An excerpt from
A Virtual Reality
Part One: Unleashing Intentions
“Welcome, Dr. Macnamera,” a sexy feminine voice purred. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. I’d half-feared the fictitious identity would trip some additional alarm, though I shouldn’t have worried since my accomplice who set up the ID was simply that good.
Gillian Macnamera, PhD. That was me, at least for today. Most days, I was Gillian Lawrence, Junior Security Analyst. Sure, it sounded exciting, but it really wasn’t. Being a junior analyst meant I didn’t leave the office much, did most of the work, and my boss got the credit. He liked the arrangement and took full advantage of it. Me? I didn’t care so long as I was left alone. It worked fine for both of us. Most of the time.
Being in a male-dominated profession, company, and department meant that until my coworkers either learned to ignore me like I tried to ignore them or left the department, I was discriminated against, sexually harassed, or both. It didn’t help that I was tall enough to look most men in the eye, which I think intimidated them, and was better at what we did than all of them combined, which I know intimidated them. That I didn’t demand recognition or advertise that fact that I was a woman, and tried to stay as invisible as possible helped immeasurably. It also made for a very lonely existence.
“Thank you, Sheila,” I answered.
During the tour, Dr. Afton had reluctantly explained, with distinct disapproval, that one of the programmers of his system’s AI based her persona on his first teenage crush, Sheila Liki, a legendary actress of erotic movies. Apparently, Dr. Afton was not an aficionado of that particular style of film and truly did not appreciate the original’s…¬um…finer qualities.
I took a deep breath, slowly released it to calm my tight nerves, and then walked to the door of the chamber in the center of the large room. There was no handle on this door, though there was an ID card slider with a keypad identical to the one outside the lab. I wondered how I would get in when it simply receded with a small whoosh of air then slid aside, remaining open.
Pausing a moment in the doorway to look around, the ceiling in the center of the fifteen-foot diameter room immediately drew my eyes. The Direct Interaction Virtual Reality Field Generator, or DiViRGen, was the latest and most advanced prototype of human/cyber-interaction ever developed and it didn’t require special equipment in the form of ungainly headgear or sensor-laced gloves, or anything wired at all. Instead, the connection between the human brain and the virtual simulation was direct via the special energy field emitted by the generator.
Illuminated by the soothing blue glow emanating from the DiViRGen, a custom-designed recliner awaited. Next to the door was a simple panel with two options: OPEN and CLOSE. Otherwise, the room was empty.
“Is there a problem, Doctor?” Sheila’s sensuous voice rolled about me like velvet.
“No problem, Sheila.” I entered the room and removed my lab coat, laying it on the floor to the left of the door. “Commence pre-sim protocol Six Alpha Nine-G.” I stepped out of my shoes, leaving them next to the stolen coat, and approached the recliner. I swallowed hard, almost not believing what I was about to do.
“Name of subject?” Sheila asked.
“I do not detect another presence, Dr. Macnamera. Safety protocols require a minimum of one authorized person to oversee simulation interaction.”
I entered the field of soft light and laid back on the recliner, which automatically adjusted to my contours, exactly as Dr. Afton had claimed. I fought a surge of panic as I mentally reviewed the safety-protocol override code. If I gave the wrong code, human security personnel would automatically be alerted.
“Override Protocol X4-73 Mark 945. Commence Proxy Gamma Gamma Delta JSA 674 Mark Allen 4.”
“Good evening, Dr. Macnamera.” The familiar masculine voice resonated through me, right to my very core, and I shivered. I could listen to that voice forever.
“Commence simulation.” As I closed my eyes and relaxed, I thought I heard the chamber door slide closed and, with soft rush of air, seal, as I sank into oblivion.
“Commencing at 22:31.”
I opened my eyes and saw above me a blue more brilliant than I could have ever imagined. Framing the view were gnarly trees covered in an explosion of white blossoms edged in pale pink.
If I remembered correctly from a recent work-related tour of the district’s flora museum—a long-time client of Miffler Security—the trees were apple.
