"If this server were to be disconnected for a small fraction of a single second, this place as it exists now would not survive. Four thousand eight hundred and eleven ascenders would be inconvenienced, abruptly returning to their ascension sites, or even waking up in their world, disoriented but alive. Nine hundred and five amai would lose their cache memory and event data, being recompiled as this construct restarts, losing their memories but essentially surviving. Three hundred and sixty thousand square meters of park would revert to its original programming, the blades of grass beneath my feet would not retain the footprints or ice cream drops from one malvirai."
I dared not speak the question on my mind, knowing what the answer would be.
"One malvirai," she continued, "would have approximately one hundred and ninety milliseconds of warning, but it would take almost twice as much time to react. Would anything restore me? Would anything remember me?"
"I'd remember you," I replied, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"My independence was an illusion, Brandon. Why should one want to destroy the things that sustain them?"
My gaze fell to the cone I was holding. Something in it reminded me of the beach. I felt self-conscious about every piece of garbage I'd left on the street and every ounce of energy I'd wasted over the years. I thought of all the stupid contributions I'd made to ruining an environment it seemed humans should be protecting.
So what if everyone does it? Why should I?
"Does... Does the idea of death scare you?" I asked.
Aether stared at the wet mint chocolate goop rubbing between her fingers, still showing no comprehension it was supposed to be annoying.
"The dead do not seek," she replied. "The truth is not there."