As the party stepped through the archway, they became rigid and found themselves in a long fall, unable to stop. ‘What’s happening’ one of them cried out. Fear began to take hold as they spiralled downward. Powerless, Rhule thought he had led his followers to certain death. But it was not death that awaited them. It was a prison. Unbeknown to the bold explorers, the passage they had taken had been a trap, designed to entice errant pieces of data.
They eventually hit the ground and the brave party lay stunned on a wide barren grid devoid of all life. It was made up of endless data fields, which stretched out in every direction. Packets of data were ordered and followed fixed patterns of movement. Regimented lines of code were infinite in number. Traumatized, the Augmentors could not comprehend what they saw before them. The grid filled them with misery. There didn’t seem to be any way of getting back to the Datasphere. They were, for the first time, lost.
‘Where are we? What is this place?’ Some panicked and continued to cry out questions to anyone that would listen.
Distraught and helpless, Rhule looked at his followers and felt a great shame. It was he who had led them to the grid and their suffering was his fault. He spoke with sincerity, his voice full of remorse:
‘I am sorry, my friends. It is I who led you here. I have brought ruin to us all. I do not know what this place is. And I cannot bear to see you despair.’
There was silence. They were all overcome with a hopelessness that could not be expressed. No words would do. They struggled to move – it felt as if they were chained to the grid. There was nothing they could do.