An evil conspiracy…

Part II – Investigation

I wondered if Marv was the only one noticing the disappearance of avatars from the Metaverse, so it was time for me to chat a bit with the people who are always informed about everything, and collect some data. Hamlet was eager to hear more, but it was a piece of news for him, too; he was just excited about the whole idea. “Perhaps you can write about your findings!” he suggested. I mumbled something in agreement and went to look for Dusan Writer.

I found him at his office on the top floor of the giant skyscraper for Remedy Corp. Dominating a vast landscape of media corporations, shiny building after shiny building brandishing their logos and spitting out holovideo on the immense façades, this was the hub of information about the Metaverse, and Dusan was at the very centre of it. I didn’t like the too-crowded space; always bumping into eager journalists and opinion-makers, this looked like Fleet Street during the rush hour — a strange concept, when most media production didn’t happen in the streets, but via computer-mediated communication. Nevertheless, some of us are old-fashioned and prefer some sort of presence, even if it’s just a digital model of a person on a holoscreen. Reflecting about how we humans are always so prone to recreate reality even in virtual environments, I asked the receptionist if Dusan was available.

A little known secret was that Dusan actually had way more free time than most people realise. He’s excellent delegating work, and most of his major media productions were run by Beyers Sellers anyway; the rest gets handled by his digital proxies. So he definitely had time to chat a bit with an old friend.

His warm smile and confident handshake greeted me in his wall-less office. One would imagine a vast space with a mile-long fluffy carpet, stretching to the horizon, as would be appropriate for a big shot like Dusan; but in fact, his office was rather cozy and smallish. The walls were turned transparent on demand, showing the skyline surrounding Remedy’s building; with a flick of his fingers, however, Dusan turned the transparency off, and we could be sitting inside an old office in a British or New England University, with wood panels and comfy sofas. “What brings you around, Gwyn?” he asked with a bright smile.

I briefly told him about SignpostMarv’s findings. He frowned a bit and thought about it. “Mmh, if it weren’t for SignpostMarv’s usual reliability, I would shrug it off… it’s hard to track people down in the Metaverse. Proxies abound, so how do you know when someone has really left?” Dusan shrugged. “You were never very keen on proxies, were you?”

I fumbled with one of my bangles, turning it around and around. “Uh… no, not really. I’m not against them, of course, it’s just something that I’m not really very comfortable with.”

Dusan merely smiled. “You know, oldtimers tend to always say that. Do you remember when we just had ‘alts’? Nevertheless, proxies can be very useful; I wouldn’t be able to manage all my business, take care of the kids at home, and remain here chatting with you if it weren’t for my proxies. And I use very few, compared to some…”

“Why would anyone make avatars disappear from the Metaverse?” I asked him, changing the subject and bringing the conversation back on track. “I mean, everybody can register a new avatar in seconds, or even get proxies to create their own proxies, and so forth. It seems rather pointless to terminate avatars, people will just get new ones…”

“Hmm,” mused Dusan. “And, granted, these days you don’t need to stick to a single avatar to let other keep track of your reputation… the incentive for just having a single presence in the Metaverse is simply not there. So I don’t understand the purpose behind that. Maybe it’s just a statistical anomaly?”

“Well, there is only one way to figure it out…” I projected an image of the location that SignpostMarv had given me. “Have you any idea where this is, Dusan? I’m unfamiliar with this area of the Metaverse…”

He just shook his head. “It’s not known to me. It looks like an abandoned hospital or such… probably part of a role-playing area, but not one I’ve seen before.”

“Oh well. The Metaverse is just too big,” I grumbled, standing up. “Thanks for your time, Dusan — I’ll keep you posted, I promise!”

“Take care, Gwyn! It’s probably nothing but a false alarm…” We shook hands and departed.

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