I heard Splash call for help and found her on the ground outside her container, struggling with something invisible. When I tried to pick her up and pull her away, I was attacked as well by what I’m fairly sure now were the tentacles of the mutated EVO plant. I couldn’t get free and blacked out.
We awoke in darkness, in a place that turned out to be a brick-walled cellar full of people. We’re a group of nine: Faye, Samatha, Kimba, Cerise, Snake, Han Solo, Splash and me and Ephraim, the small boy Splash saw in her, hm, dream. Which obviously wasn’t a dream.
It all looks very, very real. The amount of detail is astounding but we’re not having much time to admire the view because this is a simulation of the Warsaw Ghetto and the uprising will start tomorrow. It may all be virtual, however I am very sure that dying here will mean dying for real or at least the loss of personality or any higher brain functions, which is as good as dying.
A quick search turned up some matches and candles and I also have a small bag with some medical supplies and a revolver. Han Solo has a Schmeisser and Faye has a violin and a collection of sheet music – she was accessing her music library when she got taken, it seems. We decided to leave the cellar and Ephraim guided us across the street and through the sewers to another house where we met Marcel, the leader of a resistance group. On the way, we saw a couple of bodies, shot through the heart. Faye and the others recognized them as the customers they had been online with, although how they could know that is beyond me, maybe something subliminal the system feeds them.
The simulation is not perfect in all details. People we talk with sometime slip between 1943 and 2070, Ephraim called the troups MCT and then changed to SS when asked again. We met a woman, Judith, who told us that she was a system administrator and changed that immediately to mechanic. We can get away with mentioning minor inconsistencies, but really big ones (like Judith’s job) means that the system notices and activates its security system. For us, that means German troop coming for us.
When I asked to learn more about all this, Marcel brought us to a library to meet Emanuel Ringelblum, the librarian. The library is immense, much bigger than it should be and it contains plenty of anachronisms, modern books and all sorts of information. It turned out that Ephraim had brought us into this simulation to help, he found us during the raid on the Rat’s Nest and thought that we would be willing to fight for them, since the system is trying to destroy us as well. Neither he nor Emanuel could tell us exactly what they needed or they would have brought the Germans. I tried to use my magic, but it didn’t work, of course it didn’t. But it worked for Splash. She can use a blend of her own technomancer abilities and the magic I quickly taught her to look at the naked code of this simulation, like I would look at the Astral Space.
She told me that both Emanuel and Ephraim were humans, but they are festooned by cyberware, there is not much left of them. All of us have been infected, for lack of a better word, as well, a strand of black entering our bodies and making its way to our brain. She also said that the code is alive, it writes itself and react like a living being to everything we do. I had no idea this is possible, but it certainly explains the level of realism we are seeing here.
I asked Emanuel where I could find books on Judaism, hoping to find some information on what was being done to them there, hidden by the analogy they have created. The first book I found was the story of Rabbi Löw and the golem, which is a story of artificial intelligence when you think about it. The next book we were handed was a book by Ephraim Lewis (after the name permutated a few times) on cybernetic and psychological manipulation of the human brain. A very advanced work and I think the key to what we are experiencing here.Lewis went missing after his laboratory was raided four years ago and he has been declared dead. When Splash asked, Ephraim gave her GPS coordinates for the ghetto and with some help from Snake, she figured out that the coordinates indicated the MCT lab in Seattle.
Emanuel asked us to help with taking books into the bigger part of the ghetto and we chose as many as we could carry, books on the ghetto itself (to help us navigate), books on medicine, cybernetics, history, magic, technomancy ect. They are much more than books, contain much more information than any book can. In truth, we were raiding MCT’s database. Splash used the book on weapons to help her create a hand grenade and she did manage it, although she started to bleed from her nose and I couldn’t stop the bleeding. My guess is that it’s the representation of a brain injury, but she seemed fine apart from it and we couldn’t have done anything about it in any case.
So we left and made our way into the street. There’s only one way into the other part of the ghetto and that is over a footbridge. To get there, we had to cross half the ghetto, during curfew no less. We had only gotten a few meters from the library when he heard shouting and running footsteps and saw two men getting shot by the Germans. We tried to hide again and managed to get into another house in the nick of time. Emanuel was too slow and got killed, but the Germans did not see where we hid. We waited for a moment until they had gone further down the street and went down into the cellar. From there, we could make our way into a factory where we hoped to find access to the sewers. There was a manhole, but we had to climb across a fence to get there.
Most of us made it, but Faye got her clothes caught on the spikes on top of the fence. I was cutting her loose when two huge black dogs rounded the corner and charged us. I got ready to shoot them when suddenly a wall grew between the dogs and us, like the wall of the building had been copied and pasted into the street. That gave us just enough time to get into the manhole. The wall had a door unfortunately and the Germans/MCT security kicked it open quickly enough to see us vanish there. We bolted the manhole and walked the rest of the way to the bridge in the sewers, meeting other people on the way with the same goal so that we were a group of more than fifty people when we arrived.
The bridge was plainly visible from a watchtower outside the ghetto where soldiers with machine pistols kept watch, so crossing it would have been suicide. Splash brought out her grenade and one of the men volunteered to throw it at the tower. I don’t know what made him do it, but he threw the pin instead of the grenade. I managed to grab the grenade and throw it before it detonated and I actually hit the tower. The grenade didn’t work as planned, but created a cloud of yellow (vanilla-coloured) fog around the tower. That gave us the opportunity we needed and we ran across the bridge as fast as we could. Not fast enough in the case of the last stragglers who were gunned down. We couldn’t do anything to help them, there was no cover at the other side of the bridge and we had to get inside as quickly as possible. The Germans were already preparing to open the gates to the ghetto, there were troops behind us and sirens sounding all around us.
We did get into a house and the group split up, taking cover and looking for exits where they could. It quickly turned out that there was no way to get out of the house, we were surrounded and the Germans were starting to kick the doors down. Splash saved us – there was a small rainwater sewer under the house and she created an way for us to get there and closed it behind us. We were sitting in a tunnel about a meter across and filled to a third with freezing water, but it was the safest we had been all night, no-one would come looking for us here for a while. Slowly we crawled to another house Judith knew where she said we would find a group of resistance fighters that could help us to escape the ghetto.
We got there after what felt like hours, cold, shivering and exhausted, and were met by a couple of men. One of them introduced himself as Mordecai, the leader of the group and he did say that he might be able to help us in the morning. But for now, we have a chance to rest. Splash is already sleeping, she has badly strained herself by all the manipulations she has done. Without her, we surely would be dead already.
So we have been shanghaied into this fight and for now, all we can do is try to survive and to get back to reality again. What we can do after than remains to be seen. I don’t think I have ever been this scared my whole life, the thought of leaving the relative security of this room in a few hours is terrifying. I’m not at all sure we will make it. I’m also not sure anyone will ever read this, but I hope. Nothing else for me to do.