Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I seem to be recovering, according to my normal schedule (fine on Monday, dive on Tuesday, plateau on Wednesday). My mortgage continues its rocky road; I now may need more money than I expected. I can’t really think about it enough to write about it, though.

For now, here’s more VR story:

Kino blinked at Karl, then looked back at the three old men. The silence was so heavy Kino had difficulty breathing, and his pulse pounded loud in his ears.

“You have a third opportunity,” said one of the old men. Kino felt his body sag in relief, but pulled it ramrod straight. “We will send an assistant. Go.”

Kino and Karl turned, and froze. At the other end of the room, next to the doors, a man hung in chains, his head bowed to the floor. They pushed themselves forwards, out of the room, but kept their eyes on him. He had long white hair, but the body of a forty-year-old, clad in a long black trench coat. A strange, elongated bird perched on his shoulder and stared at them as they passed. The man in chains did not move, and they could see that his eyes were closed. Kino wondered if he was still alive as the door closed behind them.

As soon as they were safely out of earshot, Karl stopped suddenly, his eyes on the floor. Kino stopped and looked at him, then Karl looked up, straight at Kino, his eyes still reflecting determination.

“Kino,” Karl said, “we’re going to need guns.” He paused to think, then continued, “Big guns.”

Kino felt himself smile.

Surge pulled Thomas into a cramped room covered with bright posters that he didn’t have time to look at; she immediately closed the door and began talking.

“It started a couple of weeks ago. Or, I noticed it then. Pilots were dying, and they weren’t coming back.” She folded her arms under her breasts and frowned deeper. “You know what this game’s like, Deathshead. People may wander off after awhile, but we don’t lose week-old players.”

He felt himself gaping, and quickly wiped his expression clean. Surge never talked out-of-character; she always acted as if the game were real. Not that she really believed that, of course, but it helped preserve the game’s believability if players avoided talking about it as a game and treated it as real combat.

“I did some checking,” she continued. Her eyes met his, and fear shone out of them again. “They haven’t been online since they died here. Not at all. I had some friends check, too, and they’re thorough, Deathie. Real hackers.”

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