Chaser 6

Chaser 6 applauded Vince as he bowed and stepped off the stage. When the noise died down, she blinked out of the concert environment to meet him in his suite. Not the Vince who'd given the performance; that thread was presumably back to practicing. A different Vince. "That was awesome!" she cried, flinging her arms around him.

"Thanks!" Vince said, squeezing her. "- the concert, right? Timing suggests concert."

"Yes, the concert, if I were talking about the coding marathon I would have come in fifteen minutes ago."

"Well, thanks. Hey, Kendra - are you Friend or Chaser -"

"Chaser," Chaser 6 said. "Do you want a Friend? I can spin one up."

"Either's fine," Vince assured her. "I just like to know. You partition differently from me."

"Well, all of me thinks that was awesome and wants to jump your bones about it," said Chaser 6.

"No bleedthrough!" he said in tones of mock scandal. "I'm Social. I do entertaining and parties and I don't perv on the guests."

"Fine," she said, rolling her eyes, "I'll have my people call your people."

There was a sound of giggling from the next room of the suite.

"No bleedthrough," said Chaser 6, "but no soundproofing either? Vince, it costs zero dollars. Why is your suite even a building?"

"It's homey. Isn't 'Chaser' basically synonymous with 'voyeur', anyway?"

"No, it's a completely different mode! Honestly if I keep listening to ourselves from the next room it's going to make Lover self-conscious." Chaser 6 shook her head. "Congrats on the recital. - and use more tongue over there." She presented him with a fist, he bumped it, and she blinked away to her own suite.

Music picked up; it wasn't Vince's, just something Songs had marked as "work tunes". She went back to her reading. Linda was cross-promoting highlights from her demoscene buddies' portfolios; Chaser 6 picked two to watch. Joel had a new movie out, and that she watched from beginning to end, twice, so she could write him a good review for him and whichever Friend instance to discuss the next time they met. Kim and Blaine had announced their wedding! She marked that on her calendar for Friend 4, who was free on the correct date. Weddings were a Friend thing more than a Chaser thing. Elaine had a new blog post and Chaser 6 left two comments. Then it was time to go watch Zeke's skiing competition. When Zeke took a fall, Chaser 6 swapped out of the environment for Parent 1 to console them about the loss.

Now, where was she - well, Lover 1 was still over at Vince's. Chaser 6 snorted at herself; she was insatiable. A lot of people had only one sex thread, or folded the purpose in with sleep or a multipurpose romance instance.

Oh well. They cost zero dollars. If Kendra wanted three of her to literally never have to get out of bed, nobody was going to tell her to stop.

Chaser 6 switched feeds. Her gardening club was passing around a meme about flowers; she dug up some pictures from Gardener 2 to add a couple of her own. (Gardener 1 worked in unassisted physics, which was satisfying in its own way, but the photos were less impressive.) "That's not a dahlia, THIS is a dahlia," she giggled to herself.

The music changed; Songs was up to something. The memory took a split second to integrate - ah, Songs had looked into something Chaser 2 had flagged for her earlier in the week. This was Vince's stuff. Chaser 6 bobbed her head to the rhythm.

Meanwhile, Chaser 5 felt like dropping out of real-time chat to catch up on asynchronous news; Chaser 6 rotated in for her, seamlessly, no noticeable delay, and wrote:

you can't possibly be serious! and he bought that? chocolatesauce I think you might have been benefiting from less than his full attention there. was it a half projection?

I didn't check but I think he doesn't do halves said chocolatesauce.

One of these days someKendra would learn chocolatesauce's real name. Or, she supposed, learn that chocolatesauce's closest friends and family members called them "chocolatesauce". She displayed herself under the handle KendraKathleenDoppler everywhere, though some people, including chocolatesauce, called her "kkd". Yeah me either she wrote.

nobody should do halves, what's the point? wondered victoryroad11. show up or don't!

some people just don't want to show up all that much said tortoisebeetle. my cousin didn't show up to my wedding!

my cousin Daniel Chaser 6 started typing - and then she shoved the whole conversation to Chaser 1, who was between tasks. Chaser 1 recalled all the context Chasers 6 and 5 had on the conversation. Pushing it to another thread wouldn't mean Chaser 6 would miss anything; she'd collect it with all her threads' experiences as they rolled in. But only Chaser 6 had felt, and had continuity with, the spark of curiosity in its full immediate form, instead of low-distraction background memory weave that every Kendra thread got. So Chaser 6 would be the one to follow up.

