All across the planet of Dragga, transcending cultural and physical barriers alike, millions of devices chimed in unison. The latest broadcast from Limina, Dragga's largest tech company, had just gone live. Supposedly, the new model of the company's popular KeyPhone would be unveiled today, leaving everyone from media outlets to middle schoolers excited to witness the release. As was typical in the introduction to all Limina broadcasts, only half of the conference room stage fell under cyan light at first as rows of fog machines whirred to life. The only thing visible through the cloudy darkness was Limina's iconic circular logo, piercing through the fog from a monitor large enough it took up the conference room's entire back wall. The effect was even more striking as interpreted by digital cameras that lacked a proper night vision mode. A peppy electronic musical sting began playing as the other half of the room slowly faded into light, culminating in a stark contrast between blue and yellow on either side of the room before all the lights in the room changed to a brilliant green, heralded by cheers from the crowd. The Direct had properly begun, its presenter standing before a podium, preparing to address an adoring public with the zeal of a spiritual leader.

Xyra Pierre, founder and CEO of Limina, had ascended to nigh mythological status among Dragga's tech community and was a focal point of discussion for nearly the entire populace. Media outlets frequently heralded her as the peak of Dragite innovation, worshipfully spinning the tale of her fully reverse engineering extradimensional smart devices while only a young college student and dropping out from Dragga's most prestigious engineering school to seek her fortune. Limina had encountered its share of controversy, being accused of vicious elimination of competitors and near fatal mistreatment of its manufacturing plant employees, but even the company's most vocal detractors had to acknowledge Xyra's charisma. Whether people adored or despised her and her products, everyone was aware of them, with Limina's Duality Emblem startup screen and chime firmly implanted into the collective consciousness. Beyond their consumer technology products, Limina was well-regarded within the scientific community for its cutting-edge use of animum, seamlessly integrating it to improve user experience and taking full manipulation of animum out of the realm of legend and into the consumer market. The resemblance to Draggian myths about animum weapons did not go unnoticed, with some particularly zealous sects claiming Xyra had been aided by the Incarnations themselves, making her something akin to a legendary hero, a concept she neither confirmed nor denied.

”Good morning, doers of all descriptions!” This traditional greeting was nearly drowned out by the cheering and excited murmuring of the crowd as Xyra calmly looked over them.

”I’m excited to announce some new innovations from Limina’s animum division which integrate it into your consumer experience like never before. Let’s begin with the Portal Audio System’s latest update.”

An image of a thin, sleek wireless speaker adorned with a translucent finish flared to life on the screen. Save an assortment of perfectly circular illuminated buttons, the device was a nearly featureless disc.

”We’ve enhanced our animum scanning enough that we can now unveil Aura Shuffle, which will be included in the latest version and released to markets by the holiday season. With permission from you on the software side, of course, this speaker is now equipped to scan local animum fields and fit shuffled or station music perfectly to your and the environment’s vibes, assisted by the Zero AI system! Say goodbye to embarrassing shuffles!”

A Xyquar in a business suit raised their hand to ask a question. They were seated in a designated area for the press and only briefly looked up from frantically typing on a laptop.

”What’s your question, Mr. Pyaxi? Go ahead.”

”How will you address the potential privacy concerns of having a device capable of reading a user’s very thoughts?”

”Don’t worry about that. Contrary to what is popularly believed, animum does not provide the capability to ‘read minds’, it’s only a communicator of general mental state. Really, it doesn’t provide any more data than natural body language. No conscious thoughts will be accessible in textual form and animum data will solely be used to improve the AI and be kept anonymous and separate from advertising data.”

Xyra’s response to that question had been prepared and rehearsed since before the device in question had even gotten to development. She never really got why people put so much significance on animum. Sure, it was traded by hokey spiritual stuff as life force, but it was just part of someone’s body, wasn’t it? She didn’t see it as any different from a fitness tracker reading one’s heart rate.

