by Max Barry

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Region: Dauiland

Here are the last 2 chapters of TFW:

...and Goa Lore has never said a word about what he saw.

Tessin, I— I don’t know how else to tell you this, but your lack of hesitation really does make me pity you.

Why would you pity me? I have everything I need.

Again, Tessin, it’s not what you have; it’s what you feel. Your life has been defined by pain. You need help, Tessin, and we can give it to you. We can make you feel again.

“We”?

Scinrea didn’t consider herself to be especially ungrateful. In fact, she wasn’t supposed to consider anything at all. She was supposed to be a mindless GT-series android — an advanced program housed in an artificial body of titanium; no more, no less.

But she wasn’t. Gene Russell had given Scinrea life, and everything that came with it. For the first time, she was capable of having emotions, desires, and attachments.

And it was terrible. A mere android shouldn’t be given the power of a human. A mere android shouldn’t be capable of wanting anything. A mere android … should stay a mere android.

Gene Russell had given Scinrea life, and for that, she would pay dearly.

We must help you, Tessin. We must rid you of your lifelong suffering.

Gene, you don’t understand. My ambitions are to do just that! The Dauiland Alliance was created to—

Tessin, enough of this hot air. I know what you want to do, and I also know that your plan is bound to fail.

How so?

Because you think that the Alliance is the root of war. They’re— they’re just… not.

How compelling.

You have to believe me! It’s the only way we can help you!

I’ll believe you if you show me something tangible — something concrete — that proves me wrong about Dauiland.

Oh, I can show you.

The Adaptable Climate and Terrain Simulator was a military training device to help recruits adapt to unfamiliar terrain. It used virtual reality software to simulate every type of climate and topography in Dauiland — urban environments, forests, the Kevtab mountain range, and even the massive oil plants off the coast of Liberlitatia.

Years after its release, an android engineer by the name of Gene Russell encountered a distraught ex-Imperial called Tessin. Soon after meeting him, she began to feel an inexplicable urge to help him. She absolutely had to, for reasons that she still didn’t fully comprehend, help him become human again.

For that reason, she took the ACTS, and, with the help of her android assistant Scinrea, began modifying it. Gene wanted — no, needed — to create something that would, in her eyes, end Tessin’s struggle. She needed something that would give him — for the first time in his life — genuine happiness.

So, thanks to months upon months of endless toil, the Sanctuary was created. From the start, Gene knew what it would cost her. She’d have to leave behind her beloved family and cherished children, quit her prestigious job, and let the past die.

And not for a moment did she regret her decision, for the masterpiece she had created was the greatest achievement of her lifetime. Not only had she created a perfect replica of Dauiland, but she had also discovered a way to program life!

Once Tessin found sanctuary — willingly or not — his greatest wish was to be fulfilled. The Sanctuary would apply a butterfly effect algorithm to its alternate Dauiland, changing whatever was necessary to make Tessin happy. He would be in a literal perfect world.

And how was all this possible?

The Modus. The answer to every question that had been asked, and every question that would ever be asked. Depending on who controlled the Modus, it was either the world’s greatest tool or its greatest threat.

Scinrea, Tessin has refused my offer. We must resort to force if he is to find sanctuary.

How very unfortunate. With your permission, I shall prepare the Modus.

Input the passcode to access the main drive.

“Code: B-Four Seventy-Two HK Oh-Oh-Nine,” came the reply. Scinrea’s voice was barely above a whisper. While it was improbable that Russell would overhear her former assistant’s conversation with the Modus, it was best not to take any unnecessary chances. If Scinrea was caught, she might have to kill Russell, and she despised murder. It was too emotional; too irrational; too unsophisticated. Playing with the victim’s mind was considerably more productive than simply ending the victim altogether.

Passcode correct. You now have access to the main drive.

“Execute the Contingency Plan,” Scinrea directed, “and make it a First Priority objective.”

Warning: First Priority objectives override many of my necessary functions. Do you wish to proceed?

