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M: Apparently, it takes 3 minutes of eye contact to fall in love with a stranger.

C: That’s why pornstars always look into the camera.

M: Wait! Don’t all of your hypnotriggers take 3 minutes?

 

1 Day Later - Megacles - The Sugar Lab 

I pull into the Sugar Lab, and head to the office. Candy and Lodestone are sitting on her couch.

“All right.” I say. “Show me what you got.”

They stand and start to strip.

“That is not what I meant.” I say. “Actually, fuck it, let's get this out of the way.”

I spend some heavy breathing time with my best girl and her psycho hypno twin.

“Okay!” I wave a sticky finger. “Now show me how to find Doc-Danger.”

“I got nothing.” says Lodestone.

“That’s disappointing.” I say.

“I perceive humans as a subset of strategies. A list of reactions to various stimuli. That’s all the detail I require to predict their actions. Usually. It’s not working on Doc-Danger. Fucker’s got some weird ideas.” says Lodestone. “I found his lab, but it had been sterilized. Some kind of contingency plan. Probably a dead man’s switch. I hacked the National Spying Agency to get his Everything-He’s-Done-Online-Ever file, but he didn’t have one. I didn’t know that was possible. Makes you wonder.”

“Yeah, he’s a keeper.” I say. I pull up the impossible answers. “Take a look at these.”

“This is… holy shit.” says Lodestone.

“See anything about teleporting?” I ask.

“Un-fucking-believable.” Lodestone says. She’s quiet for a bit. “This is astounding, but it’s very low level science. Foundation. Building blocks. I think… he took this data and made another set of impossible questions. Then he got answers for those questions.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.” I say.

“But this is good! We can make another God Machine! We have a lead!” says Lodestone.

I shake my head. “We don’t have time. The Darkness is looking for us.”

“Shit, the Darkness could find you in seconds. She’s afraid to move on you.” says Lodestone.

“The fuck? Why would the Darkness be afraid of me?”

“Oh honey, everyone’s afraid of Megacles the Mighty.” says Lodestone. “Why do you think I’m hiding in your shadow?”

Huh.

“How much time do you think we have?” I ask.

“Oh lots. Definitely a couple hours. Maybe a week. Two weeks?” says Lodestone.

“Great. So, we've got a couple weeks or maybe an hour until she comes for us?”

“Well, we have that long until the dominant strategy of this game changes. Probably.”

I look at Candy, she shrugs.

“We used to have surveillance and acquiescence as our dominant strategies.” says Lodestone. “It was a very stable system, it survived many shocks. But, it didn’t survive the Blackout. After the Blackout the dominant strategy became secret drastic action. Red Team, Dead Men, Leviathan, shit came out of nowhere and hit hard. Crazy fuckers doing crazy shit was not a stable system. Go figure. It precipitated the next shock, Damocles. And with it, the next dominant strategy, silence. Will this be stable? Fuck no. We’re already talking about building another God Machine. The other players are gathering their strength as well. Soon, one of them will initiate a shock.”

“Then what? What’s the next dominant strategy?” I ask.

“Control? Murder? Escape? Who the fuck knows?” says Lodestone.

“Perhaps, calmly discussing our differences?” says Candy.

Lodestone shrugs. “Maybe. If people get scared enough, anything is possible. Do you want me to contact the Darkness and set up a meeting?”

“Yeesh. Let's call that plan B.” I say.

“Then we build a new God Machine?” asks Lodestone.

“How confident are you that the next shock will happen within the month?” I ask.

“Within a month? 92%.” says Lodestone. “I’ll be able to give us a bit of warning. There is always a mega-burst of information through the system before a big shock. The old checks and balances yell nonsense at each other just before the end. That’ll give us a minute’s warning. Maybe two.”

“That’s not a lot of time.” says Candy.

“It’s not bad if you have a planet shifting time machine.” says Lodestone.

I shake my head. “A month isn’t enough time to build a new God Machine. Half a God Machine is worse than nothing. A please-murder-me sign on our backs. We’ll have to think of something else.”

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Doctor Zero

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