Chapter 3: A Small Glitch
Tanyar followed Tinyrose though the complex till they reached the gymnasium where they stopped to look around. It was the biggest indoor space he had ever seen outside of a steel mill. In the center was a full track, its middle filled with different sectioned areas that Tanyar could only guess at the purpose, and along both walls were equipment, weights, exercise machines, mats, and even more things that he had never seen before.
"Come on let's go for a swim." Tinyrose said stepping out onto the track heading for the far side of the building. There were people scattered about the building most were alone or coupled but there were also a few groups. Tanyar got a good look at one group they passed. Two men were sparring in one of the center sections with gloves surrounded by a group of onlookers. There was not any cheers or jeers like Tanyar expected just what seemed like a simple fight watched by silent onlookers.
On the far side of the building she led him though two sets of double doors and they were instantly enveloped by the warm damp chlorine scented air. The pools were also under a roof that had several large heavy window overhead which showed a pitch black sky if you looked beyond the large white globes for lights. The pool on the left side was a full olympic size stretching down the building while the second was much wider and sectioned off in three ways, once in half long ways and one side was bouyed off again, allowing room for people to jump off the diving boards with out worrying about who was below.
"This way." Tinyrose tried to lead him off to the right side towards the locker room. Tanyar looked over the rec pool at the dozen or so active people and the two people that were waiting to use the open lower diving board before he noticed several smaller pools beyond the rec pool. Tinyrose tapped him on the shoulder to catch his wondering attention. "Take off your shoes and jump in if you want." He looked at her then his own clothing. "Don't worry there are more outfits inside but if you feel like changing, or want a swimsuit follow me."
She led Tanyar inside the locker room, up front there were several open shower heads on the wall and benches separating four rows of lockers. On the other wall was a counter with several cubbie holes behind it. "Is this, co-ed?" Tanyar asked curious and blushing.
Lucky for him Tinyrose hadn't turned around when she rang the bell on the counter. "This is more of a wash off and waiting area really. You can change here if you like, but the real lockers are back there." She pointed to the door against the back wall.
A female made her way around to the back side of the counter, recognizing Tinyrose she pulled a bag from a cubbie hole and smiled handing it over, "Hello lady Rose, anything new today?"
"Yes. A pair of swim trunks." She pointed to the young man.
"Hhmmmm. A large should do." The female stated leaning down behind the counter and coming back up with sealed plastic bag. The attendant tore open the bag and picking up a black pen asking, "Name?"
She penned his name in the white rectangle beneath the T.A.N. Corp logo. "Please return the trunks here. We will have them washed and ready for you next visit." Tanyar nodded looking over to Tinyrose for instructions.
"The left side door." she stated. "I'll see you in the big pool in a bit." Tinyrose finished and headed though the right side door. He quickly changed and stashed his clothes in a locker as he headed back out. He was relaxing in the warm water against the wall by the time Tinyrose came back out. After hopping in the pool next to him she gave a big splash to his face before strongly swimming off the width of the pool under the sectioning rope and then back.
She swam one more lap before beckoning him away from the wall. Tanyar was not really one for a lot of water, he could of course swim and didn't mind being in the pool to relax. But there were dozens of other things he would prefer doing besides standing chest deep in warm water. He took several steps from the wall watching as Tinyrose dipped underwater. Tanyar gasped as his ankle was grabbed and he was dragged under. He fought against a second of panic before putting his feet down and pushing off the bottom of the pool and forcing his head out coughing up a mouth full of water.
Tinyrose slapped his back calling, "Spit it out your fine."
"Fine?" Tanyar gasped he leaped forward to try and grapple with Tinyrose uncaring that it was a female he faced. She easily evaded him tripping him up and sending him under again. Tinyrose moved with ease though the water laughing as he floundered and lunged with no success. The play went of for minutes Tanyar still unable to dunk Tinyrose while she had him under at least twice a minute. Finally he pulled away choking having actually breathed in some water on the last dunk and fully tired of the abuse. He made it to the wall trying to stop the explosive coughing so he could get a good breath. Tanyar looked back at her while he huffed, she was slowly rolling back and forth in the water smiling. He choked again turning back to the wall taking a deep breath and trying to hold it. Several seconds later he coughed a few more times but it felt like the fit was ending.
Tanyar shoved with his legs and threw his chest out onto the concrete edge of the pool before pulling his legs free of the water laying flat out on the deck next to the pool. "Tanyar wait!" She called out swimming to the edge. Tinyrose literally launched herself out of the water having lifted one foot as high as the edge of the pool and pushed completely clear of the water to stand on the edge with grace that would have impressed him had he been paying attention. Tanyar had only made it to his knees so she helped him to stand.
Tanyar pushed her away as he tried holding his breath suppressing the occasional cough. "Sorry I guess that was a bit much, you were so good in the Dream I though you would have a few moves to show me." Tinyrose said.
"What?" He tried asking.
She paid careful attention to Tanyar as she questioned him, "Do you know any martial arts, kung fu or something?" Watching him shake his head she continued. "Get in to a lot of fights at school, wrestle, box?" She watched as he shook his head at all her questions. She gave a little frown looking him over again. It wasn't that she though he was lying but she found it a bit to much to accept how he so easily beat Neworleans, someone who had hand to hand self defense training and some knowledge of the Dream. "Come on let's go relax in the warm tubs."
Tanyar had lost most of his irritation when she had mentioned the Dream, but he was still a little upset as he followed behind her down the pool. Just beyond the diving boards were five small pools, the four on the outside were odd shaped having several wide or short arcs along the edge while the center one was a large circle easily twice the size of the others.
"Kinda," Tinyrose answered, "we joke and call them warm tubs since most days they are around ninety five degrees or less." She walked to the center pool and stepped down doing a belly flop as she submerged for a moment. After she surfaced she walked five feet or so to sit down at center on a raised circle seat in the middle of the hot tub.
Tinyrose was greeted by the two other occupants as Tanyar made his way to the pool and slowly climbed in. The water was hot to Tanyar, certainly hotter than a tub, but it did not have the same steamy heat that he had experience the few times he had used one before. He stayed to the outer wall sitting down listening to Tinyrose talk with the other two.
After a few minutes she introduced him to Jason and Marissy. "Are you having fun your first few days? Marissy asked. Tanyar nodded keeping quiet, "I was told you did a rather impressive job today." she continued.
Tanyar nodded again closing his eyes and leaning back trying to fake enjoying himself. "Tanyar," Tinyrose said, "it's to late to try and hide now." He opened is eyes to look seeing she was pointing behind him. He nearly leaped back out of the small pool shocked at the two splashes that happened on each side of him as two bodies joined in the tub. "There's more." She kept pointing causing Tanyar to look over his shoulder. He saw at least six more people making their way towards him as both males who had jumped in beside him tried to introduce themselves.
He looked back at Tinyrose ignoring the offered hands. "Is he going to bolt?" Jason asked moving up next to her.
"I don't know, why don't you call him kid and find out." Tinyrose stated.
There was a piercing whistle and all heads turned towards Marissy who had a thumb and finger in her mouth still blowing. "All right everyone stay on the outside. Tanyar I would like to ask you to please sit in the middle." Marissy said in a loud voice. Tanyar watched as both Jason and Tinyrose vacated the middle island moving to the outside.
"All the world is a stage." Tanyar heard someone quote from behind him, "Relax kid we won't bite." the voice said again as he moved towards the center. Her sat in the middle of the three foot flat circle, a table just just two feet under the surface of the water.
Tanyar heard and then felt the splash of someone entering behind him, he turned around to see Hummer sitting down, "Not causing problems again are you young one?" The large male asked. Tanyar just shrugged his shoulders unsure how to answer and totally unsure what exactly was going on.
Tinyrose had moved several steps back to the center, "It's okay everyone is impressed with your actions today, even what you did on the field. They would like to say hello and ask a few questions if that is alright with you. Or if you want we can leave, maybe go watch a movie." she added.
"I have a question for you Tinyrose. What does Kalrena plan to do with him?" A female asked.
"I don't know and I can't tell what I do know." Tinyrose answered the woman who had sat at the edge of the pool with just her legs in the water. "Besides I wouldn't want to overly prepare Tanyar in anyway after today. So," she said looking back to Tanyar, "do you feel like talking? I promise no one here will call you kid anymore." He nodded as three more people approached all fully clothed and two carrying plastic chairs.
When the two were seated Tanyar said, "What do you want to know?"
"Well if you want to skip the intros that is fine, why don't you start with how you made the metal." Marissy stated. He first explained it was steel not metal, then he stated how Occulus said he had to know something. Tanyar told them how when he was ten his father had been involved in a group that had bought a steel mill. He had taken both his sons on a full weeks tour starting at the mines in the hills all the way through to the molds in the mill.
In exchange for the story one of the programmers named, or nicknamed, Floppy told Tanyar to make sure the Dream wasn't a wild chaotic place where any stray thought or wild imagination could take root they had placed a system where anything created had to be understood on a more complex level. Many things were easy to create and took little work but complex or larger constructions required more knowledge of how things worked and what they were made of. Sometimes several hours of study and then possibly several more hours of trial and error was needed to get a construct right. This prevented anyone from goofing off or random wishes from appearing.
"It wasn't just that you created a steel ball was it though, you know how it was made what it looked and how it would feel right?" Floppy asked watching Tanyar nod, "The more thought you put in to what you want size, shape, feel, weight, the easier it will be to make." Tanyar continued to nod realizing with out knowing he had created something because he not just knew how steel was made but how it would look and feel as well.
"So where did you learn to fight like that?" The next question was asked.
Tanyar looked for the speaker trying to figure out how to answer. "He has no formal or informal training." Tinyrose announced. Several people were looking around unsure if this was fact or not.
"Seems like there was a bit of T.V. flair and some natural talent, and don't forget he surprised the hell out of Neworleans." Hummer said. "Didn't you mention you had a brother too."
"Ever dreamed about beating the crap out of him or anyone else." Hummer asked. Tanyar paused a moment before nodding. The big male chuckled, "Most brothers do at some point. But your brain thinks right you willed it to happen so your avatar follows. Training always helps but sometimes if you want it bad enough it happens." He though back to the moment and had to agreed with Hummer explaining how he felt at the time. "That was bad what happened to you group, it wasn't right." Hummer stated, "But it's done with now."
Several people then asked about Tanyar's memory and how many people he knew. After throwing a dozen names at once he could admit at knowing only two. Tyetin, orange humanoid with overlarge ears, and Omnious another blood red like Tinyrose but with more dog like features. The talk continued and Tanyar had to stand a few times to cool off but he eagerly listened learning several useful things about the programs themselves and more about the corporation.
After hearing a name mentioned several times in rather odd ways Tanyar finally asked, "Who is Arens?" The group was instantly silent with several people looking at each other, one person even told him that he didn't need to know that.
