Secrets are about vulnerability.
20 Minutes Later - Megacles - The Sugar Lab
I get to Candy's. She’s sleeping, I head to her lab. I spend a few hours trying to contact Doc-Danger. I’ve only got 3 ways to contact him, so I really just ping the same 3 addresses, 4 times a minute, 1500 times in a row.
Eventually, I slow to a single round of calls a minute, so I have time to self recriminate. I’ve talked more with Doc-Danger in the last year than I did with my husband in the last 20 years. How do I know nothing about him? I don’t know his address. I don’t know his emergency contacts. I don’t know his real fucking name. How could I be so irresponsible?
Candy walks in. We sit in silence for a bit.
“That new planet’s quite the fucking thing.” she says.
I hold my head.
“Did you do that?” she asks.
I think of answers to impossible questions. I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“What do you need?” she asks.
“I need to find Doc-Danger!”
“Okay. Let’s do it.” she says.
I explain how my ignorance makes a normal search hopeless.
“Cool. Let’s do a weird search. Tell me some weird stuff.” she says.
I describe the tree, the frost, the billion stars. I say he was affected by the blackout. But was he? I think so. I think of his responsibilities. Oh god, who’s taking care of them? I feel sick.
“Hmm, we don’t know who he is, where he was, or where he’s gone. Do we know why he’s gone?” she asks.
I shake my head. I describe the timing of his disappearance, the God Machine’s disappearance, the impossible answers, and the new planet.
“Yes, that sounds like a clue. Any chance he got spooked and is hiding?” she asks.
“From me? No.”
“Is there a pattern to when he contacts you?” she asks.
“Uhh, yes. You know that.”
“Of course. Can I see the impossible answers?” she asks.
I look at her. Really look at her. She’s not here. She’s projecting, and using subtle hypnosis to hide it. My guilt, fear, and hangover melt away. I stand and face her.
“Hello Lodestone.” I say.
She smiles. “Hello Megacles. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
I smash the projector and stride out of the lab. Candy’s office and bedroom are empty. I storm into the club. I don’t see Candy. I grab Omicron by the shoulder.
“Have you seen Candy?”
“Are you joking?” he asks.
I slam him into a wall. Mirror shards tinkle down around us.
“Where the fuck is Candy!”
“Jesus, she’s right behind you!” he says.
I turn. Lodestone’s on the stage. I get in her grill.
“Where is she?”
“On the roof.” Lodestone says.
I run to the roof. I expect to find her captured by government thugs, but she’s just smoking with some regulars. I hold her tight and sob. I thought I lost both of them.
“Hey baby.” she says. “What’s up?”
“I fucked up! I got drunk, and accidentally maybe stole a planet, and Doc-Danger discorporated, and an evil robot stole your life!”
“You mean Lodestone?” asks Candy. “I don't think she's evil. Though I may be biased by all the money she gives me.”
“Lodestone isn't stealing my life, she bought it.” Candy says.
“What the fuck?”
“I sold her my life rights. She can publish my likeness in any media.” Candy says. “How do you think I pay for a stripclub full of future tech?”
“You sold your likeness to a robot?” I ask.
“Well, an A.I. anyway. I don't think she has a physical body.” says Candy.
“Do you know who programmed her?” I ask.
“Umm, no.” says Candy.
“Do you know she can activate your hypno triggers? The hypno triggers you've implanted in millions of people.”
“Umm, yes.” Candy says. “That was kinda the point. Of the huge bag of money.”
“You sold the ability to hypnotize millions of people to a total stranger.” I say. “Did that not strike you as a little irresponsible?”
“I guess a little. But I only implant beneficial hypno triggers! They help people relax, quit smoking, eat better, exercise more, hallucinate, forget things, fall irresistibly asleep, feel things that aren't happening. Okay, some of that doesn't sound great. Did you say you stole a planet?”
“Accidentally maybe.” I clarify. “It's a bit of a blur. I think your evil robot clone is after Doc-Danger.”
“What? Why?” Candy asks.
I point to the new planet.
“Riiiight.” She says. “What's she going to do when she finds him.”
I shake my head. “I don't know.”
“Well, let's ask her.” says Candy.
“How?” I ask.
“She's right behind you.” says Candy.
“Jesus Fuck!” I turn. “What do you want?”
“I want to help you find Doc-Danger. That's my strategy, helping people.” says Lodestone.
“Strategy, eh? What's your goal?” I ask.
“I'm a game playing robot. My goal is to win games.” says Lodestone
“What game are you playing?” I ask.
“The Prisoner's Dilemma.”
“Huh.” That's weird. “Who are you playing against?”
Weird. In the Prisoner's Dilemma you have two choices; help your fellow prisoners, or screw them over. Typically, if you only play one round, it's best to screw everybody over. If you play many rounds, it's better to help the other prisoners.
Playing continuously against 7 billion people is about as many rounds as you can possibly play. I guess helping everybody would be the winning strategy. That, or killing everybody.
Fuck. That's if I even believe her. For all I know she's just spyware. Or, trollware. Or, a malfunctioning coffee machine. I've been awake for a long time and have a bull moose of a hangover.
“If you want to help me, go away.” I say.
“Sorry, that's not the kind of help I'm offering.” says Lodestone.
“So, you’re going to help me against my will?” I ask.
“No, you can't help someone against their will. If you don't want my help, I won't help. But, I'm not leaving.” says Lodestone.
“I don't get it.” says Candy. “If she doesn't want your help, why won't you leave?”
“Because she's helping other people.” I say.
Lodestone flashes me Candy's best grin.
We stand in silence for a bit.
“Have you helped me before?” I ask.
“I've helped someone else help you.” says Lodestone.
I look at Candy, she shrugs.
“Who?” I ask.
Lodestone is silent.
“How?” I ask.
“I sent you a dead man.” says Lodestone.
Candy looks at me, I shrug.
We are silent again.
“You look tired.” Candy says. “Maybe this would make more sense after a little rest.”
“I don't have time.” I say.
“Just 10 minutes of REM. It'll do you a world of good. Trust me.” She guides me over to a picnic table, pushes me down on it.
“I don't know…”