Feb. 2nd, 2007

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YT walks out of the Port in which she's just materialized, right into the busiest part of Downtown. It's early Friday evening on the West Coast, the part of Reality she hails from, so there are lots of other Americans on the Street right now, done up in their flashiest avatars.

Her avatar is not flashy: it looks just like she does, right down to the blue-and-orange RadiKS coverall she wears for work. It's a high-quality job, though, crafted with painstaking care by a veteran designer and rendered by a cutting-edge personal computer. Most skateboard Kouriers have to make do with fuzzy black-and-white avatars from public terminals. But YT has connections - to two of the most prominent hackers in the Metaverse, among others.

Muttering a special command, she summons a virtual replica of the skateboard she uses in Reality. When it materializes in front of her, she steps on, kicks off and coasts down the Street.

The Port she came out of isn't the closest one to her destination, but sometimes she likes to take the scenic route. There's always something interesting or weird to check out in the Metaverse. More to the point, there's a part of her that never fails to be fascinated by the whole place - not that she'd ever admit it.

YT passes by mile-high structures laced with neon and covered with giant screens displaying everything from advertisements to indie films; by something that vaguely resembles a Gothic cathedral, with its gargoyles and sculptures clambering all over the roof, walls and alcoves; by an open-air theater where there is a jazz concert in progress. She goes by (and through) crowds of avatars of varying quality and degrees of humanness; there are dragons, movie stars, aliens, geisha, deities from various pantheons, wizards, businessmen, elves, and the inevitable Brandys, Clints and giant ambulatory penises. It's Halloween and Carnival all at once, all the time.

She is fast approaching her destination: she shifts her weight to make a minor course correction. Since certain rules of physics - like friction and momentum - are only enforced on an arbitrary basis here, her plank is still going at the same speed it was when she gave it the initial push. Even the adaptive smartwheels on her real-world skateboard couldn't have managed that.

The entrance to The Black Sun is, as always, surrounded by a crowd of gawkers, wannabes and hangers-on who don't have permission to cross the property line. The building is a simple matte black pyramid with the top cut off: the only decoration is a circle in bas-relief, with the name of the place engraved under it, above the door. Although it doesn't look like much, it's one of the oldest, most important and most exclusive places in the Metaverse. And it happens to be run by two of her close personal friends: they're usually hanging out in there at this time of day, which is why YT is here.

YT puts her foot down, stops her plank, picks it up, and saunters through the crowd of avatars packed around the door. Another bit of physics that the Street generally ignores is collision between people, which is convenient for both the system and the people themselves. Crowds like this just sort of turn into fogbanks, from the perspective of the person going through them.

Unlike the rest of the fogbank, though, YT can get across the property line and into the doorway. When she does, the whole crowd goes nuts, cheering and waving like they've just spotted a celebrity. Of course, none of them have any idea who YT is, but as far as they're concerned, if she can get into the Black Sun, she's an Important person. There was a time when she got a real kick out of this, but now she just finds it mildly annoying, if she happens to be in a mood to care at all.

Right now she isn't. She ignores the crowds and steps through the door, into the Black Sun.

Or, rather, that's what was supposed to happen. What has actually happened, and where she actually is, are entirely different...


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