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We Built This City


Published by R. Jacques at Smashwords


Copyright 2018 R. Jacques



Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Acknowledgements


I wish to thank all the wonderful people I’ve met in the virtual world of Second Life. I am especially grateful for the Second Life Community of Bay City and Ellen Cordeaux of the [E-Bar] for their inspiration and allowing me to use them in my novel.


I wish to thank the following (but not limited to) people from Second Life for being a part of my story; Zoe Connolly, Cornelius Fanshaw, Josie Ryder, Marianne McCann, Uccello Poultrey, Angela Galway, Dhalia Jayaram, Maureen Bocaccio, Anthony, Silvia Hedley, Sylvia Tamalyn, Thomas Hooker, Argon Engineer, Cheree Shippe, Djuna Denja, Boone Steerpike, Korrie Baxton, Kinnaird Fiachra Vick Forcella, Roc Plutonian, Pygar Bu, Calista, Thea, Chuckster & Angie Seetan, Rosie Simca, Laolin Xaris, Maire Erin, Julia Wizardly, Riley Ulrik, Janie Janus, Ullock, Ivanova Shostakovich, & Hippie Bowman.


Thanks also go out to my beta readers who have slogged through my writings and helped me formulate a better story: Thomas Hooker, Clover Jinx, D. Jacques, and Charles Cosimano. A special shout out to Dahlia Jayaram who also functioned as my editor.



I also want to mention my friends and family who supported me and the wonderful folks at Book Island in Second Life for giving me encouragement.


*DISCLAIMER*


The Citizens, AKA NPCs, depicted in this novel are not necessarily accurate representations of how their original avatars behave in Second Life. Artistic license was used while crafting the story. Any variation of character and appearance come from the author’s mind and have no actual bearing on the users behind the current avatars.

Preface


Hopefully, you have read the preceding story, Rasere’s War. In it we see how the main character loses her innocence by participating in a war that would decide the fate of her kind. Not only is she exposed to the brutality of war, she feels the pain associated with unreciprocated love, and being overwhelmed with the origins of her soul.


We Built This City is a continuation of Ms. Rasere’s journey to discover her place in the new world. She learns that she has yet to shed the baggage accumulated from the first novel before she can truly grow as an individual. We also in this novel get to follow Marty in his quest to find the perfect mate. Finally, we meet Andrew and Brandy, two newcomers to the virtual world who also struggle to find meaning in a rebirth in cyberspace after being cryogenically frozen for over 400 years.


Please, join us in Bay City...

Contents



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Gallery










CHAPTER 1

Andrew & Brandy


Benjamin Kerry caught his reflection in a store window and stopped to covertly admire himself. Long gone was his military uniform, now replaced with a nicely tailored dark suit and fedora hat. Never mind the fact he looked like a character from a late 40s gangster movie, he looked and felt professional for the first time since leaving the service. A quick check of his watch told him he needed to keep moving. There was a business colleague he was meeting and he didn’t want to be late. If the military ever taught him anything, it was to be punctual.


After the so-called “War of Liberation”, where NPCs (Non Player Citizens) of the virtual world of Simvie Loko were given full rights, the need for military simulators was drastically reduced. Thousands of former soldiers were discharged from their military obligations and left to their own devices. Most left their barracks and became full-time residents of Simvie Loko. Kerry was among the last to leave due to the fact he was killed in battle. Three weeks transpired before he was re-rezzed and the delay caused him to miss out on the jobs best suited for veterans. By chance, he overheard a discussion about Bay City and all the opportunities it promised. With nothing but the clothes on his back and the contents of his duffel bag, he made for the promised land.


He arrived in Bay City four months ago with the hope of finding a meaningful job, but his expectations were dashed by the reality of the situation. Bay City was all hype and plastic. There were a handful of real jobs in transportation and commerce, outside of that the city offered little else in meaningful employment. To him the main focus of the city was entertainment and self-gratification. Sure, having fun was fine, but Kerry felt a person had to earn it.


Disheartened by the lack of job prospects, he nearly left when a chance encounter with a well-dressed gentleman led to a job offer. His new bosses and colleagues were all about finding new opportunities and exploiting a corrupt system to their advantage. This suited Kerry just fine. If he had to live among lazy, jaded sheep, he may as well be a wolf.


Arriving at a local bar, he sat at a secluded table near the back. Minutes later, his colleague showed up and sat across from him.


“Benny! How ya doin’? Liking ya new job?”


“Lovin’ it Saul, lovin’ it. Hey, I’m thirsty, how about you?”


“Wait, don’t order nuthin’. I have a treat for ya.”


Saul produced a flask from his jacket and offered it to Kerry.


“Go ahead, it’s a fresh flask, take a few sips.”


Kerry took a few swigs of it and savored the taste of brandy. It hit him moments after reaching his stomach. His head began to swim and he almost swooned.


“Holy crap, Saul. What is this stuff? I swear it almost feels like morphine!”


“It’s Angel City Brandy. Just that, nothing else.”


“You gotta be kidding me! I’ve never had a drink do this to me.”


“And that, Benny, is our new product. See, someone noticed that our alcohol really knocks outsiders, no offense Benny, knocks them flat on their ass. Makes them feel pretty good!”


“49ers aren’t affected the same way as Citizens?” asked an incredulous Kerry.


“We’d have to drink a few gallons to feel the same effect. Of course, we’d pass out before that could happen. Hey, hand that back. I need you sober right now.”


“What’s my part in this new venture?”


“The boss wants you to get a measure of the amount of alcohol consumption in the city. Also, you know, come up with a feeling on how the residents will react to the product. We’ll supply you with some samples”


“Do, you need help to come up with a market plan too?”


“That too! Aww Benny, you’re a bright one.”