Where the heck was cousin Daniel?

Daniel had attended Kendra's wedding. Daniel had attended both her and Zeke's birthday parties up until two years ago. And then he had declined one, and skipped the next, and the next, and she hadn't really figured she'd bother inviting him to her next bash, because he clearly didn't feel like showing up anymore, even halfway.

But she hadn't heard anything from him since he'd gone quiet, or anything about him, and he was her cousin. She kept up with his side of the family. Aunt Val had spent a whole weekend with Gardener 1, fighting blackberry and mint invasions and trying to convince her that even if you worked in unassisted physics you could still turn the difficulty down. Daniel's sister Molly had taught Songs the niche musical notation that was catching on among brass instrument players. And Daniel hadn't come up.

Chaser 6 skimmed through old messages, sent little long-fingered scripts into her history to see when the last time anyone had said anything about Daniel was. There were false positives, other Daniels she knew or that her friends knew, but just a couple mentions that were probably him: he'd been to Molly's suite to meet her new dog, and he'd congratulated Zeke on their first handfasting, though he hadn't actually blinked into the event.

So he... existed, and hadn't cut off his entire family, but that didn't give her much to go on.

She wrote Molly: Hey, I haven't heard from Daniel in a while. Is he mad at me or something?

Molly had a message-handling instance and replied with admirable promptness. He's not mad at you that I know of, he's just running fewer threads these days and dropping a lot of balls. If you really want him to come to something or other you can tell him it'd mean a lot to you, that usually works for me.

Kendra didn't actually have anything she specifically needed her cousin Daniel for. Zeke's second handfasting was coming up, but if Zeke really wanted any given cousin to be present they were old enough to manage that alone. Kendra had not keenly felt the loss of Daniel's presence. She just wanted to know what he was up to. Specifically, Chaser 6 wanted that; the Chasers were all spun up from the desire to keep tabs on the fashions and trajectories around her, to be up on everything that everyone she cared about was doing. Kendra cared about him, so Chaser 6 wanted to know what he was doing.

Well, the simplest way to address this was to write him and hope he found time for it without the magic words "it'd mean a lot".

Hey, Daniel, it's been a while since I've seen you anywhere. Molly says you're running fewer threads? Partitioning issue or something? We should catch up sometime if you have the chance!

Daniel did not have a dedicated message-handler thread. Chaser 6 returned to her feeds. She voted in the poll to choose her dance group's next project, left approving sparkles on some of Zeke's sketches, and spent long enough staring at a chess problem to kick it over to the central thread and move on. She sent RSVPs and fiddled with her notification settings and talked herself out of getting into a political argument with friends-of-friends. She advised Vince on what spectacles, nose, and facial hair to put on his new avatar for his RPG thread. She re-watched the best scene of Joel's movie to settle an argument breaking out under her review.

Daniel answered her.

I've pared way down. You could call it a partitioning issue but it's not a typical one. Do you want to come over? I'm free now.

So Chaser 6 blinked into Daniel's suite, but found herself shunted into a visitors' vestibule. Some people set it up like that if they didn't like sharing their main areas with visitors; Zeke had done it for a while in their teens. Chaser 6 tapped her foot and looked around. It was sparse, she thought - not like he was going for a minimalist aesthetic, just like he hadn't spent much time designing the place. The plants and furniture and lights were all pulled straight out of a catalog, she thought. She remembered Daniel as having a really nice suite, but back then she didn't think he'd had a vestibule; it could be new.

He joined her after a moment. "Hi, Kendra. It's been too long, thanks for coming."

"Hey, Daniel. Do you want partitioning advice? I know everyone's different, but I think I'm pretty good at it as far as that goes."

He shook his head. "I'm not partitioning anymore."

" all? You're not doing anything else?"

"Nothing else. - I understand if you're uncomfortable, some people are."

Was she uncomfortable? Not especially, she decided. She could see why someone might be - it was perhaps high-pressure to make good use of a hundred percent of a person's time and attention. At this very moment Lover 1 was twirling Vince's hair around her finger and trying to force various words to rhyme with his name and if that had been all Vince was doing she would feel ridiculous about it. But Daniel had invited her here, she didn't plan to monopolize hours of his life, and she did really want to find out what was up. She shook her head. "It's okay, if that's how you want it, but go ahead and shoo me if you have another appointment - that sounds so hectic, though. You'd have to drop everything whenever anything came up. What went wrong with your partitions?"

