their hands on. The factions were blaming each other, terrorist attack were running rampant. Without the threat of Triad, the factions were preparing for war. Mutually Assured Destruction. Tetherson, he had known this would happen all along!
Triad, the last-ditch measure to keep the demons at bay, a firewall for the Aether. Using experimental technology Tetherson developed, Triad came into being and made sure the war was won, fighting back the demons and shielding us all against their influence. The technology to create Triad was lost, consumed in the creation process itself. It is believed the secrets to it's construction died with Tetherson though many believe Triad itself went out of it's way to suppress and erase any such information.
Tetherson built Triad, or at least developed the technology to do it. The Aetherics built another Triad, or so the world believes. That the Aetheric would have the secret, being once lead by Tetherson is just plausible enough to be true. Except it isn't, the real creators were demons. And if the demons, the Possessed built it, they must have learnt it from Tetherson. He wanted this to happen all along, he wanted war, he wanted everything to be destroyed in an act of self-destruction that would make anything the entire demon horde up until now had caused insignificant in comparison. He would destroy the world!
He stopped himself from flying into a panic. Something still wasn't right, he could feel it in his gut.