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POP / TEAM X3 / INTERVIEW

. . .

Sweetbutt

"XK3? KX3? XK47A?"

"Xeon-4? 5? LIKYLIK? FUCK!"

"HAHAHA!!"

The two beautiful avatars laugh at the memory. They look at each other. Their Love is so clear. Has it only been a year? Can it really be true this relationship is platonic? My device reboots from the crackles of energy. I apologise, but all I am thinking is that I must wash my old college hoodie as soon as we're done, pair it with a sarong with a geometric design, and spend the weekend getting a fresh character up to speed, making her Light enough, beautiful enough, to commence the trials of introduction to POP's largest (and, I'm sure we'd all agree, sexiest) robed priesthood.

I re-phase to the KOOF-KOOF booth, an exact in-game replica of the game-changing meeting place where former college friends Xeon-3 "X3" Hybrid and Karen "Likme" 47A reconnected, soon to be co-founders of Team X3, the name they finally settled on after weeks of deliberation. Likme has lowered the hood of her hoodie to reveal lustrous golden hair with threads of rose, a design I don't recall from the character creator or any in-game salon, one which brings – if it were possible – even more life to her emerald eyes, whose purity speaks of the highest spirituality, of a woman who has touched the Pyramid's tip nine times, equalling the record of 10-Vogen, leader of noVALUE, Team X3's primary leather competitor.

"You will get there as well, Emily," she seems to whisper, but it is all in my mind. I mini slap myself twice, on either cheek, to resettle my reservoir, the favoured technique of us poor v3ers, stuck on geminOS 9, Toothbrush firmware. Donations gratefully accepted! Just kidding… X3 and Likme let it pass without comment, even apparent recognition. They are not only beautiful, but kind.

"We tried hard – damn hard! – to combine our names," continues X3, his bearded, chiselled face framed by a more conventional robe, albeit glittering silver, borderline alien, which he says he assumes for special occasions, and to remind him to keep it real in a robed priesthood with an unusually liberal dress code. "The POP ones, the IRL ones, in a way which would convey the power of this union. But after teaming up to 'kill' Abseenus in Dreams of Abseenus, earning his cubic charm and entering his mind, witnessing through his eyes the birth of the Pyramid, it became clear that…"

X3 pauses, staring deeply into my virtual soul. While he and Likme have advanced at an unheard-of rate (prompting jealous suggestions, in both the robed and leathered communities, of injections of top-secret, experimental juices supposedly made available through Karen's employment at Juices 4 U 123, and extended to the priesthood's Inner Ring of most trusted adherents), he surely knows it isn't wise to open eyes before their time, to speak too soon of the truth of Abseenus – whatever that might be – one of the few things you won't find on any of the hundreds of POP fan sites. Yes, even ours! For whatever reason, it is never shared.

Does anyone even know?

Does Abseenus even exist…

Likme smiles. "A short break, Ms 'Sweetbutt' Parshmont, if you wouldn't mind."

"Yes, of course. No problem! I'll be washing my—"

% connection terminated

I'll be washing my college hoodie while I lie on the couch, wondering if it's true what they say about the intensely private – invisible to standard sight, even – Karen 47A, that she's as lickable as her online form, ooh…

^

Cortado

"You motherfucking idiot!"

"Quiet, invisible woman. It is all as I planned. It is all as I considered over numerous alien-grade turd sessions facilitated by your late grandfather's denture tablets, even more effective than the Juices 4 U variant. I know this woman well, this Emily Parshmont. I know the sweetness of her butt, the smell of her lust. Indeed, even now, she touches herself and lightly moans, imagining your luscious lips against her breasts. Lick. Suck. And yes, our supply of those ancient tablets runs low. But no, it isn't a problem. I have found injections of liquified ham sandwich – squishy white loaf, a thick layer of unsalted butter – supplied by Hammit to be equally effective in deep-cleaning the reservoir. I have recommended it to the Inner Ring, to complement your juice."

"You're losing it, Xeon-3. I need you to keep it together!"

"AND I NEED YOU TO MOTHERFUCKING FUCK OFF! See you in five…"

% connection terminated

See you in four. Two. One. See you in zero, and all times. See all of you, through his eyes, mind. Soon my eyes, mind. Leathered. Robed. I really couldn't give less of a damn.

"The usual?"

"The… usual?"

9-VOGEN

10-VOGEN

11-VOGEN

FUUUCK!!

GET A GRIP, MOTHERFUCKER!

It's okay…

It's okay…

Yes, that's right… hahaha… it's not a dream… I am indeed Abseenus, becoming Abseenus. I've created a new character to pair with Parshmont in a game-breaking transplant of the roditron group. Replicate me, baby. Intersecting with the lady at Prism (Prison?), coming together at Discs. It should take her the rest of the day, most of the night. She'll barely sleep. Hit it hard the next day. Saturday lunchtime, I would say. And I, meanwhile, will click my fingers, pretty much. Clicking here. Clicking there. Hahaha. Hahaha.