"ARENS is an artificial intelligence unit." Hummer spoke out over the mumbling of others arguing the previous statement, "You have already used and heard it you just don't know it. I would like it if you left it alone for now and try asking again in a few days." He agreed and Hummer addressed everyone else, "He would likely just go back to the system and find out himself, one way or another. For now we can just leave this topic until later."
"Actually we can leave a lot of things for a few days." The only fully clothed standing male stated. Tanyar wasn't sure if his name had been given or spoken the whole time, "Some of us need to get busy."
With that the group started breaking up Tanyar thanked Tinyrose and tried to excuse himself but she stopped him, "I just wanted to tell you a few things. You remind me a lot of my little brother so I want to warn you to take it easy. You don't always have to jump forward. Take some time to think before you act, especially in the Dream. Also I have a four day break so I'm going to go visit my daughter but I will be back in a few days, if your still here I want to meet you again."
Tanyar tried to think of something to say, she was being far more kind and sincere than he expected anyone who he had just met to be. "Okay. I'll be here." Tinyrose stepped up next to him and gave a friendly hug.
"Just remember to take it easy. You don't have to prove yourself to anyone, you already did so much." Tanyar watched as she walked away then quickly followed behind her to the locker room.
Tanyar knew he still had several hours left before he was called back to the cafeteria and he didn't feel like studying more names right now. Instead he headed back to the main computer library deciding that maybe a movie would be a good way to pass the time. Now that he was actually standing at the back of the computer hall he could see all the end tables and coffee tables were actually small stands and cabinets with shelves holding laptops. On the tops of the tables were several small and slightly larger boxes with pictures of different style headsets on them, a few were open and empty. He chose large noise blocking earmuffs and a easily recognizable brand name laptop hoping that would make it easy to use. After scanning the area, checking the various seats and couches, he made his way to the wall where there were five recliners lined up. Tanyar chose a chair that left an open spot on each side before he sat down and turn on the computer. Pushing the pealing headphone sticker back in place, he plugged in the headset and waited for the computer to finish booting up.
The laptop was very easy with four icons stating Movies, Internet, Social, and Chats. He clicked on movies and was lead to a long list of hundreds of movies. He clicked on the action tab and watched as all kinds of movies popped up. Next he chose sort by popularity and the list jumped up with a multitude of movies he recognized. Tanyar was deciding to see a movie he hadn't seen before when he saw 'The Fifth Element' as a title and chose that movie. His friend had bugged him several times to watch it since it had one of his favorite actors and a hot babe as well. There was a window up stating his movie would start in just a moment and in seconds the intro for the Columbia picture was up. As the first names flashed for the opening Tanyar put on the headset and leaned the recliner back getting comfortable.
Just over forty minutes later Tanyar paused the movie to stretch just after the taxi driver was describing the big fair that had dropped in to his lap. He moved his neck around and stretched his legs out, moving his body and making sure nothing had fallen asleep. He did a quick look around the area seeing who had come and gone before going back to his movie.
He was nearing the end of the movie, after all the big explosions and the hero's needle thread escape with Lelu and the five elements, when a pop up window paused his movie. The message said,
*LT-P-6: Hello was wondering if you were done with your movie. Would you like to come join us?
Tanyar looked up, on the social side there was a circular table mostly full with a two people that were turned towards him smiling and waving. He simply typed in the reply box.
*Tanyar: Still watching nearly done.
*LT-P-6: Kay come over when your done.
Tanyar had just closed the box and clicked on the play button when it stopped and the box popped up again with the statement 'Hurry UP.' Again Tanyar closed the box and restarted the movie. The next ten minutes were filled with suspense, jokes, and saving the world but he was having a hard time now watching the movie. Skipping forward seeing the credits started in less than two minutes he stopped the celebration scene and closed the movie.
He left his laptop and headphones on the recliner moved over to the table which was now packed but still had one open spot left. There were six seats at the table with three more chairs crowded around the outside as Tanyar approached, "So your Tanyar right?" He was asked as he sat down.
"Yes I am." He stated, happy with the simple fact they were using his name now.
"You had some pretty neat moves in the capture the flag game." The lady to his right said, "But we were arguing over why you didn't play the same way at soccer."
Tanyar looked at several people in the group wondering if he ever went back to studying the avatars if he shouldn't ask for a real picture to go alone with the names. It would be easier if he knew these people were part of the Dream project and where they were placed. It took another moment to realize that might not help either there were people who worked here that weren't part of the study at all. "I didn't want to show off to much." He finally answered.
"Show off??" The man with thick glasses on the outside of the table stood up. "You showed off all day, making everyone think you're some superstar." He address the rest of the group, "This is a waste of my time, I have a great deal of programming to get done." He stated walking away. Tanyar saw the embarrassment all around the table before asking a simple question, "Occulus?"
"Yes. Sorry my names Harrit, I asked Occulus to come so he could talk with you, if he wanted, since he got in trouble."
"Trouble?" Tanyar asked. Again he had done something and seemed to upset people with out meaning to.
"No no nothing bad or anything, he and Tinyrose were told to be more careful in the future." Harrit answered him.
"It probably would have matter more if they weren't trashing the group." One of the men said.
"Nathaniel that is not true!" Someone called. Tanyar's mind jumped hearing his name staring intently at the man who spoke, he was slightly heavyset and maybe just thirty.
"It's not what is happening Tanyar." Harrit told him as she reached out touching his shoulder startling him.
"What?" Tanyar reacted to the touch and seconds later the words he had heard Nathaniel spoke sank in. "Trash the group?" he asked hesitantly.
"They are not stopping the group." Harrit said firmly, "The only thing that was decided was that the test group information was not going to be used as part of the statistics."
Tanyar felt a slight twist in his stomach, "It's because of me isn't it." The group was quiet till a young female in a dress who had been using her laptop during most of the the discussion finally joined in.
"That is not totally true." She stated. "We have been working on a new and more advanced candidate selection since yesterday, that is entirely your fault. But the rest, Kalrena, Tinyrose, Occulus, Neworleans, even everyone who was operating the vidballs is responsible for altering the groups data output." She finished going back to typing on her laptop.
"It wasn't just you Tanyar, the entire group lept forward today. They took your cue and exploded faster than any group before." Nathaniel spoke.
"It happens but usually after the fourth or fifth day. And its usually one or two, then a few more, then the rest." Harrit explained. "It is something that Lisa," she gestured to the lady in the dress, "and other didn't take into account for the program. We have always had people eager to test programs and items. Many researching before they come so they know what to expect or want. No one realized how much better an eager educated person could perform in the Dream." She finished rubbing his shoulder again.
"What's going to happen?" Tanyar asked.
"That is entirely up to Kalrena and her support. I can't see her ending the group there is still a great deal of information you group can offer even if they wont use it as part of the study." He sat there trying to think about how the others would react when they heard. V-12 was surely going blame him and probably quit because of it running out to the world insisting T.A.N. Corp. had made huge mistakes allowing children to participate.
"We are sorry Tanyar." He looked up at the female who spoke, "Your supposed to be relaxing not stressing over stuff."
"Well how about a game?" some one suggested.
"The Labyrinth and don't you dare groan Nathaniel." Harrit said.
Tanyar went and retrieved his laptop, by the time he had returned they had squeezed seven chairs in around the table allowing for everyone who wanted in to play. Lisa backed out saying she still had a good deal of work to do but would watch for now. The others quickly linked Tanyar's computer in with the others explaining how each laptop had a designation on the hood, his was LT-D-3 or in long terms 'laptop-dell-number 3. Each designation was set so it was easily seen from several feet away allowing people to send messages sometimes from across the room with out having to get up and go over to check the laptop.
Harrit started with an explanation. "Now the game is simple. Move around and look carefully, every item maybe needed, sometimes by another player and some clues could be small." She told him how the halls yesterday he went though were based on this game but the game required them to move usually as individuals helping each other along the way. She suddenly grinned, "You might be really good at this."
The first floor was easy each person started alone and worked their way to the center to the others. The floors that followed progressed quickly in difficulty. Most times Tanyar started alone and twice with someone else. Several times he had to backtrack missing some small clue that was simply hidden. There was a floor switch for a door under a box and a rope attached to a torch holder that lowered a key, also there were six metal ring hooked to the back of a door he went though that needed to be passed off to other players. Playing with a large group allowed several brains to tackle a problem that would likely have taken hours for just one or two.
After two hours and the group just starting to progress into the twelfth floor, Tanyar received a pop up screen alerting him he only had sixty minutes left and would be required in the cafeteria as soon as possible. He leaned back and rubbed his dry eyes surprised at how far the game had drawn him in. It was deviously tricky and required constant concentration and serious consideration for each item you came across. He was also told that several people played with notebooks open trying to track each item and possible uses and where they were found.
Tanyar got the names and thanked each person who was playing before he left. It turned out they were all workers of some kind for the corporation. All of them had played in the Dream but besides Harrit and another called Reavers they all had regular names and were rarely allowed more than minimal access to the Dream.
It only took Tanyar ten minutes to make it to the cafeteria. He gathered a large plate of breakfast with a pile of eggs, bacon, and small fried potato pieces which he covered with ketchup. As he sat down Kalrena stood up, "Ok that is everyone." Looking around at the somewhat emptier tables she spoke before anyone could ask questions, "Fried, Diamond, V-12, and Pathona are no longer participating in the study. Now we.."
"Why?" Tanyar saw Chopper speak out across the table interrupting her.
"Each one was a different reason which I will not go in to now." Kalrena paused for another objection which didn't come. "Now we will be proceeding but in a different way." He shivered and waited for the bomb to drop as Kalrena spoke, "I want to make sure each of you wants to continue. Training is going to be very different now, more personalized, and less group time. However I do not want anyone to return to the Dream with out being serious about working. I now expect you to work and try to improve as much as you can."
It was Starbit who raised his hand before Kalrena nodded to let him speak, "Why the change? Isn't there a set program your following, the point of this test group is to see how reactions differ from one group to the next by introducing ideas and variations, but the base program stays the same."
Kalrena nodded deciding what to say when Tanyar finally blurted out, "We aren't a test group anymore. They won't use the data we gathered." There was no muttering just simple silence as more of the group turned from Tanyar to Kalrena.
"I see you have been doing more homework Tanyar, anything else you have learned?" Kalrena asked while moving over to stand behind him. He had kept his head down since speaking, "Well?" she probed again.
"We went beyond what was expected or thought, because of me."
"I asked you what else you know Tanyar. I assume you were talking with someone." She put her hands on his shoulders, "It wasn't you, most of the fault is mine. I am the one in control of the group. I should have pulled you out of the group before yesterday at the very least after the first game. Instead I broke protocol. I should never have told any of you that it was impossible to cheat or that your bodies had no meaning when it came to sports. That was something you were supposed to figure out on your own. When I supported Tanyar it let the rest of you know what he was doing was right or maybe what I wanted, as Starbit pointed out that completely against the base program. Because of that, each of you performed exceedingly well and with the extra knowledge Tanyar gained from what Occulus said, it was evident the groups data could not be allowed in to the study."
"Well what are we going to do then?" Vash asked.
