Dana was nervous. She had paced her room for 3 days, leaving an obvious path on the carpet. She jumped when there was a knock on her door. She opened the door, Yetunde smiling up at her.
“Hey, mind if I come in?” she asked. She was in a wheelchair. Her body was still a bit too weak to start therapy, even with the steroids and other injections.
“Yeah, come in,” Dana said, letting Yetunde wheel herself in.
“So, I just wanted to talk ab– What’s got you so nervous?” Yetunde asked, watching Dana watch the clock. Dana blinked and stared wide-eyed at Yetunde.
“So, my friends… I’ve…. Never met them in person before,” Dana said, smiling weakly.
“WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE MEEEEEEE?” Dana wailed, running a hand through her hair. “What if they think the online version of me isn’t the real life me?” Yetunde laughed.
“Oh, I understand now. I’m sure they’ll still like you. Meeting people from the internet is always nerve-wracking. But, it’s worth it most of the time,” Yetunde said, giggling.
Dana blinked at her. “You’ve…??”
Yetunde laughed even harder. “Of course! I’m probably only 10 years older than you, I know how the internet works,” she said winking, making Dana giggle.
“You just seem like the type to meet someone in a library by bumping into them and then y’all get coffee afterwards,” Dana said, sitting on her bed. Yetunde smile got wide.
“Funny story; that actually happened, minus the coffee. We bumped into each other and went on about our business. Went on social media that night, saw he was in the same group about VR on campus as me. Went and saw a documentary about early VR from the ’10s. Shit was ugly, let me tell you.”
Dana watched her in awe. “Do you still talk to him?”
Yetunde took a deep breath and rubbed her bald head.
“Yes… And no. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
There was a knock on the door. Dana ran to it like her ass was on fire. It was Zee. He smiled at Dana and stepped inside.
“You have visitors,” he said, stepping aside. A masculine person and a woman. The masculine person was dark-skinned, tall and lithe, their beard colored cotton candy pink. The woman was also dark skinned, neon yellow contacts and piercings for days.
Dana suddenly embarrassed and ugly. The masculine person let out a scream and ran up to Dana, hugging her tight.
“You are so cute!” he said, holding her face in her hands. She smiled. He smelt like jasmine. He stood back and cleared his throat. “I’m very sorry. We even talked about this in the car,” he mumbled.
“We even talked about this in the car, you are so… so right,” the woman said, laughing. She walked up to Dana and grinned, holding out her hand.
“Samara,” she said. Dana took it and shook it.
“I’m Ekundayo,” the masculine person said, waving.
Samara glanced at Yetunde, who was making small talk with Zee.
“Who’s Prof. X?” she asked Dana in a hushed whisper. Dana slowly turned her head to Samara and started directly into her soul from her eyes.
“Bitch,” was all she could say, trying not to laugh.
Zee left the room and Yetunde sat quietly, watching Dana chat with her internet friend. She started a get sad and spaced out, looking the direction of Dana’s ear.
“Yetunde?” Dana asked, waving a hand in front of her face. Yetunde jumped and looked up at her.
“Sorry? Oh… Uh… Hello.” Yetunde cleared her throat.
“Yetunde, this is Samara and Ekundayo,” Dana said. Yetunde shook their hands and smiled up at them.
“It’s nice to meet you. Dana was worried,” Yetunde started but stopped when Dana gave her look. She smirked. “She was worried you wouldn’t make it. How was your ride? Did Zee talk your ear off?”
“SEE?! THANK YOU,” Samara said, looking an Ekundayo. “He talked a LOT.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re rude,” he replied shaking his head.
“That’s because you talk a lot, too!”
“You do talk a lot, ‘Dayo,” Dana piped up.
“Oh, and now you got– Y’all are rude.” Ekundayo sat down on the desk in a huff.
Dana looked at Yetunde. “So, what were you saying?”
“Well, I guess it’s better now that you’re all here.” Yetunde tried to find her words for a second.
“The simulation is under repair,” she started off. “I personally can’t go back into the machine. Not yet anyway, heh. It should be ready within 3 days time, we’re hoping sooner. The point of this beta test was initially to see if there was a way make a civilization in ancient times live in harmony with bits and pieces of technology. At first. it did great, then one day, the power went out and… We fear that the director of the project is still stuck in the simulation. The plan was to find him and see if we could somehow put his… being back into his body, but the simulation must have gotten compromised during the power outage because the Dogs weren’t there before and the simulation is advancing too quickly because of their interference.”
“So, how can we stop them? It’s just us three until you are well enough to get back in,” Dana said, crossing her arms.
“Shouta can help. Shouta and other’s like him. They’re…. special NPCs,” Yetunde said.
Samara nodded. “So we did the character sheets and the bank transfers on the way here. My little family is set, until this is done. I’m ready to play a game.”
Ekundayo laughed, shaking his head. “I hid my money in the mountains.”
Moira was joined with two other assistants in this giant room filled with 3 pods 2 days later. As Dana got settled into her pod, Samara was eating her protein bar while her assistant inserted the chip into her neck. She seemed unbothered. Ekundayo on the other hand was screeching, his assistant trying to calm him down. When she inserted his chip, he huffed.
“That’s it? I am so sorry for all my shenanigans,” he.
Yetunde rolled into the room, wearing a hat. The room was chilly.
“Alright, my understanding is that we hear what’s going on in the world now as well having your packs upgraded. You are a bit overpowered for some enemies, but that’s okay because fuck ’em. Shops have updated clothing aaaaaand money isn’t an issue, so great. We will be pulling you out within 12 hours real-time.”
And with that, Yetunde pressed a button and the 3 young people collapsed back in their pods.