Kerry grinned. This is going to be interesting. Saul put the flask back into his jacket and a pill bottle fell out and rolled towards his side of the table. He picked it up and examined it.


“Aspirin? Mind if I have one? I’m getting a small headache.”


“Sure kid, knock yourself out.”


Kerry popped a pill into his mouth and washed it down with a sip of water.


“Saul, what is...”


“Benny, what’s wrong?”


Kerry wasn’t sure. One moment he felt fine, aside from a small headache, the next he was floating in the clouds. He tried to focus on Saul’s face by getting closer, but he wound up with his face on the table, his mind swirling with colors and strange noises...



* * *


It was a crisp, cool morning in the countryside, perfect for walking. All around the trees were brightly colored with red, yellow and orange leaves. Andrew wasn’t quite sure where he was, but he knew he had to get to the end of this dirt road. In fact, he didn’t remember much immediately prior to this moment. He had a fuzzy recollection of who he was but he had no idea why he was out for a stroll; there was just this compulsion to walk. Who the woman just ahead of him was, he had no clue either.


Hi,” she said. “Do you know where we are?

No, I don’t. I’m not completely sure of who I am and how I got here. I’m just following the road.”

Me too. I heard you behind me so I waited until you caught up. My name is Brandy.”

Hi Brandy, nice to meet you. You seem familiar to me but I can't quite place your face.”

She was as tall lass with skin as fair as an Irish girl, blonde hair tied in a ponytail, and emerald green eyes. Brandy could have easily been a model for a magazine cover in his opinion. Not the sort of woman Andrew would get the chance to meet, yet he felt he knew her somehow.

You seem familiar to me too. I mean, if I ever knew a GQ model of course!”, complimented Brandy.

You’re kidding me.”

No, seriously. You’re handsome.”

Come on. I’m 55, pudgy, and my sideburns are gray.”

Have you looked in a mirror lately? Stop being silly. You are not fat, your hair is a solid dark brown, and your teeth are perfect.”

Andrew considered rebuking her but he looked down at his belly and saw that it was gone. His hands were different, they seemed stronger and the nails neatly trimmed. He felt his face and noticed his double chin was missing too.

“Well this is strange, I must be dreaming. This sure isn’t my body.”

Funny you should say that. I don't feel right either. How do I look?”

Brandy, you look stunning.”

Aww thank you, what’s your name?”

And-”

-drew,” she completed for him.

Damn, I just had a flash of Deja-vu.”

Me too,” she said, covering her mouth with one hand.

That. The way she said thank you and the way she covered her mouth was so familiar.

I have to keep moving Brandy. I’m feeling a strong urge to keep walking down the road.”

Same with me. Maybe we’re going to the same place?”

They started walking, side by side down the dirt road towards their mysterious destination. For the next half hour, they chatted amiably, exclaiming briefly when they would suddenly get a flash of memory or a shared thought. The path led them downhill for a couple of miles until they reached an intersection. One corner was dominated by a modest one-story facility with large glass doors and several vehicles parked out front.

Maybe we’ll find some answers there?” said Brandy.

It’s the first sign of other people since we’ve been walking.”

They approached the white and green facility with the large glass doors. Out front was a picnic table and a small water fountain that bubbled noisily. Above the door in gold letters spelled out the words, “Capello Institute.” The doors were tinted so they could not see into the building. They opened them and went inside...



* * *


Andrew, Brandy! So glad you’ve finally arrived. How was your walk?” said a middle-aged and slightly balding man in a lab coat.

Umm, it was fine I guess. We were chilly at first but the walk warmed us up.”

That’s October weather for you in Sazharus. Crisp mornings and warm afternoons. Welcome to Capello Institute. I know the both of you are full of questions; they will be answered in due time.”

We have a lot of questions Mister...” said Brandy, fishing for a name.

My name is Halle, but you can call me Hal. If you could hold off on the questions, I have to prepare for your visit with Dr. Thea. If you’ll please follow me through this door.”

Hal led them through the door down a short hallway to a well-furnished office. He directed them to a very plush couch where they sat down. He offered them food and drink which he sat before them on the coffee table.

Dr. Thea will be here shortly. Please relax until then. I’ll be down the hallway if you need anything else.”

Andrew looked around the room and saw numerous certificates on the wall from various schools and professional institutions. None he recognized, though. He sipped his mug of coffee and focused on the oak desk. Hmmm, no computer screen, he thought to himself. He turned to mention this to Brandy who was also about to speak when the office door opened.

Please, remain seated,” said Dr. Thea who held her palms out. She favored them with a smile and then sat down behind her desk.

I want to know….”

And you will know very soon, Brandy. I want to tell you why you are here and what this will mean to your future.”

Future? That makes it sound life-changing, thought Andrew. He wanted to ask how but thought better of it. He felt himself sink into the cushion as if the gravity doubled in strength.

What I am about to tell you will shock you. You will not be able to get up from the couch. Do not worry, it is for your own safety.”

She cleared her throat and lifted a tablet from the desktop. Thea looked unsure for a moment and managed to steel herself. Whatever she had to say, it was not going to be comforting news for the people before her.

In the year 2025, Andrew Jenson and Brandy Jenson, you committed yourselves to cryogenic suspension to await a possible future cure for your radiation sickness. There was an accident involving a crashed Russian satellite and the both of you were fatally irradiated. Unfortunately, the cryogenic procedures in your time were not very good. Your bodies were too damaged and your brains could not be thawed without destroying the neural connections. However, those same neural connections could be scanned and your memories safely archived.”

So, so…are these our new bodies?” asked an excited Andrew.

In a manner of speaking yes, but it isn’t what you think. Uploading a mind to a donor body or into an android body has not been perfected yet. The science to do that has yet to catch up.”