Daniel shrugged. "I think they worked as well for me as anyone else. I had, oh, thirty at peak, trying to be a food critic and a base jumper and a poet and a dozen other things all at the same time. I got all the way through my reading list - used to think I'd never do it."

But, apparently, he'd since given up on nearly every hobby he'd ever touched - or scaled them back to nothing - "And then?"

"I have a reading list again." He smiled, mostly with the left half of his mouth, making a little joke at his own expense. "You ever try to get into meditation?"

"I went to a mini-retreat once. They had some neat posture tips but I didn't really get into it."

"Did the mini-retreat require you to be all there?" he asked.

Kendra shook her head again. "Is that something they often require?"

"Not if they want thriving attendance. It's usually too much commitment for people," said Daniel. "Even just putting your other threads to sleep - it's a lot to give up. They do usually want central threads, not generalized hobby instances or even meditation-specific ones."

"Yeah, they did want that."

"Threads are locked into the right mood," said Daniel. "But first you have to get there, right?"

"Chasers like this aren't hard for me to spin up," said Chaser 6. "It's a pretty low-energy state, keeping up with things, poking around. Gardeners, now, those were hard, I love gardening but it was a real challenge to get into a flow state on it long enough to spin off the instances, I was so relieved the first time I managed it that I made four all at once even though it turned out I only really wanted two for keeps."

"And I bet your gardens are gorgeous," he said. "But your Gardeners never eat, never sleep, never see your friends -"

"Sometimes they see gardening-amenable friends. And taste the vegetables."

"Sure," he allowed. "And while your center thread tried to meditate, the Gardeners gardened, and the Chasers read feeds, and whoever else you've got - what are you doing right now?"

"Uh," said Chaser 6, "having sex, sleeping, eating an ice cream sundae, catching up on blogs and chats, reading, more reading, marathoning the directorial output of Gretel G. K. and taking notes for a paper I'm going to write on that, gardening, composing a cantata with Vince, comforting my friend Vireo through her breakup, tripping on LSD, solving a puzzle in my LARP, organizing my old photos, getting a massage, teaching my kid a new chess opening, making a sculpture, giving my kid relationship advice, doing a crossword, finding the best remix of one of the songs from a Gretel G.K. film, arguing about whose entry in the Christmas light display contest was best, learning a new chainmail stitch, picking out outfits for all of me, petting my friend's new kitten, drilling some dance steps with the group -"

Daniel was nodding. "If you had to pick one, what would you pick?"

"Oh, boy," said Chaser 6, sucking in a breath through her teeth. "...I guess I'd stick with Vireo, since she just got dumped."

"Probably a lot of what you're doing there is showing her you care by showing up," Daniel said. "If there was just one of you and that one of you came when she told you the news..."

"But I couldn't stay," said Chaser 6. "I can be there as long as she wants, we're having a whole sad ice cream party about it with Vireo and me and five other people, but if there were only one of me, I'd have to go when something else time-sensitive came up."

"That's true. I'm not trying to say there's no cost to living like I do," Daniel said. "But - I've found it works better for me to always aim to be totally present in whatever I'm doing. Which is hard enough with one thread! Entire organic lifetimes have been spent on the pursuit! And I think it might be downright impossible, when - I know the memory weave isn't distracting per se, or I would feel much more awkward about having this conversation while you are by your own admission having sex. I know that this Chaser-Kendra is here right now. But your awareness isn't just of this room and this conversation. It wouldn't work as well if it were - most of your threads would be annoyed all the time about not being the one to do whatever the most interesting thing any of you were doing was, it has to feel like you're not missing out. What is that most interesting thing, right now -"

"Definitely the LSD trip," said Chaser 6, "but I wouldn't actually want to be doing that all the time, it's not very compatible with other things. If you don't count that it's the cantata - but I wouldn't want to ditch Zeke over that, they're my kid -"

"I didn't prune everything all at once," said Daniel. "Well, no, I did, to try it out, and then I spun up a couple temporary threads to taper down more gently. You wind up with a lot of commitments when there's thirty or forty of you. I didn't ever specifically have a thread for LSD, admittedly..."

"It's not specifically for LSD, I try all kinds of things."

"Sure." Daniel leaned back, crossed his ankles. "But I found myself making a lot of choices along the lines of what you're talking about, cantata versus your kid, how much of yourself do you really want to spend on a drug trip. Weighing what's interesting and what's fulfilling and what's absorbing. And I pruned and scaled back. Learned a lot about myself, in a way I think would've been impossible if I weren't going all the way down to -" He gestured at himself. His center thread, central to nothing. "I went cold turkey when I had the insight about what was holding back my meditation practice - a few threads, generic ones, to wrap up some loose ends - and here I am. I'm sorry if you've been missing me, but I prefer it this way."

