Now the Disco Ninjas dance. Or so I imagine. The Clubhouse is abuzz about Bud Wiser’s wedding. Everyone's talking and all the top doges are going, according to Walden King, who is ahead of me in the lunch line at Meat-Up. “Eclair, Spam, even that troll Metrix Barnes. It’s big,” he says.
“Should be good,” I reply carefully. “Very kool."
“You’ve never seen Metrix at a party.” King laughs. ”Not kool. Scary.”
Luckily it’s his turn for service and I don’t have to respond. It’s true that I’ve never seen Metrix at a party. She barely appears in the Clubhouse. Still, she's big in Discovery and only Spam's her superior, so I’m surprised King would talk like this. But he’s unusually independent and chatty. Recently, King dared to suggest to the whole team, in a speech supposed to promote Spam’s patented text reduction methods, that prose and even print still have a place. This in the heart of Prose Control at MoreCorp, which pioneered the TLDR space saving project! Walden hasn’t been around much since but that may be unrelated to his brazenness. He travels a lot for work.
Once we’re seated at the team table, I ask him, “You’re not predicting fun?”
“We’ll get drunk while Metrix makes us blue with that pink hair.”
“I doubt it. Still, a major event.” King turns to chat with Chip Brew about pork infused hops and whether the choco-drop craze is finally over in ale. The screens on the walls play X-K-Pop vids, ladies wearing patchwork dresses and giant shoes, holding huge lollipops and singing in high-pitched voices. I watch while eating, mesmerized.
Done, Wolf and I go to the back of the parking lot for a cig. On the way we see Haiti, headed to yo-flo. She hops off her unicycle and joins us, immediately mentioning the wedding. She’s on Bud Wiser’s Fight Night team and I ask about the intended, if she's met her. “Yeah. She’s nice,” Haiti says. “Well, not nice. She's a mean fighter but her hair’s nice, like real long and shiny, jet black, super nice.” She jumps back on the unicycle, wobbles, and takes off.
In the weeks before the event, I stitch. Not a dress of leaves but denim and leather, made from jeans and jackets. There are occasions to be an alien. Stitching continues until the last minute, and if you don’t look too close the patchwork is dope. My fingers are calloused and stiff, carved with needle tracks, but I’m ready to boogie in five-inch wooden clogs, like an X-K-Pop star.
Wolf drives to SF. Traffic is light. Parking is difficult to find. The festivities are being held at PhotOpp, an office building for a photography app that also does event space rental. Real estate prices are so crazy here that everyone has to have side jobs, even the booming businesses.
We finally arrive at the place just as Amazonian Candy Cane rushes by, wearing a tiara and tektites, her signature red and white stripes, accompanied by a dude in a blue suede sweat set. They ignore our greetings. The doorman checks the list — ahh, here we are, Wolf plus one. He lets us into a plasti-glass entrance, panes frosted with old-timey cameras. We follow him through a vast room with stone floors and a heavy wooden staircase. “Party’s up there,” he indicates.
The first two flights are off limits, gloomy. The rooms are empty but for a large table in each, rectangular, heavy, wood. On the rooftop, the Disco Ninjas stand stiffly, terribly quiet, not boogieing to any beat. I freeze in the doorway surveying, dismayed, cold in the wind and wishing I had time to stitch sleeves. “We can still jet,” Wolf suggests as Walden King approaches with drinks. I accept. Wolf declines. “Long drive, bad roads. Can’t use the autopilot in UnCorp. How’re you doing?”
“Doing alright,” King says. “A little surprised. The bride and groom bowed out. They’re going to Vegas. It was like a wedding gag. Check your txts. it’s the one that starts, ‘Party like it’s 1999!’”
Wolf changes his mind. “Maybe I do need a drink.” We greet a few people on the way to the bar but the crowd is mostly standing in silent circles tapping into devices. Soon I leave Wolf and Walden at the pond discussing the dangers of a rigid patent system that only grants ownership to MoreCorp and its strategic partners. This may not be the best place for such a talk.
