Cats - a cyberworld adventure by Stephen B. Pearl


A futuristic, science fiction, cyberpunk, gamelit, action-adventure novel.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to cat charities.

Rated PG14, adult.


Published by Anhk Shen Publishing in trade paper back and e-book.

ISBN-13: 978-1-7753641-0-8 paperback;
ISBN-13: 978-1-7753641-1-5 ebook.

13 chapters, 209 pages, ~51,700 words.


Location: the future.


Available from: Amazon on line booksellers - including Canada, USA, UK, Australia,
and Fiction DB, and other book store locations.



Cats - a cyberworld adventure book cover - futuristic, science fiction, cyberpunk, gamelit, action-adventure novel

Description


     Trapped in a full emersion video game by an insane hacker, a group of friends must complete the scenario, and find a way around the hack, or be crippled in the real world by the very nanobots that allow for the gaming interface. To make matters worse, inside the game the players have been turned into cats.


     How can a collection of strays navigate the human world and confront their mentally ill tormentor?


     Will their time as cats cause some of them to see past their presumptions and come together in new fulfilling ways?


     Is the hacker truly a villain, or is he also a victim of a cyber plague that has already impacted the lives of billions and could once more rear its ugly head?


     Cats, a (tail) tale of adventure, transformation, love and growing up.


     Part of the proceeds will be donated to cat charities.


Book Cover


     The cerebral interface has revolutionised society. Need a ride? With a thought the cab is on its way. Want an adventure? Enter a VR 5 computer game nearly indistinguishable from reality.


     Amanda arranges for her Big Sisters Program little sister, Rachel, to spend a day gaming as a fourteenth birthday present. Amanda never suspects that her insane ex-boyfriend, Jim, will use a computer virus to trap her and her companions in the game.


     A pleasant diversion becomes a life and death struggle as her party seek a way to come back to the real world without triggering a program that will cause nanobots to rip their brains to shreds.


     To complicate matters, in the game scenario the adventurers have been transformed into cats. Will the party survive? Will Amanda admit that Rachel’s older brother, Tyrell, might just be her future? Will the computer virus Jim used to trap them become a cyber plague that could kill thousands?




Chapter 1
Game Play


     Amanda held up her wizard’s staff, rolled her eyes, and lowered it. “Another bug. Really!” A white spider the size of a pickup truck scuttled along the ice shaft above her. The shaft was so high it disappeared into shadow. The blue robe she wore conformed to Amanda’s curvaceous figure and accentuated her blood-red hair.


     “Stay sharp everyone,” ordered the swordsman beside her.


     She spared him a look. He was classically handsome with wavy, blond hair and a bodybuilder's physique. The furs he wore were impossibly clean and covered too little of him to keep anyone warm.


     ‘Why does he always have to go for the muscle-bound look? He knows I don’t like it. It won’t matter after this campaign.’ The thought came to her with a sad resolve.


     “Blast it!” snapped the cleric. He was dressed in scale armour with a horned helmet and carried a war hammer.


     “Not a good idea, Bobby boy. This game unit is patterned after the inner keep of the Crypt of Omicron. The designer didn’t even change the map. They just stuck the labyrinth in a glacier and upped the monster level. The ice-spider’s a feint to get us to waste our magic before the primary monster emerges. It will come out at the top of the shaft on the right-hand side when the spider dies. The princess… sorry, prince, will be in a side chamber off the primary monster’s lair,” Amanda gestured up the vertical shaft.


     The thief, a slender, young woman, dressed in leather armour and a cap helm drew twin daggers from her belt sheaths. The gems on the blades’ pommels glowed supplying light for the party. She held the daggers side by side. The glow became a beam of light that she directed up the shaft. “She’s probably right. I think I see a door up there.”


     “Thanks, Rach. Are you guys up to chopping the spider without magic?” Amanda moved to the edge of the cavern. Taking off her backpack she began rummaging through the items in it.