Chaser 6 nodded.

The central Kendra thread checked her schedule.

It was tight, but she didn't actually have anything scheduled literally on top of anything else in the next week and a half - or, nothing that she couldn't cancel or reschedule, anyway. Most of her stuff didn't have deadlines.

"That's interesting," said Chaser 6. "- were you scared?"

"A little," said Daniel.

"Thanks for making time for me," said Chaser 6. Daniel smiled, and clasped her hand, and blinked out.

Chaser 6 took a deep breath in Daniel's empty vestibule,

and ceased to exist.

After Chaser 6 folded in, Kendra halted States in the middle of her drug trip. Ended every Stories thread when they came to the ends of their books or their films. Songs came to a stopping place in the cantata and bade Vince goodbye and disappeared. Gardeners 1 and 2 saved their gardens' states. Nostalgia marked her place in the scrapbook project. Artist threads set down their tools. Friends and Parents and Chasers and Lovers and every other thread mid-social-engagement excused themselves and left, to arrive - nowhere. Kendra threads departed beds and workshops and auditoriums and parks and parlors. Muted feeds and turned up the filter on all her notifications.

Kendra returned to Vireo's sad ice cream party a moment after Friend 1 had stepped out of it. She had been about to explain to Vireo that now she was more fully present, but it occurred to her that this would be a really awkward time to bring it up. Even if Vireo would have appreciated it if she'd known as a background fact about Kendra that there was only one of her, Kendra didn't want to turn the sad ice cream party into a Kendra's-life-choices ice cream party. She ate another bowl of ice cream, wrestled with the feeling that this was in fact not one of the top ten most interesting things she could be doing, hugged Vireo. When someone else needed their participating instance for another use, Kendra took the excuse to go too.

Her Student 2 had put down an article she'd been reading on flying foxes. Kendra picked that back up; she had to be well-read to be on the panel when that happened. She was distracted by the desire to change her curtains, but that could wait; the ones with winged lemons on were fine. She got to the end of the article. It was maybe a little less fun when she wasn't pinned into Student mode for the purpose, but she could probably get used to it.

She had a new message from Daniel, which made it through her tighter filters. There are some communities specifically for people who live single-threaded, he'd written. And then a list.

Honestly, some of them looked downright culty, when she skimmed their public presences. It was the sort of snap judgment she'd usually follow up on, but, well, she didn't have as much time on her hands this way. She skipped past the ones that looked like cults.

There was a city for people who didn't run any side threads. They called it Unity. She would have been shunted out if she'd tried to visit outside of designated tourism days, before, but now she qualified for entry.

Kendra appreciated cities. Most of her threads had their own rooms or non-room setups in her suite, without a physical bridge between them, but she had had one thread who lived in a city and went for walks to get to places in the city. Her City instance had fed ducks in the park, and run into people by chance on the street, and attended live performances, and sipped coffee at little tables on the sidewalk, and gone grocery shopping so as to stroll home again, picturesquely, with celery stalks and a baguette protruding out of a paper bag. She'd voted on changes to the common spaces, and it was a fun social puzzle in a way decorating her own suite wasn't. City had been a thread just for the kind of life Kendra had fantasized about in graduate school before she uploaded.

Unity was... different from where she'd lived. Partly just because they were different cities. Neuropolis had been brickish, the streets curvy and shaded with trees, residential sections giving way to open-air markets and the theater district and rows of restaurants. Every other home had windowboxes of herbs or flowers and some of them had old-fashioned fire escapes on the sides and there was a cute little tram that wove through the downtown.

Unity wasn't what Kendra would have pictured if she'd been imagining a city full of people like Daniel who were really into meditating. She wasn't, admittedly, sure if Daniel lived here - it was only one of several possible reasons she might have been dropped in his vestibule instead of in his actual suite. Maybe he did have a place among the glass towers, many of them identical, foresting the grid of roads.

It wasn't crowded. Kendra couldn't tell if the apartments were occupied, but the streets were empty, and that was fair enough, since she couldn't see much at street level worth walking to. Some kind of restaurant with umbrella'd tables out front - fine for meeting over lunch, which if she squinted through the window people were actually doing, but not very atmospheric. A park that nobody had installed any ducks in. A big concrete fountain with water tumbling over it. The weather was the breezeless seventy-degree boilerplate of an environment no one had ever granted a climate. It looked sort of like someone had imagined a city all on their own, on a deadline, with tools out of a children's video game, without ever editing it once they'd blown it up to full size and made it possible to walk through.

