The Sphere (updated 5/3/17)

(Going to give Nanowrimo a shot this year and attempt to write an original piece)

                Prologue: The Pony Massacre 

2648 A.D.

The little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five or six, jumped excitedly holding her prize in her hands. It had taken nearly all her will power, but she had done it and now as promised she held the latest installment of the My Little Pony: Virtual Friends. Today she would finally be allowed to log into The Sphere. She ran to the counter as a rather annoyed older brother was dragged along besides her.

“Hi there!” The teenager behind the counter said smiling down at the girl.

“Two Dives in Ponyland.” The brother said with a shudder.

“Ponyville!” The young girl corrected as the brother rolled his eyes.

“Can’t believe mom’s making me do this with you.” He said eying the cover of smiling barnyard creatures with distaste.

“Will that be partial dive or full?” The teenager working behind the counter asked.

“Full!” The young girl exclaimed as the brother shook his head.

“Partial, Becca, remember? Full dive has needles.” He said eyeing the holographic displays of the latest games that were released. He stared at the image of the latest zombie game with longing. Why did he have to go in the little kid game with his sister? She’d be fine. She’d go in, play with the animals, fly in the sky. So what if it was her first time? What could possibly go wrong in a kids game? “Actually, Let’s do one partial for Ponytown and one full for Brains, Tasty Brains.” He said before eyeing his sister. “Think you’ll be fine by yourself?” He asked hopefully. She looked up at him with wide blue eyes in wonder. He was letting her be alone? “Look, don’t tell mom, and I’ll take you back next week.” He said before she eagerly nodded her head.

“Alright, have you two been here before?” The girl working the counter asked.

“I have. She hasn’t.” He answered slipping his wrist underneath the scanner as the total was deducted from his BitCoin account.

“Is this your user?” She asked as a holographic image of a teen boy decked out in weapons and gear appeared.

“Yep.” He said.

“That doesn’t look anything like you.” Becca said looking up at the image and then back to her brother.

“It doesn’t have too, you’ll see. It’s The Sphere, you can be anyone you want to be.” He answered as the girl led them behind the counter towards the back.

“You can go in room one whenever you want, Brian.” The girl said.

“I better stay and help her out first.” He said leading the little girl towards the scanner.

“How’d she know your name?” Becca asked as she glanced at what appeared to be a blank wall. Her eyes went wide as an exact replica of herself appeared in front of her.

“Because she scanned my chip.” Brian answered. “Pretty cool, huh?” He said smiling a little at her amazement. It would be kind of fun to see her first Dive. Oh well. He’d rather be shooting zombies than playing with ponies. “Now all you have to do is think about what you want to look like. Yeah, like that.” He said as the image immediately changed outfits and hair color.

“Woah,” Becca said imagining herself with different shades and styles of hair. After several minutes of giggling at the sight of herself with a Mohawk, afro, mullet, and other assortment of different things she finally settled on just long brown hair and blue eyes. “This is what I want.”

“So ordinary.” Brian said before shrugging. “Now all you have to do is name her.”

              Welcome, Sasha Brindey

“You guys all set?” The teenager asked as Brian nodded his head.

“Have fun, we’ll be out about the same time.” Brian said before waving and leaving towards the first room.

The teenager led Becca towards the back hall, around the corner and towards room number twelve. As Becca walked she craned her neck and turned her head in all directions checking out all the latest advertisements for dives available. One image showed a boy and a girl decked out in chain mail carrying swords with a giant fire breathing dragon in the background glaring menacingly. Another image showed a deep sea dive with all kinds of fish and sea life swimming around a girl in a scuba diving get up. The guide nearly had to physically pull her away from one display of two girls with black cat ears and tails standing in provocative posses.

“Kitties! I wanna go in the kitty one!” Becca said frowning in confusion at the teenagers reaction.

“Noo! Not for kids, sorry.” The teenager said giggling and motioning her forward into the nearest room. Becca looked around the room. It wasn’t at all what she had been expecting.

“Where’s the ponies?” She asked taking in the plain room with a single chair and strange helmet.

“Don’t worry, there’s ponies.” The guide said motioning for her to take a seat. “Now since this is your first time, let me explain how this is going to work. We’re going to put this helmet on you and count to ten and when you come to you’ll be in Ponyville.” Becca sat down in the leather recliner as the guide leaned her back down. “You ready?” The little girl nodded her head eagerly as a large spherical helmet was brought down over her eyes. “Now if you want to log out for any reason, all you have to do is say the words I want out and a screen will appear asking you if you want to log out. You can say yes or no.” She explained. Becca nodded her head in understanding in the complete blackness of the helmets interior. She hoped the lady would stop talking soon so she could hurry up and start. Her friends at school had talked endlessly about how you could ride a Pegasus in the game and that was the first thing she wanted to do. “Alright, I started the program. It might feel a little scary at first, but it will be over real quick. I’ll count down with you. 10, 9…”

Becca gripped the armrest as many different colors began floating in her vision. “8, 7, 6…” A strange lightheaded sensation caused her to lean her head back against the headrest as she closed her eyes. “5, 4, 3…” She clutched the armrest tighter as she felt the room around her beginning to spin. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. It’ll be worth it, she told herself. “2, 1…” The teenagers voice began to fade away as she counted down the last of the numbers until all was silent. A gentle breeze on her face caused her to slowly open her eyes as she let out an audible gasp. No longer was she in the chair in the Sphere Center at her local mall, but in the heart of Ponyville as groups of ponies trotted around the city paying her no mind.

“So cool!” Becca said with her shining eyes alight with excitement which only grew with every passing second as she slowly walked around the town taking in all the shops and different colored ponies.

“Hi there! I’ve never seen you around before.” Becca heard turning around to find a purple pony with wings.

“Princess Twilight!” Becca squealed.

“Hi, Sasha, it’s nice to meet you. Is this your first time in Ponyville?” The princess asked.

“Yeah!” Becca said excitedly. Sasha? She wondered until she remembered that was the name of her avatar.

“We’re glad to have you here! Umm, don’t take this the wrong way, but, well, what exactly are you?” She asked looking Becca up and down. “You’re not a pony, or any other kind of animal I’ve ever seen before.”

“I’m not a pony.” Becca said giggling. “I’m a human!”

“A human?” Twilight asked confused. “No way! Wait till Lyra get’s wind of this! C’mon, Sasha, let’s go meet everyone.” Becca eagerly followed along craning her neck this way and that while Twilight made her pre-programmed speech about the every day life of the town. She could see Applejack at her stand in the market selling apples, Rarity was in her boutique, Pinkie Pie was inside the bakery licking a bowl clean while Mrs. Cake stood by with a disproving glare. It was when they got to the Apple farm that things took a turn for the worse.

“So, Sasha, is there anything you want to see?” Twilight asked.

“Cloudsdale!” Becca said eagerly. “I want to see the flying ponies and ride one!”

“So us earth ponies aren’t good enough for you, are we?” A voice full of resentment asked.

“W-What?” Becca stuttered as she turned around only to be looked down upon by the entire Apple family. A strange flash of light could been seem coming from their cutie marks on their flanks.

“Everyone always wants to see the flying ponies while us simpletons are left to work the fields. Don’t even get me started on those damn unicorns with their magic. They can command anything and everything, but do they help us? No! I’m sick of it!” AppleJack said glaring into Becca’s eyes as the little girl trembled. What was going on? It was then that BigMac came rushing towards them, pitchfork in mouth as he rammed it into the princesses chest. Blood splattered onto Becca’s face and shirt as she let out an ear piercing scream. This wasn’t happing! They just killed princess Twilight! There was so much blood! Wasn’t this supposed to be a kids game?

“I want out!” Becca yelled as a menu screen popped open.

           System Error: Cannot Log Out

Becca let out a scared whine as the ponies slowly began to advance each carrying some form of weapon in it’s jaw. Their once kind and friendly eyes now glowed a deep red color. The little girl finally found her feet and took off running towards the village once she was sure one of them tried to take a stab at her. She ran while gasping for air. This wasn’t supposed to be a scary game! Becca stood frozen in fear once she reached the town. Thick smoke hung in the air obscuring her vision. Buildings were on fire and she could feel the flames heat on her face. The unicorns were stabbing the earth ponies repeatedly with their horns in a large massacre as hordes of bodies littering the ground. Peagusi were dropping heavy rocks and other sharp objects onto the unicorns below crushing their skulls. Becca stood rooted to the spot wide eyed as her little body trembled and felt her bladder gave way, but no liquid emerged from her avatar. “I want out! I want out!” She screamed repeatedly only to have the same error repeating itself. She ran behind a building to take cover as she sat on the ground hugging her knees to her chest and covering her ears. No matter how hard she pressed her palms against her head she couldn’t drown out the screams of dying ponies. All she could do was cry tearless wails and wait for her time to be up.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Brian stood around the corner of a wall in the abandoned laboratory with gun in hand. He slowly peeked his head around the corner to check whether or not the coast was clear. The dim florescent lighting that blinked on and off gave the place an eerie feel even if he knew the place wasn’t crawling with zombies. Sweat trickled down his face and mixed with the dirt that clung to his cheeks from pressing his face against the walls. He limped forward as fast as he could dragging his bit leg along the floor. Maybe a full dive wasn’t the best idea in a game where injuries could happen. Oh well, that’s what made them more fun. In a full dive you could feel things, not just in your face, but your whole body as well. You could feel the weight of the gun in your hands, along with the kickback when fired. The things your body learned in a full dive stayed with you. Anything that involved muscle memory. Running, jumping, swimming, martial arts, skate boarding etc.

Although it was definitely more fun to feel, it came with it’s downsides as well. Brian let out a silent moan as his leg ached. He could feel the virus coursing through him with every step. Nothing was permanent of course. He’d be fine as soon as he awoke out of the dive, although sometimes it takes a few minutes for your brain to adjust. Even though there’s no real wound there, your brain thinks there is for a short amount of time and sends signals of pain to the afflicted area. For some unlucky few with extreme sensitivity, there really will be a wound for a short amount of time. The Nocebo effect some called it. Once in a while Brian would came out of a dive with red and mildly irritated areas where he had been shot, but that sort of phenomena was normal. It’s when you wake up with a hole in your chest that’s a problem.

“Hallway three clear.” Brian whispered into the microphone on his vest. “What’s your position?” Nothing but silence greeted him for a full minute. “Sebastian, where are you?” A blood curdling scream could be heard coming from the hallway up ahead that bounced and echoed through the hallway sending all the hairs on Brian’s body sticking up like the Eifel tower with goosebumps along his skin. They got him.

                             Logging Out

Brian blinked as he found himself strapped to a table by his wrists, chest, legs and feet. His time shouldn’t have been over already, should it? I guess time really does fly when your having fun. A dull pain in his leg let him know he got off easy. That other guy would be sore for a while.

“Sorry to log you out before your time is up, but there’s been a situation.” Brian heard wincing a little as the probes were removed from the back of his head.

“Huh?” He mumbled squinting from the light as his helmet was removed. He turned his head to the right to find the girl who had led him in getting the alcohol swabs ready to administer to the back of the head to disinfect the puncture wounds from the connectors.

“Something’s gone wrong in the game your sister was in.” She said quickly patching up his head and helping him to his feet.

“What? What happened?” He asked in concern springing to his feet. Mom would kill him if anything happened to Becca. She didn’t trust these games after all and he was supposed to have been in there with her.

“Someone re-wrote the game and all the characters are killing each other.” She said. “I’ve tried to log her out several times, but an error keeps popping up.”

“What? It’s a little kids game!” he said as he was led over to a viewing monitor to witness the bloodbath that was now Ponyville. He quickly scanned the screen to find his sister curled in a ball in the corner rocking back and forth as the mayhem and chaos surrounded her. “What happened?”

“She must have said a key phrase to trigger it. It’s never happened before.” She said biting her lip and nervously tapping her fingers on the counter. She typed a command into the holograph projected keyboard only for another error to appear. “There’s nothing I can do until her time is up. It’s not letting me log her out manually.”

“What if you just took the helmet off? She’s only in a partial dive.” He suggested.

“It could hurt our system. You can’t just pull it off without properly shutting it down first.” She explained.

“You think I care about your system? Get my sister out of there! Look at her!” Brian shouted angrily jabbing his finger to the image of the five-year-old huddled in a ball. He could feel his blood boiling with every second. Maybe it was his fight-or-flight reaction kicking in or maybe it was from training his senses from so many full dives in The Sphere, but he could faintly hear laughing coming from another room somewhere. He stormed down the hall as the sound grew louder and louder until he came face to face with a door marked Employee’s Only. “Open it!” He demanded as the teenager stood by nervously.

“I can’t let you go in there.” She said. More giggling erupted from the other side of the door.

“Dude, dude, make them go after her now.” He heard before turning on the employee.

“I. said. open. it.” He growled at her with gritted teeth and clenched fists. She cringed slightly before reluctantly pulling out her I.D and swiping it under the sensor as the door opened to reveal a control room with two employees typing commands into a certain My Little Pony world and laughing about the results.

“Hey, Victoria, check it out. This little girl is freaking out over my pat-OOH” He grunted as Brian’s fist smashed into his face before he even knew what was happening.

“Log her out NOW!” Brian demanded.

“It was just a joke calm down!” He said before getting his face smashed into the console. “Okay, okay!” He grunted as the other boy quickly entered a command to shut off the over ride and shut down the machine. Brian sent him another warning glare before taking off down the hallway in search of the room Becca was in. He could hear crying coming from the door to his left and quickly opened it to find his sister curled in a ball trembling. Brian quickly undid the helmet straps and pulled it off her head to reveal the terrorized child underneath. He once bright blue eyes were completely blood shot as tears and snot ran down her face. Her pants and the chair were soaked with urine as she babbled incoherently about what had happened.

“Shh, it’s okay, it’s over now.” He whispered picking her up as shook and balled in his arms. He gritted his teeth in anger as he held her and tried to calm her down. She’d probably never go in The Sphere again. Who knew as a result she’d grow up to protect it.

Re: The Sphere

Chapter 1: 13 Years Later

Becca Strokes sat on her bed gripping the paper in her hands with nervous anticipation. Today would be the day to start the trials for the Sphere Protection Program or SPP. It was a school dedicated on training soldiers using virtual reality to stop cyber crime. She had wanted to become a cyber officer for as long as she could remember, and now she held in her hands to first steps to making that dream come true -an acceptance letter. While it wasn’t an acceptance letter to the school itself, it was still a step in the right direction.
After writing a kickass essay (in her opinion) as to why she wanted to become an officer, she had passed the first, and easiest, test. Now it was on to the next. Only she had no idea what kind of test she’d be facing. All that was given to her was an IP address with a note congratulating her on making it to this next step in the selection process. 1:100…Those were the odds of making it this far. Actually getting accepted into the program… 1:10,000. There was a rumor that most people failed at the final challenge because it was something so horrible and painful, but the only people that really knew were the people who failed and no one was allowed to talk about what goes on for fear of getting disqualified permanently.

Becca stood up and made her way down stairs in the hopes of getting some form of reassurance from her parents. She could smell the dehydrated bacon capsules boiling, but the butterflies in her stomach prevented her from eating anything. Whoever thought of the term butterflies clearly didn’t have their future on the line she thought as she sat at the table. It felt more like genetically modified wasps having a fight to the death in her insides rather than something as gentle as butterflies.
Becca shook her head when her mother offered her various dehydrated capsules ranging from toast, eggs, bacon, cereal, pancakes, French toast, waffles, and oatmeal. She felt so nervous she thought she might hurl if she ate anything. She didn’t know if there was a rule against puking during the test, but there’s no way it would help her that’s for sure.

“You’ll do fine.” Her father said in between scenes of the news as the holographic image of a newscaster no larger than a cereal box projecting in the middle of the kitchen table listing off various current events.

“I hope.” Becca mumbled sipping some orange juice and bouncing her knees. Before she knew it the time to leave for the testing site had fast approached. With a hug and kiss from her parents, she headed back upstairs to her partial dive connecter. With trembling fingers, she typed the IP address of where she wanted to go and leaned back on her bed before slipping the helmet on. Just about everything was done via avatar nowadays since they came out with a home console a few years back. Full Dives you still had to go to a center for, but partials you could now do from the comfort of your own home.

The imagery blurred on the screen as Becca closed her eyes and slowly counted down in her head. She always hated this part even if it only lasted a few seconds. When she counted down to four, a flurry of imagery flashed in the screen as she felt the lightheadedness of zipping past millions of other IP addresses to get to her destination. She squinted her eyes to make sure it was over before relaxing and standing up.

“Can I help you?” a voice asked causing her avatar to spin on the spot as she came face to face with a professionally dressed blonde woman who couldn’t have been out of her 20’s. At least that’s the way she made herself appear to others in The Sphere.

“I’m here for the SPP exam.” Becca said scanning the building she found herself in. She was a little disappointed to find herself in an ordinary looking office. People sat behind desks, sipping coffee for the taste and talking amongst themselves.

“Come with me.” She said turning on her heels as Becca swallowed and followed her through various plain looking hallways until they entered into a large conference room with about a dozen or so others sitting in chairs. “Please wait here for further instruction.” Becca sat down in the nearest chair across the table from a pale looking girl with violet eyes and green hair who seem preoccupied with gazing out the window. Becca sat nervously glancing around the room, but there wasn’t much to look at. The room had plain white walls, with only one picture of a sunset above a mountain range. There was a potted fern behind her chair and a single window overlooking the virtual town slightly obscured by the navy blue curtain.

Awkward silence hung in the air while each person imagined what horrors they would be facing. Or at least that’s what Becca was doing. She fiddled nervously with her long brown hair and imagined what sort of things they would be doing. She had imagined the IP address leading her to some sort of battle arena where all SPP hopefuls would be forced to fight to the death. She had never imagined it taking her to some ordinary looking office. She felt sort of silly now for equipping her avatar with knives and other concealed weapons. She should probably put them back in her inventory before she got into some kind of trouble. It’s not like anyone could actually get hurt though; they were all avatars after all. Becca went back and forth in her mind about what she was carrying on her before finally deciding to keep everything where it was. She didn’t want to cause a scene pulling it all out.

In order to pass the time, she glanced around the conference room and at each person sitting in it. She always liked to imagine who was really there behind the avatar. She highly doubted the man sitting next to her had those kinds of muscles, and the set of perky boobs he seemed to be transfixed on across the table from him probably belonged to some 50-year-old-man, not the twenty something redhead who looked like she shouldn’t even be able to sit up with that kind of weight attached to her chest. Becca blinked in surprise when her eyes fell on the girl from earlier. She could have sworn she had green hair, but now it was a deep blue and her expression showed a mixture of fear and doubt. She glanced around in confusion, but no one else seemed to have noticed the change so Becca chalked it up to her over imagination. You could only change your appearance in your home screen or in designated areas anyway that sold clothes and whatnot.

After another hour of waiting the room began getting restless. Mr. MuscleHead stood from his chair and began pacing the room while another groaned loudly about being forced to wait. Becca locked eyes with the green haired girl again. Wait, wasn’t her hair blue just a minute ago? Her hair color had changed she was sure of it. She really did have green hair, so then why was it blue a minute ago? Had she figured out a way to bypass the system lock on changing the way you look? The girl seemed to smirk at Becca for a second and roll her eyes. Was she rolling her eyes at her because Becca noticed her hair changing colors? Perhaps she shouldn’t stare at her; it was rather rude. The girl jerked her head sideways as Becca turned her attention to Mrs. TopHeavy . She seemed to be causing a commotion about the wait time. Some people gave their agreement, while others like themselves rolled their eyes at her over dramaticness of the situation. Becca nodded and smiled to the girl who appeared to be slightly older than herself. After a quick glance back up Becca had to cover her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh out loud and draw attention to herself. The girl with the changing hair was silently mimicking the red head with her lips and hands.
Mrs. TopHeavy finally announced she was fed up with waiting and rose to head home but froze. The door everyone had come in through was gone. There was nothing but a solid beige painted wall in its place.

“Where’s the door?” She demanded pounding her fist on the wall. All heads turned their attention to her. Becca could see a faint sparkling light where the door had been when she looked at it through her Sphere Vision mode; A sign that the room had been tampered with. Sphere Vision was mostly used in-game, but you could use it anywhere in the Sphere to view user names, send and view messages and of course checking to see if things had been altered by outside forces.

“Guess they don’t want us leaving before hand.” A twenty something year old looking man calmly said. He wore a navy blue fedora and his face had a five o’clock shadow. Becca wanted to call him Anthony; He just seemed like an Anthony to her. She was disappointed when she viewed his User Id and it listed him as Arnold. He’d make a better Anthony she thought.

Mrs. TopHeavy sat back down in a huff as a few people glanced around the room anxiously. A hand wave from the girl across from her earlier caught Becca’s attention. She blinked in surprise to find her hair not green or blue, but jet black. Her hair really was changing colors. Becca pointed to her own head and mouthed your hair to her. She cocked her head to the side in confusion before Becca mentally opened up her in-game messenger and thought up a quick sentence before thinking the words Send Message. The girl across from her moved her eyes as she read the text in front of her invisible to everyone else.

A blinking red light a few seconds later in her upper vision notified Becca of a new message. Open Becca thought and the girl’s response displayed in front of her. That’s the fifth thing that’s changed since coming here. Becca blinked in surprise as she quickly gave the room a once over. Other than the door disappearing Becca didn’t notice anything at first until she spotted the potted palm tree behind her. Wasn’t it a fern before? And the picture of a sunset; it had been replaced by a picture of a sailboat. That’s three things, she thought scanning the room more closely. The glass see through desk was the same, but Becca realized the color of the carpet was not. Where’s the fifth thing? The walls she realized. They were white before and now they were beige. She sent a message back to the girl stating her observations.
I didn’t notice the carpet or picture. Look at the window; there’s now blinds instead of curtains. Clearly they are testing our observational skills. Interested in teaming up? My name’s Crystal by the way.