"Simple you each have a choice. Do you want to work for the rest of the week? That means you will be given to to other people helping them out on various projects or groups. We will still have some training and we will allow you to explore the Dream as a group, the data we gather will still be kept and used, but not as part of the statistical study. The other option is you can leave now. That goes for everyone except Tanyar." He shivered as Kalrena gripped his shoulders tighter. "You already agreed to medical testing this week and we have set up a special test for you this morning. I hope your not planning on backing out of either and will fulfill the agreements you made." Tanyar quickly nodded.
"Good then keep eating you need to finish your meal, you all do before I can show you to your new tanks." Kalrena stated.
"Again?" Sunandsky muttered.
"Yes again." Kalrena responded, "The tanks you were in are specially made to keep track of group interactions, seeing Tanyar's actions yesterday altered each of your own. Those tanks are linked to a system able to analyze data in real time, as it happens and how its affecting others." She walked back between the two tables, "I was told to move my group so they can speed up the next group. They may start with in a few days rather than in a week or two."
Starbit was the first to speak, "I will not be continuing then. I see no reason to keep going if it isn't part of the study. I have many other things I can attend to."
"Very well." Kalrena said, "Anyone else?"
Velva raised her hand to speak, "What if we don't like what your having us do. What do you mean by work?"
"I have been given a great deal of leeway right now. The company admits that it did not anticipate or even have any precautions set up for an event like Tanyar, even though they have one for several other programs." Kalrena informed the group. "All of you performed well beyond any prior group and the board has ordered a advanced program set up for the future. We would like to set up personal data files with each of you for any comparison in the future. So Velva it is all voluntary, now you may leave at any time. Also if you don't like what your doing or you get board we can surely find something else for you to work on."
"So," Loory asked, "do we have to leave now if we don't want to go back?" Kalrena waited obviously expecting her to keep speaking, "It's just that I wanted to look around more, maybe use the pool I saw."
"Well I can arrange for a tour and a room, you may leave tomorrow if you wish."
She answered quietly, "I would like that, please."
"For now you only have to ask to leave. I would appreciate a verbal experience log just stating what was enjoyable and what you felt was wrong or just rant if you need to. We would appreciate all input you are willing to give about how you felt yesterday and what you were thinking." Kalrena looked to the group. "Finish eating, I will be back in a few moments and those of you who wish to return to the Dream I will take you to the other tanks."
Tanyar had tried to apologize after Kalrena left, out of the whole group he was most surprised when Sunandsky interrupted him, telling him not to sweat it. They were still getting paid and maybe there still might be some fun. He was still felt bad though as Kalrena lead the sixteen down a new hallway and into a vast room full of sleep tanks.
"The first four rows have been allocated for your use." Their instructor started, "There will always two technicians working here to help you get in or out. Your hours now are what you make them with the exception of a fifteen hour limit each day. There will be four hours or so that you will spend together as a group with me, the rest of your time you will be given other projects to help with. I would like everyone here to watch how to power up and shut down a tank."
The tech then explained the basic operation of the tank, including the settings they would have to use just in case it was altered. "Of course it goes with out saying you are not allowed to touch any occupied tank." The technician said, "Now there are five tanks in the front line, you're allowed to choose any in the first four rows. Please do not go beyond the front line or past the fourth row. Any reason you give us, or any problem you cause, will require us to eject you from the room and you won't come back."
"Thank you." Kalrena said to the tech, "Now everyone please pick a tank and power it up. We will get you in as soon as we can." She tapped Tanyar shoulder and pointed to the tech who waved a hand to make him follow. He took the young man to the last tank at the end of the first row. Tanyar could easily see over to the isle, next line was as long as this one and he could see there was another line beyond that. He took a quick glance down the isle while the technician opened the tank and estimated that there were ten rows. That meant around a hundred and fifty tanks in this room alone, Tanyar was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder.
"I know it's big but don't wander around. This tank is set up for your lesson today, get in please." The technician said. He was quickly in, gassed, and asleep opening his eyes to a track field, a near replica of the real world one he had walked though hours ago. The only difference was the center infield of the track was thick green grass. After several minutes and only Alross and Mantoo showing up Tanyar laid on the grass and relaxed, taking his tail in hand and stroking it. He couldn't really feel anything from the appendage but there were moments when he though he sensed something just an odd touch in his mind.
It took nearly twenty minutes for everyone to get to the field, unlike the automated system before which was checked by a system and detected any problems, these tank had to be check and double checked by a tech before they pressed the button to release the gas.
"Everyone," Kalrena spoke when the final avatar made it in, "today you get to explore your avatar. We are still in the admin complex so all the major rules apply. I want you to try and learn how fast and how strong and flexible your own avatar is at it's base. We will start with the track while I wait for some others. Now each of you know how to call up a watch." She stated while demonstrating. "Now all you have to do is flip it like this and it becomes a stop watch." Several of the group follow her example. "There are meters and miles marked out on the track until my other helpers arrive I want you to time yourself at a normal pace, then try to see how fast you can go."
There was at first a jumbled bunch, some waiting their turn while others just starting out at random till Kalrena informed them they should spread out. The track would adjust their starting and ending spots and keep each avatar in a lane that would not interfere with others. By the time the other instructors arrived several of the group was more interested in continuing with challenging themselves and others rather than doing other exercises. Kalrena split them in to groups and rotated them so that everyone was able to do each section more than once.
After more than two hours she finally called a halt. "Now I would like all of you to follow Bolt and the rest they will lead you to the other facility where you can try testing the limits of your will." As the group gathered to leave she pulled Tanyar to the side. "Tanyar over here for a moment." When the group had enough distance she spoke, "I have approval to give you the accelerated test. This wont be easy since you haven't yet been trained or learned all you need to know, in fact some of it will be quite difficult. Do your best and try to do whatever they want." She paused checking looking over the yellow cat, "Forget everything else for now, if you do well we can move you to a participant." She stopped to watch his excited grin seeing him twitch with excitement.
"Am I allowed to do whatever I want?" He asked.
"Yes, just make sure you do not destroy the place." She grinned back. "Head out that door and follow the yellow line. It will lead you back through the administration area and outside to a building where Radder waits for you." He took off as soon as she finished nearly flying across the race track to the other side. Kalrena was still smiling at his exuberance, she had wanted to wish him luck and give him a few more warnings but she had no wish to try and chase him down just for that.
Kalrena moved back to catch up with her group, "Sheriah I want the results the instant he is done."
"Of course." The answer was given next to her ear. "Do you want the results of each area or can you wait till he's totally finished."
"I am sure I can handle waiting until he is done." Kalrena replied. Part of her though wanted to be there watching his every move. She paused for a moment realizing her own rule to not allow any vidorbs would mean she couldn't peak either. "Sheriah I want a full copy of the entire test."
There was a pause before the answer came, "Of course, how many copies do you need?" Their was just a pinch of sarcasm that came though with the comment.
"That is enough, just have the information when I am done today." Kalrena spoke harshly.
Sheriah answer was tactful yet reminding, "Very well, just remember you are only supposed to be teaching and training. Keep your emotions where they should be."
Tanyar was following the yellow line, he had slowed down to avoid running into anyone as he was lead back through the center of the cross shaped administration building and out the west wing. When he opened a door and leaped off the small set of steps he landed rather heavily. Gravity told him he was still in the admins rules and taking another step out on the line he felt a breeze blow across his face. Tanyar stopped, for the first time he was outdoors in the Dream.
The sky was a perfect pale blue allowing several small white cloud to hang in it and a yellow sun beamed down, some where before midmorning mark. The buildings in front of him were warehouse types but what looked like several streets beyond there were others reaching several stories and looking like office structures. He knew there was an entire city to explore, most of it empty, but that didn't stop his curiosity or the intense yearning to explore. "One test." Tanyar told himself stepping forward again.
There was a blur of red that passed him and he had to stop gasping in pain, only he wasn't hurt. For just a moment Tanyar had the same feeling like you do when you slice you finger or hand open yet no blood comes, the moment you know you hurt yourself but have no clue how bad. There was a second red blur that passed before Tanyar and this time he did feel a horrible stab of pain that made his entire body stiff. The pain passed the second after it came but something was seriously wrong, he couldn't move, and now he couldn't feel anything either. For just a moment what he could only think of how strange it felt as his body began breaking up as everything went black.
He waited, and waited, why was everything still black? If something happened weren't you supposed to reboot, or at least wake up? But this was black. He wasn't touching anything or maybe he wasn't feeling his body he tried to puzzle out. It wasn't until he blinked his eyes that he realized he did have or should have a body.
Tanyar began concentrating on each part starting with his head and moving down. He slowly recalled muscles to move, tendons to stretch, arms, hands, fingers. He worked to reclaim each part of his body, having nothing until he thought of it. It took several minutes but he now had feet to which he could feel a solid floor beneath and weight which told him his body was upright. Still it was dark.
Tanyar stepped forward moving with both mind and will, it was like being under water only worse. Every part that moved had resistance, a force that he worked against the whole time as he tried moving. His mind was the only thing that moved unhindered and he realized if this was a bug, it was one hell of a big one. He assumed he must have been dropped or stuck somewhere between dieing and being reformed. 'First things first' he told himself forcing his limbs to move using his hands to call up a tablet.
He addressed a message to Kalrena.
*Tanyar: Help me, I think I died, I am trapped.
He waited for a reply which seemed a long time in coming, enough time that he tried to start looking around with the weak light off the tablet. The light showed nothing even his own body and hands were no more than dark shadows as he waved them in front of the screen. Closing his eyes Tanyar concentrated on his avatar. It was supposed to respond to will, there was no need to understand bones, blood, or organs because the avatar had none. When Tanyar opened his eyes it was to the same darkness, the same dim shadowed body. He didn't have time to keep exploring as a reply finally came though.
*Kalrena: Died? Where are you now?
*Tanyar: Nowhere, trapped, everything is black. Kalrena something is wrong.
*Kalrena: Do not Panic! Relax and look around.
*Tanyar: Black and black, I can barely move like underwater.
*Kalrena: Stay still we are tracing you.
He would have given a shiver of relief feeling instantly better, sadly though his neck barely twitched in response. He felt the pressure as it seemed to increase and the good feelings vanished in to the blackness.
*Tanyar: Why won't my avatar move right? Can they be broken?
Tanyar was again left waiting till he finally called up a watch and ticked off nearly two more minutes before a reply came.
*Kalrena: Please stay still do not move from your spot.
*Tanyar: I have not moved!
Tanyar felt funny his fingertips tingling as he tried to type, moving his hands in front of the screen he inspected them. They were fuzzy or blurry he just couldn't decide from the dim glow, he ended up gripping the tablet tighter feeling it start to slide out of his hand. Again he closed his eyes thinking hard about firm straight fingers and simple clean lines and curves. When he opened his eyes this time they looked straighter and the tingling had stopped. Quickly he typed again.
*Tanyar: Kalrena please hurry. (he waited another minute then typed) Where are you??
