NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Forty-One

“Wait, Steveykins, you got thrown in jail?”

“He totally did.”

“Maybe, I don’t know, these people are bizarre. They netted me with all these, like, net-guns, but they were tooting horns and making all these crazy noises, and then they put me in this sort of cell with stretchy rubber walls, and–“

“Ooh, tell them about the fish!”

“Phht, ha; there was like this slot outside of my cell, did I mention there was a kind of barred window in it facing the street? And anyway there was this coin-slot thing on the outside, and people could put coins in it, and these fish would drop on my head.”

“Oh my oh my!”

“But that’s not it, that’s not it; they have Casimir Effect rigs here, and they use them for child’s toys!”

“Were you in jail for stealing from children?’

“No, no, I like had a little accident while trying out a couple, and ended up in some sacred or restricted place or something–“

“You knocked over a bunch of priests or teachers or government officials, I think.”

“Hey, they were all laughing! Or I think it was laughing. Really jolly bunch they have here. But the rigs! They’re small and slick, definitely mass-produced, probably self-tuning, and they had some kind of acceleration controls!”

“I don’t want to be a wet blanket or anything, but if this is just a virtuality, then you were just playing a computer game of rig-riding weren’t–“

“It didn’t feel like that at all, not a bit. And I’m not sure of the whole virtuality theory anymore.”

“Oh, here’s Tibbs back.”

“Wait, one sec; the important thing is that I got a look inside one of them, and did a few little tests, and I have some ideas about how they stabilize and control their acceleration–“

“Yay, you can make us all rich when we get back home!”

“Do I infer that you humans are anticipating returning to your home plenum already?”

“Already? Hasn’t it been, I don’t know, years or centuries? We were on the Alpha alone for at least a decade. Maybe.”

“Well,” the shimmer known as Tibbs replied, “time is not well-defined in the company that you youths have been keeping.”

“Are our bodies alright, back in the real?”

“I would, as you say, go out on a limb here, and state that they are. At least, speaking practically, it seems that you could successfully return to them at any time.”

“Oh!”

“At any time?”

“Now that I have arranged for us to be allowed to access the center, or as it might also be called the surround, of the Interbridge here. That is why we rode the Alpha all that way, after all. Or one of the reasons. To maximize our, or your, options.”

“Wasn’t that a big, you know, universal nexus back at the old house, where we met Alissa and S and G? Why did we have to cross to this other universe and speed along the rainbow bridge for years–“

“Hey, is this Asgard? Is that where those Norse stories come from? Did someone get here back in the day?”

“Wait, don’t distract Tibbs…”

The being known as Tibbs pulsed and shimmered in a way that might have signaled amusement. “I have no opinion to express on the subject of Norse Mythology at this time. And while that was a relatively powerful nexus, from your description, from the way that you proceeded onward from it, it is unlikely that you could have returned to it any more conveniently than you have reached this one.”

“Those were some excellent drugs.”

“I think we’ve lost Colin. Did you find a book in some human language?”

“No, just looking at the pretty pictures until we start off for the next bit of future.”

The group allowed that they could continue the conversation and move toward the nexus at the same time. In the street (something approximating a street), Tibbs obtained for them a conveyance (Steve was disappointed to see that it had wheels rather than anything more interesting), and they slid off toward the center and surround of the city.

More than an hour and less than a day later, Tibbs presented some token or password to something like a guard at one end of an alley, and walking to the other end of it the four of them stood at the edge of a possibly-endless flat brown plain, with the wall of the city stretching possibly-endlessly off to their right and left.

“So if the wall curves forward, this is the center of the city, and if it curves backward, this is the edge of the plain surrounding the city?”

“Something like that.”

“Where is the nexus?”

“Forward, forward!”

Kristen felt reality thickening around them, beneath them, as they walked forward into the plain, with hints of affordances almost presenting themselves to her virtuality-trained senses. The ground under their feet in the direction of gravity was flat and featureless, slightly yielding, high-friction and neither hot nor cold.

“I like this,” Colin said.

“This in general, or this something specific?”

“This in general,” he replied, “this present moment. My current experience, including my recent and more distant memories, and my anticipation of the future.”

Kristen smiled and him and, walking between the men with Tibbs a shimmer in the air a bit ahead, she took both of their hands.

“Wholesome!” Steve grinned.

“Feels right somehow,” she said, and no one objected.

Things began to change as they walked, taking on different forms and aspects, objects coming and going, fragrances washing over them. Things that might have been clouds formed above them, thickened into ropes and pillars, and reached down to touch and meld into the ground to their left and right. A bluely-glowing crescent moon came out from behind the clouds, and the light became rich and silver.

“There’s a star in the dark part of that moon,” Colin noted with a lilt.

“Rookie mistake,” Kristen said, “unless they’re doing it on purpose, ironically.”

“Or there could, you know,” Steve suggested, “just be a star in the dark part of that moon.”

The others agreed that that was entirely possible.

Some amount of time passed again (Colin is thinking that time is an illusion). The ground under their feet seemed to rise, as though they were walking uphill. Tibbs somehow spread out ahead of them, the shimmering area of light expanding and curving around as they walked. Then the humans noticed that they were thinning out and spreading out as well, and a wind came up and they were blown somewhere else entirely.

Fling Forty-Two

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