Lore:Last Days

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"And my vanquisher will read that book, seeking the weapon, and they will come to understand me, where I have been and where I was going."
The following is a verbatim transcription of an official document for archival reasons. As the original content is transcribed word-for-word, any possible discrepancies and/or errors are included.

Last Days is a Lore book added in Lightfall. Entries are unlocked by progressing through the Lightfall campaign. It follows the lives of ordinary citizens of Neomuna in the lead-up to the citywide lockdown seen in-game.

Mr. Che

"Well, that's the end of another day." Arter smiled at his students. "Remember, everyone, this is the last day we meet here in the school. Starting next week, all our classes will be in the CloudArk. We'll start learning digital sculpting for art time! Won't that be exciting?"

"I don't like art time, Mr. Che!" Suza stamped her foot. "Why do we need to go into the computer? I like our playground."

Arter set himself heavily onto the stool. His class ranged from four to seven years old, and some of them were smarter than he ever remembered being at that age, but none of them were ready to confront the idea of extinction. "I know you've all heard that the Pyramid Fleet is coming back." Blank stares… They knew the fact, but not the emotional weight it carried. "The Pyramid Fleet are very bad people who might hurt us. So, we're all going to go deep underground, where we'll be very hard to find. But there isn't a lot of room underground, and not a lot to do, so we'll all go to sleep and spend time in the CloudArk, so we can still learn and play with our friends."

"Will it hurt?"

"No, Keiji. It'll be just like when we go into the CloudArk for story time. You've all done this lots of times before."

"Can we get up to use the bathroom?" Arter didn't catch who spoke up, but it sounded like Kachela.

"No, we'll have to stay asleep," he reminded them.

"But then we'll poop the bed!" Absolute scandal dripped from Kachela's voice, and Arter had to stifle a laugh.

"We'll be just fine. Everyone is going to get their own special sleeping pod just like the Founders used!" He lowered his voice to a faux-conspiratorial whisper. "It will do all the pooping for you."

The classroom shouted "Ewwwww" as one chorus. Arter could always count on certain things to distract kids from their fear.


"Hiro, what did I say? Get this family portrait hung," Sehrish chided her husband. "And, daughter, I need you to go to the market—"

"Mom," Valla interrupted, "our appointment is in two hours."

"To the market," she continued, shaking a nearly empty tin. "And bring back cumin and cardamum. I don't like how low we are on garam masala."

"We're going into lockdown. We don't need more spices!"

"Oh no? What about that hallway panel where something's always breaking?" The service panel in the Tanaka residence had inexplicably been ground zero for 90% of the block's brownouts. "What if the Cloud Strider comes to fix it, hm? And then wants to make himself a nice lunch for his trouble. Don't we owe Rohan a nicely stocked kitchen?"

Valla stared, dumbfounded by the logic. "If he wants a lunch, he can get a chana masala from the food printer. It's fine!"

"It is not fine," her voice cracked. "That machine has no soul. Cooking is love. You've got to put something of yourself into it."

"You know how important this is for the community. For the whole city!" Valla dropped her bag by the door. "You voted for this lockdown!" She expected another of her mother's twists of logic but, instead, Sehrish slumped her shoulders and shuddered softly. It took the young woman too long to realize her mother was crying.

"Your father and I applied for this larger apartment when I was pregnant with you." The older woman wiped away a tear. "And we were always so busy raising you we never had time to finish all the things we wanted to do with it. How can I move on when I'm not done here?"

"Aw, Mom." She pulled her mother tight, then felt larger arms pull them both together and smelled her father's aftershave.

"That life in the computer. It doesn't feel like our home," she admitted, looking surprised.

"Of course, it doesn't feel like home yet, Sehrish," Hiro rumbled softly. "You have to put something of yourself into it."


"Founders' tits, Tino," Callie snorted in disgust. The virtual briefing room was just as drab as their physical one had been—by design—and it heightened the outlandishness of his avatar choice. "I'm not going to talk to you if you're going to be a mandala. It gives me a headache."

"This is the future! And you're not my supervisor." She waved him off and turned back to the schedule with the other medtechs.

"How do they expect us to receive this many people in one shift?" Tammiya pulled a copy of the schedule file and integrated it into her arm—half the staff were already taking advantage of the transience of "virtual tattoos" to keep important notes accessible.

