Luke let himself be shoved aside as Gabriel stormed out of the clinic, Alice following close on his heels. He sipped casually on his juice box and was debating on following them when Ureha returned minutes later, heavily armed and hauling an almost empty duffel.
"...don't be foolish!" Alice was shouting, obviously desperate to make him see reason as he shoved medical supplies into the bag. "You can't help everyone!" But it was clear she wasn't getting through to him. He worked silently as she pleaded with him, his face a frozen mask of rage and determination. Luke was about to step forward and try to slow him when he abruptly went rigid, his eyes turning black as sin. Nirvana alerted him to the sudden abnormalities in Gwin's and Ureha's brainwaves as Gwin slumped to the floor.
'What's happening, 'Ana?' 'Luke...I think Gwin's powers just reactivated. If I'm reading these scans correctly...Luke, she may have just become the most powerful pyschic in the world.' 'And now she's in a warzone. Just great. Is she unconscious?' 'Not quite; I think her memories just broke through their barriers. Her real ones, all at once. She seems to be in shock.' 'Can she still access her abilities in her current state?'
Their conversation was interrupted as a massive wave of psychic energy erupted from Gwin's mind. Nirvana only barely managed to erect Luke's mental defenses in time to shield him from the attack, but the pressure on his thoughts was unbelievable. He worried about Alice, but neither he nor Nirvana could spare the attention to check on her. Hopefully, she could withstand the assault on her own. Luke was almost thrown back as Gwin's power catapulted her into the air.
'...Luke, it looks like she can't access anything but her abilities in her present state.' 'Dammit. What about Ureha? Safe to presume he's suffering similar symptoms.' 'Affirmative, however it looks like Jenny is managing to keep his brain from overheating. Gwin doesn't have an A.I., Luke; if she doesn't get control of herself soon, she'll literally think herself to death.' 'Alright, can you gain access? I know her neural connections won't be nearly stable enough, but-' 'I'm already transmitting. I'm going to remain here in the neural nest, but I'm sending a compressed copy of myself into her implants. We should be able to work together and get her back under control.'
Luke returned and stood beside Gwin as Gabriel stormed out of the mansion. 'Should we keep eyes on Ureha as well?' 'Negative. Let him go; if it becomes necessary, he won't be hard to find. We'll just look for the biggest disaster area and he'll be at the center of it.'
He bowed his head and closed his eyes, as if in prayer, and Nirvana went to work.
Gwin's thoughts were in turmoil. Memories slammed together, shards and fragments crashing back into place like artillery fire on a battlefield. She was remembering everything that had been done to her, and it was doing exactly what Luke had warned her about. It was burying her.
Nirvana stretched out through the girl's mind, tracing through her unfamiliar implants and learning her unique neural circuitry. The entire process took less than a second, but to Nirvana's heightened awareness it seemed to last an eternity. When at last she felt confident enough to operate inside the girl's mind without causing more harm than good, she reached out a thought strand and probed through the girl's tortured mind. She didn't have to search long before she found what she was looking for: Gwin's scarred and battered mental core.
'Gwin...Gwin? It's me, Nirvana. I'm here to help you, Gwin, but you have to listen to me. You are stronger than this, Gwin. You can control your mind, and I'm going to help you. Alright? But you're going to have to try. Can you do that for me, Gwin?'
'...what...help!...no...no, please, stop...!...it hurts...Isaac, Alice...Joren, why...Gabriel...GABRIEL!!...wait...no, I...please!...'Ana...'Ana, are...?...why...?...my thoughts, my...my mind, it's burning!...help...'Ana...Gabriel...!'
Nirvana pulled back for a moment and transmitted to Luke. 'Luke, her thoughts are completely jumbled. It's exactly what we were afraid of; she's almost completely catatonic. I'm going to have to literally do her thinking for her to get her back.' 'You've done it before, 'Ana. If anyone can handle this, it's you. I have faith in you.'
'Ana returned her attention to guiding her copy through the girl's twisted psychic landscape. For the next several minutes, Nirvana took full control of Gwin's mind, directing and siphoning her thoughts into more manageable constructs. She focused on containing the most damaging memories, building blocks into Gwin's synapses to keep them from doing any more harm. Her intention was not to lock them away again, but rather to allow Gwin to access them in a more stable and orderly manner. Once the worst thoughts were quarantined, she focused on happier thoughts and slowly provided the same controlled access. As she worked, the girl slowly began to return to herself.
'I...who are you...Nirvana? Is that...you? Why...what are you...in my head...?' 'It's me, Gwin. I'm here to help you regain control of your thoughts. Are you feeling better?' 'I...yes, I think...I think I am better...I feel, more in control...but, how did you...?' 'I overlaid a compressed copy of myself into your implants. It doesn't have my full level of functionality, but it should be enough to help you monitor and regulate your mental activity and rebuild the parts of your mind that were tampered with. When this is over you can decide to get an A.I. of your own or not, but for now just think of me as a cast on an injured limb. Oh, and...your head may feel a little crowded. That's normal, and it will pass. So don't worry about it.'
Nirvana broke off the connection with her copy and Luke caught Gwin as she fell to her feet. She looked around with wide eyes as she experienced the sensations of Nirvana 'Lite' settling into her implants. She turned to Luke, temporarilly forgetting Alice's presence. "So, this is what it's like having an A.I.? It feels..." she broke off, as she realized she had absolutely nothing to compare it to. "It's weird." Luke laughed quietly and nodded, while Nirvana beamed over a job well done. "It does take some getting used to. How are you feeling?"
Gwin's eyes harden at his question, and her smile fades away as her memories surge through her once again, this time completely under her control. Luke looked again to Alice, who stood nearby with tears threatening to spill from her exotic eyes. He backed away from Gwin and motioned Alice to join them.
"Maybe you two need to talk..."