The rest of the direct continued without incident. Along with the more cutting-edge animum products, a new version of the KeyPhone was unveiled. It had more pixels packed into its 6-inch screen. Not that anyone could see them given the size, but people liked hearing the big numbers. The camera was higher resolution as well, and finally consistently recognized Animite faces so people could take meaninglessly cute pictures of their pets with better focus. The people loved it. The software hadn’t changed save improving its tracking and online payment options.

Xyra’s phone began to buzz. It wasn’t someone just trying to call in with questions for the direct, she had other devices for that. A single-digit number of high level employees had access to her personal number, and an even smaller number could override Do Not Disturb like that. Whatever the call was for, it was urgent. Xyra made an apologetic smile to the crowd and answered the call.

”I’m in the middle of a direct! What is the meaning of this?” She hissed into the phone’s speaker just below the reach of the stage’s microphones.

”Ma’am, I've got some readings from an unprecedented event that need your immediate attention.”

”Fine. We’ll do the rest of the direct on the blog. I’ll be right over.”

Xyra turned back toward the crowd and picked up the microphone. “Terribly sorry, an emergency has occurred which I need to attend to. The rest of this direct will be up on the blog later today. Keep going beyond!”

”Okay, this had better be good. We probably lost a couple Kilex in stock just from that and it’s gonna take weeks to get our public relations back up.”

Bira Aduli, head of Limina’s animum research division and one of Xyra’s most trusted staff members, rushed toward the Sluslis and directed her toward a large screen in the back of the laboratory room flashing with red lights and unnervingly large numbers.

”Ma’am, something utterly bizarre has happened in Shadowlawn. Our animum reading instruments there are totally unreachable, I fear that they’ve been completely destroyed. And look at the last readings they sent.”

Xyra’s eyes actually widened a bit in response to the numbers visible on the screen. “It doesn’t look like these are the real numbers. I suspect we’ve hit an overflow error. Strange. Are you sure it’s not a glitch?”

”I’ve sent multiple reset requests with no response from any of our instruments. Either this is real or our technology’s worse than we thought.”

”Get a video feed if you can. If there’s really been an animum event of that magnitude, there’s going to be visible markers.”

”Right away, Ms. Pierre.”

After several rapid keystrokes, the flashing red lights and numbers disappeared from the screen and were replaced with a live video feed showing the border between Eyendaru and Shadowlawn, or what remained of it, from above. As opposed to the usual seamless footage and high resolution from Limina’s drone feeds, the video was choppy in animation and frequently blinked out as though the drone was experiencing both physical and electronic interference. What was visible on the screen between the glitches, though, was all that Xyra needed to see.


”Do you have any ideas?”

The screen’s display showed a tear in the world. Beyond the jagged circumference of a spike-lined circle of light, all was either burned and dessicated or completely destroyed. All that remained of seemingly impenetrable structures had been blown apart into warped lines, bent metal, and shattered plastic as though from strong winds. Within the circle of light, all that was visible on the screen was completely black, the same color as an improperly rendered texture in a 3D scan. Whatever was in there, it wasn’t natural and even the drone’s camera, or perhaps the Dragite eye, couldn’t render it.

”We don’t have any reliable sources on these events. The only record of anything remotely similar we have is from over 500 years ago and describes something substantially smaller, which was likely just a solar eclipse, but if we take it literally and tie in these animum readings, that’s a genuine dimensional rift. If our readings really did hit an overflow error, whatever’s beyond there is completely outside the range of plausible animum for anything we know about and the condition of the surrounding area aligns with the results of massive animum outflow. Are there any survivors we can question?”

”Not that we know of. Everything up to the Eyendaru border has been completely razed and no one’s been able to take instruments, let alone check for survivors themselves, beyond the rift. As far as we know, all of Shadowlawn is gone. There is data that suggests that there is someone involved who’s alive, though, and he even lives in Eyendaru. Do you want to bring him in for questioning? Here are the files we have on him.”

Xyra took a palmtop computer from Bira’s hand and began scrolling through it using a stylus, altering her gestures to highlight interesting passages of text or zoom in on photos and graphs.

”Xiampe Kunlikoa, eh? Involved in some sort of cult around the Incarnation Likoa, whose worship is associated with alternate dimensions from what we can get from the web. Something happened at his coming of age ritual which produced a spike in background animum and the readings from his devices haven’t been the same since. Bring him in. I think he’d be useful to us.”

