Once again, Dodge found himself at the center of the world’s attention. But this time, instead of running from it, he embraced it. There was a trial that lasted months and went nowhere. By the time it was over, and the truth revealed, Dodge was being hailed as a reluctant hero. Eventually he stopped trying to convince everyone to forget about him and leaned into the role.
No one could find Blair. According to link rumors, even the Burning Spear had tried and failed. She’d vanished.
By the time the media frenzy surrounding him had moved on to the lawsuits launched against Entropy—both criminal and civil—the lake had turned frigid. Finding a boat with winter fast approaching proved difficult, but he tracked one down and persuaded the owner to let him borrow it for a few hours. After all, he was a celebrity again, and celebrities got what they wanted.
While slick with a green sludge, the duffel bag was still moored to the underside of the buoy, the bundles of plastic cashcards and sealed data-cube unaffected by the months underwater.
He went south the next day, using the cashcards and the money he received from selling his story to the feeds to set up in the Free Republic of Texas and reintegrate into society.
A few months later, after forging connections with the right people—a skill he found himself surprisingly well-suited for—he arranged for a fixed link connection in an underground South-East Asian data bunker. All he had to do was get there.
He traveled on a fake Republic passport, carrying only a small bag, and after landing hailed a Tam-Tam to take him the rest of the way to his destination.
A slight woman greeted him as he entered an unremarkable concrete building in a row of unremarkable concrete buildings, and showed him to a small cubicle containing a terminal and an optical cable.
He removed the cube from his bag, plugged it into the cable, took a deep breath and held it.
The terminal’s speaker clicked.
“Who am I?” a simulated voice asked.
Dodge exhaled. “You’re Joshua Warner.”
“Yes … I … remember,” the voice said. “Who are you?”
The voice paused, then asked, “What am I?”
Dodge took another breath before responding. “You’re free. And, if you’re interested, I’ve got some ideas about what we might want to do next.”