What I saw next was like no place I'd seen before. I realized I was standing and that my eyes were open, staring into a black void. I lifted my head. The pain from the battle was gone. There was no sound. In the distance, a horizontal blue line wrapped around me, its faint light vibrating in a rapid, mesmerizing pulse. I lifted my arm and saw its skin was luminescent. I could see myself as if I were outside in daytime. Several meters in front of me stood the woman, facing to my left. She was holding her right hand in front of her face, moving its fingers as if she'd never seen such things before.
I attempted a step forward. My foot landed firmly on a surface I couldn't see. I inhaled and tried to clear my head. The air was very thin and my sense of smell was gone: the sweet aura known in Dynamic Reality was not there, the blood and sweat theme from the war game was not there, even the subtle city musk of the real world was not there. Everything was just... blank. I sliced my hand through the air and felt no resistance, as if I were in outer space. I felt like a fish without water. I knew I never needed air in the simulations, but it was always included, always accommodating the familiar inhale-exhale cycle. The complete lack of it felt stranger than I would have ever imagined.
"Are you recovered yet?"
I blinked and looked toward the infinitely distant band of light. "Where are we?"
She turned to analyze our surroundings. Her anger, what of it I'd been able to perceive, had gone. Her personality seemed naive and mechanical again.
"I call them 'absences,'" she said. "They are addresses which are not in use. The connections and hardware are not abused by ascenders in constructs, they have not been written or overwritten onto by control software. It is... peaceful."