Thursday, May 6, 2004

I’m not dead yet.

Just sick. A nasty cold grabbed hold of me on Sunday and wouldn’t let go.

More VR story:

He put one thumb underneath the goggles and pushed them up onto his forehead, and arched an eyebrow at Doodlehopper.

“They want to help,” he said, and he couldn’t help smirking. Doodlehopper just gave him a sour look.

They stood at one end of a Greek theater, and Doodlehopper was trying valiantly not to look fed up with the proceedings, and failing miserably. She was not impressed with the large granite stage on which they stood, backed with twenty-foot stone arches that framed the faded indigo mountains and blue sky in the distance. She was less impressed with the granite seats carved into the living rock in front of them, creating enough room for hundreds of spectators. And she was least impressed with the handful of people that were either standing around them or seated at the first row of stone bleachers in front of them.

She reflected that her attitude may have been caused partly because the person inspecting them most closely was wearing dull green space armor, and she’d never like scifi games. She’d dated a few scifi freaks, and they’d all been a little too obsessive about their back issues of Starlog for her tastes.

“I don’t trust them,” announced the man in space armor, straigtening up and walking back to the stands.

“Panic doesn’t trust them. What a surprise,” muttered a waifish teenaged boy wearing a white, Greek-style tunic.

“I don’t need to hear anything from you, Side,” said Panic, rounding on the teenager.

“OKay, okay, enough, you two,” said a middle-aged Caucasian woman in green adn brown Renaissance peasant garb. She stepped forward from her place a few rows back, stepping up onto the stage to stand before Thomas and Doodlehopper.

“So what do you need?” the middle-aged woman asked.

Thomas threw a searching glance at Doodlehopper, who returned it with a look of stone. She was not happy, and this made him more uneasy that he liked to admit to himself. He reflected that it probably wasn’t a good idea to piss off the person who’d just saved your life.

He picked his words with the delicacy of a chef shopping for ingredients. “Some people in meatspace seek to do me physical harm. Possibly kill–OW!”

Pain spread like fire through his right shin. The crowd leaned forward; Doodlehopper hadn’t moved at all. “Just a second,” he announced as he slid off his VR goggles and looked down.

In the dingly light of the motel room, Doodlehopper was just withdrawing her foot and placing it back on the floor. Thomas blinked for a moment, his brain unable to understand this, until he realized: somehow, the girl had turned off her system’s physical feedback without disconnecting her from VR. And all while she’d been standing right next to him. Slick.

“What’re you trying to do?” she hissed at him, still wearing her goggles. He was momentarily amused by her sightless head thrust out at him.

“What?” he asked. “I have to tell them what’s going on.”

She blew out an exasperated breath. “If you tell them that someone’s trying to kill you, that’ll tell ’em exactly how deep in over your head you are. You’re in enough trouble without scaring anyone away.”

He pursed his lips. “You’re right,” he admitted, and slipped his glasses back on.

“Sorry,” he said to the crowd, which had resumed a conversation but now turned its attention back to him. “Hit my leg. I’m being pursued. I need to find out who they are, and get some protection.”

Panic was shaking his helmeted head. “You need the cops, man, not us.”

Thomas paused purely from dramatic effect. “The cops might be in on it, for all I know.”

Side leaned his thin body back, smirked, and said, “Interesting.” He turned to look at the middle-aged woman, whose face was clouded with worry. “Whaddya think, Mother? Let’s vote.”

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