When Fredrich goes ill due to a missing prescription, Olivia volunteers to take him to the hospital, leaving the rest of the group potentially short the skill set necessary to investigate the Through the Looking Glass Emporium.
Thankfully, Kristin knows a group of travelling neo-hippies who stop by her restaurant when they are in San Francisco. “Misty” had mentioned her nephew, who helped her with hooking up to wireless whereever they might be. Better than nothing, they contact “Nephew” via beeper – perhaps the last beeper in existence.
A meeting is arranged in a local park and the group soon meets up with a young Japanese man on a slick looking motorcycle. There is some back and forth where the group feels out the young man and his skill set, planning to hire him on for this one job. Until Dylan chimes in from Harley’s phone, asking her to hold the phone up so he can scan the young man. After the scan, he proclaims that the man is another Potential, muttering about entropic coincidences and tells them they should bring him on board. A good chunk of discussion is had – they eventually give him the whole story, explaining the risk factor. He introduces himself as Eybi (A.B.) and asks when they are going to get started.
A plan is formulated where Eybi will go into the “Rabbit Hole”, the child care/VR playground. The idea is that he’s been in one previously, and there will be less physical security, with the likelihood of older machines that will be easier to crack.
Eybi enters the Rabbit Hole and sees the familiar set of Cheshire Cat VR helmets used to entertain the younger set. Past the helmet section is the entrance to Maze of Hearts, a holographic/VR maze designed to entertain older kids. And also in that area are Eybi’s real target, the older VR terminals. While it takes some work to get past the security on them, with Eybi’s skill set it’s not too difficult. He sets it to grab ALL the data streamed to him. But in the meantime, he gets a desire to take one of the Cheshire Cat helmets for use as a cool bike helmet once the electronics have been removed.
When he strolls out the front door with it, he also goes to the front desk and demands some portion of his entrance fee back. The man at the front desk refuses and tells Eybi to put the helmet back. When Eybi refuses, the front desk clerk calls for security and the chase is on.
As he runs down the alleyway between the Rabbit Hole and the main TLG Emporium building, he runs into a guard and a teenager coming out of a concealed exit from the Rabbit Hole, headed towards a concealed entrance to the Emporium. Eybi breaks it up and attempts to rescue the boy. With the help of the rest of the group, they manage to evade or distract the various security guards, getting away with the boy AND the helmet.
Back in a semi-secure location, Leo takes out the electronics in the helmet and scans them for anything unusual. He finds some communication setup that doesn’t look like it belongs in a VR helmet that is designed to be self contained with no direct hookup to the larger VR network.
In addition, Leo has a vague memory of having seen this helmet before. He wouldn’t have purchased one for his daughter. Maybe a friend of hers? Or maybe his wife couldhave done that? He wasn’t around very much to know…
Meanwhile, Eybi analyzes his data and discovers two things:
1) First, the children in comas in the Chicago area were either hooked up to the Cheshire Cat or to Emporium VR machines. But their last entry is always very short, like 3 to 4 seconds.
2) There is completely nonsensical code throughout the Emporium’s VR setup. The code shouldn’t work at all – it’s not just bad code, but complete nonsense. Scanning it for readability, Eybi determines that it is likely some sort of communication code, perhaps similar to the hardwired equipment in the helmets.
Given this information, the group decides to meet with Dylan at the Crossover that night, hoping to get some more answers but deciding that they have to shut down Zack Jennings, who is clearly targeting these children. And maybe getting into Otherscape is the way to do it…