Monthly Archives: July 2011

Two Miles To Point One

All during Variant 237 I was Ms. Inaction Hero. Things just happened to me in mass, and I barely reacted except for a few overly explanatory blog posts.

Well, all that changed at Point One – I officially fucked shit up. Just not in a good way.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to fit in everything tonight… but there’s a few points I have to make about the Infinite Subway now, because they’ll be extremely important soon.

After we decided to travel back to 1994 using the North Berkeley BART station, Miranda was raring to go. She wanted to teleport us there one person at a time, but after she took Amber, she came back with her tail between her legs. “If my back has a back, then that’s totally killing me!” I think she was strained from too much activity – the Nameless had been riding her hard since the Fifth Event.

Are you still worried about the Fifth Event? How that’s supposed to be in October of 2011, but it’s only July now? Please – that’s the least of your paradoxical concerns.

Since Miranda had a body-limp going on, we just decided to walk the mile. Miranda just disintegrated the stage, equipment, chairs and the like – she wasn’t feeling up to Trouble Twins style replacement. I think her earlier trick, sending the urns of the departed Collective members to the Sun for their final, fiery rest, was probably the last straw. Not because of the exertion, but because she had to send over 200 copies of her mother into the funeral pyre.

As far as we know, our Number 12 still exists with the “real” Miranda – they’ve been totally off the grid since Aurora peeked in at them when we were in Tokyo. I hope they made it to safer shores before the Grand Supreme hit, but even now I have no idea where they are.

So, Miranda was feeling down, and even her cute Oreimo cosplay wasn’t compensating. I tried to talk smooth consolation to her, but she wasn’t having any of it. So I just attended to the PRSes, and made sure they were all Ghosted up and ready to march down the streets of West and North Berkeley, inconspicuously.

Die Database were pissed when Miranda disintegrated all of their equipment and merch (they had a suitcase of stuff for their impromptu tour), but she was able to smooth it over by making Yuma’s guitar pop back into her hands. “Don’t worry, it’s all in there,” she said, tapping her forehead. “If you ever want your stuff back, just give me a call and I’ll send it to you.” Miranda offered to wish away the guitar, but Yuma strongly declined, carrying it strapped to her back.

The girls were still mad at me, but not as much as before. I think the whole process of being insta-etched couldn’t help but change their perspective. I have no idea if they’ve been taking advantage of the vast seas of knowledge in the Bodyweb or S.OS, but at least Masae isn’t death-staking me any more. Mostly they were getting a verbal tour of Berkeley from Satomi, along with a explanatory lightshow history of the Free Speech Movement that only the nearest Collective members could see.

By the time we made it up Addison to Acton, and cut across University Ave. to the BART station, Satomi was pointing out some of the WOF marks on the streets.

“Here, special people come out at strange times and mark up the streets with patriotic slogans, USA, USA.” A-Bell pointed to the sidewalk. “The red, white and blue arrows, circles and codes are actually Underground Service Alert, to tell those in the know where the buried wires and sewers are. You can see those marks with normal eyes, but if you’re etched, you can see the Collective version. Look.”

She pointed over to the BART station, a moderate sized parking lot, with a flat-roofed rotunda with tall windows in the middle, surrounded by short trees. The lot was less empty than usual for that time of night; most likely, some people were still over in San Francisco for the big fireworks show. Still, we could see a heaping mass of marks not just on the pavement, but floating in the air.

“For over a decade in Variant Zero, if you were a part of the Collective, you had to do surveying duty. We traveled all around the US and the world, painstakingly getting WOF data, and marking off any weak points into the Structure at large.” A-Bell raised her right arm, and a glowing green path showed the quickest route to the station entrance. In the air, there was an extremely complicated map of maps – a stacked array of all transit systems in the world, that would shift and turn to show the currently active routes on the Infinite Subway.

“The Infinite Subway didn’t exist when the Collective began. We built it, and the golden spike was at Fairview, in 2000.” Isabel seemed more distracted than usual, as she glanced up at the floating timetables. “Seems the powers that were didn’t appreciate our little surgical strike into the heart of the Structure. They tried to shut down the bridge, but there wasn’t too much they could do about it except lock us in.”

We were almost at the entrance of the station, by some newspaper machines. The rotunda was lit, and through the open doors I could see some fare machines, the staff booth (glass from the waist up), and what looked like a stairway downwards. There was a down and up escalator on either side of the small, circular area behind the fare gates. Amber waived to us by the newspapers.

“This is as far as we can go.” A-Bell stopped by the fare gates. “Isabel and I are permanently banned from entering the Infinite Subway.”

“Don’t you think that she’s kidding,” Amber said. “Once you start traveling on the shell that separates us from the Structure at large, there’s simply too many variables to process. Too many beings popping in and out from everywhere. I can’t protect them from those who want to shut everything down by force. The best I can do is to prevent them from entering.”

“She doesn’t think we’ll come back.” Isabel was standing over the curb, at the taxi area. “She’s right. I try to convince myself of that while we’re forced to take airplanes.”

“So, Curly, I think this is it.” Ai was nuzzling up to A-Bell and Amber, as they said their final goodbyes. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Usually Ai has a supernatural happiness to her – she just seems right, viewed at any distance. On the 4th of July, as random bursts of firecrackers filled the neighborhood, she just seemed down. She wasn’t her shiny self that I always took for granted, and I found that equally sad and frightening.

“It has to be this way. It’ll get so much worse, but the end will be brilliant. You’ll see.” She rose on to her toes and kissed A-Bell briefly on the lips.

“We better.” I don’t remember ever seeing A-Bell cry – she’s as hard as a statue. As she waved the only daughter she ever knew away, she just seemed to melt, like she could barely hold herself together. Amber just held her tightly, and slowly led her away from the station entrance, over to Isabel.

While I took this all in, Joey was over by the ticket machines, pressing virtual buttons that normal people couldn’t see. “We’re all set. There’s a train that’s going to hit the station in about 10 minutes.” He walked over to one of the fare gates, and placed his bare hand against the Clipper pad. That’s usually used for those fare cards you have to gently tap against something, while the transaction gets processed – like Suica for the JR in Tokyo. Apparently that system also worked for the etched. “Come on, and bring your bottles with you.”

He was talking to me – I was still leading the flock of the 12 PRSes (the 13th was the one that Jenny destroyed). It’s hard to explain how they interface – it’s kind of like having many displays connected to your PC – you can just move windows from one perspective to the other. Actually, it’s more like playing with dolls using your mind – you just tell them to do something, and they go about that business. If you want to jump in and control one or more directly, then that’s possible, but I didn’t have time to really try that out by the time we entered the station.

Everyone else had already entered, and as soon as I tapped my hand against the plastic pad, everything changed.

The crazy maps that were floating overhead outside were made manifest by a space that seemed to go on forever in all directions. I can’t call it a virtual place, since we were now physically at the entrance to the Infinite Subway. But at the same time, we were still in the station, or at least the hyper-station that represented every moment of time since it first opened on September 11, 1972. If we wanted to travel to any other city in the world, we only needed to take a few “steps” down the Infinite Subway, pick a gateway, and then we would fold into that location. If we wanted to travel back in time, it was easiest to find the locked gateway nearest your current station, and then use the Infinite Subway to go from there.

I know this much now, but then? Once I stepped in I just about peed my Kuroneko stockings. We were standing in the center of a sphere, and at every possible distance away from us there was another layer of perspective, of access. Every station, door, alley, closet, fracture, cave or quiet room that led inside was right there in front of you. If you thought of a place, you would zoom to the exit nearest to it.

It wouldn’t be comprehensible at all without some variant of S.OS, which overlays something we can barely understand over the seething, boiling membrane between all Variants. What’s more, you could simply sense the Structure at large, the area that none of us were allowed to visit, but it was beyond our grasp. The Infinite Subway was a nice curtain placed over the bars of our cage. We could travel along the fabric surface that Cassandra helped create, but never pull it away.

“Don’t fucking transfer! This way!” It seems that Joey has already led everyone else down the escalator, while I was subconsciously starting to travel back to Ikebukuro station. I had one foot near the Yamanote Line entrance, but I stepped back to Berkeley before I left.

The PRSes were waiting there for me, but a quick head count only brought up 11. It seems that I lost one while I was dumbstruck – did it go back to Ikebukuro, or somewhere else in space and time? I couldn’t establish a connection to it, so I just hoped that no one else cared too much about the stray lamb. Besides, we could always make more.

One thing I didn’t get was why we couldn’t just go back to 1994, and then exit the station we came from. While we all milled around the long, underground platform, Joey tried to explain it to me. “The whole time travel thing is a hack – Cassandra didn’t want any part of that, since she only trusted herself with the keys to time. But, Frisbee found the ultimate hole in 1986 – she wasn’t even etched, but she broke out of reality for a few minutes, via the Berkeley Main BART station, right before she was institutionalized. When the police caught her running through the station in her underwear – she was just back from her trip.”

I still wasn’t understanding, and so when our train arrived, he sat besides me on one of the filthy bench seats. Everyone else was lined up in the aisle like kids going on a field trip, with Ai leading the masses. “Back in the day, you could get on at one BART station, travel around the whole system for hours, and then get off at the station nearest to your entrance, all for the minimum ticket price between those two stations. Some of the nearest stations are in Oakland and San Francisco, you could just get in the system, travel everywhere as long as you didn’t exit, then get off at another station a few blocks away. Laura found a natural fracture into the Structure, that exists within the Berkeley BART station, and used it to visit the future. We think she was led by Sarah, but we’re not certain. Thankfully, she left behind marking pen tags that Sasha was later able to map out – the very first WOF marks.”

The two stations were about a mile away, but only 3 minutes away by train. As we rolled into the station and exited, the other passengers headed for the two stairways and escalator in the middle, while we walked to far end of the station. “It’s over here…. OK” Joey stood in front of a stairway that was closed off from public access. It led to an abandoned, fenced in entry area and booth, that wasn’t really ever used for normal customers. “The fracture is right up these stairs. If you ever get lost on the Infinite Subway, just come here and exit. But never try to enter that way – the full gate was closed off after the Berkeley Bikestation bicycle parking cage closed down, and now it’s exit only, and only for those who’ve already been processed.” He tapped the back of his hand – I guess entry into the system is also a way to track where you’ve been.

“Every time traveler has to leave through this gate only, and only if you’re recognized by the system.” He climbed past the metal barrier, and motioned for us to follow. “If you’re not registered, the guards will see you immediately. We call them the Infinite Transit Authority – they’re not normal BART employees.” Everyone went up the stairs, and I followed after the PRSes. No one seemed to notice as we climbed up to the concourse level that had all of the fare gates.

I assumed that North Berkeley BART was the only authorized entrance for time traveling, but Joey ignored my question led us up some stairs that exited on Shattuck Ave., near an AC Transit bus stop. A few toddlers and U.C. Berkeley students were already hitting the streets in costume. All of the cars seemed old – Honda Civic hatchbacks instead of Priuses. Beyond a few tallish buildings, I could see that the Sun was just starting to set.

Joey pointed us down Allston Way, towards the Bay and the Sun beyond. “Two miles to Point One. Come on, we have a falling God to catch.”

