Read part 3 first.
“Merit is the plateau
rising from the sea floor,
covered in poppies and ferns.
Keep your feet on the paths child
stray not ‘to the flow’rs and
all will be well for you
from here to evermore.”
It’s just a fucking job, you know? The nine-to-five that pays the bills. But after a while I’m starting to think maybe it’s not all that worth it, you know? My brain is fried. I just spent 29 hours straight plugged in and jacked up, wandering the wastes Tracing cast Nets and tagged Dogs. So close. He was so close this time.
This whole thing really started seven months ago when Black Brass came marching into my cubicle demanding to see my set-up, no not the one sitting on my desk, the one in the drawer, the black market one I got from some street-junkie who claimed his name was Jeremy but I’m sure it was Saint or Jumbo or some other stupid fucking street-slang. I don’t care I just needed a better VR-set. The one the Company provides is absolute shit. Apparently the Heads track such things, who knew?
Regardless, here I am with superior gear and some Dreamer fowling up plans, walking through firewalls like they’re doorways. Now they think I’m the one to Net him, bring him in. So I Trace him, or catch a scent, a glimpse really, enough to ID tag him and he’s gone *poof* before my very eyes. I read the code a dozen times. This Rabbit is there and then he vanishes. The real troublesome thing is his timing and where he goes. He arrives at every important Webinar, like some overeager prom date, and devours code line after line while we watch like 14-year-old virgins watch their first porn vid. Oh, he doesn’t steal it, no, he copies it. And then not six hours later, but usually closer to two, all the back-alley deals and secret handshakes have been exposed on the nightly Anonymous vids…. and we cannot shut them down.
So I’m Tracing him as best I can and no matter what Net I cast, he slips past. There have always been shadows in Merit. Real or contrived, we really don’t know or understand. But these Dreamers, they throw the rulebook away. They are more than shadows but less than your typical VR-slave. They bend space and time. They must. I can’t come up with any other solution.
But they’re real. That’s for certain. I have one wired and doped as we speak. In person, he’s a thin, wiry, greasy man. Permanent indents in his skin where the wires have hung for hours at a time. More likely days. His eyes are glassy and rarely blink. When they do, they aren’t seeing here no, they’re seeing Dreams and ‘scapes to pass through. This guy rarely talks; I fried him hard. Maybe a little too hard but then I was a bit pissed by the time I caught up with him. His ID says his name is Tyler but his handle is shaman61. He responds to both. So these Dreamers aren’t stuck out there. They obviously live real lives as well as Dreams.
I know he’s connected to the Rabbit somehow. Tyler had picked up some breadcrumbs left for him. No way that’s coincidence. So I’m going to melt this Dreamer’s reality until he can’t separate the two and attach a Dog to his ankle and pray he can believably slip back in and lead me to my Rabbit and hopefully higher on up to whoever he’s working for. That’s the theory. Unless I fried him a bit hard with the Glare. It’s a tricky business. But it’s one that pays my bills.
Drinking nectar without getting caught is a lesson in patience and in self control. You have to practice and practice makes perfect, don’t you know? The more I drink the better I get the higher I fly the more I know. I’m careful who I take in and sip from. I don’t want the sticky sweetness to suck me down and take me over. But I also don’t want anything rancid either. What I wanted to do was mind my own business and keep flitting from one jacked-up flower to the next. Letting Fume guide me as it goes thick and thin, passable then impossible. Crossing oceans on a breeze. Holding tight to the ropey pulses and sneaking past locked Gates. And now here he is again, standing at my own Gate, letter in hand telling me I owe it to him, to Warren, to all the ones lost before. Shit. I don’t want this. But I never could say no to him. How he let himself right in, made himself at home without being intrusive or rude about it. While I share my own nectar with him to heal the Glare-burns on his Dreamt mind, a salve of sorts. His hands turn the letter over and over. I don’t want it, but I know I’m going to take it from his fingers before the end.
This is an on-going collaboration series that I’m working on with A.P. over at constant VARIABLE. He’s doing the odd-numbered parts and I’m doing the even-numbered ones. I hope you enjoy!
Read Part 5 here.