”I do think getting someone in from the Chaos Children congregation would certainly be useful. From what I can tell, the religion was basically the dominant force in the Shadowlawn community, and if this really is a dimensional rift, the stuff about Likoa and animum rituals may be relevant. I know you’re not much for spirituality, but without our instruments, there’s not much we can do scientifically. At least starting from spiritual foundations gives us something to go on. And in that regard, there’s something interesting we were able to bring in from right outside the rift that I’d like to show you. It’s in quarantine right now.”

Bira led Xyra down a hallway and several flights of stairs which went deeper into Limina’s research compound, swiping their keycard and performing several biometric scans as the duo entered higher security levels. At the bottom of the complex in a sealed reinforced glass room sat a statue of a Sluslis-like figure primitively carved from a strange white material. Xyra almost mistook it for marble, except that its texture wasn’t right. It didn’t even appear to be stone; where the statue was damaged it gouged rather than fracturing. Despite being directly in the path of the rift, the statue remained remarkably intact. There were no signs of natural wear or tarnishing save the section that was gouged off for analysis. All that marred its white surface was a network of black and red gashes which covered nearly all of its body save the armor. Two out of four of the thing’s arms were so totally covered that their original material wasn’t even visible. While they’d never admit it publicly, let alone to Xyra, Bira couldn’t escape the feeling that the statue's dark gemstone eyes were watching the duo as they entered.

”We were able to recover this from the site of the rift. It appears to have originally been from the Chaos Children temple, but somehow didn’t end up inside the rift as we’d expect from the temple’s location. Its material isn’t anything we can identify, but has some interesting properties. Most notably, it’s absorbed and seemingly nullified all the animum we’ve thrown at it, even in the piece we cut off. This means it may be practical to explore synthesizing this material for animum defenses. For now, we’re calling it ‘xinanium’. It was one of the researchers’ suggestions; it’s apparently derived from an ancient word that roughly means ‘void’ or ‘primordial chaos’. We haven’t been able to get any clear readings on the scars yet. Animum devices don’t detect them at all and neither do physical or digital scans.”

”Likoa...battled against the tyranny of void...cast away into another world. Everything in that world submitted to her will...she was the Original...something. She’ll come back to test the strength of all who remain.”

”Xyra? Where are you getting that?”

”The scars. They look kind of like words in Old Draggan. Probably doesn’t mean anything since this is a religious artifact. Perfectly normal for it to be carved.”

”Uh, we’ve got 3D scans of this statue from our crowdsourced interior maps project and those scars weren’t on there before the rift opened.”

”In that case, it's probably just random noise from animum interference and pareidolia on my part. Get Xiampe Kunlikoa in here as soon as possible. I think he’s a college student, he’ll be easy to find. He’s got a lot of shit to answer to.”

Xyra slithered off muttering to herself, leaving Bira alone in the research complex. It was their job to locate this kid and bring him for whatever Xyra planned to do to him. It didn't substantially matter to Bira what that was. After all, they were working for the greater good. Obtaining information on the dimensional rift could revolutionize Dragite lives and produce a near infinite source of sustainable energy. That's what Xyra said. Limina was working for the good of all, and if that meant dragging a kid in for interrogation right after he found out his hometown had been destroyed and his mom died, then so be it. They pulled out their palmtop and quickly composed an email to the dean of students at Eyendaru University, requesting information about Xiampe Kunlikoa's whereabouts with the explanation that Limina wanted him for an important job opportunity. The dean, likely realizing they were being contacted by one of the main sources of their funding, quickly responded and pointed to Xiampe having scheduled an office appointment with plans to drop out the following week, which Bira could easily intersept. That over with, they returned to Xyra with the news.

"Ma'am, I've gotten information from the dean at Eyendaru concerning Xiampe. They say that he is, in fact, a student there and that if we want to intercept him without raising suspicion, he'll be in the office next week. It's probably for the best that we coordinate our appearance with his appointment and treat this as though it's a normal job interview. I know you're anxious to get answers, but..."