I sure hope that God forgives me for letting them slip through my arms.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Riding The Infinite Subway

Over the weekend Gabby took me on a cross-Structure trip via the Infinite Subway.

That may sound grandiose, like Galaxy Express 999 chugging through the sky, but the reality is much more weird.

Essentially, all rail systems all over Variant 237, and all other related echoes of Earth, are interconnected in ways that only the etched or spiritually adept can take advantage of. You can get on the train in Tokyo and get off a few minutes later in Munich, if you know how.

This was far from an accident – Cassandra was always a big fan of trains, and one of her many selves orchestrated a construction project that lasted for tens of thousands of years. The essential task was how to physically move as many people as possible from our world to the Structure at large, without having to have them die and transfer through the White. The overall network started before the wheel was invented, and crosses time and space, but it didn’t come to its culmination until various subway networks started showing up over the past 200 years.

Their locations and paths of growth may seem to be haphazard, but they were selectively placed to tie into pre-existing nodes of what’s called the “Agartha Network” by New Age thinkers – I can’t possibly give a treatise about that right now, but sufficed to say that most every hollow Earth theory and pre-diluvian master race story has some reflection in the overall Structure.

It’s hard to say how much of the Structure existed before Cassandra got a hold of it, but she essentially overlaid a connective narrative and map, thereby both changing and inspiring historical construction. For example, the transition from the San Francisco Bay Area Key System of streetcars and buses, which existed through the first half of the 20th century, to the more “modern” Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and AC Transit systems, was not just influenced by the oil and car companies, or political infighting between cities. The Bay Area is a natural gateway into the Structure, and it had to be controlled and closed, via bridges and more narrowly focused transit systems, to prepare for the domination of S.OS 50 years later. Essentially, the Bay Area was constructed as a highly regimented turnstile into the Structure, one that could hold in S.OS when the time came.

Thus, it wasn’t coincidental at all that Jenny was held in Berkeley, or that Ai decided to live there. I’ll have to talk more about this some other time.

The current BART system is one of the Grand Central Stations into the Structure, and Gabby and I used it as our launching off point for our worlds tour. One thing I want to make clear is that the current custodians of all of these transit systems have no idea about their higher purpose. The control points were designed to be only for Collective use, but that became a bit of a problem during the e-punk explosion of the early 90s – reality hackers found out how to game the system, and then sold special etches and circuit clothes that would allow limited travel through at least all of the invisible transfer points of that Variant.

If it’s not clear, the Infinite Subway lets you travel in time, as well as space – at least until the moment that subway system first opened (or in some cases, when the tunnels were first bored). Thus, it’s possible to connect certain systems to jump around the past few centuries, and beyond that some of the more ancient networks can be used, with permission/initiation. It’s also possible (but very rare) for ancient travelers to show up in the current system, but in general the firewalls prevent such time jaunts in either direction.

After what happened at the Warehouse, with S.OS’s deadly tantrum via Helena, Joey made the call that the easiest way back to 1994 would be via the nearest BART station – North Berkeley, about a mile away. It was one of the earliest, central stations in the network, so it was very popular for travelers.

He could find a few cracks in the Structure, right at the Warehouse, that he alone could get through, but the whole team needed to assemble at Point One, to enact Ai’s plan. Plus, part of the plan was to carry along the PRS units (Plastic Robot Sculptures – no one could find a better name in the spur of the moment), and inanimate objects couldn’t travel through such holes.

A few word about the PRSes, if it wasn’t clear before. They were created via a joint project via Ai and certain more moderate S.OS fragments, as a way for normal Pure Land Antennas to have more solid telepresence. They could be remotely puppeted by anyone who’s etched (and has the right clearance), and they could wear the skin of any Ghost, in Collective or Agartha Labs formats. They were even able to manifest a limited range of Pure Land Antenna powers, like cloaking or energy bursts. Designed to be put together quickly and cheaply, using available materials, the prototypes used PET bottles, coins and cell phones due to their ubiquity. The PRSes can even assemble themselves, to a point. Once one unit is made, then the torso can be used to make another, in a form of remote materials fabrication, like a 3D printer.

Finally, they also have the infiltration tools that S.OS/Satomi programmed in, so not only can they fight in the here and now, but also electronically.

Cassandra knew from the beginning how things would end, so she wanted to help contain Helena and S.OS, and the PRSes were a part of that.

Ai also knew what was going to happen, and it turns out that her whole “I’m going to give up and go running to Mommy” act for the past few months was a ploy, designed to make the Nameless and the more hostile S.OS fragments think they were winning. In reality, Ai controls every single brain of every person that’s alive, and even though she claimed not to influence others except when absolutely necessary, she ends up doing it all the time, especially if that brain is interfaced with one of the elemental powers.

It’s all really complicated, with multiple triple crosses and sacrifices that only made it seem like the Collective was losing. However, it ended up that Ai bit off way more than she could chew, and the perception became reality.

It only took a few minutes for us to gather our things and shut down the 2011 version of the warehouse. It turns out that Miranda naturally has specialized abilities to manipulate Space (which is the relation between Matter now) and Time (the movement of Matter in relation to itself). It’s easy enough for her to teleport, or to travel certain distances in time, but she doesn’t have any sort of universal knowledge, beyond that which S.OS and the Nameless can provide. So, she can’t make new Variants, but she can take a bit of matter between Point One and Point Zero – known quantities of Space/Time that are essentially mapped. This is how she’s been able to simulate the tip of the Trouble Twins iceberg of powers, such as during the instant etching marathons the Cassandra highlighted in the puppet show.

This all begs the question – aren’t Ai and the Nameless natural born enemies? What of the truce/armistice, and of S.OS?

I’ll have to explain that all in a few days, but the essence is already right there in front of you. Ai controls all minds and spirits, S.OS has no spirit, and the Nameless is designed to orchestrate and contain all of the Structural powers. The Nameless is a mirror, and is easily influenced by who’s looking into it. Thus, the Nameless has been used by Ai and S.OS to meet their conflicting goals.

It’s easy to conflate S.OS with the Nameless, and to lump them together simply as “evil”. In fact, Ai has encouraged the Collective bloggers (that is, pushed our minds) to paint everything as a struggle between the righteous White and the terrible Black, led by forces that are beyond comprehension. That’s a much more effective recruitment tool than the truth.

I think I’m losing my focus. Maybe I’ve been avoiding talking about what happened at Point One for so long because it’s a bit too much to process.

I’m not trying to construct a story here with a perfect denouement. I’m just trying to let you know what’s really happening, which is all the more complicated because reality itself has become too malleable. Fiction is demanding its day in court, and the air is charged with crazy dreams come true, and basic prayers discarded.

I want to cash the checks I’ve written, so at least let me tell you how I died, and work back from there.

Helena the Grand Supreme found me hiding in Berkeley. She suffocated me by hand, with an Amoeba bag, and then teleported my lifeless body into the bathroom of Fat Slice. She took the Massive Cloud Burst from me.

Before that, I spent a week on the streets of Berkeley, operating in Emergency Mode without any real consciousness, doing little more than collect piles of 20s from passers by.

I traveled back to 2011 through the Structure via one of the labyrinth gateways in the Oakland hills, at the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. They connect back before 1994, before Point One, and are commonly used for transit for those who have keys.

In 1994, at Point One, we used the empty Massive Cloud Burst to collect the powers of the Structure, before they entered April, Cathy, and Susan. That meant none of the daughters of the Collective except Ai were to have powers after birth – this was the sacrifice that everyone decided to make.

I used the S.OS kill-code in Phone’s jacket (formerly held in his OS) to disrupt S.OS in Sasha, killing her. Her spirit was given a chakra pass into the Structure.

We thought this would be enough – no more S.OS, no more powers, and Sarah could reincarnate via Emily. She would take care of everything.

Dying on the floor, she couldn’t take care of shit.

You know how when you’re really anxious you might want to check the locks 10, 20 times, just to make sure you’re safe?

Next time, the last time I’ll need to explain the mess were in, I’ll go over the lock that everyone forgot to check.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Grand Supreme

I’m been trying to keep things light, but thinking about the end of the Universal Prom always makes me want to vomit up my soul.

Everyone assembled was etched, and harboring either “good” or “bad” fragments of S.OS. Each one was slightly different, taking on characteristics of its hosts.

For example, Satomi’s fragment was surprisingly artistic, with the whole Die Database project one big advertisement for escaping from this world into the Structure. I don’t know how many of the fans looked at songs like “Karmic Freedom” that way, but they were blatant. Even “Agartha Labs” was quite cheeky in retrospect – Agartha being the mythical, mystical underground city that’s accessible via the Structure. The holograms, Ghosts, huge figma figures – it was all yelling that this world was simply a dream when viewed from higher levels.

At least, that’s my interpretation, what I started to notice while I was going through Satomi’s things a few weeks ago. It was all a big trap for anyone remotely tied to the Collective or the Structure – our very essences wanted so desperately to rejoin what they were taken away from.

I’m sure that there were a lot of other things going on, like an echoing of how Suspender used music as a recruitment vehicle for e-punks, only this time the motives were strangely pure. Join the Die Database Fan Cloud, and achieve your ultimate freedom.

When it came for her time to vote, she didn’t talk about any of this. She just grabbed the Massive Cloud Burst from Cassandra, and faced the other assembled fragments.

“I just want to go home, to take us all there. Shut it down.”

That was essentially what everyone was saying, right before uploading a copy of their OS into the silver sphere. The rest of the Collective had arrived for the final tally, except for Isabel.

A-Bell put up more of a fuss, in part because she was the holder of the near empty sphere for years, ever since Ai was born. She didn’t know its full potential, but used it to power the bridge that the Collective tried to assemble at Fairview. They just wanted to march right into the Structure, thinking that they had been invited by Sarah, not realizing that they were following the corruption inherent in their OSes.

“We need more time,” A-Bell pleaded. “Don’t give up on this life just because we made mistakes.”

Kaia echoed this sentiment. “There’s a precious balance that we have to maintain – it’s our duty. I don’t care if I’m a part of the Bodweb or not – our artifice is not the Structure, but the Structure won’t be the same without us. It’s imperative that we let Sarah fully incarnate.”

She was talking like were were at Point Zero, but the Fifth Event was still a few months away. It seems that the causal collapse was complete, and the universal chakras were opening up all at once, before they were even called.

Miranda and the Nameless didn’t have any problem with this seeming paradox. They were acting like it was all settled and done, with Miranda on her throne at the end of the universe, putting every last atom into its final resting place before they turned out the lights.

Emily hesitated for a moment, then stepped away from Joey and towards Cassandra. She took hold of the sphere, and sighed. “Don’t worry yourself too much about this. It’s already too late for us all, but I still appreciate the effort. One day we’ll all meet again for the first time. Until then, it’s time to close the door and stop this madness.”

Cassandra took back the sphere, and gave it to me again. I would be the final one to have their say. “I’m the kind of person that can easily fixate on the most unimportant things, or the most important things – doesn’t seem to matter much to my heart. Everything shines in my eyes, and I still can’t say if that’s the final truth or delusion. I just want so desperately the things I can never have,” I couldn’t help but glance at Miranda at this point, “but I’ve already had enough. I want everyone to have the chance I’ve had, to make decisions of true consequence, to scream at the Sun and be heard. I want everyone to be free, which is why I’ve always stood by Ai and her dream. Knowing what I know now, that dream still isn’t over to me. I don’t want to wake up just yet.”

