[Void Galaxia] Chapter 15: Triton No Taikutsu

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The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl sat relaxed on a rocky outcrop [not unlike a patio], surrounded by endless acres of nitrogen ice, staring up at the gigantic, bluer than blue warden Neptune looming above, thinking the words warden uncle, then warden aunty, then Stasi overseer thing, then infinite fucking blue uncle Stasi over aunty seeing nothing but same kid moon wasn’t even from there just crashed in one millennia and

       blue uncle bobbed there and took it

       blue aunty bob

       blue Stasi overcount bob

       bluuuuueeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

       He held up a fingertip, prodding impotently at the smallest gas giant.

       Directly in front of him was a chessboard on a plastic table, a half-slouched human player on the other side, but he didn’t seem interested in either.

      Neptune vs chess?

      Only one of these had ever invited him to kill himself…even if it was a failed attempt. Cut. Wrong choice of words. A thwarted attempt, that was more accurate. Thwarted by his purple holo-babysitter.

      Ah, those first hundred…the sunny years.

      He stretched out a human hand, pushing it slowly towards the forcefield a metre beyond the table. Those almost imperceptible flecks of blue were the only things protecting him – and his chess opponent – from almost instant death. At first, when Assta had told him he was stuck on this moon, he would make a habit of wearing a helmet outside, even within the perimeter, and avoid the nitrogen ice on the surface at all costs. Didn’t want to do anything stupid like die before the rescue ship came. That was the idea. Now, he couldn’t even remember where the helmets were kept. Or what they looked like.

      ‘Grey patches…’ he muttered, fixing his eyes back on the table.

      The player opposite didn’t respond.

      ‘Pointless. Unreliable.’

      A plume of nitrogen gas erupted nearby, the dust expelled clashing with the forcefield and turning the blue flecks frantic. Auxiliary dust trickled down at a sedate pace, wry if he felt like attaching personality to the thing, and settled on the rocky slope beyond the perimeter.

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl shunned the spectacle and instead arched his neck towards the black ceiling above. ‘Up there, Keitho…that’s where the real madness is. Oort Cloud. Alpha Centauri. Helix Nebula. Da’ba Da’baka. The million other places she never bothers to tell me about.’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 14: Half-Altered Beast

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      ‘What I need is robot legs.’

      ‘Sure.’

      ‘Or metal plating on my knees. No, metal skin all over. Even better.’

      ‘Metal robot legs?’

      ‘Or graphene.’

      ‘Wouldn’t they rust in the shower?’

      ‘Hmm. Correction. Un-rustable graphene metal robot legs that can’t get wet. And if they get hit or impacted or something…hey, you remembering this? It’s important.’

      ‘I’ll get a pen and paper.’

      The female student in the navy blue artist robes stood up and looked at the desk near the entrance of the science building, and that was about it. Tutting for the cheap seats, the male student with scattershot green hair grabbed her arm, yanking it towards him.

      ‘Get off…’

      ‘If I can’t be bionic then you’ll have to be my legs.’

      ‘No way.’

      ‘Come on…’

      ‘I’m not a robot, Sion.’

      ‘Wah, you don’t know that.’

      ‘Serious?’

      ‘Mechanical stuff is inside, kaizo face, not exterior. Like wires instead of veins, oil not blood, that kind of thing.’

      ‘Kaizo face?’

      ‘Arms up, it’s carrying time.’

      ‘Get off.’

      ‘No moaning.’

      ‘Off, you fucking nut…’

      Yosh watched from the corner as the two idiot academics walked out of the building, the guy trying to climb on the girl’s back. Is that how students talk now? he wondered, blowing out smoke. Robot legs and back-climbing…just so he could paw at her tits?

      Thinking about it, the whole dialogue didn’t sound that much different from the kids back in his shopp.

      Maybe he hadn’t missed out after all.

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[Destiny] Chapter 48: Past Pastelised

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A hundred

Two hundred

Ten thousand

I’ll kill them all, even in this weakened state.