"But what? More insects fly to sweeter fruit? Forget that. I want him to be suspicious. After all, he's the one who broke the world thanks to his chaos cult birthday party. If we get him to break, he'll reveal everything we want to know." Xyra circled Bira, directing her speech at no one in particular based on her head movements but clearly at the Katyar assistant based on her intonation.

"But, ma'am, what if you try to use interogation tactics and get him to 'break' and instead of revealing information, he shuts down? If we present this as wanting to help him after the disaster, he'll be more likely to cooperate. He's one of the only leads we have; we can't afford to alienate him."

"True. I half expected you to try to defend him and claim that he didn't choose to be born to super-religious parents, and we all know that falls apart. After all, --"

"Yes, I know. Your mother disowned you when she found out you were working with animum technology because it was against the will of Pheriana. It's in all of your bios. So, should I plan a chauffer to the university at the same time slot as his office appointment?"

"Yes, make it so. I suggest you come yourself as well to summon him; it will make things feel more pressing and start getting him on edge. We want him to realize this isn't a normal job interview, so once he starts getting inklings, we can use it to get him to do whatever we want him to. You know I can't come myself; I'd be swarmed."

"Yes, ma'am."

Bira turned away, returning to their research complex to schedule plans with their drivers. They'd use one of the official branded vehicles and if they could get things arranged properly, one of the expensive ones they used when bringing representatives to conferences and stakeholder meetings. They'd wow Xiampe with the glitz and glamour of the technology before they brought him in and Xyra would...she'd obtain information from him that could eludicate the matter of the Shadowlawn rift, begin reparations for the disaster, and improve the lives of all Dragites. They'd go beyond what was thought possible and expand the horizons of animum research and consumer technology alike.

All it took was exploiting a college kid's trauma to do it.

A rounded, somewhat elongated, and low-to-the-ground white car branded with the Limina logo on one of its doors, driven by one of Xyra's burly, identical Gymu bodyguards, pulled into a parking place in front of the dean of students' office at Eyendaru University. The larger Dragite grunted, exited, and opened the passenger's side door for Bira to exit before returning to their seat, the car still running, awaiting their return with the quarry. At Xyra's instruction, Bira had built up their ensemble to take advantage of every preconceived notion of Limina this kid supposedly had: AR glasses, business suit, fully gelled-back hair, the works, all in the name of intimidation and getting him to truly believe that his feelings were irrelevant in the face of the greater good. They held their head high as the automatic door to the office opened for them, scanning the room until they located a skinny brown Sluslis boy who didn't look to be in good shape.

Based on the state of their yellowish-stained, matted white hair, barely constrained under a headscarf, Xiampe hadn't showered or brushed his hair since the opening of the rift. His outfit presented a similar conclusion, consisting solely of a baggy promotional hoodie from a programming competition 5 years prior, swallowing the kid's emaciated form whole and bearing faded splotches of a number of colors, presumably from previous meals. The boy's eyes vaguely glanced toward his phone, on which he was scrolling through some manner of text document based on his movements, but his eyes remained glassy and dull, clearly not taking in anything on screen. The kid was an empty shell, in short, and probably hadn't gotten a good night's sleep since discovering that everything he'd ever known before going to college had been obliterated in a single swoop. Bira briefly wondered what his life was like. Where was he when he got the news about the rift? Did he have friends at school? Where were they now? Bira shook their head, clearing the irrelevant thoughts. They had a job to do. They approached the kid, waited for his eyes to slightly pivot in their direction, and remained clinical in their address of him.

"Are you Xiampe Kunlikoa?"

Xiampe fidgeted in his seat, avoiding eye contact with the Katyar before them. He likely didn't want such a high-powered business associate to see him in his sorry state at the moment. Almost under his breath, he mumbled out an affirmation. Bira clenched their muscles once more.

"You're coming with me. You are needed for an interview at Limina's corporate complex in downtown Pulklita."

