Thorn shifted position, still careful to stay out of the light, to keep the backpack away from Pistil or Stamen’s reach. There was a candy bar in the pack, but it wasn’t enough to share, so rather than offering or eating it, Thorn simply asked, “What’s your Rose essay on?”
Stamen pouted her lips. “Pistil’s aiming to talk about me, aren’t you? About how I am your muse and how you wouldn’t have your Spark idea without my being there, right love?”
As she had finished her last carving, now Stamen started to quickly sketch Love on the bench with her honed pen. Pistil kept his hand on her knee as she sat carving, leaning his body into hers as he saw the meanings unfold under her lines:
Thorn took out a carving knife and carved on the opposite corner of the bench: Love (L hate, o bad, v discarded, e now and past)
“Works both ways sometimes.” Thorn said and got up to leave.
Pistil dove and grabbed the bottom of Thorn’s backpack and jerked the pack and Thorn’s shoulders to the ground. “Not so fast,” Pistil snarled a bit. “We have some unfinished business, you and I—and went into a quick parody of an ancient rag: ain’t nobody’s bidness but my own.”
Thorn tried to stand up again, shoulders aching. The night was fading and there was little time for sleep left. Yet shaking Pistil and Stamen from their single-minded pursuit seemed impossible.
“Fine,” Thorn said, sighing quietly. “But let’s not stay here. There is an all nighter diner on Colfax a few blocks from here—you got any credit?“
“We went spanging today—could do with a bit. Dutch.” was Pistil’s laconic reply and they walked in silence to the diner.
Thorn used the time to consider carefully what to say—and what not to say—about entering the MD Foundation’s Spark Prize—or the Rose Essay that accompanied it. Living under the radar meant that you had to be careful about admitting to which accounts you had access to. By using a “legacy account,” Thorn could access any port, pretend to be anyone registered with a legitimate account. Petal had shown how to identify people had not accessed their accounts for over five years, but who had either paid their bills automatically or gotten a lifetime account—so the account was still open. And there were still the tens of thousands of google and yahoo accounts left over from before the Registration Acts—and even a couple of AOL ones. (AOL was not a derivative of LOL, Petal had told him. America Online—from way before--when online was even funnier than laughing out loud.)
Now Thorn was good enough to even milk credits from legacy accounts, to use at unattended diners or stores where the machines could not tell that Thorn looked nothing like the accounts' owners' picture and would not ask for a retinal scan.