A Word From Our Sponsor (H&S Part 3)

Welcome to Ellerdyne Systems Holding Lobby and thank you for expressing an interest in our vision.

For those of you unfamiliar with our interface, this space is intended to allow you to settle in, to find your floating point and to begin to acclimate. A little discomfort at this stage is perfectly natural.

Once your credentials have been verified you will be able to join The Flow, and interact with others. Until you have attained our competence thresholds and security your restraints will not be removed.

Our systems will allow you to navigate The Flow with ease, always protecting your most prized asset – you – from become unduly exposed to the untempered Field. Your safety is our highest priority.

First, you will be requested to navigate through your visualisation options; this will ensure greatest comfort in your interaction experiences, and allow for the maximisation of our proprietary blurring functionality. Experiential algorithms will regulate your extrusion versus intrusion ratios throughout.

If you have any questions, please locate the avatar of your service provider, in the communal space.

Please enjoy your experience with us today, and remember to stay loyal to Ellerdyne Systems inc.

***

Jerica and Herb were unaware of each other: that may seem impossible, but in the Venn diagram of the power structure of the powers that be, Sambal was their only intersection. While they had met several thousand times they were coolly unaware of the other’s very existence. It worked like that.

Sambal had known Jerica since they were pups, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t fear her. She was in with the powers now, working with all the loyalty they deserved. She had taken him, so it must have been of their will. But there had been no consequences for him; at least none that he could grasp.

He felt unbound by limitations, but knew their frayed edges nipped at him: That was her influence.

He felt groggy from the atmospherics he had ingested under her extended supervision: that was her fault, but Sambal could not shed the glimmer of a sensation that he had deserved the retaliation.

He still felt attached to The Flow; he knew he had succumbed to its will now, but feigned rebellion

Herb continued to be a revelation; his awakening would have resembled a factory reset if anyone had known how the mystical fucker had started out. Sambal suspected shenanigans, but accepted it.

Sambal looked in the mirror as the mission parameters kicked in: he had plotted the route while still in The Flow, assuming that she was aware. Herb had set up the contacts in a reverse pattern, so his synapses were generating more noise than signal: it was an effort of will to make them make sense.

The blocks of the pattern had been mapped to the local environment:  Sambal had chosen a set of dumpling shops and a nail house as the key intersections; now he just had to avoid going to them.

Except Herb was hungry again: Or had he never satiated his hunger in the first place? Hard to tell.

Crossing the line of intersection between two pattern blocks would initiate a trigger; entering that block would turn it in to a node. Hit more than three nodes and the whole thing would light up like a Christmas tree doused in hair lacquer. Sambal’s fingers were crossed that Jerica still loved Gyoza.

Herb sucked meet from the bones of a pile of chicken feet and chuckled to himself as he watched an old kid’s cartoon from the century before. It made no sense to Sambal, but the bright colours kept the big man happy. Sambal sipped at a bowl of miso, unable to stomach anything tougher today.

It didn’t take long for a trigger to be initiated; he had planned it so that she would do that just by walking through the neighbourhood. It took a little longer for the nodes to start coming in. They had a destination now; they needed to move: as expected, this would come to a head in the nail house.

Herb’s eyes flashed: he hoisted his partner onto his granite shoulders and started moving at speed.

They understood that she was after them, but she had no motive to act in the way she did. Not that they could see at least. Was she sent back as a warning? Had she been working on her own? Neither option made a whole lot of sense, but Sambal couldn’t bring any others to mind. Jerica the enigma.

Eight lanes of highway, spinning off and back in through myriad brightly lit intersections; a grimy dot of flint sat at its epicentre, gathering the fumes of the cars and the ignominy of the listless travellers.

She saw them coming: of course she did. She knew what they had set up: of course she did. None of her motives were anything like any of Sambal’s stupid assumptions: of course they weren’t. Laser light flooded the compound as the reality fled from Sambal’s vision. He was back in Spain, bleeding.

***

Warning: long term exposure to Ellerdyne Systems neural interfaces may cause reality to distort.

Warning: failure to disconnect properly from an Ellerdyne Systems interface may leave a residual image across ones’ consciousness of the formwork most recently in use. This is a temporary issue.

Warning: your interactions with The Flow will be monitored, and your usage data – including private thoughts, feelings, intentions and fears – will be recorded so as to better serve your future needs.

Warning: any disconnection with reality experienced as a result of misusing Ellerdyne Systems data, products, architecture or functionality is accepted as being the risk of the user, and their liability.

Warning: many of the people, places and concepts encountered within The Flow are constructs of Ellerdyne Systems; any relationships or attachments users form with them are purely coincidental.

Warning: sensations of persecution and /or delusions of grandeur are common side-effects of the prolonged mis-use of Ellerdyne Systems infrastructure; please locate the avatar of your local service provider, in the communal space, if you have concerns. Correct usage is recommended at all times.

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