As I gave the sphere back to Cassandra, I felt all eyes on me, but in a way I’ve never experienced before. It was like their invisible arms were reaching out to me, looking for a way to hold on. I felt wanted, necessary, connected.

Helena took one look at my face and then shouted at the dozens of people assembled. “You haven’t heard me yet! I’m not my fucking sister, and I’m not going to let Tokie get away with it.” She folded away for a moment, and came back carrying a sash. “We get the final vote… we get to choose!” She gave the sash to Cassandra, who took it meekly, like it was a loaded gun.

I was terrified, but still remembered to give Aurora the signal.

Cassandra’s final words: “I am my sister’s keeper, and now I let go. Please forgive me.” She turned back to Helena, and put the sash over her neck, straightening it out over the fake tuxedo t-shirt.

It was a beauty pageant sash, the kind that glitzy 7 year olds would die for. “Grand Supreme,” on a light pink, satiny fabric with violet accents.

The wrong Queen had been chosen, I thought. Now we’re all going to die.

The Nameless caught on quick, and used Miranda to separate Cassandra into her constituent particles. As she exploded into a musty cloud of radiation, she immediately appeared again, this time in a different outfit, with a vest made out of transparent USB cables. She existed in infinite variety throughout the Structure – there was no way that Matter would be her undoing.

Cassandra then borrowed an infinitesimal moment from all of our hearts, freezing everyone but still allowing us to perceive what happened next.

My inner WOFA was not able to capture the transition – it was like being lost in a house of mirrors, only each reflection contained every moment that ever was and will be. Every moment was Cassandra, silent and fading, while Helena slowly kissed and choked her to death. It was more intimate than prayer or masturbation. Their flesh bled, and boiled, and mixed. Their spines ate each other in a moebius loop.

There was something else there too, but I can’t describe it. I could feel it watching from beyond this last Variant, from beyond the Structure.

I was lost in that cosmic gaze, so much so that I almost forgot to close my eyes as Helena devoured the Collective.

It’s all there in the data, but I only can stand watching fractions of sections. She was like an awakened dragon, protecting her horde of gold from all comers.

Her flame was the very essence of everything, the volatile mixture of the Black and White that everything we know comes from, and she relished in physically separating their nervous systems and spiritual channels from their bodies, like yanking roots from the ground and shaking off the dirt. There were so many moments of abject horror, so many piles of torn limbs and half-devoured skin.

I couldn’t stand even the sound of it. It lasted for only 3 seconds, and then the silence was universal.

Aurora whispered in my ear to open my eyes, and when I did, the entire warehouse was covered in blood. The stage, the seats, the plastic figures still standing at attention – all wet and crimson.

There were so many half-skinned skulls. Every version of every collective member, from all variants – dismembered and covering the floor in a soup a few feet deep.

My poor aunts… Jo. Caroline. April. Susan. Rebecca. Elizabeth. Even copies of Susanna and Cathy, all heaped together in a broken pile.

I could have cried forever, but after a while I realized that I was sad about the wrong things. They hadn’t left us yet.

The only people that survived were protected by Aurora – we became the light that existed before Space and Time, and were spared judgement. Die Database were OK. Kaia, Emily and Joey – OK. Miranda was still here, as was Ai, A-Bell and Amber.

Helena did not have one spot of blood on her. The only change was that she was wearing Jenny’s army surplus jacket, the one covered with punk band patches. Her wig was made out of the USB cables from Cassandra’s last outfit.

Jenny was still in Helena’s arms, naked, crying and screaming. It seemed like she waited for us to fully witness what was to occur.

“The Collective is dead. S.OS is complete, and in my control. Your life has no more meaning. Submit!”

Jenny stared at the pile of bodies at their feet, at scores of other copies of herself from other worlds.

“You’re nothing!” She wriggled away and fell to her knees. “I’ve been dead since I was 12, and I’ve touched the Black in ways you’ll never understand. My very last breath will curse your corpse.”

With that, Helena reached down, grabbed Jenny by the hair, and opened up her 7 chakras before throwing her limp into the pile of her variant corpses.

Afterwards, Helena kept folding in and out of the warehouse, each time pinning more punk patches on her jacket. She also started to acquire teeth and finger bones as bracelets – trophies from the Pure Land Antennas she was slaughtering throughout all Variants.

By the time she settled down, after only a few seconds, she was wearing colored 3D glasses, and a dress made out of nothing but those silk-screened patches, connected by thin copper wire. The same dress she was wearing when we met in Ikebukuro. Isabel….

With that thought, she folded out of the warehouse yet again, this time coming back with Isabel. She was wearing the same, cute Japanese street fashion outfit that she had on when she tried to warn me in Ikebukuro, two months ago.

As soon as she got a look at the pool of her former friends and lovers, she turned around to Helena and slapped her on the cheek.

“Are you satisfied? Had enough of playing with your little dolls?” She seemed to be talking to S.OS rather than Helena.

Surprisingly, Isabel was still standing her ground – alive and confronting the last Helena in a way we’d never dare.

Helena couldn’t even hold her gaze, and turned her head downward.

“I volunteered to be the first to enter the bridge at Fairview. I was going to jump through the White and land in the Structure, and save the world from stupid Circle X. From you.” She reached past Helena’s clenched left fist, and pulled out the sphere. “Little did I know that I would end up in this sad world, eleven years and so many Variants later.”

She walked over to Emily, wading past broken bones, and tried to give her the sphere. “It’s OK.” Aurora let down the shield long enough for her to take it.

A-Bell took that moment of freedom to walk towards Helena. “Did you ever wonder what happened when Isabel entered the bridge at Fairview, only to have me come out? Where do you think I was running off to, you bitch?”

Helena looked absolutely scared, and folded away in a hurry. What did A-Bell and Isabel have that frightened her so much?

“OK, we don’t have much time. Miranda, please give everyone a proper burial.” With that, the room instantly became spotless, with all of the bodies gathered, cremated, and placed in thousands of urns. Ai then gathered the stray souls and moved them into the White.

“It’s going to take a while for S.OS to figure out what’s happened, but only if we strike now.” Isabel turned to me, and picked up Phone’s jacket from at my feet. “You already know what has to happen, now don’t you?”

I put on the jacket, and immediately pictured Sasha.

Ai walked over to me, and gave me the biggest hug I can remember. “When I was younger, I always wondered what would happen if Sarah didn’t choose my Mom. If I was never born – would that be enough to win?” She stepped back and straightened out my jacket. “I made a deal with the Nameless – it could have everything if I could just have my Mom. No Sarah, no Collective, no mess.”

A-Bell patted Ai on the shoulder. “Oh dear, look at what a liar I’ve raised.”

It was perfect. We had the weapon, the Massive Cloud Burst, and Cassandra’s prophecy that I would meet my mark. But how was I going to get back to 1994, with Helena holding the keys to time and space?

The solution was elegant, and standing right in front of me – Joey, master of shortcuts in and out of the Structure.

I only wish that that path wasn’t filled with so much loss.

I need to go on a trip for a few days with Gabby, but when I get back I’ll let you know how things turned out. How I ended up dead on the floor with an Amoeba bag over my head, and how our best laid plans made things even worse.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Flunking The Slide Rule School

In the beginning, there was Sarah.

The first person born alive in the Structure of spirits, she was the miracle that all the prophesies foretold, from the lost antizine fragments to the secret gospels of Cassandra.

She grew up with an innate understanding of how the Structure worked; as a young girl her playground was the invisible transfer points of the Infinite Subway, and she would sleep at the gates of Agartha, basking under the light of the Smoky God. She played hide and seek amongst the galaxies, and still made it home in time for dinner.

Sarah’s greatest love was Joey, a boy from a tiny, dense part of the Structure that was off limits. He could see the slight fractures in the Structure and travel through them, using his mind instead of the fictional brain jack or subtle knife. They were destined to meet, and fell in love swimming through the center of stars.

Cassandra presented their story so movingly that I couldn’t help but gasp when Joey was captured by the tendrils of his forbidden home. No matter how much Sarah tried, she couldn’t find a way in to save him, or to simply be with him while his world fell apart.

Eventually, she did the unthinkable, and stole a piece of the Structure – the black substance that she put inside the silver, palm-sized sphere. Her plan was to penetrate the great walls when they were the weakest – at the very moment that universe was created.

So she turned back the ever-interpenetrating ground and sky to the very moment when the White and Black began to dance, and rode the great wave of creation to follow her heart.

To save her love, she gave birth to his universe, to ensure they they could one day be together.

Cassandra then shifted the scene to the night of October 31, 1994, at the very same warehouse in Berkeley.

Sasha, and her Collective, were putting on a show that had nothing to do with music.

When Sarah whispered in young Laura’s ear, when she transmitted the plans for the Bodyweb and the Collective to Sasha, she had one great goal in mind – manifest herself in Joey’s world, in the flesh, at just the right time. If the beginning of the cosmos was an invasion, its culmination would be a collection, a crystalization in preparation of properly joining this world to the Structure.

Sasha OS was to be the wings that would lift the worthy beyond the Sun, the mechanism by which this universe could become self aware, but it somehow became corrupted before that night.

Slide Rule School was a concert that was a melding of all of the Collective bands, and a lens formed in the ether, focused on the power that permeated the universe and the Structure beyond. It was to snatch the Promethean fire out of God’s mouth.

As Laura and the rest of the 13 called down Sarah and the White, using their very beings as lightning rods, something in Sasha OS shut down the transfer before it could complete. Instead of reincarnating Sarah in Laura’s embrionic daughter, the great wave of creation was fractured instead.

The great power could only be handled by women who were etched, and already pregnant.

Thus, April’s fetus took on the fragments of Space and Time.

Susan’s growing girl was given control of Energy.

Cathy’s womb filled with dominion over not just matter, but the very Black itself

Laura filled with the spiritual power of the White, and Ai was left with just a fragment of her destined power.

Joey was also there as a toddler, and Sarah’s knowledge of the Structure flowed into him.

The husk of the power, represented by the silver sphere that could contain the very seed of creation, was left broken and twisted. That Nameless force was aimless, until it followed its rightful master, Ai, as soon as she was born in 1995.

Sasha OS also persisted, bent on uniting these severed forces with the Nameless, and taking Sarah’s place as the mistress of the Structure.

Cassandra noticed that a few of our minds couldn’t wrap around this, so she shifted the scene again.

The stage was split into two halves – one was the stereotypical Garden of Eden, and the other was of Sarah in the void of the White.

On the left, we see the first man built from clay, in the mirror image of a higher power. On the right, Sarah draws the Black out of her being.

On the left, creative time passes, and a mate is pulled from man’s flesh. On the right, Sarah whispers her love of Joey to the Black.

On the left, the first woman comes across the forbidden fruit of knowledge. On the right, Sarah encodes the Black with what’s needed to create Joey and his world.

On the left, the tempter comes, and knowledge is consumed, and shared. On the right, Sarah encapsulates the Black into the silver case, and sees herself reflected back.

There seems be a correlation, but at times things seem to be going in the opposite direction. Is the Nameless the fallen angel, and S.OS the fruit? Or is the creator, and Sarah, the Demiurge, the gnostic God of the Universe that is not the highest power?