Becca read the note before smiling and nodding her head in agreement. Two pairs of eyes were better than one she thought. She made up a quick introduction and sent it to her along with her username, Sasha, but she probably already knew that. The two spent the remaining time checking out their surroundings and sending their reports.

What color was your hair supposed to be? Becca asked to kill time.

Green, what color is it now? Crystal asked.

Hot pink. Becca responded smiling as Crystal’s violet eyes widened as she searched for a mirror. Just kidding. Becca sent causing the other to roll her eyes playfully. They sent further messages back and forth. Some were other differences they had spotted while others were simple observations, like the guy sitting to next to Becca’s right that was pretending to scratch his nose while actually picking. Definitely not fooling anyone. Anything else change?

The ceiling fan is turning clockwise instead of counterclockwise, the smoke detector disappeared and Sasha has turned into a man.

WHAT? Becca sent in a panic patting her lap for anything that shouldn’t be there. A just kidding appeared but Becca looked down the front of her shirt just incase. This room was changing everything from decorations to physical appearance. Maybe it was possible to change someone’s gender as well. They were all just avatars after all.

“Hello, and thank you all for waiting.” The lady who had walked Becca to the room suddenly appeared. She breathed a small sigh of relief to see the door back and that she was no longer trapped inside this room full of strangers. “We are ready to begin the testing process. We will call you back one at a time for a quick interview and then you are free to go. First I must ask that if you are carrying any weapons, please put them back in your inventory as they will not be needed during this portion of the test.”

After a few seconds of silence people began pulling out a few guns and knives they had kept holstered to themselves and placed them on the table before scanning them back into their inventory. Becca sighed before standing up and removing her coat. She was afraid that this was going to happen. She pulled her semi-automatic and 9mm she kept tucked into the back of her skirt. She then un-tucked her shirt and pulled out the shotgun she had slung around her shoulder, two black hunting knives around each ankle, and removed the utility belt of ammunition she had strapped around her waist that also contained a few grenades and smoke bombs. Once those were on the table she reached into her blouse and pulled out a small stun gun and canister of pepper spray.
Someone whistled at her growing pile of weaponry as Becca looked up to find everyone in the room staring at her wide eyed including Crystal. Becca smiled anxiously as she pulled out a few shotgun shells out of each pocket.

“Are you done?” The secretary asked raising her eyebrows.

“Almost,” Becca said grimacing apologetically as she upholstered a glock from her right thigh and a revolver from her left along with two switchblades, and a bone saw. “I think that’s everything.” Becca laughed anxiously.

“All of it please, you’ll be going through a metal detector.” The secretary said.

“Fine.” Becca grumbled reaching up the back of her blouse and retrieving a Smith and Wesson along with a silencer before upending her purse as various forms of ammunition spilled out onto the table.

“Damn, girl.” Arnold-better-known-as-Anthony-said as the room fell completely silent.

“I’ll need to go somewhere private to remove the rest.” Becca said apologetically as everyone stared mouths agape.

Re: The Sphere

Becca slid the glowing red palm of her hand across the last of her artillery before it vanished back into her inventory. Scanner off.

“Now that everyone is sorted out.” The secretary said with a hint of annoyance gazing towards Becca as the cause of the hold up. “We will now begin calling everyone back one at a time for the interview process.” Becca nodded her head in understanding as everyone listened to the welcoming speech. Becca tried to remember everything that had changed in the room. Crystal’s hair was first wasn’t it? Or was it the plant? Or the picture? Why did she have to sit with her back to the plant?

An incoming message snapped her from her thoughts as she read it through.

What’s with the Rambo get-up? Crystal asked.

I kind of thought this was going to be a fight to the death to be honest. I wasn’t sure what I needed to equip so I kind of, well, equipped everything. Do you think it was overkill?

Crystal snorted out loud as her eyes danced across the invisible words in front of her. Six guns, four grenades, nine knives, a bone saw, three smoke bombs, a silencer, AND a shotgun. Yeah, I think you went a little overkill. Do I even want to know what you pulled out in the back room and from which crevice you evacuated it from?

If this was a full dive Becca’s face would probably be glowing bright red right now. Probably not. She sent back.

How did you even manage to conceal all that? I knew you had a something big across your back by the way you were sitting, but I never would have guessed you were packing that much.

Practice, Becca sent with a shrug.

“Sasha Brindey,” A voice rang out as Becca gulped. Why did she have to go first? She took a few deep calming breaths and stood up. If this was reality she was sure she would puke. “Come this way, please.” The Secretary said leading her down another hallway covered in mundane portraits of nature. Becca could never understand why they tried to make virtual reality look so much like, well, reality. You could do anything and everything. So why have ordinary, plain boring offices?
What annoyed Becca the most were the rules against using her in-game settings in non-designated areas. She knew it was to keep people in full dives safe, but c’mon? Who’d waste the money in a full dive here? It all really boiled down to appearance. Using hyper speed in an office tended to look unprofessional. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
“Please allow me to scan your chip,” she said as one of her palms began to glow bright red as Becca stuck out her forearm for the woman to scan. The woman quickly waved it over Becca’s wrist as an image of Sasha appeared on the wall. After all these years it still seemed strange to see herself as Sasha and not as Becca. She always expected to see black hair and green eyes when looking at her reflection, not brown hair and blue eyes. She still got her two selves confused sometime as she sill introduced herself as “Becca” in game and “Sasha” in reality. “Is this correct?” The woman asked as a picture of Becca appeared on the wall after Sasha disappeared.

“Yes.” Becca answered as she shifted nervously from foot to foot once she confirmed everything in her Sphere profile.

“Please have a seat.” She said directing Becca to a group of armchairs in the corner. “What I’m going to do is ask you a few questions of how the Sphere came to be to check your history.” Becca frowned. A history lesson? What about the changing room? What about fighting to the death? “In your own words, why did we create the Sphere?” she asked gazing sharply at Becca with her hazel colored eyes.

“It was originally created so that people could re-learn how to communicate with each other face to face after becoming dependent on the anonymity of technology. The human race began losing needed social skills due to its reliance on communication from behind a screen, so we developed a program to try and integrate humanity back into real person-to-person meetings, but still giving them a way to remain anonymous.”

“And do you know what year that came out?”

“Around the 2200’s.” Becca answered.

“Now please send me a message.” The woman said. Becca was a little taken a back. Why was this so easy? Everyone could send a message. All you to do to was think. Open Messenger. Becca turned on her Sphere Vision to see the woman’s username. Victoria Malteese. Hi, I’m Sasha. Send “Alright. Good.” Victoria said. The way her eyes moved rapidly back and forth told Becca she was also writing a message, but after a few seconds she realized she wasn’t writing to Becca, she was writing about Becca. “Now I have a few questions about the room you were waiting in. Including yourself, how many people were in it?”

“Fourteen.” Becca answered after a moment to reflect.

“Did you notice anything unusual about anyone there?” Victoria asked.

“One of the girls hair changed colors several times, and one of the girl’s chests defied gravity.” Becca said. Victoria ignored her comment about Mrs. TopHeavy and proceeded with the interview.

“How many times did it change?”

“Four times. It was green when I first entered, but changed to blue, back to green, and then black to brown.”

“Can you name as many people as possible that were in the room?” Crap. She only knew two or three. She was paying attention to changing environment, not the people she was in the room with.

“Crystal, Arnold, Sasha…” Becca said trying and failing to think of others. Should she make up names? No, Victoria would know if she was just making stuff up. “That’s all that I know of.”

“How many things are you aware of that changed?”

“Seven,” Becca answered feeling more confident about this question as she listed the differences her and Crystal found.

“How many weapons was Sasha concealing?” The corners of Becca lips turned upward in a slight smile. So that’s why they didn’t check her before entering the waiting room.

“Twenty three that I pulled out in front of everyone, and four in private. I feel much better now that those are out of there.” Becca said in an attempt to make her laugh. Victoria remained as emotionless and stone faced as ever causing Becca to shift uncomfortably in her chair. Laughter was her defense mechanism for when she was nervous, which sometimes led to her saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times. Like now for instance. Awkward silence filled the room causing Becca to inwardly cringe.

“How long did it take you to conceal all of those weapons?” Victoria finally asked.

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Why do you want to join the SPP?”

“To make it safe for everyone to join, and to stop cyber attacks against children.”

“What is the most common sign something has been tampered with?”

“A dim flashing light appears.”

“That’s all for this interview. Someone will be in touch with your results later on today.” Victoria said standing to her feet and straightening out the hem of her skirt. “It was nice meeting you, Sasha.” Becca frowned as her thoughts waged war in her head. How was that interview supposed to make her stand out from the rest? She let out a heavy sigh in defeat. There was no way she would make it after that. She had only remembered two names. Why hadn’t she just stayed in Sphere Vision? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! She was so frustrated she just wanted to kick something. Guess all there was left to do now was logout and drown her sorrows in zombie brains. Nothing soothed Becca’s nerves quite like blowing holes in the heads of zombies.

Before she knew it she had reached the lobby where she had arrived and after thinking of a few commands, she found herself at her home page. An image of Sasha’s current look displayed in the middle of the room. The first thing she’d do is change out the business professional attire and slip into something more comfortable. With every wave of her hand, a new outfit appeared on the image of her avatar. Swimsuit. Nope. Skirt. Nope. Hideous bridesmaid dress from her cousin’s wedding last month. Definitely not. Becca finally settled on a red T-shirt and cargo capris, before repeating the process for hairstyles.

Perfect, she thought as she equipped herself with her chosen outfit, now to pick a game. What would help her take her mind off everything? Shooting zombies? Racing hovercrafts? Martial arts? Becca flicked through her collection of playable worlds before glancing at the countdown timer on the wall. She had two hours left before the system would automatically log her out for safety reasons. When the Sphere first became available for in-home use, there were a few cases where people never logged out and starved to death. Even Becca herself had a few embarrassing incidents where she had logged out only to find she had wet herself from being in games for too long. A few years later they had programmed a fail-safe to automatically log you out after six hours of continual Sphering as a reminder to take care of yourself. Rumor had it that there was a drug on the market that allowed you to stay in a full dive for weeks at a time, but was only available to the rich. Somehow it slowed your metabolism way down along with your sense of time. A day in the Sphere would only be an hour or so in reality. One of the main users of the drug was the SPP; it was how they shoved a year of training into less than a week in real time. The thought of getting to live full time in the Sphere sounded amazing to Becca. Too bad she blew the interview.

Sure, she didn’t actually KNOW she blew it, but with as tough as the selection process is, Becca assumed they were looking for perfect scores. Her performance was average at best. 1:10, 000, no way they would accept average Becca. She sighed as she continued flipping through her list of games. She’d drive herself crazy if she kept dwelling on this. The corners of her lips turned in a smile as her eyes rested on the image of game she hadn’t played in years. She used to love it when she was younger. It was a game where you could be a superhero and choose from several superpowers while fighting crime.

“Load Heroes of Justice.”
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Whoooo!!!” Becca yelled as she flew in and out between the clouds feeling the wind whipping her hair back. How many years had it been since she last played this? She flew over the town enjoying the scenery. How awesome would this be if she was in a full dive? She wondered what it would be like to feel the sensation of flying in her whole body instead of just her face where the helmet was. Would her stomach do flips when she nosedived towards the pavement? Would she hurt herself punching criminals in the face? How much would it hurt getting sucked into a jet engine? On second thought, she was fine with a partial dive.

Becca slowly floated through the virtual clouds parting them with her hands and drawing designs. She could see the sun beginning to set as she hovered in the sky to watch. There’s always next year.

[b] You've reached your time limit for the day. Logging Out.[/b]

Becca groaned as she reached up and took the helmet off to reveal the walls of her bedroom. She slowly sat up in bed as lightheadedness took hold from lying down for so long. A beeping noise coming from the other end of her room caught her attention. She slowly made her way to the other side of the room to her cell phone sitting on her desk. She had three new emails she hadn’t checked before logging out. Junk Mail, junk mail and more ju-She froze as her fingers trembled on the screen. It was a message was the testing site. Becca took a few deep breaths before hesitantly clicking on the message expecting a rejection email. She quickly scanned the email looking for the words “We regret to inform you,” but they never came. She read and re-read the message several times before it finally made sense and she wasn’t just imagining it.

[i]Congratulations, you have made it to the next phase of testing. Please report to address 134.853.134.0897 Tuesday, November 17th at 8 am. Please see below for results of testing.

Observational skills: Average

Teamwork: Excellent

Preparedness: Excellent

Additional notes and comments: Never seen anyone come with so much ammunition before. Wasn’t sure if she was there for the SPP or to wage war against the establishment.[/i]

Re: The Sphere

Chapter Three

After looking at the email for nearly ten minutes in disbelief, Becca ran down the hall as fast as her jellified legs could carry her screaming in excitement the entire way to the kitchen.

An hour later a piping hot dehydrated chocolate cake sat on the kitchen table as means of celebrating after Becca’s mom boiled her favorite capsules for dinner. Becca talked a mile a minute in excitement not even stopping between bites of food. Her parents of course knew all about the SPP having had to hear all about from her since she was at least 10-years-old, but they smiled politely anyway knowing how important this was to her.

Becca couldn’t help, but stop and ponder the results for a minute. It was obvious the trial was meant to test her observational skills, but teamwork and preparedness? What did those mean? She thought back a moment at the ever changing room and its inhabitants. She didn’t remember saying anything to Veronica, the lady interviewing her, about teaming up with anyone. Did Crystal mention anything during her interview perhaps, and if not how did they know? Was it because their answers matched? Or maybe they knew because Becca answered questions correctly about things that were out of her line of sight and they assumed someone told her.

The real reason hit Becca like a ton of brinks. It was because they were watching her in the waiting room. Of course! They could probably see her messages as well. Crystal had literally sent her a message asking to team up and Becca had agreed despite knowing they were actually rivals. She never would have guessed they would be checking for teamwork in that situation, but the more she thought about it the more sense it made. They would be partnered with someone for three years of school, not to mention however long they’d be partnered with someone on cases. Sp’s always worked in pairs.

All that was left was to figure out preparedness. What did that mean? Her answers about the Sphere’s history? Everyone knew that though. How would they be able to judge preparedness based on questions you didn’t know would be asked?

Becca narrowed it down to all of her weaponry. That had to be it. They did ask for everyone to pull everything out and put it on the table. If they were watching her take everything out in the conference room, were they watching her in the supply closet while she pulled out paralysis gas canister she had hidden up there. Hey, if she couldn’t feel anything from the chin down she was going to take advantage of every natural pocket her body created although now she was regretting it a bit. Frickin Nacrebo effect. Get shot in the chest twice? Totally fine, but shove a kunai up her butt and she felt like she’d never be able to sit comfortably again. She may have even lied slightly about the time it too to get it up there as well.

“Any idea what happens next?” Trevor Strokes, Becca’s father asked.

“No idea,” said Becca. “It just said to go to the address.”

“Honey, why are you hovering over the chair like that? Please, sit down.” Becca’s mom, Heather, insisted.

“I can’t, It hurts.” Becca whined.

“Get shot in the butt again?” Trevor asked with a laugh.

“No, I ran out of pockets.” Becca moaned.

“Lalalala,” Trevor said covering his ears.

“So I had to…”

“Lalalala”

“Stick it up my…”

“Lalalala.”

“You know, normal people just carry a purse.” Heather said frowning at the strange entity that was her teenage daughter.

“Has anyone seen the remote?” Trevor asked searching the tabletop. “You’d think after all these years they’d come out with something remote less.”

“Yeah, just a sec,” Becca said pretending to reach into the back of her pants as her parents shook their heads. “Sooo…” she said after a couple of minutes once all the remaining dishes had been cleared.

“Yes?” Trevor asked looking at the suspicious smile that spread across his daughters face. “What do you want?”

“Keys?” Becca asked holding her palms out and scrunching up her face.

“Why?”

“So I can go to Brian’s.” She explained.

“Why?”

“So I can tell him the good news.”

“Why?”

“Please,” Becca begged.

“I don’t know…last time you didn’t obey curfew.” He said dangling them in front of her face.

“I will this time; I promise.” Said Becca as she reached for them only for them to be pulled away from her grasp at the last minute.

“And you promise you won’t lose them?”

“I promise! I’ll keep them safe where no one can get to them.”

“Seeing as how you’ve been unable to sit properly all night; that sentence concerns me.” Heather said causing Becca to playfully stick out her tongue.

“Home by midnight.” He said handing over the keys.

“Thank you!” Becca yelled already hallway to the garage.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Snow fell in large waves from both sides of the hover bike as Becca floored it in the wide open field. Virtual reality was fun, but nothing beat the real life thrills of having cool air whipping through your face doing 200mph in an empty forest. She breathed in the fresh smell of the nearby growing pine trees that surrounded her on all sides. Her village was already setting up Christmas lights and decorations in the trees and as a result the night sky was filled with many reds and greens that illuminated Becca’s path. She zipped around, taking a few sharp turns and enjoying the thrill of feeling her heart beating rapidly in her chest.

Too bad the Sphere couldn’t give her this kind of a rush. Well, nothing in her price range could anyway. The Sphere could try and imitate life all that it wanted, but she always knew deep down it wasn’t real no matter how badly she wanted it to be. The Sphere was an escape from reality; nothing more. As fun as it was, sooner or later you had to log off and come back to the real world.

Becca pulled to a stop as she admired her handiwork of different designs she had made by flying over the snow. There was a figure eight in one corner and a smiley face in the other. So she wasn’t an art major by any means, but she still had fun and that’s what counted, right?

She breathed in deep lungful’s of the fresh mountainous air and sat on the still rumbling bike between her legs. Becca glanced at the clock on her dash that read 8:27pm. She should probably head over to Brian’s like she said she was seeing as how she’d already been out here for two hours goofing off. If she left now she’d reach her brothers place in 15 minutes from where she was, but first Becca decided she needed to make a pit stop once she noticed herself jiggling up and down on the bike.

After turning off the ignition, she shivered in the chilly night air once the heat shield left with the engines power leaving her to brace the icy elements. She quickly hopped off into the snow as her legs wobbled unsteadily from riding for too long. Becca hobbled over to an old metal pole her village used to use to get electricity back in the day. She leaned her back against it to support herself in her unsteady state as she slowly shimmied her pants down.

“Guys have it so easy,” She softly complained exposing her bare butt to the elements before relaxing and allowing her bladder to empty into the white powder below. It wasn’t until she had finished and began trying to tug up her pants that she realized there was a problem. She squirmed this way and that as she tried again and again to free herself but to no avail. Becca’s butt was completely stuck to the frozen pole she had leaned against. “No no no!” She moaned tugging and pulling, but her skin remained frozen in place. She had always remembered the warnings about never licking a frozen pole, but she had never heard of anyone getting their butt stuck before.

When Becca tried everything she could possibly think of to free herself short of ripping the skin off, she sighed in defeat and fished her cell phone out of her pants pocket.

“Hey, Brian…” Becca said in a suspiciously cheery tone when he answered after the third ring. “How much do you love me?”

“What did you do?” a male voice from the other end asked with a heavy sigh. He knew that tone of voice all too well. That was the, I did something stupid and I need help pitch.

“You remember that field you used to take me too when we were kids?”

“Yeahhh… You didn’t crash into a tree again, did you?”

“No nothing like that. It’s just, umm, kind of embarrassing.”

“Just say it, Becca. What kind of trouble are you in?”

“I’m stuck to an electrical pole.” Becca blurted out only to be met with silence on the other end. “Brian? Are you there?”

“And by stuck to an electrical pole, what exactly do you mean by that?” Becca sighed as she heard the strain in his voice as he tried not to laugh.

“Can you just come get me please? And bring some warm water!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Brian sat hunched over his hover bike unable to contain his laughter, his little sisters scowl only making it increasingly funnier to him. When she had said she was stuck to a pole he had envisioned many different scenarios ranging from her climbing up and being unable to get down (it wouldn’t have been the first time) to her getting her pant leg stuck on something. Never had he imagined pulling up and seeing her with her pants around her knees and her butt cheeks completely frozen to a pole. This was priceless.

“Can you please help me? It’s cold!” She complained using her hands to cover her front.

“I’m sorry,” Brian said advancing closer with the thermos that contained her freedom. Hopefully. He cracked up even harder once he had gotten a closer look as she hung her head in shame. “You so owe me for this.” He said pouring the hot liquid over her backside in order to thaw it free. Becca winced as the warm water came in contact with her tender skin, but after a few wiggles she was able to pry herself free and pull up her pants.

“We must never speak of this again.” Becca said.

Re: The Sphere

Chapter Four

Steam began to fill the entire bathroom fogging over the bathroom mirror as hot water filled the old-fashioned looking porcelain tub. 18-year-old Becca Strokes shivered as she waited impatiently for it to finish as she slowly stripped down. Unable to take the cold any longer, she gingerly stepped in and sat down in the warm water that barely went halfway to her thighs. She closed her eyes and leaned back while continuously scooping warm water with her hands and dumping it over her chest until the tub finally filled up all the way as the sensor automatically shut the tap off.

“Much better,” She mumbled to herself while enjoying the sounds of the local nightlife right outside the bathroom window. Becca could her an owl hooting somewhere in the nearby trees as wind gently swept through the forest causing a cacophony of rustling leaves. She’d stay in the tub all night if she could. The tub’s built in heater kept the water at optimal temperature like a mini Jacuzzi so the post bath sprint to dry off and get warm was even less ideal than Brian’s taunting she was sure to face. Why’d she have to go and get herself stuck to an electrical pole? Who the hell even does that?

