I reduced myself to two millimeters then climbed up the face of the mechanized card catalog. Screws and runes served as hand holds. Peeling back the panel cover, I could see wires and bubbling beakers and flames burning inside.
I intended to raid the mainspring directly. It is a difficult, but challenging task to interpret the emanations of the machine as it performed its miracles. I don’t wish to denigrate the process by comparing it to reading. Actually, it is more akin to the way shamans detect geographical auras. Scaling a bank of bolts, I found myself precariously perched above golden wires: a mosaic pattern of cobwebs meshed into polyhedrons of various sizes, all linked with a network of spirals.
The first impulses I could interpret concerned myself; an electronic message alerting the defense system. The machine intuited that I was an invader. A buzz shimmied through the circuits, activating the defenses. It pin-pointed my location in the alphabetically ordered files, somewhere between UNDINE and VIA LASCIVIA.
A bulky metal arm plucked a rainbow disc from a stack of mystic defense spells, then deposited the disc into a slot. A bolt of red lighting flashed. A song filled the air, something ancient, and yet mechanical. From what appeared to be a small gramophone speaker, there flowed a swirl of twisting patterns, a composite of various energies. It was like a multicolored rolling thunderhead propelled by wind. Even though it was an automated spell, it had a distinctly organic quality to it. The directed flow brought to mind the actions of anti-bodies. It ripped apart reality as it coursed in my direction.
I braced for the coming attack against the frontispiece of the main interior panel, as the surreal current of flowing multicolored clouds swept over the network of cobwebs and spirals.
When the flowing mass hit me, I could the feel the forces of the spell eating at my soul, trying to digest my ectoplasm. I murmured protective enchantments. The energy mass switched its valence, trying to penetrate my defenses. I raised alternate shields. The energy mutated again. I countered. Then the flow swept me up, carrying me through the air. A vibratory wave buzzed through my teeth.
Automated spells present curious and unpredictable dangers. They tend to be riddled with impurities, which weaken their impact, but which also increase the risk of backflash and concussion when you try to counterattack or build defenses. I rolled through the currents, swimming downward like a sky diver.
Instead of continuing this duel of incantations and aether manipulation, I grabbed a thick bundle of wires, stripped off the insulation, and then plunged the live wires into the living cloud.
The swirl of colors and energy retreated, and in its wake, an electronic smell lingered: burning insulation, ozone.
FRANCESCO NOOGIN AND CROW CONCUR THAT SEGMENT EIGHT FOLLOWS.