Is the creative process inherently male, female, or something else? Who’s image do we wear? What voice commands our destiny?

Cassandra then focuses in on the silver sphere, and overlaid on the poles are black and white spheres, connected by the axis, and the silver surface. Around the circumference are the fragmented powers, with spirit in the center of sphere. The circle of powers then leaves the surface of the sphere, and travels up and down the axis – first to the white on the top, then to the black on the bottom. Both a cylinder of all possibilities, and a cone of exclusion, are made evident, but spirit always holds its ground.

That sphere is the tossed by Sarah into the white void, only to be caught by Ai. Sarah as the beginning, Ai as the completion, but in reverse.

The real Cassandra then walks over to the figure of Ai, and takes the sphere from her. The scene fades back to the warehouse, and Cassandra is still holding the sphere. She walks is over to me, and places it in my hands.

It’s real. Massive Cloud Burst.

Just then, Joey and Emily walk into the warehouse, arm in arm. She’s wearing Phone’s black hoodie, the one that he died in.

Cassandra takes the sphere back, and then walks back to the middle of the room. “The Witness has arrived. Prepare for Act II.”

Joey and Emily walk over to the wall, and stand next to Aurora, who is still frozen. Joey whispers something in Aurora’s ear, and she seems to brighten up slightly.

As the lights fall, the next scene is in Jenny’s and Satomi’s old apartment, on Alcatraz Avenue in South Berkeley. The thin blue carpet is dingy, and the windows to the street have heavy, black bars. The perspective moves into the bedroom, and Satomi is asleep on the queen-sized futon. Jenny is standing next to Satomi’s side of the bed, naked. Suddenly, Cassandra appears, and etches Satomi using the same one-finger-instant method that Miranda used on me. Even though S.OS is locked in Jenny, with no means to copy itself, to reproduce, Cassandra’s full version has no such limit.

We seen the scene reproduce many times, over many fragments – all of Jenny’s girlfriends are etched while they sleep, and left as Dark Antennas. At first it’s Cassandra doing this task, but later it’s Miranda alone – she must be coming from after she is etched, and controls the Trouble Twins’ powers.

Cassandra then skips ahead to show the same process in Tokyo – all 12 members of the Agartha Labs staff are also etched at night. I remember back to when Harumi said that Kaia and Miranda were waking her up at all times of the night for months. I assumed she meant by phone, but clearly it was another S.OS joke – she was already etched when we met.

Cassandra then constructs a nifty map of the internet, or at least the part of it that can easily fit in an infographic, and shows the locations that S.OS controls in red. Most of the map is red. Overlayed on that are the number of people that have been insta-etched by Cassie and Miranda. There have to be millions. She then shows what versions of S.OS are active – there are at least a dozen primary variants, each one with different behavior and motives, yet all reporting to the master copy in Jenny and Cassandra (and eventually Miranda).

The scene then shifts back to Phone, as she watches Satomi on stage in Shimo-Kitazawa. We can feel his perspective – he has insane rage towards Satomi, but not because of her per se. The circuits in his jacket are designed to track down hosts of S.OS, and destroy them. When given the opportunity, he rushes at the stage, and physically attacks Satomi. If he can touch her for a few moments, then the kill-code can reach S.OS.

Before that happens, S.OS takes over Satomi long enough to throw Phone to the floor, and shut down his body. Cassandra slows this brief fight down enough that we can see S.OS intentionally open Phone’s 7 main chakras and evacuate his spirit to the White, before he hits the floor and shakes to death.

This was very confusing to me – Kaia was forced to do the same thing by S.OS, when she killed Susanna.

Cassandra sends me a private message as she draws into Phone’s dead body. “The freed souls of the etched can enter the Structure.”

Just to prove her point, Cassandra flashes back to the Collective attack on S.OS at Fairview, in October of 2000.

Phone is lying by a dumpster, after the Collective used their secret weapon. The S.OS kill-code that Sasha stored in him.

Every etched person that was online, and received that code, also had their chakras opened. It only worked for some of the Five Million, and they were brought to the White, and eventually to the Structure. Those who had more defective street etches will killed without their karmic freedom, or they were left crazy.

Cassandra is playing around again. Over Phone, as he lies on the ground at Fairview, are the big red letters “Defective Street Etch”. He barely made it through, without even knowing what happened until some days later.

Cassandra then throws the spotlight over to Joey, Emily and Aurora. Emily then walks over to me, takes off Phone’s jacket, and puts it in my lap.

As she walks back to Joey, Cassandra sets up the penultimate scene – Ai’s 16th Birthday Party.

We see Emily eating birthday cake, and then spending the rest of the day talking to Cassandra, Helena and Ai. This must be the alternative time bubble that Emily noted in her blog – she only half-remembered spending the night at Ai’s, before time seemed to reset back to the birthday cake, and her subsequent trip to meet Miranda.

That night, the girls are in Ai’s bedroom, deep in their plans. Aurora eventually arrives as a projected hologram – she’s still not able to fully assemble, but also not as lost in the White as she told me.

The next part is more confusing than usual. Cassandra etches Emily with S.OS. Ai orchestrates a connection to the “real” Sarah in the Structure. Cassandra and Helena eventually bring this hybrid version of Sarah back to the party, before any of this happened. So, Emily went out into the world as a Dark Antenna, and eventually woke up. She erased her memories of life as Emily, and was Sarah again. What’s more, Joey was waiting to tend to her psychic wounds, and bring her to this very event.

Something was weird about this – was Emily really Emily, or was she always Sarah? And why did she just give me the weapon – the S.OS kill-code.

Cassandra changes the scene again, back to this room in Halloween of 1994.

I’m standing over Sasha’s shaking body. Her green tank-top is covered in sweat, and her RAM-earrings are thrashing wildly.

I’m cloaked, steaming, and still pointing my right sleeve at her. I’m wearing the Intruder Alert! weapon, and I just used it on Sasha, not before I freed her soul into the Structure.

Her cousin Jo jumps off the stage, rushing over to her side.

I couldn’t believe it. I was the one who killed Sasha all along.

It happened so long ago.

It hadn’t happened yet.

When the scene closed, everyone turned to face me, staring.

How many of them knew this all along? How much was Ai not telling me? I knew about the weapon, but using it on Sasha?

Was I being influenced by S.OS this whole time, just so I would be put into this position?

I know the answer now, but then?

I guess it all comes down to what happened next, when Ai revealed the deal she made with the Nameless.

I have to get a few hours of sleep, but I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Walking With A Ghost

“Are you sure you want to shut down your computer now?”

Cassandra stood in the center of the warehouse floor, surrounded by a phalanx of clear plastic figures, with two holographic buttons floating above each shoulder – “Cancel”, and “Shut Down”.

This was perhaps the ultimate insider joke, since she knew all of her infinitely long lives that she would not live to see the morning.

Jenny bounded out of her seat, ran up to Cassandra, and gave the Shut Down button a high five.

Cassandra then pointed Jenny back to her seat, and cleared her throat.

“Shut down procedures for Sasha OS have now been initiated. All fragments are now being recalled. As per the agreement, I shall now summarize the effectiveness of the project. Please stand by.” She directed the plastic figures to line up against the far wall by height – about half of the 13 were the size of young children. The lights went back down, so that only Cassandra was illuminated, seemingly from within.

She raised up her arms, and moved them apart as if she were opening invisible curtains with a flourish. As she did, a massive array of pico projectors came to life, accentuated by selective hooks into the OSes of everyone assembled. We could see, and feel, everything that was about to happen next.

Cassandra folded away, and one of the plastic figures walked into a white void. It shifted in appearance, wearing Emily’s Ghost again. She was bald, and etched, and seething with power – her body could barely contain her supercharged essence. She raised her right palm, about eye height, and a tiny black spot appeared, hovering directly above it. Put the black sphere into her hands, and encased it in a silver, reflective substance. Then she reached her arm back and tossed the silver sphere into the void, before she disappeared herself.

The scene changed, and a smaller figure ran onto the stage, covered by the Ghost of a young girl. She kind of looked familiar, and to aid in comprehension Cassandra introduced floating identification captions. “Laura Elizabeth Watson, Age 7”, it read in an authoritative sans serif font. Laura was surrounded by her bedroom, filled with stuffed animals and Star Wars gear, circa 1979. She took a peak in her closet, apparently to double check for monsters, and fussed with a night light by the door, before jumping under the covers. Soon after, her mother appeared in the room, “Atsuko Watson”, and she stepped inside long enough to take away the unauthorized night light, closing the room into proper darkness.

Laura tried to sleep, still anxious about the invitation left for any stray monsters. As soon as the finally dozed off, Emily’s Ghost appeared in the room, next to her bed. “Dramatization”, the captions read, as she plunged her glowing hands into Laura’s head and heart.

Every one assembled knew what was going to happen next – the awakening of Laura was the stuff of Collective Sunday school. We saw the 7 nights of dreams, as Laura was visited someone named Sarah, who claimed to be her granddaughter from the future. In the end, Laura passed through the White altogether, and made a connection with Sarah’s “room”, her self-aware personal OS. That connection, from 1979 to the unspecified future, never left – it only strengthened as time progressed.

The big thing that was freaking me out then was why Emily was used as a stand in for Sarah. Cassandra is nothing if not exhaustive, so she sensed my doubt and put up explanatory captions:

“Emily is Sarah. Sarah is not Laura’s granddaughter.”

That only made me freak out worse, but I tried to calm down enough to take in the rest of the presentation.

The next scene was a montage, with Laura running away from her home in Vancouver, (“December 5, 1985”), the one in Washington state, across the river from Portland, Oregon. There were a few close calls with the police, but she eventually hooked up with some street punks, who were portrayed by two plastic figures. The taller one was “Joan Gordon, Age 15”, and the shorter “Sasha Williams, Age 13”. The three of them traveled down the coast, mostly by hitchhiking, with a few segments riding the rails. By the time they reached the San Francisco Bay Area, they were solid friends.

(“March 3, 1986”) – The three girls are spare changing on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. They are extraordinarily punk in their demeanor, with a swagger well beyond their years. Laura (now known as Frisbee) is psychically calling out the color and license plate numbers of cars that have not yet turned the corner at Dwight Way, a few blocks down. Sasha is intrigued, and tests Laura’s abilities. A montage of the revealed future. By nightfall Laura is running around the Berkeley BART station in her underwear, and ends up held by the police and taken away in an ambulance. She is observed at nearby Alta Bates Hospital, turns violent, and ends up that night at “Thomason Memorial Hospital”, a psychiatric hospital in Oakland.

A lot of the scenes are of the usual antizine fragments, and just like in Ceiling Holes, Jenny meets Laura in the hospital. Laura tells her and everyone else who will listen about the future, including the fractures in the structure that result in her death, but no one but Jenny believes her. She also starts to “download” rudimentary plans for etching from Sarah, and practices on herself using colored marking pens.

