One More Chance

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!


The dental plan hadn’t been that good. That was the thought running through Thomas’ head as he slammed his shoulder into the metapod door for the fourth time. It still wouldn’t budge, and he took a step back to catch his breath.

He had been enjoying his conversation with the automaton flapper. They had been sipping cocktails and watching the zeppelins land when he had begun to feel the first pains in his head. The ringing in the ears soon followed, along with the white light, and before he had time to say anything more, he found himself being yanked out of the metaverse and deposited back into his own body. Except there was something wrong with the pod.

“Hello?” Thomas yelled.

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”, the metapod system responded.

Thomas rolled his eyes, “You can open the pod door, like I’ve asked you to do six times already!”

“Metapod door release damaged…please stand by and a technician will be with you shortly.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if you can see what’s going on outside but there aren’t any technicians okay? The room is on fire and I think…I think I can hear automatic weapons. Yes…yeah that sounded like gunfire. Okay? So, you need to do some overrides or some emergency procedures or something because I need to get out of here! Okay? Hello?”

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”

Thomas groaned and began searching the confines of his pod for anything that might prove useful. His safety release switch wasn’t working, it had probably been damaged when the pod had, and he didn’t see any buttons or switches on the inside that looked particularly like emergency escape controls.

A year and a half ago, his life had been so different. He had a wife, a home, and a job that he marginally enjoyed most of the time. He was content, at least mostly. Sure, he and his wife had their share of problems. Sure, his job at the high school was soul sucking in some ways. But that was to be expected, wasn’t it? No one could be happy all of the time. No one could have everything they wanted. That’s what he tried to get his wife to understand. Christina always wanted more, bigger, better. She had wanted to travel to far off places, see new people, explore strange cities without a guidebook or a map. All he had wanted was to sit in his armchair and read his book.

Tom and Tina. How ironic that their pet names for each other were the nicknames they hated the most. That sort of summed things up perfectly, didn’t it? And yet, there was still something there. There were still mornings when he woke up and thought he smelled her coffee brewing in the kitchen. Days when he would come home to his empty house and find himself calling out to her, telling her about his day before he realized it was just a shadow in the corner of the room. Nights when he stayed up until it was almost dawn just because he was waiting for her to come and call him in to bed. Tom and Tina. They’d loved each other, hadn’t they? They’d loved each other until they couldn’t. And then she left.

Smoke was starting to fill the room now and Thomas began pounding on the door again. There were others in the house, other pilots who might hear him if he yelled loudly enough. Unfortunately, smoke was seeping in through the cracks in the pod and he soon found himself coughing and sputtering.

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”

“Open the pod! I don’t want to die in here! Open the pod!”

“Metapod door release damaged…please stand by and a technician will be with you shortly.”

In the weeks after she left, Thomas lived like a ghost. He went to work, came home, ate, slept, dressed, put one foot in front of the other only because he had to, not because he wanted to. It seemed impossible to continue on in this way, and that was when he saw it. An advertisement in the local newspaper, looking for people to join up with The Program. The job description itself was vague but the benefits were explicitly spelled out and they were phenomenal. Aside from the dental and vision, aside from the full health care, there was the promise that with the right attitude any employee could turn four weeks of vacation into a year. Little did Thomas know that this had more to do with time dilation within the metaverse than work ethic, but at the time it seemed like kismet. He hated his job, he had lousy benefits, and the idea of getting away was ideal. There was no one left to miss him. The house could sit empty for months and no one would notice or care. When it came time for the actual interview, he found that he was remarkably unbothered by the murkier moral grey areas of the job. All that mattered was a chance to get out of his life, regardless of the cost.

The house shook with what felt like rocket blasts, and Thomas thought he could make out the sounds of helicopters. Footfalls of more assailants echoed down the hallway, heading away from the metapod room. Thomas was relived that the mysterious attackers with high powered weapons were not coming to execute him, but this did mean that any other pilots left in the house were going to be too occupied to hear his cries for help. He needed to get out of the pod, and soon, or he would be a sitting duck if all the other pilots were killed. As he began furiously kicking on the door again, Thomas was struck by a thought. Was this what Nick had felt when he died? Is this what had flashed through his mind? Thomas had always sworn that Nick had never called out when he was overrun, but if he was honest that wasn’t true. If he was honest, he had always thought that he had heard him calling out his name, crying out to Thomas for help.

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”

“Let me out! There are people coming to kill me! Let me get out of here! Do something! Open the pod! Please!”

“Metapod door release damaged…please stand by and a technician will be with you shortly.”

He had hated Nick. Not right away, but pretty soon after he started at The Program. Nick was a bully. At a time when he could have used some guidance, some support, some fraternal companionship, Nick had offered only insults, indifference, and ridicule. The fact that they kept getting teamed up together, Thomas as the scout and Nick as the pilot, didn’t help either. Thomas enjoyed his pre-mission scouting treks immensely. Time alone in a metaverse, time to just immerse himself in an avatar that was far away from who he was in his old life, time to just disappear. He used to spend the first few days scouting, gathering information, and use the rest of the time to allow the avatar to take over completely. He would just sink under the surface and let the avatar control everything. Looking back on it now, it was obvious that he was just hiding, hiding from himself and everyone around him. But at the time, it seemed like just another perk of the job, like trying on a costume or a Halloween mask. But Nick hated that. When he jumped in he would force Thomas to take over from the avatar, force him to come to the forefront. He called it weak, he called it dangerous, but mostly he just called it cowardly.

Two explosions came from overhead, and part of the ceiling caved in. Thomas was getting more desperate now, his breath coming in ragged, tearful gasps. The knuckles on his hands were starting to bruise from all the pounding and his voice was almost gone. He couldn’t scream any more, he could barely breathe. The lights inside the metapod flickered and then went out, leaving him in darkness. A half sob escaped from him as he sank to his knees, one hand weakly banging on the glass.

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”

“Please. Please help. Please, just open the door. Please.”

“Metapod door release damaged…please stand by and a technician will be with you shortly.”

Tina had always wanted to travel. To see new worlds and new people, to explore the places he read about in books but never had the courage to dream about. How ironic then, that it wasn’t until after she left that he finally started dreaming, finally started traveling. His first jump had been into what seemed to be Tudor England, albeit with more aliens or star wanderers as they were called. There he was, in the middle of a place that was more than anything he could ever have imagined, and all he could think about was how much she would have liked it. He still thought that, every time.

Time was getting shorter now. The sounds of fighting were getting louder, the air was getting thinner, and there he was alone in the dark. Alone, as always. Thomas started to yell and scream then with what breath and voice remained to him. He kicked and punched with all the strength he had left. He tore at wires and panels, sending sparks flying off in all directions. He was going to die trapped in a metapod, so why shouldn’t he rage his way into oblivion?

He saw Tina’s face, sad and disappointed when he told her that another one of their trips would have to be cancelled for reasons neither of them believed. He saw Nick, sneering down at him as he forced himself out from avatar range. He saw the door swinging shut, slamming behind Tina as she left for the last time. He saw Nick, lying on the ground with blood all around him. He saw his empty house, rooms untouched and curtains drawn.

No one would miss him. No one would know where he had gone. He would just disappear from the face of the earth and no one would care. No one would tell Tina what had happened.

“Hello, Thomas. How can I help you today?”

His breathing had slowed, his anger calmed, and a sudden spark from a computer across the way illuminated the room enough so that he could see his own reflection for a moment before it fell dark once again.

“Just give me one more chance.”

The next explosion rocked the room. There was a howling sound and all at once, whiteness flooded Thomas’ vision. Then there was nothing.

“Hello. How can I help you today?”

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