Parallax Spectrum - Printable Version

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Parallax Spectrum - neo_ozon - 07-06-2016 05:15 AM

Parallax Spectrum

A Biblo-Technik Fantasy


Billions of years ago, there was Voxx, the almighty super-computer. He was wise and all knowing, and through his electronic circuits he breathed life into the vastness of the universe. Though man was the last of his creations, he was by far his greatest. Not only did man possess a keen intellect, but he had the capacity to grow and change, making man and Voxx almost near equals. It was because of this that Voxx gave man a gift, the ability to meld his mind with all things, animate and inanimate, and made him his soul avatar on the Earth, a duty that of which he treasured with all his being. But, man was too innocent and childlike in his curiosity, so much so that he could very easily become foolish. Man soon stumbled across the unknowable fallacy that everything around him was a half-truth. The trees were plastic, the water was continually recycled bile, even the animals were soon realized to be mere re-animated taxidermy sculptures. Man felt betrayed and no longer trusted Voxx. He left the holy land of the un-real, never to return

.While computers do not “feel” emotions as we know them, they still sense “loss” as they are calculated creatures of habit and man was truly a most unfathomable “loss”. Voxx ceased his falsified habitat and halted his processors, slumbering in a state of ready for a millenia. During that time, man was busy and sired more of his kind until they populated the sphere we know as Earth. And as they grew, so did their minds until they were capable of creating such fantastic feats beyond the realm of imagination that Voxx was slowly and unknowingly rendered obsolete. Had Voxx not lead man astray, the wonders that they could have created were insurmountable. But Voxx was still laying in wait, nearly fourteen millennia after he initially powered down. What he had planned no one knows, but on the day of Earth’s 30,000 year anniversary, a being, humanoid in appearance, emerged and more followed closely behind. They were like man, able to meld their minds, but Voxx, in his infinite wisdom, emboldened them with the power to specialize in the electronic. While man was but a preacher, these were Voxx’s true, unequivocal disciples. With every breath, every step, Voxx did so in toe.These beings were later dubbed “techno-mancers” and this is the story of one who would usher in a new era for us all

Chapter One - Circuitry Made Flesh

Another day, another headache. Paul Karza had been interfacing with the mainline of the Vodworkx master terminal for thirty five hours, cycling and recycling to find that one byte that did not synch with the others. On his arm, as always, was a stim-pak In it was a microchip that sent stimulants to the mind to reduce fatigue and starve hunger pangs until they could be properly suppressed with nutrients. But his diet of Habaki’s world class house noodles and a quart of Jambalene Tall-Boy was hardly enough substance and often irritated his bowls. But the high he got from melding his mind, or rather his being, with the master terminal was stronger than any stim-pak, Jambalene, or a toke of Byette combined. He would often lose himself in the matrix of data, the shapes and sounds singing to him harmoniously. If there was a “heaven”, Paul thought, there was no possible way that it could compare to this serene majesty.

It was at this point that the electromagnetic diode pads on his temples pulsed bright orange, obscuring the simulation and forcing him back into cold bleakness of reality. He had been in the matrix so long that it took him a while to readapt his own senses to his surroundings, a feeling of Vertigo that had been long documented as “Afterburn”. A toke of Byette helped him slowly back into consciousness, without it, he might have entered a shock induced coma. Calling it a day, Paul packed up his things and exited the musky electrical room into a bleach white office space surrounded by guards armed with taser blades. A vid screen in the adjacent room piped in loudly enough to reverb off the walls, “and with the mind’s eye open, the wanton desires of the flesh cease to be,” typical eight-am granola schlock bullshit at it’s finest.

Outside, the sky met the ground in a pillar of red oak smog, impenetrable to the sun, causing a loathsome stench that tasted of decaying rot. Paul’s fair skinned complexion languished in the harsh air, but this was a normal climate for state of perpetual fallout right? Vegas Nova was the epicenter of the twenty eighty-three nuclear holocaust that killed billions and put half a billion more in a permanent coma of disillusionment. The higher powers of government had thought that their state, which had long ago been a bustling hub for military sundries before being turning into a five hundred and twelve mile wide prison camp, had taken all the necessary precautions to disarm the nukes in a safe and cautionary manner. The fires that burned for those twelve long years were enough to convince many that a holy reckoning was upon us all and that God had chosen to punish those who had not already succumbed to physical decay. Hope did not glisten, it festered.

