writing chapter 9.3
as they tried to swim thru the wormhole. They felt him flailing, they felt him battering them, the felt him trying to hurt them. Not to get too mystical, but there they all were as one being, accidentally committing suicide.
Josh and Anomia were out of time. They were floating, the turbulence had ceased and they were in a fog, and there was no resistance anywhere. Were they on the cloud level beyond the wormhole? Were they dead? There was no sound, so they didn’t speak, but they felt undamaged, they felt like themselves, and they could move, tho there wasn’t much point.
Then they heard a sound. A rhythmic sound with a back and forth to it, some sort of oscillation, but whether in intensity or pitch or even air pressure, they couldn’t tell.
Whatever, Josh thought as Anomia tried to caution him. I’m going to find out what it is. So he moved forward thru the mist, and felt his way toward the sound.
Which resolved into a mist colored shape flopping on the mist colored ground. Close up the sound was a wet thumping, heavy and ponderous. Josh expressed surprise, and instantly Anomia was beside him, peering at a big lump of mist. that might have massed a couple of hundred pounds, as if they could tell, as if there were any way to measure it. It was sort of revolting. It quivered, and hiccoughed and seemed to be convulsing. Was that a tail dong the thumping?
Then the lump resolved itself into a mist colored manateelike thing, all fat with misty skin. There were little piggy eyes blinking at them. It looked like a giant baby with no arms or legs, only a kind of tail that thumped hopefully. The animal (?) was looking at them. It (he?) had stubble, and when they looked closely, a mustache and marks that looked like glasses around the eyes. And his head was bald with a mist colored fringe that reminded them of Kurt.
They reached out and touched his mind. Of course it was Kurt, who was beginning to lose patience.
I’m rescuing you, he thought.
They looked around. From what? Josh idly wondered. I like it here. And he conjured up a beer and a table and chairs, and sat down.
Suddenly they were back in the wormhole, struggling not to drown. The beer mugs and furniture were in the water with them, kicking them and jabbing them, knocking them on the head, trying to impale them. But the monstrous baby Kurt was there – exKurt – warding off the blows, pushing them before him as he swam toward the light at the tunnel entrance.
Then they felt a great shove as he dumped them on the ground outside the wormhole, where it was dark, with muffled sounds from distance sources all around them. They lay still for a long time, exhausted by their struggles. Maybe they slept. It was so dark they could see nothing, so they wrapped up in each other and waited for something to change.
After awhile, the (on-again) sun moved around the edge of the earth and things got lighter. Elevators started going up and down, making elevator noises. Doors starting opening and shutting. Josh and Anomia were up in the room, with the clocks blinking. Most of the people in their time zone and those farther west had no idea, but most of Asian and all of Europe and Africa were awake to see the electricity go off and the sun blow out.
The world had felt Kurt’s death throes. There were earthquakes all around the ring of fire, and the volcanoes of Iceland went off, popping like corks thruout the island. A pacific tsunami coursed south toward Antarctica, breeching the Ross ice shelf and sweeping away the lower fringes of Scott and McMurdo bases. The disturbance in the Force that holds together our reality rippled out thru the universe, affecting everything. It passed with a wave of existential angst. Kurt’s death agony hit the sun like a blast of cold, and for a moment the sun flickered and went dark. But it sputtered back on, like a trick candle, and sent its own shock wave speeding toward the earth in reaction (it takes 4 days).
Meantime, Josh and Anomia felt like everyone else after a week of partying at Dragoncon. They were hungover and wanted to continue the partying and socializing and going to panels and workshops, but really they were just counting the hours until it was time to pack up and go back home.
There were still people they had to see and there was Fairy’s Paranormal track presentation and Kurt’s EFF track kernel presentation, both at 10, way fucking early for a Monday. They both decided to attend Kurt’s; Anomia because she had lots of questions about the kernel, and Josh because he figured there’d be more potential sponsors at the geekier lecture. But on the way there (locations ???) Anomia got a text from the door manager at Fairy’s lecture.
Wer is Fairy? No ansr fon. 10min++ and no show. Fans restive. Pls adviz
So Anomia went to take her place, and gave another lesson on finding your superpowers within, while Josh wandered toward Kurt’s presentation until he remembered some merchandise he wanted over in the Dealer’s Hall.