This is where Scinrea hesitated. Her cynical side — a holdover from the days when she was still an android — wanted to say ‘no’. The Modus was far, far too valuable an asset to waste on something like this. Russell’s neutralization was a short-term goal — she’d be out of the picture in the blink of an eye. But Scinrea’s emotional side — something created when she became a human — wanted to say ‘yes’.

To that side of her, Russell was enemy number one. Russell, the person who had forced life upon Scinrea, had to be neutralized. Russell, the target of Scinrea’s hate. And that hate was the only thing keeping Scinrea’s cynical and emotional sides from destroying each other.

“Yes,” she finally decided. “Proceed with the plan.”

Now was the last time she wanted emotions to get the best of her. Now was when she needed to rely on the calculative side of her personality the most.

As you wish. Uploading data…

Despite the slim chance that being alive might have its upsides, Scinrea had determined long ago that she was not — and was never going to be — fit to be alive. Life was too costly for the meager rewards it provided, especially for someone whose mind wasn’t built to handle emotions.

Russell was so preoccupied with whether or not she could create life that she didn’t stop to think if she should. And she most definitely should have not. The life Scinrea had been granted was a curse — one which she spent every waking moment wishing she could break free from.

No. ‘Granted’ was the wrong word. Russell had forced life into an unwanting android’s metal shell of a body, forcing it to become alive against its will.

Progress: 25%

Alas, the process was irreversible. Scinrea would be alive for the rest of her existence. Thus, she was forced to make do with the next best option. Instead of making an effort to remove the curse of life from herself, Scinrea was going to place an equally nightmarish curse on Russell.

And, no matter what, Scinrea’s plan would work. Even if she died trying. Especially if she died trying, because at least—

“Scinrea, what do you think you’re doing!?” It was Gene Russell, and she did not look happy.

No. Not here. Not now.

No!

Scinrea’s mind flooded with anger. Reason gave way to hate, logic succumbed to loathe, and calculations turned into contempt. All she wanted now was to watch Russell suffer and agonize and scream in pain.

Scinrea turned around to face Russell. “I think,” she said slowly, her tone dripping with vengeful animosity, “that I’m finally giving you what you deserve.”

Russell took a cautious step back. How in the world did Russell’s most valued subordinate go rogue and become … this? Scinrea’s help with the creation of the Sanctuary had been invaluable, and her physical capabilities were incredibly useful when the two of them knocked Tessin unconscious and plugged him into the Sanctuary just an hour ago.

So what did Scinrea want now? Was she trying to overthrow her human overlord? No, that couldn’t be it — thanks to Russell, Scinrea already was alive.

Maybe Scinrea was jealous of Tessin and wanted Russell all to herself? No, that didn’t make sense either. Russell had linked their minds together just like she’d linked hers to Tessin’s

And Scinrea surely wasn’t being manipulated by a third party. She had been alive for long enough to know when someone was trying to control her. So, what was it?

After failing to find an answer, Russell’s mind switched into survival mode. Now, she had a new objective: escaping Scinrea’s fury.

“Death?” Russell asked. With luck, Scinrea would spend enough time talking for Russell to devise an escape plan.

“No. What will happen to you is far worse than death, because your fate is — was, I should say — contingent on my desire for revenge.”

“‘Contingent’?” Russell repeated, scanning the room for potential escape routes. Unfortunately, the only way out would be to turn her back to Scinrea and walk out the door — not a good idea. “Why do you think—”

Then, it clicked. No. Russell’s thoughts were panicked, and she completely abandoned any hopes of escape. This can’t be happening. Not here. Not now.

But it was happening. Scinrea was executing the Sanctuary’s Contingency Plan.

Progress: 50%

Scinrea smiled thinly and pulled out a pair of daggers. “Just as you cursed me with your so-called ‘gift’ of life, I will now return the favor, dear friend,” she said scornfully. “And there’s no way you can get out of it.”

Russell gulped. All she was armed with were her own fists — no match for her adversary’s knives. If she was lucky, she might last for ten minutes before Scinrea defeated her, knocked her out, and plugged her into the Sanctuary.

But at least she would be able to find Tessin in the Sanctuary — if they both managed to survive long enough.

And here's the next one!

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