"Let machinery fake my place, who has time to chase. Digital is where it is. Love can always be replaced. Welcome to my consciousness. Welcome to our race. Everything is never quite enough."
Everything (is never quite enough) – Diop, Wasis
"Mode shift, set up console."
"Setup control. Duo Maxwell, sign on."
"Sign on complete, what would you like to do today Mr. Maxwell?"
"Fina, I want something different today, create, program, insert."
"Mr. Maxwell, setup cannot be inserted, you must specify."
"Then create Fina. I want a companion."
"Companion Mr. Maxwell?"
"I'm tired of the same old thing, you probably can't understand that, can you Fina? A computer such as you has never felt the need for a companion. But I'm tired of being lonely."
"Mr. Maxwell, code clearance in required for an activity such as this. Please specify what it is you want."
"I want something that can't be supplied by the world. Fina, create for me the perfect companion."
"Perfect Mr. Maxwell? Perfection, specify."
"Create someone that does not bore me, go beyond the boundaries."
"Code clearance required. Mr. Maxwell, information will be inserted."
"Then you'll do it Fina? You can create the perfect companion?"
"Mr. Maxwell, I can create, specify needs."
The soft beeping of the VR module brought me back to reality. The pressure released, cool air flowing in.
"Mr. Maxwell, wake up. Your journey is over."
"Thank you Fina." I croaked, my throat dry. I'd been in the module for nearly eight hours; my body was tired, muscles aching from disuse.
"Mr. Maxwell, 3 incoming calls have been set aside."
"Three? Who are they from?"
"Mr. Raberba, Mr. Barton, and Mr. Chang."
"Save them, I'll check them later."
"Accepted, and Mr. Maxwell?"
"Mr. Chang's message stated it was quite urgent that you call back immediately."
"Everything is immediate with that guy. Call him back Fina, I'll talk to him now." I sighed, and started stripping the black bodysuit off.
Groaning, I glanced up at the screen set inside the wall, Chang Wufei's face glared at me from it. I've known Wufei for about three years now, and his attitude towards VR has never changed.
"What do you want?"
"You were supposed to meet us at the Zatrim, why didn't you show up?"
I continued removing my suit, wrinkling my nose at the smell of myself. "Chang, I told you, I had important things to do today."
"Important? Maxwell, VR is not important. Your friends are what should be important to you."
"And you are."
"Apparently not enough," His face loomed for a moment as he leaned closer. "Maxwell, VR is addictive, you know what the reports have been saying about overuse."
"The reports are wrong Chang, there's nothing bad about VR. I can stop anytime I want. Just quit bothering me about it, ok? Nothing's going to happen to me."
"You mean nothing like what happened to that man over on Saturn Mass 32?"
"Wufei... you know that was a different case, they discovered he had multiple cortex fractures, you know what VR does to things like that."
"I just worry about you Maxwell."
"I know, and you need to stop. Nothing bad is going to happen. Fina takes good care of me."
"You're so weird to name your computer like that."
"Why? She likes that I gave her a name." I smiled, patting the large console that contained most of Fina's brain. "Don't you Fina?"
"Mr. Maxwell, I cannot like or dislike anything."
I shrugged, and glanced back up at Wufei who was giving me another glare. "Just stop it ok Wufei? I'll meet you guys down at the Zatrim later, alright?"
"God, you're worse than a woman sometimes."
"I'm just a worried friend Maxwell, no need to get snippy."
"Ok, ok. I'll meet you in an hour. Order me a Slosta."
"You'd better show up this time Maxwell, or I'll come over and rewire Fina."
I grinned up at his scowling face. "You do that Chang, and I'll rewire you. Fina, end call."
The Zatrim is a bar located on the outer circle of domes that cover the moon of Zephlid 7. Zephlid was colonized in the year 3012. It's a fairly new colony, no more than a few million people live on it at this time.
My friends and I have been living here for almost 5 years now; Quatre Raberba has been here the longest, having helped settle the colony. We met when I helped him strain the virus that nearly collapsed the computer systems in the year of 3013. The virus killed the internal systems functions, releasing breathable air into an unbreathable atmosphere, killing a mere hundred thousand before we could reset the main terminal and flush it.
Trowa Barton is his lifemate; they've known each other since they were children, the system setting up the union for them. Most relationships are set up this way, I say most, but a few people refuse to let the system choose a partner for them, instead trying the old fashioned way. I'm one of those people. Or rather, I was one of those people, until now.