Poor Fire Hand Zhang, thought Joanna, staring at the sentence of his death, the feral wolves descending into the pit, clearly not giving much weight to his boast, or caring much if it was flesh or fabric they were tearing off.

Did no one think for even half a second about saving the wretch?

Fire Hand was about him, not self-assigned

honour called for helping lesser enemies

beaten jokes, sudden weaklings

but no, the Red Flower Heroes, in a pit of wolves, just left him there.

The door opened and a Chinese couple wheeled their luggage in, clocking her under the duvet and saying hi, we’re new in Mandarin.

To head off further conversation, she vetoed I’m part of the furniture and gave a muted hi back instead, then lifted Gum Yong over her face

returned to Fire Hand Zhang

felt pity, shame

blamed the Red Flower Heroes, Gum Yong,

definitely not the wolves.

~~~

In her head, the streets always had a hazy glow round the fringes, the pastel tone of the buildings heavily saturated, the people lively in their limb movements, action mechanics

yet now

in this reality, on this side street

things were ten, twenty per cent diluted.

Drained by a city-sized ghoul.

Self-torpefied.

Phased into a sexless monotone frame.

No Gum Yong. No Varo. No idioms. No Samaritan Girl. No Tat Ming Pair. No flag on the moon. No animal porn. No passing trams. No beggars. No baking soda dealers. No Krsnik. No possibility of Krsnik. No Krsnik prints.

No gutter Slovene.

No Cantonese.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 13: Tsukubashi Rabbit Hole

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I woke up around eleven, groggy, a kaleidoscope of weirdness lashing round my brain.

      Asami naked on a rock, fingering herself with a starfish.

      Ryu in a VR homeless camp.

      Alien totems on Pluto.

      Black alien selling eye insurance.

      Yosh with a two metre knife, about to-

      Kuso, Yosh…

      I rubbed vaguely near my eyes, drawing in the foreground.

      My fucking dorm room.

      Same as the night before.

      Yosh was sitting on the edge of the bed, both eyes open, expression forensically blank, hand still in the jacket pocket.

      ‘You sleep late, teme.’

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      It was a Saturday, so everyone else had either left for the day or was still in bed. Probably the former, knowing my dorm mates, though Asami usually liked to sleep in on at least one of the weekend days.

      Yosh followed me into the bathroom and talked while I brushed my teeth. He said he didn’t want to do anything, but it may turn out that way.

      I asked him through the mirrror what he would do.

      ‘Nothing that won’t heal.’

      I imagined slashes instead of stabs.

      ‘How bad?’

      ‘Just…focus on your teeth. Okay?’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 12: Adventurist Babysitting

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Immediate reaction to wholesale life change [as I walked from the room]

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      No memories, who cares? Did I ask enough questions? Details must be known. What exactly are they doing to my brain? Who will I turn into? Why was that guy pretending to be South-East Asian? Was that a Jamaican accent? Where’s Ryu? Why is he not calling back? No. Can’t do it, too insane. Wait for the games. Pay Yosh. Stay still. Live like I’ve always lived. Slug-like. Tsunashima. Wake up late, depressed, stable. Pluto 2270. Moon Factory 7. Occasional unii. Gods, that’s my life? Fuck all that. Move, get out. Leave Japan, unii, this. Leave all of it. Your life is a wreck, wreck. You don’t want to be here. You never did. You’ve wanted this fucking wormhole for years. Get the fuck out. Go.

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      Outside, the posters were all gone.

      Position filled, clearly.

      I felt a weird kind of peace walking back past the other departments, into the car park and onwards to Hiyoshi station. The branches of the ginkgo trees sensed it too, swaying with almost sentient rhythm. Didn’t know if I’d really go through with it, but just the idea that I could…

      Liverpool…North Britain…fluent English and Japanese…gym muscles without doing any of the hard work…kuso

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      The wreck came out in a daze, swaying, and Yosh followed him outside. Something strange was going on, all the posters had been picked up. ‘Fuck, those cleaners got some pace,’ Yosh muttered to himself, swatting at a not-in-the-way-at-all gingko branch.

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      I stood looking at a random poster on the train, a promotion for Pachinko VR in Shinjuku. A weird thought came. This could be the last time I’d ever look at one of these things using this face. No, scratch that. This could be the last time I’d ever see Pachinko machines. If that’s what I wanted…

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      Yosh sat down next to an old man and watched the wreck staring at the wall. Was he thinking about the pointless science lecture he just attended? Or the pending fucking debt he owed?

      Better be the debt.

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      The narrow street outside Tsunashima station was empty. Somehow evening had come. I went into Matsuya on the corner and ate some spiced meat with rice. At least I thought that’s what it was. Couldn’t remember ordering…

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[Destiny] Chapter 47: Gurng See

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Abjection is above all ambiguity

Ambiguity is an alcove

Our Alcove is cosy

Filtered, safe

Joanna’s head stayed fixed in position, eyes on the graffiti outside the blue door that allegedly led to the hostel she’d just booked back in the car, half an hour earlier.

Abjection is above all ambiguity

Ambiguity is an alcove

The words seemed familiar somehow, philosophy that Yute Long had told her once, or perhaps the Gum Yong translator at Uni, or a book at the library

but de-territorialised

scrawled out on Lisboan infrastructure, regular structure, pastel façade

in English over Portuguese

next to an amateur spray of a giant dick shooting up like a rocket into an upside down blood pool.

Why?

For her?

There was a noise to her left, a local woman shouting at her friend, pinching her jacket as evidence.

Joanna waited for them to pass, then put a hand out and pressed the hostel buzzer.

