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Crisis In Infinite Plexes - Anomaly Two

Pretty blinks in the way that calls up his retinal HUD. Fingers in the pocket of his fluffy coat scratching quickly, wearing the thimbles that sync with his custom Cortex. The streams and runes of the HUD flashing and flowing over the view from the back of the cab of the neon-baked slow-motion disaster that is Ruffo Street on a Friday night in Omegatropolis. Scratch, scratch, flash and Max's icon appears in the HUD. A tiny image of Dali's 'Corpus Hypercubus'. A squad of Corporate Security thugs descends on a herd of pedestrians for failing to have the funds available for a moments-ago-voted-in crowd tax. The cab takes a right to avoid the violence.

The icon becomes a tiny sim of Max when he connects. “Heya,” his voice sounds in Pretty's ear.

“One sec,” Pretty murmurs, scratching in his pocket, opening a second channel, tasking a Grid-bot to contact and hire a low-level Meta from his roster to start doing recon on the votes that secured this new tax. 

The sim of Max yawns. Gunfire and screams from Ruffo Street. Pretty shifts his jaw to adjust the volume, violence on low, the pings from the bot in the middle-ground, Max's voice priority. “Okay... It's bad.”

The sim of Max blinks. “I'm on my way.”

They use an encrypted revolving code based on the Zodiac to determine which Diner to meet at depending on the day, the weather, and the current ratio of Cold vs Hot Wars occurring across the globe. Diners are expensive, the novelty of being waited on by mostly-flesh-and-blood servers, but it is a tradition with them, dating back to before the fall of Legacy.

When Pretty slides into the booth he can tell that it's Marshal sitting there; he can always tell when Max is running one of the Polysonae. Marshal's thimbled fingers trace patterns in the air, like many of the other customers as they dial in feeds, run searches, play games, send messages, everyday life in the Grid, except Marshal is weaving a Mesh around the Diner that erases his presence, and Pretty's, from the local Nexus. He wears display glasses to look lo-fi but they're actually designer scramblers to add an extra layer of security to what's going on in his Cortex. Pretty calls to Kelly – he knows every server at every Diner by name – for a fruit juice. Waits for Marshal to switch back to Max.

There's that subtle change and his fingers go still, then reach for his coffee.

“There is still no trace of Tatter,” Pretty says. “And now Aqua and Akimoto have disappeared too.” Scratch, scratch, transferring the data on their last Contract to Max.

Max frowns. Metas don't really have friendships but he is fond of the pair. And the disappearance of Tatter is eerie. Of course it makes him think of the time he tried Plex... “You want Marshal to start a hunt?”

Pretty accepts the juice from Kelly with a smile that disappears when he looks back at Max. “No more fucking around. I want Mick and Trump to get into The White Room and try and find some answers.”

Max gulps.