Androids? How long have we been asleep?” asked Andrew.

The current year is 2492 AD. You have been asleep for 467 years.”

Andrew suddenly felt as if a great wave of water washed over him. Blinking, he looked over at Brandy who he now knew as his wife. She was weeping quietly. Be calm, he thought. We both knew that we could be gone for a long time. But 467 years is longer than we bargained for! The office he was in looked like offices he knew while he was alive so things could not have changed too terribly much. Almost 500 years! Well, he could deal with that as the differences made themselves known but there was something else bothering him. If he wasn’t in a donor body or an android body, what was this body he was in right now? Remembering his wife, he reached out and held her hand.

Well, Dr. Thea, if we are not in an android body or a human body, what are we in now? It can’t be a clone of my original body because you said the technology hasn’t been perfected yet. Besides, we didn't look like this.”

You are correct Mr. Jenson. You are currently in an advanced simulation. A virtual world as you would call it. I assume as a 21st-century man you are familiar with those terms?”

Yes, I am.”

You are in the simulation called Simvie Loko. It is an earth-sized globe with numerous communities spread across its face. The world is inhabited by human Users and by NPCs of various grades who reside here 24/7. The highest grades of NPCs are fully sentient and conscious. You two, are a unique case. Your minds are uploaded brain scans, the only ones known in the world.”

Why do we look like magazine cover models? Why not like our original selves?”

We could have provided you with a version of your old selves but it was decided to give you an appearance you considered desirable. We extracted your personal desires and tastes from your memories and crafted the bodies you are in now.”

What about our families?” asked Brandy, who had recently stopped sniffling. “What happened to them?

Your descendants number in the dozens and still reside in North America. Count yourself as fortunate. A lot has happened the past 467 years.”

I want to see them!”

All in good time Mrs. Jenson. We first have to get you settled down into your new lives before you contact your descendants. Please trust me that we will grant you your wish when everything is properly prepared for.”

Doctor, why did they put us in here when they could have waited a few more years and perfected the android bodies?” asked Andrew.

You two are the first that have been revived in their mental totality. We simply didn’t know how well a person could adapt if they are separated from their biological bodies. It is safer and more practical to get you acclimated to your new lives if you could experience things in a manner close to your original existence. An android body would put you in the physical world, but the “feeling” of being mechanical may put too much of a strain on your psyche. Think of this as a training ground. This environment is very similar to real life. I think you will enjoy it.”

Um, are you a User or one of these NPCs? I mean, I want to qualify your remark. No disrespect intended.”

You can’t offend me with basic questions, Andrew,” said Thea with a smile. “I am both actually. Right now, you are talking to a User. If I were to log off then this body you see now would be controlled by my shadow AI. She is essentially me when it comes to my profession. She’s technically not an upload, but an NPC who learns from me.”

I see. This is all so…mind-boggling.”

I am sure it is. The both of you need time to absorb this all. I have assigned you to a hostel where the both of you can adapt to your new lives at a relaxed pace. Hal will drive you there and get you checked in.”

I like that idea. Does that sound good Brandy?”

Brandy rubbed her eyes and nodded, “Yes, I need to go somewhere quiet and think. I just never imagined it would be like this.”

Andrew squeezed his wife’s hands again and felt light again. He then realized the gravity was normal again. Perhaps Thea was afraid they would freak out and get violent when they heard the news. He was thankful he didn’t freak out. The news was overwhelming, but a part of him realized the opportunity he was given and that excited him. This could actually be something better than his previous life...










CHAPTER 2

Not Leaving On A Jet Plane


GoSpeed stood in the open doorway facing the now empty house she had lived in for years. All her furniture and personal effects were either sold, given away, or in long-term storage. She had no idea if she’d ever come back to the island of Altus. She also doubted if she’d ever return this particular house either. It represented her old life, a life she wanted to leave behind. A beep of a car horn got her attention. Turning around, she walked out the door, letting it shut itself behind her. In the driveway was her neighbor Marcus Wellston, a part-time taxi driver. Grinning, he waved to her and she entered the back of the taxi.

All you have is a duffel bag, Go?” asked Marcus in a New York accent.

Yes Marcus, I travel light.”

I ain’t never seen a lady travel with so few things.”

Well, I ain’t no lady. What do you think of that?” she said with a smirk.

I think you’re talking nonsense, ma’am.”

If you only knew Marcus, if you only knew.”

I don’t want know!” said Marcus laughing. “My dear, where we headed this morning?”

The marina in Myrna.”

OK, you got it doll.”

Marcus leaned over to the right and turned off the meter hoping GoSpeed didn’t notice his act of charity. She noticed it of course but played along and pretended not too. Marcus was the type of man who would give you the shirt off his back if need be. That made him rare among Users. Users logged into this world, Simvie Loko, and “used” it for their personal gratification. Also living here were the NPCs who served in various roles such as guides, infrastructure support, and companions. Thankfully, the term NPC was dying out. The recent declaration of their autonomy and new freedoms put them on a nearly equal footing with Users. “Citizens” was the new title that gained traction among everyone so far. Citizen GoSpeed. She liked that.

Leaving on a Wednesday morning proved to be a good choice as there were hardly any cars on the road. Contrary to the light traffic, the marina was very active. Users and Citizens swarmed the docks and small shops on the waterfront. One boat stood out from the others. It had two tall masts, white hull, and reddish-brown teak wood decks. That was her yacht, it just had to be. She pointed it out to Marcus who drove the taxi to the pier that the yacht was tied up to. They stopped and she got out of the taxi, dragging her duffel bag out of the back seat.

Marcus, thank you so much for the ride, what do I owe you?”

Oh look, my meter wasn’t on. Forget about it then. The trip is on me.”

You are so sweet, Marcus.”

GoSpeed leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. Marcus blushed.