Tino perked up at the chance to gossip. "You didn't hear? Over on Wakeside, they had an anaphylaxis event last shift. Some chucklehead forgot to tell them about his shellfish allergy."

"But the new cathepsin inhibitors are oyster-derived."

"Exactly," Miku confirmed. Her avatar hung slack. "They pumped him full of deepsleep, and he puffed up like a fugu. Puked everywhere! Glad I was only there on drone duty because the smell must have been a nightmare." Tino brought up the video feed.

"Why do people think we even ask all these questions?"

"That's enough!" Bijan settled into a virtual chair at the briefing table. The supervisor's cold glare survived CloudArk transition unaffected. "People get scared, and they forget things. It's part of being human. Do your jobs like professionals."

"But we were already behind, chief. And then people like this slow it down for everyone else."

"I get the frustration, Tammiya." Bijan pulled the schedule apart into their respective assignments. "But we're medical technicians. We're the stability they need. You wear your empathy first."

"Good call, chief," Tino piped in.

"Speaking of… Tino, you can be math on your own time. But while we have five million scared patients looking for reassurance, keep your damn face on."


"And then Marco looks up at me with eyes the size of durian and says, 'No, Grandpa, I'm adrift'!" It was too stupid a joke not to laugh. Mr. Mendoza's body language changed after that. He settled into the chair and leaned back, no longer eyeing Cais like she was a harpy in disguise. She made a mental note to thank her boss: the easiest way to put seniors at ease was to ask about family.

He wiped a tear from his eye, then clapped his hands on her desk. "So. You need to freeze me?"

"That's a common misconception." She had tried for weeks to dispel this one, but the term "cryo" had caught on and was too easy. "It's more like a hibernation. We'll lower your body temperature and metabolic activity, but your mind will remain active in the CloudArk."

"Oh? I used to do some arking back in my day. Been a while, though. Mostly just use the AV stuff to visit the great-grandkids." He made a point of shifting in the chair. "The monorail's not great for the old scoliosis."

"I don't think anyone calls it 'arking' anymore, Mr. Mendoza, but you'll be able to see the grandkids just like an in-person visit."

She kicked on the viewing wall and displayed an image of Neomuna, except…

"No clouds?" He whistled appreciatively.

"We call it the Landing Zone. It's an exact replica of the city. Same laws of physics. Just nicer weather. You'll start out here while you get used to CloudArk living. We generate a body that's an exact replica of the one you have now. Once you get settled in, we have classes for customizing your avatar, building new spaces, even exploring the deep CloudArk if you feel adventurous."

"Sounds good, I suppose. But this, uh… this perfect replica of my body?"

"Down to the neuron."

"Can you make me one without the scoliosis?"


Adinew's spoon scraped the corners of the ramekin, pulling up the remnants of purin and popping the last half-bite of custard into his mouth. His tongue satisfied but his heart still yearning, he eyed the last bowl sitting on the counter.

"Don't even." Paolo didn't look up from his novel. "I get at least one out of this batch."

"You'll never find a better husband with that attitude."

At this, Paolo set his book down and walked across the room, wrapping his arms around his spouse from behind. "Hey, first the stress-eating, now the self-deprecation. What's going on?"

"Worried about my approval rating." Adinew relaxed a little under the attention. "City Council elections are next year, and lockdown's a big change to drop on everyone beforehand. And with me in charge of administering the upload…"

"You did good. Your public referendum proved people want to protect their families and their community. Everyone's excited to do their part. So, what's really going on?"

Adinew watched the poukas outside the window, lazily floating in the wind. He dropped his ramekin and spoon into the scrubber, and the noise seemed to snap him back.

"It's… it's all this." He waved over the plateaus and spires and canyons of the city, limned with neon light. "We're going to give up our whole lives, five million times over." He choked down a lump in his throat. "What if the Pyramids never come back? What if we're making the wrong choice? If I made the wrong choice?"

"Then we made the wrong choice." Paolo laughed and cupped Adinew's chin. "And everyone's still alive. But if we do nothing, and THAT's the wrong choice…"

After a long moment, Adinew finally nodded. He returned his husband's embrace, and they looked out at the poukas a while longer.


"Can you not be here virtually?" Ava couldn't make eye contact with the digital projection—she wasn't sure she could with a real, live person either, but it was such a stark reminder.

