Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
Jenika sipped on her milkshake thoughtfully. Glancing over her shoulder she observed the rest of the jurors chatting and eating mozzarella sticks. She still couldn’t quite believe that they were real. Even though somewhere inside of her had begun to wonder if it were possible, the idea that any of what they experienced inside the metapods being anything other than a shared delusion was difficult to accept. Across the table, John studied the menu while Rosie attempted to slide into the booth without further injuring her avatar, Michael Stone, who looked to be about ready to drop from either mental exhaustion or the horrifying wound in his thigh.
“Well, that’s a thing isn’t it?” asked Rosie, wedging herself as far into the booth as possible.
John looked up, “What is?”
“Weren’t you listening? What Cook said! All of it! That all of these people are real! Alive! That the worlds we jump into actually exist!”
“That we are apparently destroying the fabric of reality in order to fulfill a super power shopping list for The Founders…or The Program, depending on the day.”, Jenika added.
Rosie nodded and jerked her thumb toward Jenika, “Exactly!”
John shrugged, “Look, I’m new. Like I said, I’m here to save people. It’s what I do. And if that means that I have to stave off an alien invasion while jumping into random bodies to do it, then so be it. All the rest of it, well that’s something we can talk about later.”
“It really doesn’t bother you that they’re sending us into real people? And that they never even told us that?” demanded Rosie.
“Do you really think that in my line of work I was told everything?”
“Still”, said Jenika, “It’s certainly something that bears repeating. These people are real. These worlds are real. What we do here has real consequences that will last even after we leave.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Rosie leaned in, “We’ve been lied to from the start and this has got to be the biggest one yet! We need to tell everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, exactly what we’re getting into here. Are you sticking around?”
This last part was directed to Jenika who frowned, “I’m not sure. They sent me in when Aquamarine was having trouble with her pod. Once they fix it, I’m sure she’ll be back. Whether or not they’ll leave me in here I don’t know.”
“Well, if they pull you back you make sure you tell everyone just what we found out. They all need to know, Tessa, Nick, Crash, all of them.”
“Do you really want to tell Crash?”
Rosie looked puzzled, “Why not?”
“You don’t think it might…break his brain?”
“Is that the medical term for it?”
Jenika glared briefly as John asked, “Who’s Crash?”
“Crash is a member of the team. You’ll meet him. Nice kid, quiet, kinda weird but his whole life is video games.” said Rosie, “Which is why, if you ask me, I would say that out of all of us Crash would probably be the one person who would be able to understand all of this the best.”
Jenika sighed, “I have my own theories about Crash’s unique personal brand of mental existence but yes, I take your point.”
“They all need to know.”
“No, Jenika” Rosie lowered her voice, “They ALL need to know. This isn’t right. We’re not playing pretend here, we’re…we’re hijacking people. All right? We’re taking over real people and using them like puppets. It isn’t right. And everyone needs to know that before we take one more step, do one more mission, before anything. Because when I think of all the times that I did something dangerous or reckless or stupid in any of my avatars…when I think of what might have happened. The idea that I might have caused the death of a real person and I would have gone back to my pod, none the wiser…”
“I agree, it is a disquieting thought.” Jenika nodded, “Don’t worry. I’ll tell everyone that I can.”
Rosie smiled briefly and sat back, wincing slightly as she did so, “It’s a lot to take in. Ice caps, grey goo, and…real people.”
“Well, you better be careful with your man Michael over there”, said John, “I mean, I think at this point a strong cough would kill you.”
“Yeah. And after what happened with Scott, I’m not sure I want to find out what that would be like.”
“Why? Scott’s probably back in his pod right now, washing the ants out of his ears.”
“I’m not so sure about that.” Jenika interjected, “You heard what Cook said. There are a lot of extraneous factors that impact your death in here. Given what Scott was doing or rather, attempting to do when he died I somehow doubt that the metaverse will be terribly forgiving.”
“Yeah, about that” said Rosie, straightening up, “What exactly happened? Why did the alien kill him? Did they not like his offer of metaverse wide domination?”
John looked surprised for a moment before Jenika held up a hand and said, “I told her what you told me, once she stopped emulating the frat boy. And once she had thoroughly rinsed her mouth with the strongest mouthwash we could find.”
“Oh, uh you still got a little slug snot behind your ear.” whispered Rosie.
Jenika shuddered, grabbed her napkin, plunged it into the glass of ice water in front of John and started vigorously scrubbing.
John watched for a moment and then said, “All I know is that one minute I could see Scott inside his avatar, inside Christine, and the next I couldn’t. He was gone and she was twitching. So I figured that he was either going to try and jump back into Christine or worse, that the alien was using his brain as a way into our world. Either way, I wasn’t going to let that happen so I did what I had to do.”
“So they rejected his offer?” asked Jenika, still scrubbing.
“No, they said ‘We accept your sacrifice’.”
Rosie let out a low whistle, “Well, isn’t that fantastic. They accepted his offer by killing his mind. That’s…concerning.”
“Yes. Yes, it is.” agreed Jenika, “And the worst part is that there is now an entire alien fleet out there with knowledge about our world and the metapods.”
“Who’s to say they didn’t know about it already?” asked John.
Jenika and Rosie turned in unison and stared at him. Jenika reached out and slid her milkshake closer, taking a long draw from it. Rosie shook her head slightly and looked over at the remaining jury pool, before turning back to the table.
“Well, what do we do now?”