Chapter Nine: I Like Hike
"Yeah, yeah, can we not talk about Cosby?" I interjected, "I like your stories, I'm just hoping you could tell some that, like, don't have Cosby in them at all."
Nash fell silent, and I sighed in the tense quiet. We were camped out in the mountains, far north of the City. Nash had set up a tent and a fire, over which were skewered a couple large pizza rolls that were still thawing. She had lent me her Patagonia jacket, leggings, and boots. I was definitely wishing that clinic hadn't burned down before I could get my SRS and implant, it would have made leggings much more comfortable.
It had been a long and arduous journey and my relationship with Nash had been strained. At the beginning she had flirted with me, giving as good as she got. But the closer we came to finding Jim Davis the more worried she became about Val's fate. It had already been a week- neither of us wanted to say it, but there was every chance she was dead. Still, she couldn't go on without finding out, and I didn't stand a chance against Stanley's benefactors without the help of Val's friends.
Without saying a word, Nash crawled back into the tent. I waited a few minutes then joined her. I bundled myself under the flannel covers and turned on my side, facing the front flap. Nash murmured and wrapped her arm around my waist, pulling me back towards her. I was confused at first but soon succumbed to her warm embrace.
The next day Nash and I climbed another mountain. I lost my balance every few dozen paces in the deep powdery snow, often tumbling in face first and relying on Nash to come help me up. At the top we finally rested to look out over our surroundings. Before us at the base of the nearest mountain was a great stone structure comprised of two ivory tablets, each the size and shape of a gas station awning. Vines stretched from the tablets up into the trees on the side of the mountain. A part in the clouds overhead shined sunlight on the clearing, distinguishing it from the surrounding wintery dark.
Nash gave me a hopeful look and I, looking down at the steep downward slope, gave her a scared one. She sighed and got down on one knee. I could hardly contain my excitement until I saw her motion towards her back. I still relished the opportunity to ride her down the mountain, despite my disappointment. I wrapped my arms around her neck and my legs around her waist and squeezed tight, feeling the weight of my emaciated body be supported easily by Nash's strong and sinewy muscles. She didn't slow down one iota, and descended quickly and smoothly.
When we came upon the great tablets Nash and I noticed hieroglyphs upon both of their surfaces. One was laid back against the great mountain, which was uncommonly smooth and gray; its peak remained untouched by snow. The symbols upon it were too far away to distinguish individually but seemed to paint a large intricate picture when viewed from afar. Perhaps of a figure leading some great force against a foe? The other tablet spread out across the ground- it, too, untouched by snow. Among the hieroglyphs there I could make out a cat, different humanoids, a heart, and a rock or lump of coal. This last one, a carving of a little lump with a flat base, was glowing an anomalous green. I lowered myself off Nash's back and approached it. Cautiously, I laid my hand upon the glowing symbol.
The spot beneath my hand went dark just as a cloud overhead cast a shade over the clearing. Some of the symbols on the vertical tablet began to light up and glow that same green. I withdrew quickly and gripped Nash's hand tight as the glowing increased and tinted her face green as if we were watching the aurora borealis. A large cluster of the bright green symbols seemed to change shape and swirl together on the surface of the ivory tablet. They coalesced into a humanoid silhouette and I couldn't hold back a gasp of recognition. Nash turned away from the incredible display and lowered her eyebrows at me. From her green outline on the giant computer, Joyce emerged. She was alive once more.
The glowing stopped quickly and all was still and dark. I breathed heavily and regarded Joyce. She didn't move for a moment, but then turned slowly towards me. She stumbled a bit and I worried there was something wrong with her. What if it wasn't even Joyce at all? Then the clouds parted again and I saw something in her that told me it was my old friend and domme. I ran towards her and when she saw me she started laughing and embraced me. Her smell and the grip of her arms took me back mentally to the joyful times when she would hold my bruised and lacerated body against hers and whisper sweet things in my ear. I nearly fell to the earth, quickly as my body yearned to melt in those soft but powerful arms.
"Riese! Oh my god-" Joyce laughed uncontrollably, "-it worked! Thank you so much!"
"How-" I sniffed, smiling and crying, "-how are you back?"
"It's thanks to that code I had you enter! Michael's old desktop connects to THIS!" she slammed her fist on the white stone structure, "THIS, God's Computer!"
"What?" I asked, but it already made sense as I looked up at the tablet and the mountain that bore its weight. I turned around to see Nash sunk to the ground, our gear strewn around her, sobbing silently.
"Nash? What's wrong? This is Joyce, she's my friend! I thought she was dead! She can help us, probably!" I said.
"Sure, I ain't got nothing better to do" said Joyce, shrugging.
"I don't care!" cried Nash, "This doesn't have anything to do with Jim Davis, Riese! It's got nothing to do with Val either! Where the hell does this pipe even go? There's no symbol for it on God's Fucking Computer! Those locals were full of shit! There's nothing here!"
"...Well I think God's Fucking Computer is pretty cool, bitch, but alright..." Joyce mumbled.
I approached Nash with some vague notion that I should comfort her. I reached my hand out towards her shoulder but then withdrew it. I looked to Joyce for advice but she was already retreating behind the Computer.
"Nash..." I said.
Before I could decide what to say Nash hugged my knees forcefully, nearly toppling me. I regained my footing and patted her head, marveling at the texture of her short brown hair. I wiped a tear from her cheek with my thumb and winced at the tenderness of my companion who had been so resolute and determined.
"We'll keep looking for her, Nash," I said, "We'll 'interrogate' those locals again if we have to- I know how much you liked that. Joyce can help too! She's really sadistic- you'll love her. We'll find Val together. You're a good partner, you deserve to see her again. And at this point I really wanna find her just so I can start getting some attention from you, too."
Nash nodded faintly and started crying much louder. I was a little uncomfortable but as it continued I tried my best to connect to her pain. There was my usual longing to feel her pain so as to connect with her better, yes, but there was also a deep sadness from seeing a woman I respected so torn apart. I knew this all connected back to Stanley and my hate surged anew. It was beginning to turn into something really powerful.
"Hey!" Joyce shouted from behind God's Computer, "Come check out this little hole!"
I blushed, embarrassed that Joyce would call me by my nickname in public, then realized that wasn't what had happened. I ran back behind the computer, into the dark gap between the Computer and the mountain where the vines which slithered across the clearing disappeared into the mountainside. Joyce did indeed have her hand in a hole- but it was the mountain's!
"Nash!" I yelled, "Come here! Bring the pipe!"
Nash came with the pipe, which fit the divot perfectly. It locked in place and the mountain opened itself to the three of us.