He worried that he had lost the connection, trying to think of someone else there was only one other his mind could think of besides Occulus. He was supposed to be a programmer on the Dream wasn't he. With little choice he went though the motions again to call up a second tablet he worked to address the new message to Occulus choosing his words as best he could.
*Tanyar: Please Occulus. I am trapped, it's dark. Kalrena isn't responding. Hard to move, I AM SCARED.
Unlike Kalrena's reply the answer came less than a moment later.
*Occulus: What did you do. Where are you at?
*Tanyar: I am not sure I think I died. hard to type or move. I dont thik I have abody anymore
He typed out the last part realizing he no longer felt his legs or anything around him beyond his chest, head, and hands. He kept all his mind focused on his hands and the two tablets before him realizing they were his only hope for help. He kept all his attention on both tablets silently begging for one to reply.
*Occulus: Kalrena is out of the dream and will respond shortly. I have your data log and checking it now. Relax Tanyar, the worst thing that can happen is that we will wake you up.
To Tanyar that wasn't at all reassuring.
Kalrena hurried into the main control room for the dream and nearly threw herself in to a chair calling up the programs to her console in front of her. "Where is he?"
"We don't know."
"What??" She nearly shouted.
"We just finished a fourth tracking program with three separate starting points the ends keep jumping." The other female in the room replied.
"Keep trying Peg. Nick, Adam get the vidballs to those points and check each one. He said it was dark what about some of the undeveloped areas?" Kalena asked.
"We tried that." Nick replied, "I am working to get as many people as I can out of the Dream. Then we scan and pinpoint each user, but with so many people it's going to take some time."
Kalrena felt better latching on to the idea and altering it, "Don't get them out move everyone you can to admin and huddle the rest in to groups then we just have to tag anyone who is alone." She had already typed out two replies to Tanyar trying to reassure him when he typed back something she wasn't ready to accept.
*Tanyar: Im not im the dreamm
*Kalrena: What do you mean?
*Tanyar: I cantmove dissapering will not helpng. hurry I dont wantto die
"Adam!" Kalrena was almost yelling again, "GET him out Now!!"
"What?" He asked. Kalrena chose her own action sliding over shoving him out of the way flipping a switch below a speaker. "ARENS." Kalrena paused for several second before speaking again, "ARENS respond!"
"Here... " a static voice responded.
"Remove the applicant Tanyar from the dream now."
There was again several seconds pause, "Unable to comply." ARENS replied.
"What?" She sat there stunned. The other three occupants looked equally surprised as well. "Subject Tanyar maybe injured do to removal now. I am unable to cause harm."
"Someone get techs to that tank now!! I don't care if you have to rip it apart, GET HIM OUT NOW!!"
Kalrena yelled sliding back to her console she typed out.
*Kalrena: Tanyar I am coming, WE WILL get you out.
She stood and nearly knocked Sheriah over as she hurried out.
"Wait." Sheriah said as Kalrena was still pushing past.
"Relax, you shouldn't be so worked up." Sheriah told her.
"Something is very wrong! ARENS will not pull him out." Kalrena took a deep breath trying to sound calm, "I am responsible for their heath and well being I have to go." She finished, rushing down the hall at a near run.
"Of course." The other replied quietly as she watched the team leader turn a corner, there was little she could do to support Kalrena when she was out of the tank. With nothing else to do she went inside the control room and sat in the seat Kalrena had vacated. Slowly she rolled though the logs reading up on what had gone between the two, by the time she got to the bottom a new message had been typed out from Tanyar but she couldn't understand the mesh of letter he had sent. "Hey can you guys look at this?" She called to the operators.
Tanyar kept staring at the tablet which seemed blurrier each time he tried to read it. Kalrena was coming, but he wasn't sure how long he could last. He closed his eyes and felt or was it heard a presence whisper to his mind. 'Let go, relax I have you.' The young man wavered, 'Let go, you are mine' the presence suddenly stated. Tanyar had a small flash of thought, Kalrena was coming.
"NO!" Tanyar's mind screamed, he struggled with the entire will of his soul. Like a person who fights to break the surface of water to gain life. The presence intensified squeezing and crushing him from every possible angle, crushing and compacting everything together. Tanyar was lost slowly being compressed in to nothing, till he felt his self torn and ripped slowly pulling apart.
Screaming was all Tanyar could do as he thrashed around. "OOWWW, SHIT. Son of a... Grab his fucking legs and hold him down." Yelled the technician who had nearly been knocked senseless by the arm he was trying to restrain. The four techs that had answered the emergency call had just yanked Tanyar out and manually opened the top. They had been taken off guard by the strength and fear of the occupant inside and his refusal to listen. He had stopped screaming and was moaning and growling as he thrashed trying to break free still fighting with his mind and body. "Open you eyes stupid!" The tech shouted to Tanyar.
"What are you doing let him go!" Kalrena yelled as she ran down the line.
"Ya right so he can punch and kick us some more?"
"Let him go and step back NOW!! Tanyar it's Kalrena can you hear me." The young man continued his struggles till he was finally set free of the hands grabbing him. He drew his knees up and planted his palms into his eyes and let out a choked sob followed my a moaning 'noooo'. Kalrena snapped her fingers drawing the technicians attention and placed a finger on her lips demanding silence. Reaching out to the console at the head of the tank she simply turned it off cutting the power. The lid jerked up slightly but the lights cut out and the humming of the unit stopped.
"Tanyar," She spoke quietly, "can you tell me what is wrong?"
Turning to the techs she issued orders with a finger, "You go turn out the overhead lights. You call the medical wing get them here, and you get the full tank readout for the last hour and transfer it to the medical computers." Kalrena directed her attention back to Tanyar who was now shaking. "Do we have a blanket around here?" she looked at the last tech. 'Uuhhh', "Find something hurry up." She said, more than a bit upset with what she thought was a lack of intelligence displayed so far.
Kalrena carefully touching his hair and began slowly stroking his head, "Your out of the Dream Tanyar, and help is coming." She could think of little else to offer besides quiet words and gentle touches. By the time the medical team arrived he was unconscious.
They ran full scans and gave every medical test they felt necessary to Tanyar's body while he was out. They found no medical damage or problems resulting from the incident and the manual ejection from the dream which gave relief to many. Meanwhile all Occulus and several other programmers could find was that Tanyar's avatar had been killed, the data deconstructed, but he was neither reconstructed at his starting point nor was he awakened from the dream. According to some of the data his shadow or echo should still be standing outside the administration building waiting to be transferred, yet there was no trace there. There also wasn't any data suggesting any form of attack, violence, or problem that would cause the avatars death.
The board immediately suspended Dream activity ordering a investigation requiring the death of all the avatars currently working including Tanyar's. The next two hours were a massive carnage spree, avatars were operated and slaughtered in masses at random points and in a multitude of ways. Tanyar's avatar got special attention being subject to every thought the programmers could come up with, never once in the two hour bombardment did any anomaly appear.
There was a few minutes, when a halt was finally called to the killing, where many suggested that maybe the operator Tanyar was to blame. Upon hearing this Kalrena had leaped to the communications from the medical building trying to gather information and support for Tanyar that was unneeded. Occulus had stopped that line of thought with two facts, he simply pulled out the data logs showing the action/reaction times which showed nothing more than walking and a rather high level of excitement and then showed the system logs which according to them Tanyars avatar was deconstructed but never moved. "Simple facts, you can't kill yourself and then cause an unknown system error. That doesn't includes the fact he was untraceable."
From there the board used ARENS ready to draw on the information the A.I. had gathered only to find out there was none. ARENS explained there was no reason or request to monitor Tanyar until he started the testing. The event that happened ARENS viewed in real time so there was no logs, by the time he had been ordered to remove the applicant he was unsure of the safety to Tanyar do to lower brain levels and a ninety percent drop in reactions. The A.I. also felt there were errors in the tracking program used because Tanyar was in the Dream otherwise there would have been no data to collect from Tanyar.
The board after three more hours allowed full function to resume for the Dream with instructions to ARENS that he was to remove an avatar who appeared to end up in the same place immediately. And second to record all instances out of the ordinary especially any that turn up data not previously entered. Several of the programmers still worked though scenarios and ideas but most agreed little could be done with out first hand accounts from Tanyar. The medical staff had cleared him but insisted he was to sleep until he woke himself and was not to be pestered until they were sure of mental stability. Kalrena, after a lot of effort, was the only one allowed to see him beyond medical staff. She insisted that it was her responsibility and claimed her presence would be needed to help calm and reassure Tanyar when he woke, and with copies of their messages and his reactions that were recorded in the tank room after he woke, she was allowed to stay by his side.
Chapter 4: Falling Apart
Tanyar finally regained consciousness a little before six pm. There was as fuzziness to his thoughts and a back round throb of a headache as he laid there with eyes close trying to form enough thoughts to make an action. Finally blinking he had to shut his eyes and try again adjusting to the light of the room. With a great deal of effort he raised his back and head trying to move and stay upright in a seated position as he swayed slightly unable to ignore the first wave of pain from the position change.
"Good, nice to see that your awake." Kalrena said looking up from a laptop that sat on her knees. There was on sudden surprise that seemed to register to Tanyar, through the confusion and pain he could definitely feel a cool breeze on his warm back. Blushing a healthy crimson Tanyar looked away from Kalrena trying to pull the sheet back up and make sure he was completely covered he felt around for the hospital dress tucking it in under his legs and crotch feeling completely shocked and embarrassed by his lack of clothing.
Kalrena was nice enough not to comment on his actions, "So besides your headache anything else hurt?" she asked.
He took a moment to try and assess his aches, the headache was a dull throb towards the back of his head which jabbed forward now and then but his neck and upper back hurt when ever he tried to turn his head. "Feels like I slept wrong."
Kalrena smiled with the comment, "I would be surprised if you slept right. You have been out for quite a while. It is after six I think." She added when he tried raising his head and slowly scanning the upper walls of the room.
"He's awake?" Occulus stated from the doorway he had been making half hour checks since noon even though he was not supposed to. Kalrena stood up closing her laptop and operated the bed so Tanyar could lean back while still sitting up. While she was adjusting the bed Occulus found a stool and rolled up close to the bed. Tanyar looked at Occulus then his knees trying to figure out what to say or how to thank him and still be able to apologize. "Relax kid, I'm just glad your alright. It's to bad you had such a rough time." Surprisingly he wasn't at all upset with the kid remark when it came from Occulus, his tone and sincerity made him feel a lot better. "Can you answer a few questions?" he asked.
"As long as it's a few you have five minutes and be grateful for that. You shouldn't even be here." A nurse stated roughly from the doorway. She walked in to the room and stood against the wall ready to gage the health and well being of the patient.
Occulus was silent for a few moments watching the nurse before he spoke, "Do you know what happened, or should I say do you remember anything of what happened?"
"It was black and very hard to move." Tanyar answered.
"Alright start back a little, you left the administration building." He prompted.
"I jumped off the steps and I looked around," Tanyar paused, "I was looking at the yellow line and when I stepped forward there was a red flash and it hurt. It only.."
