"For every dull, fumbled word you ever committed to print, for every tree that was sacrificed to appease your overblown ego, and for every syllable of narcissistic blather you have ever spoken, I am going to give you the beat-down of your life, Ayn Rand."
Chlör checked his stats. The investment had paid off and his rates soared to a new record high. Chlör grinned in satisfaction and watched as the horror hung from Ayn's face. He imagined how he must have appeared from her perspective, like Howard Roark in the opening scene of The Fountainhead, standing on a cliff, the master of his world. He let a smirk of self-satisfaction slip onto Nathaniel's face.
Ayn burst into laughter and slapped the floor, her heels thumping on the oriental rug. Nathaniel tensed and his footing faltered.
"Finally!" Ayn clapped like a child at her own birthday party. "Thank you! I was beginning to worry that I had been wasting all this energy for nothing."
Nathaniel stepped backward. "What are you talking about?"
"You're from the future, aren't you? Somehow, you are inside of my Nathaniel... speaking through him... acting through him. Am I right?"
Chlör was stunned. Someone must have corrupted the Core Timeline. His eyes locked, vacant, as he scanned the Mesh for evidence of who and when. He could find nothing in the public records. How can this be? Did he exist in a splinter timeline? Was his world a lie? Chlör's ratings peaked even higher as new subscribers flooded in.
Ayn burst into a round of hoarse guffaws. She pushed herself off the floor.
"Thank God!" Ayn's laughter flattened into a long sigh as she stood and switched off the record player. She straightened her skirt, then clasped her hands together, eyes studying Nathaniel’s body as if it were something behind glass at a museum.
"What year are you from? Twenty three... forty something?"
Nathaniel nodded absently, "Twenty three forty seven."
"And your name is?" Ayn asked, her mouth quivering.
"Chlör Byzantine... what odd nomenclature...” she began. So..." she smiled and raised her chin, "... you are the one I've been waiting for."
Seeing the confusion on Nathaniel's face, Ayn said, "Have you never read my novella, Anthem?"
Nathaniel looked sideways at her. Chlör threw Anthem into his insocket. The words streamed in.
"Yes." Nathaniel said. "Childish and improbable. Self-aggrandizing excrement."
Ayn flexed her eyebrows and nodded.
"What if I told you it was a coded message to the future? A simple code that someone like you could—"
Her face froze as Chlör ripped through the literary archives and found a scan of the 1938 first edition of Anthem, then pushed it through his decryption program. A flicker of pattern recognition, and the logic began to stack. When the Nested Seven Fibonacci Sequence was applied to the word count, it revealed another story altogether: someone from Chlör's future had gone back into the Core Timeline when Ayn was researching The Fountainhead, and had warned her about an attack in her future. The coded message in Anthem asked for someone to train her in the combat arts so her career and her important message of free capitalism would not be derailed. There was no trace on who had done this. Chlör suspected it must have been a government program.
His stats were still rising. The big corporations were taking notice. Three proposals of immersive games based on his life appeared in his insocket.
Of all the photos of Rand, she either appeared angry or conceited. Here, frozen in 1955, she looked goofy — her eyes half closed, drunk-ish, and her mouth puckered in mid-sentence. He uploaded the pic of her to the Mesh and restarted the normal temporal feed.
"—probably decipher quickly," Ayn finished her thought. Emotibots of tearful laughter flooded Chlör with endorphins that tickled him.
"You sent a message to the future."
"And I unlocked that, didn't I?"
Rand stretched her palms out and squatted into a Southern Kung Fu fighting stance.
"... I've been waiting for you, Chlör Byzantine."
Chlör repressed the chem-stimulated giddiness suffusing his meat, and tried to calculate her skill level by the precision of her posture. Although the muscle tension in her limbs was masked by her blouse and skirt, he could tell she was well-trained.
"Why do you think I always wear sensible shoes?" Ayn smiled.
Chlör grinned as he felt his combat program filter into Nathaniel's long limbs. He stretched out into the familiar beginning stance from the game Shaolin Death Cry.
"Your move, Ayn Rand," he said.