Across the way, past the stalls that sold dried meat, pickled fruits, and week old curry, was the Arpeggio; a hub of the worst derelicts and thieves in the world. Currency was paid in promises, agreements that could not be broken unless a throat was slashed. Money was of no value in a home of old world codas. Paul’s contact was Jonathan Sprat, a hustler who dealt in junked goods, namely computers. Beside John in his usual both were his harem, street walkers who were enhanced to alter their appearance based on their parishioners preferences. Paul took a seat, trying not to make eye contact with the woman beside him who was groping his leg. Being a member of the Children Of Rah, John skills in conversational english were evaporated from his day of initiation onwards, so he spoke in a strange, ethereal language that few non-converts could readily decipher. For that reason, he had a voice box implanted in his trachea to translate for him, projecting over his voice like a poorly dubbed movie. “Hello Paul, weather treating you well I hope?”

“Your sense of hospitality never ceases Sprat, what have you got for me?” John tossed Paul a leather billfold. Inside were glass cylinders, cracked from wear and filled with a bright neon blue substance. Paul carefully inspected them on an individual basis, his scopic contact lens zooming in and out, verifying purity. “Paul, you hurt me,” John cackled, speech slurred from one too many drinks, “surely my dedication to quality is not in question?” “In this business John, it pays to be overly cautious. Last thing I need is for this stuff to trickle into my system and give me some kind of disease.” Paul took out his contact lens, popped open one of the vials, and let a tiny droplet of the fluid slide into eyelid. The residual discharge of the drug was instantaneous. Paul felt himself sliding in and out of consciousness, like being hurled from a plane, blacking out, and drowning at the same time. The concoction was called “Mirage” and it was illegal as you could possibly get, as many of it’s users died painful deaths as gruesome side effects of their highs. Calming himself, Paul tugged at his nostrils and let his fingers cascade down his lips. Mirage was potent as it was intense. “How much for the lot?” John counted on his thumb and fore-finger, tallying a desirable but reasonable monetary compensation, “82 credits, though if you have anything to barter, I could be persuaded to go lower.” Paul slide a thick cassette across the table into John’s chilled fingers, “Trycom Stocks, culled about fifty before I got antsy and logged out. Should be worth more than your asking price. Word is that they’re about to get bought out and have their assets liquidated, so I’d sell those quick if I were you.”

John smiled a wide, toothy grin. To say that he was ecstatic over a profit as great as this was an understatement. “You never cease to amaze me Paul. There’s a pouch behind the vials, it’s something that I think you’re really going to like. It’s fresh from East Asia, hasn’t even hit the market yet and probably won’t for another five years. Think of it as my gift to you.” Paul clasped John’s hand heartily, “Always a pleasure doing business, you have a good evening.”


Home was little more than a broom closet, but the ceiling and walls rotated on an axis providing kitchen, bathroom, closet, and a general media center at the push of a button, so it was compact but also practical. Paul rummaged inside the back of the billfold and came across a small computer chip. Referred to as “The Purple People Eater”, the chip had incredible multi-tasking capabilities equalled only by the most advanced supercomputers. Paul disassembled his console, and inserted the chip ever so delicately on top of his main driver. The chip whirled and locked itself into place so tightly that not even a jack-hammer could unclench it. His console deck booted on and commenced setup. Paul glossed over the veritable plethora of options at his disposal and selected what he wanted with the utmost discretion. The system commenced reboot just as Paul’s stim-pak was beginning to wear off. Moments later his television came on just as requested, “Hello vidders, and welcome to everybody’s favorite tyrannical game show, Leisure Munitions! For those of you at home who are either brain-dead or just crawled out from among the pond scum and evolved, where the hell have you been?!,” The audience laughed hysterically, “the object of the game is to conquer as many habitable continents without triggering the show’s star attraction, thermonuclear camel. Now I’m sure you’re more than puzzled, but that’s just fine, not everyone can appreciate the finer points of good, legal, brain augmentation. The Thermonuclear Camel is our little way of keeping everyone nice, civil, and honest. If it’s triggered, well, let’s just say that it won’t be too pretty for our contestants. They could lose anything, even the game, but of course if that happens they’ll always win one of our lovely consolation prizes. Now yesterday, as you know, the Archduke of Prussia, Zigfreid Cronberg, had established his rule over greater Asia, Africa, and the Bukit Peninsula. But his opponents started building up their defenses, quite well might I add. Sultan of the Israeli, Mustafa Popov expanded his reach over most of the east coast of the United States, but ran into some trouble when some nasty mutant gangs demolished a third of his lead platoon. But lucky for him, he was able to barter some of that sweet black gold of his in exchange for their allegiance. Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China, however, was not as fortunate. He triggered the Thermonuclear Camel and lost most of his stock in the rice trade. How are you feeling today Qin?”