It took roughly 40 minutes, given the traffic conditions, to get to the complex. The ride passed in silence, by design. Xiampe sat in the back seat behind a transparent, soundproof barrier, allowing him to see Bira calmly conversing with the driver and the phone displaying navigation directions, but not to hear them, leaving him to speculate over what their intentions were with him and remain alone with his thoughts. Xyra had insisted on including the barrier, saying that it would help her investigation for Xiampe to free associate during the drive in order to bring up everything he knew concerning Limina, the rift, and anything else of use.

Xiampe was led by the hulking bodyguard and Bira through a seemingly endless array of stark white corridors, the walls interrupted by large windows into cubicle farms, the complex's interior courtyard, and research labs displaying ornate 3D models on large monitors. This was all for show, of course. The real research happened below in the far less glamorous lab complexes. Employees in all manner of clothing, ranging from suits to hoodies, milled about, but regardless of their varying styles, they remained perfectly groomed and their outfits remained in stark black and white save the odd blue or green accent at Xyra's insistence. The kid didn't visibly look up at any of the displays of technology and power before him, but according to Xyra, he didn't need to. The simple fact of the stark, isolating surroundings, seeing all of the employees engaged in machinations he didn't understand, and being escorted by a guard who could tie him into knots if they so desired was all built to make him feel powerless, as though he was in the presence of a deity, in the CEO's own words. Once Xiampe and his escorts reached Xyra's office, the door clicked to unlock without a single word through the intercom. They dropped off Xiampe and the door closed behind him, loudly locking and blocking all sound from outside.

There was nothing adorning the room save a studio window, looking down on Limina's courtyard surrounded by the buildings of downtown Pulklita and at the center, Xyra's desk, at which she tapped at a notebook computer, seemingly not noticing him at all. Xiampe hesitantly looked around the room before reluctantly sitting down at the chair in front of the desk, opposite of Xyra's high-backed and wheeled contraption. The chair was of good design and soft material, but had its armrests and angles in just the right position to prevent Xiampe from properly relaxing. After an agonizing moment, Xyra appeared to finally notice him and turned her gaze from the laptop, regarding him as her augmented reality contacts flashed. Xiampe broke from his malaise upon recognizing her and stammered out a query, which she quickly dismissed, maintaining a calm and even intonation. She was the one in control of this situation and the kid knew it.

"I am. Xyra Pierre, founder and CEO here at Limina. Pleased to meet you, we have much to discuss."

She stretched out a hand, showcasing her engraved platinum ring (she was not, in fact, married, she only wore it to demonstrate her riches to anyone who was unaware and fend off suitors), and retracted it just before Xiampe could shake it. Couldn't maintain too much familiarity, after all. Speaking of familiarity, she needed to pay lipservice to the kid's trauma. Put up an illusion of care which he'd see right through, putting him on edge while preventing him from striking back without seeming rude. She maintained her unbroken tone while sending her condolences concerning Shadowlawn. The kid's body tensed as soon as she mentioned it. Even better, she was receiving information concerning Xiampe's personal relation to the disaster right through the animum scanners on her contacts which copied to her computer, whether she realized it or not. Xyra wasn't sure of its exact specifications, but a piercing white aura emanated from the center of Xiampe's face, carefully covered by his hair and headscarf, but impossible to hide from the power of technology. She casually gestured to it as she mentioned Xiampe's personal connection to the Shadowlawn disaster. She was making a gamble here, but if she was right...

She was. Xiampe growled at her, demonstrating that not only was she correct about whatever happened at the kid's birthday party ripping a hole through not only the world, but also his very body, he also couldn't hide anything from her. Presence of a deity and all. Now that the kid was thoroughly unnerved, time to return to her "concerned authority figure" act. Euphemistic language only flared up the kid's rage. Good. Rage would prevent him from thinking things through, making him more likely to volunteer information he wouldn't otherwise or make decisions that he may have regretted once he came to his senses.