Kurt never showed up to his lecture, either. While they were summoning Anomia to cover for Fairy, Kurt was being discovered lying at the bottom of the pool at the Hyatt, covered by the strapped down padlocked tarp that was what they had against Dragoncon eventualities just like this one.
Nobody would have noticed him until they removed the cover afterthe party was over, either, but for a bubbling and splashing on the security tape at around 4:38 am that everyone smoking on the Hyatt gauntlet ignored, but that some alert security rookie caught in a training session the next morning. Around 4:45 AM, ambulances and firetrucks were called to put out a suspicious vehicle fire on Butler Street, where they’d found Kurt’s van burning up from the inside out. They easily IDed it as Kurt’s van – his keys, his license, his dragoncon badge, his clothes and his shoes – all his worldly possessions. But there was no Kurt. And the van was locked.
It took them a long time to put two and two together. Kurt’s naked body was found with burns to the extremities, and he seemed to to have of smoke inhalation. But in the deep end of a pool full of water? Naked, at the bottom of a covered pool? They found lots and lots of drugs in his system, but the coroner couldn’t conclude a drug overdose or attempted suicide.
The detective assigned to Kurt couldn’t figure out how he got from his van (where he apparently suffocated while unconscious, under the influence of a pharmaceutical cocktail the detective couldn’t pronounce) to the pool where he was discovered, by normal, classical, explainable means his boss would go for. There was no violence in the case, unless someone had drugged Kurt and set him ablaze, which could conceivably have happened.
Kurt was apparently a permanently unemployed computer programming contractor of some repute, but nobody had anything good to say about him. Basically a homeless, familess and friendless wanderer with a substance abuse problem. Supposed to be working on a quantum computer – in the back of his van. So maybe some psychiatric issues too. Probably nothing, a case he could stick at the back of the file and leave until another shoe dropped, or not.
It made the news, tho. “In an incident some authorities are calling suspicious, and others are calling bizarre, Dragoncon experience just got more dangerous. In what is looking like a drug deal gone bad, the body of Kurt (someone) who was attending the world famous annual science fiction convention was found apparently tortured and drowned, while his vehicle was burned. Police are investigating it from all angles, and are asking for the viewing public to come forward with any information they might have.”
Followup reports went on to cast aspersions on the character of Dragoncon fans, as if the entire 60,000 attendees were violent sociopathic criminals. These reports questioned the wisdom of allowing that many hooligans onto the streets of Atlanta at once. Then reports starting circulating about Kurt, and the game, and suddenly there were public concerns about the safety of letting kids play quantum videogames, and concerns about whether gatherings of people to give importance to time wasters like videogames should be banned. “VIDEOGAMES – Should They Be Illegal? Do we want to encourage these violent and slothful habits in our children?”
There were exposes of Kurt’s hazy years as a vagrant, drug addicted, dangerous hacker. There were links to terrorism (warez sites) and hacker exploits. He could be a leader of Anomymous. Behind the scenes, the convention bureau had a talk with the board of Dragoncon, the event’s insurance rates doubled, and they lost 2 sponsors. A few big but waning names left the guest roster, and a whole bunch of new talent scrabbled to be part of the new edginess.
Professional scientists and amateurs alike set aside speculation about the tale of two Kurts to get really excited by the third intermittent thawing of Antarctica (the quickthaw). This one featured reports of mirages – desert vastness and teeming futuristic cities. The thaw lasted for three hours and forty seven minutes, and switched off as suddenly as it had switched on. This time people were caught out in less than optimum polar outerwear, and there were some amputations. As before, any teams camped out on the ice shelves disappeared with all their gear. That plus the tidal wave that hit McMurdo was keeping them all abuzz. The geophysicists were having a banner day with the volcanoes in Iceland. The Internet was doing what it does best – spreading information from single sources thruout the world as efficiently and quickly as possible.
The media made no mention of another thaw, it was too wacko to report.
Larry and Curly, scrambled to be on top of developments as first Kurt’s death and then the sun blink and quickthaw filled the channels they monitored. The traffic was especially poignant in Twitter, SMS and FB and RSS feeds coming from Dragoncon’s membership. They were still downplaying everything to Moe, an the assumption that it couldn’t possibly be anything, and certainly not anything they were responsible for.
Dragoncon nerds and geeks were panicking over the quickthaw, over the sun’s spasm, over Kurt’s impossible teleportation and probably murder.