“Are you going to stay in there all night?” Becca heard coming from the other side of the door a half hour later.

“It’s tempting.” Becca responded.

“Don’t you want to see what I’ve been working on?” Becca frowned as she debated her options. She didn’t come all the way to Brian’s to sit in his tub all night. She really did love getting to see his projects. Sometimes he worked on various patches for the Sphere and sometimes he developed games. Other times he did sciency stuff that sent Becca’s head spinning with terms and ideas that went right over her comprehension level. Lately though he had been very secretive about his recent project and no matter how many times Becca asked to see or hear about it, Brian always said he couldn’t talk about it. Was he willing to share it now because he was finished or was it because he felt bad that she spent nearly an hour with her butt frozen to a pole?

“Not if I have to go out there.” She answered after a minute.

“Then I’ll tell you all about the different brain hormones that get released during Sphere dives while you’re trapped with no where to go.”

“You wouldn’t…”
“Did you know that during a partial dive…”

Ten minutes later Becca sat in front of the fireplace gripping a mug of hot chocolate while shivering from her wet hair. For someone who worked on such futuristic designs and proto-types he sure liked to live in such a primitive way. He didn’t even have a full body dryer in his bathroom! He had these primitive things called towels that you had to wrap yourself in to absorb the water off your body. He even had a fireplace! A fireplace! That burned things! Where in the world did he even find someone that was willing to build him a fireplace? The cottage certainly wasn’t originally designed that way.

“Sometimes it’s nice after a long day of virtual reality to sit back and enjoy just regular reality.” He’d say. Becca wondered if living in the past actually counted as living in regular reality. Other than that, she supposed he was right, but after tonight’s mishap, it only confirmed her love for the virtual world.

“So how familiar are you with full dives?” Brian asked after returning from his basement that he used as a laboratory.

“A bit I guess in theory. I’ve never actually been in a full dive before.” Becca admitted. The prospect of feeling pain never appealed to her seeing as she spent most of her time in virtual reality playing with guns and other weapons. Sure, there so much more to it than just pain. You could feel, touch, taste, sweat and actually build muscle since your body was convinced it was actually happening. It was also way out of her price range. The last thing she needed was to get addicted to something that expensive. Not everyone in this room had fancy high paying jobs since they hit puberty.

“What? You’ve never done a full dive before?” Brian asked shocked.

“Why would I want to do a full one? Hurts enough after just doing a partial.”

“What?” He asked cocking his head to the side a bit in confusion. “It hurts?”

“Yeah, that Necebro effect or whatever it’s called.” Becca said frowning at Brian’s smirk that began spreading across his face.

“That only exists in full dives; you can’t get hurt from a partial.” He said.

“I’m serious! My butt hurts!” She insisted.

“Yeah, because you froze it to a pole.” He said as Becca glared.

“I stuck a kunai up my butt today and now it hurts!” She complained

“Please never say that in public.” He said shaking his head. “Should I be more disturbed that you are sticking things up there, or that you are admitting you stuck something up there as nonchalantly as if you told me what you had for lunch?”

“I was in the Sphere. It’s not like I literally stuck something up there.” Becca said. “Mom told me I should get a purse.”

“Yeah, you might want to look into that.” Brian said grinning.

“So what are you working on?” Becca asked hoping he’d finally reveal his top-secret project. Brian shifted forward in his chair before pushing his glasses up his face.

“You have to swear not to tell anyone.” He said getting serious. “Not mom or dad, not anyone at the Sphere testing center. No one.”

“I promise.” Becca said leaning forward in her chair.

“I’ve been trying to figure this out for months and I finally made a breakthrough.” He said as his eyes danced with excitement. Becca realized the reason he was telling her now wasn’t because he felt bad for her; he was too excited with his progress to keep it to himself. “You know that drug used to manipulate your sense of time and slow your metabolism?” Becca nodded as Brian continued with his explanation. “It cost me an arm and a leg, but I managed to get a hold of a vial of it last year and I’ve been researching its chemical components.” Brian continued on for some time talking about the drug in his fancy science lingo that zipped right over Becca’s head. She just nodded wide eyed and pretended she understood. Finally he came to an end to his speech while his voice rose a bit in excitement. “Do you know what this means?” He asked as his eyes shined.

Becca nodded her head but the words, “No,” quickly came out.

“The government has kept this drug hush hush to the public for years to keep people from reproducing it. Only the rich has ever been able to afford it, but now that I’ve managed to find a way to reproduce it about a thousand times cheaper…” He said with a wide grin.

“So you made like a generic version?” Becca asked finally catching on as Brian nodded before glancing around the room and removing a small vial from his pocket.

“This could change so much, Becca. It could-” Brian paused mid sentence as someone began pounding on the front door. They exchanged curious looks before Brian got up and headed to answer it. How weird, Becca thought. Who’d be knocking on the door 11 at night? She craned her neck around the headrest of her chair to get a good look as Brian approached the source of the commotion.

“Hello?” Brian called out from the closed front door.

“Can you help me?” A single male voice answered. “I crashed in the forest a little ways back and have been wondering around on foot for the last hour. You’re the first house I’ve found.” Brian visibly relaxed as he peeked through the hole in the door causing Becca wonder if he worried about something. He opened the door only to freeze in place. “Back inside.” The voice from earlier ordered, only now more forceful and harsh instead of pleading and desperate. Brian backed up slowly with his hands up as two men approached from the side with ski masks covering their faces and guns drawn pushed passed him.

Becca immediately jumped to her feet only to be met with the barrel of a gun. “Sit back down! Put your hands where I can see them!” She quickly let her self plop back down in the chair with her hands up as her eyes shifted from Brian to the gunmen in front of her.

“Where is it?” The average looking man from earlier asked. Becca recognized his voice as the one who had asked for help. She couldn’t blame her brother for answering the door for him. He didn’t look very threatening to Becca in his jeans and grey zip up hoodie, but his voice was forceful and demanding. She quickly tried to spot any kind of incriminating feature on any of them, but everything about him screamed plain and ordinary. He had the kind of face that could easily be overlooked in a crowd of people while the other two were covered head to toe.

“Where’s what?” Brian asked shifting his eyes from the man in front of him to his sister. Becca sat in the chair feeling powerless to stop them in the mix of all the chaos. She couldn’t understand what they were after, until one of the gunmen began tearing the cottage a part searching for something.

“You know perfectly well what I mean!” The man in the grey hoodie shouted. “Give me the drug!” Becca’s eyes widened in understanding; they were after her brother’s research. She jumped up in anger, but froze when she found a gun in her face for the second time in the manner of minutes. Her heart beat madly inside her chest like she had never felt before as her legs wobbled. Sweat began to bead from the top of her hairline and slowly make its way down her face from the high-pressure situation.

“There’s a lab down here!” One of the men called from the basement as the guy in the hoodie ordered the other to keep an eye on her and Brian before making his way down the stairs.

“Get over in the corner!” The second gunman said pointing his gun at the back of Brian’s head as a thick hand forcefully pushed him over towards her. “Both of you sit down and don’t even think about moving.” He threatened. Brian flashed her an apologetic look as if to say he knew this would happen.

“Why don’t you stop them?” Becca whispered. He could easily take them down in a matter of minutes, hell; even she could probably take this one by herself. An elbow to the groan here, an upper cut to the chin. All she needed to do was stun him long enough to get the gun and…

“No, Becca.” Brian whispered sternly. “This isn’t a game! This is real life! You can’t just re-spawn if something happened! When the first moment presents itself I want you to make a run for it.”

“No one’s going anywhere until we get what we came for!” The man said moving the gun back towards Becca.

“Look, I’ll give it to you, alright? Just leave my sister out of this.” Brian said slowly moving his hand towards his pocket.

“Keep your hands where I can see them!”

“Ok, look, what you’re looking for is in my right jacket pocket.” Brian said with his hands in the air motioning with his chin. “Just know it’s only a prototype and it’s untested.”

“What are you doing?” Becca asked as the man searched Brian’s pocket and retrieved the vial Brian had been so excited about minutes before.

“Just let them have what they came for. It’s better this way.” Brian said. Becca clenched her fists in anger. If he wasn’t going to do anything to stop them than she would. She could take him down. The sneer on the man’s face as he held the vial in his hands was the last straw for Becca. She wasn’t going to just sit back and let someone steal what her brother had worked so hard on. She charged and elbowed the 6-foot man in the gut before he even had time to register what had happened. She grabbed hold of his wrists and tried to yank the gun free from his hands, but a loud pop caused her to let go in surprise. The last thing Becca remembered before loosing consciousness was the sounds of gunfire and Brian clutching his side while blood spilled over his hands.

Re: The Sphere

Becca was in and out of consciousness all through-out the night. The first time she came too was when her father began shouting her name. She briefly opened her eyes and made contact with his. Trevor was kneeling over her on the floor wearing an expression she had never seen before. He was ghostly pale and his green eyes were wide with fright as they moved all up and down her body. He seemed to be unsure of what to do with his hands as they hovered over her line of sight before retracting and repeating the process.

“Becca,” He said softly before she closed her eyes again unable to withstand the pain in her back any longer.

When she opened her eyes the second time she was lying on a gurney while bright lights everywhere forced her to squint. Becca could hear voices, but couldn’t make out what they who they belonged to or what they were saying. The amount of pain she was in was so extreme that if it wasn’t for lack of strength she probably would be screaming. She was far beyond using a Numeric Pain Scale and if there were a facial representation to express her discomfort, it would be holding a gun to its head and puling the trigger.

Someone in a surgical mask appeared in front her and began speaking, but she didn’t understand much of what was being said. “Hurts,” She finally managed to get out.

“That’s good,” They responded. What was possibly good about what she was feeling? She felt hands beginning to roll her over on her side, before something hard was slid underneath her. “On the count of three,” The same voice said before she felt herself get lifted and slid onto a table. “This will help.” They said injecting something into Becca’s back as she moaned and clutched at the sheets before gladly falling back into unconsciousness.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

When Becca finally woke for the third time she heard something she hadn’t expected- the sound of waves crashing on the shore. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself lying on her back in the sand of what appeared to be a beach. Becca slowly sat up feeling surprised to find she could fully move without any pain. How had she ended up from snow to sand, she wondered.

“You’re awake.” Becca heard turning to find a black haired lady in green scrubs stretched out on a beach towel next to her. “Just relax for a bit.” She said when she saw her confused expression. Becca moved her head to side and caught a glimpse of long brown hair growing out of her head instead of her normal black. She was Sasha? So that’s what was going on; this was virtual reality.

“Where am I really?” Becca asked.

“Recovering from surgery in the hospital.” The woman answered. "Do you remember anything that happened? Becca tried as hard as she could to remember, but all she could come up with was the sensation of pain and nothing else. “Hmm, let’s see.” The woman in scrubs said as she searched for something in her field of vision. “Becca Strokes? Is that correct?” Becca nodded. “Or would you prefer to be called Sasha here?” The woman continued without waiting for a reply. “You’re a lucky one. Says here you were shot in the back.”

“How does that make me lucky?” Becca blurted out.

“You’re alive; that’s something to be thankful for. Also says one inch closer to the right and you would have spent the rest of your life paralyzed from the waist down. Sounds pretty lucky to me.” Becca nodded her head in agreement; she couldn’t argue with that logic. What was she doing when she was shot though? And why would anyone want to shoot her outside a game? Would she be ok in time for the SPP? It was coming up in a few weeks. Either way she’d be ok if it was only a partial dive, but how would this affect a full? Would they disqualify her for getting injured? Brian would be so disappointed in her- Becca’s eyes went wide as she began remembering the previous night. The drug, the break in, getting shot in the back and …Brian! Was he here too? She craned her neck this way and that to get a better look, but all she could see was sand and water. They were the only two people on what appeared to be an island.

“My brother, what happened to my brother Brian?” asked Becca. The woman seemed to be checking something, but after a moment she shook her head.

“Sorry, hun, it doesn’t say. Did he get hurt too?” Becca nodded before letting out a worried sigh. “I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of time to meet up later. Right now you just relax, until it’s time to go back to reality.”

A flashing red light in Becca’s vision stopped her from arguing further. She opened up her messenger and breathed a sigh of relief. It was from Brian. He must be recovering in virtual reality too, but the message made Becca scratch her head. It didn’t sound like someone who was recovering.

“What’s his name? I’ll look him up in the system and tell you what room he’s in.”

“Brian Strokes,” said Becca as she stared at his message again.

“I don’t see any record of anyone with that name having been checked in recently.” She said. How strange, Becca thought. She could have sworn he was hurt. Oh well, as long as he said he was ok that was good enough for her at the moment she thought as she picked up a handful of sand and watched it as it fell from underneath her closed fist.

“Are you my nurse?” Becca asked after a moment of silence.

“No, I’m not a nurse. I just watch the patients and keep them calm when they wake up here.”

“Oh, I see.” Said Becca.

“Not everyone is as familiar with virtual reality as you are. Some of our older patients complained after thinking they were dead- so here I am.”
“Why a beach though?”

“We live in a cold climate, so we wanted our patients to feel like they were on a vacation, but apparently we went passed that and went for an after-life theme.” She said with a laugh as Becca smiled. “My name is Susan, and I will be your guide to the after-life. Please enjoy your stay.”

Becca scanned the horizon and watched the waves crash down onto the shoreline. She had never been to a real beach before, so this was kind of nice. She stood up, stretched and walked around knowing it might be a while before she was able to again if what she had been told was true. She walked up and down the shoreline for a bit before standing in the tide wishing she could feel the waves wash over the tops of her feet. She found a grouping of tide pools and amused herself with the creatures inside. For a hospital beach simulator it was pretty detailed. There were purple and red starfish along with a few sand dollars. She even found a few crabs scurrying in between the moss-covered rocks. After a while though she grew bored and began to head back towards Susan and sit with her in the sand.

“No one told me the after life would be this boring.” Said Becca.

“Would you rather be lying in a hospital bed in pain?”

“Shutting up.” Becca said planting her butt in the sand. “Is it usually just you in here all day?”

“There’s normally more than one person, but you’re the only one in recovery right now. Once you get out of here you can interact with other patients. Looks like they will be waking you up in about thirty or so more minutes.” Becca nodded as she stared out at the horizon for a bit longer. “You look worried about something.” Susan said sitting up on her beach towel. “Are you scared about waking up?”

“A little bit,” Becca answered honestly.

“We all have to face reality sooner or later. Just think less than ten years ago people had to stay in their hospital beds when they recovered. Now we can just send their consciousness somewhere else while their body does all the work for them. Cut’s down on the amount of painkillers we have to give out and lowers the chance of addiction.”

“Ugh, I couldn’t imagine.” Said Becca cringing. While this certainly was no paradise, it certainly beat the reality of post surgery recovery. The two talked for a little while longer until Susan informed her it was time to wake up.
………………….
Becca grimaced a bit when the helmet was lifted off of her and she was met with the sight of a different woman in scrubs. Her back painfully throbbed underneath all the bandages that wrapped around her and it was all she could do to keep from tearing up. She glanced around the room and found her mother asleep in one of the chairs.

“She hasn’t left for three days.” The nurse told her. Three days? That’s how long she was out for? She was only at the beach for a few hours, wasn’t she? Heather slowly began to stir after a few minutes and opened her eyes to find Becca looking at her. She sprang to her feet, wrapping her arms around her neck as Becca moaned in pain.

“Sorry, honey, I’m just so relieved you’re ok.” Heather said pulling back and wiping her watery eyes. Becca saw the dark circles and bags underneath her mother’s eye lids and her face seemed paler than usual. “I thought we were going to lose you too.”

“Lose me too?”

“Becca,” Heather said lightly cupping her daughters’ cheek in the palm of her hand. “Brian didn’t make it.”

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/09/15)

Becca sat in stunned silence as she let her mom sit on the bed and wrap her arms around her while Becca rested her head on her mom’s shoulders. She stared blankly at the wall as tried to digest that latest bit of information, but no matter how hard she tried to comprehend what the words and what they meant, it just wouldn’t sink in.

It wasn’t true, she finally told herself. He had sent her a message in game. The more she thought about it the more she was convinced he was alive. His message hadn’t made sense before, but now it was clear as day. Becca, I’m ok; no matter what anyone tells you. For whatever reason he wanted everyone to believe he was dead. The only way to get to the bottom of this was to ask him

“I have to go back in the Sphere.” She said amongst the noise of her mothers sniffling.

“Becca, no!” Heather said gripping her a little too tightly.

“I need to go, I need answers!” Becca said trying as carefully as she could peel herself away.

“Becca, running away isn’t going to solve anything. We need to talk about this.”

“No! He’s alive! I need to go talk to him!” Becca said looking up at the helmet and wondering how she could get it down. She refused to believe he was dead…he couldn’t be.

“He’s gone, Becca…” Heather whispered as her eyes changed from bright green to red as tears began pouring down her face only serving to cause Becca’s own to burn with hot moisture. “He was already dead when we found you.” She said breaking down in heavy sobs resulting in Becca doing the same. “What happened that night? Please tell me; I need to know.” Heather said once both had felt completely emotionally drained and exhausted.

This was the last thing Becca wanted to think about. She shook her head and tried to lie back down, but her mom insisted on information to the point of starting one of their many arguments.

“Some people broke in.” Becca said softly barely over a whisper.

“Why? Were they people Brian knew?”

“I don’t know.” Becca said numbly.

“Did they take anything?”

“I don’t know. They were after something Brian was working on.” She didn’t want to think about it, but images of that night kept flashing in her mind. If she had just listened to him he would still be alive. If she hadn’t charged at them and tried to fight one of them, the gun never would have gone off. That’s what the popping noise was. It was the shot that hit him. She killed Brian. It’s all your fault. Either she killed him or he was alive somewhere laying low for some reason.

“What were they after? What did they look like?” Heather continued.

“I don’t remember.” Becca said growing more agitated. She just wanted to be left alone.

“Well how many of them were there?”

“I don’t remember.” Becca said again in a monotone voice to keep herself from yelling. She didn’t want to talk about it, she just wanted to sleep and never wake up.

“Were they young or old?”

“I don’t remember.” Becca said lying back and closing her eyes.

“Becca, answer me seriously, damn it! Someone killed Brian and you’re the only witness. Show some fucking sympathy!” Heather yelled.

“I said I don’t remember!” Becca yelled back.

“Are you saying you can’t even remember a single detail, or you just don’t want to?” Heather said rising from the bed. “I’ve been here for three days worried out of my mind without a single clue what happened.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Becca said.

“Tough, my son is dead so start spilling everything you know.”

“I don’t want to talk about it! I don’t want to think about it! I don’t want to remember! I just want to sleep!” Becca yelled.

“Please,” Heather said dropping her voice. “What did he die for?”

“Mrs. Strokes,” the nurse said pulling Heather aside. “She just survived a traumatizing situation. Give her some space and let her rest.”

“But the longer we wait-”

“The police will come and question her later today.” The nurse said guiding her out of the room. “Why don’t you go down to the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee while I get her cleaned up?” Becca sighed in relief when she saw the nurse walk her mom out of her hospital room. She thought maybe she could get some sleep now, but she was wrong. All she could think about was how she was responsible for Brian’s death.

“Everything all right?” The nurse asked after knocking on the door once and letting herself in. Becca remained silent and stared ahead at the blank white wall in front of her. “You two always fight like that?” she asked pushing in a cart full of plastic tubs.

“Sometimes.” Becca mumbled.

“Death of a loved one affects everyone differently.” The nurse said removing one of the tubs and filling it with warm water from the sink.

“I guess,” Becca said closing her eyes, but she quickly opened them when she felt hands beginning to undress her. She groaned a little in pain as her arms were physically manipulated out of her hospital gown. When that was finally off she glanced down and frowned at her underwear. Some kind of absorbent butt sponge she thought as she poked at briefly. She supposed it was necessary if she had been unconscious for three days, but she was more than happy when the nurse removed it even if she was now completely naked save for some bandages.

In any normal circumstance she would have felt more than weirded out that a complete stranger was giving her a sponge bath, but she was too numb at the moment to care. “The wounds healing nicely.” The nurse commented as she gently removed the bandages in order to clean underneath them and put them to the side in Becca’s line of sight. Becca cringed as she saw all the blood. It was one thing to see pretend wounds in the virtual world, but it was completely different to see her real blood. She assumed the wound had split open at some point, but the nurse seemed completely un- phased by it. If this is what it looked like when it was good, she hated to know what it would have looked like when it was bad.

Becca had been meaning to ask if she could go back into the virtual world, but by the time she had been washed, changed and helped with other personal matters at the nurses insistence, she could barely keep her eyes open. She hadn’t even complained when she had been put into another butt sponge and forced to lie on something that resembled a puppy pad. The last thing she saw before drifting into the sweet land of unconsciousness was her mom coming back into the room while the nurse covered her with a blanket.
……………………………………………………………………………

The next couple of days seemed to be a repeat of each other. Soon they just completely blurred into each other until Becca couldn’t even remember how long she had been here. Was it a week or a month? Was it day or night? Someone came once a day and helped her walk around the room. It hurt like hell, but every step made her a step closer to her freedom.

The police had come and taken her statement, but with her mom hovering over her and hanging on every word, Becca couldn’t say the real reason Brian had died. The guilt of what she had done was suffocating her to the point that it hurt worse than the pain in her back. So she took the cowards way out and lied. She told them she had been shot first along with what little information she had. As the days progressed she feared they would catch the intruders and they would point her out as the real culprit. Would they believe her if they told her it was an accident? Would her mom and family ever be able to forgive her?

Becca spent as many hours as she could sitting on the beach and watching the waves. Sometimes Susan sat with her and sometimes she sat alone. She religiously checked her messenger every five to ten minutes hoping for some sign of life from him. She sent him dozens of messages a day only to be met with silence. She was starting to believe he really was gone and that she had just imagined the first message until one day there was a sign of hope.