     “This unit is a bore. Crypt of Omicron was much better! Let’s get this over with. I have a chemistry test to study for,” said the shapely, elfin archer, clad in a tunic and leggings made of woven, green, metallic thread. Her ears came to delicate points that peeked out from under her mane of ink-black hair. She notched an arrow and drew her longbow.


     “I hear that, Kendra. Let’s kill the beast of Lapilar, rescue the idiot prince, collect the reward and expose the queen’s plot. That will end this cycle,” agreed Amanda.


     “Way to play the spoiler, Amanda!” The barbarian had a whine in his voice.


     “Jim, drop it. I have a project on complex systems computer modeling I need to focus on. I wouldn’t even be here, but I didn’t want to leave the party hanging.”


     “You too?” The archer let fly an arrow pegging the spider. The spider lunged at the party. Another arrow pierced it before it reached the ground. Bellowing, Jim swung his long sword hacking off one of the spider’s legs. The leg regenerated immediately.


     “It has regenerative capacities,” Jim called.


     Rachel scrabbled up the wall and leapt onto the spider’s back driving her daggers home. Blood covered her. “I got it. I got it. I--.” She gasped and fell off the beast.


     “Poison blood, nice twist.” The archer backed down the passage they had followed into the shaft-like chamber. Arrow after arrow lodged into the spider.


     The cleric swung his war hammer smashing one of the spider’s knees. The leg below went limp.


     Amanda took statues of cartoon characters and three glass vials out of her pack, arranging them along the wall where she could easily grab them.


     Jim hacked off another of the spider’s legs which re-grew.


     “So much for the conservation of mass. Who programmed this turkey?” remarked Bobby.


     Jim hacked off another spider leg to no effect.


     “This is going to take all night!” Amanda scanned the line of statues and picked up a cartoon mouse wearing a hat. “These G rated units are silly.” Striking a dramatic pose, she spoke in a commanding voice: “Arriba andale.” The mouse vanished as Amanda became a blur of speed. She raced in, smashing the spider’s knees with her staff. In the background, a mariachi band played a lively tune.


     Seeing the spider’s knees breaking, Bob, the cleric, smashed another spider knee with his war hammer.


     Jim charged the spider’s front, evading the venom it spewed and hacked out its mandibles. The rest of the party pummelled the spider’s knees with blunt weapons as it lurched back and forth unable to land a blow. The beast collapsed on the icy floor. Amanda and Bob broke the rest of its knees for good measure leaving a hint of life in the creature.


     “How’s Rach?” Amanda’s voice sounded like a chipmunk breathing helium. The mariachi music continued to play.


     “Dead. Too bad, she was a fair player. Does anybody need healing?” asked the cleric.


     “I took a hit,” said Jim.


     Bob moved to Jim’s side, laid his hands on the barbarian and chanted. The shallow gash in Jim’s chest vanished. Amanda collected Kendra’s arrows and returned them to her quiver.


     “Thanks. Let’s finish this,” said Kendra.


     “Jim, after the game let’s share a ride. We need to talk,” squeaked Amanda. She closed her eyes and shook her head. That was not the voice she wanted to do this in.


     “I was going to go to the Griffin’s Perch to celebrate if anyone wants to join me. Who’s in?” Jim sounded petulant.


     “Sorry. Chem. test. Besides, you never want to celebrate with me.” Kendra pouted.


     “Don’t start that again. There is no way. It ain’t gonna happen. Besides, Amanda and I agree that cheating in the game is still cheating.” The barbarian paused to smile at Amanda.


     Amanda felt a wave of melancholy sweep through her. She forced herself to smile. “That we agree on.” Her voice returned to normal, and the music stopped.


     “Bob, you up for the Gryphon?” Jim scanned the rest of his party.


     “Sorry.” Bob shrugged. “I’m here for the experience points, so I can build up the character and transfer over to my girlfriend’s campaign.”