The kid spat out accusations of her having unsavory motives with spite and disgust. It was time to go for the kill. She carefully addressed him by overly familiar terms combined with violating his personal space. Not only did she suspect that it was the most contact he'd gotten in weeks, letting it serve as a reminder of his hopeless state and setting her up as the only one who could help him, it continued to emphasize who was in control of the situation. He'd be uncomfortable and he couldn't do shit about it. Plus, if like many of the scrawny teenage boys he knew, he carried inclinations towards her, she could use that to his advantage and get him to shop thinking with his brain. She delicately reached out a hand to pull back the hood on his sweatshirt, taking his headscarf and the fringe of his hair with it, revealing a glowing, pitch-black hole in the center of his forehead. The kid remained stunned, tensing his shoulders and attempting to contract his body into the chair, hiding himself away in his hoodie again. He tried to cover the hole again, but Xyra's glare stopped him.

"I know you were the focus of that ritual, and based on animum readings from the last 3 years, something happened there which ended up leading to the rift. Really, this whole thing is your fault."

She may have slightly overestimated this kid's respect for authority in his current state. He seemed absolutely willing to strike back at her without fear of appearing rude, but his defenses were quickly wearing thin. Just in case, though, she called in for her security guards to emerge, ensuring he didn't get any ideas. Hidden trapdoors in the floor opened, sending more Gymu identical to his driver up elevators to position themselves strategically around the perimeter. The kid could keep eyeing the exit, but he had no way out and he knew it. Xyra remained calm against him, before she'd finally had enough of prolonging his suffering. She'd gotten him right where she wanted him. Dragite brains were just like computers. They could put up clever illusions of intelligent behavior, but if you put in the right input, you'd always get the output you wanted eventually.

"Look, pretty boy. You don't have to like me. But I will point this out: you're a college dropout from a super-common major with no references who aren't on the wrong end of that rift. Where else can you go? It's not like you can go back and live with your mom."

The kid tensed up further, turning his head away in what appeared to be an effort to avoid having her see him cry.

"Oh, you seem tired. Guards? Escort him to his quarters."

One of the Gymu beckoned with a long-clawed hand for Xiampe to rise from his chair and follow them, which he did. Xyra cheerfully waved as he left with his back turned, not even attempting to disguise the smirk spreading across her face.

Everything with the Xiampe project, or Project Pretty Boy as Xyra called it to herself, was proceeding as planned. The kid was being all emo about it, but he was complying and that was really all that mattered. The numbers Xyra was getting were, put shortly, astounding. She needed to figure out how to fix that overflow error, but the boy was packing enough animum to bring down the whole dimension if it got let out of his body. So not only was Xyra doing a public service, it added credence to the idea she planned to sell to the local news outlets that the rift could be a blessing if harnessed as an energy source. She hummed to herself as she moved from her quarters into the dining area to get herself lunch. Obviously, she didn't eat at the worker cafeteria, but making the public appearance reinforced her approachable image. Her delivery would arrive within the next 5 minutes.

Xyra had gotten halfway through her sandwich when her entire field of vision flashed white, intersected by the building alarms going off, alerting all present that the animum containment systems were down due to a sudden power surge and to stop any projects they were currently working on. She'd need to fix that problem with her contacts. When she'd contracted the research team to work on them, she hadn't thought about the issue that seeing local animum fields as glowing auras would result in her being blinded by sharp power surges. She reached up to her wireless headset to deactivate the contacts so she could see, and found herself in darkness save the blue emergency lights on the floor. Evidently, whatever animum surge had just happened had also taken out power to the building. Interesting. This, combined with the thunderstorms around the rift, suggested that high enough levels of animum could move other forms of energy with them. Here, she'd been thinking she could just harvest it for electricity, but this was even better.

A cheerful ringing tone began playing through Xyra's headset. She reached into the pocket of her lab coat and pulled out her phone to find that with the network in the building down, it didn't have service. Who could be calling her? It was probably a technical problem, but in the name of thoroughness, she pressed down the button to take the call.

"Uh, have I reached Xyra Pierre at Limina?"

"Yes, this is she. How are you calling me? There's been an animum surge of unknown origin and power and networks in our complex are down."

"...that was me. I'm from the other end of the hole in the world."

Xyra froze. This shouldn't have been possible; based on all analysis of the rift, it would take quite a while for anything physical to be able to get through. Of course, she did suppose that possessing a physical body wasn't necessarily a requirement for lifeforms. While it was purely conjectural, a sentient being made entirely out of animum was a possibiliy...

