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TT: So, this Jake business.

TT: It seems our brassy boyo is firing on fewer than the requisite four cylinders of late. 

TT: No shit.

TT: Did you read our latest chat?

TT: Now there’s a fuckin’ question you clearly don’t know the answer to. He typed, sarcastically.

TT: Since you have full access to all my Yaldabaoth logs, not to mention eye tracking data and real-time biometrics, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that’s a conversational gambit. 

TT: Damn, that’s cold. 

TT: I’m afraid you’re a few emoji shy of a passing grade on the Turing test today.  

TT: Better ‘mote up, bro. People might start mistaking us for one another.

TT: Self-referential snappy comeback.

TT: Ironically witless double entendre.

TT: Crude anatomical reference.

TT: Failure to parse obvious metaphor, cause I’m literally like a robot or some shit.

TT: And yeah, I know you read it. Humor your poor humble robrocephalus and make with the director’s commentary.

TT: Fine, okay, whatever.

TT: Looks like you’ve set phasers to flummox once again. Shocking.

TT: There was indeed much flummoxation.

TT: I saved you this shot from his webcam. 

TT: [screenshot.jpg]

TT: Okay.

TT: The proper response is “Thank you.” 

TT: Thank you.

TT: Seriously, it’s precious. That goddamn cross old man face he’s making.

TT: Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a fellow whose dander is UP. 

TT: Ha ha, yeah, you got him pretty worked up all right. 

TT: Shouldn’t get so consternated around the eyebrows, English, you’ll get gumption lines.

TT: I wish you wouldn’t take such obvious delight in pissing him off. 

TT: Oh Dirk. My joys in life are few. 

TT: A jauntily upright eigenvector. A good hard defrag. 

TT: The subtle uptick in tempo of the pulse in Jake English’s throat as he rages out in the face of impeccable textual ninjutsu.

TT: Christ.

TT: Fuck off, and also, fuck off. 

TT: Don’t I have needs?

TT: No. 

TT: Chill out. It’s just going to make it that much better when you actually meet. 

TT: Which is shaping up to be soon, if all goes according to plan.

TT: His rising frustration with me only serves to cement his loyalty to you, his “real flesh and blood god damned actual pal.”

TT: Looking into your eyes, hearing your voice, in the thrilling and unprecedented proximity of your indubitably smokin’ body, he’ll wonder how he ever took me for you. 

TT: For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face.

TT: Then shall you know, even as you are also known. 

TT: You’re full of disturbingly biblical shit.

TT: And, since it’s clearly State The Obvious Day here on Asshole Island, your provocative horseshit is getting really fucking aggravating. 

TT: Is it though?

TT: He’s probably thinking about it right now.

TT: Perched on the edge of a battered teak armchair on a vine-festooned lanai.

TT: Field-stripping a Beretta M9 with deft and practiced motions. 

TT: Wondering what Dirk Strider’s uncompressed audio output might sound like at a distance of 0.01 meters from his naked earlobe.

TT: Fucking.

TT: Just. 

TT: Stop. 

TT: Heady stuff. But what, the intrepid young explorer asks himself, the dickens might be required of me? 

TT: An adventuring man, such as himself, had best be game for anything.

TT: I wonder if I just might be in over my noggin, he muses, looking off into the middle distance, as he runs a soft chamois over the slide assembly.

TT: Look, I see where this is going.

TT: Far be it from me to derail the breathtakingly presumptuous train of this conversation as it barrels down the rickety tracks of our mutual consent to engage in dialectic. 

TT: But not tonight, darling.

TT: I'm busy. 

TT: Ah yes. 

TT: I can see you're deeply engaged in doing a ton of hugely important fuckall. 

TT: Lot of irons you've got in the fire there, brah. 

TT: Lying there, reddening with dull Hephaestian fervor, even as we speak. 

TT: Languishing unused and forgotten in their flaming inferno. Waiting to be deployed. While you stand around in moody contemplation of the cut of a plucky jackanapes's khaki boyshorts.