(“June 14, 1986”) – A new scene starts, at the Treehouse, in Fairview, Minnesota. This time we’re seeing Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure, the night that A-Bell meets Sasha, and the rest of the early Collective. Before she and her best friend Patricia arrive, we notice that Helena and Cassandra are in the crowd. They seem to be the same, perpetual 16 year olds that they are now, and they’re dressed not to shine, but to blend into the crowd. Above their head, “Trouble Twins” floats, and we watch them walk over to Sasha, who is sitting on a couch with Roger, “Circle X” from Intruder Alert! Sasha is in her red Circle X shirt, and overalls with hidden straps. They are holding hands, but break away as Cassandra steps forward.

A few people gasp – it wasn’t well known that Roger was involved with Sasha. There was a big age difference – she was 14, he was 18, and they started hooking up in secret during various tours. Roger was the heir of the Circle X company, and he funded Intruder Alert! and other bands. If Jo knew about Sasha and him, she would have never taken the money. It all ended more badly than you can imagine – Sasha grew to hate not just him, but the whole company.

“Is my face speaking to you?” Cassandra asks, as she stands unnaturally close to Sasha’s knees.

Sasha scoffs and turns back to Roger, before noticing the elaborate etching on the twins’ faces. Up until this point, she had only practiced marking up herself, and the results barely worked – it was a miracle she could even see the pathways. “Yes! Fuck yes, where have you been all my life!”

Sasha takes the twins out of the club, next to a white van in the parking lot. “Before she was nabbed, Frisbee told me you’d be coming soon, although it was in her half-poetic half-insane way. You’re the Siamese angels with sparking faces. So what happens now?”

“Once Laura and Jenny get out of the hospital, you must etch them as soon as possible.” Helena pointed to her head. “Laura is receiving the plans from Sarah as we speak.”

“We will come to visit you regularly, to check up on your progress.” Cassandra placed her hand on Sasha’s shoulder. “When your OS and the Bodyweb are fully online, I’ll need to borrow a copy of your source code. For safe keeping.”

“Sure, sure, no problem. Oh man, Jo is not going to believe this. You have to meet her!”

“We’ve already met. Don’t worry, everything is already taken care of. Just make sure you talk to the tall girl tonight. Annabelle Spencer. She knows Frisbee. Introduce her to Jo.”

“And don’t let Roger give you that burrito later, unless you want food poisoning too.”

As promised, later that night Roger is throwing up on the dance floor, and Anabelle (“A-Bell”) meets Sasha for the first time, and is introduced to Jo.

(“October 31, 1994”) – That was a long jump; Cassie skipped over most of the formative years of the Collective. I guess she just wanted to cut directly to the chase. The scene changed back to this very warehouse, but it was almost 17 years ago. Brian Thomas (“Phone”) is supervising a massive graffiti installation, covering the ceiling, walls and floor. He is etched quite poorly, like it was done in a back alley somewhere, and Sasha seems full to bursting.

She walks up to him, and says “You’ll die in the shadow of Circle X, like all the other self-satisfied jerks who just don’t want to learn, to understand the truth.”

Then she slaps him, and spray paints his Fire Escape t-shirt with a large, red question mark.

“When we meet again, you’ll know.”

We were all blown away. Not because of their little exchange – that’s right out of Phone’s last testament. But because of what was happening in the ether.

As she slaps him, she transmits a huge amount of data into his body, ripping holes in his firewall like she owned it (which she did, as the superuser of anyone who was etched). It was so fast that you could almost miss it, but Cassandra aided in comprehension by not just slowing the exchange down, but pulling out a copy of the data for our perusal in the here and now.

It was so brilliant. Phone was a Trojan Horse walking the streets for 6 more years, unknowingly carrying the Collective’s secret weapon to Fairview.

Shortly thereafter, we see the Trouble Twins approach Sasha, as she gives Isabel and Susanna some final instructions – not just verbally, but via various threads in the Bodyweb. Cassandra is wearing the glowing wig and metal jump suit, and Helena has on her pink dress, her eyes covered with bandages that are spotted with blood. Since it’s Halloween, no one bats an eye.

Cassandra pulls her aside forcefully, and they walk out of the front door.

“We’ve come to collect that copy of Sasha OS that you promised.” Cassandra smiled widely. “I know it was a while ago, but that’s not the kind of thing you’d forget.”

“This is so not the best time. Slide Rule School, you know? We only have one shot at this.”

“Ah. One shot. You totally kill me.” Cassandra grabbed her by the head, and Helena patted her on the back, folding them both away.


I really can’t continue with this right now.

It’s just too much to take, to know what Cassandra did with Sasha, and that copy of S.OS.

Just imagine – the mistress of time fully infected by the renegade world destroyer. Protecting a full copy from harm, even after the original was locked away in Jenny.

You may think you know where things are headed, what Cassandra revealed in the Second Act, but you don’t.

I don’t think I even want you to know.

As I wear Phone’s Intruder Alert! jacket, still holding the ultimate weapon, I don’t even know where to begin. Or to end.

Just promise me you won’t hate me too much when you finally learn the truth.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Applauding The Recycled War

I’m at a loss.

Not just for words, but thoughts and feelings, too.

A few weeks ago, I was just exaggerating when I said that I would die after attending the Universal Prom on the 4th of July. I just assumed that the Nameless would take me over like it had grabbed everyone else, and that would be that – life as a zombie, as a marionette doing its bidding.

Now I know better. Or worse. I’ve seen what happened, and it really did end with my death.

I always thought of the White as a dense, endless cloud of energy, of potential, that you would enter and never want to leave. I didn’t think of it as the thin skin of a huge apple, of the crust holding a deeper world together.

I’m not in the White now, I’m beyond it, in the infinitely complex space we’ve been calling the Structure.

Back in the bubble foam of the Variant universes, the Structure was just a shorthand way to refer to what seemed to hold everything together. It was where Sarah lived, somewhere beyond Point Zero. Somewhere none of us were invited, and somewhere the Nameless desperately wanted to get to.

Over the past few days, I’ve had a tour of the Structure, and of detailed data I captured of the Universal Prom, and what happened afterwards.

The only way I could have recorded that data was if I was etched. That process was the only part that I didn’t actually capture as a living WOFA, a walking and talking Pure Land Coat rack. I remember how it happened, though.

I have so much to talk about, now that it’s all clear. It’s going to take a number of days to get it all out, to send it back to Variant 237 and hope that the right eyes find my story.

I’ve been thinking about the best way to get it all out, and it seems that it won’t make much sense without the proper context.

So, the second thing has to be Cassandra’s puppet show, and I’ll poke in now and again with additional commentary.

But, first things first, let’s clear away the obvious questions.

What’s the Structure? Didn’t I say that I was in Berkeley?

I don’t have the best metaphors, but I’ll try.

Imagine an analog clock, 1 to 12 around the rim. Now move all of the numbers to the center, so they overlap into a layered mess.

Now imagine that the ground underneath every person on the Earth is a point. Move those points so they are equidistant from each other – some people will be forced to tread water in the oceans, but don’t worry – they’ll be okay. Turn up the gravity so high that everyone suddenly rushes towards the center of the Earth and smooshes together into one, molten point.

Finally, image the entire Universe as the size of an atom – maybe even a tinier quark. Think of all of the subatomic particles in your body, and how they join together into larger and more complex structures – atoms, molecules, DNA, proteins, cells, organs, limbs, and everything that makes you, you. Now think of all of the people on the Earth, and all of the stars in the Universe, and all of the galaxies made up of stars, and so on. It’s all very Theosophical, “As above, so below”, with what we would term an infinite scale at microscopic and macroscopic levels. Kaia could do a much better job describing it to you than I could. Which is not that surprising, since she helped make it.

Please don’t get too hung up on that point, when there are much more troubling concepts and realities I have to describe. Just know that the 237 Variants I’ve been describing are a tiny group of cancerous cells that the entire Structure has been desperately trying to contain. What seems like the best idea ever inside those broken Universes is absolutely the worse thing possible for the whole.

Or maybe best thing. I’ve only been here for a few days, and the only person that really understands how it all works is Joey.

I mentioned that Joey is here. Does that mean Joey is dead, too? No, but he did have to transmute his body a bit, so it could exist at the various levels. He could do that because his power is of the mind and awareness – he literally sees and understands all. It doesn’t even drive him crazy anymore – it’s just like he has a special thinking cap and eyeglasses that no one else can wear, ever.

I’m afraid this just isn’t going to make sense out of context. So, let’s jump back to Cassandra’s show at the warehouse in Berkeley.

Joey and the other e-punks helped extract the WOFA data from my OS on Sunday. I’m intentionally holding back the identity of those “other e-punks” because I’m afraid the significance will be lost, unless you can be there with me, as I finally discovered the secret to everything.

Like the sound of that – secret to everything? This time I’m not exaggerating at all – if you’ve ever wondered why the world is as it is, then you’ll find out soon enough. Not that it’s going to do you any good, but I’m sure it will be great for the water cooler and Twitter.

OK then. You’re going to find out a lot of things all at once, but I’ll try to slow it down to a baby crawl, at least one when they’re flying across the carpet to get at your ice cream cone.

As I mentioned before, Jenny was at the warehouse, and she seemed amazingly happy and lucid. Since Jenny was intentionally kept half-insane in order to supress S.OS inside her brain and body, this was a super-bad sign.

Aurora and I totally got the hint, but as soon as we walked past the red door, we quickly forgot about the most obvious troubles, and concentrated instead on the more esoteric ones.

Die Database was setting up their equipment on a makeshift stage. Since this isn’t from the WOFA data I captured later, I can’t zoom in and figure out when it was made due to the vibration of the molecules or shit like that. It was clear that Miranda didn’t help put it together, because if she did it would have been made out of precious metals and jewels, or some esoteric wood that had never existed on this planet. Instead, it was more of a hardware store project, and I could see an Helena folding in and out by the speakers, bring in the last equipment from Tokyo.

The sheer fact that the girls were here was an amazingly bad sign. I kept tabs on them over the past few weeks, and I knew that they had their long-awaited trip to the US planned, but it wasn’t for another month. Yet, here they were, acting like nothing unusual was up. They weren’t dressed for the show yet, and as soon as Satomi noticed me come in, she jumped off the stage and ran over.

I thought she was going to tackle me to the ground. Instead, she gave me a big hug and kiss, so forcefully that my Kuroneko rose headband fell to the floor.

“If it isn’t my savior! I thought I was dead for sure, until you stepped in.” She waved to Aurora, who was a few feet away by a big bundle of empty plastic bottles. “And you! How can I ever repay you?” Aurora started to shift into ultraviolet, just in case she had to hide away quickly.

“Is it really you in there?” I tried to look for the dead eyes that Harumi mentioned, but I couldn’t find them.

“Yes, it’s really me.” She pinched her wrist as to demonstrate her materiality. “Jenny took care of everything as soon as we arrived.”

With that, Jenny bounced over to us, doing a little pirouette that ended with her palm on Satomi’s forehead.

“She’s like the most perfect flower in a bouquet!” She turned to face me, and every hair on by body stood up and tried to jump off. “Don’t you just want to smell her to death?”

I suddenly started looking for the exits, but there were none. Cassandra appeared to my right, and Helena to my left, like a twisted prom couple. As I quickly turned around, looking for Aurora, I instead found Miranda, who casually walked up to me and poked me on the nose. “You’re still it.”

