Author's note: It's been over a year since I posted the last chapter of the Analogue fanfic adapt. But the emotions that forced me to write it are still raw ... as I learned when I fired up the sequel, Hate Plus, on my new laptop, just to see if it'd run.
I couldn't sleep last night, and was really depressive as well. So instead of laying there being miserable, I wrote the next chapter instead. This one deals a bit more with the Investigator's semi-mysterious backstory ... as well as Hyun-ae's fate.
The story so far
For those of you who've forgotten, this takes place a long time in the future. The unnamed and as-yet-somewhat-mysterious protagonist is a private investigator, who lives in what amounts to an FTL RV and is investigating the disappearance of an ancient, slower-than-light Korean generation ship.
When she found this ship, the Mugunghwa, she discovered that not only was every human on board dead, but the ship's isolated society had regressed to something like the feudal Joseon dynasty's. Back when men were largely assholes, and women were largely property.
She ended up joining forces with *Mute, the Mugunghwa's female security AI, to investigate the prime suspect in the genocide-slash-mass murder of everyone on board: *Hyun-ae, who claimed at first to be the archival AI but seemed to be oddly linked to the late Emperor's mysterious "Pale Bride."
It turned out that the Pale Bride was pale because she was a teenage girl from the ship's more enlightened past, named Kim Hyun-ae, who was put into cryo-stasis because of a terminal illness. Centuries later, her descendants awoke her and began training her (over her objections) to become the Emperor's wife. And as *Mute's security log footage showed, at some point after their marriage Hyun-ae snapped, turning off the ship's life support and uploading her memories as an AI.
The Investigator pretended to be *Hyun-ae's friend at first, to earn her trust, but felt more and more guilty as she realized just how much trust *Hyun-ae was placing in her. Eventually she confronted her with *Mute's questions about her motives, and *Hyun-ae snapped again, cutting off communications and causing the Mugunghwa's reactor to go critical.
*Mute and the Investigator then worked together, and just barely managed to stop it from killing them both. The Investigator then spent the next hour or so playing therapist to *Mute, who had no memories from before "Year 0" and was therefore the repressive Mugunghwa society's sole survivor. She was unrepentantly sexist and homophobic, but at the same time deeply tragic ... and she had a weird fixation on other people having girl-on-girl sex, which she tried to share with the Investigator on the pretext that it was disgusting.
When the Investigator admitted to being lesbian, herself, *Mute gave her an angry lecture and stopped talking to her. Now she's alone on her ship, the White Princess, trying to figure out what went wrong and how she can keep it from getting worse.
Also, her backstory's unclear, but it's been strongly hinted that she's no more human than *Mute is ...
On with the show
This is the eleventh chapter of a fanfiction adaptation of Christine Love's visual novel Analogue: A Hate Story. You do not need to have played the game to understand what is going on. This story is designed to be accessible to newcomers as transhumanist dystopian sci-fi, and many liberties were taken with the setting and dialogue, as well as with certain events.
Content note: Child abuse, non-human animal abuse, graphic violence, and strong language.
I paced the length of my cage, back and forth, over and over again.
Step, step, turn around. Step, step, turn around. Brushing my wet nose against dry plastic every time. Feeling my tails bunched up behind me, curled in an arc that mirrored my nearly circular path. There was no room to swish them, no room to stretch. Barely enough room to walk.
It was maddening.
I heard gravel crunch in the driveway, and instantly steeled myself. The hair bristled on top of my head and my tails, and I began to salivate as I thought of my last bite of human skin. How I had drawn blood that time, and how I'd savoured the tiny morsel of flesh that was still in my jaws when they pulled me away. It'd tasted like victory.
"I will feast on their livers," I growled to myself. But my knees were already starting to shake, and I could feel the adrenalin surging inside me with every footstep I heard. Thick, clunking human footsteps, the kind made by someone who isn't afraid of what's laying in wait for her. Who knows that it poses no threat.
I willed myself to believe that I did, even though I knew it wasn't true.
The door opened and the lights turned on, and I was blinded. Everything was a blur, and I tried to get my eyes to adjust while my ears tracked the approaching footsteps. For all that I'd tried to convince myself that I wanted a confrontation, I started to pray they'd go past me, lowering my neck to the floor.
Please go past please go past please go past-
They stopped, and a large, familiar shadow blocked out the light.
Then I felt the cage lift off the ground, and I screamed at her, while trying to stay standing up. "Fuck you!" I screamed. "Fuck your whole family! I hope birds use your entrails to stay warm!"
She didn't care what I said. She couldn't even understand me. But I kept shouting at her, because the fear that had built in my gut was telling me to do something. "This is my body!" I yelled, as we stopped in front of a door. "What you're doing is wrong! This is not okay! None of this is okay!"
The door opened, and a wave of sharp chemical smells hit my nose, every one of them new and frightening. Somehow, I knew I would never come back from here.
I heard more footsteps and deep, human voices, and did my best to interrupt them. "I hope you die!" I screamed. "I hope both of you die! I hope every one of you wet sacks of-"
My stomach lurched, and I had to clamp my jaw shut to keep from losing its contents. It wasn't the smells, although they didn't help. It was the raw terror, like rancid meat inside of me, that was making me sick.
