001. Pieter

Hang the door in the notional space and step through – a logic jump-cut. They did this shit all the time – it was a temporary breakage to lead into a more permanent fix. He was following Brecht. Why? Rumours. The Uni-cyclist had been dropping his self-designed Tarot cards around the place for a week. The Juggler had been moving through metaphors for a fortnight – juggling representations of different solar systems. In this job you didn’t ignore portents.

Exteriorpoint, boot view-window, and program direction focus. Punch up the remote anchors, dial in the passageweigh, and then red carpet in. The localspace was ragged, was blistering, was not looking at all like it should. How many protocols would they have to break to make this omelette?

He found a pond – it was intention-mirroring on some fractal system … it meant that Brecht had been here. The ducks were on a transgressional migration loop that none of the locals were noticing – that meant someone else had been here. Who? The modus operandi of several ex-agents came to mind.

He had to wonder who was unaccounted for – he punched up a distance-thread for a database feed and scrolled through the names of the agents. Just as he had suspected – Brecht had broken communication. He wasn’t the only one, and all six agents disappeared at exactly the same time (that measured given dimensional drift). Ex-Agents who they actually had tabs on were depleted by three too.

What had Brecht been writing in here? What edits had he put in place? Who did that threaten? Some random engineer roaming around after agents and changing their writes? No – no such thing as random. Especially not with the disappearances.

There were more questions though – like, why the hell was the Central Reality Agency not flagging this up or telling anyone? Why were they not telling him? Either they knew, which was worrying, or they didn’t know, which was doubly worrying. Connected? No coincidence.

Ah, and what was this? A footprint, and in the centre of the footprint? A toothpick. So, someone was playing a game, but Brecht was playing right back. Good. Pieter was a bloodhound.

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000. ARE

He looked at his watch out of habit. Sat here on the park bench, watching the ripples on the pond undulate back and forth, getting slower and then faster, and then freezing solid. It wasn’t the only sign that something was wrong here, but it was a pretty major indication.

Carter Brecht had been in this game for a long time – look at the salt and peppering of the beard, that white wire in his hair; he was thin and rangy. He didn’t smoke anymore. He didn’t drink. He didn’t do drugs. With the kind of shit that he did on a daily basis who needed any of that shit to enhance anything?

He had been dabbling about in the guts of reality for the longest time. A weak point here – a stress fracture, caused by what? Or rather caused by whom? Sometimes he wondered if his arrival really ever was a reaction to the disaster or whether on some undisclosed level that he could not perceive he always prefigured the collapse.

What brought him here? Vibes? That mental aerial that he sometimes made reference to? Or the sacred lingam nestling sweaty in his boxers? Who gave a fuck? Didn’t make a difference, did it? In the end? No. Not really.

He reached into his pocket and yanked out two dozen things that looked like marbles, and in a pinwheeling motion that was a lot more accurate than anyone watching him would ever have believed, he flung these little objects outwards. They were attuned to him and the distances where they would stop and bed down were programmed in, so it was a bit of cheat. Still, it looked cool. They were Narrative Pins and they would hold the place static within a predetermined time-frame. With everything in place, all his tools powering up … it was time to go to work.