Also: ham.

Also: ha. Hahaha.

HAHAHAHAHA!!!

And I? Me? I am smiling. I am destabilising the barista. Destabilising GEMINUS itself! the alien brain behind this thing. My highest priests have hacked the code, and the nodecode. Decrypting: I. Me. Bringing: ham. Squish. We will keep the butter, yum, delish… We will supplant the toast! "And a ham sandwich, if you'd be so kind. Squishy white. Thick layer of butter (unsalted)." I have arrived at the non-non-place, the discs, hidden sandwich in my crotch, rolled to an appropriate bulge. They are laughing at my joke, the priests. Leathered. Robed. Still wearing these pants. Still drinking this latte. I smile, tap my crotch, wink. And then they are leaving. They. A glance. Whispers. A better disguise is required. I take a sip… and am attired, the bread still providing a vision of a cock I have created for you, Ms Parshmont. Lick. Think of her, while you are drawn to my loaf. Then join me, in the roditron.

"Welcome to the Museum of Alien History, Mini Priest Rank 2 of noVALUE! Your rank, priesthood and… bulge, dare I say, grant you ten discs—"

"One hundred discs."

"One hundred discs! to spend as you wish, with multipliers for deviating from your priesthood's core tenets. The choice is yours. To ascend. Descend. Which is which? How long, exactly, is an alien finger? May Abseenus be with you!"

9-VOGEN

10-VOGEN

"…the device-extraction advantage, but there was always the yawn factor of a more conventional priesthood, the unflattering cut of the robes, which were generally too heavy to enjoy the warmer zones, leading to the joke of the malodorous Godseeker best suited to freak show performances at leathered-up lick parties. You have heard it, no doubt, Ms Parshmont. Told it, even. Experienced it, even, when taking a break from what I take to be your accustomed leather – I do not judge, merely observe – only to abandon the robe when – yes – that odour did intrude, remembering how in leather one can be naked, pretty much, staying cool wearing nothing but a leather bra, and so on. Perhaps your ass wasn't as admired as you would have liked in that robe. You blush, Ms Parshmont! But there is no shame in being beautiful. Be beautiful or… be derobed! Ascension through a toned, curvaceous rear is a core tenet of our priesthood. And for that, a new approach to the robe was required. Something lighter. Tighter. A sexier cut. A less strict interpretation, yet one which was still respectful of the vegetarian. And we are starting to bring the chip, the lick, formerly a leather exclusive. Lick. The quiver of your lips. A mild flare of the nostrils. Other perceptions which I probably shouldn't mention, lest I be accused of hacking the system, of injecting illegal juice. What do you see, Ms Parshmont?"

"I… for a moment… Apologies! It was nothing. Just this damn no-longer-supported v3 implant acting up! I know, I know… I'm just attached to it, ya know? Or it to me, so to speak. Plus: exciting though it is, POP journalism pays like – if you'll pardon – shit."

No, Ms Parshmont, thinking I, me, thinking Likme. It isn't v3. It is the juice in your cortado, your shot of espresso with a drizzle of steamed milk, a squirt of the unknown, which spreads, even now, through your brain, and then to wait, for the coming of the roditron. Never leave a drink unattended, as you should know from the stealth/assassination tutorial. But you were thinking of the couch, the touch…

"I, too, held on to my v3 well beyond its expiration date," Likme smiles, reaching across the table and mini slapping me on either cheek, and whatever that was has disappeared. Praise Abseenus! For it itched. And I tingle at her touch, at its… Shniffness. Her connection to that enterprise is clear, starting with the grandfather who discovered the alien Orb while tending the Manor Shniff grounds, continuing through her own devotion to the plants and vegetables of that great estate – including her grandfather's secret place, unfriendly to the plants, friendly to the mind, recreated in the non-existent Museum of Alien History, itself recreated in the world of POP, through the pivotal Discs – all the way to the closely guarded First Contact manual studied by every Shniffer, and which, it is said, extends some measure of the alien to the finger, an imagined extension of length. An inch here. And out there: an interstellar beckoning, as Likme wrote in the quotes on the exterior walls of Team X3's crystal cube of an HQ. In the poetry on the shelves of its voluminous library, generously shared with the entire POP community, much of it employing her trademark abstract style ("Born out of madness!" she jokes-not-jokes. "My – if I may be so bold – masterpiece Para'meesh IV is unstable in the virtual world, for some reason, unfortunately. Look out for a rare printed copy in esoteric bookstores, at New Age yard sales, etc."), which is also applied to the priesthood's ascension rituals, to trials which, in the later stages, are considered the most dangerous in the game, and which, if improperly managed, can so corrupt a character as to require a wipe. "What did you see?" she asks me.

"The usual?"

"Yes-not-yes. No. A cortado," says Emily Parshmont, observing the scene in the KOOF-KOOF booth. Yes-not-no. Observing herself, speaking with him. She mini slaps herself, and disappears. Damn v3!

^