As for Chang Wufei, his story is similar to my own, his birth colony raised him as techmaster, and we were both genetically designed. Engineered to be perfect, our personalities at least were left to us to decide, though all of our knowledge and learning was imprinted while we were being formed in the incubators. Most of mankind is now engineered, genes spliced and inserted to form precision humans.
Recently my friends have become worried over my interests in the VR modules. Virtual Reality has been around since before colonization commenced. It was even around in the prehistory era of 2010, though in a much simpler form.
The module is about six feet long and 3 feet across; the CR inserts can be attached to the brain directly, forming a line that links up with the senses, making the imagination a reality. My three friends worry that I'll become just another VR addict, wasting away inside the module rather than living in the real world. How to explain to them that within the VR module *is* reality?
"Fina? Insert new program definition."
"Insert accepted Mr. Maxwell."
"Time differential to arrival at the bar known as Zatrim."
"Time taken, input required."
"Configured, time for cleaning 5 minutes, time for dressing 5 minutes, travel time 10 nanoseconds. Total time, 10 minutes 10 nanoseconds. Requirements Mr. Maxwell?"
"Sleep mode, wake me in... 40 minutes."
"Accepted, and Mr. Maxwell?"
"Would you like music, or a story?"
"Ahh, Fina, you know me too well."
"I comprehend your brain wave patterns Mr. Maxwell, these things please you, do they not?"
"Yes Fina, sleep mode in 5 seconds."
"Sleep mode set, goodnight Mr. Maxwell."
Arriving at the Zatrim an hour later, I spotted my friends grouped around a table in the back. Fina had woken me just in time to let me clean and dress, the transpod getting me to the bar in exactly 10 nanoseconds, which is how long it takes to get anywhere using the transpod.
"Maxwell!" Wufei yelled, standing up and waving my Slosta at me.
"Hey, I'm here, happy now? Ah, Thanks for the drink." I took the Slosta, sipping it slowly, savoring the flavor of greenery. A Slosta is made from organic matter grown on the air rich colony of Jilad, the nutrients and oxygen rich atmosphere of the planet engorging all life forms there. Let me say, that it is a very uplifting drink, refreshing, and I have a mild mental addiction to them.
"So, are you going to tell us what you've been doing for the past three days?" Trowa asked, turning to me with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, you haven't called in days, we're starting to worry about you." The small blond beside him said.
"Shinalp guys, leave me be. It's like I told Chang, there's no need to worry about me ok?"
"No need to worry? Maxwell, you've been stuck inside that VR unit for months now. What is in there that you can't find in the real world?"
"I know." Trowa said softly, meeting my eyes across the table.
"What do you know? Hmm?" I asked with interest. Trowa has a tendency to have sporadic ESP, the modifications he's had done amplifying natural talent. In other words, he's a mind reader, which makes it extremely difficult to hide things from him.
"He's searching for a mate."
"You are? Oh that's wonderful Duo!" Quatre bounced in his seat, behaving for once like his chronological age of 15.
"Yes, Fina is creating from the databases."
"What? You mean you're not looking for something real. You're creating a mate in VR?" Wufei began glaring at me from across the table, his fist clenching around the bottom of his glass.
"Why not? Fina is smart, she knows what I need, and my real mate doesn't exist Chang. There's no one out there for me."
"Kajacrap Maxwell, if you'd let the system pick out a lifemate you'd see there's someone for everyone."
"Oh? Then how come you haven't let it pick out a mate for you Chang?"
"I'm not ready yet, I need to wait."
"Nice excuse." I said, chuckling as he began turning red in the face.
Transpod: A dimensional traveling device. The transpod will transport human mass within any area that contains another transpod. The time taken for each journey will always be exactly 10 nanoseconds, as time is folded as well as matter to create no ripple within the dimensions.
Slosta: A drink created from organic matter grown on Jilad, the Slosta is filled with nutrients that heighten awareness and energize.
CR chips: Two microchips implanted behind the ears, the connectors that allow a direct linkage to the VR modules.
Shinalp: A form of cursing, Shinalp is somewhat akin to saying "shit" or "ah shit"
Kajacrap: The Kaja is a life form located on the planet Neskin, a large beast known to produce huge amounts of feces. The phrase kajacrap is akin to saying "Bullshit"