Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day Seven-Fifty-One: Fetch the right one

The first signs of trouble did not emerge for three weeks.

“Say, where’s Libby?”

No one answered, but the rat hiding twenty feet away from Traveller tensed. It poked its head out of the grass for a closer look at Traveller.

Traveller was sitting in the middle of a pond. After a long, playful fit of splashing about with a young brunette he’d fallen asleep, head half-submerged and blowing some powerful bubbles. The thought had apparently been strong enough to bring him back to the land of the living, however, and he was sitting alertly upright, looking around the meadow in confusion.

“Libby,” he repeated, swinging his one good eye this way and that. “Libby? Is Libby here? Anybody seen Libbyyyyyyyy?”

The rat, watching both from its hiding spot and from an invisible vantage point far above that Traveller could not see, cringed. It knew the name from the collective’s original briefing, and knew, too, that Traveller should not be concerned with his former comrades. Especially not the one who’d been used to birth one of the collective’s greatest failures.

Traveller rose, water cascading down his hairy body. He set off at a brisk jog, shouting for Libby as he moved from hill to hill. At first his calls were merely curious, but soon they turned to genuine panic.

Emergency, the rat decided. Distract him. Fulfill his needs.

Traveller skidded to a sudden stop as a gorgeous twenty-something emerged from a copse on his left. She threw her hair back and beckoned him to her, swaying gently from side to side to better display her ample assets.

At first Traveller’s face broke into a wide grin, and, prepared, he took several steps towards the woman. Soon he faltered, however, and he stopped short, hands reaching but not grabbing at anything. He stared down at his boots instead. “You’re not Libby. Libby has black hair.”

Why is he doing this now? The rat reached into the threads of its contained world, tweaking and twisting. It called up a picture of Libertine from its mind and changed the woman’s hair accordingly, tying the strands back in a ponytail. That had best do.

It did, for a second. Smile reasserting itself, Traveller bounded forward and embraced the woman, planting a heavy, slobbery kiss on her lips. She returned the favour, pressing up against him -

- and, without warning, he shoved her away. Indeed, he shoved her so hard that she flew into the copse, hit a tree, and broke her neck. The rat waited for Traveller to look away before it turned the crumpled woman’s body back into a cloud of code.

“Not Libby! Not Libby! Fake!” Traveller wailed and shrieked, tearing at his hair. “Wh… where am I…? Where’s my girlfriend?  LIBBY! SHE WAS MY GIRLFRIEND FIRST, DRAGOMIR! COME ON, LIBBY!”

Dear gods. The rat felt a twinge of fear. I’m losing control. What in the hells is happening? I must subdue him -

Traveller collapsed, writhing. He kicked at the air, and his feet seemed to catch on the canvas of blue above him, ripping it away and exposing an inky blackness spotted with specks of white. The verdant green of the meadow turned instantly monochrome, the colour flooding through the hole in existence itself.

Sensing danger, the rat pulled back from Traveller’s world and plunged itself into Traveller’s source code. The code was a twisted tangle of hardwired variables the rat couldn’t hope to change, but it could flick one or two of those variables to bring Traveller to heel. It did so, putting Traveller in ‘SLEEP’ mode. His eyes abruptly closed, and he collapsed in a twitching heap.

The meadow collapsed. Traveller’s body lifted and twisted, suddenly clothed, and seated itself in a chair. Heavy metal straps bound him in place, though they looked strained and on the verge of breaking. Reality reasserted itself, and the rat, perched on a table near Traveller, breathed deeply.

This will not do, it thought. The collective needs him. I cannot create so specific a woman with my powers, but the collective needs him. 

Dipping its mind into the deep pool of the regulators, hopping along tenuous connections to reach the source of its people, the rat made a request for a prisoner transfer. It took an unusually long time to go through, but, eventually, the request was granted.

No comments:

Post a Comment