What made it awful, unbearable, was the emptiness of the rooms. For a moment he saw himself wandering these places, overcome by an urge to weep as the rush of blood in his ears reverberated, layered upon itself to produce a mighty roar. He felt his consciousness grind to a halt, unable to process such a sudden vastening.
***He woke, minutes later, lying on the ground with blood streaming from his nose. The bush robot, fully expanded into a shimmering cloud a meter and a half across, was beside his head and producing a strange warbling cry. There was no sign of the Tessellation artifact.
"Do not attempt to move. You have been subject to an unmediated Tessellation contact event. A de-briefing team is on the way."
Jon rolled over onto his back, too weak to crawl away from the minder and the ear-splitting noise it was making. The actinic ripple of the sun-line scribbled across the sky-lands as he waited for the sheriffs.
"Your personal approval rating is down to three percent and that's with eighty-seven percent of the population voting. People don't like mysteries anymore and you've presented them with a very large one."
The sheriff, helmet studded with sensors, looked levelly at Jon.
"How does the general population even know that something happened? I'd invoked my privacy time before I hiked up there."
"The handful of people who follow you full time always push against the privacy laws, just as the paparazzi do with all our celebrities. They saw your personal shield fail and in the fraction of a second before the cylinder took up the slack they saw the Tessellation artifact."
"So everyone knows I was visited and resents me for it?"
"Right. So what did they want with you?"
"Before I answer that I need to know if we are private now."
"I have a two hour embargo on you, as of forty minutes ago. Anything I find out in that time is subject to a secrecy order covered by your surveillance contract. You need to understand, I'm talking to you in my capacity as a cop investigating a possible assault by a non-human intelligence and I'm also lead interrogator for the cylinder security team. I'm subject to constant assessments by the people and have to follow accepted protocols in dealing with you. As a private citizen, however, I will not hesitate to kill you if I think you have been suborned by the Tessellation. My loyalty is to the human race and your job now is to convince me that you feel the same."
The interrogation room was a cuboid, featureless except for a table and two chairs. A full spectrum light tube buzzed overhead.
"You shouldn't even need to ask that question," said Jon. "My record should speak for itself."
Momentarily the sheriff stiffened and seemed to become less present. With regret Jon realized he was being ridden, possibly by several entities. Any hope of forming a bond with his captor was gone.
In a noticeably more brusque manner the sheriff said, "You'll have to forgive us, but given that you have just had a personal interview with the architects of the Ruin we are a little on edge. So what did they say?"
Jon was still feeling the effects of the peculiar attack the Tessellation had perpetrated on him. Strong, unbidden, memories kept rising to the surface of his consciousness. There seemed to be a blur of orange perpetually at the edge of his vision.