     “Before you say it. By the time Rachel generates a new character, she’d have to leave anyway. She still has a curfew. Let’s do this!” Amanda slammed her staff into the spider, finishing it off, then moved to stand by the items from her pack. A rumbling sound filled the chamber. Amanda looked at the floor, closed her eyes and covered them with her elbow. Light exploded penetrating her eyelids. A moment later she opened her eyes and looked up. A black widow spider the size of a school bus with an exotically beautiful woman’s face where its mandibles should have been filled the top of the shaft.


     “Lolth. Nice, if the programmer had half a brain, this could be a good fight.” Kendra sent an arrow towards the beast. The arrow skipped harmlessly off the demon’s hide.


     “I can’t see. I can’t see,” cried Jim.


     “You should have covered your eyes.” Amanda held up her staff and began to chant.


     “How could I know that?” demanded Jim.


     “Hello, Crypt of Omicron knockoff,” said Kendra.


     The three glass vials that Amanda had set on the floor flew towards Lolth. The glass shattered short of the demon. The liquid they’d contained splashed the beast. Lolth writhed in pain while smoke rose from where the liquid struck her.


     “I will kill you all. I will suck the fluids from your bodies and hang your corpses in my parlour for decoration,” screeched the demon.


     “Kendra, Bobby, if you please,” called Amanda.


     Kendra loosed another arrow, targeting where the liquid had hit Lolth. The arrow pierced the demon, which screamed.


     Bobby chanted as tendrils of webbing shot towards him from their foe.


     Amanda lifted her staff. Windswept up the shaft driving the webbing back against Lolth, entangling her.


     Bobby finished his spell. A jet of holy water shot out of his hands dousing the demon. Lolth smoked, screamed, and tumbled to the ground in a tangle of sodden webbing. The webbing shifted, revealing a beautiful woman with the ebony hair, black skin and pointed ears of a dark elf.


     “Thank you, I was under an evil curse. You have freed me.” She stood in a silver chain-mail bikini, which was barely street legal, and spoke in a little-girl voice.


     “Really? I mean, I’m only a charter member of the club, and I find that offensive. The G versions are lame. One or the other, don’t straddle the fence,” remarked Kendra.


     Amanda shrugged. “The sex doesn’t bother me. Pairing it with that voice is what I worry about.”


     “She’s beautiful.” Jim moved towards her, holding out his hand.


     “Jim, what part of, ‘we want to get this over with,’ didn’t you understand?” Amanda picked up a toy telescope from the objects she’d arranged against the wall and tossed it at the dark elf, “Reveal!”


     The beautiful drow screamed and was once more in the spider-like form of Lolth.


     Bobby cast another spell. Holy water rained from above. “That should dampen her spirits.”


     Amanda chuckled, picked up the statue of a blue-skinned man and sang, “I’m Mister White Christmas,” before she threw it at Lolth. The holy water froze on the demon.


     “I always loved that one. A hundred and fifty years and you still can’t beat the classics.” Bob swung with his hammer, shattering one of the demon’s legs.


     Jim struck with his sword severing the demon’s neck.


     The spider-like body collapsed.


     “You haven’t won. This is but one of my forms. I will return and hunt you down. My vengeance will be--,” the disembodied head raved from the floor.


     “Even the final dialogue is cheesy. You have to wonder why the programmer thought a head could talk without lungs attached.” Amanda drove the end of her staff into the demon’s mouth silencing the tirade.


     “Let’s pick up our stuff, climb the shaft and get the prince. I really need to cram for that test,” said Kendra.


     “You guys could at least try to be in the game.” Jim scowled.


     “If the game was worth the effort, I would,” Amanda sniped back.


     Minutes later they had clambered onto a balcony backed by a door about two thirds up the vertical shafts side. A stairway led from the balcony to the top of the shaft. Cold air and sunlight came down the vertical passage. Opening the door revealed a torch-lit chamber the size of a small house. A door opened off the wall opposite the entrance. The floor was littered with treasures.


     “I’ll get the door.” Jim strode across the room.


     “We’ll never carry all this,” remarked Bob.