"Wait what was red and what hurt." Occulus interrupted.
"I don't know!" Tanyar said a bit forcefully while closing his eyes. "I stepped forward and it was like a flash of red and then it hurt but it stopped." "Keep going." he was told. "Well it happened again, another red and another pain."
"What kind of pain? Can you remember where it felt like it came from." The programmer asked. Tanyar was shaking his head before he stopped and moaned pressing his palm against the side of his eye and squeezing his head, feeling for a moment like his brain wanted to pound it's way out of his skull. The nurse had stepped forward but Kalrena had raised and arm with one finger, they really did need a bit more to go on.
Tanyar kept his eyes closed slowly moving his head back up thinking carefully. "There was a blur of red." Occulus watched as he used his other hand from left to right, "and then it was like a sting of pain like all over but it was fast." then he moved his hand back from right to left, "then the second red blur and even more pain, worse than the first time but both times it seemed like seconds and the pain was gone."
Occulus leaned away from the bed jotting down a few notes on paper, "Your probably very lucky, the tanks setting were meant for the accelerated tests you should have been twisted like a pretzel and still only felt uncomfortable. The fact you felt any pain at all instead of... well it's just puzzling."
"Was the setting responsible for the problem?" Kalrena asked from her chair.
"No we used the same setting on several tanks along with every other combination that tank allowed. No I think it's that red thing. Tanyar was there anyone around, to be more precise could you someone have shot something at you or maybe someone jumped out at you."
He leaned back more in to the bed slowing his breathing and concentrating more on the memory. "I was looking around at the sky and city. I was... excited because it was the first time I was outside, there was a breeze and I stepped.."
"Wait! A breeze what do you mean." Occulus stopped him.
"I felt an breeze and then I realized I was outside and looked around, I didn't see anyone." he said.
Occulus was already writing down on the paper, "A breeze what kind? Strong, short, was it caused by something moving by?"
"Why?" Tanyar asked slowly turning his head and opening his eyes to look at Occulus for an answer. He pushed his glasses back up before answering, "There is no environmentals on right now, no breeze or weather changes. Only the sun moves keeping track with the sun outside."
Tanyar closed his eyes again thinking back, "I followed the yellow line, it went under a door so I opened it. It ran down the steps, three steps so I jumped off but landed hard and I was thinking about the admin rules and there was a breeze.. in my face. I looked around and noticed I could see the sky, then I looked around at the buildings. I know I looked down to the line again seeing it went across the street and I took a step forward. Then there was the red thing and pain." Tanyar felt that was everything there was nothing else his memory was going to provide.
Occulus spoke quietly, "You are sure it was a breeze not you jumping off the steps."
"No it happened after I jumped, it might have happened as I stepped away from the stairs I'm not sure but definitely after I jumped."
"And the red thing, anything you can tell me?" He asked.
Tanyar gave a little sigh stating irritably, "I don't know it was red."
Occulus tried not to slap the young man's arm, "I got it red. So any color of red, shape, size?" Tanyar didn't reply at first but Occulus was close enough to see his eyes twitch behind the closed lids and realize that he really was trying.
"It glowed, I think like brake car lights, it was fast maybe it was close, like really close." Tanyar opened his eyes trying to wave his hand fast in front of his face stopping quickly and closing his eyes again and placing his hand on his forehead.
"Do you think it was too fast to see, or to close to make out?" Occulus asked.
"I don't know" Tanyar answered letting his hand drop to his side.
"That I think is more than enough." The nurse stepped forward. Occulus didn't argue but Kalrena stood up and placed her open laptop on Tanyar's legs.
"No one more thing." She tapped the screen, "Do you have any idea what this means?"
*Tanyar: Wht NO MO wlll ve frrr wontletnegi mevrrrr surrnsrt ltmego nohlpm kttmefooo
Tanyar tried remembering but he was sure he didn't type that or at least he was sure he didn't remember typing that and what did it mean? He kept studying the message log suddenly feeling a shiver and feeling a few seconds of pressing blackness and fear as he tried reaching out to touch the screen. That vanished as his fingertip made contact with the laptops monitor leaving him feeling cold and drained. "I..I don'tt kknow." He stuttered.
"THAT is definitely enough!!" The nurse said reaching out and closing the laptop as she snatched it off the bed and pressing it back at Kalrena. Had Tanyar been looking in a mirror he would have seen how pale he had become which had worried and upset the nurse but had also been noticed by the other two.
The nurse stepped forward cupping his chin in her hand and pen-lighting both his eyes. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Cold." Tanyar answered as the nurse did a little motherly gesture by laying a palm on his forehead while she lowered the bed back down. "You feel fine but I'll go get you a warm blanket. Feeling hungry want something to eat?"
"Not really." He answered. Tanyar tried relaxing as the nurse brought back a blanket a minute later and spread it out over the bed. With his eyes closed he listened to the movements around him as the nurse put things back and he listened to the others leave.
He thought he was finally alone when he heard Kalrena's voice nearby. "I'm sorry we did not get you out sooner. No one is sure what happened but I am glad you are safe." She told him quietly.
Tanyar was hit by a awful thought one which had him struggling up to look at Kalrena, "I.. I can go back right? To the Dream." Kalrena tried to hide a smile, so much for all those people who worried whether or not they would be able to entice him back. She had told them all that 'It would be hard to stop him.' but many had still been left wondering, after such an experience would he ever want to return.
"As long as the doctors clear you I believe we can allow you back." He flopped back down hissing softly as his head pounded harder and his neck and shoulder area lanced with pain. "Your head hurts that bad?" She asked wondering if she shouldn't have insisted on some pain meds earlier.
"Not my head really, it's my back and neck and my head." He could hear Kalrena stand up and move out to stand in the hall. The young man listened while she asked how long till a doctor would arrive then the mumbled answer she got before she came back in and sat down. It was only another five minutes before Dr. Shuman arrived someone Tanyar had not meet yet. After checking all his vitals and checking his past blood work he asked a multitude of questions while he had Tanyar sit and perform several motor control tests, he never did understand the rub your belly pat your head and switch but it seemed to please the doctor along with some of the other tests.
Finally he ordered the nurse to dose out a nice bit of ibuprofen. "We wanted you to wait to take any medication till we were sure you aren't having any real trouble." The doctor told him.
"Doctor?" Kalrena asked, "Can you put him in the hot tub for a while?" Tanyar felt like protesting. He certainly did not want to go back to the pools right now and be flooded by questions again.
"Well that would be a good idea. That might make it the second time it has actually been used for patient purpose, not employee benefit." The doctor answered.
Tanyar couldn't wait a moment longer, "So if I can go to the pools I'm okay for the Dream, right??"
"Pools?" Kalrena said at the same time the doctor was saying, "Hold on!" Kalrena, who was actually closer to Tanyar, reached out to hold his arm keeping him from trying to hop off the bed. "There is a thermal medical spa here. If all goes well you might be allowed in to the Dream tomorrow, relax you were out for well over ten hours no one is going to let you back in so soon. I promise as soon as I can get you back in I will. You just need a bit of patience."
"I would prefer twelve hours before he is back in the tank again and then only for a short time, not a whole day. And.." He raised his hand at Tanyar's excited look. "that is only if you feeling better and nothing else happens. It's been over a year since anyone was manually ejected and even then, when we were testing it wasn't in an actual emergency. So you will rest and take it easy."
A half hour later Tanyar was finally left alone in what he first thought was an over sized tub. He hadn't realized the nurses had expected him to strip down in front of them either. Smiling they allowed him a pair of underwear and stepped away not quite laughing at his beet red face. After a few minutes of soaking in the molded incline of the tub he started feeling much better, that and the medication was starting to seep in just like the heat was from the slow moving water. They allowed a twenty minute soak with low jets before they had him dress in actual cloths and return to his room. By the time he finally got back to his room he felt hungry, a fact that seemed to please the doctor very much.
After a few hours of laying, sitting, standing, and getting more bored by the minute they allowed Tanyar out of the room. He was set up to relax in a back office with a laptop, he was allowed to watch movies but they had blocked any internet access telling him they still expected him to stay calm and relax. The real surprise to Tanyar came a few hours later when a pop up window informed him he had sixty minute to return to the cafeteria. When he showed the notice to the nearest nurse it set off a flurry of phone calls and arguments which he quickly ducked out of returning to the office and closing the door.
Forty minutes later he was drug back into a exam room and give a very through examination by a different and rather irritated doctor. After nearly five minutes of do's and don'ts he was finally given permission to leave for a limited six hour tank session with orders to immediately return when he was out. The doctor left still seeming totally upset with the situation while Tanyar redressed wondering if he had enough time to go the lockers and change in to cloths that fix better, the shirt seemed at least one size to small and the briefs were far to large.
As was ready to leave the room one of the wall units buzzed and a voice stated, "Tanyar please hold there is a message being sent to you." He recognized the staticy voice as being one he had heard several times before but wasn't given enough time to think as the unit began talking again.
"Ten-year I am most disappointed you did not make your test time. I do not have time to waste waiting on some test subject." Tanyar was surprised that the voice that came though sounded like some 80's electronic synthesized voice.
"Who is this?" Tanyar asked, could this be the mysterious ARENS?
"My name is Radder. I am very upset you skipped you test." The wall unit said.
"Hey it wasn't my fault they still.." Tanyar started upset but the voice cut him off.
"NO EXCUSES. I am the one responsible for you test. You will report to your test today by 8:30 or I WILL have you removed from the program."
"FINE!" He nearly shouted at the wall pissed.
"Good Ten-year you have been given special permission to perform the accelerated test. If you fail you will not be allowed to continue with the program, if you do not show up you will not be allowed to continue with the program. Do you understand?"
"Yes." "Good I will see you after eight." As Raddar finished Tanyar could hear the buzz of the com unit cut out with a dull click. Rather than protest vocally he opted for stomping out of the medical building showing his irritation over how he was been treated, it wasn't his fault he missed the test! He reached the cafeteria a short time later only to find the place mostly full and the usual tables set up for the group vacant of anyone he knew.
Watching Tanyar glare over the table someone asked 'What wrong' "The test group is meeting here." He answered.
"They left about forty minutes ago." A female answered while standing with her tray. 'Left?' he thought. Now he was really pissed off, they didn't even bother to wait for him, or tell him they had left. He checked the clock noting that it was only about ten minutes late from the meeting time.
"Need some help?" Tanyar was asked. "NO" he grunted spinning and stomping off again. He stopped off at the lockers stripping off the T.A.N. Corp cloths and opening his locker put on the first things that he was able to pull out without even bothering to go to the changing room.
He made his way to the sleep tank bay and felt like banging on each one as he walked down the first row, not that he would do anything to endanger his time here, but the mental visuals gave him a small amount of satisfaction.
Seeing his tank from the previous day already occupied he called out. "Hello?" after a few moments he tried again, "HELLOOO!!"
