18. A long view off a steep cliff

Ellison didn’t stick around for any of the torture. He didn’t think it would be particularly useful, first of all. Back in the old day, people would confess to just about anything for the torture to stop.

But also, it just didn’t sit right with him.

Sure, it wasn’t real. Not really real. But it felt real, and wasn’t that real enough?

Just because people signed the Krim terms of service and liability waivers didn’t mean that they actually expected or wanted to be tortured. He himself, for example, wasn’t on Krim to roleplay at being a medieval peasant or soldier or minor prince. He was here for work.

The three thieves down in Rodge’s torture dungeon mostly spend their time knitting and weaving or basket making or whatever crafts they were into.

On the other hand, they did rob a mercenary guilt. At the end of the day, they knew what they were setting themselves for.

Doesn’t mean that Ellison had to watch.

His first step was the central square, where he walked through the main gate and out into the real world.

His brother Jerald had recently moved his company, Crewe Investigations, to Facepage. The company had been on a massive acquisition spree lately, buying up smaller worlds right and left, including the office park where Crewe Investigations had been headquartered.

Now Crewe Investigations was just another store front on Main Street.

Facepage’s ranking algorithm meant that the world looked different to everyone who visited it. In Ellison’s case, that included several potato-themed restaurants, a movie theater, a singles bar, the Crewe Investigations building, and mental health clinics on every other corner. Clearly, Facepage’s algorithm didn’t know him as well as it thought, since he wouldn’t be caught dead talking to a shrink.

The office came with a new receptionist, a sexy bot that was included in Facepage’s basic business package.

Ellison waved the bot off and walked into his brother’s office. It was several times larger than his old one, and featured a floor-to-ceiling glass window that overlooked a mountain landscape. Having been stuck on Krim for the past few weeks, the greenery, and the crisp blue of the sky took his breath away. With all the soot in the air, Krim’s average visibility was barely more than a few blocks.

He walked past Jerald’s desk to stare out at the view while he finished off the rest of his French fries.

Jerald finished up his video call and stood up.

“You could have sent me a message that you were coming,” he said. “I could have been in the middle of something.”

“I’ve gotten used to just dropping in on people,” said Ellison. “No other option, on Krim.” He nodded out the window. “Nice view.”

“I haven’t gotten around to changing it yet,” said Jerald. “That’s the default background the office came with.”

“Can you go out there?”

“Sure, why not?” Jerald made a quick gesture and the windows slid open allowing Ellison to step out on to a narrow balcony. The air was fresh and crisp, with just a slight chill to it.

“How far does it go?”

“How should I know? Forever, I guess. It’s just the default mountain background.”

“Do the freebie apartments come with those?”

“Yeah.”

Ellison looked down. The balcony was embedded into the side of a cliff, with nothing below, or above, except more crags. The base of the cliff was hundreds of feed down. He felt the urge to step off the balcony and soar off into the air.

He hadn’t gone flying in… well, he flew on that dragon on the World of Battle a while back, but nothing other than that. On Krim, the only flying you’d do was in the moments after you were thrown out through a window and before your skull hit the pavement.

In prison, there were a number of therapeutic nature environments for the inmates to visit, but knowing that they were intended as therapy made Ellison avoid them. There was nothing wrong with him. He hadn’t done anything wrong, and his anger at Elea Carlyle was fully and completely justified.

He didn’t need therapy.

He needed a plan.

And speaking of plans…

“I need your help with something,” Ellison said, tearing his eyes away from scenery and stepping back into his brother’s office. “I’m looking for a guy.”

He rattled off Gervis’ contact information and screens sprung up into the air around Jerald’s desk.

They showed Gervis — Ruslan Jimmy Joe Estemirov — in various permutations. His work history. His academic record. His social graph. Ellison was surprised to see that he was married, and the identification print of the woman he was married to matched that of Trozganoth the Anointed. So it wasn’t just an in-world roleplay relationship, but a real one .. and they’d been married for over seventy years.

That meant that Gervis was probably still on Krim somewhere, trying to free Trozganoth.

Ellison checked the location data. He was right. Gervis hadn’t set foot back in the real world. After he fell down the chute and died, he must have grabbed a new avatar in the Krim welcome area and walked right back in through the gate again. Technically, he’d never left Krim.”Can you keep an eye on the guy for me?” Ellison asked. “Also, can you run a full background check and send it to me in-world?”

“This isn’t for an official Crewe contract,” Jerald said.

“No,” said Ellison. “An in-world side gig.”

“I’ll do it if you do me a favor,” said Jerald. “I’ve got a case coming in next week. Elea Carlyle wants to hire us again.”

Ellison was tempted to refuse, but then again, working for Elea would give him another opportunity to figure out what she was up to.

“Only as long as I don’t have to sign any binding contracts or non-disclosure agreements,” he said.

“Knowing your history, I guess that’s fair,” said Jerald. “It’s a deal. I’ll watch for Gervis, and get you the background check. What should I do if he shows up?”

“Tell him that you’ve got an anonymous buyer for the jewel,” said Ellison. “Hint that it’s a rival mercenary guild and that they won’t just pay for the jewel but help him break Trozganoth out.”

“Right. I’m guessing that this will make sense to him?”

“I hope. I’m going to head back to Krim and track him down there. Send me the background info via the Krim post office. If you catch up to him, tell him that there will be a message left for him at the post office, under the name Jimmy Joe. Do you want me to write that down for you?”

“What, why?” Jerald gestured around at the floating screens. Immediately, one of them started playing back a video of Ellison’s last few words. “You’ve been on Krim too long. Have you ever considered…”

“Right then, gotta go.”

“Check your messages! People have been calling me trying to reach you.”

“No thanks.” Ellison had finally managed to turn off all notifications and wasn’t about to turn them back on. “If they really want me, they can find me on Krim.”

1 thought on “18. A long view off a steep cliff”

  1. This instalment is pure fun. Haha, Jerald’s office on Facepage is amusingly, mouthwateringly nice compared to Krim’s sooty medieval bleakness. An exaggerated version of Charles Dickens’ writings comes to mind when thinking of Krim. The view from the floor-to-ceiling window in Jerald’s office sounds magnificent – a mountain panorama that can be hiked in the virtual Facepage world. Also, Elea sounds like an interesting character – the reader is intrigued and wants to know more.

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