"Are you still there?"

"Yes. Just...surprised. I didn't expect to hear from someone like you. How did you get to me?"

"Saw an opening and went for it. You have no idea how much it sucks in there. If you were in that world, you'd take the slightest crack in the facade too."

"Wait. If you're from another world, shouldn't you have an entirely different form of communication? How are you not only speaking my language, but also doing so with full fluency and colloquial terms?"

"'re talking to a real, living chaos entity and that's the most pressing matter?"

"There are a lot of things to process here for me, okay? Are we actually communicating through animum pulses and my brain is just translating it as speech?"

"Yes. Also, in case you haven't figured out yet, we've got a mental link going on here. I'm not actually calling you on your phone, but keep the headset up so no one thinks you're talking to yourself."

The chaos entity mentioning her talking to herself reminded Xyra of something. She further listened to the voice, if one could really call it that, on the other end of the line. It struck her as distinctly familiar, but she couldn't place from wh--it was her own. It sounded like the recordings of her directs. Did she seriously sound like that?

"Uh, it sounds like I already am."

"Oh. Let me put this into a metaphor you'll know how hard-coded digital sound works? The instruments and notes may be encoded, but it's going to sound different based on what soundfont you're using. Same thing with your mind and your soul. Your soul being the soundfont that interprets your mind."

"How do you know that metaphor? My brain interpreting your animum pulses as speech is one thing. You being familiar with an Insulan standard that only high-level Limina researchers have access to the details of is another."

"I'm basically just a soul that got cocky. I don't have a mind in the traditional sense, so right now, I'm using yours. That's why my speech patterns, the sound of my 'voice', and the knowledge and metaphors I have sound like you."

"Fascinating...I never thought about this being possible before; it sounded like pure fantasy. But if knowledge from minds can be perfectly shared through animum alone..."

"Uh, pinging server Xyra? Yeah, yeah, potential, but I don't think we're done here."

"Oh. Right. So, what do you want from me?"

"I need a body. Same thing with the MIDI soundfont metaphor. I don't have one, but if you give me admin rights to your soul, I can extrapolate from your animum and make one of my own."

"Okay. Sure. Do that."

"Really? You're accepting? Just like that? It's my turn to be overly analytical. You're talking to an entity known in your folklore, from what I can tell, as pure evil, and you're casually giving me full image rights to your mind and body? Why? What's in it for you? I mean, other than you seeming like the kind of Dragite who pushes unmarked buttons to see what they do."

"If you can read my mind, why do you need me to exposit to you? Shouldn't you already know?"

"I can read your vibes. There's a difference. You should know this. I don't really have conscious thoughts and such in textual form. I can put up a superficial facade of you from animum alone, but I can't get anything especially complex. Also, even if I could fully read your mind, I'd still want to hear it in your own words. Otherwise, I'd just be getting the idea of you which might not be what you think you're doing."

"You understand me perfectly, you have a name? What should I call you? Since you're such a good counterpart to me, it feels weird that I don't know."

"Uh, XZNT. You can add in whatever you like to make it pronounceable."

"All right. So, XZNT, what you said about wanting to hear me in my own words versus your animum interpretation's idea of me is exactly my reasoning. So, since you're kinda me, you know about augmentation circuits, right? How they can tap into animum from another dimensional system that's parallel to ours so we can access their ideas? Fiction, software, language, etcetera?"


"So, we can learn a lot about the Insulan dimensional system from their animum. I've been able to reverse-engineer a lot of their tech standards -- the MIDI you mentioned was actually my first project back in college -- and learn some of their languages, but we're still stuck with the animum reflection of their content, not the literal signals. But if what I think is right is right and high levels of animum from the other side of the rift can carry electricity, it might be possible working with the rift to be able to cross the gap between our systems and tap into Insulas' literal electrical signals. Then from there we can reverse-engineer, read their data like they do, and finally receive pure signals!"

"That's a fascinating scientific idea, but I don't see how it's worth making a deal with a chaos entity for."