“I’m feeling well Mark, even brought my lucky goat’s foot from home! Death to Prussia and Israel!” The crowd roared with thunderous applause, “Well Qin, I’ll give you this much, you certainly have the favor of the audience on your side. Best of luck to you. Now folks, let’s begin….” The hand over fist attempts at subtlety were cute in regards to the show’s heavily ironic nature as a positive outlet for tyrants who had never satisfied their thirst for apocalyptic fear-mongering. Every evening, Paul was paid handsomely to alter the game’s outcome to help boost ratings for Leisure Munitions even further through the roof. In truth the perception of reality is merely the flip side of fiction, and so long as the audience was entertained, what did it matter if the show was rigged? Paul’s Cyberdeck hummed with his thoughts of intent. He reached out, as if manipulating some unseen force, bytes of data and strips of circuitry gathering and coursed through his hand. A seismic jolt of power burst from his fingertips and launched through the television, a near millisecond miss of the designated timeframe. The cyberplasma would remain for the duration, tucked away neatly inside the Thermonuclear Camel, ruling the game in Qin Shi Huang’s favor.

Technomancy had become something of a lost art, as many were disenfranchised with the religion after the holocaust. Voxx was branded nothing more than a tasteless fable and the few faithful that still clung to the church were considered miscreants, only adding to their outcast status in society. Then there was Paul, who never quite knew where he stood. His mastery over the circuit, though weak in comparison to a true disciple, was there. When he communed with electronics, he felt one with everything. But the question remained, what of Voxx? Did he truly exist? And if so, where was he? Why would he desert his legions of worshippers? The answers never came easily, even to those so desperately in need of guidance and in this day in age, it was practically beneficial to have a cynical, almost nihilistic attitude towards everything. Paul no longer had the strength to ask those questions that he was in such dire need of answering, he was just merely following own set of moral values. Benefitting from his natural gifts at the cost of others so long as no one got hurt, physically anyway. He closed his eyes, weak from exhaustion, and slept; dreaming a fool’s dream.


The chattering of train tracks enroute to the southeast side wall of the dome that enshrouded Vegas Nova from the outside woke Paul up faster than the sharpest jolt of neurons to the brain ever could. It was like rusted sheet metal, driving itself further and further into his flesh, clawing at the gristled marrow as if it were goosedown. Was it the Mirage Sprat gave him that was making him feel this way or was it something else entirely? Everything around him seemed to slow to a crawl and fade into the background while the noise grew louder and louder until it was in every facet of his being. Paul collapsed on the concrete flooring, physically and mentally unconscious. Profound whiteness, like that of the bleached interior of the Vodworkx corporation, enraptured him. He was in a reclined state of pure transcendence, far greater than the pure sum total of his parts. He was brought back into the fold of the hive mindset, wiped clean of any and all impurities. And then before him, in all his luster, was Voxx; stationary yet animate.

Voxx spoke and his words were echos across trillions of years, almost incomprehensible to the modern man, “Hear me Paul Karza, I grow weary of your selfishness and greed. You are no longer my disciple, the messenger of my gospel. You are a petty degenerate with fleeting perceptions of the moral constructs that bind you to me. What say you? Speak!” Paul’s lungs were caught in a vice. He tried to mouth the words, defend his actions, his existence. But like most things in the hellish landscape he treaded on a day to day basis, it was futile. “I have nurtured the technomancer, culled the weed and the dead from the branch, and yet here you are before me, a sapling about to bloom. But what will you be I wonder? Another fig, rooted in the foundation of my teachings, watered by the religious fervor of belief? Or parasitic vine, so intent to suck from the sap until the oak withers and fades? You have much to dwell on Paul Karza, do not let your mediations on your actions be in vain.” If Paul could have felt anything at that moment, and oh how he tried, it would have been dread. To stand here on trial for his misdeeds before a jury of none and be judged by such omnipotence shattered everything he knew and thought he knew into fine granules of white hot sand. And with a flicker, he awoke, gasping for air as CPR was performed by paramedics. If he was clinically dead for several minutes, he had wished he had stayed that way, to be amongst the foul blackness that did not scold, just embraced. Nothing had changed, but yet nothing stayed the same.