Something brushed against my cheek. Turning my head, the long blades of grass waving in the gentle breeze tickled my nose. I couldn’t help but smile. I’d awoken on a bed of thick grass in the middle of an apple orchard and at that moment couldn’t think of anything more thrilling or wonderful.
A true orchard of any type under a cloudless noonday sky hadn’t existed in the natural world for over a millennium—since before the massive eruptions of the Pacific Ring of Fire that had turned the atmosphere utterly toxic. If humanity hadn’t already turned to domed megacities to escape massive pollution levels, humanity would not have survived the worst natural disaster since the extinction of the dinosaurs, let alone thrived enough to eventually begin reclaiming the planet.
It wasn’t just the sights of the long lost natural world that fascinated me, it was the scents and textures too. Rolling over on my stomach, I ran my fingers over the individual blades of grass, marveling at the feel and scent of them. I’d never seen real grass before, let alone touched or smelled it. It was amazing.
A gust blew and apple blossom petals floated down around me. Rolling back over and sitting up, I grabbed some of them up and held them under my nose, deeply inhaling their luscious aroma. It was nothing like the weak fragrance from the trees in the museum’s botanical garden. This digital dreamland was incredible. It seemed more real than reality. It was certainly more intense.
After who knew how long, I noticed my usually short fingernails were well past my fingertips and painted a pale pink that matched the simple dress I wore. I marveled at its lack of weight; I hadn’t noticed the vast amount of fabric that covered me from wrist to ankle to throat.
Where’d that come from?
I fully expected to see the same outfit I wore when I broke into the lab and entered the simulation. I never wore feminine-style clothing, let alone dresses, because it drew too much unwanted attention at work. It reminded them that I was female and possibly something more than just a co-worker.
I wondered what else was different and moved my hands to my face and hair. My face felt the same, though without a mirror, I couldn’t be sure, but my hair was definitely longer—a lot longer—all the way down my back, in fact. I kept it trimmed very short for easy care, like my fingernails, but also, so I looked less feminine. I quickly ran my hands over the rest of my body. If there were other changes, I couldn’t tell through the material.
Since there wasn’t much I could do about it at this point, I put the cosmetic alterations in my appearance out of mind. Besides, when on an illicit adventure to experience the relationships I lacked with other people in real life, looking like the woman I was—or could be—wasn’t a bad thing.
I got to my feet, which were clad in flat-soled, slipper-type sandals that matched my dress, and wandered in random directions through the orchard, enjoying every sight, sound, scent, and sensation, until I spied a dirt road.
If I was going to interact with people, I figured it was about time that I tried too find some, so I headed for the road and the village that it would inevitably lead to, and wondered what other marvels awaited me.
You would think that I’d already know since I programmed it, but you’d be wrong. I only altered certain security parameters of an already-existing simulation. I’m not saying that it was beyond my capabilities to create something so advanced, but it was certainly beyond my experience. There also wasn’t time. To create a simulation that complex would have taken years, and I’d only had days. Once the Miffler Security contract was complete at the end of the month, I would no longer have direct access to Lars-Afton Laboratories.
“I was beginning to think you were going to spend all day wandering around in there,” a deep, soothing, and amused male voice announced as I emerged from the orchard.
I jumped. Quickly turning in that direction, a handsome man wearing loose brown pants and an unbleached muslin poet shirt, the laces at the neck loosened, hinting at the muscled flesh beneath, leaned against a tree. He was anywhere from his late twenties to late thirties, with unruly black hair that brushed his shoulders and eyes as bright a blue as the noon sky. He grinned at me.
“Who are you?” I asked even as it struck me—I knew that voice!
“You wound me, Doctor Macnamera!” He put his right hand over his heart in an overly dramatic gesture. “You know very well who I am.”
“Joshua?” I exclaimed, shocked at his unexpected presence. I knew his voice very well but never had a human face to associate with it.
He grinned again and bowed his head though his eyes never left mine. “I am your humble guide.”