     Amanda took a gold ring bracelet off her wrist and waved her hand over it. It flew into the air and started sucking up any of the treasure small enough to fit through it. “The amulet is linked to the program’s auto division function; it will package equal shares for each of the party members, and use the low-value junk to pay the innkeeper and stuff like that. If there’s anything that’s too big to fit, we’ll have to pack it out. Let’s split the magic items by class and not worry about what they’re worth?”


     “Fair enough,” said Kendra.


     “I have got to get me one of those.” Bob gestured at the bracelet.


     “Two. Its mate is in my room at the Gryphon. Do you want a hint where to look?”


     “Please.” Bob looked interested.


     “Be extra careful when you search the Vampire Dragon’s lair in the Crypt of Omicron.”


     Jim pulled on the door. It was locked. With a battle cry, he slammed his sword into the wood. Amanda and the others spared him a glance.


     “Does he always take it so seriously? I mean, Rachel I understand, she’s just a kid. We were all there once, but Jim is way over the top.” Bob spoke softly to Amanda.


     “He… It used to be he was a great player and had a life. We’d game a couple of times a week. Now?” Amanda shrugged.


     “Obsession happens, girl. I had an uncle that lost his wife and kids because he spent so much time in the games he lost touch with them. The problem is when you take anything too far it becomes unhealthy. Just look at the people who go so deep into their religion they think it’s okay to kill folk that don’t believe in the same things they do,” said Kendra.


     The door gave way revealing a room that was nearly filled by a canopy bed draped in silks. The rest of the room’s furnishings were made of exotic woods with gold and silver inlay. A handsome, young man with brown hair, dressed in satin pajamas, huddled on the bed.


     “What have you done with Lolth?” he demanded in a whiney, aristocratic voice.


     “You know, in the real middle-ages, the silk in that room would have been worth more than all these coins combined,” remarked Kendra.


     Amanda nodded. “Have you ever visited Europe for real?”


     “I went to England last year. The castles were fascinating.”


     Jim entered the room and hoisted the prince onto his shoulders.


     “Anybody mind a time skip?” asked Amanda.


     Before anybody objected, she closed her eyes mentally picturing lines of computer code. She made a minor alteration, then opened her eyes. The party was walking out of the royal palace, the prince safely delivered.


     “Good skip, Amanda. Very clean,” said Bob.


     “Has to be some advantage to doing a master’s in computer modeling.”


     “It’s a cheat. We might have missed a good side quest. At least now we have time to go to the Gryphon,” said Jim.


     “No, Jim. Now I have time to see that Rachel goes home and work on my project,” said Amanda. Closing her eyes, she concentrated and…


     #


     The canopy above Amanda’s head lifted away. She moved the arms and legs of her lean, fit, real body. It felt good to be rid of what she thought of as the extra weight on her character’s chest. She’d made her fantasy avatar when she was fourteen and uncomfortable in her own skin. The T-shirt and track pants she wore were mildly damp with sweat from the isometric exercise routine the bio-interface had run her through while she was in the game.


     “I’m glad that unit is over. It was such a Crypt of Omicron rip off.” A muscular man of maybe twenty sat up from another of the gaming interfaces. These were narrow cots with a semi-circular canopy at one end.


     “With you on that, Kendra… sorry Ken,” agreed Amanda.


     “It’s because Crypt of Omicron was so definitive,” enthused an Asian man of maybe seventeen with a slender build, dressed in track pants and T-shirt.


     “I kinda liked this one, until I died,” remarked a slender, blond, teenaged girl wearing a peasant blouse and short skirt as she entered the gaming room carrying a tray with plastic cups on it.


     “Thanks Rach.” Amanda took one of the cups and sipped its contents.


     “Jim is still in game,” remarked Ken.


     “Probably at the Gryphon.” Amanda rolled her eyes.


     “Look guys. I checked before I logged out. I have enough experience points to move up. So, it’s been good to know you.” Bob smiled.