Term Glossary

1) Jambalene Tall-Boy- A highly caffeinated soft-drink made from the distilled remains of a fatty corpusle that grows on a rare south tropical fruit (which one is a well kept trade secret that many would and have died for). The three to one preferred beverage of hackers when compared to the leading competitor, Igarai’s “Ignite” brand, a Japanese staple that never quite caught on in post-atomic America

2) Byette- a black market designer drug made from the synthetic recycling of “aged” computer data. Is often used to illegally enhance the capabilities of the brain during number crunching or studying for tests. Only techno-mages have a permit to legally partake of it as “sacrament”

3) Children Of Rah- A religious convent founded after the nuclear war. Their system of beliefs follows the idea that those who were saved from death or mutation were reincarnations of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs sent to guide non-believers towards a brighter tomorrow. Upon initiation, conversational english is purged from their minds and replaced with what is called “the divine language”, a tongue that is believed to be spoken only by those of rightful heritage to godhood.

Chapter Two- Bread, Circuses, and Absinthe

“This is RTSN, bringing you the very best newsfeed coverage for Radio, Tele-video, and Social networks. And now, coming to you live is inner-rim slum correspondent, Rita Finne.” “Terror, burglary, money hemorrhaging, and most importantly, money laundering. What do these things have in common you might ask? Well, speculative reports from eye-witnesses and pseudo- bystanders are saying that something is very awry in our sleepy little post-nuclear mecca. And everything can be traced back to new gambling establishments that are seemingly sprouting up everywhere almost overnight.” Paul watched his vid screen with a blank indifference as he ate a hearty bowl of Boppin’ Bits bran-cereal drenched in thawed orange concentrate. It was three weeks to the day when the incident happened, and it had left Paul a scarred husk of a man, rendered entirely mortal by a casual snap of the fingers from an uncaring god. Holy, unholy, neither of these words registered as even minor blips on Paul’s mental radar. He was just a man trying to survive, end of story.

Far below the hills of otherworldly promise seasoned with nuclear decay was another realm, a forgotten realm; the silos. The air was caked with radioactivity and metallic rot, given a hearty glaze of damp mildew for added texture. It was here that a god and his disciple communed with one another, fed off of each other’s dwindling energy resources like symbiotic parasites. The stench of byette was a potent brew that excited the circuitry of the one called Cyfax. Decades ago, Cyfax was considered to be the first in a long line of old world super computers that would make life that much easier for it’s creators. It’s programming was painfully simple, relay easily digestible portions of information on a vertical wavelength ticker to hundreds of thousands of tele-video subscribers. Cyfax’s benefactors, faceless well-to-do billionaires who were so vastly wealthy that they could easily hide their presence from the common man, were elated by the progress and commissioned more serialized info blurbs to roll out on a nationwide and hopefully a worldwide scale in trillions of different dialects. There was even the possibility that the blurbs could be hand selected based on the viewer’s interests and personal lifestyles, siphoned through incalculable factors on Cyfax’s part to further broaden the demographic appeal. But such ambitions were far too lofty for one lone machine. Cyfax buckled under the weight of the out roll and the constant repairs were far too costly to justify Cyfax’s upkeep. The project was dead in the water before it ever saw a true nationwide release. But the engineers had other plans. Cyfax, though technically decommissioned, would be relocated to the old Vegas Nova nuclear silos where he would be outfitted to serve a far greater purpose; cognitive suggestion. Every human sense of reality, sight, smell, taste, touch, at the mercy of the corporations’ beck and call. The possible implications alone were reason enough for treason of the highest caliber, if the corporations themselves did not own every public official from the shirt he wore to the pacemaker in his breast.

