Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Pryce of Heaven: Crisis Averted (Part IV)

Missy and Tetra are able to watch Téa and the many, many versions of Jupiter Fury rampage through the afterlife simulation, like it’s a movie. Even though none of this stuff is real, it does take code to generate. Every time they crash a car into a hotel lobby, or dump a literal ton of sugar into a swimming pool, it alters the code, and the system can detect that. These changes are happening all the time, because people are driving around, and they’re adding sugar to their tea, but the wackier these code changes there are, and the more they happen in succession, the more likely it is that the system will flag it as aberrant. In many simulation worlds, the laws of physics are different, and they’re specifically being used to simulate conditions that could not possibly exist in the real world. They allow users to journey to the center of a star, or have two sets of vocal cords. The main simulation, however, is modeled after the true laws of physics. They too can be changed, as long as you’re at the right level, but unfortunately, none of the Jupiters has these privileges.
Precisely because there are so many of them, Tamerlane Pryce deliberately capped all of them at Level 7 Elite. Still, this allows them to make unlimited requests for whatever they want, however absurd, as long as they follow that particular world’s restrictions. So when one Jupiter asked for one thousand airplanes that are all flying towards a single point simultaneously, they figured Pryce would take notice. He didn’t. One Jupiter requested a tank four times the size of a normal one, while a different Jupiter asked for a one alpaca that bites people incessantly, and another that bites the first one, but Pryce still did not come. The requests just kept being crazier and crazier, or more to the point, more intrusive to the harmony of the main simulation. But nothing works, until December 14, 2134 gets the bright idea to ask for a few fairly simple things. “Can I get a coke? No, a water. No, a lamp. No, a cat. Can I get a spaceship? No, one huge Junior Mint. No, a coke.” It works. Pryce finally shows up.
“Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! You said the magic words.”
“That was all it took?” December 14, 2134 asks.
“I assume you know it’s a reference,” Pryce says. “Anyone who asks for those specific things, in that specific order, and does so unironically, is awarded audience with me. So. What would you like to discuss?”

“There!” Missy declares. “Pryce is definitely in the simulation, and distracted by the Jupiters. Téa is back in full lurker mode. Hopefully Pryce can’t see her either.”
Great,” the still living version of Jupiter says. “This doesn’t mean there aren’t other defenses, but now you should be able to get to the brain. That’s where it’s possible to control the whole body, I know it.
“That’s what I was thinking too,” Missy agrees. “I don’t really know Hogarth Pudeyonavic, but that’s what makes the most sense.”
“Can we survive there?” Tetra asks. “You said some parts are completely uninhabitable.”
“That’s true,” Missy confirms, “but Pryce is still an organic human. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about him, it’s that he doesn’t wanna be a mech. He needs to be able to control the matrioshka body, so wherever exactly that is, it has to be habitable.”
“Still, we need a way to actually get up there from the ass,” Tetra reminds her.
“I’ve been multitasking,” Missy tells her. “I know enough about the section we’re in. They installed teleporter pads at strategic locations. We’ll have to make a few jumps up the torso, but it will get us to the brain eventually.”
I hope Téa and my duplicates can distract Pryce for that long,” Jupiter muses.

“We’re tired of living in the simulation,” December 14, 2134 tells Pryce.
“Okay, cool,” Pryce says. “I’ll just delete your code. Give me a second...” He starts tapping on his virtual tablet.
“No. We want to be promoted to Level 11.”
Pryce chuckles. “Why would I do that?”
“Because I asked?”
“I like to be unpredictable, and giving you what you desire simply because you asked is certainly something I would do, just to keep people from tracking a pattern to my decisions. But I’m not going to do it. And here’s why. Her.” He gestures towards Téa.
Téa thought she was invisible, but maybe not to him.
“Her who?” December 14, 2134 questions. He’s not just being protective of her. He legitimately can’t see her himself anymore.
Pryce reaches above Téa’s head, and simulates pulling down a zipper, which serves to take Téa out of lurker mode, and exposes her to the rest of the simulation. “Her.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Do to you?” Pryce asks, offended. “I’m not going to do anything to you. You are my honored guest; the first I’ve ever had. No one’s ever been able to hack my simulation before, mostly because they don’t know it exists. And there’s something you have to understand about that, I have no control over the living. I am Hades, relegated to the afterlife. Even though you’re in here, you’re still alive, and I can’t touch you. Your friends, who are still outside the simulation, in their bodies? I can’t stop them from doing whatever they want either. The Glisnians and I made an arrangement. I’m allowed to use their processors to run my simulation. I don’t have control over the whole thing, though. I never have. You people make a lot of assumptions.”
“The Glisnians are still here?”
“Of course! You think I stole it from them? How would I have accomplished that?”

