“Well? How’d it go?” asked Jim the Pirate Bartender about Marion’s exploration of Anson. He was nosey that way. Regular customers usually liked it. Strangers sometimes put off. Like Marion Harding. But he relented, wanting to abate rumors while telling the real, *checkable* facts as much as possible.
“Nothing much there except a hull,” he tested. “No autos within now for certain.”
“We *know* that, Mr. Hardware,” Jim said, speaking for the bar collective he felt he presently represented.
“Harding,” Marion corrected about his name.
“What about Anton? What’s he look like these days? Use to come in here you know. Alternated between a bloody bucket of nails and a naily bucket of blood. Rough drinks both. Usually dove back into the sea pretty wasted. Surprised he didn’t actually drown he was so sloshed.”
“You know that’s impossible,” Marion corrected again. “You know we can all breathe under the water. Above the atmosphere, under the water. Survive fire and flood — although there is that rumor about a volcano on the Old Continent where avatars could actually perish.”
“But look at your friend Stinky Brinkman you spoke about earlier. Riddled with bullet holes. You said you were there at the funeral and another gunfight erupted, with three more dead. Then at *their* funerals nine more dead. What was the total at the end?”
“138,” replies Marion in a level tone. “138 avatars killed so far. Chain reaction, yeah.” He shook his head, thinking about Stinky more than any of the others. “But they aren’t really dead, see. The *core* remains to rise another day. Actually,” he then reconsidered, “there is another way to truly die. You can deactivate yourself — obliterate the core. I’ve been told it’s possible but I’ve never known anyone to actually do it. The problem might be: when you deactivate yourself that way you rub yourself out of existence, so no one remembers anything about you, past or present. It’s as if you never existed in the first place. Working theory mind you.” He took another sip of his Brewmeister’s Quarterly, still being careful not to drink too much. Because that’s when he gets in trouble with the revealing.
“Well I never,” Jim replied, wanting to get back to Anton. He wiped the counter in front of him a bit and collected his thoughts again. “I’ve heard he’s only a beard these days. Anton, I mean.”
Close, Marion thinks. But then utters: “I didn’t see him. No autos, no Anton.”
“Impossible,” returns Jim. “There’s a green dot on the map up there. It’s usually there. It’s gotta be Anton. We’ve had ships pass over the wreck and examined their NAR (Nearby Avatars Radar). Anton: usually the culprit. In fact — let me check my own map right now (Jim’s face went blank for a moment) — well he’s not there now, but *usually* is. Sometimes, anyway.
A cyberwoman walks into the bar and settles into a stool two down from Marion, paper airplanes whirling ’round and ’round her head. Spy? he considers. Jim keeps talking about Anton. Marion wishes he would really shut his yapper now.
“Maybe he’s totally invisible. He use to be whole, like when he came in here. But then there were reports of just a beard and a coat, just a hat and some pants. Maybe he really is gone, man. Dead even.”
“Is this Anton a boy of about 10 years old,” Cyberpaperdoll then inserted.
“Um, no,” Jim answered.
“Well, never mind, then. Paper plane cocktail if you will.”
What Marion actually saw:
Shoes buried in the sand — uncovered. And the left one holding something small and green and almost priceless he soon found out. About $500,000 lindens worth of almost priceless. Enough to leave Second Lyfe altogether if he wished. But, truth be told, he only wanted to get back to that ice fishing shack over in Horizons-Spica. He dreamed about it almost every night.