I’m okay; just need to lay low. Don’t tell anyone about anything.

Her heart soared in her chest. He was ok! He was alive! Was he upset with her? She’d deal with that later though. She could now focus on getting better. The second half of the SPP exam was fast approaching.

Although she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders; it was immediately replaced by another. Her burden of guilt may have been partially relieved, but the misery on her parents face remained. Brian had specifically told her not to tell anyone and she assumed that meant her parents as well, but it hurt not to share in her joy and relief. As a result Becca felt herself pulling away from her parents. She couldn’t bear to see their misery any longer so she spent more and more time in virtual reality once she had been released from the hospital. Even when her time limit had been reached for the day, Becca chose to sit in her room instead of joining her family in the living room. The small amounts of time she did see them was often spent fighting over the smallest of things.

“Why are you spending all of your time in your room?” “Don’t you roll your eyes at me!” “Why aren’t you helping around the house?” “Your rooms a mess” “Don’t sit like that; it’s bad for your back.” Almost no matter what was said led to some kind of argument.

Finally fed up with the way her family’s relationship was falling apart, Becca soon found herself sitting on the couch of psychiatrist’s office. She wasn’t happy that her mom had scheduled her an appointment behind her back. Why did she even need to see one anyway? It wasn’t even a shrink, but a full on you’re crazy please take these pills for all of us physiatrist. After being reassured for the hundredth time that everything said would be confidential, Becca finally broke down and revealed to him the real reason behind her stress. Everything was her fault. Not only was it her fault, but now her brother, whom everyone believed was dead, was in hiding for some reason.

“So you’re saying you believe your brother is alive?” The Dr. said scribbling on a note pad as Becca sat awkwardly in a chair staring at his bookshelf.

“Yes, he has to be.” Becca said. “He sent me messages telling me he was ok, but that I couldn’t tell anyone. You won’t tell anyone, right?”

“No, I won’t tell.” Dr. Finnick said writing something more down. “What did you feel when you first found out about your brothers death?” Becca frowned, she had just told him her brother was alive, so why was he still talking like he was dead?

“Guilty.” Becca admitted. “It was my fault he got shot.” She said feeling the emotions beginning to rise in her throat. “He had told me to run, but instead I tried to fight them.”

“And what happened?”

“I tried to fight for the gun, but it went off mid struggle and hit him.”

“That must be hard to deal with. How did your parents react to that?” He asked without looking up.

“They don’t know. It was hard to deal with, but I know my brothers alive, so it’s not so bad now.” Becca said playing with her shirtsleeve.

“You know, one of the first stages of grief is denial.” He said casually. Becca’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t believe her?

“But…”

“They found his body, Becca. You have to come to terms with the fact that your brother is gone.” He said finally looking up.

“No, he’s alive!” She insisted. “He was smart, he could have just made a double or something in his lab. Or maybe it wasn’t even him! Maybe he just-”

“Listen to yourself, Becca. You’re grasping at straws here. I think you’re under a lot of stress as a result and have created these messages as way to cope with the guilt you’re feeling.” Dr. Finnick said looking up from his notepad. Becca remained silent gripping the armrest with her fists. He thought she was crazy! She could feel her temper beginning to boil with every casual glance he made up at her. Holding on to the belief that her brother was alive was all that was keeping her going. Why was he trying to take that away from her? Not to mention there was no way she had imagined those messages! “I’m going to write you a prescription for some anti-depressant medication to help take the edge off.”

He handed Becca a prescription and she took it and jammed it down in her pants pocket. She felt betrayed. She had finally told someone about all these feelings she had been harboring only to be told she was crazy.

“I’d like to see you back next week.” He said. No way, thought Becca as she got up to leave.

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/10/15)

Chapter seven

The day of the next testing portion couldn’t have come soon enough for Becca, but this morning was different compared to her last test. There was no round of “good luck,” and “you got this”. Instead, Becca waited alone in her room where she had spent mostly every day so far, propped up against a few pillows on her bed. She waited impatiently for the minutes to pass while trying to resist the urge to log in early. She didn’t want to run out of time, but surely the test wouldn’t be longer than a few hours. Just in case though she wouldn’t take any chances.

She groaned in pain while she stood up and slowly walked to the bathroom for what felt like the tenth time that morning just to have something to do. She carefully unbuttoned her blouse and slowly twisted her neck so she could see the scar on her back in the mirror. It was amazing how something so small could cause her so much pain. She lightly traced her finger over the incision wincing slightly as she did so. There was still a good few inches around the wound that was sensitive to the touch. After putting her shirt back on Becca dug in her medicine cabinet for a pain pill, before popping it back and chasing it down with a handful of water from the sink. After making sure the door was closed, she took one of the pills the psychiatrist prescribed out from the bottle and did what she always did with it- she flushed it down the toilet. She refused to take anything from someone who thought she was crazy. Who knew what that pill was going to do to her? After another fight with her mother about them, Becca had caught her dumping the pills out to count them to make sure she was taking them so just leaving the bottle in her medicine cabinet was out of the question. She was so sick of being asked every morning, “Did you take your medicine?” during breakfast that she simply stopped coming down in the morning. Mostly because she was a terrible liar. The last thing she wanted was her mom to know she wasn’t taking them, yet there were still pills disappearing.

Finally after pacing her room, adjusting and re-adjusting her pillows, and planning what weapons to equip on her avatar; it was time. Helmet in hand, she lowered the keyboard attached to the side and typed in the IP address of where she wanted to go. She hoped it would have something to do with combat this time, after sitting on the beach for a week she was itching for a fight.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Becca wobbled a bit on her feet when she arrived at her destination still a little woozy from the trip, but quickly found her footing as she looked around and found herself inside a waiting room. She blinked in surprise as she headed towards the closest door and read the nameplate. You’ve got to be kidding she thought. She was at another psychiatrist’s office.

“Hi, are you checking in?” Someone behind the counter asked.

“I’m not sure I’m at the right place.” Becca said. She must have goofed and miss-typed the address.

“Do you have an appointment with Dr. Bastov?”

“Not that I know of, I was trying to get to the SPP testing site.” Becca said awkwardly. She hoped this goof wouldn’t make her late.

“You’ve come to the right place.” The lady behind the front desk said. “Can I get your name, please?” Becca frowned. Why was she here? Was it a trick?

“Which name?” Becca asked unsure of whether to give her real name or her avatars. Mostly everything in the Sphere operated under her avatars, but she wasn’t sure in the case of something official like this.

“Avatar is fine. We’ll scan your chip to get your official records.” Becca gulped. They were getting her medical records? That would mean they’d know about her getting injured.

“Sasha Brindey,” Becca said while hesitantly sticking her forearm out so her chip could be scanned. She heard a quiet beep when the secretary slid her palm over before being directed to have a seat. After a few minutes she tapped her foot impatiently as she wondered what this was all about.

“No need to be nervous; it’s just a standard mental health evaluation. He’ll just ask you a few questions off a list and make sure you’re not crazy.” The girl said with a wink. Becca gulped. If that was supposed to make her feel better, it didn’t work. “You can come on back now.” She said now appearing through an open door leading down a hallway.

Becca followed her until she was told to wait in another room with comfy looking armchairs. She figured they were more for looks than anything since no one would be able to feel a difference compared to if they were sitting on a wooden bench. The office looked suspiciously like Dr. Finnick’s office. So much so she had expected the grey haired man with the double chin to come waltzing in himself. Instead she was a little surprised when a beautiful bronze skinned woman with brown hair knocked on the door before coming in, but then again this was the Sphere, everyone looked like supermodels.

“Hello, you must be Sasha.” Dr. Bastov said shaking Becca’s hand before taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk. “So you are applying for the Sphere Protection Program, is that right?” Becca nodded her head as the Dr. read some kind of text in her field of vision. “What we’re going to do is ask you a few questions, tell you a little bit about the conditions of the program and see whether or not you’re a good fit.” She said. Becca nodded again while sitting up a little bit straighter. “Alright, so let’s get started. First I want to go over your medical history.”

“O-ok.” Becca said nervously.

“Since this job is in virtual reality, we don’t require much from the user. All we really want is for applicants to fall into a certain age range and that their health is ok. Disabilities are fine; we’ve had many members of the SPP wheelchair bound, blind etcetera. We just look for major illnesses like heart function and things like that. We obviously can’t accept anyone who’s at risk of passing away anytime soon.” She explained as Becca breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t sound like her back injury would cause any kind of problem. “Our biggest concern of course is mental health since the mind is what’s transferred from the user to the avatar.” Becca nodded to show her understanding.

“So do injuries transfer over in full dives?” Becca asked. “Say someone was disabled, would their avatar also be disabled in the Sphere?”

“Only if we need them to be.” Dr. Bastov answered causing Becca to tilt her head in confusion. “Say you were injured and needed to do physical therapy in a full dive because your physical body couldn’t; we could alter the avatar’s data in the Sphere to make the injury less severe. If we took it away completely the brain wouldn’t believe you were working it and the users body wouldn’t heal, but by keeping it difficult but no more than the user could handle, the brain is convinced you are strenuously working the effected part of the body. Of course in the SPP, we would take the disability away completely, because if we didn’t then yes, it would transfer over.” Dr. Bastov explained as Becca’s eyes went wide. “So essentially, as long as the person is in no danger of dying and is mentally sound, we can proceed.”

“Wow,” Was all Becca could think of to say. No wonder the drug that allows people to stay in the Sphere long term was so valuable. You could literally have a life disability free there as long as someone could alter their avatar on the other side.

“Pretty amazing, right?”

“Yeah, seriously.” Becca said. “What if it was in the brain though? Like if it affected someone’s mental health?”

“That, unfortunately, we can’t fix since the consciousness is linked between the avatar and user. We can only trick the brain; we can’t fix the brain itself. Not yet, anyway.”

“Oh, I see.” Becca said.

“So what I’m going to do is ask you a series of questions and I want you to answer them as best as you can on a scale of one to ten.” Dr. Bostov explained. Becca found the questions to be fairly simple and easy to answer. On a scale of one to ten how quick are you to anger? How positive are you? Are you confrontational or passive? Becca thought the questions were more to determine who would be a suitable partner versus an actual mental health exam. After twenty more minutes, the Dr. finally stopped as she noted the last of Becca’s answers down.

“So there’s just a few more things I want to ask you about in your file. You had a bit of a scare when you were a kid and needed some counseling it says. How did this effect you growing up?”

“Heh, yeah. It’s kind of what made me want to be in the SPP as soon as I heard about it. It took me years to go back into virtual reality, but once I finally did I could never look back.” Becca explained.

“In your own words tell me what happened.”

“Well, It was my first time going into the Sphere; I think I must have been about five. My brother took me to a local Sphere center back before the home consoles came out. I picked a kids game and went in by myself, but someone tampered with the game and made all the characters start killing each other.”

“And you’re ok now?”

“Not a big fan of ponies or horses now, but yeah, I turned out ok.” Becca said laughing nervously.

“And it says here you recently lost a family member.” She said as Becca’s face fell. Ok this was it, she thought. Hide the crazy. Don’t tell her anything you told him.

“Yeah.”

“How are you dealing with it? Are you struggling with any kind of depression or suicidal thoughts?”

“I guess I’m a little down.” Becca said. She couldn’t totally say she was fine with it. That would either trigger her as a psychotic or a liar.

“That’s to be expected; I’m sorry for your loss. In your opinion do you think it would cause any problems in the future if you were to be accepted?”

“No, if anything I could use the distraction. Keep myself busy, you know?”

“Alright, Sasha, you pass. From here you’ll go straight through that door, take a left and you’ll be meeting with the other candidates for the final exam.” Dr. Bastav explained. Becca smiled widely as she heard the news she made it to the next round, until she realized the next round was right this minute. And didn’t she just say final?
……………………………………

Becca hadn’t expected to find a room quite this big in a place that seemed like it was just Drs. offices. It had to be five or six times bigger than the place she was in just a minute ago. A flash of green caught Becca’s attention as she smiled glad to see a familiar face in the crowd of people that had gathered.

“Hey, you made it.” The green haired girl from before said spinning something glowing on a string in each hand to a rhythm only she could hear. “Sasha, right?”

“Yeah, and you’re, Crystal.” Becca said watching her with mild curiosity. “What are you doing?” She asked after a minute once the girl stopped spinning the primitive looking glow sticks.

“Glow stick dancing. Apparently my great, great, great, grandparents did it. I think it was some kind of ancient ritual to ward off spirits or something.” Crystal said.
“Really? huh? Interesting.” Becca said only to see the older girl smirk.

“You’re so gullible.” Crystal said. “I don’t know why they did it, but its kind of fun. Keeps me calm when I’m nervous. Want to try?”

“Uh, what do I do?” Becca asked doubtfully holding the two green sticks in her hands.

“You just dance with them and spin them around.” Crystal explained as Becca moved around and spun the strings.

“This is kind of fun.” Becca said swinging around and moving her legs and hips only to stop and see Crystal cringing.

“I’m going to have to take these back now and ask that you never to do that again.” Crystal said with a grimace. “You could be a toothpaste commercial; your slogan would be noticeably white.”

“Umm.” Becca said looking at Crystal’s pale skin.

“I’m not that white.” She explained as Becca shrugged. “So are you ready for the next test?”

“What is it?”

“The fear simulator.” Crystal said, “You go in pairs and it scans your brain for your deepest fear and projects it inside a room and everyone outside can see what you’re doing. If you chicken out everyone will know. It’s supposed to test how brave you are when you’re scared.”

Becca made a small squeaking noise in terror. “Please tell me you’re joking.” She pleaded. She couldn’t decide what was worse: being forced to face her fears or knowing everyone would know what she was afraid of.

“Nope, not this time.” Crystal said. “I’m probably going to get spiders. I really hate spiders. What about you? Sasha? Uhh, are you okay? You don’t look so good.”

“Everyone will see my deepest fear…” Sasha said eyes wide. “There’s no way they’ll let me in if they know what I’m afraid of.”

“What? It can’t be that bad. Is it clowns? Oh, god, its clowns isn’t it. Those freak me out. It better not be clowns.” Crystal said, but Becca only shook her head and whispered something barely audible. “I didn’t catch that what?”

“It’s, umm, I’m scared of…”

“Yes, what is it?”

“I’m scared of My Little Pony!” Becca blurted out.

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/11/15)

Chapter 8

Crystal stood transfixed on Becca who stood awkwardly waiting for a response before the green haired girl broke out in a wide grin. “You had me going there for a second. But, seriously, what are you afraid of?” She asked but frowned when Becca looked up at her with a hurt expression. “Wait, you’re serious? My Little Pony… as in the kids show?” Becca slowly nodded her head and looked down at the grey carpeting. “Umm…why?” Crystal asked, but after a second threw in a “If you don’t mind me asking.”

“My first dive into virtual reality was a My Little Pony game when I was five. Someone working there manipulated the game so that the characters would start a full on war if someone said they wanted to see the Pegasus’s.” Becca said. “That’s what my brother told me when they got me out.”

“What happened? Like in the game, what freaked you out so bad? Ponies aren’t exactly…scary.” Crystal said.

“They were killing each other with their horns and stuff.” Becca said with a shudder. “I love violent games, with guns and weapons. Bring on the gore! But…every time I think of that scene of the princess getting stabbed through the heart with a pitchfork in front of me. It just freaks me out and gives me the chills.” She explained.

“So what happened after that? Like did they ever catch who did it?”

“My brother said he punched the guy in the face and smashed his head on a console.” Becca said with a weak smile before her eyes began to mist over. “After that happened, we were really close. He was a bit too over protective of me though.” She said with a weak laugh.

“Was?”

“He, umm…” Becca stuttered trying to think of the right words to say. “He moved away recently. I just really miss him, sorry.”

“Then why not meet in the Sphere? He might not physically be there, but you can always see him here, right?” Crystal asked as Becca’s eyes went wide. She was right; she could meet Brian in the Sphere! She hadn’t even thought of that! Becca quickly opened her messenger and sent Brian a message asking to meet. Hopefully he’d respond. In the meantime though she’d have to figure out a way to sort out her current predicament. “So, uh, if we’re going to partner up again, please tell me you’re packing?”

“A few things here and there.” Becca said with a hint of a smile. It was nothing like last time, but she did have a few knives, a pistol and her shotgun strung around her shoulder with a strap.

“Anything that can kill a few spiders?” Crystal asked as Becca opened up her coat to show her an assortment of tools that could get the job done. “At least one of us is prepared.” She said. “I only brought my bow and arrow, great for large targets, but small ones…” She said with a grimace.

“You’re an archer?” Becca asked surprised. “I took you as more of a chemist.”

“Nah, poisons aren’t really my thing. I can make a rough health potion though, but that’s about it. Pretty basic.” Crystal said. “Now that I think about it, I wish I would have experimented with it more…. I could just gas the little bastards.”

“Maybe they will be bigger in the fear simulator,” Becca suggested, but immediately took it back when she was met with a dark stare from Crystal.

“Do not speak of such things.” Crystal said darkly. “They’re creepy enough being small.”

“But if they were bigger than you’d have a target to hit.” Becca said. “Wouldn’t it feel better knowing you could plunge an arrow into the heart of the thing you fear most?”

“I suppose.” Crystal said as she quieted down and seemed lost in thought for a moment. “No, no big spiders! Now I can’t stop thinking about big spiders! If there are big spiders in there now because you suggested it than you no longer have to fear ponies. It’s me you should be afraid of.” She threatened. Becca swallowed nervously and sat down in an uncomfortable looking chair glad for once that she couldn’t feel anything. “What’s your specialty?” Crystal asked after a moment of silence and people watching.

“Small weapons and hand to hand combat mostly. I do like to keep a variety of things stocked just in case, like my favorite shot gun.” Becca said sliding it off her shoulders and showing it off. “We’ve killed many zombies together.”

“Can I please have everyone’s attention?” A tall buff looking man with a shaved head yelled out into the crowd. “Now that everyone is gathered we’re about to start.” People all of all sizes, shapes, and genders appeared. Apparently species as well once Becca noticed the lady with long brown hair in front of her had pointed elf ears. She had never thought of changing her personal appearance like that before. For whatever reason she had always just stuck with what she had imagined when she was little. Sure it was plain and ordinary, but it had its advantages in game. People tended to not take her seriously and when they least expected it… She’d take them down before they even knew what hit them. “For anyone who arrived after my earlier explanation, I’ll go over it one more time. This will be the last and finale test. We will hook you up to a few sensors that will monitor your heart rate and blood pressure. For those of you thinking, ‘but I don’t have a heart or blood in game!’ these sensors monitor your real life stats. We don’t want anyone dying of a heart attack. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened. If your blood pressure falls into any dangerous category you will immediately be woken up and you will be disqualified. Any questions?”

Becca glanced around the room as many people nervously fidgeted in place. How exactly would this work? Virtual reality inside virtual reality? The man scanned the room waiting for someone to speak up, but everyone remained quiet so he continued on with his explanation.

“Each of you will step in front of this lens one at a time so the computer can scan you.” He said motioning his hand towards a plain looking wall with a single partition to stand in front of. "By doing so it will examine your mind and put together a reality to project behind this door. Becca’s eyes went wide. She thought those were just a rumor. To actually project a personal reality for people who enter, too bad it was set to scare them to death. “Each of your realities will have a goal you must accomplish, usually resulting in some kind of flag. Bring the flag back in order to pass. You will each have 15 minutes to accomplish this. If it’s too much for you, you can come back by opening the door, but just know leaving without the flag will result in disqualification. Anyone want to go first?” Everyone remained where they stood staring back at him wide eyed. “No one ever volunteers.” He mumbled. “Steven Halberg. Go scan yourself.” He ordered.

A twenty something year old guy stepped forward wearing jeans and a t-shirt gripping his crossbow nervously. Taking a deep breath he walked in front of the partition as a white light shined into his eyes before stopping.

“Go on.” The instructor said motioning towards the door.

“You said earlier we get a partner.” Steven said, but the instructor shook his head.

“Sorry about that, just got a message from the higher ups, apparently that’s what the sensors are for. The buddy system was to drag out a fainted person, but now they’ll automatically be ejected from the Sphere. Sorry, you’re on your own.”

“We still get to watch though, right?” Someone spoke up from the crowd. Suddenly the plain wall from earlier began to rise up revealing a large screen. Becca at first thought it was off, but a timer in the upper right hand side showed 15:00. It was merely nothing but blackness on the other side of the door.

“It’s my favorite part.” The instructor said. “There’s sensors inside the room that monitor whoevers in there; that’s why it’s only one at a time now. The clock will start as soon as soon as you enter. Go on.” He said once he put what looked like a little silver bracelet on Steven’s wrist.

After taking a slow deep breath, Steven gripped his crossbow as tightly as he could with one hand and slowly opened the door to reveal the blackness inside before stepping in as the door shut behind him. Everyone turned their attention to the screen, as Steven stood rooted to spot before taking a few tentative steps forward in what looked to be an empty department store. Clothes hung on racks and mannequins posed wearing the latest fashion. How strange, Becca thought. She had never seen a real life mannequin before. Everything in her life had been digital, so to see a plastic imitation of a person standing in place staring blankly at the wall left an eerie image on the screen. Becca wondered where he had seen them from, a movie perhaps?

Steven walked slowly around the ill lighted room that left an even creepier feeling to the abandoned store. Trash littered the broken tiled floor and ceiling fixtures were hanging precariously overhead by rotting beams and wires. A sudden movement to his right caused him to freeze in place. Becca watched from the safety of behind the screen and as the numbers correlating with his heart rate begin to steadily rise. Everyone stared unmoving as they watched. The room had fallen so silent you could hear a pin drop.