"I can't," Maggie admitted. "But I can get another crisis responder who hasn't uploaded yet to come over. It'll take a few minutes. Can I sit with you until then?"

Decisions were hard. "I guess."

Magnolia sat—settled her virtual projection in at Ava's eye level and above the couch—and looked around the apartment. Her eyes fell on a familiar artwork.

"Wow, is that a vintage Raid Invader poster?"

Ava shifted a little. After a long moment, she nodded. "Yeah. Was my granddad's. It was the preorder promo for the very first game."

"That's awesome. You excited about the new series they're making? Purnadi Hassan is going to be the perfect Durandal!"

"The Thrilladrome arcade's sponsoring a watch party for it after we're all…" She didn't add "in the CloudArk."

There was a sigh and another silence.

Minutes ticked by.

Ava took a deep breath. "It's just scary, you know?"

"It is." Maggie nodded.

"The whole world is going to end, and we're going to hide online."

"It's not on you to save the world." Maggie placed a digital hand on Ava's. The charge particles tingled her skin.

"But the world's going to end. Why can't I just choose to go a little sooner?"

Maggie shrugged. "Because then you'd miss a great Raid Invader series."

"Holding out to watch a new show? That's so…" Ava shook her head. "Dumb."

"So what? Life's dumb." Maggie waved around with the vague suggestion of everything. "It's okay to coast. If you'd get lost without little steppingstones of happiness, then use the stones."

Ava cautioned a look at her virtual companion. "And if you're good," Maggie assured her, "you can save the world next week."


Rihk guided his hand forward and caught the club, then pushed back with all the frame's strength and watched the suspect topple backwards. "Settle down!" It was strange to have physical hands again—even if they were borrowed from a security frame he piloted from the CloudArk—and he wasn't sure he wanted to use them again.

With the assailants down, the investigation VCs entered alongside the frame team, ready to inventory the stolen supplies. Commander Jingye walked in, still wearing her skin, and Rihk snapped to attention.

"Didn't realize you'd be coming down in person, ma'am."

"I'm here to see what can be salvaged, Constable." He expected her to wander over to the lashed shelves stuffed with nanite slurry, nutrient goo, batteries, and assemblers—enough for the dozen holdouts to live off the grid for years—but, instead, Tse stopped in front of his prone suspect. "Been a day, huh?"

"We won't go under!" His eyes burned with contempt as he sat firm in front of a fortune in supplies looted from the public stores.

Jingye offered a hand to help him stand. He slapped it away—a simple conversation between hope and hatred. But behind it, the man radiated terror.

The Commander sighed, turning back to Rihk's frame. "He's just scared, ma'am," he offered.

"We're all scared, Constable. But these holdout cults… they'd rather die living like they knew instead of surviving in a new normal." Her patient expression folded into a scowl. "And they don't care if they get the rest of us killed, too."

"My sister works in Mental Health Services. Says they're stretched thin, especially without the poukas. What do we do with them?"

"Counciler Adinew's authorized deep cryo as an option for anyone who doesn't want to upload."

"Sleep through all this instead of help out?" Rihk scoffed as he lifted the suspect. The felon's bravado melted as he listened to the exchange. "You seriously think anyone will take it?"

"Probably." She moved to leave. "And we're out of time to find better solutions."


"The best thing about half the city being asleep," Gwinnith began, "is there's no line at the bar!"

The rest of her crew slammed the table in agreement as they drained their glasses. The mahua hit like roses on fire. An eleven-hour shift offloaded, refurbished, and dispatched the last of the automated skimmers back into the cloud-wilds of Neptune. By the time the drone-ships came home, bellies full of ice and microdiamonds scraped from the storms, the dockworker's union would have a better idea on how to manage the manual labor of offloading from within the CloudArk.

"Man, this is gonna be great!" Rashad picked at the scab of nano-sealant he'd used to bandage a cut. "No more messy fluids! I've already put in for ten days off. Gonna play sim games 'til I pass out!"

"Nothing new there," Penni teased. Gwinnith marveled at how easily she cleaned up after shift. "I'm not wasting time on kid's stuff. The Council special-ordered a ton of new standard avatars for people to try out. My friend's a sim designer, and she's been tweaking this amazing black widow body."

"You WANT to be a spider?!" Buhr shook his head.

"Have twice as many arms? Yeah! Plus, next time you give me crap, I can eat you!"

