This is an interactive story. At the end of each page, there will be a poll. The poll will have four possible courses for the story to take. The course with the most votes at the end of the week will be chosen to start next page.
This story draws much inspiration to William Gibson’s Neuromancer and my husband’s work with Steampunk.
“If I go to this place again, I’ll puke,” said Mario to himself. He knew that he was going to the same place that he had gone to every Friday for the past year. He was on the coding line that night which meant that he would get 300 bit and an ounce of protein concentrate. The bit would help him pay the cost on his bed tube. All he had to do was go in there and put in the code for the next three days of an online gaming program for the slickers uptown. He lived downtown in a small tube that he rented from No Nose Toni. She was this large woman who had lost half of her nose trying to get a nose piercing. She was incredibly cheap and had tried to do the job herself. Mario had tried to get her to go to the amusement park with him, but she had argued about the entrance fees. He was going to pay. He didn’t mind that, but he did mind arguing.
There he was, outside the crank. He held his breath and walked into the small cramped office where three other coders typed away mindlessly while their necks were connected to the main processor by dozens of tiny multi-colored wires. They did not open their eyes when he entered. They were in another place; they were coding and only aware of the different paths of the threads that they were writing for others to play the next day. Mario considered whether he would plug in and lay the play for the slickers, or whether he would just walk out. He had to stay because his mother had left last year and there was no one else to make sure that the cramped bed tube was paid for.
The place smelled bad. It smelled like a dog kennel. He could do nothing about it. He had put the jack into his neck when his mother had died. Her insurance had paid for the operation. He wanted to work rather than get the free state fund. He heard that if he got the free state money, he would be beholden. His mother had taught him the word beholden one day. He had refused to do some chore, it was not important what that chore was, and he had forgotten. He had never forgotten how beholden felt. He had been like a piece of dead wood floating in the water unable to think or to control his way through but having to rely on the water, and hoping that it felt like holding him up and not smashing him against a rock.
He put the jack in and saw the thread left by yesterday’s coder. It was a forest path. The pine trees formed in front of him, and he heard a sound ahead of him. He coded for hooves. The sound of hooves pounding on the path got progressively louder. He coded for a centaur. He walked towards the sound and the creature stood before him. The centaur had a massive body with an iridescent coat that shook as it breathed. Mario coded the wind and the smell of flowers. He also made sure to include a musky smell coming from the centaur.