It seemed like a full minute before Steven found the courage to keep walking as he checked and double-checked over his shoulder while continuing his trek through the store. Becca wasn’t quite sure what it was exactly that Steven was afraid of. She kind of wondered if he had been left alone after hours in a store at some point when he was a kid, but she wasn’t 100 percent sure. She continued to watch him walk amongst the broken racks and debris and wondered what exactly was his mission. It was when he had gotten to some kind of black staircase with strange looking metal rails that she noticed a flag flying at the top. That was it, Becca thought? A stroll through a primitive, albeit strangely creepy, store?

Steven tentatively reached for the flag when he had gotten to the top of the strange staircase that things changed on the screen. As soon as he touched the flag, all at once the twenty something mannequins turned their heads towards him fast as lightening. He stood frozen to the spot with fear noticing that they were all now staring at him with their lifeless faces. He audibly gulped before putting the pendent in his pocket and slowly made his way down the staircase while tightly gripping his crossbow. Becca could tell his arms were shaking the way his weapon bounced in his hands. The closer he got to the bottom of the stairs the more the mannequins facial features changed. The once plain and uninterested faces that had been staring off into the void were now grinning wickedly and watching every step Steven took. He paused before sucking in a mouthful of air and took the last step onto the first floor.
Becca’s jaw nearly dropped as she watched what happened next on the screen. It was when he took that finale step that the statues charged at him leaving behind their pedestals. In a wave of panic Steven turned tale and dashed back up the escalator away from the exit as the mannequins followed behind streaming into the narrow broken down escalator as they each tried to climb over each other to get to him. He nervously looked back as dozens of white plastic arms reached for him. He ran blind until he was forced to stop at a crossroad pausing only for a second before heading towards his right; the clanking of plastic legs on tile right on his tail.

Becca audibly gasped as he was forced to stop running once he came to a dead end in a dressing room. She cringed when he decided to lock himself in a stall only to have them crawling under and over the door as he screamed before they climbed on top of him until all you could see was a pile of plastic limbs and muffled shouts. A beeping of a timer was suddenly heard as Becca glanced up to see he had run out of time. Suddenly the mannequins vanished and all that was left on the screen was Steven curled up in a ball in the darkness sobbing. The instructor had to poke his head in the door and tell him it was over.

Everyone in the room stood quietly in shock holding their breath as Steven walked out with his head hung low before he exited the door and disappeared knowing he had failed. Becca exhaled once the door closed behind him. She hadn’t realized she had been shaking until she looked down at her hands. What was hers going to be like? That wasn’t even her fear, but it had freaked her out this much just watching from the safety of behind the screen. Just what had Becca signed herself up for?

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/13/15)

The room remained still and silent as everyone glanced nervously about. The room beyond that door was capable of projecting horrors beyond any of their imaginations. Becca felt thoroughly creped out and she hadn’t even gone in yet. A quick glance to her left revealed Crystal, normally cool and composed, seemed to be thinking the same thing. Her lips were pursed tightly together in a scowl as she bit at her bottom lip anxiously. Would they all be like that? Becca couldn’t help but wonder what had made Steven so afraid of mannequins, even though she had to admit they were creepy as hell now.

“CreamCheese…Vador?” The instructor called out looking at his list puzzled before glancing up and asking, “why?” at the next guy who approached. It was pretty much un spoken rule that you don’t name your avatars moronic things due to the professional nature the Sphere had outside of gaming. Every once in a while though Becca would still come across people like CreamCheeseVador who thought the Internet was still a large cesspool of the uneducated and uncouth as it was hundreds of years ago. It was still somewhat acceptable in game, but why didn’t he change it before coming here? “Yeah, I’m just gonna call you Greg.” The instructor said as the now dubbed Greg stood in front of the scanner before opening the door and stepping inside. Everyone quickly turned their attention to the screen as the once inky blackness illuminated a bright white light to reveal…absolutely nothing. It was just a white plane with nothing else. Becca couldn’t imagine what would make this scary whatsoever especially compared to what the person before him went through. Greg looked up as text began to form mid air. Remain for fourteen minutes to receive flag.

“I don’t get it,” Becca whispered to her friend. “What’s so hard about this?”

“I think he’s afraid of complete isolation. Look, you can’t even see the door anymore.” She glanced up to confirm that the door he had come from had seemed to vanish leaving him alone in the white plane with no way out. Greg seemed to have noticed the missing door as well as he stared nervously at the spot where it had once been. Becca thought he’d be able to do it no problem; all he had to do was sit there after all, but as the minutes slowly ticked by Greg began fidgeting more and more. His movement began showing a more panicked feel to them as he paced back and forth. At the seven-minute mark, he shouted that he gave up and the door re-appeared. Greg quickly went through without looking back and made a beeline towards the lobby without making eye contact with anyone.

It went on like this for quite some time each caving before their quest was complete. Becca felt a little more at ease when she realized no one was laughing at anyone’s fears as strange as they might seem as each persons scenario differed from the next. One woman was tasked with trekking through a cave full of snakes, (she didn’t even try) while another had to endure standing in a small room where the walls were slowly moving closer and closer. Becca thought he might actually make it, but shouted, “I give up!” when they were about a foot from his face.

She was starting to notice a pattern. It seemed when faced with the thing they fear most, people forgot that nothing could hurt them. The woman who refused to walk through a pit of rattlesnakes could have strolled through, picked up the flag and been on her merry way without feeling a thing. Steve could have lured the mannequins chasing him to the 2nd floor and jumped off the balcony without a scratch. He could have also just pushed right through them instead of allowing himself to be trapped in a dressing room.

It was then Becca fully understood the purpose of this test. It wasn’t meant to scare and humiliate for the instructors amusement, although he did seem to be enjoying himself immensely. The true purpose was to be able to make logical and rational decisions even under the most stressful circumstances. All Becca had to do was think her way out. Every obstacle had an obvious solution if the person could just keep calm.

Becca realized all of this during Anthony-Arnolds test. She never would have guessed he had been afraid of heights, but then again she seemed to realize she was terrible at guessing things about other people. His mission was to cross a very very narrow path in what appeared to be a natural made bridge in a cave. Becca didn’t believe he’d be able to do it once he was halfway across and had made the fatal error of looking down. He stood frozen on the bridge staring at the many sharp looking stalagmites that formed sharp looking spikes on the caves floor. Finally after a minute or so he was able to snap himself out of the trance and very carefully take small deliberate steps and inch towards his goal. He hesitantly reached towards the flag, but after what had happened with Steven everyone was expecting some kind earthquake or cave in. He looked around nervously waiting for some kind of sign something terrible would happen, but nothing did. Maybe he had already made it past the hard part.

It was when Arnold -Anthony turned to leave is when everyone saw what had changed. The bridge was gone. There was nothing there but two edges of a cliff and a large gap about a hundred yards wide. He stood there flabbergasted and unmoving. What could he do? He peeked his head over the edge of the cliff to see the many spikes that were waiting to castrate him should he fall. How was he supposed to get across. He wasn’t like he could just run across and… Becca’s mouth fell open…he wasn’t actually going to do it was he? Oh god, he was.

Arnold- Anthony backed up as far as he could before taking off in a mad sprint before leaping into the air. What was wrong with him? He was going to die! He was going to…land safely in the air? What in the world… He landed on what appeared to be an invisible floor before casually walking towards the exit flag in hand as if he had known all along. There wasn’t a drop… it was all an illusion… The room was deathly silent until he appeared in the doorway before everyone burst into mad applause and shouts as soon as he came through. Someone had finally done it! He was the first of ten people to actually pass!

“Alright, alright calm down.” The instructor said after many rounds of “congratulations” and “good jobs” as Arnold- Anthony held the pendent over his head in victory to the crowd. “Let’s see, whose next….umm umm…let’s go with… Sasha!”
……………………………
At first Becca didn’t even realize he had called her name. She stood in place looking through the crowd until Crystal pushed her forward towards the scanner.

“Don’t chicken out before you even get in there.” She joked as Becca gulped and slowly commanded her feet forward even though they wanted to run towards the lobby. She stood in front of the partition as a bright white light shined into her eyes as she tried her best to resist the urge to cover them. After the silver-blinking bracelet was slipped onto her wrist her heart rate appeared up on the large screen.

“If I don’t make it out alive tell my family I love them.” She said to Crystal as a few people let out a small chuckle. She turned her attention towards the door that held her fate. This was it. This was the only thing standing in her way of joining the SPP. Fifteen minutes; she could do this, she thought slowly reaching towards the door handle and stepping inside.

………………………………………………………………………………

Everyone watched the screen slightly confused to see the bright and cheery town of Ponyville as Crystal just shook her head in disbelief. Part of her still thought Sasha had just been joking, but this proved that she wasn’t.

The instructor grumbled before heading over to the console. “Damn thing.” He muttered as someone asked what was wrong. “For whatever reason it switched from deepest fear to deepest desire.” He said when he saw the brightly colored Pegasus flying into view. “Didn’t think she was into that kind of thing, but whatever.”

“Sir, look!” Someone shouted. “I don’t think the machine broke.” He peeked his head up and glanced at the screen unsure of what he was looking at until his annoyed frown turned into a smirk. Becca’s heart rate was going through the roof, 150 beats per minute, and now 160, 165!

“Can’t say I was expecting that.” He said watching amused with his arms crossed.

……………………………………………………………………….

Becca stood rooted to the spot was she gazed at the town that hosted her childhood trauma. It had probably had changed over the years, but this was how her brain had remembered it and so it was projected in front of her. She glanced up at the timer realizing she had been standing in place for over a full minute just wasting time.

“Move!” She yelled at her legs before slowly taking a step towards her destination. “It’s just a image; it can’t hurt me. This isn’t real.” She chanted as she grimaced making contact with the first resident.

“Hi there!” The princess shouted behind her as Becca jumped a foot in the air. She tried her hardest to resist the urge to run, but her feet had other plans. She took off like a bat out of hell running as fast as she could through the town. “No no no! Stop!” She yelled at herself. “You have to stop and think!” Finally her feet co-operated with her. Find the flag; you need to find the flag!

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Twilight said landing in front of her as she tucked her large purple wings to the side. “My name is Princess Twilight and-”

“I know who you are! Stay back!” Becca shouted backing up as the princess frowned in confusion.

“I’m not going to hurt you. You look lost; is there something you’re looking for?” the purple alicorn asked. Maybe she knows, Becca thought for a moment. It wouldn’t hurt.

“I’m looking for a small, blue flag. It should be somewhere in this town.” Becca said keeping her distance.

“A small blue flag?” Twilight mumbled to herself. “Does it say SPP on it?”

“Yes! That’s it! Do you know where it is?” Becca asked eagerly, but her heart dropped when she heard the answer.

“Yeah, It’s flying on the top of the Apple Family barn!”

The Apple Family. Becca gritted her teeth. They were the cause of so many childhood nightmares and what she needed to get was there. Of course it was, Apple Jack and Big Mac were the things she was terrified of, so where else would the flag be?

“I can take you there if you want to see it.” Twilight offered as Becca checked her remaining time. Becca agreed with a sigh and so she half-ran and half walked as the princess trotted along by her side. Should she tell her she was going to die? Becca felt a small pang of guilt knowing she was ultimately leading the princess to her death, but Becca reminded herself that it wasn’t real and soon they arrived at their destination as Becca spotted her prize flying high above the barn just as the princess had described. “Well here we are.” Twilight said cheerfully as Becca stopped in her tracks.

There they all were waiting for her: Apple Bloom, Granny Smith, Big Mac and worst of all…Apple Jack. Their eyes looked just as Becca had remembered from her childhood; Evil and red and they all glared daggers into the two of them making their murderous intentions known. Becca couldn’t allow herself to get caught up in their fight and just as before Big Mac rammed his pitchfork into the princess’s chest as blood began to spray every which way. Becca ran away as if on auto-pilot and took cover behind a nearby building. She could hear the explosions as an all out war began taking place due to the princess’s assassination. Maybe I should have come alone; it would have prevented all this extra commotion I don’t need.

Becca stood in the shadows of the building staring longingly at her flag. How was she supposed to scale a barn without getting caught? It’s not as if she could fly… A sudden thought popped into her head, no more of a memory. What had started all of this in the very beginning when she was little was saying she wanted to ride the flying ponies… She could ride one of the Pegasus up to the barn and snatch the flag. Could she be brave enough to pull it off? The only pony she had spoken with so far that had wings had just been pulverized by a gardening tool. She looked up at the figures gliding in the sky. Who would let her ride them? She couldn’t even remember their names… There was the really shy one with the animals…but she was probably more scared of Becca than Becca was of her. She was probably cowering somewhere so that was out. What was the other one? Becca scanned the air above her as a rainbow streaked across the sky. That one! Rainbow…Dart? No, Dash.

“Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash!” Becca shouted as she saw the multi-colored pegisi loop in the air. “Rainbow Dash!” She shouted again.

“I ain’t Beetlejuice.” The rainbow colored pony said landing. “Who are you? I’m a little busy, as you can see this place has gone to hell! We’re fighting the earth ponies, and the unicorn are fighting us and-”

“I need a favor!” Becca shouted. “I need a ride up to the top of the barn.” She pointed to the flag flying at the top.

“What’s in it for me?” Rainbow Dash said eying Becca. “What are you anyway?”

“I can help you fight afterwards.” Becca lied.

“How can you help?” Rainbow Dash said disbelieving.

“With this.” Becca said showing her the shotgun.

“How’s a funny looking stick going to hel-” Rainbow Dash started to say, but immediately shut up when Becca pulled the trigger and blew a hole in the building she was standing by.

“Hop on!” She said as Becca paused for a moment before climbing onto her back and gripping her colorful mane in her hands. After a running start, Rainbow Dash soared high into the sky before slowly gliding past the flag as Becca ripped it off the stand. She held it in her hands with glee for a moment before she realized she was being flown towards the battle scene and away from the door.

“Where are we going?” Becca shouted. “Put me down!”

“Not until you use your weird stick to blow a hole in Apple Jacks head!” Becca looked at the clock. She had seven minutes left and was being asked to assassinate to thing that had caused her so much torment as a child. She smiled widely and leaned forward after shoving the flag in her pocket. “There! Get them!” Rainbow Dash shouted as she circled above the running Apple family. Becca aimed her gun and fired, but missed and quickly reloaded she fired again as Apple Bloom fell to the ground. Another two shots and Granny Smith was face first in the ground eating dirt. It took another four to take down Big Mac and then all that was left was Apple Jack, the only problem was she was out of shotgun shells and she doubted her pistol would work. She didn’t come prepared like she had last time. You can’t get hurt.

“Take me down lower! I’ll jump on her back and slash her throat with my twin blades!” Becca shouted pulling them out of their holsters on her thighs.

“I like your style!” Rainbow Dash shouted and took a nosedive down towards the sprinting pony that ran over the landscape. Becca jumped after trying her best to time it and landed on Apple Jacks back. The orange pony jumped and bucked as hard as she could sending Becca flying, but not before Becca had managed to injure the ponies leg so that it limped.

“You know what they say about horses when they have a broken leg.” Becca said aiming her pistol at the struggling animal. “You were always my least favorite background pony.” She said before putting the creature out of its misery with a shot to the head.
…………………………………………………………………………………………

When Becca stepped back through the door flag in hand with thirty seconds remaining she had expected to be met with rounds of applause like Arnold-Anthony had. Instead she was met with an eerie silence as everyone stared at her with mouths agape and one guy to her right was even doing a Hail Mary! Becca looked at the crowd in awkward silence before the instructor finally broke the ice.

“What the hell was that?” He said staring at her. “All you had to do was get the flag and bring it back; you didn’t have to kill them all! It was just a kids show!” He said as Becca hung her head in shame. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, you pass.” He said after a sigh. Finally the room erupted in cheers as Becca smiled wide and threw her fists in the air. She even ignored his comment that sounded an awful lot like, “you need help.”

“What does this mean?” Becca asked finally coming down from her high.

“It means welcome to the SPP.”

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/13/15)

:o :o :o Wow! so, that happened. You story is Fantastic; and the pony genocide has a special place in my dark heart! it has been a desire of mine ever since a ponyfinder player joined our D&D group.

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/13/15)

                  Chapter 11

Becca felt so giddy she was hardly paying attention to anyone else’s turn. Becca couldn’t believe it; after so many years of daydreaming about this, she was in. She was so happy she just wanted to dance and twirl. Mr. Clean had told her to wait until everyone was done and that they’d go over the next steps together with the others that had passed. When the number of people quickly began to dwindle, Becca realized only three other people besides herself had made it through. To be honest, she hadn’t really been paying attention ever since she had come out victorious, choosing instead to get lost in her own little world.

How would her parents react? Could they be able to stop fighting for one night in order to celebrate? They had always cheered her on and celebrated every little victory she had made towards her goal, or at least they used to. Surely they could put aside their grief for one night.

She tried to think of whom else she could tell. Brian immediately came to mind and although he never answered her daily messages, she decided to send him the details anyway. If this didn’t coax him to talk; she didn’t know what would.

“Alright, you there, you’re the last one up.” Mr. Clean said pointing to Crystal as she slowly made her way over to the scanner. Becca stopped her daydreaming to flash her the thumbs up. If anyone else made it, she hoped Crystal would.

“I swear if there’s giant spiders in there because of you…” Crystal threatened Becca, who flashed her an apologetic look in return. The five people left in the room turned their attention to the screen. Becca gulped and began wondering if she should plan her funeral when the image appeared and the first thing she saw was cobwebs. Not just any cobwebs, but the biggest cobwebs Becca had ever seen. What was worse was that their earlier conversation seemed to have blended into the scene before them.

Crystal stood outside what appeared to be an abandoned fairground gripping her bow. Everything was old and rusted and a breeze unfelt by her seemed to have swept down causing all the ancient rides to creak and groan. A merry-go-round- inched along as if being ridden by an unseen passenger as it played the most hair raising and eeriest music any of them had ever heard. If it weren’t for the cobwebs that were several stories high dangling from the Ferris wheel, Becca would be sure this itself would have qualified as someone’s deepest fear.

The small group continued watching as Becca wondered where the flag would be. Was it on top of the Ferris Wheel? Or in a fun house? She didn’t even notice she had begun biting her nails in anticipation as Crystal continued her journey. It was when Crystal stopped walking and stared at what appeared to be a haunted mansion of some kind that Becca knew exactly where the flag would be. The building itself was covered in giant spider webs.

“You are so dead.” Crystal mumbled as she took a arrow from her quiver to knock down the webs while dancing in a panic when one of them touched her.

The dirty wooden beams used for floor tiles creaked with every step making Crystal wonder if her heavy combat boots would punch a hole in one of them. The windows appeared as if the glass had been busted out long ago, only to be replaced with thick, white spider silk. She continued to slowly push through the webbing that dangled from the ceiling. Faded and decaying portraits hung on the walls depicting a family of four: A husband, wife, son and daughter. Crystal cringed when she saw what appeared to be a small puppy being choked to death in the little girls hands while she wore a smile as if the act gave her great joy. Crystal shuddered and kept going, until she came to the first door. She nudged it with her foot as the door hinges groaned and revealed what must have been the daughter’s room, which housed a large collection of broken and mutilated dolls. Some were missing an eye, other an arm or a leg, while some were even missing their heads. While Crystal walked around the room examining its contents, Becca noticed the dolls eyes, the ones that still had them anyway, had their eyes trained on Crystal watching her every move. Their cracked and dirty faces smiled in such a way that raised all the hair on Becca’s arms. There was one particular doll Crystal couldn’t seem to pry herself away from. It sat on the bed with a sad expression on its face beckoning Crystal forward. Its face was made of porcelain underneath all the dirt and grime, its eyes were different colors and it wore a frilly pink dress. Compared to all the others it seemed to be in remarkable condition, but why it fascinated Crystal so much was beyond her. She seemed to be stuck in a trance gazing into its blue and green eyes.

“No, Crystal, move! It’s a trap!” Becca mumbled underneath her breath.

Suddenly Crystal seemed to snap out of it as quickly as she had gotten sucked in. She gave the room one last look over before turning around and heading back into the hallway. She couldn’t tell what this place was supposed to be. Was it this family’s house or was “deranged little girl” just another attraction?

When she kicked in the next door she found it was full of mirrors like a fun house. When she stood in front of them, she appeared different in each one. A tall slender looking mirror stretched her reflection until she looked like a creature out of some kind of CreepyPasta, while another made her short and fat. When Crystal came to the end of the row, one mirror, or what she assumed to be a mirror, was covered by an old and torn sheet. Her curiosity moved her forward despite the nervous anticipation she felt as she grabbed the ends of the fabric and pulled it off. At first she couldn’t really tell what she was looking at. Instead of seeing her reflection, all she saw were eight black dots. It was when the black dots began to move farther away that Crystal realized they were eyes-large baseball sized eyes.

She tried to run, but a hairy leg smashed through the glass with a loud smash and grabbed Crystal leg pulling her into the dark depths behind the paned glass. Crystal screamed and tried to grab onto anything she could to get free, but the giant spider the size of a car continued to drag her into its lair. When her ride was over, she sprang to her feet noticing the large sacks of web holding the half eaten remains of the family that used to live there.

She quickly knocked a bow and shot at the spider as it hissed as the arrow knocked off it’s protective shell. She shot another and then another before having to dive out of the way and hide inside a small crevice.

Becca noticed something strange about the cave Crystal was in. There appeared to be lighted torches along the walls and one was not that far from the green haired girl stuck inside a small crack in the cave walls. Becca tried to think how Crystal could get out of the situation she was in. While it was true she couldn’t feel pain, getting eaten alive would probably disqualify her. There had to be a reason she was in this situation. Spiders were the thing she feared after all. Did she have to fight it? How though, Crystal’s arrows seemed to not even faze the thing. What was a spider’s weak point? Becca tried to picture the anatomy of a spider in her mind, and immediately thought of the area where it shoots out its web.