"What about you, Buhr?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. Jaya and I just got married. I know she said she doesn't want kids, but I was still thinking I'd convince her to start a family. But in cryo? How would that even work?"

"In my experience, it works very well," Penni coughed out past her third shot.

"Why are you all drinking? I thought we were getting dinner." Muneeba arrived in stunned horror.

"Having a little celebration," Rashad countered. "We're celebrating our last physical dinner."

"Not like we can get hangovers in the CloudArk," Gwinnith added.

"Did none of you read the pamphlet?" Muneeba shook her head. "Your brain still runs off the meat. All the cryo does is slow all your biological processes."


"So, you still have hangovers. And they last FIVE TIMES as long."


"Dammit." Hazeema stared at the yellow fractals creeping from her hot pan. "The eggs crashed. Again."

Loe stepped in from their private side server and opened a data window. "You jiggle them too much."

"I jiggle them exactly as much as I do Wakeside." She opened the pan's metadata and deleted the mess. "You said you'd fixed the fluid algorithm before I opened."

"Fluid's fine," they grunted. "We've simulated fluid for centuries. What you want is a billion particles' position and relation tracked as a function of time and temperature. For every ingredient in every dish."

"Because that is what makes it cooking!" Hazeema sighed and rested against the counter. A virtual restaurant was a ridiculous idea, but being a chef—her father's legacy—was all she knew and loved in the world.

Loe brought up a directory and rendered a dozen egg dishes onto the counter. "Just run with the pre-fab stuff. It's literally perfect."

"That's why everyone hates sim-food. Every omelette's the same scan! There's no variation. No screw-ups. No happy accidents. People don't want perfect. They want the pursuit of perfection."

"Too bad they can't eat the experience of working with you," Loe mumbled.

Hazeema perked up.

Loe rubbed their temple. "Sorry. That was inappropriate."

"No, that's a good idea." She loaded a new pan and eggs. "You have one of those affective psycorder apps they use for therapy?"


"Boot it up." She placed the pan on the stove and added butter while cracking the eggs into a bowl. She walked through the familiar steps of creating the most basic test of cuisine—filled with a familiar sense of contentment and purpose. And then the crash and the fractals of egg.

Hazeema paused the recording and loaded her brief emotional journey into one of the pre-generated frittatas on the counter. "Taste it."

Dispensing with a fork, Loe lifted the slice and took a hesitant bite. Their eyes skirted back and forth through the haze of pulsing, pre-recorded emotion—the highs of warm family memory and the bitter resignation of failure. "That's… something new."


Filaments of data stretched across infinity—reality interwoven into silken threads—and Phot0n drifted lazily, mingling the data that defined objective existence with subjective perspective. Reality frayed in the deep CloudArk and took down the borders between self and code with it. File requests felt like ants on her skin, and now with lockdown, she could stay here whenever she wanted without any of the messy needs of material reality—no bio breaks or excusing herself from dinner invites.

She stretched and composed herself, turning her perception back toward the shallows, where data shadows cast the impression of streets and buildings in a familiar landscape. The norms stuck to it like a bad faith, but it's also where the games lived. She opened her command prompt, selected an avatar and gender for the day, and turned sideways back to the streets and plazas of the shallow CloudArk.

More shallow than ever, he realized.

Recreations of storefronts, furniture, and plants from the material world intruded, spacing out the avant-garde designs created by dedicated ark-heads. The City Council re-zoned much of the main avenue to make the transition easier, but what was the point of a new frontier if you brought the old world with you?

"Oh dear. No. That's not right." The sound of barely restrained panic came from a short avatar nearby—mostly human, save for a hideously skewed left brow and cheekbone.

"Hey, no bothers. Want an assist?" Phot0n approached the confused visitor. The distortion looked painful.

"I don't know what I did, and I can't fix it!"

"Alright, deep settles. We'll patch you up." He didn't look like he understood, but his simulated breathing—Founders, who still breathed?—slowed. Phot0n opened up the man's avatar settings and studied. "No ken how you managed, but you unlocked your advanced avatar settings."

"Can you fix it?"

"Not even a grind, guildie." He reloaded the newcomer's last autosave, and the avatar reverted to a standard human appearance. "Crunch some time before you use this menu, but if it happens again, just push here."

"Uh… thanks, guildie?"

"All green," Phot0n said. "Good to remember we all start somewhere."