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Chapter Nine: Up, Up, and Up a Little Further
"John. Open up."
The door opened up and John peered out through the gap maintained by the safety chain. He appeared to have a reddish pink berret on his head.
"Who is tap-tap-tapping on my chamber door?"
Ace rolled his eyes. "Look, me and Scooby here are gonna go out to eat and strategize. Do you know of any restaurants in the area?"
"You interrupted my game of pocket pool to ask me about places to eat?"
"I'm very hungry. At least I was before I heard you say pocket pool."
John blinked. "Oh, wait. You think I mean jerking off. That is incorrect. I meant this thing." John held up a cellular phone with an image screen showing a computerized pool game. "I've gotten so good I don't even need to look at the screen."
Cody looked at the door to the Golden Arches. "I don't think I can go in there."
"I could just tell them you're my seeing eye dog."
"Then I'd need a harness and a leash. And you'd need a cane. And sunglasses. Look, I'll just stay out here while you go in and get some food."
"What if a dog catcher comes by?"
"Alright. What do you want?"
"Uh... hmm. Hey, pick me up. My eyes are pretty good but I can't see the menu from down here."
"Pick you up? You're a damn wolf. You probably weigh in around a hundred and fourty pounds."
"Gah. Okay, alternate plan. We go around and look at the menu by the drive through window."
Ace and Cody made their way around to the back of the restaurant and Cody began peering at the choices.
"Hmm... I like the chicken strip thing. I got this huge craving for meat products. Can you get four of those?"
"Four? I guess. Let's make it five and eat all of the fries. What do you want to drink?"
"I don't know if I can handle carbonated water in this form. I read something on the net about there's only like twenty animals in the world who can belch. I'm not sure I'm one of them."
"Waters it is."
With Ace and Cody nearby, the park bench became a table. Cody attacked the chicken strips while Ace inhaled French Fries. Occasionally Cody would grab a cup of water with has mouth and carefully lean his head back so some slid into his muzzle.
After about ten minutes, nothing was left but wrappers and some straws. Cody fell over on his side and rolled onto his back.
"Woo. That was pretty good. Even if it was soaked in grease. So... what's the next move?"
Ace shrugged. "Well, I see it like this. I've lived a long time without a past, or forgetting what past I had. This hasn't helped me much. What little fragments I do remember don't help me a lot either, because they are totally out of context. But... but... there's something weird about this amnesia stuff. Now that Kimiko has reminded me of some of my abilities, I know that the amount of memory I'm missing cannot possibly correspond to the machinery I have in the apartment."
"What if you had some stuff hidden somewhere? Like a bolt hole or a safehouse? An emergency stash of creepy machines?"
"...possible. But even then, the amount of things I would have had to create with all these memories would be astronomical."
"And that doesn't jibe?"
"Exactly, it doesn't jibe. I had these small gadgets everywhere in the apartment. Cleaning the dishes. Handling coats. Cleaning the bathroom. Every appliance I had was modified. But with the exception of Kimiko, it was all very basic. It's like..."
Ace held up his hands and hooked them into claws, grimacing. "It's like there's an answer on the edge of my brain, on the tip of my tongue. And it's fucking pissing me off that I can't make the final two or three logical connections. The medallion was hidden in a place, and in a way, so that only I would find it, because nobody who would have wanted to steal the stuff or fight Kimiko-"
Ace stopped and blinked.
"Ace? You okay? Did your head get stuck?"
"The letter lied to me AGAIN. It was so subtle I didn't see it until just now!"
"What letter? Who's lying?! Where's Waldo?! Where in the world is Carmen Sand Diego?! Make some fucking sense for the love of god!"
"The letter I found in my desk mentioned that someone was skulking around my apartment and had enough clockworking knowledge to fool some of my machinery, but not enough so that I could never tell they were there. It also mentioned a tracking device connected to another machine. And the whole thing about someone stealing my machinery... that was a half-truth. Hidden right where nobody would try to mess with it."
"How can you be sure of that? Hell, how can you be keeping track of all this shit in your HEAD?"
"Because it's not a linear set of instructions. It's not a clockwork configuration, the spring turning a gear which moves a lever which moves another. It's like a... funnel. There's barriers on all sides that I bounce off of while going in one direction, and they point me in the right direction. People, if they are tracking a clockworker, would expect him to tackle everything like a machine. This obviates that. It must have taken months to set up."
"You still are making no sense. I'm going to assume you're just going crazy because they put drugs in the fries."
"It's happening on too many levels to explain. But that letter said I hated Red Bull and I like it. It pointed me in the direction of Kimiko's voice machinery AND the medallion, whatever that's supposed to do. And... the other letter. It told Kimiko not to open it, even though she would never have handled the mail in the first place. Too many elements that lead to me trying to trick any monkies on my back while still leading me to my original goal. We have to go back and open that letter."
In the apartment, Ace looked at the unopened envelope. There was something inside it he had carefully tried to keep hidden from other people, even though he would have to find it himself. The writing on the back of the envelope would have given somebody tossing the apartment an incorrect clue as to the origin and handling of the letters themselves.
But there was something wrong with that. If Kimiko was able to get the mail, then the note made perfect sense. If he put it there himself, then what purpose did that serve? To inform some cat bulrglar that there was someone, or something, in the apartment?
Cody walked over and sat by Ace, looking at the letter. "Huh. Don't the postal people mark those stamps?"
"The stamp. They put some ink on it to show it was used. Otherwise people would use the same stamps over and over again."