“You have to shoot an arrow up its butt!” Crystal frowned and looked around confused. She could have sworn she heard a voice telling her where to shoot. She put her hand in her quiver of arrows and realized she only had two left. If she planned to get out undigested she’d have to make it count. She grabbed an arrow and moaned in disgust; it was the arrow she had used to knock down all the webs. She looked up as a sudden idea popped into her head. She hated to do it, but it was the best she could come up with at the moment. She grabbed as much webbing as she could wrapping it around an arrow before running out from her hiding place and holding it over the torch so that the webbing would catch on fire.

“C’mon, C’mon.” Crystal moaned as the arrow caught fire just as the spider approached with its fangs barred. “Here goes!” Crystal said running for all she was worth as the spider chased after her. She jumped in the pit as the spider stood over it exposing its spinnerets just as Crystal let her flaming arrow fly. In a blink of an eye the spider exploded leaving trails of green guts all along the walls, ceiling and all over Crystal like a scene out of Tremors. “UGH!” Crystal moaned spitting out guts and cringed until she spotted a blue flag sitting in a puddle of guts.

Becca ran up excited once Crystal re-appeared through the door clutching the flag and dripping with spider goop. Crystal had done it! She made it! She conquered her fears and …uh-oh…

“Con-congratulations.” Becca smiled nervously as Crystal glared at her darkly. “You did it!” She said backing up step by step as she green haired girl approached with a squishing sound every step she made leaving a trail of slime in her wake.

“I’m going to kill you!” Crystal yelled charging as Sasha took off running while yelling for someone to come save her.

………………………………………………………………………………….
“Congratulations everyone who has made it this far.” Mr. Clean said obviously reading from a prompt. “Each of you is 1: 10,000. You should be proud to have made it and become members of the Sphere Protection Program.”

Becca nodded her head grinning like mad despite the fact that she was now coated in spider guts once Crystal had caught up with her and tackled her to the ground. Were there only five of them that passed? Becca wondered looking at everyone’s face. There was her, Crystal, Arnold- Anthony, That-Lady-With-The-Elf-Ears, and one other guy.

“Has everyone already gotten their plugs?” Mr. Clean asked as everyone nodded their heads expect for Becca and Crystal.

“What are those?” Becca asked.

“These.” Arnold-Anthony said taking off his fedora and showing Becca the back of his head. Becca’s eyes went wide as she saw what appeared to be connectors coming from right where the neck meets the skull.

“So you two have never been in a full dive before?” Mr. Clean asked as the two girls shook their heads. “You’ll have to go to a dive center and get them put in. It’s where the connecters are placed to put you into a full dive. Just a word of warning; it’s going to hurt.”

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/15/15)

Chapter 10.5

The first thing Becca saw when taking off her helmet was her mom standing over her with her arms crossed. Becca was so excited to tell her the good news that she almost missed the giant scowl across her face as her eyes looked down at her full of disgust.

“Mom, I-” Becca began to say, but was quickly cut off.

“Were you honestly playing games all day that you couldn’t even be bothered to get up and go the bathroom? Am I going to have to remind you to stop playing and go potty like a toddler because honestly, Becca, with the way you’ve been acting lately; I can’t tell if you’re 18 or two.” Heather said while throwing up her hands in frustration.

Becca stared at her in confusion while she finished her rant until a cold dampness alerted her to the problem. At some point she had soaked herself and her bedding while she was in the Sphere. Becca stared down at her lap dumbfounded. How long had she been gone for? She glanced at the time and noticed she had only been gone for four hours; clearly not enough to time for her to have wet herself out of desperation. Becca hung her head in shame at the realization of what happened. She must have wet herself in fear during the test. To Becca, that was worse than simply being in the Sphere for too long; it showed that she was weak.

“Am I going to have to put you in a diaper every time you go in there? What am I going to do if I can’t trust you to take care of yourself?” Heather continued.

“I’m sorry,” Becca mumbled hanging her head. “I wasn’t playing games.”
“You spend too much time in there!” Heather said.

“It’s because I miss him.” Becca said quietly. “I like to go back and read all of our old conversations.” Becca said purposefully allowing herself to tear up while Heather’s sharp glare softened a bit seeing the pitiful look on her daughters face. “I just miss him so much.” Becca had only meant to slightly play it up for leniency, but the hot tears that uncontrollably fell from her face were the real deal. Just knowing he was alive wasn’t enough; he might have well have been dead.

Brian was not only Becca’s brother, but also her best friend. She hadn’t realized how much she had been hurting without him. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t there anymore. No more daily messages back and forth, and no one to share in her joy and pain. He hadn’t even made it to their Sunday zombie slaying that they never missed. Whatever situation he was in was her fault and there was nothing she could do to help him. So what if she played a few more games than normal and locked herself in her room? Becca rolled over and put her wet back to Heather and let go of all of the pent up feelings she had been harboring into her pillow.

“I take it you want to be alone.” Heather said with a sigh, as she was about to head for the door, but stopped when Becca shook her head.

“I don’t want to be alone!” Becca bawled into her pillow. “I’m always alone; I just want everything to go back to the way it was.” She said between gasps for air between her heavy sobs. She flinched out of reflex when she felt a hand gently touch her back, but relaxed when she felt it slowly move up her shoulders and back down carefully avoiding the still sensitive areas. Becca hadn’t felt another persons touch since her time in the hospital. She felt the bed sink in as her mom sat down on the edge and manually rolled Becca over so that her head was resting in Heather’s lap.

Heather gently stroked Becca’s head while lightly combing her long black hair with her fingers. “I’m sorry I’ve been so hard on you lately.” Heather said as Becca remained still and quiet. She hadn’t cuddled up in her mom’s lap like this since she was little, and she certainly hadn’t been spending more time than she absolutely had to with her. “You’ve been pulling away; I don’t want to lose both my children.” Heather said with a sniffle.

“I’m sorry, it’s just, and everything about our family has changed. All we ever do is fight now. Virtual reality has just been better than real reality right now.” Becca said softly into her mom’s stomach.

"I know, but it’s not real. I’m just concerned with how much time you’ve been spending up here by yourself. "

“I miss the way things used to be.” Becca mumbled as Heather agreed as the two sat quietly together until Becca broke the ice. “I’m going to miss you.”

“What do you mean?” Heather asked, concerned that Becca’s depression had taken a turn for the worst and this was her way of saying good-bye before she did something drastic.

“I got in.” Becca said softly. “To the SPP, I was accepted.”

“What? Are you sure you didn’t just misunderstand something? Are you sure it’s not just another test?” Becca sighed. That was her mom for you; always the realist.

“Yes, I’m sure; I’ve been testing all day and they said I passed. I just need to sign all the paperwork and get the dive implants put in tomorrow.” Becca said frowning when she heard Heather’s breath hitch. “What? What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy for me.”

“I’m just… surprised is all. I thought they only took the best.”

“Gee, thanks, mom.” Becca said sarcastically while rolling her eyes.

“I didn’t mean it like that, I just didn’t think you’d-”

“You didn’t think I’d get in.” Becca said sitting back up and staring at her mom in disbelief.

“I thought it was something you’d get into…eventually. I didn’t think you’d actually get in on the first try, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for you. I just wasn’t prepared to be saying good-by so soon.” She explained as the hurt look on Becca’s face subsided. “So what happens? How long will you be gone for?”

“Every other week.” Becca said as Heather visibly relaxed.

“Way to make it way more dramatic.” Heather said smiling. “What are you going to miss me for if you’ll only be gone a week at a time?”

“In reality it will be a week, but with the time altering drug, it will be a year. For me I’ll be gone a year, be back a week, gone a year, back a week etc.” Becca explained.

“Are you sure it’s safe? That doesn’t sound very safe.”

“I think so.” Becca said not sounding very confident either. “I made it through the fear chamber; I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“The what?”

“It was the last test we had today.”

“You were testing today? Why didn’t you tell us? I thought you were up here al day playing games.” Heather said as Becca shook her head even though that was what she was usually doing all day. “So what was this fear test?”

“This machine scanned your brain and it projected your deepest fear on the other side of the door.”

“Ooh, sounds scary! So what was your deepest fear?”

“Spiders,” Becca lied. “Big, hairy spiders.”

“Oh, I thought you were over your fear of spiders.” Heather said as Becca shrugged. She didn’t remember ever being afraid of spiders. It must have been when she was little and Brian had still been living at home. There was a time before the pony incident where they didn’t get along. “It took you a long time to go to bed on your own after that.” Heather said.

“After what?”

“After Brian put his tarantula in your bed as a prank. You must have been about three or so. It freaked you out so bad you made your father and I check your bed for spiders every night for the longest time.” Becca chuckled. She didn’t remember that, but it sounds like something Brian would do. The two of them were always trying to pull one over on each other for fun. She breathed a sigh of relief, glad her mother had bought her story about the spiders. She didn’t think Heather would have believed her greatest fear was heights or store mannequins. Becca would definitely rather have her mom think she was afraid of spiders than…

“Now if we could just get you over your fear of ponies.” Heather said giggling while Becca blushed.

“I-I am not afraid of ponies.” Becca lied crossing her arms with a pout.

“Honey, remember that time when you were 13 and refused to sit at the table the waiter brought us to because a little girl a booth over was holding a stuffed unicorn?” Heather said trying not to laugh. “We had to wait an extra half-hour to get a seat where you wouldn’t be in line of sight of the doll.”

Becca grumbled as she admitted defeat. She had completely forgotten about that.

“Spiders, sure it was.” Heather said with a wink as Becca smiled and rested her head in her mom’s lap as Heather resumed combing out her daughters hair with her fingers. Finally, Becca thought with a content sigh. It finally felt more like it used to.

After another twenty minutes, Becca had all but fallen asleep, but a gentle whisper in her ear reminded her of her situation. “You should probably get cleaned up.” Heather suggested. “Don’t worry about the bedding, I’ll get it. You just hop in the shower.” Heather said once Becca stood and examined the damage. “And don’t worry.” She added when Becca was halfway to the door. “I won’t tell your father you peed your pants because of the big, scary ponies.” She said with a grin as Becca stood in the doorway blushing and at a loss for words.

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/16/15)

yeah, I don’t know if anyone actually reads this, but here’s another chapter…Sorry about all the dick jokes.

Chapter 11

“You know you didn’t have to come with me… either of you.” Becca said to her parents that walked slowly on either side of her. She was putting up a fight more for show than anything; she wasn’t about to admit she was actually grateful that they came, or heaven forbid, she actually needed the help getting around. Inwardly though, Becca was just thrilled that they were together and leaving the house.

“You can barely even walk. We don’t want anyone knocking you over.” Heather said linking arms with her and guiding her inside.

“Just look at how busy this place is!” Trevor said holding the door open and gesturing to the completely empty lobby. “You’re bound to hurt yourself if we turn our backs on you for even a second.”

The place was empty save for one man who looked about in his thirties working the front desk. Business had slowed for Sphere Centers ever since the home console had been released. Not many people could afford regular full dives, let alone the cost of the procedure to do them. Becca wasn’t sure how she would be able to afford this. Would her parents help her out? They had always said they wouldn’t pay for this, but now she was getting it done because she needed it for the SPP rather than just playing games. Maybe they’d make an exception, she hoped.

Becca scanned her chip at the front desk as means of checking in before slowly making her way towards the chairs. The man from earlier called her up a few minutes later, but Trevor went up in her place and returned with a tablet of information for her to fill out. It was just the usual health and safety warnings, Becca realized as she scanned through page after page, before pressing her palm on the prompt as sign of her agreement as it registered her handprint. Next there were several questions about her health, and if she was currently taking any medications. Next came a video about the procedure itself. She grimaced as she watched three of the biggest needles she had ever seen get plunged into the back of someone’s neck as if it was as common a thing as a simple piercing.

“Nervous?” Trevor asked seeing Becca’s white face. She nodded her head showing him the video as he too cringed. She relaxed a bit once she learned she would be in virtual reality at the time they inserted the tubes. Part of her was afraid she’d be awake due to the helmet being in the way, but apparently the thing that inserted the tubes would be connected to the back of the helmet. She had been dreading this ever since the Mr. Clean look alike told her it would hurt, but after a while she realized her was just messing with her. At least that’s what she hoped anyway.

When she was scrolling through the list of games to choose from, Heather looked over and said, “Oh look, Becca, they have a pony game.” She teased pointing to the picture of the smiling unicorns.

“Be brave, honey!” Trevor said with a smile that made Becca believe her mother had gone back on her promise. She narrowed her eyes as Heather whistled and pretended to be utterly captivated by the ceiling fixtures. Becca sighed, but inwardly she was just glad that her family was moving in the right direction until Brian decided to come out of hiding.

She flipped through her choices of various games and simulations that ranged from racing to space exploration, an over 18 eroge with doggie girls on leashes, and as her mother had so kindly pointed out, a game with unicorns. Becca finally settled on a pre-historic safari through the jungle when the idea of riding a velociraptor popped into her head.

“Oh, so you’re okay with dinosaurs, but heaven forbid my teenage daughter sit next to a little girl with a stuffed unicorn.” Heather teased while shaking her head.

“Becca, you can come back now.” The man working the front counter said holding the door open for her as she slowly hobbled over. While she walked down the hallway at what seemed to be a snails pace, she couldn’t help but notice the place seemed to be in a bit of disarray. Rooms were being re-arranged, and packed boxes were sitting in the hallway. “Sorry about the mess.” The young man named Tom explained. “We’ve had a bit of a crazy morning ever since we heard the news we’ll be getting new equipment sent over tomorrow. There’s a rumor going around someone in this town got into the SPP and that’s why we’re being told to clear out a room in such a panic. We’re getting a pod and even…” he said before lowering his voice. “the drug.”

Becca smiled as she tried her best to keep from blurting out the truth. She was strictly forbidden from telling anyone outside of family that she had been accepted. People compared getting in with the SPP to winning the lottery, so there was no way she was going to risk getting kicked out for 15 minutes of fame.

“Can you imagine someone in our small town getting in?” He continued. “I apply every year, but I never even make it past the essay portion; if I made that kind of money.” He said whistling. Becca had never thought about the fact that she would be getting paid; she didn’t even know what kind of salary a cadet started out with. Maybe she’d make enough by the time she graduated to move somewhere warmer where she couldn’t get her butt frozen to anything.

He led Becca to a room and walked her through the procedure while showing her the helmet with the cylinders in the back. She began feeling a little woozy seeing exactly what was about to be plunged into her skull. So much so that the man insisted she sit down and left to get her a cup of water. “And here I was thinking you were the cadet.” Tom said with a laugh handing her the cup.

“Why would you think that?” Becca asked nervously.

“Well whoever paid for the procedure went all out. You’re getting the VIP treatment.”

“I am?” Becca asked confused. Her heart soared when she heard the word, “paid.” She had assumed this was coming out of her own pocket, but she was pleasantly surprised to learn the SPP had already footed the bill.

“Unlimited add-ons!” He said excitedly walking over to the console. “Anything you want to happen can happen. What’ll it be? Giant chickens instead of T-rexes? Kittens with laser beams for eyes?” He said looking eager before grinning as if he had a sudden idea. “Do you, uh, have a sense of humor?”

“Yeah,” Becca answered unsure of whether or not she liked the look on his face.

“On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your maturity level when it comes to humor?” He asked with his eyebrows raised.

“Somewhere around twelve year old boy.” Becca said as his face lit up and his fingers danced up and down the keyboard typing in commands left and right. That seemed to be exactly what he wanted to hear and ten minutes later, Becca was strapped to the table by her ankles, legs, waist, arms and shoulders.

“Let me just go over this with you one more time.” Tom said. “You’ll start off in a regular partial dive, you know, enjoy the scenery and all that. About 15 minutes in is when the helmet will activate the plungers.”

“Will it hurt?” Becca asked, her green eyes wide with fear.

“You won’t feel any pain, but rather a sort of tingling through out your body. That’s when you’ll start to feel the effects and differences of a full dive. You’ll be able to smell, taste, touch, and all that for the first time. The rest of your dive will be a full dive where we will monitor you and make sure everything is working properly.”

“And when I wake up?” Becca asked as he grimaced.

“We’ll be ready with some painkillers and a bag of ice.” He said apologetically. “Just think of how much fun you’ll have now though! Trust me, it’s worth it! Besides,” He said lowering his voice, “With all the unlimited add-ons and all that, be thankful you’re not paying out of pocket.”

“How much would it have cost?”

“About….$20,000.” He said as Becca’s eyes bulged. “Like I said, you’re getting the VIP treatment, so just have fun and it’ll be over before you know it.” He said lowering the helmet over Becca’s head until all she saw was blackness.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

When Sasha came to she was standing in the middle of a jungle, the thick green foliage blocking her view from everything. She spent the first few minutes trying to fight her way through the vegetation, but with no way of knowing which way she had come it left her feeling a tad bit frustrated and disoriented. If only I had a machete. When she raised her right hand to push past some branches, she was more than surprised to find her desired item had appeared.

“Sweet,” Sasha said gripping the new weapon while giving it a once over before using it to hack her way through. It must have been one of the add-ons he had mentioned. Finally after a few minutes of slicing and dicing branches, leaves, and the occasional spider web, she came to a clearing. What she saw made her break out in a large grin. Something extremely large had recently passed through leaving a trail of massive footprints in its wake. “I found the T-rex.” Sasha said excitedly standing in the middle of the recently upturned earth. In between the giant footprints appeared to be a trail as if something was being dragged along. Sasha assumed it much have had some kind of prey in its mouth and was dragging it home to eat for later.

Sasha fallowed the 3 claw mark patterns along the newly formed trail of now snapped and broken trees that appeared as if a bulldozer had pushed them aside effortlessly, until she stumbled upon the second thing that had obviously been modded. The smallest and most adorable looking silver tabby kitten sat in the middle of one of the impressions the T-rex had left behind, licking its front paw and then using it to clean its face.

“So cute!” Sasha said squatting down nearby and offering her hand to it. “Come here little kitten, can I pet you?” She asked paying no mind that a cat shouldn’t have been in this pre-historic simulator to begin with. The kitten briefly looked up, with its large blue eyes locked on Sasha, and in the sweetest and most innocent voice she had ever heard, the kitten told her to f-off before turning around and leaving. “Well now.” Sasha said once she had regained her composure.

As she walked along, she noticed many things that were different. Owls with the heads of cats sat perched in the tree branches making obscene sexual female moaning sounds every time they opened their mouths as she passed below. The body of a chipmunk scurried by on the hairy legs of a giant tarantula and when Sasha looked up, she frowned when she saw pegisi with snouts of pigs soaring through the clouds. She had to hand it to Tom; he certainly had quite the imagination.

For a pre-historic simulator though, there wasn’t much in the way of dinosaurs she realized. She wanted to find a velociraptor before she could feel pain in case it decided she looked like a tastier morsel than the flying pig ponies.

Sasha froze mid –step when she heard a rustling to her right in the foliage that had survived the T-rex’s stampede. When a raptor appeared she quickly hid behind a fallen tree as she tried to suppress her giggles. It wore a top hat, monocle and sported a handlebar mustache. When had sent Sasha over the edge though, was when it zapped a nearby tree with a laser that shot from its eyes. A frickin raptor with lasers for eyes. It was everything Sasha could ever have hoped for and then some. That was until she saw what happened to the tree. She had expected it to explode… instead it turned into the shape of a penis. Sasha began to wonder if illegal drugs were part of Tom’s daily regimen.

When the raptor turned its sites towards the tree Sasha was hiding behind that was when she realized that was her cue to run. She quickly rolled out of the way just as her hiding place became phallicized. Sasha sprinted for all she was worth, while imagining that she held a shotgun in her hands. Once it materialized, she spun around intending for an instant kill only to have her shotgun go from a weapon of mass destruction to a weapon of ass destruction. She quickly threw it away in disgust not even wanting to know what would happen if she pulled the trigger.

She needed a plan she thought as she ran. Everything around her on either side was being turned into a schlong and if she couldn’t think of something soon, she’d be ending up as one too. Sasha knew she acted like a dick sometimes online, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be turned into one. At least the raptor had the aim of a storm trooper.

Suddenly a strong electrical current ran up and down her body as she slowly began feeling the cold wind in her face as her arms and legs stung from getting slashed by the branches she ran through. “Not now!” She groaned as the raptor was not far behind now. She didn’t want to know what it felt like to get her arm bitten off. A roar so loud that shook the ground and nearby trees sent Sasha stumbling to the ground. Something huge was approaching. It felt like a mini earthquake with every step it took until in the most clique dinosaur movie move, the T-REX appeared at the last second before opening its jaws and devouring the raptor that had it sights set on Sasha.

She sat there stunned on the ground as rainbows instead of red blood streamed out of its mouth. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Only once the creature had fully emerged from the trees did she realize the thing it was dragging on the ground between its legs earlier wasn’t its prey, but rather its own penis. It was the biggest thing she had ever seen. It wasn’t a Tyrannosaurus Rex; it was a Cock-o-saurus Rex! And she was about to get tea-bagged to death if she didn’t get a move on! Tom was gay; he just had to be. No straight guy would put this many penises into one game.

Summoning another machete, Sasha sliced through the plants as fast as she could, but it was much harder now that she could feel the weight of the sword in her hand. Her arm was quickly getting sore from all the swinging, and she was having a difficult time trying to catch her breath. Why did she have to pick this one as her first full dive? Maybe she should have just taken the pony one. It was dangerous, it smelled, and there were more dicks than on a reddit forum. Sasha came barreling into another clearing and froze as four heads wearing top hats, and monocles looked up.

