Kids (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 06)

(Layer 05)

The city streets. People walking to and from work. On sidewalks, on crosswalks. A woman’s voice: ‘If people can connect to one another, even the smallest voice will grow loud. If people can connect to one another, even their lives will become longer. So…’ So the Wired is the way to achieve this. But the pitfalls my be worse than the assumed gains. As all the tyranny of the majority invades into private spaces on the Wired and figures actively hunt other human beings for information to destroy them with. We know now of echo chambers, but this is 2018, that was 1998. The optimism and cultish mindset was in force.

Cut to Lain’s home. Her father stands in the hallway in front of her room. Lain’s door is cracked. He approaches and knocks, asks to come in, but there is no response. He enters the room to find areas of the floor are flooded and that the room is a veritable cavern of machines all working to give Lain massive computational ability. Lain sits before the computer, chatting with figures on the Wired. The father is no longer able to reach her and she can no longer hear him.

Inside the Wired, Lain is within a domain of pure white. She asks questions aloud to a group of individuals who answer in a manner incoherent to the viewer, just mumbles and growls. Each time they do so, the whiteness of the room is translated into bursts of color. Her avatar in the Wired looks identical to Lain. She is conversing about some next-gen protocol set soon for release and at the end of the sequence reveals her conversation partners to be The Knights.

In the next scene, the night has passed and Lain is on her way to school. Where she saw the two men stalking her from beneath her window earlier, she now sees a child standing there on the sidewalk with arms and face upraised directly toward the sky. He stands there, unmoving. Lain sees nothing but regular clouds in the sky and moves on to school where her friends will confront her about her growing internality and how she seems to be becoming the old, awkward Lain who keeps to herself. Lain explains that she has been more social than ever, just that most of her social experiences currently happen on the net. Reika chides her claiming that net pals are not the same as real friends, but Alice then prods Reika by claiming that she is just old-fashioned.

Later, after school, Lain will go with the girls to hang out in town and do some shopping. As they cross the walk at Shibuya, they all see a young boy on a nearby sidewalk with his arms and face upraised. The soundtrack of voices and incidental music then draws to a halt, and in utter silence Lain turns her head slowly toward two children standing in the middle of the road who suddenly stop moving, look up, and raise their hands toward the sky as well. Lain peers up into the sky to find her own face, in a spectral, ethereal white peering down from within an oval frame of clouds. Everyone else sees her as well and Alice recognizes the image as Lain. The clouds disappear and everyone is left disoriented, confused, the local newspapers and television stations will have something pretty novel to report that night.

Back at home, Mika reclines on the couch as her mother asks her why she has been coming home so early lately. The ‘camera’ pans to reveal Mika in a drugged state, either from real substance abuse or by virtue of the fact that in the previous episode the real Mika was destroyed and only a clone was left behind (for as yet unknown reasons and through unknown mechanisms). Lain arrives back home and immediately enters the Wired. Therein, the world is completely black. She tracks down someone with information who appears in the Wired as a pair of giant lips that she likens to a Cheshire Cat wannabe. She asks the user about the game grade-schoolers are playing (Phantoma), but the lips have not useful information this topic.

Lain pulls up a search query and finds the static image of a man she calls the child-killer scientist. The lips user reveals that ‘in the real world, he [the child killer scientist] is just an old man waiting to die in a private hospital ward.’ The lips depart as Lain prepares her network travel to the Wired domain of the old man, but before they do so, the lips tell Lain to ask about something called ‘KIDS.’

Lain arrives on an ancient stone veranda overlooking the mountains. The scene is majestic, beautiful, picturesque, though mysterious, epic, and Eventful (as in a stage prompting the movement of Events in being). An old man reclines in a chair on the veranda, starting into the sky. He tells Lain that she looks very lifelike (a great complement for an avatar online). Lain asks about KIDS, but the old man, who she calls Professor Hodgeson, merely prattles on about a matter more pressing to himself: his mortality. ‘It’s so peaceful here. I want to relax here until my body rots in the real world.’ The shadow of a woman stands on the veranda before them, never speaking, never moving, possibly symbolizing some great love of the man’s life.