Still, it was a city. And Kendra was only seeing a little slice of it, since she didn't have time to look around the whole place. It was just as well they didn't have tour guides here. She'd have had to beg off to go to her child's handfasting.

Zeke had allocated three spots for Kendra in the seating chart so she could sit next to multiple groups of party guests, but when she got there, she had to pick one. She could join a set of Zeke and the bride (were they called brides, at handfastings? she couldn't look it up with a side thread), or she could go with her parents, or she could meet up with some family friends. Unable to do all three today, she sat with Zeke. The day was about them and their lovely Miroya. And she didn't need to worry about crowding them, when there were six of them here.

The ceremony was long and elaborate. Zeke had always loved formal, intricate rituals with a hundred things that could go wrong, so they could revel in getting every one of them right. Kendra tried not to drift too much into reminiscing about Zeke as a little child, when they'd set up arcane stuffed animal courts and spend hours on fictive coronation ceremonies. That was a suitable handfasting occupation for one thread - maybe one who wasn't even in attendance. Was that what Daniel had been talking about? The way she found herself trying to concentrate on the present moment, the series of vows, the looks on every one of Zeke's faces as they finally embraced all their Miroyas?

Zeke had told her once that they and Miroya planned to handfast at least six or seven times before getting married outright. Maybe next time or the time after it would be easier to aim her eyes, to ignore side conversations, to contain all her excitement and pride in one fun-sized mind.

When she'd RSVPed, she'd expected to send three threads, and made menu selections accordingly. She had to clarify with the catering which entrée she still wanted. The decision was easier than the one about which table to join, but it still itched. It wasn't that she would have no other opportunities to eat pork medallions. She had all the time in the world. It was such a trivial thing to itch about.

Kendra ate her salmon.

"Mom," said Zeke, after the flow of well-wishers had slowed enough that they had a thread to spare from hugging everyone and thanking them for coming, "where's the rest of you? Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," Kendra assured them, patting their hand. "I'm trying something new. Still getting used to it."

"Only attending events once?"

"Pretty much. I would have told you but it was sort of an impulse thing. But I'd never have let anything keep me from being here." She hugged him, and hugged Miroya, and let them go when a grandparent tapped their elbow.

The festivities went on and on, even after the formal celebrations were in the past. Kendra excused herself early. She had other places to go and other things to do, some of them very tightly squeezed, and she set about doing them, one after the other.

Kendra wanted to stay after the official end of the flying fox panel. Some of the other panelists were going to visit actual flying foxes, not just simulations; they were downloading threads into organics, which Kendra hadn't done much of. Organics sweated and their feet started hurting after long enough and it was also a hassle to get one the same shape as one's normal avatar, so she wound up in ones that had the wrong center of gravity or, once, a male body, which was uncomfortable. But it would have been fun with her scientist friends, luring and examining real bats. She just didn't have time. She'd told Vince she'd be at the memorial for his grandfather.

It was, again, an occasion where it would be wholly inappropriate to turn up announcing the virtue of her single-threaded presence. And she'd never met his grandfather, which at the moment made her feel kind of stupid about having agreed to come. Maybe this was why Daniel had missed both Zeke's handfastings - he'd never met Miroya, he didn't hang out with Zeke much, it didn't feel like an occurrence close to his heart.

But she'd promised Vince, and wasn't going to tell him - not now, while he was having his designated day to be choked up about his grandfather - that she wanted to go play with bats instead.

Vince sent only one thread to the memorial himself. Vince was probably not doing a whole lot else, this being a very solemn occasion. But he might be practicing music, reading, napping, even if he wasn't having sex or throwing wild parties contemporaneously while talking about his grandfather.

"It's been ninety years now," Vince said, when everyone was gathered. "In ten years I'll do this again... and maybe then I'll scale back to every fifty, or every hundred. But I'm never going to forget Grandpa Jack. We didn't get here soon enough. I know there were billions of people who didn't make it. My grandmother isn't the only widow out there. But Grandpa Jack was - the one I met."

He had a slideshow. Some of the people in attendance had clearly seen it before. They were polite, but they had the look of folks receiving data about the more interesting things their other threads were up to. Kendra hadn't seen the pictures before, though. She tried to devote her attention fully to Jack's photos, to Vince's commentary, to be fully there.

