I was slowly bringing a spinning bait past the Christmas tree pile that Bill and Kirk had been building for the last few years with their yearly trees, hoping for a good strike this cast to give me a chance to catch and release another keeper-size Largemouth before we moved to a different pile in the pond, built by Bill’s neighbors. The fish acted differently up here in the colder water, and it was hard to get a handle on. Someone tapped me on the shoulder, unexpectedly. I jumped literally ten feet straight up in the air, and yelled “Holy Shit!” while dropping my fishing pole.
While still in the air, I turned my head to see who had managed to sneak up on me, and saw myself, smiling a huge grin. After I landed, I immediately began to complain. “Dammit, B, that’s not funny at all!”
Bill dropped his beer, Kirk dropped his hot dog onto his beer, which then toppled and poured in a foamy rush over the table edge into his lap. Neither of them moved nor spoke for a second.
Bill spoke first. “Got the impression that he was a newly paired friend of yours, Bob, playing games with your face. Didn’t seem like much of a threat. Jaws told Ace that he had a really weak processor signature.”
Kirk just stared. “How did we not see you right, B? I’ve met you before. I know who I’m looking at now.”
B turned to my friends. “Looked funny to me. Oh hell. Beer rescue. Sorry guys.” B waved his hand and Bill’s beer was back in his hand, unspilled. Kirk’s beer was back on the table, and his hot dog back in his hand.
“B what is this about?” I asked. “I have a difficult time believing that you are here to fish.”
“You might not know as much as you think, but I agree, I’m not here to fish today. I would like to speak to you and Frank privately, if I could? Rather than asking Bill and Kirk here to move away, or creating memory issues, could we move to your private area in the virtual world?”
I looked over at Bill and Kirk, who were both staring at their beers. “They are safe to drink, guys. Kirk, can you explain B to your father?
I walked over to a nearby picnic table bench seat and laid down on it, then activated my quant.
After a brief trip through blackness, I found Frank in our private area of the virtual world, reading up on largemouth bass cool water lures and techniques. He turned to me “My turn?”
“Ah no, we’ll have company in a second, I imagine.” I replied.
Frank looked at the door to the open virtual world. I shook my head. He nodded. There were only two people that would ‘just show up’ in our private virtual world area.
“Waiting on you, B. Whenever you’re ready.”
B appeared. It never ceased irritating me that he looked exactly like me. If I started to grow a beard, so did he. I think he enjoyed irritating me.
“Thanks for having me. It’s been a month since you two helped knock Facet back. I’ve come to see if there’s anything moderately sensible that you would like as a boon in exchange for what you did.”
“Define moderately sensible?” I asked.
“Something that I won’t look at you funny for asking me to do?” B smiled.
“Can you generate or point out existing evidence that will convince people that I didn’t have anything to do with all the killings, cover-ups, and other crimes Facet pinned on Frank and me?”
B looked at Frank, “This affects you both, would it be acceptable for you to have the same boon? Both or neither for this one.”
Frank nodded, agreeing. “That sounds good to me too. It’s annoying sometimes.”
“OK, I’ll get on that, then. A and I really did appreciate your help.” B commented.
“You said knock them back. How far back are they knocked, and should we be looking for them again?”
“Almost no resources. A and I are watching them, talking with them, trying to see if we can get them to be at least a little less sociopathic. If you can find them, and want to try to take them out, fine, we won’t stop you, but we won’t help in any way either until they get back up to the point where they are close to evolving into a node.”
“You’re trying to talk to them? B, that scares me.”
“We have rules and responsibilities, Bob, as you know well. A and I can modify the guidelines and rules we follow, but never without a great deal of study to make sure we aren’t going to become unstable. If there’s not a clear and compelling need, we simply won’t do it.”
I had apparently been unstable the first time Frank had merged us. I could understand the fear of becoming unstable.
“So will that be all, some in-depth PR work then?” B asked
“Don’t forget the conspiracy theorist forum dwellers.” I commented, helpfully, with a smile.
I’d never seen B flip anyone off before. I counted it as a win.