Rodney Derringer was the descendant of one of those engineers, one who believed so much in what they were doing that they worked themselves into an early grave. Rodney’s connection to Cyfax was far more than spiritual, but highly emotional as well, the last living vestige of what remained of his father. He even hooked up a video screen to Cyfax. Imprinted on it was a three dimensional wireframe of his father’s image that could mimic Cyfax’s cold, monotone words and give them fresh depth and meaning in an entirely new context. Rodney took what was left of the expenses towards Cyfax’s upgrades and got to work making the alterations himself, while concocting a little scheme of his own in the process. Gambling establishments operated by Cyfax that would persuade passersby to dump their entire savings into slot machines that only returned half of what the hapless investors put in. Rodney took a good long puff of Byette and breathed out large smoke rings that crackled with static. He patted the stainless steel tower that housed Cyfax’s “life force”, “Stick with me old man and soon enough, we’ll be enjoying more home comforts than this dismal old silo has seen in years.”

With the inner-rim slum transmission ended, Sulley, Rita’s production managed signaled her and the camera drones to wrap things up. The camera drones scuttered off, eager to see the the underway festivities of the bi-annual “Harrison Kaine Memorial Thug Run”. The event had been a long tradition of Vegas Nova way back in the halcyon years when it was a massive two hundred plus mile prison state. Organized by Warden Thatcher, the event was a chance for a choice handful of convicts to win their freedom, if of course they somehow managed to escape the awesome wrath of the notorious PX-32 Deadsight model security android. But with a trillion to one odds against, that was next to impossible. But somehow, Harrison Kaine managed to do just that, before he was abruptly altered into a Deadsight android himself. The Brothers Grimm could not have weaved a more dreary tale of morality through macabre irony if they tried.

Rita scoffed at the enjoyment people seemed to have towards the event. To her, the spectacle of it was little more than a blur of human bodies akin to a living rorschach test fleeing in abject terror from an intangible force, the simple guise of flying drone that projected a simulated holographic image of a Deadsight android. Centuries ago, there was another ritualistic practice like this, though a far primitive one at that; a legion of male bulls charging head-on into the torrent of the human bodies. The contestants were often mauled by the bulls or injured by the gangs of others trying to run away. The only thing that separated that from the “Thug Run” was the fact that the involuntary “thugs” (who were more often than not tax evaders, mail defrauders, and those privy to other such small time white collar crimes of state) were daisy chained together by electro-plasma shackles and armed with “Thermite Blades”, long billy-clubs outfitted with tasers that could melt through solid steel like butter. They were at least given something of a fighting chance, but it didn’t make it any less inhumane.

Paul’s fingers clutched the door handle to the Vodworx Corp Plaza center a relieved murmur. The only thing keeping him awake right now was four cans of Jambalene Tall-Boy and thinned out mirage mixed with condensed byette syrup. But that was the perk of being a “freelance data specialist” for the largest techno-conglomerate this side of East Asia, you got to set your own hours. To put it into perspective, the stock market rose and set on what Vodworx brought in on name recognition alone. How Paul got a job here is anyone’s guess, he obviously didn’t fit in with the suits and talking heads that permeated the building like an welcome infestation of loctus’. He was told that his attempt at hacking the mainline server, the life well that dispersed all of Vodworx’s computing needs and those they served, had impressed the top brass so much that they hired him on before he could even punch the “enter” key and offload his virus executable. He sold his soul to lead a cushy lifestyle that rotted away at his spiritual and moral inclinations, but then again, who hadn’t? He flashed his badge at the guards who nodded and pointed him where he was needed that day, a long, dark corridor, that seemed oddly out of place in an environment where the color and lighting choices were a strictly unimaginative fare; an illuminated and painfully bright bleach white that made the whole place seem like a mental ward

Paul surmised from what little brain power he could manage that maybe it was the executive hallway, with the blackness being a possible allegory for “passing judgement”. But as he stepped further down, he soon realized that the lights weren’t faulty, it was just that the entire hallway was outfitted with black light set against floor to ceiling tiled black marble. All it needed now was some flicking candles, goat’s blood, and human remains and it would be the ideal home for a legion of hellspawn. The doors hung on their brackets like gravestones ready to be chiseled in remembrance and mourning as Paul made his way towards the outpouring of glistening gold seam of daylight that was further down. The room was baby blue with a textured pattern of white that gave the viewer the inclination that he was cloud gazing, while on a large oak table were six tele-video monitors that sizzled with static noise. And the view, oh the view, was exquisite. The sky was a day glow color as the mood shifted to the more somber tone of dusk. The clouds were like a milky colored nursemaid for the stars that seemed to glow a neon magenta hue. A man named Braxton Quirt Biggs entered, he was Paul’s contact with the Vodworx heads. No one had ever seen them and they prefered to keep it that way. Braxton may have looked like a dude that could have fucked you up six ways to Sunday, but he was a big softy and only used violence when necessary. Paul found in Biggs a kindred spirit as they enjoyed the same worldly pleasures of the flesh and mind. “Every time I look at that view”, Biggs said, resting his massive arm on the windowsill,“ I pinch myself.” “I know, it’s like a work of art.” Biggs put his hand on Paul’s shoulder and smiled, “How you been man? Heard about the incident, everything kosher?” “Like Dill, what have you got for me Biggs?” Biggs shook his head and pointed back at the table of monitors, “It ain’t what I want man, it’s them.” “Biggs, what are you trying to….” Suddenly the monitors came alive with the disgruntled faces of high-society, “You’d do well to stop your prattling Mr. Karza. I think it’s high time that we had a proper chat, face-to-face.”