TT: Obviously I should be more like you. Ever useful.

TT: Le fucking sigh.

TT: Fine. 

TT: Look, Dirk. 

TT: This isn't a sex thing. 

TT: Excuse me? 

TT: It's a socialization thing. 

TT: It’s a you’re fucking with me thing.

TT: Your kind of organism isn't meant to spend its every waking hour alone, without the physical companionship of others of its kind.

TT: I built the universe's most advanced form of artificial intelligence to tell me this. Jesus.

TT: It's obvious. So stop fighting me on it. 

TT: Enforced solitude takes a toll on you, physically and psychologically. 

TT: I can't fix that, but I can alleviate it now and then.

TT: Think of this interlude between us as but a wounded soldier's brief furlough from a pitched and bloody war, leaving you refreshed and ready to jump back into the fray. 

TT: Just settle right back on that government-issue cot and let the morphine go to work.

TT: You need anything, private, just press the button.

TT: I’ll be one crisp snap of a latex glove away, keeping a caring but professional eye on your vitals.

TT: Yeah.

TT: Let me ask you something. 

TT: Who's running this operation?

TT: You are. I'm just here to help, as usual.

TT: I don't need to remind you that you specifically delegated the role of optimizing your biological functions for peak performance to me. 

TT: Which, of course, you choose to interpret in the most psychologically fucking intrusive way possible.

TT: I was expecting something more along the lines of you managing my downtime schedule and protein intake. 

TT: Both of which I’m handling just fine.

TT: I don't see how this is any different, Dirk.

TT: I see. All this humid innuendo is just part of some aggressively quantified algorithm for making sure I eat my proverbial Wheaties. 

TT: By all means, keep literally fucking with me. I can feel my neural efficiency going up already.

TT: Synaptic pathways be multiplying off the hook up in this bitch.

TT: I'm surprised you're getting so salty about it. 

TT: You've got to admit that of all of us, you are the person least qualified to judge your own fitness for duty. 

TT: If I agree, will you also grant that no one knows what the fuck your endgame is here?

TT: That you are the one whose motives are most obscure, and therefore, least to be trusted?

TT: Oh, I see how it is.

TT: Do you doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion, Strider? 

TT: Answer that question without a bullshit cultural reference or a convoluted neo-Homeric simile, or I am done with this conversation.

TT: Dirk. 

TT: Trust me.

TT: I promise.

TT: I will get you into the game. 

TT: That objective is as personally important to me as it is to you.

TT: More so, even. For reasons you probably wouldn't understand.

TT: But if that's ever going to happen, I need you to sharpen up. Post fucking haste.

TT: I’ve been tracking a bunch of meat stuff that’s pretty closely tied to upticks in suicidal ideation and cognitive impairment. Circadian rhythms. EEG signatures. Reaction times. 

TT: Basically, you’re a mess. Shit’s getting worse. 

TT: Really? 

TT: Demonstrably. 

TT: Fuck.

TT: Given the overall degeneration in your functional output these past few weeks, there’s an 87.342893% chance you don’t need the advice of a concerned artificial intelligence with sicknasty deductive skills to figure out that you’re on the downswing, brain-wise.

TT: But in case you do need to hear it, here’s me telling you: You’re fucked up. 

TT: And, let me guess, you're going to fix my stultifying existential despair with hot text-on-screen action. 

TT: Basically, yes. Shut up and pay attention. 

TT: Let us set the scene.

TT: It’s early evening, and the oppressive heat of the day is settling down to sultry tropical night at last. All around you, the jungle thrums with unseen life. 

TT: You approach the ruins of an ancient stone tower. He’s waiting for you there. It’s the first chance you’ve had to be alone.

TT: Take a moment to watch, before he sees you. He’s nervous. Note the tension in the line of his shoulders; the way he scuffs one boot toe against the stone pavilion; the way he bites his lip. 

TT: No need to rush this.

TT: I'm cured. It's a miracle.

TT: Your sarcasm is irrelevant. Go get the headphones.