Jennifer read the final word with a satisfied sigh. That story was amazing. For a moment, she considered the kudos button, then closed the tab. There was no way she was connecting her personal Ao3 login to a story that was that sick, twisted and strange, even if it was incredibly well written. The very thought that a reporter might pick up the connection made her feel faintly nauseous. But still, it had brightened her day.
She disabled the complex network of anonymizers that gave the netops team the impression, should they look, that she had been crossreferencing economic statistics, and left the office, humming to herself.
Antonia’s mouse cursor moved slowly towards the kudos button, trembling slightly with the effort, and the emotional impact of the story she had just read. She began to click, but in that moment, her decaying finger became disconnected from the rest of her hand and rolled across the floor.
“Damnit!” she swore. It was the everyday small inconveniences of zombiedom that were the worst.
Sue’s mouse cursor slid towards the kudos button, stopping abruptly as the telephone by her elbow rang.
“Fly at once. All is known!” said the breathy, unrecognisable voice.
Liz considered the story through slitted eyes, her head on one side. The plot had been moderately entertaining, and the characters well drawn. Now, there was a decision to be made. Would she leave kudos?
The thing was, the story had mentioned margarine. Liz had a great, almost pathological loathing of margarine.
The very thought of the stuff, yellow, greasy and unnatural, being slathered on bread by her favorite character, had spoiled her enjoyment. She knew, deep in her bones, that he would never eat such a revolting substance.
Yes, the Margarine Factor was just too much. She closed the window decisively, and got back to work.
Ida back-buttoned away in horror. Her eyebrows had shot so far into her hairline that she feared she might never get them untangled again.
She would definitely need a nice cup of tea and a cuddle with her cat before she would dare to venture to open another link.
Kit glanced up from her laptop as Jeffrey stormed angrily into the room. He was exquisitely dressed as always, but his perfectly cut jacket was unbuttoned and his silk tie dishevelled. With some alarm she noted the high colour of his exquisite cheekbones.
Kit closed the Ao3 window without even pausing to leave kudos.
“Whatever’s the matter, Jeffers, old fruit?” she asked calmly.
Mariko poured more wine into her glass.
At the end of the story, Mariko cried.
But long ago, Mariko had promised that she would leave kudos for two men and no-one else. Thor and Loki had been a wild ride... but they were no Bodie and Doyle.
She picked up the wine bottle and gave it a swirl. At least another glass left.
“It’s not really cheating if you don’t hit the kudos button,” she told it.
The alarm went off when Karen was on the next-to-last chapter, and she had to run to check that the precious hydro turbine had not jammed. She got it sorted out, and returned to her armchair and Kindle in the quiet corner of the bunker where she liked to read, nibbling a handful of dried apple.
It was a good thing for her sanity that she’d managed to download so much of Ao3 before the servers had gone down for the last time, and the global internet had gone away for good. But even now, it bothered her a little every time she got to the end of a story, and was reminded that it was no longer possible to go online to leave kudos.