I will miss having you as a neighbor Go. You take care of yourself. And don't worry about your house. I will look after it.”

Thank you, Marcus, you’ve been such a great neighbor. I’ll be back sometime, sooner or later.”

Bye, GoSpeed.”

Bye.”

GoSpeed watched him slowly drive off, his hands wiping his eyes as he fought back his tears. She steeled herself as she felt a twinge of sadness. No way I’m gonna start tearing up and sniffling in front of Dahlia. I’ve seen too many counselors the past few years. Time for me to toughen up. Now, let’s face my future...




* * *


Doing an about-face she looked at the yacht again. Suddenly a black woman with a huge tussle of curly hair tied up with a colorful bandana popped out of the cabin. She spied GoSpeed and waved.


“GoSpeed! Here you be! Come darlin’. Come aboard!” Dahlia shouted in a Jamaican accent.

GoSpeed beamed back at Dahlia and strode forward to the yacht, duffel bag over her shoulder. A group of noisy children ran in front of her and almost tripped her up.

Get outta here yuh brats! Dis-ah nah ah place fah goofing off!”

The children stopped in their tracks and looked confused. Dahlia pointed them to the end of the pier and they proceeded to walk in that direction. GoSpeed laughed out loud as she walked up the ramp onto the yacht.

I don't think they've ever heard Jamaican patwa before. You confused the heck out of them!”

That was my intent Go. Here, let me take your bag. You know those are real children, doncha?”

Real, real children? Seriously?”

For real darlin’. Parents began bringing their children about half a year ago. You can reason with an adult posing as a child, but not these little monsters. Their parents let them run free all over the place raising a dreadful ruckus.”

Another good reason to leave the island I suppose.”

Let me get you settled in before we go. Come, I show you the cabin and the facilities.”

Down in the small but cozy crew cabin Dahlia showed her the bunks, galley, and restroom facilities. With her gear stowed in a personal locker, they both went to the main deck to cast off.

Yoo hoo! You two boys! Yes, you. Can yah come over here?”

Two young men walked to the ship and Dahlia favored them with a big smile.

I be needin’ your assistance casting off. Can you take the lines off the cleats when I signal?”

Both men nodded in comprehension. Dahlia stood behind the wheel and began making adjustments to levers on a control board. A soft roar emanated from below decks and a puff of exhaust belched from the port side. She motioned to the man standing by the stern and he removed the line from the cleat. She motioned for him to drop it. He did and she pushed a button which caused the line to automatically retract into the hull. She repeated the process with the bow line and they began drifting away from the pier. Using a joystick, jets of water twisted the yacht so it faced the open end of the harbor. Looking back at the pier she waved and blew kisses at the men. One man returned the gesture, only to have his wife punch him in the arm. Dahlia giggled.

He was only being a gentleman and that’s how his woman rewards him. Users never change, eh Go?”

Some Users aren’t that nice,” she added cryptically.

Sit back and relax girl. When I get us out of the harbor I will unfurl the sails. Then yah see how my boat really moves across the water.”

Dahlia navigated her way out of Myrna harbor and pointed the bow north.

Mind yah head girl. The boom will knock you overboard if you get in its way.”

She pushed a few more buttons and slid a lever on the control panel. The main sails which were fastened to the booms became unbound as the straps untied themselves. A line pulled them up the masts and they quickly filled with air from a southerly breeze. GoSpeed was glad she remained seated as the boom swooped over her head on its way to the port side. Dahlia flipped a few more switches and stepped back from the wheel. The wheel began moving of its own accord to the amazement of GoSpeed. Dahlia sat next to GoSpeed and smiled.

I have Iron Mike turned on. He is the autopilot.”

Oh, OK. I didn’t know sailboats had those.”

Well, I can afford these nice toys because my business has done really well.”

Does your boat have a name? I forgot to look.”

Her name is Clarissa Darling. I named her after an old friend.”

Becoming more serious she took GoSpeed’s hand and looked into her eyes.

Will you tell me now what this is all about? You are not telling me everything you should. Come on girl, spill your guts.”

GoSpeed bit her lip and didn’t reply.

You running away from something, eh? Is that it? A man I bet. You can tell me Go.”

GoSpeed sighed.

Partially, I suppose. There are many reasons.”

When did this happen?”

It’s been well over a year. Mind you, he wasn’t the main reason I am leaving. So much has changed in our world since Liberation Day. I just need to get away for a while and figure things out.”

Aye, I hear you there. The man you’ll get over in time, but this world of ours will never go back to the way it was. So where are you headed to after you reach the mainland?”

I am going to rent or buy a car and drive it to Bay City. My friends Ravishal and Abba invited me to join them.”

Ah! The war heroes. Oh, you are a war hero too as I recall.”

GoSpeed waved her hand dismissively.

I still don't know why they chose me to join them. I was less useful than Bilbo was to the Dwarves.”

You were there and saw it all. You even met Gaiana in person and made a joke with him.”

GoSpeed grinned and shrugged. “I just call them as I see them.”

You so lucky he has a sense of humor girl. I would have been frightened.”

He may be all powerful but he’s not so different from us.”

Ha! If you say so then,” she said in half disbelief. “So, what are your friends doing in Bay City?”

Technical advisors of some sort. They have to wait a while longer until their ship is ready to depart to Mars. The mayor asked for their help so they left 5 months ago.”

I hear their commercial seaport and airport just opened recently. Do you want to go straight there? It’s only a few more days sail. It’s not a bother to take you.”

That’s OK. I am looking forward to the long drive from Sazharus to Bay City. After growing up on a small island I’m looking forward to seeing wide open spaces for once.”

Trading in a sea of blue for a sea of green. Why do you want to sail to Sazharus and not fly like most people do?”