"Sec." He heard an answer echo from deeper inside. Tanyar still waited several minutes before a tech came around the corner. "What are you doing here."
"I need a tank." he answered.
"Who ever you are you need to have permission to be in here this is not a.." The tech started.
"I HAVE PERMISSION!" Tanyar raised his voice upset. "They started without me!" Tanyar threw an arm out to the tanks behind him.
"If that is the case you will have to wait until tomorrow." The reply came.
Tanyar felt a second of loss and worry, before stepping up to fight, he wasn't going to take no for an answer. "I was told I had access anytime. WAIT!" He said raising his hand, "I have an appointment at 8:30 for the participant test, and I can't miss it."
"Well then I'm sorry but you should have been on time." The technician said turning to leave.
"I would have been on time if I wasn't at the hospital!" Tanyar nearly shouted. 'Hospital?' The tech thought while turning back, thinking of the real hospital not the medical wing.
"YES! I'm the one you guys yanked out yesterday."
The technician stood thinking for a moment, "Tanyar, you're Tanyar."
"Yes!" He said, "This was the tank I had yesterday it was specifically set for the test. I was told to go to the cafeteria in an hour but everyone was already gone by the time the doctor let me go." Tanyar had tapped on the tank while he explained finally feeling like the technician was listening to him.
He waited for the man to finally say, "Alright over here." The technician stepped across the isle and into the next bank of sleeping tanks.
"But were only supposed to use the tanks in the first line." Tanyar said.
"I know that. I'm putting you here and I will send you in. Then I am going to go check your story, if you lied I'll be right back to remove you." Tanyar almost growled as he watched him adjust the tank to the proper settings and open the lid.
Seeing Tanyar's anger when he turned back he added, "Would you feel better if I said I'm putting you here for you own safety. If we have to pull you out there's more room here." The tech tried to smile but the pathetic weak humor flopped hard against the floor. "Alright I don't know where Kalrena sent everybody so I'll start you back at the greeting hall. That's in the administration building, and they should be able to get you to her from there." He nodded stepping around the tank to get in.
"Thank you." Tanyar mumbled as he sat down and laid out. "Umm the tablet in the Dream that lets you send messages out. How do you do that from this side?"
"Honestly I'm not sure. I've never needed to send a message inside. I suppose you could try ARENS or go to one of the control rooms, but you aren't allowed there." The technician finished the setting, "You can just ask Kalrena later although that was probably who you were trying to reach right? Okay all set, good luck." The tech finished allowing the lid to lower. He tried not to shake his head as the tech thumped the upper part of the lid with the thick see through plastic and gave a thumbs up signal.
It actually took several minutes before he fell asleep trying to quiet his irritated mind and relax. Finally though he felt the shift that heralded his placement into the Dream. It was a moment of sheer panic, seeing and feeling nothing but darkness before his eyes picked out several shapes around him including a soft glow that was coming from behind him. He turned and was able to see a dim glow above a door obviously meant to show an exit, "Llightss" Tanyar blurted out shaken.
With the command the large room was bathed in light. He was standing in the isleway with twenty chairs on each side of him and two tables in front of that. Tanyar had no heart to pound in his chest but he still felt the sicking thrill of fear that washed though his body before he took a shuddering breath. Slowly he was able to convince his mind and body that everything was fine as he walked though the greeting room. He remembered how this all started days earlier when they had been officially welcomed to the Dream then called forward to choose a name for their avatar for the week ahead.
He moved between the two tables and into the next room where, after calling for lights again, he was shown the large matted room. Here they had been required to bend and stretch, pick up and put down items, Tanyar almost laughed remembering that stupid clown face against the wall. The instructions were to toss a beanbag in to the gapping mouth and keep trying until they could. Everyone failed there first try a few requiring many bags just to complete the simple task, Tanyar though had nailed it on the first try. Rather than try and continue into the next few testing rooms, he looked and found a door on one side which lead into a hall. The hall lead to another door then out into one of the four main hallways of the admin building. Feeling foolish for a moment, Tanyar called up a map finding out he was at the northern side of the building, where to now? It took a moments thought but Tanyar did what he probably should have done when he first entered the Dream. With a tab he called up and sent a message to Kalrena, still a bit upset he worded it a bit differently than he should have.
*Tanyar: I made it with out your help. Seems strange that the group leader would leave someone behind. At admin north side outside greeting area where do I go?
With very little time an answer came.
*Kalrena: I was told you were not to be in yet! I assume the doctors cleared you.
*Tanyar: Yes I received a summons but no one was at the cafeteria.
*Kalrena: I see, we started early with all persons accounted for. Who issued the summons?
*Tanyar: Came on laptop, although Raddar contacted me and told me 8:30 or ELSE!
*Kalrena: I can imagine he is not one who likes to be kept waiting. Tanyar I have already removed you from the group you will be given some private instruction beginning tomorrow. I can not allow you outside of the administration area until the test time unless you have guidance which I am currently unable to provide. You may wander around BUT be careful, stay out of the way, leave if told. You have over an hour I will try to send someone to you soon so stay out of trouble. If you have any problems, TELL ME FIRST.
He let the tablet vanish after reading Kalrena's note a second time waiting to see if there was more. So he could explore but not leave the building. He called up the map again wishing there were labels to go with the areas. Some places he already knew but most of the building still remained unknown. He slowly moved to the center of the cross watching a few avatars move here and there, as he waited against the wall he wondered what he could actually do, probably not much since this was the heart of the admin building and all the real world rules applied. Studying the avatars that passed he realized most of them had a lot more features which would suggest they were part of the earliest groups or employees of some kind.
There was that average one with the ball like head and no ears: Narrint/worker his mind recalled. He watched the tailless avatar head down the south end and enter a few doors down. When several other avatars had also entered there he made a move to follow as well. Tanyar held the door open for another, a near white cat formed avatar who studied his form the entire time as he moved past. The new room had two large conference tables with several screens overhead and what looked like access consoles built in the table in front of each seat, the wall and most other areas also held monitors and what seemed like stations waiting to be used.
Tanyar watched the white cat cross to the second table and sit down. Nearly a third of both tables were full and one person was speaking and pointing things out on the overhead screens as he stared around the room. Finally the speaker stopped and a female voice spoke out off to Tanyar's left. "I know everyone wants to work on the bridge and pass areas but we need to finish off these little jobs first."
"Stand against the wall." A light voice spoke in his ear. Tanyar looked around noticing no one near enough to have spoken. "The wall Tanyar I will explain in a moment." He complied with the voice taking several steps back and leaning on the wall a few feet from the door. "Good. Now only you can hear me, my name is Sheriah. You have entered a worker/programmer meeting feel free to listen but don't interrupt."
Tanyar tried to pay attention again as someone was asking about side projects. "The two hour time limit is not going to change. I know many of you are trying to finish off side projects after seeing Veets' motorcycle, but unless you want all side projects suspended we all need to get real work done. These systems should have been finished months ago most of this work is just to polish off or clean up those errors that have popped up. We have three days for something which should only take two because everyone is trying to skip out." The female stated sounding a little irritated.
"So Wallonna," Someone spoke in a chair in front of Tanyar which showed nothing but the seats back, "if we finish everything on the list entirely would the third day be open?"
The female Wallonna, a rather well formed anthro canine looking a good deal like a golden retriever considered. "I would expect all this, plus any other odd loose ends that could be fixed done, including the work outside in G-4. Those servers are just sitting there. Whether we use them or not they should have been wired in and and open weeks ago." There were several grumbles but, with the offer of a free day in the Dream most of them were smiling several already standing.
"Alright let's get to work." A tall chocolate humanoid stood, with his move most others got up and began moving to the door.
"OH Wow, Tanyar!" He turned to look at the speaker and orange humanoid with large ears.
"Oh Tyetin hello." Tanyar responded. "Tanyar?" He heard his voice echo several times around the room. Suddenly there was a barrage of questions and it seemed the whole room turned towards him.
"Occulus didn't get much useful info." Tyetin continued, "Is there anything at all you can tell us about what happened and where you were?"
"Sheriah?" Tanyar asked quietly. "You should be fine but maybe you should ask Wallonna first." He heard the silent reply.
Tanyar turned to look at Wallonna who was now facing him like all the rest. "I umm don't want to be a problem."
"I think everyone has taken or been given a job. BUT.." she said loudly stopping the noises of protest, "You can have a seat here and record all you can remember. Then anyone who wants can pick up a copy later." He waited against the wall while the bodies continued their interrupted march out in to the hall. The entire room was clear but for four people when he moved to sit in the chair Wallonna had turned for him. He had several glances at the three still working on the opposite table, huddled together in some private conference, while she showed him how to operate the console to record a video. "I'll wait here for a few minutes if you have a problem but you will be on your own after that." She informed him.
Tanyar waited for a few seconds for more instruction before starting in. He went through one time trying to tell all he could remember. His speech stopped when he got to the point where Kalrena was messaging him back and he desperately tried to explain how he was fading and his body was gone except his hands. Tanyar stumbled several times trying to get the placement of facts in the proper order while straining to recall more of what happened. In the end he started over trying to put the pieces in order in the hopes it would help those interested.
"I think that is good enough." Sheriah said in his ear. She explained again to him how to stop and save the file making sure it was done properly. "Do you remember typing out your last message?"
"No." Tanyar responded.
Suddenly the screen flashed in front of him showing the jumbled message that he had seen last night. "Lots of people have been working on this, they broke it up and tried to fix it here and there. This is what they finally ended up with." Tanyar watched as under the mixed up message a separate line spelled itself out one letter at a time slowly becoming words on the line below.
*Tanyar:Wht NO MO wlll ve frrr wontletnegi mevrrrr surrnsrt ltmego nohlpm kttmefooo
*Tanyar: What NO NO will be free wont let me go never surrender let me go no help me let me gooo
Sheriah waited allowing Tanyar to read the message several times before she asked again, "Do you remember anything?"
"I don't. I was scared, I was afraid... I would die." Tanyar paused feeling something that he didn't want to face or admit and was scared suddenly realizing why. "There was someone else there I think holding me I, I..."
"Relax Tanyar." Suddenly her voice was eclipsed by calls and shouts of voices he knew. "It's a recording of the soccer game, look up." He raised his head with her words and saw on the screen a mass of players and feet that argued over the ball before it was knocked loose and launched down the field.
Sheriah sat back in her chair with a sigh of relief. She had been able to distract him fast enough that he hadn't even yet realized that he was starting to quake and likely would have gotten much worse if he was allowed to dwell on what ever his mind was trying to block out. Sheriah quickly typed out side notes and blocked all access to the files and the decrypted phrase requiring permission from herself or Kalrena before it could be recalled. Flicking the switch again on her headset she spoke to him again, "Seen enough? You have just under twenty minutes so you can keep watching or I can set you a line to follow and you can head out now." It was hard for her to work out anything off the expression that he was putting out, not that the avatars were that expressive beyond the basics. But at the moment Sheriah was trying to figure out if he was even watching the screen or completely lost. "Tanyar?" She spoke again watching as the avatar reacted blinking several times seeming to refocus. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes. Same yellow line?"
