20. The road to El Camino

Re-stealing our copter is obviously the right thing to do.

Heading to the most-recent location on the copter’s destination list brought us to Edinburgh and an experience that I’m still having trouble articulating. Letting the copter’s maintenance protocols pick it up and bring it to the shop just took us to the desert.

So, you could argue that we haven’t gotten anywhere, and that’s pretty much true. We certainly haven’t got closer to Let. We haven’t got any closer to whatever the Menlo Park Corporation is.

But we’re learning. I don’t understand why Mod was in Edinburgh, among those people marching. I don’t understand why Phoenix was deserted but there were trees and air conditioning clearly designed for people. I feel like these things are key somehow - part of a bigger whole - and if we can figure them out we can get a lot closer to what’s going on.

Sal has been modified, and I hope they’re able to keep control. I’m scared I’ll turn around and they’ll have ceded to the Corporation somehow, and I’ll find myself in danger. Worse than that, I’ll find myself alone.

My cat - my fucking grumpy, adorable, unlikable cat! - is still at Sal’s place. I’m kicking myself for leaving Vince there, although really, there’s no way he would have been up for this adventure.

And at the center of it all are our lenses: devices that connect us with the rest of humanity, I thought on a peer-to-peer basis. Our bodies are the antennae and the interface and the access keys. And now we know that the whole system - all of it, our bodies included - is ultimately under the Corporation’s control. Whatever they want, they need us to be compliant. They need control over us.

There are a lot of puzzle pieces to fit together.

And we’re going to figure it out.

Stealing the copter back wasn’t a big deal. We just walked into it, replugged the cables, and flew away. It’s received a bit of a wash, which is nice, but there’s nothing really different. Like all the copters, it doesn’t run on fuel beyond what it can induce magnetically and convert from the sun, so we’re good to go.

But go where?

There’s nothing in the destination log that would suggest where we might go next. Neither of us have any ideas. So we do little more than throw a pin at the map: if the entity we’re trying to learn more about is the Menlo Park Corporation, why not go to Menlo Park?

It’s a few hours by air; just across the Rockies, really. So that’s what we plugged in.

We’re passing over the western portion of what used to be the United States. The view is mostly endless sand; occasionally, we see dry-capped mountains, and spots of ruined buildings rising above the dust.

At one point, we see ourselves reflected in a prism of shapes and color, stretching almost as far as we can see. The reflective ground swirls and bends, twisting our image below. The sun catches it from time to time, spinning rainbows in every direction. It takes me far too long to realize that what we’re seeing is a field of glass, melted from the sun. I put my arm around Sal, and they puts theirs around me, and we just stand there in the cabin watching it for a while.

After some time, it occurs to me that we haven’t even seen any other copters: there have been no other aircraft, and no discernible soldiers on the ground. There were patrols all the time back home, but here, everything seems completely deserted.