“Uh-oh…”
………………………………………………………………….

The first thing Becca felt coming to was the pounding in the back of her head. “Ugh.” She moaned as Tom gently removed her helmet before bandaging the back of her head.

“What did you think?” Tom asked undoing the straps that held Becca down to the table.

“Please tell me my arms are no longer penises.” Becca mumbled as Tom laughed.

“The raptors got you, eh?” he asked helping her slowly sit up as he handed her a bag of ice for her head.

“Got cornered by four of them after I ran into your cock-a-saurus rex.” Becca said glad to see her regular arms once again.

“I am officially naming it that now, thank you.” Tom said. “My boyfriend
came up with that idea, but I’m proud to say the raptors were all mine.” He said proudly.

I knew it, Becca thought smiling weakly. “My head is killing me.”

“You got the best and smallest implants on the market, just imagine if you got this done five years ago.” Tom said leading her out. “Did you hear the SPP found a fake version of the drug on the deep web?”

Becca froze as her blood ran cold. It couldn’t be the same thing Brian had been working on… “R-really?” Becca asked nervously.

“Yeah, turns out it’s been linked to the recent deaths.”

“D-deaths? What deaths?” Becca said starting to panic.

“Haven’t you been watching the news? More and more people have been dying from their injuries sustained in virtual reality. Apparently the fake drug has been linked with causing the brain to believe their injuries are real. Can you imagine getting shot in virtual reality and waking up with an actual bullet wound?”

Becca broke out in a cold sweat. This was why her brother had been in hiding for the last month. Just what had he gotten himself into?

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/17/15)

Oh, I’m definitely reading with rapt (hah) attention. The narrative is really unique and creative, you do a great job of coming up with reasonably believable plot points and twists that fit within the world you’ve created, the dialogue feels realistic for the characters you’ve created… I really don’t have much in the way of criticism.

Wait, sorry, I said that wrong, didn’t I?

“gr8 story, more pleaz” :wink:

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/17/15)

“I’m definitely reading with rapt attention.”

I see what you did there :smiley: haha

Thanks :slight_smile: but if you have negative feedback that’s ok too! I can take it I swear lol

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/17/15)

Chapter 12

Becca sat quietly in the backseat trying to digest what she had just heard. People were dying because of what Brian had created…that couldn’t be true! It wasn’t like he was the one who had put it on the market. The guys who had broken it and stolen it were clearly the ones at fault, right? After all Becca had specifically heard Brian tell them that it was untested. Lots of people make un-safe stuff! It’s trial and error! That’s why these kinds of things were tested first on mice and rats.

A small fear in the back of her head began to grow despite her logical side fighting for all it was worth. What if it wasn’t the people that had broken in that released it to the public but Brian himself? What if she had it all backwards? What if the people who had broken in were the people she was about to work for? What if the SPP only accepted her to get to Brian? That would make more sense than someone like her getting in. So many possibilities and what ifs raced through her pounding head that did nothing to alleviate her headache. She didn’t know what to do or think anymore. She had been so excited and had felt so honored to be chosen, but now she questioned their motivations. Clearly there were other people more deserving than her, which only led her to believe there was some form of ulterior motive.

“You’re awfully quiet back there.” Trevor commented looking back in his rear-view mirror. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Becca mumbled letting out a heavy sigh while feeling hopelessly trapped in the prison that was her own mind.

“You don’t sound alright.” Heather said sounding concerned. “Becca, have you been taking your medication?” Great, here it comes, she thought grumbling. “Becca?” Heather asked again.

“Yes, I’m taking it!” Becca said a little too quickly as she stared out the window. Taking it and flushing it down the toilet that is. “Sorry, it’s just my head hurts.” She said. It was true after all. Her head felt like there was a nest of wasp strapped underneath her bandages and were trying to burrow into the back of her skull in protest. If this was the best money could buy she hated to know what the cheap version felt like.
………………………………………………….

“So, Becca, tell me. How are things?” Dr. Finnick, the psychiatrist from before asked while Becca wondered how she had managed to get talked back into coming to this place.
“It’s going better.” Becca said after taking a second to think about it. Things really had drastically improved in the last few days. She doubted things would ever be the same again since she imagined her mother wouldn’t be too pleased to found out Brian had been faking his own death, but they were certainly better than they had been before.

“Better how?” Dr. Finnick asked.

“With my family.” She admitted telling the truth for once. “Once I was finally able to admit to my mom how much I missed Brian, our relationship has been better. She’s not taking it out on me anymore.”

“And how are you doing with that?”

“About the same.” She said with a shrug. It wasn’t something she really wanted to talk about.

“Have you gotten any more messages from him?” He asked surprising Becca a bit. What happened to him telling her she needed to accept his death?

“No,” She said disappointment evident in her voice. He hadn’t even responded to her getting accepted and if that hadn’t gotten him to talk; he really must be in a situation where he couldn’t.

“Do you still believe he’s alive?” He asked peeking over the tops of his wire-rimmed glasses. Becca wondered why he didn’t just get laser eye surgery to correct his vision; almost no one wore glasses anymore. She had a hard time taking anyone seriously that didn’t get with the times.

“Yeah, I do.” Becca admitted as he scribbled something down in his notes. “I think he’s in some kind of trouble.” There was no real point in lying here; he was legally bound to secrecy after all and she felt as if she was cracking underneath the pressure of bearing all this information alone.

“Go on,” He said without looking up.

“Well, it’s kind of a long story. I guess I should start off by saying I got accepted into the SPP.” Becca said. She figured it was ok to tell him since he was her psychiatrist; it wasn’t like she was blabbing to any civilian on the street. The Dr. looked at her in such a way that reminded Becca of a parent listening to a small child telling an enormous lie.

“I see.” He finally said after a moment of silence sounding as if he was talking to a person who had just told him they believed they were the re-incarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte. It irritated Becca to no end that no one believed she was SPP material. She scowled while digging in her pocket and retrieving proof in the form of her congratulatory notice of acceptance. She hit the print button on her phone and a red laser appeared creating a physical copy in the palm of her hand in mere seconds. She had to admit those built in temporary 4-D printers really came in handy for times like this. Becca handed him the letter with a slight smug satisfaction while she watched him read the message.

“Oh,” Was all he managed to say before the letter disintegrated in the palm of his hand once he was done with it. The look on his face more than made up for his lack of words. Maybe now he would take her more seriously. “You must be very excited; being selected is quite the honor.” He said once he had recovered.

“Oh, I am!” Becca said listing off all the things she was looking forward to. “There’s one thing I’m a little worried about though.” She admitted. “I think my brother is in hiding from the people I’m about to go work for?”

“Why do you say that?” He asked unsure of what to make of the situation now.

“I know he would never purposefully hurt anyone, but he may have created the drug that’s killing people.” Becca said. The first thing she had done after getting home that day was research everything she could about what had been happening in the world since she had been locking herself in her room. She was never that good about keeping up with current events to begin with, so what she saw came as a shock. There had been a total of seven confirmed deaths linked with the drug being marketed under the name “Euphoria”. It was all as Tom said. Something about it was increasing the sensitivity in the brain to virtual wounds. People all over the world who had taken this drug were being rushed to the hospital after waking up with injuries sustained in virtual reality.

“Becca?” The Dr. said snapping her from her thoughts.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”

“I asked why that would make you un-easy?”

“I can’t help but wonder why I got into the SPP. What if it was the SPP that had broken in and stolen the drug Brian was working on. If that was the case and he was running from them, then wouldn’t it mean I was only accepted so they could get to Brian?” She asked. It had really been bugging her.

“We all doubt our own abilities sometimes, Becca. Do you think you are using this situation as a way to justify your acceptance?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you go through tests like everyone else?”

“Yeah, there were some interviews and this one test that was pretty hard.” Becca said unsure of how much she was allowed to tell him.

“And did you pass without any additional help?”

“Yes, but-”

“Then you were chosen because of your abilities, not because of who your brother may or may not have been.” He said continuing before Becca could let the words have been sink in. “You should hold your head up high. If you passed all the tests like you say you did; then you deserve this. Don’t let anyone, yourself or otherwise, convince you that you don’t.”

Becca nodded her head quietly. Maybe he was right; maybe she was just overthinking this because no one thought she was SPP material. “Thanks,” she mumbled.

“Here, I think this will do you some good.” He said handing her another prescription as Becca frowned. Another one? Was he trying to drug her? “I want you to stop taking the other one and take this one instead.”

“Sure,” Becca lied. These were going in the same place as the others.

……………………………………………………………………………

Christmas was fast approaching it seemed. The chilly mid-December air swept across Becca’s face and hair as she stood shivering on the front porch. She loved coming out here and watching the snow flakes falling in the glow of the Christmas lights that hovered mid air. Today marked exactly one month since her family had been torn apart by the intruders; which side of the law they were on was currently unknown to Becca and it continued to gnaw at her insides.

It was Sunday, and although she had all but given up hope of Brian joining her, it felt wrong of her to break the tradition. So Becca hobbled back inside, logged into the Sphere, and selected Brains, Tasty Brains, and logged into multi-player mode out of habit. It was an older game, but one of Brian’s and Becca’s favorites.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Sasha sat on the bench in the waiting for players lounge as she selected weapons from her inventory to equip. They had always met in room 213 at 7pm, so for the last month Sasha would come to room 213 to equip her items before being booted out. She knew she’d soon get an error message asking her if she wanted to play solo instead or join a different group. Essentially, it was a nice way to say You’ve been stood up, please leave so we can give the room to someone else. She let out a sigh as she checked the time. 7:15; today would be no different.

“Is this seat taken?” A voice asked coming from behind her. It wasn’t uncommon for people to wander in looking for an empty room or a group to play with.

“Go ahead, I was just leaving.” Sasha said without looking up before standing and turning towards the door. The person who entered stepped in front of her forcing Sasha to meet his face. She stood in place staring wide-eyed at the mystery intruder. “Brian!” She shouted throwing her arms around him.

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/20/15)

“Brian! I missed you so much!” Sasha said squeezing her arms around her brother despite not being able to feel him.

“Missed you too.” He said as Sasha pulled away with a wide grin stretched across her face.

“I was so worried about you!” she said looking him up and down.

“I told you I was okay; you didn’t need to worry about me.” He said.

“I can’t wait to tell mom and dad you’re back; they’ll be so relieved, though I can’t promise you mom won’t kill you for making her worry. In fact, you’re lucky I don’t kill you.” Sasha said as the smile quickly dropped from Brian’s face.

“No, Becca, I still need everyone to think I’m dead.” He said holding Sasha still by her arms as she frowned in confusion.

“But why? Everyone’s really upset! Why can’t they know?”

“Look, it’s complicated okay. The fewer people that know I’m alive the better.”

“Brian, what happened? What’s going on?” Sasha demanded. If this wasn’t him coming out of hiding, than what was going on? Surely he hadn’t come just to play zombies with her. He looked stressed and tired. If only she could get him to relax.

“Do you really want to know?” He asked as Sasha nodded her head. She really did want to know, but it would have to wait. “Let’s go somewhere more private then; I know a place.”

“Just answer one question first: Laser or automatic?” She asked holding up the two guns as Brian’s face relaxed.

“You always know how to make me feel better.” He said with a smirk. She’d question him later, but for now, they had some catching up score wise to do.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………
“You are so going down.” Sasha said into her helmets microphone. Out of all the years they had played this together she had never once beaten him. Brian was nervous, tired, worn-out and on the run, so like any good sibling, she was going to take advantage of that.

She peeked her head around the decaying corner before slowly stepping around the debris of the abandoned laboratory. Old green and white paint was chipping off the walls, broken glass was scattered along the floor from the blown out windows and there was a half torso of a human crawling towards her along the floor. Sasha jumped back before pulling the trigger and vaporizing it without a second thought. She hated those things; ankle biters she called them. They’d crawl out from behind stuff when you thought the coast was clear and latch on to a leg if you weren’t careful.

“Everything okay? You’re not dead yet are you? We haven’t even cleared the third floor yet.” Brian said.

“Just a crawler, I haven’t found the horde yet. What’s your count?”

“Three crawlers, two walkers, and a devil hound.” He said proudly. Damn, he was killing her. She smiled, nothing had changed.

“Damn, I’m-” Sasha was about to say when her field of vision started flashing red. She was taking on damage! Sasha spun around only to find four walkers jumping on her with decayed, black, jagged teeth barred. She backed up as fast as she could, but they eventually over poured her.

     Sorry, Game over.

Sasha found herself back in the lobby that acted as the game menu. She let out a sigh of defeat. She should have known better than to let her guard down. A few minutes later Brian appeared and the two went over their failed missions like they had hundreds of times before.

“Ah, thanks, Becca, I needed that.” Brian said grinning as he put his weapons away.

“I just realized you’re not in avatar form.” Sasha said with sudden clarity. He was just…Brian in the flesh. Not Eric, his avatar. Brian narrowed his eyes and sighed.

“It’s not safe to use Eric, they know what he looks like and will probably be alerted if I log on using him. I was going to make a new one, but then how would you recognize me?” Sasha shrugged. She never understood her brother’s logic, so why bother trying now. “I think we should go somewhere private now.” He suggested getting serious as Sasha nodded her head in agreement.
………………………………………………………………………

"A love hotel? Sasha asked in confusion after entering the address and appearing in front of the Two Hearts as One. “Why?” She couldn’t help but ask. “Who takes their little sister to a love hotel?”

“No one would look for me here and we can talk privately in a room.” He explained putting an arm around Sasha as she made a weird face as they walked towards the front desk. “Act normal.”

“My brother is taking me to a love hotel! How am I supposed to act?” She hissed back before smiling as the front desk lady began talking to Brian.

“Hello, will you be staying the night, or just resting?” She asked.

“Just resting, please.” Brian said smiling back as if absolutely nothing was wrong with this picture and slid his wrist underneath the scanner. She had never been inside a love hotel before! What if she saw or heard something that would scar her for life? She was in a building that’s sole purpose was for having sex. She eyed the walls as they walked together into the elevator while imagining STDs seeping through the cracks. Were people having sex right here in the elevator? Did they clean it like they cleaned the rooms? Part of her wanted to turn on Sphere vision, but the other part of her was afraid of what she would find. She huddled close to Brian in the hopes he would somehow protect her from the unknown horrors that lurked within this love hotel.

“Why are there love hotels in virtual reality anyway? It’s not like you could feel anything, so what’s the point?” Sasha asked stepped out of the elevator and looking around. She was a little surprised to find it looked like a plain old boring hotel.

“The same reason there’s love hotels in the real world.” He said cocking his head in confusion. “People can hook up in virtual reality too, obviously in full dives though.” He explained while leading her to their room. Becca wasn’t sure what to expect when Brian opened the door. A giant bed in the shape of a heart? A Jacuzzi in the middle of the room? Lit candles and flower petals leading a trail to the bed? She frowned when she peeked inside to find just a regular looking bed. There was absolutely nothing romantic about this room at all, but she supposed this was better. She was with her brother after all. That could have made this so much more awkward than it already was.

“So start spilling!” Sasha ordered once she was done peeking around the room while carefully avoiding the bed like the plague.

“What do you want to know?” He asked, sitting down on the bed obviously not caring about what had previously taken place there.

“Why have you been playing dead? Who’s after you? What’s going on?” She asked as Brian ran his hand through his black hair.
“Have you been watching the news?” He finally asked as Sasha nodded her head.

“Was it your drug? The one that’s killing people?” Brian sighed as his hands shook.

“It was never supposed to get out to the public. It wasn’t ready! I hadn’t even tested it on lab mice yet! As for why I’ve been pretending to be dead; it’s for your safety as much as mine. If those people knew I was alive, they could come after you to get to me.” Finally it made perfect sense to Sasha. He had a point; they were in just as much danger as he was unless he pretended to be dead.

“Do you now who they were?” Sasha asked.

“I have no idea! I don’t even know how they found out I was even making a generic version. I’m going to find out though.” He said before meeting Sasha’s eyes. “I need to fix this, but I need your help to do this.”

“How can I help? Please, I’m so sorry! I want to make this right! If I had only listened to you…” Sasha said.

“Nothing would have changed.” Brian said. “If you’re serious about helping me, I need you to get me something from my house without mom or dad knowing. There’s a flash drive with all my research on it. I need you to make a copy and bring it to me. Can you do that?” She wanted to tell him she could barely walk, but the desperation in his eyes compelled her to agree. She had never seen her brother like this before, and finally, here he was presenting her a way she could help. She’d do anything she could to help him. If getting him his notes would keep more people from dying then she’d do it!

“I’ll get it to you. It might take a while, but I’ll figure out a way.” Sasha said.

“Please, I need you to hurry. Without that research, I can’t fix the drug.”

“Fix it?” Sasha asked.

“Yes, if I fix it than no one would want the faulty one.” Brian said. “I can’t control what people buy on the deep web. I could tell them until I’m blue in the face not to use it because it’s dangerous, but without something better, I don’t think I could convince people not to use it.” Sasha shrugged. She guessed he was right. He was the genius after all so she’d just have to trust him. “Oh, and by the way, congratulations!” He said with a wide smile that seemed to take up all of his face. “I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you before, but that’s awesome that you got accepted!”

“Thanks! It was hard.” Sasha admitted shuddering at the memories of what she had gone through in the Sphere simulator. She had wanted to tell him for so long, and now here she was talking with him. She was glad this wasn’t a full dive because her mouth would probably hurt from smiling so much. Here was proof sitting right in front of her that he was ok. He was alive, so screw you Dr. Finnick she thought with a smug smile. Grasping at straws my ass.

“Oh, look!” Sasha said showing him the back of her head. “I got the implants!”

“Becca, you realize this is virtual reality and I can’t see it, right?” he said with a grin.

“I-I knew that.” Sasha mumbled looking away. “I was just, uh, you know, showing you my new hair cut.”

“Oh, right, haircut.” He said with a laugh. “Sure. So how’d the procedure go?”

“It hurt so bad!” Sasha complained a bit over dramatically rubbing the back of her non-implanted head. “It felt like my head was going to split open all week!” In reality, it was more like a minor ache for two days. “And don’t even get my started on what I had to go through in virtual reality. Do you have any idea what it feels like to have your arms turned into penises?”

“Umm…no can’t say that I do.” Brian said cocking his head to the side. “Judging by the look on your face I’m going to assume I don’t want to know.”

“It was hot!” Sasha said as Brian recoiled.

“Umm, I didn’t know you were into that kind of thing, and I also didn’t need to know that.” He said as Sasha’s eyes grew wide at the realization of what she just said.

“I meant it burned!”

“You should probably get that checked out then.” He said grinning as Sasha rolled her eyes before chucking a pillow at his head.

“I couldn’t get away from the raptors with dick-vision once the full dive started kicking in and my back started hurting” She explained while shaking her head as if she were reliving a painful and traumatizing memory.

“Raptors with…dick vision?”

“Turned out the SPP paid for the full procedure AND unlimited add-ons. I was too nervous to think of any add-ons I wanted to the pre-historic safari and he said he had a few ideas so I let him.” Sasha said shrugging as Brian scowled.

“You let someone you didn’t know pick out your first full dive? You could have gotten hurt! Full dives aren’t like partial dives; not to mention you don’t know if you have the Necrobo Effect sensitivity.”

“I don’t think it’s biologically possible for my arms to turn into penises even if I did have the Necrobo disease.” Sasha insisted as Brian shook his head.

“That’s not the point; you didn’t even know what you had signed up for. What if you had accidentally volunteered for a rape game? Those things exist you know.” He scolded as Sasha hung her head. “You’re too trusting.”

Still as over-protective as always, she thought.

“What happened to your back?” he asked breaking the silence that had hung in the room.

“I got shot in the back.” Sasha reminded him feeling a bit confused. She was sure she had messaged him about it when she was in the hospital. His face fell as he grimaced and he seemed worried about something. “I’m ok though now.” Sasha lied in order to re-assure him. It was her fault she got hurt anyway.

“I’m sorry you got hurt.” Brian said while clenching his fists tightly together. “Can you still get the research, Becca? It’s really important.”

“I promise I’ll find a way to get it to you.” Sasha said as Brian visibly relaxed.

“Thank you, look I need to go. I can’t stay in place for too long.” Brian said standing up as Sasha frowned.

“Please don’t leave! We just got here and…and…” Sasha begged stumbling over her words. “I miss you.” She said throwing her arms around her brother while wishing she could feel him.

“I miss you too, Becca. When do you join?” He asked once they parted.

“The day after New Years. Can we meet again before then?”

“I’ll try, but I can’t make any promises. When you find the research, please send it to this address.” He said sending her a message. “Please stay out of trouble.” He said sending her a pleading look before walking out the door.

Sasha sat on the bed staring off into space as she let her mind wander. Brian had confirmed everything that she had suspected. He was in danger, people were after him, and it was his drug that was causing the deaths of people. At least it wasn’t him that had put it on the market, she was more than happy to hear that. Not to mention he was alive! She was 100 percent convinced now and it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She smiled widely before falling back on the bed. One day they’d be a family again, although she didn’t know when that would be; it didn’t matter. Finally, she could help make things right as well! Why did she even blame herself all this time? She wondered staring up at the ceiling before sitting up and looking around the room.

Sphere Vision on!

Sasha’s eyes widened in horror as she looked around the room. Oh god oh god oh god. She quickly hopped off the bed as what had previously been invisible now shone brightly in Sphere Vision. Gross gross gross! Why did I do that? It’s on the bed, it’s on the walls, and HOW THE HELL DID THEY GET IT ON THE CEILING? Sasha thought before running out the room. Shower! I need a shower!