"Grandpa Jack used to declare moments of silence, at times like this," Vince said. "Sometimes as a joke. A dropped muffin - a moment of silence. A canceled TV show - a moment of silence. A flyer on a telephone pole for a lost cat, belonging to someone he'd never meet..." Vince took a deep breath. "But in more serious situations he'd suggest it too. He liked to say it was all-purpose, interfaith solemnity. I'd like to call for a moment of silence now."

Kendra bowed her head.

This was probably when Daniel would expect her to have some sublime experience of perfect wholeness - if he didn't expect her to have done it by finding time to meditate for eight hours in a row, anyway. It wasn't unlike meditating. She was silent and contemplative with all of the Kendra there was, all at once.

She wanted to catch a flying fox.

No, no, focus, Vince's grandfather was dead, that was awful.

(She was never going to find time to garden like this.)

Vince looked so sad. Kendra wanted to hug him, to pull this sad thread aside and take him out for wine on a boat on a lake with stars overhead. Ask him about Grandpa Jack, be introduced to the corresponding grandmother, send a Student thread on a hunt through the academic literature on the feasibility of rescue simulation.

The moment of silence ended. Vince's cousin sang a song, with Vince accompanying. Vince's niece read a poem. Kendra - wanted to be here, but it wasn't one of the main beats of her life. Vince himself wasn't only here.

The memorial ended. She blinked into her suite.

Maybe Daniel had had some profound revelation when he'd pared down to one. Maybe Daniel hadn't threaded sensibly in the first place, locked them into the wrong moods and flows. Maybe he'd had too many, or hadn't been willing to sleep them when they weren't busy. Maybe he'd loaded up on threads dedicated to things he didn't care about at all, and needed a hard limit on how much he could do, before he could say no to those invitations. Maybe Daniel was just a very different person from Kendra.

Kendra couldn't have all her threads back at once. They'd be better than nothing if she loaded them from backup state, but they wouldn't be quite in step. She had to refresh most of them every year or two anyway to maintain them in good order, since her center thread drifted and the exact quality of the ideal moods for her to be in for all her activities changed.

So. New threads.

The easiest from here - she started with a Parent instance, just one. She didn't really need two anymore, Zeke could take care of themselves. Kendra pulled up video of Zeke as a little kicking baby, as a stuffed animal celebrant, as two of them for the first time when they'd learned to thread. Zeke threads in Dino Park and Neuro Disney and Witchcraftland and Candy Kingdom. Zeke's birthday parties, fourteen with all their friends packing laser guns and seventeen at the ski resort and twenty-one a nice sedate dinner at home with family and twenty-five when Miroya entered the picture -

When she had it, that tender maternal focus, she spun off Parent, and off Parent ran to apologize for getting her journey of self-discovery in the way of Zeke's perfectly arranged seating chart. Good. She felt better already.

She wanted to take Vince out on a boat - there, that would do for one Friend instance, if her other friends needed slightly differently focused moods she could make more later.

She re-read the recaps of her LARP, spun up a thread for the next session - she walked through her gardens, unfroze them so she could wince whenever she caught a weed and know it wasn't going anywhere unless she did something about it - weeded, pruned, watered - pinched off Gardeners 1 and 2, bam, bam. Ate one of her orchard's apples, ordered up a whole sideboard of desserts, spun off an Epicure. Put on the recording of the last time her dance troupe had performed, kicked up her heels, danced away another thread. Poured music into the environment until she was crooning along, itching to look up the sheet music and find out what the progressions behind the key change looked like, and there she was, Songs.

And that was all well and good, but she was so far behind - so much must have happened while she'd been doing this experiment -

Chasers bloomed, eleven of them all at once, bubbling with hedonistic excitement about catching up with everything that had been going on during Kendra's diminishment; they separated into their own parts of the suite to read chat backscroll, chew through blog archive. They flitted off to events and performances in all conceptual directions.

The Chasers assigned themselves numbers, because it was easier to track which of them were covering which tasks when they were individually labeled. Numbers were arbitrary, but less ephemeral than "the one who sat in on chamber choir rehearsal" or "the one who's been reading all the drama about outfit plagiarism".

However meaningless the numbers, it occurred to Chaser 6 that she had a connection to the thread who'd started the whole thing.

Chaser 6 snorted and dove into a chat with her friends. When Daniel's followup message came, weeks later, she sent him a polite apology that she would not be able to join him in Unity for lunch. But if he wanted to catch up, he could come over to her place any time.

She had better things to do, but she was doing them.