Aes did not understand all of this. He didn't have to. “It is a waste of time talking about it,” he told the two of them. “He has to die.”
They just looked at him. “You cannot stop the dream while people are trapped in it. You cannot just reach out and erase him. So someone has to kill him.”
“You can't just kill him, Aes,” said Farker. “We're not real physical bodies in here.” He turned to Darla. “Did you explain it to him?”
“I started,” she retorted. “And then you showed up and asked me to do a little favor.”
“I never said it was a little favor. How much did you tell him?”
“She told me that this is a dream-world, and that we are all merely images, like drawings in sand. It was how she explained disappearing and reappearing. I don't feel like a drawing, Farker.”
Farker sighed and turned back to Darla. “Can you lend me a dagger?” She raised an eyebrow but reached back over her head to summon a throwing knife, then handed it to him.
Farker showed it to him. “This is an image of a knife, as we are images of humans. This is not my real body, which is nowhere near as handsome, and lying in a link bed back at my lab.” He pulled his chiton aside, showing a muscled abdomen. “There is nothing under this skin. Instead of a flat drawing in sand, think of a statue sculpted in stone or bronze. Or better yet, a hollow clay figure. It has the shape of a body, but there is nothing inside.”
He jabbed the end of the dagger into his belly. Aes was surprised that Farker did not even wince. “Since this isn't a real body, I feel no pain, but if we were Teamed you would see my health line dropping when something like this happens.” He pulled out the dagger and slashed at the exposed skin. It did not cut it; there was no blood.
“Some people faint at the sight of blood, so we phased out blood animations years ago. Any attack that would hurt a real body decreases the health of an avatar, but cannot actually damage it.”
“I understand,” said Aes, reaching out with one hand to heal Farker while the other plucked the knife from the man's fingers. “Sometimes you talk to me as if I were a child.” He glanced at the knife, then at Farker. “You explain things. Very well, explain this.”
Aes pulled aside his chiton as Farker had. He jabbed the point into his belly, only as deep as the first knuckle of his little finger. The pain was immediate. He winced and pulled it out, then drew it across the skin of his belly as Farker had. It was a good blade; the skin parted easily in a narrow cut. Bright red beads of blood appeared on it like a dotted line. They were the same color as the blood welling up in the jab wound.
Farker stared as if he had never seen a wound before. “That,” he said, “is impossible. I never programmed you for blood.”
“I do not know what that means,” said Aes. “I cannot prove to you that it hurts, but I assure you that it does.” He concentrated and healed himself with a ripple of green flame; the wounds disappeared.
He handed Farker the knife. There was still blood on the blade. His blood. “Maybe the rules are different for me. I can definitely be hurt.” He looked at them. “And if I can, perhaps this fiend Am-heh can. Perhaps the rules are different for him, too.”
Darla looked at Farker, who was still staring at the bloody tip of the dagger. “Well, is it possible? Instead of erasing him, can we just kill him?”
Farker looked up from the dagger. “I don't know,” he admitted. “Normally, if an avatar's health drops to zero, it just drops to the ground. You know the drill; if you don't have a healer with a rez power you have to accept a teleport to the nearest virtual hospital. It might be a dangerous waste of time to attack him directly.”
“He might not know about the hospital teleport,” Darla pointed out. “Aes doesn't see all the menus and options; Am-heh might have the same limitation. If he believes he's dying, it might trigger the system to terminate his process.”
“Or,” Farker pointed, “he might be able to kill Aes.”
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