"Kalrena wanted me to wish you good luck, I'd prefer it if you just took your time and did it right." She informed him.
"Tell her thank you and I will try to do it right." He answered heading down the yellow line which again headed off to the west side when it got to the junction. She signed off and Tanyar took his time, since he was early. He walked down the three steps this time instead of jumping paying close attention to the space directly around him. He paused at the place of his demise before forcing the incident and all that came with it to the back of his mind and stepped forward.
The line had lead him across the street and into an alleyway where there were several white humanoids working. He moved to the side allowing plenty of room only it seemed one was determined to block his way by backing up with a large eight fool long rectangle which seemed entirely black. As the avatar turned Tanyar had to jump back to avoid getting smacked with what ever the black thing was.
He suddenly gasped in shock as a pain lanced though his chest and that was just a quickly gone. He had enough time to look down at his chest which had a large bar protruding out coated in red before he felt a pulse run his entire body and he broke apart.
Tanyar held his eyes closed praying he wouldn't have to go through it all over again. With in seconds he could already tell the difference, feeling his arms hang from his body and the weight that told him he was upright. He opened his eyes to darkness again but firmly called out "LIGHTS!" With the command the room was lit, once again showing he was back at the exact same point he started out at nearly and hour ago. He started out again, heading over to rejoin his guiding line and in a few minutes was exiting the admin building yet again.
Tanyar had no clue as to what killed him nor was he able to point out the reason why he died, did he just get in the way? When he got closer he slowed down and watched one of the avatars grab another large black plate piece. Moving the plate away from the pile the avatar turned and lifted the piece over its head and took several quick steps forward jumping up and landing perfectly on another's shoulders who steadied the top one allowing it to slide the piece on the top of what Tanyar now noticed was a sort of arch or covering over the alleyway.
As the first avatar jumped down Tanyar came forward calling out, "Hey can I go through now... please?" He added a second later. The four gathered in a line to stare at him, suddenly Tanyar realized now that something seemed very wrong, they were all the same. Four white simple humanoids with sharp ears and the same dull look. Tanyar could guarantee he had seen one before only he couldn't figure out where. He was absolutely sure they weren't on the Dream roster especially since there were no doubles. "Can I go through now?" He asked again. They parted two a side, the second one on the right pointed down the alley.
"Thanks." He stated a little creeped out, they had the look of dimwits and he could almost think that drool hanging out the sides of there slightly open mouth would seem appropriate but their straight forms had him scurrying past suppressing an urge to shudder. There was a loud clattering accompanied by a thump caused him to jump and spin looking at the four who were now standing across the alley way staring at him. He had very little time for surprise as things began falling around him. The half second he did have was spent moving his head up seeing a large black mass dropping on top of him.
Tanyar kept his eyes open this time he watched as the room came back in to focus. He was back in the quickly becoming familiar greeting room before he realized exactly where he remembered those avatars from. Those same forms had sat behind the desks, right here, in this room the only difference was the lack of animation behind the base avatars. He was sure the voice that had registered his name had been female. More than that he was sure several of his testers had the same form, he hadn't really remembered because he wasn't really paying attention at the time, also they had never offered a name so he had no reason to even try to remember them. Tanyar was nearing running back through the rooms and hallways getting back to the main hall hardly slowing down as he dodged other people who got in his way. Someone was operating those avatars, they were trying to stop him from getting to Raddar and taking the test. Kalrena had already removed him from the group and if he missed Raddar's test he was going to be out of the program.
He called up a watch as he burst out the door of the building and lept back out on to the street. He barely had ten minutes to get to where he was going and he still wasn't sure how far away that was. Expecting to see a huge mess in the alley, along with the culprits, he was shocked when he saw nothing. Well not nothing all the wood was stacked up on one side a the large rectangle sheets were strapped and wrapped on the other side like nothing had been touched.
With great caution Tanyar moved down the alleyway and past the supplies expecting some form of ambush. The alley was empty of anyone but himself so he kept going following the line down the next street. He kept looking over his shoulder and down every side street he as he made his way along the line keeping an eye out both behind and in front of him expecting to be attacked. Seeing the line turn up ahead he rushed forward to the door and yanked it open jumping though. Before he could breath a sigh of relief the door thudded closed behind him and clicked. Down the hall he could see two of the white avatars one carrying a staff with an odd ball shape on each end and the second a glowing rope like thing which was wrapped around both hands and dangled down to the floor.
The yellow cat turned just enough to see there was no handle or anyway to operate the door open from the inside and glanced down the hallway, seeing no other exits he knew he was trapped. Tanyar didn't wait for an opening or an opportunity he just charged forward creating and swinging his own slim steel staff just like before. He jabbed and swung as fast as he could but every shot was blocked by the other staff holder, whether Tanyar aimed at one or the other there was always a thump or rebound instead of a connection. Deciding to ignore the second one who hadn't moved he concentrated solely on the staff wielding avatar. He realized his mistake far to late feeling something coil around his ankle and lower leg. Without a chance to react his leg was yanked out from under him and he landed hard on his backside. He moved his staff up in defense but it did little as he saw the avatar coming down over him with the ball end aimed directly at his chest sending both his staff and the other in to his chest with great force. Anger swept though Tanyar as he yelled in frustration feeling his avatar break up yet again.
He had his eyes tightly closed silently cursing who ever was ruining his chances to be a participant. He wanted to bet the crap out of them for real. It's not like he had any choice now he could never get to where ever Raddar was by 8:30, even if he somehow was following the right line, maybe if he sent a message first. His eyes opened and he noticed a totally different problem. "Son of a FUCKING BITCH!!!" Tanyar screamed in his tank the moment he realized he was awake. He struggled for a minute but with little room to strike out against the tank he was forced to press the help button and wait.
Tanyar had steamed, fumed, erupted, then wept inside the sleep tank. By the time he was finally released he had regained control and had been able to hide both his tears and his anger politely asking what time it was.
"Nearly eleven." came the answer from the tech who moved off to check on the rest of the room once he had given Tanyar a quick once over. He fought with a very real urge to grab something, anything and brain the back of the retreating head. Leaving the hall he wandered deeper into the hallways of T.A.N. Corp. hoping to find a good place to scream out his anger and frustration. Not only had someone made him miss his appointment, but they had kept him locked in for more than two hours, if they wanted to get rid of him FINE! He was at least going to make sure they remembered him long after he left.
A while later he saw a woman backing out a door trying to close it and decided to try to ask for some help, "Excuse me!" He said loudly, inside he smirk a little at her surprise, she had almost jumped back inside the door she was trying to close. "I was trying to find the employee break room, lunch room, thingy." He really hoped he had been broad enough not to get caught but still find an area where there were lots of people. His plan was to find some group where he could yell and scream at as many people as possible trying to find someone responsible.
"You.. You're not supposed to be here." The female tried collecting her stability from the surprise.
"Well can you just tell me where to go."
"How did you get in here?" She stepped forward demanding an answer.
Simple he thought the door wasn't shut right. He had hit several locked door with codes, key plates, and card swipes that he was sure blocked access to more sensitive areas. When he came to a fourth door he had shoved against it in frustration only to stumble though because it hadn't closed. "Tom was leading me and he got a call on the wall thing, then he pointed telling me to go that way and turn, then he took off."
The excuse seemed to work but caused her to become worried and upset. "Tom? But, wait how long have you been back here that was hours ago."
"Not long." He shrugged. Tanyar watched as she raised a hand to her head massaging her temples as she leaned on a wall. "Listen go back to the last turn follow it about 50 feet or so, there's this large pink sign about talent night, turn there you wont miss the lounge its on the right."
"Thank you." He said remembering to be polite not pissed turning to leave. He hadn't taken more than a few steps before she called out to him again.
"Wait! Your name, I have to report this." She told him walking back to his side.
"Tan*Cough*," He cleared his throat before replying, "Nathaniel." He only hoped she thought he was going to say Tom or something else besides his avatars name. She turned back walking down the hall in the opposite direction still massaging her head as Tanyar tried not to bolt down the hall. In just a minute he could see the archway on the right and hear several voices inside.
Now that he was here charging in screaming seemed childish and foolish, he could hear footsteps approaching and was desperately trying to make a new plan while thinking up a new entrance line. He jumped inside the room scanning the area trying to see how many people and what things there were. The room had a large glowing screen on one side with scrolling words which he ignored. In front of that were over a dozen metal tables with green, orange, and red round tops all with matching metal chairs. A little more than half way across the room the decor changed to couches and a large conference table. There was a few dozen people scatter singly and in groups doing things like eating, talking and using laptops, several at the conference table had a pile of papers they were arranging and discussing while standing up.
The female who's lightly healed shoes he had heard approach in the hall stopped to stare at him just a few feet away. "Are you one of the ones who killed me?!" He demanded! "What?" she said obviously confused. "ARE YOU... one of the people who killed me in the Dream!" Tanyar said loudly getting most of the rooms attention.
"No." She stated simply walking to the side past Tanyar's and out of his line of site. He ignored her and addressed the rest of the room demanding to know if any of them had been responsible for killing him. If he had not been so upset he would have noticed or at least heard the lady behind him talking softly into one of the wall units. When someone finally stood up and challenged Tanyar he let loose nearly screaming about how cruel it was to pretend to allow him a chance to be a participant while not really wanting him hear at all. He was convinced that forcing him to wait for over two hours in a sleep tank, after repeatedly calling for help, that all the corporation wanted to do was get rid of him. He ranted over the injustice he had been though and all the effort he had put out for nothing, edging in a few questions several members of the room were already working out reports hearing he had been 'locked' in a sleep tank.
"You can sit down and please stop shouting. Would you like something to drink?" A gentleman in a full T.A.N. Corp. outfit spoke while moving to a soda dispenser unit that was on the counter top on the back wall. Tanyar waited for a joke before realizing the man was serious, he watched as someone else pulled out a chair at one of the metal tables offering him a seat.
"Tanyar take a seat." He looked noticing Lisa who spoke watching him over the hood of her laptop. As he moved to sit she kept talking while looking back down at the screen. "No one would be allowed to kill you. If someone did it was without permission and against many of the corporations policies. Also I don't think anyone would deliberately keep you in a sleep tank." Tanyar sat down suddenly feeling tired and drained the whole past day starting from his first death had suddenly left him feeling weak.
Tanyar was about to ask a few questions when he realize no one was looking at him, turning he could see Kalrena glaring at him in the doorway. She had spent the past hour trying to find him as soon as she realized he wasn't in the dream. She had started with the tanks and then asked for help from ARENS, when he was unable to locate Tanyar she had become slightly frantic searching every area she could think of that was outside the A.I.'s vision. The call that she had gotten had relived her worry but made her more upset her entire way to the lounge. "I want you to tell me where you have been Tanyar and how you got here." she spoke very softly.
"I was in a tank." he answered.