~~~

The hostel owner was playing a football game on a huge projection screen when she walked in, and two men who she could hear whispering German were parked on the couch at the side.

‘Take over,’ the hostel owner said, handing the control to the German with frizzy hair, then got up and strolled over to the table that had to be the check-in desk.

Didn’t look much like it.

No leaflets or guides to local tourist sites.

Just a carboard cut-out pic of Faye Valentine, leaning over the CB cockpit controls.

‘Chinese? Korean?’ the hostel owner asked, taking her passport and writing her details down in a shabby-looking notebook.

She pointed at the passport cover.

‘Ah, Hong Kong…quite close. You coming in from Porto? Or flying in?’

Joanna looked at the two Germans in the relaxation area, one of them playing the football game, the other holding an anime doll she didn’t recognise level with his face, interrogating it.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 11: Will Change You Wholesale

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At Jiyugaoka station, I stood in a daze, possibly on the platform, possibly on the tracks, surrounded by lunch-time bustle, trying to think of all possible routes to money [plus not having my fingers chopped off].

      There was Ryu…

      But he wasn’t picking up. And he’d just been fired anyway. Would probably need everything he had just to take care of himself.

      Asami?

      No, too humiliating.

      Mum?

      Pointless. She’d say no before I even managed hello. And she didn’t have much anyway, not since Dad died.

      Nozo…

      Last time I saw him, he was in debt worse than I was.

      My Astora account…

      Three thousand, two hundred yen.

      Next student loan installment…

      Half a month away.

      The coins on my desk?

      Ha. If I wanted to buy a lollipop…

      Fuck. Think Keni, you wretch. Think.

      Who else?

      Who else did I know that didn’t hate me?

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      Yosh walked onto the platform and waited two carriage lines down from the college wreck. The word ‘kasu’ was still seeping out of his mouth, towards his boss and the idiot with the game debt, but he was careful to keep it muffled.

      It was pointless though. The wreck wasn’t stupid, he wouldn’t run.

     And why did it have to be him on follow duty?

    Masa didn’t know anything about running the VR Centre, yet there he was, trying to run a fucking VR Centre. Just cos he couldn’t be trusted not to get mad and stab the kid outright..

      Great. Punished again for being the calm one.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 10: Why Did You Play In Hell?