Lain presses him again for information, but the man only responds that the view there is beautiful, ‘That time passes so beautifully here…. And quietly, as if it will last forever.’ Lain asks about some experimental data from 15 years prior and Hodgeson responds that he never meant to put any children in danger. Lain: ‘I don’t mean 15 years ago, I mean the game that all of the kids are playing now. They’re reproducing your experiment, aren’t they?’ He explains that someone must have dug out his information from the trash bin. Lain continues ans asks about the Kensington Experiment. As the scene shifts to a flashback of the experiment, Hodgeson explains that all children have Psi, or latent parasychological ability, but in very minute quantities.

In the flashback, the children are hooked up to a large machine by devices attached to their heads while sleep. Lain asks what these devices are and the man explains that they are called Outer Receptors and were used to harvest the children’s Psi. The scene moves to a large black box in the middle of the lab called KIDS. He explains that he expected something extraordinary to happen once he harvested the Psi and that he believes science was not merely about testing hypotheses. Lain appears frustrated and presses the man about his lack of worry for the children, for what would happen to them once this kernel of what seems to be their life force was drained from their bodies. He does not address this issue at all, but continues his own line of reasoning explaining that KIDS system harvested the weak electromagnetic waves from the children’s brains while also stimulating the region that produced them in the hopes of increasing the children’s latent potential, and therefore, increasing the energy harvested by the KIDS system.

The flashback image of Hodgeson explodes into blinding light and Lain sees visions of children’s limbs protruding from the ground as the dead bodies of other children float around in some liquid solution. She asks how much energy was generated  by the process as the images around her amplify in horror, and Lain eventually is unable to take any more and yells for the simulation to stop. Darkness. Back to the veranda. The man explains that he smashed the KIDS system into small pieces to ensure it could never be recreated, but that later its schematics were somehow found and spread throughout the Wired. Someone found these schematics and updated them so they could be used without the Outer Receptors. The man explains that whoever created such a new technology that could take mere hologram emulations and virtual reality headsets to recreate KIDS through Phantoma has to be extremely skilled.

Lain presses the man about his guilt in the whole process. He explains that he did what he could to eliminate the chance of this happening and that he currently has no power to do anything about it. She calls him self-centered, and then, for the first time, the man turns his face towards her and looks her in the eye: ‘Young lady…. All this talking has worn we out. It was nice meeting you. I don’t know what you plan to do in the Wired or what sort of being you’re trying to become, but you’re powerful. Incredibly powerful. If there really is a go here in the Wired, you’re a blessed child.’ He wonders aloud about where the source of the power of the rogues who have manipulated his technology into evil ends comes from. Hodgeson begins to looks faint and explains that it seems his time is up. He fades to light, then his outline dissolves, the man whose shade was produced here in the Wired dies in the real world, and the world around him fades away likewise leaving Lain in a world of darkness. Lain finds herself at a white crossroads within the darkness of the Wired and speaks one word: ‘Knights’.

Lain is next seen outside of the Wired and sitting at her computer terminal in the real world. She is talking with The Knights and asking for information about who they really are, why they are trying to tell her all of this about Phantoma and their plans, and wondering whether they are just using her as a means to some as yet unidentified end. She wonders if all of this is just a game for them when their actions have led to the deaths of children, and she asks if they are just doing it for kicks. Her computer begins to overheat, though Lain is too absorbed in her interrogation to notice.

She calls The Knights a bunch of losers who are just idiots doing anything they want just because they can. No one answers her questions. then the red beams of light from days prior enter the sanctuary of her bedroom. She goes to the window and sees the two men in suits beside their black sedan just standing there watching her. She leaves her house, goes into the street and confronts the two, and asks them if they are Knights. They do not answer her questions initially, but eventually the shorter man, the man whose eyepiece she destroyed (he has a new one) earlier, speaks: ‘Please get down.’

Her window explodes as the computer system inside continued to overheat. Lain: ‘What was that?’ The first man: ‘The coolant system in your room.’ The second man explains that ‘they’ must have planted some sort of parasite bomb in her coolant system. Lain responds, ‘It sounds almost like your’e saying you didn’t do it.’ The second man confirms that it was not them who planted the bomb. Lain asks who it was and the two men walk off and toward the car. Just before entering the car of driving off, the second man tells her it was The Knights.

KIDS has been updated to a VR game called Phantoma used to harvest the Psi of young children for some unknown purpose of The Knights. Accela and Psyche processors may also be the creations of The Knights, but their relevance to this new development is currently unknown.

 

Cody Ward

[Layer 07: Society]

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