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.