I couldn't scream, anymore. I could only stare in shock, as they set the cage down and-
I was on my side, and curled up in a ball.
I had long hair, but only on top of my head. My nose was dry, and my sides were wet. I had fingers and toes, and was using them to cling to a wad of bedsheets, and whatever plushies had gotten trapped in it.
I was shaking. My breathing was ragged. I let my body adjust at its own pace, not fighting the terror but letting the knowledge sink in that it was behind me. It is warm, and soft, and safe here, I told myself. I am okay here. My breathing gradually slowed down.
Then I remembered what'd happened just before I had gone to bed, and suddenly tensed up again, freezing in place for several long seconds before letting out my breath in a long sigh.
I wasn't going to get any more sleep that night.
It surprises me now to realize this, but I wasn't that worried about *Mute, or about what she thought of me after all that. "All that" being the voyeuristic security camera footage of female lovers she'd pushed on me, and then recoiled in seeming disgust when I'd said I was lesbian also.
I guess if you'd asked me right then, I would have said that I'd given up on trying to relate to her. That I didn't understand how she felt, or why she kept doing and saying such strange things. I think that deep down, my subconscious had figured out why she had shown me those clips and then pushed me away like that, and I think it was trying to tell me. But I was refusing to listen, because that was too hard to process right then.
What my mind latched onto instead, as I groggily sipped warm coffee in the White Princess' pilot's seat, was that feeling of world-ending rage that I'd had in my PTSD-induced nightmare. It was distant enough now that I could turn it over in my head and safely examine it, and compare and contrast with the one person I knew who had ended a world.
What she'd gone through wasn't so different, I thought, licking hazelnut foam from my mug. These people had groomed and prepared her for marriage, in a society where that meant becoming someone else's property. She did not have a say in the matter. Her body no longer belonged to her.
In the journal entries I'd read, she sounded like I had, sometimes. Bewildered, at first, like this all had to be some mistake. Then furious, as she realized she wasn't a person to them and started demanding respect.
I looked up, out the window, at the flickering lights across the vast bulk of the Mugunghwa. And how the cloud of debris glimmered back at them.
I sighed, and shook my head. I didn't want to remember that fight. I didn't want to realize I had helped drive her to that.
But the part of my brain that solved mysteries had gone on to think about it anyway. That made sense, it told me. That was world-ending rage, right there. A literally explosive temper tantrum.
So why hadn't she been like that when she'd killed everyone else on the ship (except *Mute, I reminded myself)? Why had *Mute, herself, remarked on how well-behaved *Hyun-ae'd been? There hadn't seemed to be a rebellious bone in her body, when she'd typed in the commands that would kill everyone and then quietly laid down to die.
Something wasn't right, here. I mean, aside from the death and destruction and all.
I made myself re-watch the security camera footage, of *Hyun-ae killing herself. It took me a while to convince myself to, and I wasn't sure why.
Then I looked closely at her face, when she laid down on the glass-strewn floor of the stasis pod. And it's like something clicked, inside me.
I could smell the metal contacts of the mind-machine interface.
I stared at her, transfixed, trying to process this. Trying to understand what it meant, and why this seemed so significant right now. And I watched her twitch, and thrash, feeling every movement as if it were my own. Sweating inside of my nightgown, as though I were still in my dream. Until, with a final gasp, *Hyun-ae died, her tongue lolling out of her wide-open mouth.
Except, her tongue didn't.
Because it wasn't there.
and i could feel the clamps holding me down
the hand that was pulling my tails
i could smell the hot knife metal
and my rump roasted and peeled
as it cut off my tails
one of them after the other.
and they had clamped my jaw shut, too
but i knew that they didn't have to
because they had won
and because i would never fight them
I was curled in a ball again, rocking back and forth in my chair, when I started to become aware of my surroundings. At least, enough to realize that my coffee was room temperature.
That explains it, I thought. That explains everything.
They had broken Kim Hyun-ae, and made her into the Pale Bride. The perfect woman, by their standards ... almost prepubescent, sickly white, and unable to protest or say anything. To express any feelings, opinions, or thoughts of her own. And her journal entries had mentioned how they couldn't read her father's Hangul script, that he'd written her name in on the stasis pod. So apparently she couldn't write to them, either.
It was not out of rage that she'd killed them. It was just the only way she could escape. As long as she was trapped on that ship, it was the only way she could be sure they would never be able to hurt her again.
I'd had another way out, I remembered. A way I could leave without hurting anyone, that I gave in to out of despair ... like a cliff that you jump from, and hope something catches you.
But *Hyun-ae hadn't had that. And the reason she hadn't, was because I had fumbled the catch. The second time, if not the first.
I suddenly froze, as I remembered turning off *Hyun-ae's computer core so that there would be enough power to keep *Mute online. Then I checked the death timer I'd set for her.
I let out my breath, in a sigh of relief. It seemed like years ago that that had happened, but I guessed it was only last night after all. So *Hyun-ae hadn't degraded yet. There was still a chance of saving her.
But only if she would let me.