"Let me finish. If I can figure out how to receive signals across systems, I can also send them. And that means that I could actually get into contact with a being from another dimensional system. One with technology beyond what we've ever attempted beyond conjecture. They've traveled through space, Xazzie! Think about everything we could learn from them!"

"Okay, now I'm starting to see what you're getting at. You want to make contact with one of Insulas' super-powerful tech companies and make a contract with them, thus being the first corporation to sell to beings from different realities entirely."


Xyra had stopped concerning herself with her reputation. The building was still dark and mostly empty, so she had plenty of room to excitedly slither around the dining area. She was talking to a real chaos entity and was probably the first one to do so. Something which she refused to admit the existence of had reached out from across the interdimensional void and told her she was special. Her reverie was interrupted when XZNT chimed in.

"So, isn't matter considered in some versions of physics to just be a weird form of energy?"


"If animum can transmit energy like heat and electricity and stuff, is it possible that if you gathered enough of it, you'd be able to physically transport objects, or maybe even beings, between Insulas and where we are?"

"Holy shit, you're right! I hadn't even thought of that before. We're going to be such a great team. So, yeah! That's my story about why I'm signing on with you. If you're ready, I'd love to see you in person, so you can possess my body now. How's this going to work? Will we be two minds working in the same body or --"

A brilliant flash of fuchsia light burst behind Xyra in an instant. She rounded on it to see, as she'd theorized, a body with the same proportions as her own. Not bad, in her opinion. However, the proportions were about where the resemblance stopped. XZNT's color palette was a near total inversion of Xyra's own, with the body being a near-fluorescent pink and their mirror image of her own clothing changing from white to black. Their hair had also inverted to white, and rather than Xyra's perfectly gelled bun, it streamed out behind them in every possible direction, seeming to defy gravity and levitate above their head. For that matter, it may well be doing exactly that since that's what Xiampe's hair did when his headscarf was off. Their eyes, completely black save burning yellow points in the midst of the abyss, pierced into Xyra.

"Woah." They both spoke in unison as they looked over the other. "You're..."


Xyra finished the sentence. XZNT hesitated a bit before pulling their hair into prehensile tentacles, wrapping Xyra in it and pulling her closer. She chuckled a bit at the tingling sensation, something akin to vibration and static electricity. Once they made contact, she could feel the sheer power that emanated from the entity before her, even without the contacts. Once she turned them back on, everything dissolved into light. Red met blue. Cyan and magenta. A union between worlds. Before her vision flooded with light again, Xyra swept off a table to leave space for the chaos entity's tendrils to pick her up and for their body to press her down against it. A message from the void had been received, and accepted. Two worlds would become one, binaries broken, all boundaries and borders dissolving into a luminous abyss. Everything went smoothly. Perfectly. Just like the pretty boy project and just as though Xyra was working in conjunction with herself. She'd never appreciated her own body to that extent before.

Unnoticed by either member of the cross-dimensional coupling, the power turned back on. Xiampe and Bira approached in an attempt to locate their boss and inform her about the readings they'd gotten from the animum surge. While it was invisible through their scales and fur, heat rushed to both of their faces once they finally located the CEO and they decided that they'd come back later.


  • Name: Xyra Pierre. I go by XP.
  • Species: Sluslis
  • Gender: Female
  • Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Age: 32
  • Orientation: Bi
  • Occupation: Founder & CEO @ Limina Technologies
  • Abilities: Augmented reality contacts allow her to view websites and information overlaid on her vision and to zoom in up to 5x real size. They can also view local animum fields. Also, she basically controls most institutions in the Pulklita metro area courtesy of being the CEO of one of Dragga's wealthiest companies that's headquartered there.

Neat = I believe in streamlining and efficiency in all things.

Outgoing = Everything I do revolves around the customer. People are my number 1 priority and I always accept feedback and discussions.

Active = Being proactive is of the utmost importance in business and life alike. Do you think I got here by sitting in my basement?

Serious = Humor is useful to lighten a situation and start building connections, but I don't let it get in the way of business.

Mean = In order to manage an empire as large as Limina, one must be intelligent, cunning, efficient, and ruthless. This doesn't leave much time for friends, and I don't need them anyway.

Reference - Updated 11/01/2022

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