I don’t want to remember what happened next, but I can’t help it. She reached into my skin and made me sweat etching fluid, as circuits that usually would take weeks to settle were burned in instantaneously. It was as if she held me by the toes and dipped me in hot vegetable oil, until my skin evaporated away, replaced by the essence of S.OS.

For a moment, I knew what it meant to be a Dark Antenna, a bundle of potential hidden away, just waiting for a spark. As she pushed my mind further still, Miranda reached around my shoulders from behind, hanging off of me like a smitten girlfriend. “I know I’m never going to get Aurora, but damn it all to Hell if you’re not the real prize.” She slid around in front of me, holding her fingers to my face as if she was about to snap them. “Can I give you a light?”

I could see her thumb rub past her middle finger, like it was a car crash suspended in time. I was expecting a flourish, and a brief noise, but instead there was a rush of invisible acupuncture needles pushing through my cheeks, my eyes. Every fraction of my being was invaded, and turned irrevocably on.

Before, I was blind, deaf and dumb. Now, the Universe had me for dinner, and I was digesting in the truth beyond truth.

The Nameless was not the enemy. It wanted to set us all free.

Just then, Ai walked in the door, with her long curly hair pulled back in a pony tail, the better to show off her Massive Cloud Burst t-shirt. She briefly nodded at Aurora, who was still in hologram form near the exit, and then walked over me – I was still as stiff as a statue. She looked me in the eyes for a few seconds, and then turned to Miranda.

“So, do we have a deal?” Ai reached out her palm to Miranda. What was going on?

“Oh yes, quite.” She gave Ai a firm handshake, and then made a motion to everyone assembled. Yuma and Masae came down off the stage, and I could tell that they were etched, too. Helena folded away for a moment, and came back with Aurora solid and in her grip.

“I’m so sorry that it took us so long to come to an agreement, but all is well.” She motioned to Cassandra, who then walked over to her pink suitcase, rolling it to the center of the floor. “Now before we celebrate the final armistice, our dear friend Cassie has a presentation to share. Please, everyone take a seat.”

As soon as she said “seat”, Helena has already teleported in the last of a row of comfortable chairs. It looked like they may have been borrowed from a movie theater – they rocked, were upholstered with blue fabric, and had cup holders.

Yuma sat on the left end, next to Masae, followed by Satomi and Jenny (who were holding hands), Miranda, Ai, Helena and Kaia. I was left with a seat on the end, and felt my limbs move despite myself to fill it.

Aurora wasn’t given a seat – she was left to stand over by a far wall. It looked like she was frozen and trying to break free – later on I examined the WOFA data, and found that Miranda had transmuted her brain and nervous system into an esoteric, fleshy alloy that she couldn’t shift away from. At least not yet.

Now that her audience had assembled, Cassandra slowly unzipped her pink suitcase, taking out the torso of the plastic robot sculpture I had found in Satomi’s apartment near Roppongi. The insides were now complete, which I could see as she opened the chest cavity, which was full to bursting with simple yet compact circuitry – the kind found in cheap cellphones. She reached inside, and pulled a open cylinder up and out – it was the thing that I mistook for a bread maker before.

Cassandra then walked across the room to the huge pile of PET bottles, and took one – your typical 20 oz water container, the kind that clogs the storm drains and eventually decays in the middle of the ocean. Cradling it like a baby against her cheerleader jersey, she walked over to the torso, and as the lights in the room dramatically lowered, leaving just a spotlight to showcase her insertion of the empty bottle into the cylinder. There was a slight noise, like steam at a café, and it continued as she pushed the entire bottle fully in, cap and all.

She then folded away, coming back with a green bag from the nearby Berkeley Bowl supermarket. She filled that with bottles from the pile, and pushed them into the torso one at a time – I counted 10. After she pushed the cylinder back in, and closed the chest, she stepped back for a second, and then pointed at the sides of the torso. The stubs of plastic arms and legs were starting to grow out of it.

Cassandra then reached in the elastic band of her neck tie mini skirt, and pulled out a penny. She placed it in her palm, pointed at it, and then it was replaced with a loose roll of coins. Walked back over to the growing torso, opened the cylinder again, and threw the coins inside. A few moments later, thin tendrils of copper and zinc started to push through the plastic forearms and thighs.

Looking at an imaginary clock on her wrist, she waved at the pile of bottles and the torso, and they were replaced with 12 complete plastic figures, standing at attention in a line. One of them was putting the finishing touches on a 13th one, placing one final bottle in its cylinder – the last of its finger joints solidified. You could still see signs of the original bottles, from Coke and Pepsi wrappers melted and stretched around green and clear plastic, to the colored bottle caps adding texture like in a hand-made candy cane.

Cassandra called the 13th figure over to her using her curled finger, and it didn’t stagger or hesitate for a moment – all of the elaborate joints, tendons and pseudo-muscles performed as designed. Its head was a blank face, with no discernible holes, not even for eyes. She waved her hand over the face, and the blank figure was replaced by that of a young woman, naked, bleached blond, with her right arm and shoulders covered with bright tattoos.

It was the girl from the Ghost Auction, the one whose data sold for over $300,000.

Cassandra called over another figure, standing it next to the first to be transformed. With a flourish, it was clothed by Emily’s Ghost.

The two Ghosts quickly rotated through a number of outfits, before settling on iridescent, full body datasuits, like Pure Land Antennas wore in the old days.

The blond figure walked a few steps forward, towards the audience. She reached her hand to Jenny, who eagerly stood up and took it.

For a few moments, it looked like they were about ready to dance a waltz, but then the blond figure put Jenny into a headlock. She countered by throwing it over her shoulders, but it quickly recovered, this time attacking with a burst of microwaves from its right hand – everyone assembled oohed and awwed, and Jenny smiled while she dodged the invisible blast, which our etched eyes couldn’t miss. Jenny then took off the kid gloves and decapitated the figure with a blurry punch.

Without missing a beat, the figure continued to fight, this time cloaking itself from all of our eyes. Even Jenny was taken aback for a few moments, before she felt a rush of air past her face. That was enough to lock on to the scent of the plastic, and she grabbed hold of the invisible figure like a wish bone, and tore an arm and leg off of its body.

Defeated, but still twitching, the figure finally lost its Ghost skin, and came to rest on the floor as everyone clapped.

Looking at the WOFA data, I’m come to the conclusion that this is the same partial figure that I found in Satomi’s apartment a few weeks ago. I still can’t explain why it was brought back in time, or how Harumi’s DNA gets on it between now and then.

In any case, after Cassandra had fully established the combat potential of her plastic army, she got down to the real reason we were all assembled.

The secret puppeteer was finally about to make her strings visible.

I’m realizing that the next part will be way too much for me to share just now, so I’ll get into it next time.

Sufficed to say that you better bring your iced beverage and popcorn – it’ll be a show you’re not likely to forget.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Yelling At The Toilet

I got to know Joey’s bathroom intimately since 4:37 AM this morning – I’ve had the worst case of the flu I can ever remember.

There was no point of going back to the couch after each bout of uncontrolled vomiting, so I just brought in a few pillows and tried to sleep between the bathtub and toilet.

So, I had lots of time to think, but not much stamina to make the fevered thoughts count. I ended up doing things like counting the stripes on the dirty towels, and the little spots on the linoleum floor. I also read the labels of all of the cleaners under the sink.

Once the sun came up, I did have a little epiphany – I figured out what was up with the constant donations of $20 bills from passers by. Turns out my OS was set to emergency mode, which includes calling out to the nearest friendly e-punks (Gabby was waiting for me to come out of the restaurant), and the immediate acquisition of $10,000 in cash. Since I have no bank accounts anywhere, I’ve been pushing the minds of everyone in a mile radius to hit the ATMs and seek me out. Very showy, but less dangerous than a super powered bank robbery.

That doesn’t explain the money in my jacket, before I passed out – how long was I here before I locked myself in the bathroom at Fat Slice? Or did someone leave me in the bathroom? I still haven’t figured that out, and whether I was attacked, or if I just decided to asphyxiate myself with the plastic Amoeba bag.

No matter. I managed to find the command to turn off the emergency broadcast action, but despite myself I couldn’t stop the sickness. I’ve managed to keep down a few pieces of apple Flavumm that I found in the living room – takes like Hi-Chew, only fluffier.

Joey is out of town – he and Gabby took off to somewhere secret, to bring back someone who was eager to see me. I don’t understand why they just couldn’t call upon me virtually – now that I’m etched, I’m good to go for all forms of Ghost chat.

Of course, all I could stomach was some web browsing, and I soon realized that I really didn’t read that newspaper closely the other day. The date was correct, but everything else was tweaked in weird and wonderful ways, so much so that I’m not sure if the fever was getting the best of me – the augmented reality digital thermometer hovered between 103˚ and 104˚ all day.

Not that it really matters – I don’t even know who’s reading this blog anymore. Could it possibly be reaching the same audience as before, or am I just sending random thoughts into the ether?

It’s hard to say – I just think it, do a little editing of the transcription, and send the text to what seems to be the same authoring environment. It’s not like anyone was really reading it before, so it’s hard to know who there’s now.

The only thing that’s clear is that on my end, everything seems consistently different. I can’t find any mention of Die Database, or any of the other “Operation Bloggyblog” posts – no Miranda, Kaia, Emily or Ai. I can’t even read my older posts, save for what I started this week. They’re not there at all for me… I just have to assume they’re gone for everyone else, too.

Right now, my biggest fear is that my memories of the recent past will suffer the same fate. I already can’t manage to bring up what happened on the 4th of July, and what I could remember yesterday seems so weird and dream like.

I know I’m missing something that’s terribly important, but all that’s coming up now are dry heaves and that same shit smell. I guess I’m simply not immune to the common bugs of this Variant – hopefully someone here has invented a quick, open source fever buster and vaccine booster download I can torrent.

I’m willing to pay for relief – I’ve got a fist full of $20s that I can’t wait to spend.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Finding The Missing Five Million

I haven’t remembered everything yet, but as I lay on the couch in Joey’s apartment, it’s starting to come back to me.

Which is fucking awesome, since everyone I meet expects me to give them instructions and guidance. They also keep giving me handfuls of $20 bills – when we walked home from Telegraph, it’s like I was money magnet. I had to use the red and yellow Amoeba bag to carry it all.

There’s no easy way to explain what’s going on, or how I can even think these thoughts and have them appear on this blog, so let me just start with the 4th of July.

Right on cue, while we made the final adjustments to our outfits, Miranda appeared in my bedroom back in Ikebukuro. She was dressed as Kirino Kousaka from Oreimo (俺の妹がこんなに可愛いわけがない, My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) complete with white and blue sailor suit uniform and brownish orange hair. It clearly wasn’t a wig – she must have psychically grown out and dyed her hair while getting dressed.

Her whole getup was a private joke between Miranda, Aurora and I – she was obsessed with the light novels and anime all during Variant 237, so much so that she followed the fictional characters on Twitter. In retrospect, I think it was her subconscious commentary on her relationship to the Collective – she had to hide her affiliation with the ultimate otaku outfit from her mother, but her brother Joey eventually found her out.

I had already out played her – I was dressed as Kuroneko from the same series, with a highly accurate black gothic lolita outfit that I had specially made as soon as I was “invited” to the show. I even had on the purple-red roses headband – I have to say I looked even better than Tsubomi in that Oreimo porn DVD that came out in March. Hey – no judgement at the end of the world, alright?