GoSpeed sighed again and waited a few seconds to answer.

As you know the major airlines only fly to the arrival hubs. The shorter hops are now being flown by Citizen run airlines. Peregrine Air Service is the only airline that flies from Altus to Sazharus. I didn’t want to run into a certain somebody on the plane or terminals.”

Aye girl. Flying is so overrated. Here at sea you can breathe fresh air and soak in the sun,” said Dahlia in an effort to take that certain somebody off her mind. GoSpeed smiled and leaned back on the cushioned bench. “We’ll get to my island before sunset. Tomorrow we set sail for the port of Sazhagorsk. Say, do you mind if I remove my top? I love to sail topless when I can.”

Um, well, OK. It’s your boat. Do what you want.”

Dahlia proceeded to pull her blouse over her head and dropped it on the deck. She then yanked the bandana from her hair and let her long curly locks flow in the breeze. Stepping up to the wheel she set it to manual control and steered a north-northeasterly course.

I see some storm clouds to the west. Hopefully, we can get to my island first.”

GoSpeed looked over her left shoulder and saw a wall of anvil clouds on the horizon. She could have pulled out her datapad and looked at the radar but decided she’d go tech-free for this leg of the trip. Looking at Dahlia’s bare back made her think a bit. After a few moments of deliberation, she pulled her top off and stretched out in the sun. Dahlia looked back and laughed.

Now that’s the spirit, girl!”

The southerly winds propelled them north in a race against the weather…


* * *


They reached Crossing Currents at sunset. The storms that threatened the island had weakened and their dying gasps of wind propelled the Clarissa Darling and crew to their destination. GoSpeed was expecting broad sandy beaches and palm trees to greet her as they approached, but the reality was a little different. There were sandy beaches but they were smaller. A few palm trees were close to the water but further in from shore deciduous trees prevailed and she could detect the scent of pine in the air. “Duh!”, she thought, realizing they had sailed northward into a more temperate climate where tropical plants were less common.


“Hello, boys! So good to see you again!” Dahlia called out as she maneuvered her yacht next to the pier. Three middle-aged men with tanned complexions and varying degrees of facial hair smiled and waved back. “GoSpeed, take that line there and hand it to the man.”


GoSpeed grabbed the end of the line that lay next to her and once she was within reach of one of the men, tossed it towards him. He grabbed it, looped it around a cleat and then pulled the yacht close to the pier. Another man reached out with a boat hook and pulled the bow closer to the pier. He then tied the yacht to another cleat.


“Go, these are the newest residents on the island. Famir, Yousef, and Piruz, former POWs from the Liberation War and now free Citizens of Simvie Loko.”


“Former enemy soldiers? How are they still here?”


“Well, you know most of them simply derezzed after the conflict was over, but it has been discovered that many of them remained. The theory is those that they were exposed to a better way of life changed enough that their code was altered. They ceased being simple soldiers.”


GoSpeed nodded, remembering how Rajavi, a former medic for the enemy, was allowed to remain behind.


“On the first day of the war a bomber plane crashed offshore and four crewmen swam ashore. The senior officer had a pistol and threatened all of us. He demanded we take him to the mainland. Fortunately, my business partner Lae Ring was able to surprise him and bashed him on the head with a coconut. Unfortunately, she didn’t know her own strength and it killed him. The other three didn’t offer up a fight, so we put them to work.”


“She’s a right good missus to work for. We all chose to stay here after the war,” spoke Famir with a Persian accent.


“And I just love you boys to death. I have never had such good help on the island before. Boys, could you please gather our personal gear and bring it to the house? Thank you!” Turning to GoSpeed she continued, “Come, let us get to the house before the light fails us. It will get a touch chilly tonight. Those storms brought some cool air from the mainland.”


True to Dahlia’s prediction a cool breeze from the northwest rustled the leaves in the canopy above them. The paved path led them to a brightly lit colonial style home surrounded by beautiful landscaping.


“Welcome to my home and the headquarters for Dah-Lae Designs, the best landscaping in all of Simvie Loko!” she said as she bowed. “Lae is out on a business trip. She sends her regards though.”


“It looks awesome Dahlia. I can’t wait to see it in the daylight. I’ve always fantasized about how your place looked.”


“Aye, you’ll get the full tour in the morning. The nice thing about these cool blasts is they leave the air clear and bright. You’ll be able to see for miles and miles. Famir, Piruz, leave those things there. You boys enjoy your evening.”


Dahlia blew them kisses as they cheerfully exited the house.


“Must be nice to have servants at your beck and call.”


“Oh no, not servants. Employees! When they first arrived, they were simple folk but I saw something in them. They have been growing in personality and character steadily over the last couple of years. I think one day soon they will probably move on to pursue their own dreams.”


“Much like myself. All I did was serve Users and now that’s no longer enough.”


“And yuh learn dat serving yourself isn’t as easy as yuh tink.”


GoSpeed grinned, “I love how your patwa slips into your speech every now and again.”


“I can’t help it sometimes,” Dahlia said with a chuckle. “Say, you look a might worn out.” Dahlia reached out to touch GoSpeed’s cheek. “I think you got a lot of sun today. The English part of you is complaining.”


“I do feel kind of flushed right now.”


“Aight, off to bed with you darlin’. I shan't see you getting sick while your here. A good night of sleep will help you fortify yourself. There is a cooler in your room stocked with water bottles, please drink one before you sleep, OK?”


“OK, I will.”


A little while later in the bedroom...


GoSpeed snuggled up in the blankets and played the day’s events back in her head. Leaving her home in Kontias, saying goodbye to Marcus, the long sail north to this island, and meeting Dahlia’s employees. The “boys” as she called them, didn’t say much but their body language was very expressive. She wondered how Rajavi was doing now. No one had heard much from him or his self-assigned mentor Sohal, the Sikh wannabe. Messages between simulations often got misdirected. She hoped Rajavi would come back someday.