     “Sorry it wasn’t a better module.” Ken shrugged.


     “That’s okay. I’ll be eighteen in three months. I’m going to do the real Crypt of Omicron. My girlfriend agreed to wait for me to start. She’s two months older than me, but we’re going to do it together.”


     “Enjoy it. It’s a great unit.” Amanda gestured to one of the posters on the painted cinderblock walls. It depicted a ghoul clawing at an armoured warrior.


     “The age limit is such a rip. I have to wait four years!” said Rach.


     “Four years and a week, kiddo. You can move up to the PG-14 units soon. There are some good ones.” Amanda moved to the side of Jim’s interface unit. “Still in play. Damn it. You all heard me tell him we needed to talk, right?”


     The rest of the players nodded looking uncomfortable.


     “Do what you have to, but be gentle. It’s never easy,” said Ken.


     “That obvious?” Amanda stared at the floor.


     “I wonder why you ever dated him. He’s a jerk,” said Rachel.


     “Wasn’t always. Are you good for getting home on your own?” Amanda stared at Rachel.


     “I’m thirteen, not ten.”


     “Yes, you’re thirteen. Old enough to know that you should do what you say you’re going to do and not skive off to your boyfriend’s house when you promised me you were going straight home.”


     “How often do I have to say I’m sorry?” Rachel pouted and looked at the floor.


     “I’ll let you know.” Amanda took an exasperated breath.


     “You are still arranging my birthday game, right? It will be my first PG game, and I really am sorry about sneaking off to see Lars last week.” Rachel, despite her protestations of maturity, looked every inch the insecure young girl.


     “I promised. I’ve arranged the gaming session, and I’ll be there.”


     “And you picked a good scenario? An isolated scenario in an ongoing game unit? I really want to find a good game and start a campaign with some of the kids from school.”


     “It’s an isolated scenario from the middle of a game sequence that runs for seven years subjective time. Don says it’s really good. Now get home and do your homework. Your brother expects you to ace that math test.” Amanda’s brow wrinkled in thought. “I’ve called you an auto-car and set its pick up and destination. It will be out front in two minutes. I’ll know if you’re on it or not, so be on it.”


     “Thanks for letting me join your party.” Rachel stepped up to the game room’s door. It vanished into the wall letting her exit.


     “Sweet kid,” said Ken.


     “What’s her story? I mean, is she your cousin or something?”


     “I’m in the Big Sister program. She’s my little sister. Her mom and dad died in the hack.”


     Bob went pale. “My God! That’s awful. My Gran lost her sight in that. They were able to fix it, but it took a year.”


     Amanda nodded, unconsciously patting the shoulder of her inert boyfriend. “Jim lost his mom. He was with her when it happened. His own nanobots got infected. He needed stem cell treatments to repair the brain damage.”


     “My brother…” Amanda stopped herself, took a deep breath, then continued. “Anyway, Rachel’s brother was eighteen. He took custody, but some things a girl just can’t talk about with her brother. They both enjoy gaming, so when I joined Big Sisters the computer paired us up. I’ve kinda become part of the family.”


     “You’re good people. Are you going to be okay when you ‘talk’ to Jim? I could come along. In case…” Ken sounded concerned.


     Amanda looked shocked. “Jim wouldn’t hurt me. It’s better if it’s just the two of us.”


     “Then, I’m out of here.” Ken closed his eyes. “My rides a minute out.”


     “Mind if I tag along? You live in my sector and my travel credits are getting low,” said Bob.


     “No problem.” The two men left the room. Amanda stood looking at Jim’s seemingly unconscious form. “You used to be so special.” She touched his cheek, and her resolve wavered. She sighed. “Mother is right, ‘Life isn’t a game’.” She closed her eyes and focused her thoughts. Lines of computer code filled her field of vision. She found the disengage sequence and activated it.


