Gilden said, “Let’s stop by the COM market and help Jeb get a ‘standard pack’ built on the way to the graveyard. I know he’ll need more than he got from the Bobs.”

“Shopping is more along my strengths! Is there anything you want to pick up besides basics?” asked Mason.

I replied, “I want to be able to activate ‘Secure Keyring’ so I don’t lose any keys if I die. I would also like to be able to activate ‘Advanced HUD’ if we can get the Easter Eggs for it. I don’t want to spend more than a hundred silver at this time.”

Grumpy chimed in, “Those are solid choices, and the Easter Eggs are usually available and within your budget. You could probably get a small spacial storage item if you sold a couple of those scripts.”

“I want to wait on that. I won’t be able to afford a soul-bound item yet, and I can carry a bag – no extra cost or potential loss.”

“He’s a smart shopper! I’ll take him with me to the teller and vault windows while you two get the necessaries,” said Gilden.

“Fine, I estimate it will be about eighty silver, so if you join us with a hundred, you’ll be able to pay us back.”

“Done! I’ll run up to my room, and then we can leave.”

  — * ~ * —

Mason started the questions up again as we walked towards the Church of Money. “So what strikes you as silly?”

“Why do I have to pee? I understand eating; there are flavors and buffs and things that we want to experience through the mechanism of eating. I’m digital, so why do I have to pee?”

“Lots of theories, no absolute answer,” Grumpy said. “The one I favor is that Nirvana thinks it’s funny.”

I stopped for a moment. “Wait, we have to pee because Nirvana thinks it’s funny?”

“That’s what some believe. You’re right, and you don’t have a digestive system – at least not in the classical sense. Something happens to the things you consume to count as nourishment for your avatar, and a fraction of those things becomes waste volume, liquid and solid. So yes, you’re going to have to poop too,” replied Grumpy.

“I’ve heard some really complex theories about resource allocation and distribution by people who sound fairly smart, but I’m inclined to agree with Grumpy. Nirvana has shown us time and again that sometimes she does things just because they amuse her,” said Gilden.

Mason chimed in, “Super AI thinks shit is funny!” She starts laughing, “Oh god! This is our fault! Every culture has jokes about farts and poop.”

“Crap, you’re right, Mason. She thinks it’s funny because we do,” sighed Grumpy.

“And that’s three: Poop, Shit, and Crap in less than a min,” I said. “It’s so deep into our culture we don’t think about it and have multiple expressions for it because it’s such a large part of our being physical.”

Gilden asked, “What else have we ignored because it’s so common? Every time Jeb says something, we have an epiphany. Why is that happening too? What’s so special about you?”

“Hmm. In my working life, I designed systems. Ways to get work done, collect data along the way, analyze it, self-correct, automate and begin the cycle again. For fifty years, I looked at things and asked why and how as part of my job and daily life. That’s the best answer I have for you.”

“That was mostly rhetorical – I didn’t actually expect you to answer,” said Gilden.

“Yeah…I’ve always done that. All questions should be answered, if possible.”

It got quiet for a while, and then I decided to ask a question I had asked earlier. “Why are there no children in Nirvana?”

Grumpy said, “There are, usually only if they are digitized. Terminal illnesses and accidents almost always. While children are resilient, it caused too many problems for them and the adults around them when they had lived longer in Nirvana than physically. Just think about it, if you were a teenager that had lived seventy years digitally, wouldn’t you be frustrated by what you couldn’t do in the physical world? Drink, vote, and drive are the easy ones. What about handling rudeness in the physical world when you can punish bad behavior with violence and death in the digital world? Nirvana couldn’t find an acceptable solution and wasn’t willing to keep contributing to the problem. She changed the rules, and now only once you reach the age of 15 can you cross between the physical and the digital worlds. Those between the age of 15 and the age of majority in their physical-based society can only spend a max of four hours a day in Nirvana.

I understand that most visitors, regardless of age, only spend only an hour at a time. The digital time acceleration messes with your sleep cycle when switching back and forth. It somehow works out if you sleep regularly in the physical and don’t sleep in the digital. Long-term immersion still has significant negative impacts on the physical body; usually, only those who transition from physical to digital without dying in-between make use of it.

This is a good place to split up. Let’s all meet at the Cooper’s Palace after we finish our errands.”

Gilden says, “I got you Jeb, no worries. The vault or the teller first?”

“The vault, the teller is the easy part.”

  — * ~ * —

The Cooper’s Palace turned out to be an alehouse; kegs, barrels, and tons made up the pillars holding the roof. It was interesting how they did it for function and decoration. It ended up costing eighty-three silver for everything, and that was fine. I used the two scripts right away and was fiddling with my hud as we were now headed towards the graveyard.

Mason said, “We’re going to get there right around lunchtime, so there should be very few undead to deal with. I still don’t want to eat anything before we poke around – so I’m expecting a big meal afterward!”

To which I replied, “Don’t you have a big mana pool? You can try out some of the new cantrips! In fact, I think I have the Big Mac figured out now.”

Grumpy handed her a stick of gum. “This is for after you vomit; it’ll clean the taste out of your mouth.”

Gilden blew a bubble; after it popped, he said, smiling, “I had to chew five of them to get enough to do that!”

Smiling, “I had to teach my brothers how to blow bubbles when I was a kid. The flavor of the gum didn’t last very…I have to try it!” Holding my hand like I was pinching something between my thumb and my index finger, I shouted, “How many licks does it take!” Before my companions could stop me, I had unwrapped my Tootsie Roll Pop and put it in my mouth. The wrapper faded away while I rolled my eyes at them and mumbled around the sucker, “Umm-Um, Cherry is my favorite!”

Molly snickered, “I might be the youngest, but I think I know a jingle you all know too. The most popular candy in Japan for over two hundred years! Holding her hand out, she started singing, ‘Break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar!” She was right, and soon, all of them were eating Kit-Kats.

I opened my mouth to share a few more I had just thought about and changed my mind. Instead, I said, “Hello, Nirvana. Are we bothering you?”

Swinging her Hello Kitty plushie by the arm, she smiled, “Nope. It’s been a very, very long time since anybody went on a jingle spree! I think it’s great!”

Right away people started noticing us. A child’s avatar was the first thing that caught their attention. Nirvana winked at us, snapped her fingers, and made the traffic stop, literally, and then announced in a voice that covered the area like she was standing next to each of us, “I like seeing my residents having a good time and playing with the toys I’ve made for you. Most of you take this place way too seriously! Today, these four have made me smile with their enthusiasm and antics. I am going to give them a gift!”

An excited buzz filled the air, and more than a few people were eying us with something other than ‘congratulations’ in their gaze. I spoke up, “Nirvana, I have an idea! Why don’t we share our gift in such a way that it will make others happy and talk about it for quite some time?”

“Oh? What do you have in mind?”

“Taste the rainbow!”

Nirvana starts cackling, “I love it! I’m delighted you made the transition!” A rainbow appeared in the sky, and Skittles fell like rain.

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