Her thoughts turned back to Dahlia and she smiled. She was the first fellow Citizen she had met that was not only as dark skinned as she was, but she had an accent similar to her own. Most of the dark-skinned people she had met back on Altus were Users and they were boring tourists. Dahlia, on the other hand, was a self-made, successful landscaper. On numerous occasions, she’d come to Altus with a crew of laborers and get her hands dirty right alongside them. GoSpeed would watch from the distance because she would be too shy to start a conversation. One day GoSpeed built up the courage to say hello. When Dahlia heard the accent, she perked up and gave Go her full attention. They were good friends from that point on. She never did take up her offer to come join her team, preferring to stay on Altus to be close to her parental guardians.


GoSpeed began drifting off to sleep, remembering her times back on the island...










CHAPTER 3

The Land Of Opportunity


Marty looked out the window of the cargo plane as it flew over the newly opened Bay City International Airport. Below, the freshly painted runways spread across a rectangular island connected to the land by a large flyover bridge. The plane banked and flew over the center of the city. The business district was an archipelago of islands surrounded by deep, walled canals crossed by drawbridges. The northernmost of these islands were connected to land by more modest bridges that lead to a larger sprawl of suburban housing developments and scattered shopping centers. The plane continued its arcing trajectory and swung back towards the main airport. A thump followed by a mechanical whine signaled the main gear deploying and the landing flaps lowering. Marty checked his seat belt again and readied himself for the landing.

The twin-engine turboprop plane floated so gracefully to a landing that the typical squawk of the tires impacting the pavement never occurred. Marty very much appreciated the flying skills of Zoe and Cornelius. These two flew as if they were riding bareback on a horse. Never yanking the reins, just letting the horse decide where to go. His boss, Josie, on the other hand, was definitely in control when she piloted. Her maneuvers were very deliberate and you could feel every move of the flight controls when she flew. He rubbed the back of his head as he recalled a few bumpy rides with Josie in the cockpit.

A man with a crisp English accent came over the intercom, “Ladies and gents we have landed safely at Bay City International Airport. Local time is 11 AM. We will pull up to our private hangar in about a minute. Zoe has expressed a desire to get our plane unloaded quickly and safely. I myself have a lunch date so I expect all of us to get our collective asses into gear and knock this out without haste.”

Marty shook his head. When did they ever not perform? Josie Ryder ran a tight outfit and didn’t hire slackers. He looked over to the seat on the port side of the fuselage and saw Otto Diesel sleeping blissfully. Present company excepted of course. That boy loved his nap time. Marty wadded up a piece of paper and threw it at him. Otto woke up and he looked around the cabin acting slightly confused.

Otto, we’ve landed. Time to get this puppy unloaded so we can get some R & R today. Hey, pick up that paper by your foot. You know Zoe hates a trashy cargo deck.”

Ok boss, you betcha,” replied an enthusiastic Otto.

The plane powered down and the rear ramp door lowered to its open position. Marty squeezed past a few pallets and strolled down the ramp.

OK, you lazybones! Let’s get this plane unloaded! Now!” He bellowed out army-sergeant style.

A team of two men and two women clad in red overalls scurried into action bringing pallet jacks and a forklift. With practiced precision, they quickly unloaded the contents of the C-160 Transall cargo plane. The pilot, Zoe Connolly, along with her co-pilot Cornelius Fanshaw, conducted a brief walk around tour of the plane, then approached Marty.

I’ll have these pallets fully scanned in and sent to the storage room in a few more minutes. By the way Zoe, great landing.”

Oh, thank you, Marty. Pardon me, but I am in a hurry. I have an appointment in Shermerville that I have to make. Cornelius, as you know, has a hot date with a pole dancer.”

Cornelius turned red with embarrassment and sputtered, “She’s an interpretive dancer.”

His dancer girlfriend I mean,” Zoe said with a wink of her eye.

Marty subtly rolled his eyes and thought that all pilots were either psychos or clowns. Thankfully the clowns before him weren’t too hard to work with.

Don’t worry guys I got this covered. I’ll get the paperwork done pronto. You go and have fun.”

Thank you, Marty. Have a good weekend!” said Zoe who then sashayed out of the hangar, closely followed by Cornelius.

Let’s get this shit done guys. Otto, sweep down the flight deck and the cargo deck. When you’re done, come out here and help us finish up.”

Otto gave a mock salute and scurried back inside the plane. The other four ground crew began unpacking the pallets and scanned the bar codes with their datapads. Marty supervised them, lending the occasional hand with heavier boxes and crates. Otto soon returned and helped reduce the pallets into many smaller, sorted piles.

Bishop, get the food items and mail onto the truck and take them to the main cargo terminal. When you bring the truck back everyone will do a FOD walk down.”

Marty left the crew to their task and walked into the offices on the far side of the hangar...


* * *


Hi, Beverly. We’re just about done out there. Here’s the manifest.”

Marty held out his datapad and Beverly lifted hers up to touch his, transferring his data to her system.

Thanks, Marty. I’ll get this out to the customers ASAP. Do we still want to use Bruin Services to pick up and deliver the items for us?”

Sure. They’ve done pretty well for us so far. Make it happen, Bev. When you’re done you can get out of here. The weather is perfect outside.”

Aww, you’re so sweet Marty! Thank you!”

De nada, Bev, de nada.”

Marty made his way to his small office and he entered his reports into the system terminal. He rather liked this part of the job as it was a mindless task that didn’t tax his brain much. After what seemed an eternity he closed his reports and logged out of the network. It was much quieter in the hangar so he knew that everyone had finished their tasks and were awaiting his dismissal.