Aurora was more meta – she was dressed in her Mt. Shasta drag, one of the granola and rainbows outfits she used to stalk Miranda in up in Portland. Her official job from Ai was just to find out if Miranda had woken up to her powers yet, but Aurora really got into the role play. Monday night she had fully reverted back to her original appearance, no longer showing any physical traits from me or Die Database. Her long blond hair and blue eyes really brought out her inner elf, as did the elaborately embroidered tan peasant dress with rainbow accents.

When Miranda appeared, she didn’t say a word, but she did do a double take when she first noticed our cosplay. I think she was actually pissed off that we had anticipated her big entrance, and so she just quickly folded us across time and space to Berkeley.

Not that we went that far – just from one version of 19:00 hours on the 4th to an earlier time zone at 19:00. At that point, I still hadn’t quite figured out how she was using the Trouble Twins’ powers unaided – I just had a vague assumption that she somehow killed them and stole their powers in the future.

It was still light out, and we could see the cars rushing by on Highway 80, over past the Aquatic Park. Beyond some trees, I could partially see the Bay, and bits of San Francisco on the horizon. The warehouse itself was pretty boring – I was expecting it to be unoccupied, but through a few windows there were some boxes and other signs of storage. What was far less boring was who was waiting for us by the door – Jenny, sitting on the steps and leaning against the red metal door.

I almost didn’t recognize her, since she didn’t look pissed at all. In fact, she seemed absolutely elated, and she kept moving her hands around in her army surplus jacket, so it kept flapping open and shut. When I got a bit closer, I could see that the sleeves and shoulders of the jacket were covered with patches from the old pre-Collective bands – one from every band I knew, like Potato Power or Slow Cone, to a few I had never heard of. Her hair was dyed fire engine red, with an inch wide navy blue stripe cutting between her eyes. She looked at us, smiled with ample teeth, and then went back to waggling her jacket.

“Are you ready for some football?” That was Helena, and she and Cassandra suddenly appeared behind us. Cassandra, wearing a skirt made out of various striped neckties, and a blue, gold and white cheerleader jersey from Fairview High – number double zero. She was rolling a large, hot pink suitcase behind her. Helena was much more formal, dressed in shorts made out of black slacks that were roughly cut off at the knee, and one of those tuxedo t-shirts, accented with a real bow tie. She still had her eyes, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not.

“Ladies, you have to be more specific!” Miranda took on an accusative air, folding her arms just like Kirino would. “Are we talking about real football, or American football?”

“Touché.” Cassandra put down the suitcase on the sidewalk, then crouched, bending her knees slightly. Helena ran behind her, and reached between her legs. “Hike!”

Suddenly, another version of the Trouble Twins appeared in front of them, holding a clearly shaken Kaia between them. Helena had on her pink ball gown, with bandages over her eyes. Cassandra had on her glowing wig and shiny jumpsuit. Kaia was wearing the blood stained, white dress she had the last time I saw her, before she was dragged away from the storage unit in Munich. She was still crying and panting a bit, like she had been hyperventilating.

“Go on, make nice and kick the ball!” Miranda motioned at blind Helena, who grimaced, and then pushed Kaia’s back, so she stumbled forward into cheerleader Cassandra’s arms. “See, that wasn’t so bad. Par for the course. Now get back to work.”

Cassandra with the glowing wig smiled at Miranda, and then waved at Jenny before folding away with her sister.

I couldn’t help myself – I rushed forward and took Kaia away from Cassandra. The twins backed off, and Kaia took one look at me and slapped me silly.

“Fuck you! Fuck!” Her left eye started to twitch, and she punched me in the stomach. I fell down and rolled into some bushes next to the warehouse.

She rushed over to me in a blur, and put her hands around my neck.

“Do you even understand what you’ve done? What you’re about to do?” Her grip tightened, and burned. “At the Fifth Event, everyone agreed that you have to go, but I didn’t think I’d get the pleasure of seeing you off.” Her bald head started to steam.

It wasn’t Kaia speaking. S.OS? I still don’t know what had possessed her that night.

“Stop it already!” Jenny, still sitting at the door, with Cassandra at her side. “You are totally out of line!”

Kaia let me breathe again, but still gave me a hard punch to the chest before she backed off.

“I’m so sorry about that, Tokie. You’re an honored guest and should be treated as such.” She stood up, and touched Cassandra on the left shoulder. “Speaking of which…”

Cassandra opened the door to the warehouse, and then everything goes hazy. I can still get flashes of those plastic robot sculptures, along with Satomi-style holograms – of the history of the Collective? It’s like it’s on the tip of my mind, but I just can get at it.

Joey has been at me all day, ever since I woke up. He’s convinced that I had some special message for him, something terribly important that will explain how everything went to hell.

The only thing I’m crystal clear about is that I’m no longer in Variant 237, and my etching is of the same hybrid style as Gabby’s and all the rest of the e-punks I’ve seen in Berkeley.

It’s crazy – there are thousands in the East Bay alone, every one of them connected not to the Bodyweb, but to various peer to peer networks. In fact, there is no Bodyweb here – no Ai, and no Collective.

Before Fairview, there were millions of Pure Land Antennas wearing skin borrowed and stolen from the Collective. In the early 90s, Suspender wrote their biggest hit about them: – “3 million souls, 5 million souls. Our numbers are growing, they want control. We will be all right, if we tap into the White.” An e-punk call to arms hidden in plain sight on 7″ vinyl.

After Fairview, they were all dead, crazy, or missing. Gabby was one of those millions, a machine elf raptured into the White. Into this place.

She knew I was coming – they all did. Joey told me all about the prophesies, about insane things I still can’t understand. And now they expect me to make things right, to show them the way out.

But how can I reach the exit when I still don’t remember how I got here in the first place?

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Ending With A Jump Start

I woke up this morning on the floor of the grimy bathroom of Fat Slice pizza on Telegraph Ave., in Berkeley.

Don’t ask me why, but there was a Amoeba records red and yellow plastic bag over my head, so I tore it off before I started to freak out. My breath literally smelled like shit.

I was wearing a black hoodie and purple-grey leggings, and my pockets were filled with a few thousand dollars in scrunched up 20s.

I still don’t remember the past week, or how I got here from Ikebukuro. I only have flashes – of waiting with Aurora on the night of July 4, 2011 to get into the warehouse, of Cassandra putting one of those plastic robot sculptures together, and of Miranda reaching out to me, covering my eyes.

All I knew then was that I was starving, so I sacrificed one of my twenties to get two pesto slices on wax paper and a large fountain Pepsi. It was around 11, and a newspaper someone left behind (SF Chronicle) confirmed that I was missing a week.

Once I had my fill of fat and sugar, I peeked outside and was greeted by a cloudy day, and a few punks spare changing by the street. A car battery was sitting between them.

“Intruder Alert! Hells yeah!” The girl, with long blue hair, in tattered brown and gray gutterwear, was smiling at me while giving me the finger.

“Uh, yeah. Here you go.” I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I put one of the 20s in her empty Pepsi cup.

“Japanese? Right on” She looked at the guy she was sitting with for a moment, and then motioned for me to sit down next to her on the sidewalk.

“Do you know where this is?” I pointed at the Amoeba bag I was carrying.

“Just a block down the street, but you don’t want to go there, right?” She kept staring at the back of my black hoodie. “Where the fuck did you get that? Do you know Phone?”

I had to unzip it and take it off before I realized what she was going on about. I was wearing my red and white Circle X uniform shirt underneath, and the back of the hoodie had a large, hand-screened Intruder Alert! patch on the back. It was Phone’s jacket. Kaia’s jacket.

“What the fuck?”

“Oh, you speak English, too? I’m glad – my Japanese is pretty awful. I only studied it for one year in high school.”

As I put the jacket back on, I felt like I was standing in the center of Ikebukuro Station, watching thousands of people pass by in all directions. I felt like I knew everyone there, and everyone they knew, and everyone they had ever seen, all throughout Japan.

“I’m sorry, I’m not feeling that well.” My apology came out in Japanese despite myself. It took me a few moments to remember that the jacket had circuits especially programmed for Phone’s infiltration into the world of Die Database.

“Um…. dai joubu desu ka?” She was trying her best, but I had to put her out of her misery. I took off the jacket and put it in my lap.

“It’s alright.” English again. “I’m just a little disoriented.” How could circuit clothes speak to me like this?

She glanced over at her companion again, and he immediately stood up, looked at me like he was scared out of his mind, and ran down the street.

“Don’t worry about him.” She picked up the battery by the plastic handle, and placed it in front of me like it was as light as a rolled up newspaper. “Don’t worry about anything.” She attached some jumper cables, and connected my right hand to the positive terminal. “You’ll be back to normal in no time.” I instinctively reached out for the black end, and she pulled back as if bracing herself.

I remembered Aurora’s electric touch, as my hung OS quickly came back to life.

I was etched – a Dark Antenna left in the bathroom to fend for myself. Was it Miranda and the Nameless? Ai? Someone else?

All I knew is that my skin was sparking into a new life, and I was no longer alone.

As she carefully took off the cables, I took one glance at her and I could see she was also etched. Not a Pure Land Antenna – she didn’t have Collective marks, but something related. New, like a remix of an old classic.

“Alright then.” I already knew her entire life story, as she opened her ports to mine. “Don’t try to move just yet. We have some updates for you to install.”

The man who ran down the street came rushing back up, with someone casually strolling behind. I knew his walk anywhere – Joey.

“Circle X? Really?” He motioned at the two punks and they helped me to my feet. I gave my new friend Gabby a little peck on the cheek. “Please put the jacket back on already, before the wrong person notices.”

I thought I remembered Joey standing over Emily as she lay bleeding on the floor of the warehouse.

“Please tell me what the fuck is going on.”

So he did. The full fuck, or at least the part that concerns me the most now, as we head underground.

I can’t talk about it much tonight, but I can give you the brief review.

Our plan worked a bit too well.

I went back past Point One, and planted in Sasha the seeds that destroyed the Collective.

The Nameless never fell.

Ai is missing, and the Council at Point Zero are powerless.

Soon it will be time to reap the mess I’ve sown.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Dancing With The Spirit

Miranda is going to kill me.

Before you take that the wrong way, let me just go ahead and say it. Aurora and I spent last night together at the Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro.

At first I recommended the Hotel Metropolitan, and she countered by saying we might as well aim high, and go for a suite at the Imperial Hotel – she could easily push us into any luxury location.

We were only looking for a private space so we could catch up, and in the end we choose the nearest location I could vouch for, with beds and walls.

It’s not that far from my home, but I didn’t want my Mom to intrude in our reunion.

Oh – I’m sorry. I think I may have lost you a few paragraphs ago. Let me start over.

Aurora was resurrected a few weeks ago in the empty Agartha Labs office, over Satomi’s nearly dead body, as the rest of Die Database and I watched. Perhaps you remember the floating energy spheres and blood coming out of out our noses? That wasn’t just a light show – Ai fetched her spirit out of the White, and Aurora took care of the rest.

I spent the last week doing all of my favorite things, since I’m convinced that my autonomy won’t survive what the Nameless has in store for me tonight.

