A rented apartment in Akihabara, the real life counterpart of a certain Future Gadget's lab in a different worldline.
Despite it being morning, the interior was dimly lit, black-out curtains covering most of the windows and leaving only one to filter in light. Other than that sole window, the only sources of light were from flickering CRT TVs scattered around the room and an array of monitors mounted on the wall.
The CRT TVs showed grainy images of various locations. One, a snowy mountain top. Another, a ruined city reclaimed by nature. And the last, an empty city that looked like the aftermath of a great war.
As for the monitors, they were filled with various graphs and data. Incomprehensible binary code racing across the screen in a terminal interface. A map with an overlaid scatterplot updating in real time, causing various portions to change colors. X-ray images of a human skull, mapped out with notes in 2pt font.
Scanning all of that, a man in a white lab coat leaned back in a worn-out computer chair, sipping on a Dk Pep can. A strand of his slicked back black hair fell over his eyes, but he ignored it, intently staring at the monitors.
"...Seems like everything is running properly." Titor muttered and glanced at the monitor with binary code. "The Gate protocol doesn't seem to be rejected by the supervisor... Is it because it operates on the same logic as the world lines? Whatever the case, the Incarnation process is working..."
Titor reached out to the keyboard in front of him and pressed a button, tabbing through the screens. He sipped on his soda and then paused as a window with Hana's channel popped up. "Collaboration stream?"
There wasn't a thumbnail yet, but a stream had been scheduled on Hana's channel titled [Generation 0 Collab! Let's all dance and have fun!].
Titor sipped on his soda again and smiled. "Looks like they're getting along well."
It would have been a problem for John if they didn't. And considering the mess that guy was in at the moment, Titor didn't envy him.
Especially since John would have definitely remembered about Titor and dragged him into the mess.
"Yeah... forget that."
If John got to spend lovey-dovey time with Yue, then he had to deal with all of the trouble that came along with it.
After all, Titor was stuck living the old bachelor life again.
Which reminded him. He DEFINITELY needed to lie low until those three left.
They weren't willing to step in on John and Yue's relationship and were satisfied with being 'sisters', but if they found out that Titor existed... and that he was technically a separate person from John and not really a clone...
"Note to self: Never, ever, EVER admit to having John's memories- Ah wait, wouldn't that be worse?"
Titor frowned and considered that fact.
He was essentially John and had his memories, so he felt the same way that John did about those three.
Daji was like his cute baby sister that he watched grow up, Zhaojun was his younger sister that he helped become independent, and Xuannu was that annoying older sister who was waaay too touchy. And in the 'what are you doing stepbro' way.
In short, it was very, very, VERY weird thinking of them like that. But considering that he was basically John except with a different appearance most of the time, odds were high they would suddenly fall for him.
And knowing that bastard, he'd push them his way and have Titor sort out the awkward situation.
Titor drained his soda and slammed the can on the desk. "Right. So... never show my face around that guy again. Got it."
He shook his head and leaned forward, tabbing through various programs and windows on his monitors. After doing that a few time, he stopped when an animation started to play.
A black screen with a single pale blue dot in the center. Golden lights slowly flickering into existence before solidifying into a mirror. That mirror spun, turning into a line that divided the pale blue dot. And when it did, text appeared across the center of the screen.
[A Fictional Reality, a Realized Fiction]
[Operation MirAI - Worldline]
[Mirror All Ideals and reflect the bright future onto the ruined past.]
The screen flickered, turning grainy like the CTR TVs in the back. But not for long.
A videofeed started. One of Hana, standing in front of a war-torn city, walking through with a gray cloak over her shoulders.
That video shrank and moved to the left. At the same time, another video started. This time, one of a snowy mountaintop. There, a beautiful young woman with icy blue hair knelt against the ground, panting as blood seeped from corpses all around her.
After closing her eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, she forced herself to her feet and kept moving. When she did, that video shrank as well, moving to the right.
