Shouta looked at the rest of the group and they looked at him in awe.
Ekundayo walked over to him. “That was amazing, when will we see them again?”
“You’ll know by the sound they make when they come into battle,” Shouta replied, smiling at Ekundayo.
When they broke free of the forest, the sun was high in the sky.
“You all want to go to… the village…” Shouta started. As he turned around, they disappeared out the game.
Dana gasped, her eyes shooting open. She looked around the room, trying to figure out where she was.
“Welcome back!” Yetunde said, wheeling herself around the room. Samara groaned and stretched out.
“Holy shit, that was intense…” Samara groaned, trying to stand up, shooing off her assistant. Ekundayo was still in his seat, trying to process what just happened. Yetunde put a hand on his knee.
“Yeah, I’m fine… Just… Wow.”
Yetunde got them fed, full of fluids and ushered them to bed, where they promptly fell asleep. She wheeled herself around the pod room, looking at the seats, the equipment. She sighed.
“That anxious to get back in there, huh?” her assistant asked. Yetunde smiled sadly.
“I thought I was close, you know… I wasn’t.” The assistant sat in one of the pods and shivered.
“I don’t like this…” Yetunde laughed.
“He worked very hard to make sure everything was safe,” Yetunde said quietly.
The assistant looked at her. “What do you think will happen?”
“We’ll have to shut it down. With him inside.”
The next day, everyone (except Yetunde) slept in late. Dana was the first one up. She walked out of her room, rubbing her eyes and yawning. She doubled back to brush her teeth and wash her face. When she came out the bathroom, Yetunde was in her room.
“You left the door open,” she said. Dana nodded.
“I was wondering if y’all wanted to get breakfast and then go shopping?”
“But what about those USBs Shouta got?”
Yetunde stared at her. “That’s being handled,” she said flatly. Dana nodded and left it alone.
It was a few hours before everyone was up and fed. Samara declined going outside.
“Apparently, y’all got that new fighting VR downstairs and no one told me??? Sooooo, I’mma stay here,” Samara said. She waved at their SUV as they drove off from their door.
Samara took an elevator to the 2nd floor. The VR room was a break room for the employees. Samara had gotten that information from her assistant the other night. She stood in the machine and popped on the headset and gloves. When the machine turned on, she scrolled through the games, trying to find her fighting one. She paused and pressed start on something that wasn’t it.
It was a city setting, the background on fire, the foreground a line of heavily-armed policemen. A menu popped up.
Choose Your Main Power
Choose Your Secondary Power
Choose Your Rage Level
“Rage level?” Samara set it on the highest, just to see what it could do.
Her character’s powers were fire and strength.
When the game started, she just stood there, watching the rage meter go up as the cops fired on her. When it flashed, the character’s stance changed, the interface in the headset changing.
Samara took off in a sprint, throwing balls of fire at the row of cops. More appeared, almost tripling in number. She picked up a car and threw it at them.
“High rage is good,” she whispered, picking up part of the street itself and throwing it at the ever-evolving hoard.
Ekundayo and Dana were left on their own when Yetunde had to go back to the “office” when they arrived at the shopping center. The people ignored them. Dana sniffed.
“What’s that smell?” she asked, looking at Ekundayo. He blinked.
Dana rushed off inside the center. She went down a flight of stairs and stared out the giant window in awe.
The shopping center rested on a cliffside at the entrance of a canyon that faced the ocean. A balcony was outside. Dana walked to the window, pressing her hand on the glass. It slid open. She slowly stepped outside, a huge wave of the salt-water smell she asked about. She took a deep breath and walked to the railing, leaning against it. The sun was in the west, but still high. She saw the waves crash against the dark red canyon rock at the mouth of the river. She exhaled and placed her head in her hands.
Ekundayo caught up to her.
“First time at the Edge huh?”
He smiled and leaned at the railing with her.
“I’ve always taken it for granted since I lived close enough to the Edge on the West,” he said, watching birds soar. “Didn’t have the river, though… And the ocean was closer,” he said.
“What do you mean ‘closer’?” Dana asked, glancing at him.
“Oh, like we could actually access the beach. Well not really but me and my friends used to go down to the beach all the time and catch the little sea frogs that are down there.”
“Yeah, I lived right smack dab in the middle of the country, pretty much.”
“Oh, yeah, wow, you were pretty much landlocked, huh?”
“Yeah, which is terrible. I already spend like 6 hours a day on the tram, I’m not doing a fulls day worth of that.” Dana shuddered. Ekundayo smiled at her and looked back at the ocean.
“Who did you leave behind?” He asked after a while.
“A grandmother who proably isn’t even worried where all that money came from,” Dana said, running a hand through her hair. Her afro was getting a bigger.
“You gave her all your money?” Dana busted up laughing, tears rolling down her face.
“Fuck no! I gave her enough, though. All my money, get the fuck out.” Dana shook her head.
“Who did you leave behind?”
“No one. I put down my cat before I came here. She was dying, anyway. Gave me an excuse to finally… you know.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Dana said.
“Yeah… I had that cat all my life pretty much. She was slowly going and then a week or two before you left, she just got worse. And then the week before I left, she got even worse than that, so… When that money dropped in my account, I had a funeral for her. Had a nurse come visit us at the beach. Had her favorite blanket and toy. And she got to watch the waves like she does, you know?” Ekundayo smiled.
“It was almost like today. It was rainy, but somehow the sun was still out. Like the day I found her. She was so little and hiding the reeds by my little village. Brought her home and warmed her up by the fire and gave her a fish and some goat milk. She would follow me to the library where I’d come talk to you when I didn’t have minutes on my phone, haha.”
“Not Miss Ravioli! I thought she was just the library cat! I didn’t know she was yours. Oh my goodnes, E.” Dana huggedl Ekundayo tightly. He chuckled and squeezed her back.
“It’s alright, I’m… hanging in there. Being in that game helps me. Let’s get something to eat. All this sea air has me craving a fried fish.”
After about an hour and a few dollars later, they walked out of the shopping center, wondering where Yetunde and Zee with the SUV were. They started to walk up the street where they came, not aware of the 3 people following behind them as they made small talk.
Screeching tires made them pause. An SUV was speeding toward them.
Yetunde stuck her head out the window.
“RUN!” She yelled at the two.
Dana and Ekundayo took off toward the van, the group chasing behind them.
Yetunde wheeled her chair to the back of the SUV as Zee tried his hardest to speed the SUV up. She took a deep breath, locking her wheelchair in place. As Dana and Ekundayo jumped the curb and ran behind the SUV, Yetunde threw the doors open. The group of 3 pulled out pistols and started firing.
“FUCK,” Dana screamed, sprinting toward the vehicle. Ekundayo dove into the back, reaching his arm to Dana. She yelled out, a bullet hitting her in the thigh. She grunted and continued to run, making a leap for Ekundayo’s hand and grabbing onto it. Yetunde grabbed on the handle by the window and unlocked her chair, pulling herself up and trying pushing the chair out from under her. Her foot got caught in the netting on the back, her arms got tired. As they came over a bump, Yetunde lost her hold on the handle, her and the chair falling out the SUV.
“ZEE, STOP. STOP STOP STOP, TURN AROUND!” Dana yelled, crawling to the doors.
“I can’t!” Zee called back, speeding off.
With horror, Dana and Ekundayo watched Yetunde get picked up and thrown into the back of a rusty-red van as they rounded a corner.