Author : George R. Shirer

Noir York. V9.7.

The rain fell, neon droplets painting the city’s stark black and white streets in a kaleidoscope of liquid color. Sitting in Smiley’s, propping up the counter, Dashwood stared through the window at the technicolor weather.

“Shit. Would you look at that? What the hell’s the world coming to?”

“Geez, Dash. Don’t drez on us or nothing.”

Dashwood glanced at the NPC standing behind the counter, rubbing a grubby rag over the grubby surface.

“But its color,” said Dashwood. “Color! In Noir York, Smiley!”

“Probably just a glitch,” said Smiley. He shrugged. “Don’t get your jockeys in a bunch. You want some more coffee?”

Dashwood scowled and pushed his cup away. “Tastes like chalk.”

“I’m gettin’ better at makin’ the crap, then,” noted Smiley.

“Aren’t you even a little bothered?”

“Nope. I been around since the first version, Dash. I seen it all.” Smiley threw the rag across his shoulder, jerked a meaty thumb in the general direction of the weather. “This? This ain’t nothin’. I survived the Big Hack of 6.3! Now, let me tell you, pal, that was somethin’!”

“It’s not a glitch.”

Smiley quit talking, mid-remembrance, and Dashwood turned to stare at the woman seated at the end of the counter. She was a looker. Tall, slender, with silver-white hair and onyx eyes. Her lips glistened.

“What do you know, doll?” asked Dashwood. He reached up and automatically straightened his tie.

“Marilyn,” said the woman. “Not doll, gumshoe.”

“All right. So what do you think you know, Marilyn?”

“I know that’s not a glitch.” She turned to stare at the colorful streets. “It’s a paradigm shift.”

“What?” Smiley wasn’t smiling. “Ya mean they’re gonna put us in color?”

“You stand here all night and don’t hear the news?” asked Marilyn.

Dashwood moved over a seat. His eyes flitted to Marilyn’s endless legs. “What news?”

“They’re shutting us down.”

“What?” shouted Smiley.

“They can’t!” said Dashwood, furiously. “They wouldn’t dare!”

“They can and they will,” said Marilyn. “You ever check the stats? Less than a thousand users a night log into Noir York. We’re below the minimum threshold.”

“But they can’t shut us down!” said Dashwood. “We’re AIs! That’d be murder!”

“Yeah!” said Smiley, hotly. “We got rights!”

Marilyn nodded. “You’re right. They won’t shut us down. They’re just taking us off the grid, dumping Noir York into a self-sustaining junk server. The same one that houses San Futuro and the Magik Kingdoms and a dozen other obsolete game-worlds.”

Dashwood and Smiley stared at her, reeling from her words. Marilyn fished in her clutch for a cigarette and a lighter. She fired up the cancer stick and began to nurse it.

“We’re scrapped, boys,” said the dame. “But look on the bright side. No more users. No more stupid, pointless deaths or dumbo quests. Hell, we’re already getting some color in this dump. Maybe, soon, we’ll even get to see a real sunrise.”

The diner fell silent. The three of them sat at the counter, considering the unknown future, while outside, the neon rain continued.

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