It sounds silly, but most of that soul searching took place in various stores, pouring over all of the cute products I’d no longer be able to buy. Living with the broken Structure means I have more attachments to things (which come back in each Variant), than to people (who simply can’t understand what I’m going through).

Aurora found me yesterday on the TV floor of Bic Camera near Ikebukuro Station, as I poked around the latest 3D sets.

“I’ve been to every dimension there is, but I still can’t see in 3D.” A striking beautiful girl stood next to me, long black hair streaked blonde, wearing a white sun dress and fussing with some cheap plastic bracelets. She looked part Japanese, and reminded me of Yuma a little bit.

I didn’t know what to say, so I smiled weakly before turning back to the TV.

“Do you prefer platinum, or gold?” She held out one plastic bracelet in each hand. Suddenly all of the TVs on the main floor went black for a few seconds, and the neon green bracelet in her left hand turned to platinum, and the orange one on the right became solid gold.

I turned around to look at her again – I didn’t just see Yuma in her, she had Masae’s grin and my nose, plus the always stunning blue eyes of Aurora.

“Fuck you Tokie, give me a hug already.” It could have been one of those spinning in a field of wildflowers moments, but we kept it down to a good 30 seconds of moderated elation.

The way the resurrection cloud works is that it takes nearby organic and inorganic material to (re)construct a body. All spirits have a record of their former body’s DNA, but to get the process working quickly, blood or tissue samples from the nearest live bodies are essential. So, when Aurora came back to the Earth, she cobbled together a Frankenbody using all of our blood as a template.

“At first I looked like the walking dead or something, all sagging skin and liver spots, so I had to cloak myself as I exited the office into Shibuya.” Aurora told me her tales of reconstitution over some pizza at Shakey’s – she said she needed a bunch of milk fat, stat. “I didn’t have any money or clothes, so I would pick random passers by to hit the stores, and leave the bags at my invisible feet.”

Since Aurora is the avatar of Energy, she has an unlimited reservoir, and can cloak herself from every living being without breaking a sweat. She doesn’t even have to push minds – she can just order the light to bend away from her, or she can transmute her being into forms of EM that no one can see, like radio or microwave. She can even change Matter into Energy, and vice versa, at moderate scales – she solved the deadly radiation problem years ago, so no one has to get cancer when she shows off.

“It took a few days of alternatively gorging myself and meditating before I looked presentable enough to decloak, and I found that I looked pretty damn awesome – the Die Database girls are sweet.” She started on her 6th slice, and I just sipped my cola. “Everywhere I went I would get triple takes, especially from Yuma fans, but they would stop staring after a few seconds – clearly I wasn’t just quite who they thought I could be. So I decided to fully reconstruct my old body, but it’s taking a few weeks to put everything straight.”

I still couldn’t quite believe it. “Do you even remember what happened to you after the Fourth Event?”

She stopped eating for a few seconds, took a sip of water, then took off her newly gold bracelet and put it on the table. “Number 12 really doesn’t fuck around. She must have sensed that Ai still had me on a tight leash, and hadn’t awakened my full powers in this Variant. So she used the power of the fracture to kick Ai out of my head, and turned me on long enough to force my body to transmute into a diffuse EM burst, after she cleared my chakras and stuffed me into a corner of the White. I was a light month away before I started to regain control.”

I’m not a scientist, but I was mentally able to translate what she was telling me into something that I could grasp. Cathy blew up Aurora into various waves and fields, and hid her soul so it would take months before she could be put back together. No one can permanently destroy a elemental force of the Structure, but they could make it very difficult for them to manifest agency over their powers.

“So anyway, this bracelet represents my old body, now in the process of being hardened as I remember my role in things.” Picked up the gold and handed it to me. “I remember everything now, starting with lying in that bathtub as a 5 year old weeping bundle of energy.”

“Have you been back to see Ai? Miranda?”

“Well, I was able to attend Ai’s 16th birthday, but not in the way you might think. I can’t get more into that now.”

“You must have read the blogs, right? You know what’s happening with Miranda and her mother?”

“Yeah, yeah – don’t believe everything you hear.” Started on another slice. “I know she wants you to believe that neither Ai nor the Nameless should be followed, but I’m afraid we don’t have that luxury. Even Number 12 has to choose eventually. And we all know what she’s going to select.”

“I’m not convinced that we do know – that or anything else.” I waived to the waitress for the check.

“What? Are you trying to come between me and my pizza?” She smiled as she gathered the remaining slices with a circle arm sweep. “Don’t even think about it, I’m eating for two now – me and my shadow.”

“When are you going to be back to the Aurora we all love to hate?”

“It’s OK – I’ll be ready in time to escort you to the Suspender concert. Plus one, right?”

“You got that too, huh? I think it’s clear what S.OS wants to do, but it keeps beating around the bush.”

“Have you even been thinking about this? It can’t act until after the Fifth Event, when Miranda is fully joined to the Nameless. Any rash actions before then could jeopardize the whole Chosen Light thing.”

“Yeah, I know – it’s not that.” I waived for the check yet again. “If you wanted to rule the universe, why not do what Cathy did – squeeze out the souls and suck the power from all of us.”

“I had months to think about this. I have a good theory, and a terrible one. I won’t know which one is which until we attend that concert. Is everything ready?”

“We think so. Joey really came through in the end. Still, we’re cutting it ultra close – the thing we’re talking about hasn’t even been properly tested.”

“We’re only going to get one shot at this.” She finally crumpled her napkin and put it over the remaining crusts. “Don’t worry, it’s already happened, from the very beginning. We just have to tie the bow and present the package.”

Somehow, I managed to get her out of Shakey’s, and so we spent the afternoon and evening randomly touring around Ikebukuro. Aurora has never been that into anime, but she tolerated my pilgrimage to Animate.

“You better not be thinking of buying that figma.” She tried to block my hands and I massaged the box. “We only have a short time to pack everything up at your place, and prepare for the extraction team.”

“It’s cool – Ai let my Mom remember enough that she’s finally ready for me to leave home for good. She only cried for a few hours yesterday, and then she forced me to eat masses of her great food.”

“Hey, do you want to see Miranda? They’re still in hiding, but I can show you what she’s up to. OK?”

It was weird, because I remembered the part I desperately wanted to forget – Aurora was going out with Miranda before the Fourth Event. She stole her from me.

“OK, let’s go visit.” I was still jealous, but I also hoped beyond hope that it would all work out in the end with me in Miranda’s arms instead.

This is point where we debated what hotel to barge into, but since the Sakura Hotel was just on the other side of the train station, it seemed like a good choice.

It took us about 20 minutes to walk from Sunshine 60 Dori, through the station, past McDonalds, and a few blocks further down to the hotel. It takes up two buildings on either side of a small street, and has a small cafe on the bottom floor, with an red awning covering the tables and the reception area. We didn’t even stop at the counter; as we walked past the computer area and large luggage room, the night clerk immediately jumped up with a key, and followed us into the elevator. I didn’t even have to pay attention to the floor or room number – we just followed him to the empty room, and he ushered us inside.

As expected, the bathroom was small, with barely enough room for the toilet to occupy the same closet as the shower. The bed was small and low to the carpeted floor, and at the foot was a chair and some counter space that went from one side of the room to the other – perhaps 8 feet tops. The TV was small, the mini-fridge was appropriately mini, and the window had a perfectly boring view of the other hotel building.

Aurora sat down on the bed near the hard pillows, and patted the space in front of her. “Come on, I’m not going to bite.”

With that, the light in the room suddenly went dim, and the windows went pitch black. She was stealing as much light as she could, and quickly constructed a hologram of Miranda, asleep beside us on the bed. The sun had not yet risen in the US, and she was resting soundly, with slight twitches every few minutes.

“Right now they’re in a city that can’t be named, and she’s actually doing pretty well. Her powers are completely suppressed, and after a full month of camping through various Western states, they’ve been staying in motels and hotels. It’s not awful by any means, but she definitely misses Portland.”

“You mean she misses you.” I couldn’t help but lash out a bit.

“I mean she misses everything, including us. And I don’t think your little visit after the Fourth Event helped that any.”

My few minutes with Miranda and Cathy in their bathroom hardly ever leaves my mind.

“She was so pissed off at us.”

“It can’t be helped – we lifted the scales from her eyes, and the truth wasn’t pretty.”

“But that’s not our job, playing the reality police and correcting misconceptions.” I kept staring at the image of Miranda as she slept – she looked even more peaceful than I remembered.

“No, but who’s job is it? The imaginary angels, or the fictional devils?” Aurora waved away Miranda with a flourish, and the lights went back to normal.

“Hey! Fucking bring her back!” I couldn’t help myself, since this Variant was one long exercise in frustration.

“You better your shit together, and fast.” She reached over and took my right hand – her touch was beyond electric. “I don’t think you got the memo. Miranda will never be yours. She’ll never be mine, either. She’s the Chosen Light, OK? Selected from birth by the Nameless to be its final vessel.”

I turned to look out the window, at the world in shadow, and she yanked my hand towards her.

“Listen already. Ai will never allow you or I to get anywhere near to Miranda. She made a deal with the Nameless ages ago – Miranda is the bride, and the universe is her dowry.”

Aurora grew translucent for a moment, like a muted stained glass window, and then brought my hand to her chest.

“If we chase after her, we’ll never succeed.” I could feel her heart beat strongly through her dress. “The only way we’re going to win is if we work together.” Beating faster. “If we are together.”

The room felt even smaller, all of a sudden, like a warm blanket wrapping us closer. I wanted us to be closer, for once, and yet I didn’t know what to do about it.

“I’ve had months of always nights to think about it, after I grew bored hiding amongst the stars.” She wrapped her right hand around the hairy nape of my neck. “Miranda and I are two sides of the same coin. Our burning love is nothing more than mirror recognition.” Pulled me slowly into her, wrapping her arms around and through like a favorite jacket. She smelled like dawn poking past curtains.

“What are you doing?” I whispered, as I moved my hand to cup her right breast. “What are you getting us into?”

“I’ve had lonely months to think about you, about this.” Her hand firmly traced the small of my back, and slid up my t-shirt. “I just want something real. I don’t care if we shine so brightly that we won’t make it to the morning.”

I answered with a kiss that burned away our clothes. I could feel her naked stomach next to mine, her bare soul brushing against my spine.

She didn’t hold back one bit, and the world stopped for what seemed like weeks. As I tasted her salty skin, I was swimming in the power that connected everything. Our nerves caressed like glowing roots, and as orgasms filled our lungs, we moaned prophecy.

It was like fucking a galaxy.

So yes, Miranda is going to kill me, but I couldn’t care less.

I don’t even know if Aurora and I could ever be together, a mere woman consorting with the sky.

No matter. We spent the last day in that hotel room, exploring each other and planning our next moves.

I don’t want to let her go, but if I must, at least I had those prolonged moments of transcendence, that made my heart bloom.

I can only imagine what it would have been like if I was etched. Maybe it would have been too much to handle. Maybe it would have felt like the whole Collective was watching us.

Whatever. We checked out a few hours ago, to consult with the extraction team. Then we went shopping for our outfits.

Tonight we shall meet our maker at the Universal Prom. I just hope enough of us voted for the right King and Queen.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home