     The canopy lifted off of Jim’s head. He blinked. Dark circles stood out under his eyes. His lean, muscular body rose to a sitting position. “Amanda, you shouldn’t do that. I was talking to the innkeeper. A band of Bugbears raided a caravan his sister was on. He--.”


     “Last time it was a shopkeeper, goblins and a wife. I’ve summoned an auto-car. Let’s go.”


     Jim stood and tried to pull Amanda against him. “What do I get if I do?”


     “Jim… not now!” Amanda pushed away and moved to the door.


     “If we’d stayed in the game we could have rented a spell-powered hot tub.”


     “Sex in the game isn’t as good as real sex. The interface dulls the sensation. The only reason you like it is that my avatar is a D cup.”


     “It’s still you.”


     Amanda led the way along a narrow hall with cinderblock walls decorated with posters advertising games ranging from space opera to caveman fantasies. The hall ended in a stairway that climbed into a shop. A countertop separated lines of computer servers that filled most of the room from a small waiting area with institutional chairs along its walls. A balding, middle-aged man with a dancer’s physique sat behind the counter.


     The counter attendant blinked, shifting mental focus as they approached.


     “Hi Amanda, Jim. That was a short session.”


     “Hey, Don. I have a project I need to work on. Is everything set for Rachael’s party this weekend?” Amanda smiled.


     “The time is booked, and the module is ready. It’s an oldie but a goodie.” Don sighed, his expression becoming nostalgic. “It was the first, full-game sequence I ever played. My wife and I were sixteen when we started it. We grew up with the characters. In some ways, it’s where we fell in love. The scenario I’ve picked is isolated from the overall storyline. Rachel will love it.”


     “Yeah, yeah. The auto-car is here.” Jim stared out the building’s glass door.


     “See you Saturday.” Amanda waved to Don as she followed Jim to the boxy blue and orange vehicle. They both climbed into the back seat. When they were settled Jim closed his eyes and thought. The car drove away. Outside dusk had fallen making the rows of stone and steel buildings that crowded the street seem taller. A framework of girders and transparent panels kept the rain from reaching street level. The vehicle’s electric motor hummed in the background.


     “I set it to my place.” Jim moved to kiss Amanda.


     She pulled away. “Jim. Stop. Just stop.” Amanda toyed with a lock of her shoulder-length, reddish-brown hair as she took a deep breath. “I can’t do this anymore.”


     “Baby, it’s not a problem. It was a bad module. I only agreed to play a G rating because Rachel wanted to join us. The next one will be better.”


     “No!” Amanda took a deep breath and stared at her pretty features where they were reflected in the car window. She could see a tear forming in the corner of her eye.


     What is it, babe?” Jim put his arms around her. “You know every scenario is different.”


     Amanda tuned out the words and let herself rest in the warmth of Jim’s arms. Seven years, a third of her life, it was a long time. So many firsts: emotional, physical. What she was doing was hard. “Jim, let go of me!” Her voice was soft.


     “What is it?” Jim backed away.


     “Jim, this isn’t about the scenario. It’s about the games, and life, and everything. There’s no painless way to do this. We’re through. I can’t date you anymore.”


     “Honey.” Jim ran a hand through his ragged, brown hair and blinked stupidly. “What..? Why..? Look if it’s because Rachel died, we’ll resurrect her character. It’s--.”


     “That’s why. I tell you something real, and you jump to the games for a reason.”


     “I don’t get it?”


      The car left the city center and the protection of the street cover. Rain splattered on the windows. The sound of tires running through puddles joined the motor’s hum.


     “I know. Last week when I said I couldn’t start a new campaign in Star Raiders because of a test, I was lying. I took the maglev to Cairo. I walked by the pyramids. I felt the wind in my face, the desert heat. I was walking where Seti the first may have walked. Where Ramses, Imhotep, Hatshepsut may have walked. I stood in the footsteps of the people who built civilization. The foundation of all we know.”


     “We met Seti when we defeated Apep to rescue Remit and--.”


     Amanda shook her head. “No, we didn’t. We met what some programmer thought Seti might be like if he lived in an unreal world. I need the real world.”