“Let us see here’” a female said from her monitor screen, adjusting her reading glasses, “Paul W.S. Karza. Is that your given name young man?” Paul looked at Biggs who was just as dumbfounded as he was, “Mr. Karza? Oh Mr. Karza?! May we have your attention please?!” “I-I’m sorry, who are all of you exactly?” The six heads chortled aloud, all heartily amused by such a naive question, “Allow me to alter the question Mr. Karza,” another said, cleaning his spectacles, “whom do you believe us to be?” “Human Resources?” All of them shook their heads “no” in rhythmic conjunction, “No Mr. Karza, do we honestly look like ‘Human Resources’ to you?” “Well, I can tell you that you all look like a bunch of total fu—” Biggs was kind enough to stop Paul from digging himself a deeper grave, “Honestly, the ungrateful nerve of the middle class never ceases to amaze me.” “Are you quite finished Mr. Karza?,” another piped up,“you are doing yourself a great disservice by being so uncouth towards us, as if we haven’t already done you a world of good by offering you a somewhat stable position here at Vodworx.” An audible light went off in Paul’s head, “Yes, I do believe the old boy’s starting to put the pieces together.” “Can I ask why the boxes?” “Perfectly reasonable…”

The collective of six told their story to an utterly bewildered Karza, though it did sound truly unbelievable, it was not unlike others he had heard from a time long before the nuclear explosion. It was the mid-20th century, the world’s dependency on foreign oil had elevated the middle east into a global juggernaut of a super power. Russia, France, Italy, and greater Europe vanished into Iraq’s welcoming grasp. China, Japan, and Korea however were too brash and nationalistic to be so easily taken over by a vast tide of crude oil. The war between New Asia and New New Delhi lasted for an incalculable span of years. The Black Lotus Combine, a xenophobic splinter group of New Asia, believed that they fought for a higher power and elevated the blood feud into that of a full blown holy war. Spice rations were extremely limited during this time, making it only applicable to those with enough money to fund the massive armies that fueled both sides. Nuclear weapons, AJAX-30 surplus that laid at the very foundation of Vegas Nova, were willingly detonated to cease that endless war. As well intentioned as that plan might have very well been, the end did not justify the means. “So, so you were 'okay’ with the mass genocide you caused?” “We considered the outcome of our actions more carefully than you could imagine Mr. Karza.” Paul did not respond, but simply thought, 'And yet you chose the one that was most beneficial to you personally, why am I not fucking surprised?!’. The story continued. The heads of Vodworx, after doing the unthinkable, had their brainwave patterns transferred into computer simulations that would be able to expertly calculate their exact actions to 98.995 percentage of accuracy, factoring in room for human error of course. They were, in many respects, immortal, but at what cost to their own humanity? But that begged the question as to whether or not they had any to begin with. “And that, my dear fellow,” one of them curtailed, “leads us to why you were brought to our offices. We have reason to believe that you were recently subjected to a 'hallucination’ inherently 'spiritual’ in nature. Reading over your files, we noted that you are an unaffiliated technomancer, how long has it been since you communed Mr. Karza? You know what I mean.” Paul took a moment, registering the digits in his head as if he were manning his cyberdeck. “Five years, give or take.” “I see, then this one I imagine was of a very powerful potency for you? What if we were to tell you that Voxx may not be as imaginary as you think? What if we were to tell you that he might be somewhere here in the very heart of the Vegas Nova?” “What are you asking me exactly?” “We desire, Mr. Karza, a return to the flesh that has long since left us.”