Ace stared at the envelope, then jumped up and grabbed the other, opened envelope. There was no postmark.
"I lost my memory too soon. These things are part of a contingency plan that hasn't even been set in motion yet! I've been getting each fragment of information out of order, so every inference and corollary I've made is flawed!"
Ace sat down on the couch and threw the envelope onto the table. "I now have no idea where to start or what to do. Everything is out of sequence. Nothing makes sense."
"Hah. Now you know how I feel."
"HEY!" Ace jumped up and glared at the wolf. "Dammit, this is serious! Some asshole tried to put a bullet in my head because of this, and even if he didn't kill me he still stopped me from figuring out what it was I had to figure out! I don't have any history, do you understand what that feels like?! I can't remember my parents, or my childhood, or where I grew up, or school, or anything before last night except for some shit about climbing a tree, and even that is broken into tiny peices!"
"AND YOU'RE LUCKY!"
Ace stared at Cody, who was now baring his teeth in a very unfriendly way. "You can't remember who you were? Well, I remember who I was! And for the last month I've had to stare down the fact that I'll never be that man again! By now everyone who knew me as Cody Zimmerman the web page designer is sure that I'm dead, my home has been bought by someone else, my stuff scavenged and pawned off, and my family... my FAMILY... has moved on without me. 'Cody just vanished one day, probably got mugged and his body dumped in the sewers. Happens to people everyday. We never thought it'd happen to our family but the evidence speaks for itself.' You have no idea how lucky you are, you ungrateful bastard! You don't remember what you lost, but I DO! And I can't just grab some stuff from a junkyard and make it into a new future! I have NOTHING!"
Ace stared at Cody, who was panting heavily and bristling fur. Slowly, he sat down and rubbed his eyes with one hand. "Cody... if I'm such a jerk... why are you here? Why did you come with me?"
Cody's fur settled down, and his tail drooped. "Because you're all I've got. You're the only connection I have to the world of humans. I can't just be a mindless animal, man. That crazy bastard could only change my body. My mind is still human and it needs human interaction to work sanely."
Ace patted the couch cushion next to him. "C'mere Cody. I'm sorry I got so focussed on my own problems."
Cody looked at the couch, then walked over and climbed up. He turned around and lay on the cushion, looking at the unopened letter. "Ace... my college algebra instructor said that when you're faced with a problem you don't fully understand, do the parts that you DO understand first. Then come back to the rest later. That's his advice. As for mine... sleep on it. Everything looks different after a night's sleep."
Ace looked at the wolf, then at the letter. Carefully, he picked it up and opened the envelope.
If you -- and by you I mean me -- is/are reading this, then my main plan has already failed. I don't know how many contingencies are still in place, but it won't matter since every single one needs at least cursory knowledge gained in order from the main plan.
You already know, or at least suspect, that I can't tell you exactly what's going on. If I did, then anyone who opposed us would either remove this, leaving us up shit creek without an outboard motor, or leave it in place but set up a trap at a critical bottleneck. And from where I stand, I can see many, many bottlenecks. MANY bottlenecks. You would not beleive how many necks of bottles I can see right now. Seriously.
...I don't know what to do, and I bet that's something be both have in common at this point. Or these two points, concurrent via a note. Well... if you can't beat them, spread the rumors that they beat off to disturbing programs on the Discovery Channel. At least that's what John says. As for me... well... there are things that need to be done around the apartment and to handle your paper trail as it stands. Talk to John or Mitch about your old place for the second. As for the first, I don't just mean maintenance.
I checked all our logs and journals and diaries and notes. We've been making upgrades to Kimiko over the past couple of years. She is very smart and she has real emotions, not just replicated patterns of action -- you can pick them up on the Emote-O-Scope. That kind of stuff is wasteful if she just hangs around the apartment. I was going to give her a normal appearance after all this is over. If it's over before it started, well...
This won't make her an out-and-out Automatic humanoid, but it's something I think she wants. We could pass her off as mildly autistic to explain the mechanistic behavior.
PS: I'm missing a journal that was referenced in a later journal. I can't pin down the date, but it was definitely before the Vargas confrontation because that's what the reference was about. Ask John or Mitch if they know anything about that, since they were seriously involved with Vargas then.
Ace put the letter down and scratched Cody on the head.
"Hmmm. I guess you're right about the making the new future thing. I can at least do that."
"I'm going to give Kimiko a cosmetic upgrade. Apparently I've been wanting to do this for a while. Now I'll have the time. At least on hand."
"I don't think I'll need to forget anything else. That's what I mean."
"Oh. That still doesn't make sense, but it makes no sense in a way that I can understand."
"Heh. Whatever man."
"Hey, long as you're getting up, how about grabbing me a beer?"
"I don't think I have any."
"What? No beer?? Okay, a bottle of anything. Except drain cleaner. Unless it has hops in it. Then I'll chance it."
"Hahaha. Heh... huh."
"Bottle... neck. Bottleneck. Necks of bottles. Hmmm. Heh. Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHA!"
"...there are many sounds I don't want to hear coming out of the mouth of a man who can bring machines to life. That isn't one of them, but I just realized it should be."
Have you ever read Dresden Codak?
stange_person | profile | Dec 12, 06 | 10:40 am
This was a fun story to read, alleviating a stressful day at work. Thanks. :)
This is such an awesome series. More More more.
PRIMER | profile | Dec 13, 06 | 8:51 pm