I walk out of the lab and see that my furniture was delivered, as expected, waiting for me to place it. I absorb it all into my inventory and then walk around putting it where I want. Fifteen minutes later, I finished furnishing the suite. Nothing has changed; I’m still pissed off.

I flop down on my couch, twist, and put my head and feet up on opposing arms. Damn, I let the asshole get to me. I need to reset.

Maybe, I’ll return to the island as Pretty Kitty and mix in with the crowd. I could pick something up, but if Nirvana punishes them for revealing something, I could compromise my Pretty Kitty persona. Hmm. ARC, will my real name show in somebody’s logs if I use your data shielding?


Ok, so that’s a real risk. ARC, are their spells that affect memory in the list?

[All spells affecting the mind have been flagged and marked as disallowed. The flag links to a note that says, “Attempts to directly affect the brain are too dangerous for anyone to be allowed to use. Find some way to play nice with each other.”]

That’s consistent. What about time spells?

[The flag on spells that affect time says, “Spells that affect the perception of time may work, while ones that are supposed to manipulate time will fail. If I could control time, even here, you ugly bags of mostly water…well let’s just leave that thought unfinished. Try it and see; after all, it’s only a three-day timeout.”]

“Really? Maybe I’m being sensitive; it seems like the snark level is increasing. Is she writing them as I search through the spells – never mind, ARC, that’s a rhetorical question because there’s no way anybody could prove it either way.”

“Talking out loud with you is a little better than lying here going through mental exercises. I need something else, though. Pretty Kitty mode, please ARC,” and then I swap out my gear and head downstairs.

  — * ~ * —

Approaching the reception desk, I see somebody new behind it. Light-green skin and black hair in cornrows compliment the over-large left tusk growing up from his jaw. His clothes are ideally suited to creating the primal aboriginal look he is working towards and is completely wiped out when he greets me. In a strong southern drawl, he says, “Howdy pardner, how can I help ya?”

I stop and wrestle to get control of myself while simultaneously attempting to resolve the strange juxtaposition of appearance and accent. The polite side just barely winning, I chuckle lightly and say, “If that’s not fake, you must have grown up in east Texas – otherwise, your voice coach has done a fantastic job.”

He grins and says, “My ma said, ‘people afraid to show their roots will stunt their growth,’ and my ma was so smart the NASA people would drive two hours out to our ranch with gifts in hand – so that they could sit on the porch and talk with her for an hour. I figure, if all those city people knew my ma was smart, then I ought to pay mind to her too. Manners and all, my name’s ‘Samual,’ but everyone calls me ‘Sam,’ so you can too.”

Slipping into my drawl, “Well, Sam, it ain’t that I am afraid to show my roots as a Son of the Lone Star; it’s that I’ve been away for so long that it’s been washed thin, like whitewash in the rain.” I put my hand out to shake his.

Sam takes a firm, pleasant grip and shakes. “Now, I ain’t seen whitewash here, but I grew up having to paint it everywhere on the ranch and know just how thin it can get if left alone – and how hard you have to work to put it right when that happens. I can’t help with that, but maybe there’s something I can do for you instead?”

“Surely ya can! I’m new to Nirvana and have need of many things.” Shaking my ranseur, “One of the things I need is to learn how to use this boar-poker better. I was told that many of us newbs go out to the graveyard and put down zombies to learn how not to stab ourselves in the foot. Do you know if there’s a crew who’d take on a useless fence post like me?”

Sam nods and points to the front door, “Oh, sure! There’s two fresh meat grinders out front gathering for tonight’s run. Doesn’t make much difference which crew you join, but I like Justin’s better – he’s the one with the fancy hat. He gives out advice in addition to letting you fight it out with the stinkers. And by the by, I haven’t seen a cat with those colors in a very long time. They are quite fetching and bring back pleasant summer memories, Mr. Kitty.”

I raised my eyebrow at him, and he pointed his finger up above my head. I looked up and saw my nametag was showing.

Sam said, “They just added the enchantment so anybody coming within twenty feet of the desk will trigger it for five minutes.”

I nodded, “I can see how it helps ya. I’ll take my leave, and I hope to see ya again soon, Sam. It’s nice to hear the drawl and remember younger times.”

Sam called after me, “You come by anytime you want to chat, Mr. Kitty, I’d love to talk about the lost lands-” There’s a strangling noise behind me. I turn just in time to see Lurch running up to catch Sam as he falls to the ground.

Lurch looks at me and says, “You carry on, Sir. He brought it on himself. I witnessed it. No malice or intent on your part. I’ll cover the desk until relief is available.”

I turn back anyway, “Is he dead?” As I finish asking the question, his body breaks into sparkling motes of light. “Shit!”

“I know, Sir. However, the rules are clear, and you told him at least twice that you were a newb. It happens, and I know Sam won’t hold it against you; he’s a good guy and works hard knowing that he has to make up for what others take for granted.” Lurch gathers Sam’s things and stands up.

“You tell him that I expect him to come and see me. I know it was his mistake, but I don’t want him feeling foolish and avoiding me. If I can make it a little better, I will.”

“I’ll tell him, Sir. I may be a week before he’s back, part of the punishment,” says Lurch.

Nodding, I turn and head to the front door.

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