     “That’s your mother talking. She hates me. She’s the biggest female chauvinist I’ve ever met. Why else wouldn’t they accept my apprenticeship to Mind Quest Programming? I was top in my class. They should snap me up.” A petulant expression filled his face.


     “You’re wrong. Yes, mother thinks we should break up, but that has nothing to do with this. She has never let gender affect a business decision. She hardly lets gender affect any kind of decision.” Amanda shook her head. “The fact that you’ve been waiting a year on the application has more to do with it than she ever will. All that time you could have been taking classes. You could have been working on an independent scenario. There’s no shortage of freelancers creating code. I know your dad lined up a programming job for you.”


     Jim snorted. “Checking code for an inventory tracking program.”


     “It’s useful; it’s a real-world application. It would have made your résumé stronger.” Amanda hung her head.


     “My squad were depending on me.”


     “To do what? No matter how many code demons you ‘kill’ they’ll still be there for the next party. Remit will always be kidnapped in the Khnum’s Kiln opening scenario. Every new player going in will have to rescue her. Seti will always recruit the Player Characters to save her. Because it’s a game. It’s supposed to be a fun way to kill a few hours. Maybe learn a little about how people lived in ancient Egypt. It’s not supposed to be your life.”


     “But…” Tears gathered in Jim’s eyes.


     “The games are supposed to be fun, not a place to hide.”


     “What are you talking about?” Jim’s voice was cold.


     “You know what I’m talking about. You gamed three, maybe four, times a week before your mom died.”


     “I don’t want to talk about this!” Jim stared out of the rain beaded window.


     “You need to, and not to me. You need help. It wasn’t too bad until your dad remarried.”


     “That slut isn’t my mother!” Jim’s voice was chocked with pain and anger.


     “No. She’s your father’s wife. You don’t have to like her, but you can’t bury your head in a fantasy and ignore that she exists. If you gave her a chance, you might become friends.”


     “My father betrayed the memory of my mother with that bitch. It was too soon.”


     “It was two years. Your dad kept living. He lost his wife, the woman he loved. Maybe if you see that, you can start to be the man I use to love again. I hope you can do it. I miss him. What you’ve become… I don’t love you anymore.”


     “Don’t say that!” Jim began to sob.


     The auto-car pulled to a stop in front of a two-story house with a small, front yard.


     “I checked with your dad; he’s in tonight. Talk to him,” said Amanda.


     “What about Rachel’s party? I’ll see you there. We can talk some more.” Jim clutched at her hands.


     “Rachel only invited you because we were dating. We don’t need you for the scenario. Honestly, I think it best if we don’t see each other for a while.”


     Jim sobbed.


     “I’m sorry.” Amanda closed her eyes. With a thought, she ordered the car’s door to open. Rain poured from the sky. “Get inside, so that you don’t get soaked.”


     Teeth gritted and snuffling, Jim climbed from the car. A thought from Amanda closed the door. The auto-car sped away.


     #


     Amanda cried for the whole ride to her apartment. It was a six-story, grey, concrete building literally on the edge of the sheltered city core. She stepped from the auto-car and hurried under the street shelter into the utilitarian lobby. The elevator was waiting for her, and she entered. The elevator doors opened onto a carpeted hallway with doors coming off at intervals. The walls were covered in refractive crystals. As she walked the images on the walls shifted to pictures of puppies and kittens.


     She opened her apartment door with a thought. She stepped into a one-room apartment with a kitchenette in the corner. A table with four chairs sat in front of the fridge and stove while a sofa was built onto the wall. Accessing the cerebral interface, she caused the sofa to roll down and become a bed. Outside the large, glass doors rain soaked her balcony.


     She manually opened the balcony door and stood watching the rain.




Reviews

  •      Well written gamelit story for young adults. I enjoyed the.language filter in game. The players/friends spend most of the game as cats which I enjoyed. A nice easy PG read.

         Ian Mitchell.