<- Part 2 ->

     Coal just lay there for a moment. He stared at the beast. Dead? No. It was still breathing. Somehow it had survived the laser, but it was disoriented, perhaps unconscious. Coal stood up. He needed to escape before the monster awakened. If he got a head start, he knew he could outrun the beast. So he turned to the east and continued running.

     Rain's voice startled him. "Well, that was interesting. You followed directions. But not quickly enough. Listen, if you plan to survive out here, you're going to have to react faster to my commands."

     "What was that thing?" inquired Coal. The creature was not in his data. It meant nothing to him; all he could register it as was a mass of flesh and fur.

     "Well... I've never seen one before, but I suspect it was an Icebear," responded Rain.

     "An ice bear? It... didn't look like a bear," Coal said, baffled.

     "Not a bear. An Icebear. Completely different thing. It's not actually a bear, you see. It was an experiment. Created by the company I used to work for."

     As Rain said this, Coal remembered. Of course. A22 Enterprises. The Icebear. An experiment in immortality. They abandoned it in Antarctica just to see how long it would survive. That was 119 years ago. A22 had long since stopped operating in Antarctica, but the Icebear was still around - or some descendant of it was. He knew this, of course, because Rain allowed him to.

     Coal reached the cave Rain had spoken of without any further incident. It still appeared to be day, though Coal was sure he had traveled for several hours. The entrance to the cave was small and partially sunken into the ground; all Coal could see ahead of him was darkness, despite the light emitted by his body.

     "Go on, enter the cave. The chip is just inside."

     Coal did as he was asked. Though it was dark, he could make out a set of footprints leading to a metal box. The box was emitting some sort of buzzing sound and a considerable amount of heat.

     "These aren't human footprints," Coal observed.

     "Well, no, they aren't. I sent one of my ambients to put the chip here. I could hardly go out there myself, of course."

     Ambient. That must be what Coal was. Of course. He knew he couldn't have been human.

     "If you put the chip here, why do you need me to retrieve it?" asked Coal uncertainly.

     Rain laughed. "I'm surprised you've given it that much thought. I put it here as a security measure of sorts. To make sure you were properly functioning before you had access all of your capabilities."

     Coal thought on this for a moment. It made sense. He opened the metal box, and, as he expected, a computer chip lay inside.

     "How do I process the data on this chip?" inquired Coal.

     "Well... you have the software for processing it already. I'll activate it remotely."

     Coal felt electricity surge through him from the chip. With it came knowledge. He became aware of a new ability - the ability to control the light he emitted.

     "So I can change the brightness of my glow," noted Coal. "I suppose this is intended to be used for stealth?"

     "Correct. And, of course, the reverse is possible. You can increase your brightness to stun or blind enemies - just keep in mind that it will affect you too."

     "Wait... enemies? What do you mean? Like the Icebear?"

     Coal sensed something akin to Rain nodding her head. "Of course. There are other things out there. I wouldn't be surprised if you encountered more Icebears, too."

     "Why haven't I run into anything else yet, then?" he asked.

     "I placed all of the chips in safe places. As I said, I wanted to test you - but not put you in any real danger. I can't afford to risk your life. Your encounter with the Icebear was pure chance."

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