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/21/15)

The next few days seemed to crawl slowly along. Becca spent most of her time lost in a world of planning and scheming. How could she get to Brian’s house without raising suspicion? How could she even get to Brian’s house period? She could barely walk as it was let alone drive the hover bike, walk down the stairs to Brian’s lab and search the place.

Walking was still a slow and painful experience, and the healing process seemed to be taking its sweet time. For the last few days Becca’s back had been in much more pain than usual. It could be much worse she knew. If the bullet had been even an inch more to the right she may never have walked again. Becca was thankful that it hadn’t come to that, but it still agitated her nonetheless that she needed help with simple things. Some days were of course better than others. While moving much slower than the average person, she could still dress herself, but bending down to tie her shoes was out of the question. It almost seemed like the more she needed to hold on to something, the more likely she was to drop it and not be able to pick it up.

Other days though the pain was so severe she needed help with the smallest and simplest of tasks, but instead of simply asking for help, she just wouldn’t do it. Becca would rather lounge around in three-day-old clothes than ask her mom to help dress her. On her bad days, Becca would hide in her room and stay in virtual reality as long as possible. Before, she used it to escape from the pain and guilt of what happened to Brian, but now that she knew he was okay, there was nothing to distract her from her physical pain.

Heather had assumed for the longest time that Becca simply liked lounging around in her own filth since no amount of nagging seemed to motivate her. It wasn’t until later on that mid December afternoon when Heather was going to drag Becca out of bed, whether she wanted to or not, did she walk in and discover Becca trying- and failing- to take off an old shirt. Heather stood silently in the doorway for a second taking in the scene of her daughters struggle. Her first reaction was to laugh, as it appeared Becca had managed to simply get herself stuck. It was when Heather could hear the faint sounds of sobbing coming from underneath the shirt stuck over Becca’s head did she realize there was a problem.
Heather gently threaded her daughter’s arms through and lifted the shirt off Becca’s head, only to find a tear-streaked face underneath. “Why didn’t you say something?” Heather asked. Becca simply shook her head. How could she put into words how humiliating it was that she couldn’t even dress herself on her bad days. And lately it seemed everyday was a bad day. “How long has this been going on for?”

“A few days.” Becca mumbled. “Most days I can dress myself, but sometimes…” She said standing awkwardly half naked in her room while her mom picked out some clean clothes from the closet. “It’s just right now it hurts so bad I can barely move my arms a few inches past my side without feeling pain.”

“Oh, Becca,” Heather said quietly after getting a look at her back. The last time Heather had seen the wound was two weeks ago. It had been barely the size of a half dollar and was healing quite nicely, but now the once small area took up nearly half of Becca’s lower back due to the swelling. It was red and irritated while puss oozed out a small opening. “No wonder it hurts; it’s infected! Come on, let’s get you to the bathroom and get this cleaned up.” Heather said guiding her to the bathroom.

“AHH!” Becca screamed when Heather lightly touched the outer area with a damp washcloth.

“I don’t like the way this looks. TREVOR!” She suddenly yelled into the hallway making Becca flinch from the sudden loud noise.

“Mom, no! I’m not wearing a shirt!” Becca complained. She doubted she could move her arms up in order to cover herself. Heather shifted her so that she facing the bathtub with her back exposed to the open door as Trevor came to see what the problem was.

“Wow,” Was all Trevor could say when he saw the oozing sore.

“I’m not sure what to do.” Heather said lightly pressing the outer area as Becca screamed again. “Should we take her back to the hospital?” The hospital? She’d never be able to get Brian his research if she was in the hospital! How long would she be in there for? A day? A week? What about Christmas? Would they have to celebrate Christmas in the hospital?

“No, no hospital!” Becca moaned.

“I’m sorry, Becca, but you need antibiotics.” Heather said. “Trevor, can you help me get her in the car?”

“Shirt! Someone get me a shirt!” Becca insisted. No way was she going anywhere in public topless. Heather tried a few loose fitting t-shirts, but by the third attempt they all realized it was a no go. The open sore throbbed painfully with every movement and Becca was sure it had opened up in the last attempt to feed her arm through the sleeve. She was almost to the point of openly sobbing again from the pain of the air. Every movement she made was utter agony, and so in the second most awkwardest moment in the last two months Trevor somehow managed to scoop her up with one arm under her butt and another under her shoulder and carried her to the car topless.

Becca leaned forward as much as she could in the backseat of the van to prevent the material from touching her back. She hardly even cared that she almost caused a fender bender at the stoplight when a driver along side the van did a double take when he noticed she was topless. Trevor, in the most dad move possible, lifted up his own shirt and flashed him his own hairy nipples when he noticed the peeping tom. She smiled knowing he was only trying to make her feel better. She would have been in fits of laughter if it hadn’t been for the pain. Heather simply shook her head and sighed having long given up on understanding the two of them.

The walk into the emergency room was much the same as the walk to the car with Becca resting her chin on Trevor’s shoulder like a small child. It was weird, yet oddly comforting. She had no idea her dad was that strong, and at least this way no one could see her exposed chest. If she had tried to walk on her own it might have taken her at least 15 minutes and she no longer would have had any nipples, as she was pretty sure they would have frozen off from the cold.

One of the nice things about living up in the mountains was there was hardly anyone in the waiting rooms. Instead of plopping her in a chair, Trevor sat down and kept her in his lap saying it would be easier this way to get her back up again. She found it odd at first being 18 and bare-chested (not like she really had much to expose). It looked like they were about to take one of those awkward family re-enactment photos. She remembered climbing up in his lap like this a lot when she was little. She was really going to miss him when she was gone she thought resting her head against his shoulder.

The minutes slowly ticked by, but the next thing she knew they were walking again. She realized she must have fallen asleep. She could vaguely recall her mom talking to someone before she felt a hospital blanket get draped over her shoulders. She was so cold she had gladly accepted it even though it stung whenever the material rubbed against the sore. They all walked into an examination room and Trevor set her down on the table. Becca shivered missing her dad’s warm embrace.

“Stick out your arm, honey.” A lady in brightly colored hospital scrubs said. Becca slowly pulled her arm out allowing the lady to scan her chip as they waited for the results. After a light chirp, she announced that Becca was running a temperature of 102.4, and that her white blood cell count was high meaning that she had an infection.

After she left, Becca gently lowered herself down into a lying position cringing and grimacing from pain all the way down. She finally managed to get somewhat comfortable lying on her stomach as they waited for another unknown period of time until the Dr. arrived. When she came in, she lifted the blanket off Becca’s back and after looking at it for less than five seconds announced she would be admitting her into the hospital. Becca grumbled a bit under her breath while the Dr. lectured her the entire way into admitting about how her carelessness in keeping the area clean resulted in the infection. Her mom was going to have a field day with her when they got back home. She had been too embarrassed about asking for help washing her back, and they hadn’t been getting along for a while. How was she supposed to ask for help with something like that when at the time she couldn’t sit in her mothers presence for more than a few minutes? Sure, it was better now, but for how much longer? This was definitely going to open up a whole can of worms.

“We’re going to X-ray the area just to make sure.” The Dr. mentioned in passing while the X-ray tech wheeled her away. What was the lecture for if she wasn’t even sure? It wasn’t like there was a giant chunk of dirt in it or something. How did she know she wasn’t washing it properly? Perhaps because it had been a few days since she had last showered and there was enough grease in her hair to fry bacon. The water touching her skin had just hurt too much. She wasn’t that lazy. Usually.

After a few agonizing minutes of rolling from side to side so they could get pictures of different angles, she was wheeled up into a room. She had expected to get jumped about her hygiene, but it had been a surprising day.

“I should have helped you.” Heather said to Becca’s surprise. Wait? Where was the lecture? The nagging? “I was so wrapped up with Brian, and then there was his funeral and everything, I never noticed you were having trouble taking care of yourself.” Becca just stared blankly at her before glancing over at Trevor who appeared equally as shocked.

"I never asked."Becca replied. Her and her big mouth. Why couldn’t she just take the easy way out and stay quiet? Heather didn’t respond so Becca rested her head on the pillow before drifting back into another light and restless sleep.

Becca dreamed about people dying. She dreamed she had walked into a morgue only to discover hundreds of body bags just lying around on the floor. “I need you, Becca.” A voice said. She spun around to find Brian standing in the corner with a deeply panicked expression all over his face. “What have I done?” He whispered. “Please, help me. They’re going to get me.”

“Who is going to get you?” Becca asked before Brian began backing up with until his back was completely against the wall. The sounds of unzipping bags caused Becca to turn just in time to see hundreds of rotting bodies covered in all different kinds of injuries begin to rise out of the bags.

“You killed us! You did this to us!” They said in unison in deep raspy voices as they all walked passed Becca to get to Brian.

“No, it wasn’t his fault!” Becca yelled. “Please don’t hurt him!” They kept on slowly marching forward as Brian stayed still with his back to the wall completely surrounded. “Run, Brian!” She shouted, but it was too late. She had to turn her head away as his screams filled the echoing basement as she saw the shadows on the wall of him getting torn apart limp from limp. “BRIAN!”

“Becca, honey, wake up.” Trevor whispered lightly in her ear putting a hand to her shoulder as she jolted awake. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He apologized.

Becca looked around the room trying to get her bearings. A different person than before stood in a lab coat beside her bedside. She completely zoned out as her parents talked to the Dr. in her place as her thoughts were lost in her dream. She’d help him! She had too! She didn’t come back down to earth until she heard the word, “surgery”.

“Huh, what?” Becca said looking from the Dr. to her parents.

“I was just telling your parents we need to take you back to surgery.” He said. Becca’s eyes went wide. Surgery? Why? Wasn’t it just infected because she didn’t keep the wound clean? “According to the X-ray it looks like we missed a small piece of the bullet that broke off from the main chunk. It appears as though that’s what’s causing the infection. Once we get it out we can begin treating you with a round of antibiotics and you should be good to go. If everything goes as planned you should be able to go home tomorrow.”

Becca breathed a sigh of relief. So it wasn’t her fault the wound had gotten infected after all. She really dodged a bullet there so to speak. Once she was put back into virtual reality she’d message Brian and let him know what was happening. Hopefully he’d understand she’d need more time.

“We’ll be wheeling her into the operating room soon. A nurse will be with you shortly to put you in virtual reality when you get there.” He instructed. Becca nodded her head in understanding.

“Will the same lady be there?” Becca asked.

“What lady?”

“The one that greets people in virtual reality and sits with the patients.” Becca explained. “To keep people from thinking they’re dead.”

“Oh, I didn’t know the hospital employed anyone like that. About time I’d say. Some old lady nearly sued the hospital last year. I can’t believe there are still people out there that have never been in virtual reality.” Becca flashed her mom a smile, who pretended to be interested in her fingernails in return. Becca never quite understood her mom’s avoidance of virtual reality. Heather had always said it would rot your brain and that it was bad to get hooked on something that wasn’t real, but almost everything now used virtual reality. Schools, and work used virtual reality in place of commuting and even hospitals heavily relied on it. General anesthesia was a thing of the past, and even painkillers were only given when your time was up for the day.

“Are you ready?” A nurse asked once Becca had been wheeled into the operating room.

“Yes.” She responded. She was more than happy to return to that beach away from her pain. She closed her eyes as the helmet was lowered over her head and the countdown began. In just a few more seconds it would all be over. Her stomach did the usual flip and in the blink of an eye she was far away from her pain and problems. “Much better.” She said looking over the horizon of the peaceful little island as she listened to the waves crash along the shore.

“Welcome back.” A familiar voice said. Sasha turned her head to find the same lady as before sitting on the beach by herself.

“Don’t you ever get bored sitting here by yourself?” Sasha asked.

“Sometimes.” The lady admitted. “We don’t get that many patients in here. I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again. What happened?”

“The wound got infected.” Sasha said.

“Oh, you really need to be careful taking care of those kinds of things.” She scolded. Sasha scowled. Why did everyone think it was her fault?

“It got infected because they didn’t remove all the bullet fragments the first time.” Sasha said feeling slightly vindicated seeing the look of surprise on Susan’s face. Ok, so it probably could have gotten infected just as easily from not taking care of it, but she didn’t need to know that was a possibility.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

They sat in silence for a bit as Sasha stretched and sprawled out on her back now that she could pain free and no longer chilled from her fever. It was much more relaxing now that she wasn’t quite as worried about her brother and her injuries. A quick round of antibiotics and she’d be heading home.

“Did you hear about what’s been going on with all those people dying?” Susan asked breaking the comfortable silence. This is so not what Sasha wanted to talk about right now.

“A little bit.” She replied trying to hide her anxiety about the subject.

“So sad. Just goes to show you shouldn’t buy things off the deep web.” Susan said shaking her head back and forth. “They’re just cheap imitations, untested and unsafe.” Sasha was a little angry at hearing her brothers’ work being called a cheap imitation, but she was right. It was untested and unsafe; it should have never been put on the market to begin with. “On a lighter note, did you hear someone in our town got selected into the SPP?” Sasha breathed a sigh of relief. Now this subject she could handle.

“Yeah, how did you hear? Word sure travels fast.” Sasha said.

“Apparently it leaked from the dive center. Rumors have been flying left and right ever since they’ve been getting new equipment. Some think it’s that big looking guy that runs the Capsule market, while others think it’s someone that works at the center. Some people believe you have a better chance of getting in if you work there.” Sasha couldn’t help but grin a little. People really thought that would increase their chances?

“Who do you think it is?” Sasha asked trying not to look too suspicious.

“I don’t know. Hey, weren’t you trying to get in?” Susan asked as Sasha froze.

“Uh, yeah, I was trying.” She said.

“Well, maybe you can try again next year, now that this place has been put on their map maybe they’ll look more closely here.” Susan said. Sasha tried her best to keep her mouth shut as she let fistfuls of sand fall between her fingers. No one would ever suspect her. Maybe that’s how she was chosen. Maybe they selected the least likeliest people from the pool knowing people would think they were all the big and strong types. “I’m just kidding.” She said turning her attention to Sasha before leaning in closer and whispering. “I know it was you.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Once Becca was out cold in virtual reality, they rolled her over onto her stomach so they could begin prepping for surgery.

“That’s quite swollen.” One of the surgeons said examining the wound and taking measurements. “We’ll have to lance it first and drain the puss before extracting the bullet fragments with the camera.” His steady gloved hand made precise incisions around the open sore before gently pressing down as the wound oozed and gushed. After they had managed to clean it out they inserted a tiny spider like robot that crawled into the open hole in Becca’s back. It crawled inch by inch scanning for anything that shouldn’t have been there.

“Why didn’t we use the spider drone in the first place?” One of the surgeons asked. He watched the screen as the picture displayed the live video feed coming from the drone.

“Who knows? Dr. Jeffeck needs to retire. He probably thought he pulled out the whole bullet and didn’t even bother checking for fragments.” The other surgeon said. “Man, look at all that debris in there! No wonder it’s this bad. We’re lucky the family doesn’t sure the hospital!”

“Speaking of being sued, she mentioned something to me earlier that got me thinking. Did the hospital hire someone to stay with the patients in virtual reality?”

“No. You think the hospital would pay to have someone sit in virtual reality all day?”

“Oh, that’s weird. The patient said there was someone in there last time that said they worked for the hospital.”

“Probably either one of the nurses got caught slacking off and made up some excuse about sitting on the beach or one of the mental patients was in there at the same time.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right, sounds like a nice place to take a lunch break if there were no patients in there. Well, looks like the spider got everything, it’s on its way back up. She should be good to go now after we sow her back up.”

Re: The Sphere (updated 11/29/15)

Christmas morning came sooner than Becca had anticipated. She kind of missed the days where the excitement and anticipation kept her tossing and turning all night. Now that she was older, it seemed like it was just another night, but before she fell asleep, she came up with the idea of how to get to Brian’s and search the place. She’d fake sick and get out of going to her aunts and while her parents were gone, she’d take the hover bike out.

After searching through her stocking full of goodies and snacks, she hobbled out to the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee and wait for her parents to get up. She sat on the couch, sipping her cup and staring at all the presents under the tree reminiscing about trying to guess what they were with Brian. His stocking hung on the chimney as a painful reminder of his absence. He’ll be back home soon, she thought with a sigh.

“I miss him too,” Trevor said startling her a bit as she spilled coffee down her arm.

“Just not the same.” Becca agreed.

“Remember when you two used to fight over who got to put the angel on top of the tree?” He asked. Becca chuckled at the memory. One year her father had done it while they were busy arguing and it took them 20 minutes until they noticed. They made him take it back down and each of them got a turn being lifted up on his shoulders to put it on top.

When it came time for opening presents, Becca noticed she got a lot of family activity type stuff. She assumed it was so she could spend more of her time with them instead of in virtual reality during her last week at home.

Two hours before it was time to leave to go to her aunts, Becca put her plan into motion. She began complaining of a stomachache and didn’t move from the couch or open anything she got from Christmas. At the one hour mark she pretended to make a lot of trips to the bathroom, and at 30 minutes till, she covered her mouth with her hand and shuffled as quickly as she could before making fake vomiting noises from the toilet. Not wanting to be trapped in the car with her for two hours, Becca’s parents agreed to let her stay home, on the condition that she promised to stay out of virtual reality. She shuddered at the memory of a previous mishap and quickly agreed. After waiting 20 minutes to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything, Becca made her way to the garage after fetching the keys to the hover bike.

It was near agony lifting her leg over to straddle the seat, but she eventually did it and backed out of the garage. It was more of an uncomfortable ride than painful, but it was still a little fun. If she hadn’t had a mission to accomplish, she would have taken her time or even gone out to the field to do a couple laps. Instead, she made a beeline for Brian’s place in the woods as the chilly afternoon air pushed against her face. When she arrived fifteen minutes later, the place had mostly been cleaned out. Her parents had already been here multiple times and had cleaned the place out several times. Most of Brian’s furniture had already been taken along with his desk. All that was left un touched was his laboratory in the basement. Finally, Brian’s organized chaos approach when it came to his lab had paid off. It was so far beyond overwhelming to their parents that everything had stayed where he left it.

Becca walked slowly amongst the rows of test tubes and computer monitors. She had no idea what she was actually looking for. He was so old fashioned at times; he said everything would be on a thumb drive. He just forgot to mention where that would be. Then again knowing him, he probably forgot where it was too. She lifted up various papers and knocked aside glasses and empty ramen containers. Becca got so frustrated with the mess she eventually just started knocking things onto the floor as a way to signal she had checked there already.

After an hour of searching and coming up with nothing, she sat down on a chair to try to think things through. Brian always loved to hide things when they were little. He’d always make a cache of all his important possessions that he didn’t want anyone else to find. He’d always make it super obvious though in his favorite places. She surveyed the mess once more as she tried her best to figure out where that would be. What was his favorite place down here? As hard as she tried to think, she could only draw a blank. The only thing here he was really attached to was…the fireplace! But would he hide anything up there though? How would he keep it from burning? Only one way to find out.

She slowly ( very very slowly) made her way up the stairs before collapsing from exhaustion on the couch. She was still weaker than she thought she was. She had only meant to close her eyes for a few minutes, but when she opened them back up it was already dark outside! Crap crap crap. Her parents would be back soon and all she had accomplished was trashing the place. After turning on the light, she carefully as she could peeked underneath the brick fireplace. She wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for, but as she glanced around something caught her eye. There appeared to be a brick sticking a quarter of an inch past all the others. She grabbed it and jiggled it feeling it slowly moving. She carefully pulled it out like a jenga piece to reveal something taped onto the outside of the brick. There it was! A black thumb drive! Becca quickly pulled her phone out and scanned it until it disappeared from the palm of her hand. I got it! Merry Christmas, Brian. Send.

She sped off on the bike as fast as she could, not even bothering to turn off the lights or lock the door to Brian’s house. Not like anyone would want to steal empty ramen cups anyway. She sped through traffic, running two stops signs on the way. She was cutting it close! She turned the corner and breathed a sigh of relief to see the van still missing. Right when she closed the garage door and cut the engine is when she heard it pull up. She quickly threw her coat and shoes off before hurrying inside and sitting on the couch right as her parents came through the front door.

“Hmm, you’re all sweaty, I hope you’re not running another fever.” Heather said taking a look at Becca’s exhausted face. “You still don’t look good. Maybe you should go lie down for a bit.” Becca couldn’t agree more with that idea. She plopped onto her bed and breathed a sigh of relief. She did it! Now Brian could fix whatever was going on. She pulled out her phone to check her Sphere messenger and saw Brian had replied.

This is it! You’re the best! Becca smiled widely before typing in her own response.

Next time you hide something in your fireplace, remember where you put it!

Finally she could concentrate on the SPP. She hoped she was able to do her part and get Brian out of whatever trouble he was in. She had faith in her brother that he could fix this mess. He was the smartest person she had ever known. Her phone buzzed again.

Sorry! You’re a lifesaver!

There was still something that was bothering her though. Why and where was Brian keeping a fake version of himself? She had checked every nook and cranny of his house today and, thankfully, she didn’t find a stockpile of lifeless Brian dolls lying somewhere in a closet. No amount of therapy would ever make that discovery ok.

Hey, Brian, how did you make a fake body?

Followed a recipe.

There’s a recipe to make a body!?

Water (35 L), Carbon (20 kg), Ammonia (4 L), Lime (1.5 kg), Phosphorous (800 g), Salt (250 g), potassium nitrate(100 g), Sulfur (80 g), Fluorine (7.5 g), Iron (5 g), Silicon (3 g) and fifteen other elements in trace amounts.

So there is… She thought shaking her head. What did he do? Throw them all in the oven until a body formed? Please tell me he’s just joking, she thought.

…What?…

:smiley:

She closed her eyes out of exhaustion. This was the best explanation she was going to get out of him. One day she’d ask him further about it, but for now, it would have to do. Becca was used to him talking way over her head, this was just another one of those times, she thought before giving in to sleep.