I check out the views on the roof from every angle, looking into the coveted lit living rooms of SF. They look so warm and cozy. Then I go search for Haiti, wandering down the stairs to a bathroom where — I swear on the Founders! — Eclair whispers viciously in the next stall. “This is the time. No waiting! Or BDC will hear.”
Crouching, I put my feet on the toilet seat and squat. Clogs in hand, I wait out the Team Liaison, not breathing. She finally leaves and I trudge up the stairs, clogs clomping, no longer tempted to explore the off-limits floors.
Haiti shows up at midnight with Daisy in tow — Daisy who was stabbed with a fork at work (I still don't know the perpetrator) and escaped to X-Mex. We haven’t seen each other since Metropolis, so we hug and huddle. Turns out she’s up from LA for a MidCorp text reduction project, not stripping after all, that was just bluster. I tell them that the wedding happened without us. “The happy couple ditched this.”
“Yeah, it’s a thing. The wed and fled. Don't you know?” Haiti explains. “It’s like you have guests and presents but no headache. Still an expense though. That's why you gotta check your txts, Ellipsis. Anything can happen.”
Daisy pokes me with a finger and points to the far corner of the roof at a small dumpy woman with dark hair, tips dyed hot pink, wearing a black sequin sweat set. “Metrix!”
“Don't fux with her, Daisy!” Haiti warns. “Don’t even look.”
Of course we all look. See? There, leaning against the railing. Daisy looks long and hard, like she'd love to push Metrix over and watch the fall. But I don’t know their backstory and now's not the time to inflame by asking for details.
All I know is from a webs bio. Metrix has won numerous awards and is considered a superstar, not like a vid celeb, given, but still in charge of a department at HQ, MoreCorp Silicon. Before this, she was one of the youngest regi-profs to make partner at a Big Firm, and her bio boasts all the best institutions plus public service prizes. Metrix apparently raises a lot of money at parties, which is weird because she’s clearly not into this one, ignoring even Eclair, who now towers over her, shaking her mane and tail.
As I consider whether to escape before Eclair notices my feet, Wolf grabs me and rushes us off. “Let’s go. Now. Before Walden gets back.”
“Bye!” I wave and follow him down the stairs. He takes them two at a time with his giant stride while I jump behind him, tripping and falling half a flight. These clogs! Then I turn to the right and spot Walden King underneath one of those big tables, hiding and … typing? What’s he doing?
Wolf growls at me from below. “Ellipsis!”
Outside, we run to the car and he starts it before I'm in. Wolf drives fast, lurching up steep hills and racing down until we’re out of town. “What's that,” I ask. “Why is Walden under a table? How much did he drink?”
“Something’s wrong with him. He’s talking too much. Not exactly MoreCorp material.”
“I heard Eclair saying weird stuff too, downstairs. 'It’s time to do it. Now’s the time.' Something like that. It was crazy. I was, like, hiding in a stall, squatting on the toilet.”
“That's stealthy. She didn't see your clogs?"
"She might have. Do you think it has to do with Walden?"
"Could be anything.” Wolf lights a smoke and opens the window. “But it's not good to be king for a change, that's obvious."
"The plot thickens."
"Yeah, let’s stop for fasties. The intrigue’s making me hungry.”
At the last junction before UnCorp, Wolf turns off at the 24-hour drive-thru Eat-n-Run. The lot is full of billionaire Big Daddy Cane's drones, lined in ready rows with the red-and-white-striped BDC candy cane logo, which I now know refers to his daughter, my colleague. I wonder if it’s weird for Candy to see these things all over the delivery zone or if she’s heard how the military used them to squash opposition to the Single System System back when opposing was a thing. Then it occurs to me — BDC, what Eclair said, that he’ll hear. She meant Big Daddy Cane.