“That’s far enough.” A woman was waiting for them in the teleporter room. They were now at the shoulder of the matrioshka body, but it took some time to get there.
“We’re not here to hurt anybody,” Tetra assures her. “We can free you, though. We can take Pryce out of power.”
“You believe that Tamerlane Pryce is in power here,” the woman gathers.
“He’s not?” Tetra asks.
“Far from it,” she begins. “We allot him processing power, but his simulation is but a small part of what we do here.”
“What do you do here?”
“Don’t be rude,” Missy whispers. “First of all, let us do introductions. I am Melissa Atterberry. This is my associate, Tetra Turner, and this is our other associate, Téa Stendahl. Her consciousness is presently in the simulation.”
“I am Avalhana. I am responsible for communing with non-Glisnian vonearthans. I must ask, are you choosing ones?”
“The two of us are,” Tetra replies. “She is what we call a salmon. It’s—”
Avalhana waves her words away. “We are aware of what it means. To answer your question, we experiment with time here. That is why we are so close to Sagittarius A*. You appear to be manipulating the speed of time on your own.”
“I’m doing that,” Missy clarifies.
“Fascinating. Which is why I should stop speaking to you. As choosing ones, you are obligated to instead speak with my associate, the Afflicted Ambassador.”
“Very well,” Tetra says tentatively.
“Please step off of the pad, so that we may bring her to our location.”
As soon as they step away, the pad activates. Hogarth Pudeyonavic herself appears before them. She looks around. “Are we in standard realtime now?”
“You are inside my bubble,” Missy confirms.
“Excellent,” Hogarth says. “I’ve always found it uncomfortable, being in the black hole, watching the rest of the galaxy move on without us.”
Avalhana unceremoniously leaves the room, but once she crosses out of Missy’s bubble, they watch her going at a normal rate. This means that she’s actually traveling at an incredibly high speed, which is highly incredible.
“What year is it?” Hogarth asks.
“Twenty-one thirty-four,” Missy answers.
“What brings you here?”
“We have friends in the simulation,” Tetra says.
“Which one?”
“Multiple ones,” Missy explains. “Sanaa Karimi, Ellie Underhill, one Angela Walton, Jeremy Bearimy, and a Lowell Benton. We think he’s been shelved, though.”
“No, I don’t mean which friends; which simulation?”
“The afterlife sim,” Tetra elucidates. “If that’s not specific enough either, it’s the one that Tamerlane Pryce is running.”
Hogarth nods. “I see. You want them resurrected.”
“We do.”
“That is not the agreement we have with him,” Hogarth explains. “He can do whatever he wants with it. No one is entitled to resurrection.”
“You don’t have to break your agreement,” Missy promises her. “We’ll rescue them, and leave you out of it.”
“That will not be necessary.” Téa is awake. She rubs all over her face, like she’s showering. Then she stands up, careful to not let the VR cap fall from her head. “I will release your friends.”
You will?” Tetra is confused.
“Forgive me. My name is Tamerlane Pryce. I am borrowing your friend’s body. Don’t worry, she consented. I needed to speak with you, and my own body is thousands of light years from here.”
“It is? Where?”
“You don’t need to know that,” Pryce replies. “The point is that this is my only option. If I resurrect a few people, I avoid a terrible, terrible outcome; a crisis, you might call it. I’m willing to part with them to save the whole simulation. It’s very important to me.”
“How do you know about this supposed crisis?” Missy presses.
“I ran a simulation. If I push back, you push back harder, and a lot of people get hurt. I don’t want that, because then you’ll never know that I’m not evil. I’m sick of people thinking that about me. I saved tens of billions of lives. Me! I did that! I did that alone! Stop treating me like the villain!” He takes a deep breath, and composes himself. “Sorry. It’s just been very difficult lately. You and your friends are more trouble than you’re worth. They murdered a prisoner, let another escape, and they keep changing my precious code. So I will take you to The Cervix, and we will be done with this.”
“Um. The Cervix?”
“That’s where he creates people’s clones,” Hogarth decides to explain. “It’s a symbolic gesture, which we conceded, because...I don’t really remember why. I guess I just didn’t want to argue.”
“Babies aren’t made in the cervix,” Tetra argues.
“Well, I didn’t design the matrioshka body with a womb structure, so this is the closest thing. There’s no vagina either, but that’s what he calls the Earth Nexus, which is where the resurrected come out.”
