Krimspiracy: Part 3

Taenaran the Bard confirmed that he saw nobody else upstairs except Brother Fulke before the rehearsals began, then nobody else went up and down all afternoon.

“We were short of chairs and a couple of guys had to sit on the stairs,” he said. “Nobody snuck past us.”

“Did you go upstairs at anytime during the afternoon? Was anyone else up here?”

“I came upstairs to grab an instrument,” Taenaran said. “I didn’t see anybody.”

“What do you think happened?” said Ellison.

“I don’t know,” said Taenaran. “But he probably left he building on his own. Probably staged things so he’d look like he was attacked then, I don’t know, broke into someone’s else’s office and then snuck out in the middle of the night. Maybe hid on the roof.”

“Why would he do that?”

“The guy’s desperate for attention,” said Taenaran. “Have your heard their conspiracy theories? It wouldn’t surprise me that this whole thing was just a stunt to get attention.”

After they left the building and were walking over to Banking Street, Ellison asked Matilda, “Could Taenaran be right? That this whole thing is just a stunt?”

“Could be,” said Matilda. “But they’re paying us by the day.”

“You’ve been on Krim for a while. What do you think of the administration?”

“Most of them probably just see it as a job,” she said. “I mean, at first, there were probably some who really believed in the Krim ideals.”

“This place has ideas?”

“Well, the realistic medieval world thing. But in practice, it’s just folks fighting pretend battles, arguing with each other over stupid things, and sex cults. I think the admins have pretty much washed their hands of the place. I don’t think any of them set foot on the grid if they can help it. You’ll see when you talk to them.”

“You’re not coming?”

“I’m going to hit the bars. See if anyone heard anything.”

She was right about the grid admins not caring much about what was happening in the virtual world.

“I don’t set foot outside if I can possibly help it,” said assistant grid manager Weldon Layton, cozy in his little office in the Krim City Hall, the grid’s central administration building. “If I go out there, people immediately starting complaining. About the weather. About the food. About the dirt on the streets. We’ve even had staff kidnapped before.”

“What happens then?”

“We permanently ban everyone involved,” he said. “This is a private grid. We can kick people out for any reason.”

“So if you wanted to get rid of the Round Krim folks you’d just kick them out?”

“Sure, but they’re harmless.”

Ellison pulled over a chair and sat down in front of Weldon’s desk. “Explain to me the physics and the gravity thing. They’re saying that Krim is running a real physics engine, and the only way that gravity could pull downwards everywhere on Krim is if Krim were round.”

“Our physics engine is real only in the marketing sense of the word,” said Weldon. “There’s a little asterisks next to it. It’s not so much real as vaguely realistic. Or occasionally similar to reality.” He signed. “I mean, look, we have rain coming down every single night exactly at midnight. It’s not like we have realistic weather here. We have trash chutes that magically make things vanish. The atmosphere doesn’t get less dense as you go up. We don’t simulate anything smaller than a speck of dust — no bacteria, no viruses, no molds. If you get a microscope and look close, you’ll see that everything gets pixelated pretty quickly.”

“But people get sick.”

“We simulate the symptoms, not the actual disease,” said Weldon. “If you cough, it’s because the biology engine decides you should cough, not because there’s a virus your body is reacting to. I mean, we don’t even simulate fleas.”

“That can’t be right,” said Ellison. “I’ve seen fleas.”

“You probably just saw specks of dust.”

“They itched.”

“Probably just psychosomatic.”

“I’ve been buying flea powder every day,” said Ellison.

“From Norbert Hawkin?” Weldon laughed. “Buy some of his dragon repellent, too. It really works. Nobody’s been killed by a dragon yet.”

“So Krim isn’t actually round.”

“No. There are physics engines that simulate planets. A lot of the sci-fi grids have them. But flat ones are cheaper and easier to manage.”

“What about all the water pouring off the sides? Where does it all come from? Why don’t the seas empty out?”

“It doesn’t come from anywhere,” said Weldon. “It’s not real water. Just like the rains don’t come from anywhere. They just all are.”

“So you have no reason to kidnap Brother Fulke and keep him in a secret dungeon, then.”

“Are they on about that again? Listen, if we were going to put anyone in a dungeon, it would be the sex cults. Those guys give me the creeps.”

“Why don’t you?”

Weldon shrugged. “They bring in users. It’s right there in the terms of service, in big bold letters. If you come to grid, you could get kidnapped and tortured by a sex cult. There are no safe words. You’re here at your own risk. People don’t care. You’re here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but nobody thinks they’ll actually get kidnapped.”

“Right, and a few folks have tried to sue,” said Weldon. “Because it’s in the terms of service, the cases get thrown out. And if the media writes about it, we shut it down because any news about what happens on the grid is in violation of the anti-spoiler laws.”

“So you don’t want the public to find out about the sex cults?”

“Oh, no, we do. We wait a few days to shut the stories down. Each time the news gets out, we get an influx of users. And then when we shut the news down, we get more people showing up to find out what we’re trying to hide. It’s actually our top marketing strategy. The worse the sex cult, the more new traffic we get.”

“That’s awful.”

“Yes, well, I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of the place. I’m just here until my options vest. Then I’m off to the asteroid belt.”

Ellison took out the badge badge and put it on Weldon’s desk. “Do you recognize this?”

“Yup, that’s mine,” said Weldon. “I was wondering where it got to.”

“So you’re saying you lost it?”

“Yup. Must have been… a couple of days ago. Let’s see. I haven’t been out of this building so it must have been someone who came in here. No, wait, I went out to buy a hot dog. Someone had set up a stand right across the street. I could smell the hotdogs each time anyone came in or out. I guess I could have dropped it.” He shrugged. “If you find out that someone has been impersonating me, let me know. We ban people for that.”

Ellison stood up to leave, then turned back. “Any chance you can pull up your computer and check where Brother Fulke is right now?”

“I don’t need a computer,” said Weldon. He put his fingers tips to his temples and closed his eyes. “I see him… lying drunk in a ditch somewhere. No, wait, he’s passed out in a brothel. No, I’ve got it this time. Fulke accidentally bumped into someone from one of the big guilds and now Glad the Impaler is torturing him.”

“You’re probably right,” said Ellison. “We should pay Glad a visit.”

“Tell Glad I said hi.”

“You know him?”

“Sure, he used to work down the hall,” said Weldon. “Customer support. Quit when it got too much of him. He’s now working out his trauma.” Weldon shook his head. “It’s the worst job on the grid. Which reminds me — we’re hiring.”

1 thought on “Krimspiracy: Part 3”

  1. Aha, the admin Weldon talks about Krim’s physics engine being only vaguely realistic. That is interesting to know! I also like how Ms. Korolov makes the reader wonder whether Weldon is telling the truth about his badge – did he really lose the badge, or is he lying?

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