Ch. III, p.2

The vast unfamiliarity of his situation overwhelmed him. He hadn’t thought about what he needed, or even tried to imagine the surface—what it would be like if he ever reached it. Warm… he hoped, shivering.

Gradually, his mind became absorbed in the familiar interface; tension left his muscles and his thought processes slowed, comforted by the recognizable colors and sounds. Completely focused on the myriad options, he could almost forget that he was naked and alone, trapped in the cold recesses of an extinct scientific research facility.

A warning flashed subtly beneath the items. “Supply system compromised,” he read. “3,000 KVUs of Variable State Materials remaining.” A small number glowed red next to each object, indicating how much of the material they would use up.

Supply system compromised… he thought. Had he considered it earlier, he would have expected as much. It was an unsettling realization.

‘VSM full length.’ He chose a hooded robe; able to shed weight and change form, it seemed perfect for whatever he would encounter. ‘Woven with invisium.’

“I’m sorry, you don’t have the authentication required for that garment. While I am not allowed to sell you any negative light refracting metamaterials without a military license, I would like to point out that you can get a similar effect to the invisium by using dynamic color range cloth. DCRs provide exemplary camouflage for a hunting trip or just ‘blending in with the crowd,' and are perfect for most law-abiding citizen's needs.”

‘I’ll take one,' he thought. An eerie doubt about whether there were any crowds left passed over him. ‘Show nanomachines.’

“I’m sorry, you are an unknown quantity. Only basic survival gear may be provided.”

‘Authentication code override, administrative pass code h83cmtx42ittm………’
an almost incomprehensibly long string of numbers and letters passed through his mind.

“Limited authentication override allowed. Access to civilian gear level 1 granted in accordance with U.S. Gov. Post-Gate mandate 17.”

What the hell was that?
he wondered. 'What does mandate 17, or whatever, say?'

“I assume you mean to ask why your access rights have been restricted. Under U.S. Gov. Post-Gate mandate 17, systems administrator override codes no longer grant the user unrestricted selection, whether for purposes scientific, personal, or otherwise. If you would like to dispute this law, please be aware that you no longer have the right."

What is going on here?
He decided to figure it out later. 'Nanomachines...' he thought. 'Add Oxyphiles.' The rest of the available selection was worthless.

‘Self defense and wilderness survival.

Both categories had been whittled down, with numerous items marked "P-G 17/access denied". ‘Destabilizer. Temperature regulating clothing. Breathable mask. Nutrient distribution system.’ He needed to be careful. With the machine operating off his bioelectric current, he couldn’t go overboard. ‘Electronic interface devices. I need an Aura with the following complementary devices: systems access tool and sonar mapping unit.’

He paused for a moment to make sure he had everything he needed. Process order,’ he thought.

A low whir resounded in the nearby cylindrical chamber; other than the diminished humming of the oversized machine, only the sound of his breath accompanied him in the black. The deep timbre of each uneasy draw possessed an almost soporific effect, causing his mind to wander...

A distant noise startled his senses into life. That sounded like something falling. A light-hearted jingle played in his head, indicating that his things were ready. Maybe I didn’t hear anything, he thought, pulling the bindings from his feet, listening intently.

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