Out in the hangar, the crew stood anxiously near the exit. Marty scanned the hangar space looking for gear adrift and spots of dirt and grime. He hoped not to see any as he was wanting to leave too.

Otto. Is this space clean to my satisfaction?”

Yes, boss.”

Is the plane prepped for tomorrow’s maintenance checks?”

All complete.”

Great. Everyone who is on maintenance detail report here tomorrow at 7:30 AM sharp.”

And get ready to get your hands dirty. We’re stripping down engine number 1 and putting it back together,” chimed Otto.

A few groans came from the group.

OK, get outta here! Stay safe and come back in one piece and sober.”

Everyone filed out leaving Marty alone in the hangar space. The security guard was in the far corner pouring himself one of many coffees he’d drink tonight. He gave the man a wave and walked out the door to his parked car. Sitting in his bright red Cabrio convertible he zipped open a flight suit pocket and withdrew a card. In a fancy script written in blue ink were the words: “Blue Martini Nightclub 1515 Tanta Road”. In smaller words, it said, “Dress code: formal clothing and gowns. Bar closes at 2 AM. Taxi service. Free parking across the street.”

Marty considered the card for a moment and stuck it back in his pocket. “May as well go. I’ll run by Bernie’s Tailor Shop for a set of tuxedos.” He started the engine and sped away towards the bridge to Bay City. The night held the promise of a good time, or it could be a colossal bore. One way to find out...










CHAPTER 4

Handbook For The Recently Revived


Honey, this has to be some sort of joke. This book is called ‘The Handbook For The Recently Revived’. It’s like that Beetlejuice movie where they had a book for the recently deceased.”

I never liked that movie,” said a disinterested Brandy who was more fascinated by her new appearance. She had been standing before a mirror eyeing her new body and trying on articles of clothing for the past couple of hours. “How does this look?”

It looks OK I guess. I miss the old you, though.”

I certainly don’t! No more crow’s feet or gray hair. Look! I am so trim and curvy now!”

But you no longer look like you anymore.”

I wouldn’t go back to the old me for all the tea in China. Don't you like your new body? You look so handsome now! Enjoy it! It’s a second chance for us to be young again.”

Andrew stood next to Brandy in front of the full-length mirror and looked at himself.

I like being healthier but I miss my old face. I mean, superficially it sort of resembles a younger me. A younger me portrayed by a Hollywood actor that is. The only thing on me that is still the same is my well, you know.”

He looked down at his crotch.

I hope it’s bigger,” said Brandy, who quickly covered her mouth. “Sorry Andrew. I didn’t mean it that way.”

He shook his head and walked away from the mirror. He sat down on the edge of the bed and opened up the handbook and pretended to read. Brandy sat beside him and laid her head on his shoulder.

What have you learned from the book so far Andy?”

Andrew sighed. She called him Andy whenever she was trying to apologize to him. Deciding to accept her apology he chose to share a few things from the handbook to let her know she was forgiven. He flipped through the pages and picked a few he had placed bookmarks on.

It says that this simulation, Simvie Loko, is almost 60 years old and has had only 21 days of downtime. The simulation is the size of Earth, globe shaped. However only one-eighth of the globe is currently open for exploitation. The rest is terra incognita.”

How big is that?”

One-eighth of the world is like all of Europe to Western Siberia, the Mideast, and North Africa. We are right in the middle of that area.”

Are there countries?”

Andrew flipped through a few more pages.

Not really for a few reasons. First of all, the overall population is quite sparse for a place this big. Latest census puts Users at roughly 1.5 million and NPCs (now called Citizens) at roughly 300,000. This place was envisioned as a playground of sorts for Users. I do see here that there are a few city-states under development.”

No countries. It sounds so uncomplicated.”

There is no crime to speak of but they had a war two years ago. By war, I mean a Mother Of All Battles kind of war. There’s this super AI ruler of the real world who wanted to clear this place out and shut it down for political reasons, but he decided he was wrong and called the war off. Or something like that. There aren’t many details about it.”

Does it tell you anything about the real world? I wonder what it’s like.”

There isn’t much information about it. Maybe we can ask Thea or Hal. Everyone around here is pretty evasive about real-world stuff though.”

What does it say about our bodies?”

Andrew flipped through his bookmarks again and found the chapter on physiology.

I’ve only skimmed through this chapter. Hmmm, OK. Here are a few places I bookmarked. It says the body simulation is 99.987% faithful to the real thing. In our current environment we can feel all the same sensations our real bodies could feel. Severe trauma is one thing that is not fully emulated. Minor injuries can still feel painful, like stubbing a toe. Death. Hmmm. It says in the event of an injury that causes death we will return to a fresh body with some memory loss covering the hours before the death.”

Brandy got an impish grin on her face that Andrew instantly recognized.

Sex will be just like we remembered it?”

I suppose so,” he said wryly.

Brandy pushed Andrew down onto the bed and whispered in his ear, “Let me see it if looks the same as before.”

“It might be bigger too,” added Andrew who now wore a big grin on his face…


* * *


[Sex is awesome! It’s always clean. No diseases. All you need to bring to it is the right attitude and everyone is guaranteed to have a good time. Forget all your hang-ups and misgivings from your previous life. You ARE a sexy beast!

-Handbook for the Recently Revived (HRR)]


They lay side by side on the bed, the bed sheets covering them. They were naked, Brandy wearing a serene smile and Andrew staring up at the ceiling in exhaustion. She snuggled closer and played with the hair on his chest.


“Baby, that was awesome. It’s been so long since it felt this good. How was it for you?” purred Brandy.


“It was…very intense.”


“Uh huh, I’ll say. It was like everything was perfect. Like it was straight from my imagination. Was it that way for you Andy?”


