The Antisocial Network – Chapter Thirteen

Eric caught a glimpse of sensible women’s shoes coming towards him before the brainworm collapsed into scrap metal and buried him underneath. The pressure on him was immense for another second or two then there was a strange popping sensation and Eric found himself in empty headspace with the metal ring still clenched in his hands. He took a few steadying breaths as the beginning of a migraine built behind his sinuses. Sensory deprivation was starting to sound more and more like a perk of working in headspace rather than a drawback.

His abused cranium was really starting to protest when a door appeared, swung open and Vent stepped through, his ten year old form shifting back into the familiar Victorian persona. Eric spared a brief glance for the door, which was’t attached to any thing and vanished as soon as it swung shut behind behind the other meme. Vent hurried over to him, his meme visibly relaxing as he looked Eric over, patting him down as if to ensure everything was still there.

“Relax, Vent, I’m fine.” Eric gently pushed Vent’s hands away.

“Do you feel dizzy? Is there any sensation returning to your limbs?” Vent continued to look him over but kept his hands to himself. “Are you experiencing any synesthesia?”

“Any wha- no, never mind. I just have a headache.” Eric pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled, it was a lot less therapeutic when he wasn’t inside his own head. “Is that normal?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of someone’s meme being forgotten while they were in someone else’s headspace. I guess it just bounces back to running in your own head? It’s not like your memes were ever dependent on someone else’s mind.” Vent’s voice trailed off in the same way Eric’s father’s did when he was deep in thought.

Not that Eric was sure what he was thinking about it. Now that he wasn’t under the threat of brainworm attack the idea that someone else’s bad memory could pose a danger to him seemed silly, even with telepathy in the mix. Eric decided to investigate the ring he’d gotten from the worm instead. It seemed like a featureless circle of metal until he ran his fingertips along the inside of the ring. Then it suddenly sprouted teeth and wrapped tightly around his hand.

“Gah!” Eric yelled, trying to work his fingers out from under the ring.

“Ah!” Vent snapped out of his reverie and crowded in to help.

Neither one managed to get a grip on it before it vanished under the skin. Both of them stared at Eric’s hand for a moment. With exaggerated calm Eric looked at Vent and asked, “What happened?”

“Well…”

“This is another thing you’ve never heard of happening before, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yes, it is.” Vent produced the tools he’d used earlier to examine the brainworm. “But if you don’t mind, we can take a look and try and figure it out now.”

Eric rolled his eyes. “Fine. Take a look.”

Ten minutes of uncomfortable poking and prodding later, Vent tucked his tools away and humphed.

“Humph what?” Eric asked.

“You know how a telepath wakes up, right?”

“The nontelepath,” Eric put out one hand flat, “synchronizes with the telepath.” He put his other hand under the first hand. “Then the telepath slowly cranks the nontelepath up to speed,” he pushed his top hand up with the bottom, “and you have two telepaths.”

“Pretty much. As near as I can tell, what happened that the part of the brainworm that took care of the synchronization just synchronized with you.” He ran one hand along his jaw sheepishly. “But I’m not sure what happens now. I think the rest of the process was handled by other parts of the brainworm so there’s nothing left there for it to do.”

Eric rubbed his hand uncomfortably. “Right. Well, I guess that’s one problem dealt with. But it kind of leaves a bigger issue, don’t you think?”

Vent shot him a look as he adjusted a new top hat on his meme’s head. “What’s that?”

“You said the First Teep knew everything he needs to make more brainworms.” Eric gestured broadly to encompass everything that happened in the last half hour. “And I can’t image that we won’t end up right back here if he does.”

“That’s true…” Vent struck a thoughtful pose. “At the same time what do you suppose we do about it?”

Eric threw his hands in the air. “Well you’re the expert, right? Couldn’t you convince him that the thing is dangerous?”

“He wouldn’t believe us.” Vent shrugged. “It wasn’t dangerous when he first built it.”

“But it became dangerous over time. It took you five minutes to figure that out, couldn’t you explain it to him?”

Vent looked away and didn’t answer. Eric grunted in disgust. “Is there some reason he wouldn’t believe you?”

“We might not have parted on the best of terms.” Vent heaved a sigh and looked back. “Fine. We’ll go talk to FT. Maybe he’ll be in a mood to listen to sense this time.”

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