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Surprising even my own subconscious or Other-Scape or whatever the philosophical term was, I woke up at nine the next morning

      dozed a bit

      imagined forest sex with Asami, an army of purple eyeballs watching from the canopy, a spiraling vortex to cartoon Pluto

      then finally rolled off the bed around eleven.

      My head was still fuzzy from getting a patchy amount of sleep, but I remembered very clearly the thing hovering outside the window. And the paralysis that came with it. Hoping it was just a variation on immersion haze, I went online and searched shadow creature with purple eyes that floats outside windows. No results except 18+ fan fiction. Okay, immersion haze then. Good.

      The VR server made a beeping noise, winning my attention.

      Right, time to play that ridiculous-…

      I blinked several times before the message on the screen sank in.

      Installation Failed. Try Again?

      Again?

      And stare out the window for another four hours?

      Kasu…

      I reached over and removed the game.

      What I had to do was go back to Yosh and see if this really was Pluto 2280. My gut said he’d given me a knock-off by mistake, an ambush rip-off from a smaller developer maybe, and if I showed him some of it, his gut would say it too.

      He might even feel guilty about hassling me so hard for the games yesterday.

      As if it was my fault Ryu decided to be so fucking lax all of a sudden…

      I picked up my phone and checked my messages.

      Kuso, still lax.

      Not even a forgiveness emoji.

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[Destiny] Chapter 46: Reason Alchemist

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Thousands of light years from your home, from where you were born, from other people who resembled you

YOU

YOURSELF, ALL PARTS, ALL SCHISMED ASPECTS

sitting in a hidden basement behind a broken wall in an abandoned pueblo behind a Portuguese hill in the middle of an imitation desert near a decrepit service station called Almodóvar Chicken

realising in spurts where you were, where you truly, physically were, how isolated that position was, how weird the purple mineral deposits in the walls looked

enervated, drained, relieved

all cowed by blankness, body strangely there, real skin an inch behind, gone in the Baudrillardian sense, laughing, an ironic simulated atom thatch

not only lost in place

but lost in concept

stranger in a Star Trek cave

any series.

~~~

Sitting with her back arched was sustainable only for latter-day nihilists, and her left knee had been digging in so hard so long to a jagged chunk of earth that Joanna had no real choice but to give up on the pit stakeout and pull herself over to the nearby wall.

Which is where the counter-thought hit.

What if the moment you left, his eyes had appeared, or Søren’s eyes, glowing purple, begging beacon-like for a hand up? Or another hand to drag down…

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 9: Days Of Grey, Nights Of Neon

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My dorm VR server was dead.

      Or it may as well have been. Four hours to install a fucking game?

      Was this real?

      Didn’t it know I was already pissed off?

      Muttering, ‘fucking Martokras,’ under my breath, I switched to my game-card version of Moon Factory 7 and patched in. It functioned okay, no frazzled weirdness…until the background scenery starting flashing green and the NPCs walked on air like it was the floor.

      Okay, that definitely needed to be fixed. Another game?

      I scrolled through my cards – Harem Survival 4, Quarter-Life, Pluto 2270 etc. – and struggled to put colour to any of them. Too familiar. Played to death and beyond.

      What else?

      Dorm version of Moon Factory 7? Tomomi or Sachiko would probably be on, I could do some crater watching with them. But the lag would be pretty bad…half-filled in background, NPC buffering freeze…unless I detached the install?

      I checked the timer on Pluto 2280. Three hours and fifty-eight minutes left.

      Fuck. Four hours.

      Everyone knew dorm servers weren’t the fastest, but new games never took that long to install. One hour max.

      Kuso.

      I looked at my phone and saw it was already eleven.

      What was I gonna do for four hours?

      Forums?

      Vlogs?

      Sleep?

      Opening a new tab, I went to 100 More and scrolled down the main page. Apart from a video about what it would feel like to fall into the atmosphere of Jupiter, there was nothing of interest.

      And didn’t wanna look at my phone anyway.

      That’s what addicts did.

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