“It was too perfect. I mean, everything felt good, no matter what we tried. I dunno, I mean, it felt great, but it wasn’t like it used to be.” He was going to mention it was like being in a porno movie but decided that allegory would only lead to problems.


“I’ll take perfect anytime. I am going to go freshen up, OK?”


“Sure, go for it.”


Brandy leaped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, giggling all the way. Andrew smiled knowing that she was in such a good mood. She seemed to be enjoying her new body more than he was. He would have enjoyed the sex more but he was still trying to wrap his head around his new life and the world he was in. A squeaking noise followed by a hiss indicated that Brandy was taking a shower. A knock on the door caught his attention. He got out of bed and draped himself with a housecoat.


“Who is it?


“It’s Halle! I have news for the both of you. May I come in?”


“Can you give me a moment to get dressed?”


“Sure thing sir. I’ll wait outside.”


Andrew quickly put on a set of casual clothes and slippers. He left Brandy a set of clothes on the bathroom vanity for her to wear, then let Halle into the room.


“Have a seat. Brandy will be out of the bathroom shortly.”


Halle grinned and asked, “So how’s the experimentation going?”


“What do you mean? Oh, that? Umm, fine I suppose, but I would rather not talk about that.”


“You are not obligated to do so,” said a bemused Halle. “You have been reading the handbook I hope?”


“Yes, actually. It’s rich with facts and general guidance, but it’s also a little confusing and obscure in places. Also, what is up with the book title. It’s like that book from the movie…”


“That was on purpose,” countered Halle, cutting him off. “You saw that movie in your youth so it was a relatable item for you. In fact, you will find a lot of familiar things here in Simvie Loko. We brought you here because we knew you’d fit in.” Brandy stepped out of the bathroom fully dressed with a towel wrapped around her head. “Hi Brandy.”


“Hi, Hal.”


“I was just about to tell your husband about an opportunity we have lined up for you two.”


“Oh, what’s that?”


“I was just telling him that the reason we revived you into this simulation is that the culture and society share much in common with your previous lives on Earth. Specifically, the late 20th and early 21st century AD.”


“We were both born in 1970. That fits us to a T,” said Andrew.


“In the process of reconstituting your minds from the brain scans, we built a comprehensive database of all your experiences. We discovered that both of you were “computer gamers” (he said making finger quotes) and had familiarity with virtual environments.”


“Ha Ha! I used to kid Andrew that he would be buried with his VR headset.”


Halle chuckled and continued, “It was by great coincidence that the first world you explored was called Second Life. You both created avatars there starting in 2006 and remained active for over 10 years. No images or data remain of these avatars but your avatar names did pop up in other media.”


Halle opened his valise and produced a few pictures.


“These are screenshots of a place called ‘Bay City’. Does it seem familiar to you?”


Brandy shook her head no but Andrew nodded slowly. “I have a few memories of the place. Sort of mid-20th century city in a North American theme. They had lots of parties and stuff. Oh yeah! The mayor was a little kid too.”


“Yeah! I remember the Christmas parties!” added Brandy who smiled as the memories returned to her.


“I am glad it’s bringing back good memories. You can keep the pictures. Do you both think this is a good idea?”


Andrew and Brandy exchanged glances.


“It’s as good as any I suppose,” conceded Andrew.


“Excellent. We will make arrangements for your settlement there. Before you leave you will need to attend a few classes on how to get by on your own. Stuff like how to shop, etiquette, laws, and so forth.”


“What do we do for money? Is there money here?”


“This is a post-scarcity world. You’ll never lack for food and shelter. But people still need a job and a paycheck to feel fulfilled. You will be on a monthly stipend until you both find meaningful employment. Don’t feel rushed finding work. The city is still growing so you may have to wait for opportunities to arise.”


“How long are the classes?”


“They last two weeks. After that, we will provide you with some clothing and other personal effects. Oh, you also get this right now.”


Halle pulled out two semi-transparent devices the size of paperback books and handed them to the couple.


“These are your own personal datapads. You’ll find them very intuitive to use. They are much like the computer tablets of your time. Right now, they are in browse mode only. As you get trained in class other functions will be activated.”


Brandy was already deeply absorbed with her datapad. Andrew laughed and shook his head.


“We’ve lost her already Halle.”


Brandy looked up wondering why the two men were smiling.


“What? What are you two grinning about?”


“Nothing dear, nothing.”


“Before I go I want to reinforce something important to the both of you. You two are among the first two of your kind in Simvie Loko. If word got out that actual 21st century people lived here, then you will get more attention than you would ever want. By necessity, only a few Citizens and Users will know about your origins. They will identify themselves to you. Never volunteer your true identities to anyone. Do I make myself clear?”


They both nodded yes.


“Very good. I must be going now. I am listed in your contacts on the datapads. If you need me or Dr. Thea then please give us a call or leave a text message.”


Halle stood up to leave and offered his hand to Andrew and Brandy. They shook hands and he let himself out of the apartment.


“Oh my gosh! This is so exciting and scary at the same time. We are going to our new home!” exclaimed Brandy.


Andrew sat back down in his seat and accessed his datapad. He played with the menu for a short time and then pointed it at the TV. The datapad’s screen was replicated on the TV.


“I want to know more about this place. Pardon me for hogging the TV.”


“That’s OK, I am curious too.”


Brandy sat down next to her husband and helped him with his search...










CHAPTER 5

Not So Welcome Shores


GoSpeed entered the dining room, rubbing her tired eyes.


“Good morning Speedy! I trust you slept well?” said an overly cheerful Dahlia.


“I slept like a baby until the rooster crowed. Then I didn’t want to get out of bed because my room got chilly last night.”


“You’re just in time for breakfast. Have a seat. Piruz will serve us in a few moments.”



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