the smuggler’s bible

Juliet

Juliet triggers the interrupt—haywire. The severance is a jarring wash of color and sound. Waves crashing in the distance against a kaleidoscoping horizon, the sim’s final efforts to make sense of truncated signals. For a moment, Rumble’s voice is in her ear. Whether it’s really him or the construct, she can’t be sure.

“And what about me?”

“I guess I don’t know how to answer that.”

“I understand. Well, at least something is happening, even if it’s the end.” the voice says, fading into static. “That’s life.”

When she opens her eyes, there is a message from Huron waiting.

Juliet

The room changes almost imperceptibly. The shadows suddenly seem not quite so deep and the other Rumble’s posture appears more angular. His voice stutters briefly. He catches it and slows his speech.

Processor spike, Juliet thinks. Must be some big machinery moving in the background if he can’t even keep the sims running smoothly. She blinks as a text marquee begins moving across her vision. “Sorry I didn’t come sooner. Two minutes, then pull the plug. Good luck, kid—H.”

“All right, asshole, we’ve both got places to be,” Juliet says, cutting off the construct. “So let’s come to terms.”

Rumble

He rides the edge, speeding through the wake of Huron’s program. The beam stretches out in front of him, churning with the accumulated motion of the system’s collapsing defenses. Traps and feints, counterattacks. Gates slam shut behind them, too late. Others are convinced to open.

“Look at her go,” Huron says, somewhere over his shoulder. “This baby can really cut.”

“What are the lights?”

“I don’t see ‘em. Probably some of the action washing over to your optic nerve. We’re the first people dumb enough ever to buy a ticket for this particular carousel. It’s up to us to troubleshoot.”

Huron

“Have you ever considered your soul?”

“In an abstract way.”

“Some people might argue that’s the only approach that’ll get you close. Otherwise the idea gets to look less and less like what you expect. Then it isn’t even there to consider at all.”

“That’s what you think?”

“Hell no. The human soul is software. Or at least that’s a metaphor with the sort of structure we can drape assumptions over until it resembles a strategy. First, imagine one soul in two bodies.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“Sure, but you have to admit,” Huron says, “maybe not as bad as the reverse.”