And when Aoko's video moved, another started in its place.
A city long reclaimed by nature, with concrete buildings covered in moss and vines. There, walking down a crumbling staircase, was a young woman with silver hair and burgundy eyes. Alfi.
Her gaze was blank, and her dress was torn, revealing her robotic joints.
Titor frowned and then pressed a button on the keyboard, causing the videos to freeze. "...It's too soon still."
Those three were on the path to ruin, but it was still too early to send people to save them.
Titor sighed and then reached over to his right, grabbing the device that he left there. Holding it in front of him, Titor stared at it, thinking.
A VR headset. One that he patented as NERV_GEAR. But unlike the one that trapped people in a death game, this one was more streamlined. A pair of adaptive noise-cancelling headphones with an attached visor that blocked out all incoming light.
"Fluctlights don't exist here, but soul particles do." Titor spun the headset around and ran his finger across the band connecting the headphones together. "I managed to get things working with quantum entanglement and the World Egg theory, but the 'faith' needed to support it isn't high enough yet... Guess it's fine for a prototype though." He paused, suddenly realizing the coincidence and chuckled. "Fitting enough."
Operation MirAI - World Line was still in its fledgling stages and Titor's papers about the underlying foundational theory behind its implementation were still being peer reviewed. Though, that was to be expected considering that it relied on proving more than a few Millennium Problems that had been left unsolved for decades.
It worked though, and Titor had already filed the appropriate patents.
...Not that anyone would be capable of really understanding how it all worked yet anyway.
But apparently patenting a new VR headset was the new hot thing and people didn't even question the part about him emphasizing how it actually created a 'virtual reality'... which was honestly for the better.
Titor shook his head and placed the NERV_GEAR back down before pulling out a phone from his pocket and checking his calendar.
"John's scheduled that concert for the girls on December 1st, so I've gotta remember to check in for that. The next big thing would be... December 13th."
The Winter Tokyo Electronic Expo. An event similar to E3 that apparently had been around forever in this Earth. One where it was common to unveil upcoming technology, games, and other cool techy things.
Titor grabbed another Dk Pep can from a small fridge underneath his desk and cracked it open. Taking a sip, he opened his email and checked the list of attendees again.
There was his company, Mirror Corp, scheduled to present the NERV_GEAR and the Incarnation system.
Next on the list was Company X... which definitely wasn't ominous at all. A woman called Rena Won was supposed to be presenting a game called 'Lightnaught', which was apparently an adaptive and fully immersive MMORPG.
After that were the usual contenders. Mintendo, Fony, Nitrosoft... And then there was a new company on the list. An independent game studio that just started a few weeks ago that purported to showcase an innovative and adaptive visual novel with infinite permutations.
The name of that studio? Ars Nova Productions, headed by a Miss Ars Nova.
Of course, the real identity of that woman...
Titor hummed and said, "I wonder if John knows about this?"
Ars Nova wasn't the only scheduled speaker for their presentation. Sakura Hibana was scheduled to appear as well, along with an Emily Nova and an Ichiro Torabu.
A small team of four... Lead designer, scenario writer, composer, and then artist.
Titor had a bunch of questions for the two Miss Novaa... but those could wait for the actual event.
And speaking of that event...
Glancing at the bottom of the list, Titor noticed a company that managed to get in at the last second.
Myth Incorporated, presenting Project MirAIs... John Smith.
Something that Titor definitely had no hand in. Absolutely not.
It wasn't like he called Qing and reminded him to schedule them for the presentation under the excuse that it was perfect to build up the hype for the next generation or anything-
"Pft." Titor shook his head. "Can't even keep a straight face just thinking that." He sipped on his soda and then leaned back in his chair, smirking like a villain. "The future is now, Old Man. While you were having lovey-dovey times with Wifey, I mastered the blockchain and Anime science. Hope you're ready."
Maniacal laughter echoed through the dim apartment.
And then Titor sighed.
"...Dammit. I miss Yue."