My safehouse was in the middle-stories of Malak. We took several platform-cars there, switching back every few miles to make sure nobody was following us. Being outside, walking around, it felt like the world was watching me. Like I had done something very wrong and everyone was going to turn their heads to look at me at all once. It wasn't a good feeling.
I was getting paranoid. Canto said that was one of the symptoms of the Slender Man meme. Paranoia, hallucinations, sometimes even physical sickness. A cough or a headache. I asked how a meme could cause a sickness and he replied that it was "psychosomatic." A psychosomatic illness caused by a idea monster. Great.
I also asked how long I had. "I don't know," he said. "It varies. Sometimes people go for a long while before succumbing. Sometimes the meme gets through a person quickly and then leaves them alone. I was told there were lots of pharmers who tried studying it, but nothing ever came out of it. It was dormant for a while."
Every shadow made me jumpy, every person on the sliding streets made me flinch away. I knew this probably wasn't the meme working, this was just myself, my own fear working against me, but it didn't help.
When we finally got to my safehouse, I pulled out my extra harness I kept there and put it on.
"You going out?" Canto asked.
"No," I said, "I just feel safer with one on." Having a harness on meant if you fell, you could catch yourself. Up in the middle-stories, you didn't really need one, because there were so many platforms and the platforms usually had emergency cables you could catch. But up high, in the pinnacles, and down below, on the harsh ground, the platforms were few and far between. Better to have a harness, latch onto a building or girder and let it lift you up.
I always felt better with a harness on.
"So," I said, "what should I do?"
Canto shrugged. He was quiet for most of the way here. He answered when I asked him questions, but other than that, he wasn't his normal self. I hadn't seen him imbibe any drugs or take any with him. There was obviously more to this Slender Man thing that he wasn't telling me.
"Canto." I took his hand. "It's okay. I just need to know what I can do. To stay safe."
He looked at me and then said, "Sometimes it does good to read more about him. Read the stories about him, about the people he followed."
"The archive," I said. "Good. The original was destroyed, but I rerouted all the information with your kernel. Maybe I can even use it as leverage against the Golconda. Threaten to make it open source. This is a good thing."
"Sure," Canto said, but he didn't sound convinced.
"I just need to know where the server is," I said. "Where did the kernel reroute the archive, Can?"
Canto was looking down again at his hands. "It's in a safe place," he said. "An office building. In the Spire."
I looked at him. "The Spire?" I lifted a palm up to my face. "Canto, the Spire's in Shekina. The Spire's one of the Pinnacles!"
"I know," he said softly. "It's a safe place."
"We can't just walk into one of the Pinnacles," I said.
Canto was quiet. He shuffled his feet and then said, "I can." He rubbed his wrist and then pulled up his sleeve - revealing an ID-chip. The chip's hologram jumped up and displayed Canto's picture (from when he had much shorter hair) and his full name: Canticle Gerard. Son of Arkos Gerard, Architect.
Canto was the son of an Architect, the kings of the sprawl, the masters of the Pinnacle City.