Orphic Phantasia

35: A Bold Venture

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“Hey, duders,” said Lance Algar, slouched in a chair with a wide-brimmed hat perched atop his golden hair. Next to him, Chris Shaw glanced up from his reading material—‘Captain Solo and the Archons of Venus’—and flashed a cocky half-smile.

“You took your time,” he said, as he slipped the book into his coat pocket.

Emily pulled Dante into the booth. “You are ‘Captain Solo’?” she asked the Malkuthian.

Chris’s teeth flashed white in the flickering, incandescent light. “The one and only,” he replied. “I hear you’ve run into a spot of bother aboveground.”

Emily pulled up a seat at the small table, which was littered with cards bearing images of strange creatures with equally strange names, like ‘Berserker King: Lowthor’ and ‘Twilit Terrapin: Titian. “John sent us here. He said you could explain everything.”

“Well, it’s a long story,” said Chris, “but before that, let me have a look at your cell. I think it would easier for all of us if we neutered that little implant in your neck, yes?”

The moment he said that, Emily’s cellular was on the table. “They use it to track us, don’t they?” she asked, as Chris picked it up and linked it to his own.

“Of course,” he replied, as he gestured unseen commands. “Fortunately for you, I pulled in a few favours from back home. Here.” He handed Emily her cell. “Just hold it to the back of your neck and—”

Before he could finish, Emily was doing as he asked. A moment later, a dainty little jingle filled the booth. “Is that it?” she asked, scratching the back of her neck. “I don’t feel any different.”

Then came the second jingle. Emily checked her cell’s screen. Dante spied a string of numbers, twelve digits long.

“That’s your new key,” said Chris. “It had to decrypt the old one first. Now you just have to upload—”

Again she cut his instructions short, slapping her cell to the back of her neck and waiting for the third and final chime. “It’s still there,” she said. “I can feel it.”

“The implant is, yes,” explained Chris, “but you’ve effectively replaced the program. From here on out, you won’t have to worry about anybody using it to trace you. On top of that, you have admin privileges for their entire network. You’d be amazed at the things those vendors can produce when you’re one of the elite few.”

“Full admin rights?” she asked as Dante followed her example and handed Chris his cell.

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‘Titian’ is actually the name of a Renaissance painter…