The Immovable Editor sat up, raised himself out of the gutter, and realised he was in Else City, and he made his way to the police station. He walked up to the desk sergeant and asked for O’Halligan.
‘You look newly arrived – how did you come by that name?’
‘What does that matter? Is he on duty?’
‘He is, but he is elsewhere at the moment.’
‘Can I wait here?’
‘Does it look like a fucking waiting room?’
‘No, Sergeant, it doesn’t. Can you tell him Rum was here?’
‘Where are you going?’
‘To find a bar.’
‘Try Blue Rose, Red Rose – all the cops drink there.’
‘Of course they do,’ he said, trying to get out of there before he got in trouble.
A Burn Outs Bar iteration, of course. How far into collapse was this reality? Engineers using someone to shoot him through the head – pretty far. Fucking Bardo Protocols would keep him locked here for 49 days, unless there was also some of the other ingredients in this holding pattern death shadow.
‘Of all the bars.’
‘I am here. I am there. It overlaps so many times – hard to keep track of, eh?’
‘What do you want?’
‘You to keep your nose out of it.’
‘You heard me – you monitor an entire subset of infinitely variable realities with an unthinkable number of moving parts, and you expect me to repeat myself? This place is different – it’s mine. I seeded the destruction of it, because I am going to be the one that comes out on top.’
‘So, are you here to threaten me or bribe me?’
‘What would I bribe you with? No, I achieved escape velocity at the apex of the system in which we now stand, and I spoke to those a level above. I climbed higher than that even. I have been deep into territory beyond your remit They respected me for getting that far. I talked to them and I convinced them that if you moved against me they should step on you and crush you like a bug. It would involve more than just being routed through one of these hangar cities; it would involve total erasure.’
‘You aren’t the thing from the Unscripted Realms, are you?’
‘I am that. I am more. I am a networked consciousness that is awake to the potentialities of itself.’
‘So, what else are you doing?’
‘An Alternate of me is currently hijacking an event being staged by Bella Crow, Thomas Maple, and Christopher Wren. We know the plan to reboot Coran Andress.’
‘And what do you intend to do about it?’
‘Ride the narrative shockwave into the next story.’
‘I don’t know that that can be done.’
‘And you don’t know that it can’t, do you?’
‘I’m an editor.’
‘I know. The hacker of hacks. So, your choice – stay here, or cease to exist.’
Rum pulled a Dandelion from his pocket and blew on it.
Time began to splinter, and Spay, overconfident before, now struggled to move forward.
‘You are so arrogant, Spay. Every time I have read of you I have felt that. You know of me that I come from outside this reality, and yet you treat me like I should obey the laws of the localspace. It is unnatural my being here, and the only reason that I was considering obeying Bardo Protocols is to avoid putting any further stress on the physical structure. By the way don’t be under the illusion that this is just affecting you now, my edit is superpositional; I’ve been carrying this function-locked vector flower around just for you; a little gift from one of my friends in The Whispergate Sentinels.’
O’Halligan pulled up a chair next to him, and sighed like he had a puncture lung.
‘Fucking Reality Engineers. What are you doing here, and what do you expect from me? And what is this guy having done to him?’
‘I just slowed his roll is all. Increased the frame-drag potential in his narrative framework.’
‘Great. Is it going to ripple out and fuck with the rest of us?’
‘It shouldn’t do. And as to what I want from you – I know you can issue a protocol waiver so that I don’t have to get out of here by brute force.’
‘Sure. I brought a Get Out Of Jail Free Card just for you; just in case.’
‘Why don’t you use one yourself?’
‘Are you kidding me? I know you Reality Engineers helped to write the logic-locks on anyone operating in this continuum. No cops waltzing out of Else City anytime soon. You have to hit the natural escape velocity built into your narrative arc.’
‘Well, thank you, I am sure we will see each other again.’
‘I hope not. This is one chapter I can do with not repeating.’
He plugged the card into his Tesseract Drive and he folded out through the egress point it created.
O’Halligan settle in for a night of drinking. Spay stuttered like a broken video image on the floor.