They all look at Pryce. “Oh, don’t judge me. Most partial organics here live in the breast sections; because they need nourishment. I’m not the only one respecting the symbology of shape.”
Hogarth chooses to move on. “The Cervix is no longer linked to the matrioshka body, and is located far enough away from A* that it doesn’t experience time dilation. You’ll be able to drop your bubble.”
“This seems too easy,” Tetra notes. “We’ve been through a lot to get here, and our predecessors went through more before we were even brought in. There’s something you’re not telling us.”
“There’s a lot I’m not telling you,” Pryce admits. “But it’s nothing you need to know, and you don’t have to worry. You’re getting your friends back, and there’s no secret motivation behind this. There is no conspiracy, just take the win.”
“That’s exactly what someone behind a conspiracy would say,” Missy contends.
“It’s also what someone who isn’t would say,” Pryce snaps back. “If I’m lying you’ll suffer, but if I’m telling you the truth, you have ten seconds to accept it, or you’ll really suffer. So again, take the win, and let me go back to work. This has taken up too much of my life already. I just want it to be over.”
Tetra sighs. “We’ll take it. How do we get there?”
“We have a Nexus too,” Hogarth answers.
At that, Téa’s body falls to the floor. She wakes up five seconds later as Missy and Tetra are holding her in their arms. “It’s me. I’m back.”
“Did he hurt you?” Tetra asks her.
“No, everything’s fine. I’m fine. I saw our friends, including Lowell. He was shelved, but Pryce let him out. He’ll be coming back with the rest.”
“I don’t like this.” Missy shakes her head slowly. “I don’t trust him.”
“It’s our only choice,” Téa says. “We have to assume we’re getting what he promised. Take it one step at a time. Trust, but verify.”
Hogarth sets them back on the teleporter pad, and continues the series of long-range jumps, until they’re all the way at the neck, which is where the Nexus is located. They take that to the Cervix, where all their friends have already been placed in clone bodies. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, but they decide to accept that as truth as well.
Missy, Tetra, Jeremy, Sanaa, and Angela step back into the Nexus, and prepare to return to Earth, but the other three stay outside. “I can’t go with you, Téa tells them. I have to get back to Tribulation Island in The Parallel. That’s where I’m meant to be.”
“How are you going to get there?”
I’m on my way,” Jupiter tells them through the Cassidy cuffs. “I will make sure she gets where she’s goin’.
“Ellie, are you going with her?”
“No,” Ellie responds. “I’m going to the matrioshka body. The simulation is mine, and I’m ready to take ownership of it.”
“I’ll go with her,” Lowell reveals, “and help. I don’t have my powers anymore. As far as I know, you are all sin-free. I need to do something positive with my life now.”
“I would love the company,” Ellie tells him with a polite nod.
“I’ll wait with Téa,” Missy decides, stepping out of the Nexus. “She shouldn’t have to be alone, and I feel like I’m supposed to be on Tribulation Island too.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to thank you now,” Sanaa says to her. “Which I did, and it’s done, and now we can go. Boot it up, baby!”
“No hug?” Missy asks.
“No hug,” Sanaa says. “I just don’t ever wanna see your face ever again.”
“I’ve been told that can be arranged,” Missy agrees.
They say their thank yous and goodbyes, and then the Earth-bounders leave, hoping to find their friends, or at least wherever they belong.
Ellie and Lowell then step back in, and prepare to return to the matrioshka body, but now outside of the afterlife simulation. “Should we formulate a plan?” Lowell asks.
“I’ve never found that necessary,” Ellie answers him with an evil smile.
They disappear.
“Welp,” Missy says. “According to my calculations, Jupiter is about sixteen thousand light years from us at the moment. If he flies here with the reframe engine at full speed, it will take him around twenty-two years to arrive.”
“I’m gonna be kind of old,” Téa points out.
“Fortunately, I can help with that. My bubbles can slow down time as well as speed it up.”
“Okay,” Téa nods in understanding. Go ahead and do it.”
Missy grins. “I already have.”
Just then, Jupiter opens the door from the outside, and hangs onto the handle. “Y’all need a ride?”

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