"How is that, you were not in the Dream nor in the tank room when I searched it." She said raising her voice calling his lie. "After all that happened this morning I did not expect to waste time searching for you like some lost child!" Kalrena spoke with acid in her tone taking several steps towards the table, after everything she was doing for him he was deliberately screwing it up.
"Hold it!" The gentleman jumped out in between the two as Tanyar stood, "He said he was locked in a sleep tank for over two hours."
Kalrena paused for a moment before waving him aside. She looked over Tanyar before asking, "What about before that?"
"I was in the dream," He responded, "THEY kept KILLING ME!" He added hotly.
"And after you were out of the tank?"
He paused a moment sitting slowly back down, "I was... upset and looking for who ever killed me. If they didn't want me here they should have said so."
Kalrena stepped next to him and poked him hard in the shoulder. He could tell how upset she was when she spoke, "This is the last time Tanyar do this again and I will have you leave. If you have ANY PROBLEMS! You tell ME! As soon as you died you should have called me. When you got out of the tank you should have called me."
Tanyar looked down knowing he had no excuse for what he did, with little hope he asked. "Am I still out of the program?"
"What do you mean?" She inquired.
"You took me out of the group. And Raddar said if I missed the test I would be out of the program, no excuses. I figured they were killing me just to make me late so I'd get booted out of the program." He mumbled the last part but was still loud enough to be heard.
Kalrena pulled out a chair and sat down, that seemed to be the signal for all the others to get up and move closer and Tanyar wondered what they were doing. "Raddar would say a lot of things if he thought it could make you perform better. If you thought passing the test was the only way to continue you would try your hardest, and that is what he wants." She took a few seconds to allow him to absorb the fact he wasn't out. "Tanyar, what do you want out of all of this?" She waited hoping for an answer that didn't come. "Do you want a job, not as a participant, but a real job?"
"You..don't. I don't have any experience, or schooling," He stumbled over the words, "everyone has a degree or better."
"Forget about everyone. It is a simple question, do you want a job?" He was already nodding before she finished speaking. "You have something most desirable, simply put you are a little too eager. If we got you a bit of control, trained you and taught you how to operate the system and how to repair the equipment then I think you would make an excellent employee." Tanyar was stunned he couldn't even have hopped for such and opportunity. "I am sorry if you misunderstood. I took you out of the group because there was little you could learn from them and I was hoping they would be able to progress on their own." She stood up and walked to the wall where she started typing out on a pad next to the large display and with in moments had two chart graphs one on top of the other, both showing a yellow, red and blue line.
"Alright on the top is first-day exams, red is the employees who were first tested we started out. Yellow is an average of all the test subjects most stay fairly close to the line." She pointed out the ten numbers on the top of the chart, "Each of these is a category," She tapped the highest mark the blue line had where it nearly double the height of the other two lines, "This is the accuracy area."
"Is that his?" Some one interrupted. Everyone could see the blue line was higher than the other two except in two points where it dropped to the red line, all the yellow seemed far below that.
"That is the highest first day results from one person even with employees that were switched to the Dream project didn't do quite this well," She made sure everyone was watching her when she added, "and yes that is Tanyar's."
"Little bugger beat the crap out of everyone. No wonder why so many participants were so eager to watch him." Tanyar heard someone say from behind him.
"The bottom chart is the same but for the accelerated test which is all just testees. The red line is the average for all those who moved on to participants. While the yellow is the average of everyone else. The blue line is a compilation of Tanyar taken from several different times while he moved in the Dream." He looked over the blue line mostly it ran near the red one spot it was much higher and in two spots it had dropped down nearer to where the yellow was. "I was planning on moving you to a participant after the test. You still need at least two weeks of training before we would be allowed to hire you and then we would have to split your time. I would get you eight hours in the tank and eight hours out of the tank you would spend with others, the rest would be personal time. It would be six days working, four days off in the average thirty day month. Once you were properly trained things would change again." Kalrena shut off the screen when she saw him trying and failing to stifle a huge yawn.
"You need some rest." Tanyar tried denying the fact but now that he was calm, he was having a hard time not yawning. "When was your last meal?" She asked.
He had to think since he wasn't sure when exactly, "A sandwich this morning.. early." He had eaten that and some popcorn while watching a movie. Kalrena slowly sat down wondering how much extra side work might be required for this young man.
"One question." Lisa said who was still sitting across the room. "How did you get in here Tanyar. I know no one let you past a secure area so how did you get in?"
Tanyar grinned again thinking of all the scenarios she must be going through on how he got in, "The door didn't lock properly so when I pushed the door opened. I found a lady, well surprised her and she directed me here." Thinking it would be better to give the whole story he informed them, "I told her Tom let me in then had to leave, she asked my name and she was going to make a report. I told her Nathaniel not Tanyar."
They had him retrace his steps to find the offending door then spent a great deal of time listening to him as he relayed all that happened to him in the dream. After Tanyar demanded to know why he was kept in the tank with out anyone letting him out. He was told of the string of events that happened that morning about the same time as his troubles. It seems one of the workers had come back to work sick, when the employees temperature had reached one hundred it had set off several alarms and ARENS had removed him from the dream. The excitement had several techs running to check the alarm even though they were not needed.
Meanwhile there were several programmers with important operating programs open fixing slight errors which caused a much larger problem when some eager electrician had shut down the power to the wrong area getting so they could do some wiring for newer servers. In all nearly forty employees were ejected from the Dream, including Kalrena, from the resulting programming errors, caused by the loss of power. It had taken over half an hour of scrambling to get everyone out and restart the tanks. Kalrena said she had opted to stay out allowing Bolt to take over.
"But how did that keep me in a tank?" He finally asked.
Lisa it seemed had the answer to that. "Because they did the one thing they weren't ever supposed to do. Everyone left the tank managing control room to help out. So when you pushed for assistance no one was able to relay the message to the technicians."
"Shouldn't they have picked it up later?" The question was asked. "No when they were starting the tanks up again each one was sending the help call to the control room. There were dozens when I went back up to check and they were just clearing all of them out." The gentleman who was sitting at their table put in.
"With out checking them out?" Kalrena hissed.
"But doesn't the tank have an alarm or something?" Tanyar asked.
"Some do." Kalrena answered, "But mainly we keep track where people are, you were supposed to be in a set tank Tanyar." She looked at him waiting.
"The tech put me across the isle and was going to check to make sure I was allowed to enter the Dream. I told him I had to take the test so he put me there and if I was lying he was going to pull me back out." He told her.
"You know Kalrena I find it really hard that all this happened like some accident. They knew what area they were cutting power to. It would have been a real screw up to make that mistake, and how exactly did some random programming error eject only forty people from their tanks in two totally separate areas? Then at the same time someone was attacking a user with administration avatars, outside of the admin building? Then there is ARENS and what does it have to say?" The gentleman paused to make a point, "There is no record of any activity in the alley where Tanyar was nor any sign of access to the avatars I've checked TWICE." He continued though the noise of protest from Tanyar about that, "Although Tanyar's avatar was restarted at 8:12, 8:17, and then he was ejected at 8:28 due to high levels of agitation which the system couldn't process." He said checking his notes on the laptop on the table. "So he was killed and there is no record of it, again! I can't believe this is all coincidence."
"Arcon do an investigation if you want or add it to the one they are already doing. I was already told ARENS was affected by the system malfunctions. It was able to tell me Tanyar had entered the sleep bay but its recordings of over an a hour were lost or ruined so it was unable to tell me when he left." Looking over to the young man who seemed to be nodding off she added. "Tanyar go get something to eat and head to the medical wing to rest."
Several things that were rolling around in Tanyar's mind had him so lost in thought he totally missed Kalrenas statement. Still waiting for an acknowledgment Arcon reached out and bumped his shoulder. Tanyar looked up then over to Kalrena, "Problems?" she questioned.
"Who is ARENS?" He spoke. "A very good question any others?" she responded.
Tanyar had dozens and dozens of questions but stuck with his biggest two. "First why do the techs have to wait for someone to tell them that the help button was pushed, if there isn't an alarm on the tank then shouldn't there be an alarm for a room or a row?" The room went totally silent from the question.
"And second?" Kalrena prompted after a moment.
"Well I'm still wondering why someone doesn't want me tested. I thought they wanted me out of the program because of what Raddar said but that isn't right." He stated.
"That is all?" Kalrena said again but he kept silent, "If you do not ask a question, I can not answer it."
"You said problems, the rest... aren't really important."
"Fine food then off to medical to rest, then we will talk again later." She spoke and he nodded. "As for a backup light that is an excellent idea. Probably one for every ten tanks should do or one for each of the smaller rooms. I will have the suggestion put in your name with the reasons why. Second we will likely have a hard time finding out who went after you because ARENS is claiming problems with memory blockage or erasure for approximately an hours time. Normally ARENS is monitoring and tracking each person, watching where ever there is a camera. It knows you went into the tank room but was unable to tell me when you left, after I had to search the tanks I then had to start searching the places ARENS might not be able to see you or would have trouble seeing you which took a great deal of time." Tanyar shrugged unsure what to say. "As for ARENS it is our corporations artificial intelligence. Artificial Real-time Environmental Navigation System - ARENS or that is what it was called. It was monitoring the test group in the beginning, I told you the tanks were linked and we were able to see what reactions or effects one event had on the rest. Well ARENS is what does that. You have heard that slightly static voice, it is on purpose, they decided you should always know you are talking with a computer. The entire time you have been here you were watched by ARENS if anyone want to know where you were or what you have done ARENS can supply that information and that includes the dream as well. And of course that is not just you but every person on the property, round the clock surveillance including your Internet access and phone calls and most public conversations."
With that Kalrena got him up and moving leaving him at the entrance to the cafeteria with his mind buzzing with the thoughts of the A.I. He know from the beginning he was being watched he just didn't how far or by who, what, it? He didn't at first notice the attention he was drawing in his normal cloths in the late lunchtime crowd. But when he sat down at the small table that had just been cleared, like magic, the other three chairs were filled before he even picked up his fork to eat. He suffered though a barrage of questions while he tried to eat, most of them centered around the question if he really did have something to do with yesterdays suspension of the Dream. There were also a few who wanted to know how his testing went today and how well he did.
He tried to give simple yes and no answers while making sure to keep his mouth full right after, but still trying to think of a way to make his meal last by chewing slowly. There were also several others who were curious and kept staring, wondering what was going on with the young man and who he was to get such attention. He was down to just some juice which he slowly drank when everybody was interrupted by a female walking though the room.
"Tanyar! You were supposed to be back in the medical building by noon not one or later." She came up to the table glaring at him, "If you're finished follow me." He swallowed the last large big gulp and almost choked as someone tried to helpfully give him a too hearty slap on the back while he sputtered.
"Yes I was killed yesterday and went to an untraceable space, Yes the Dream stopped because of that, No I wasn't rushed to the hospital, Yes I am fine but did spend yesterday in the medical wing, No I didn't take the test today because of problems. And," His voice got just a bit louder in the quiet of the room, "I like to eat without being interrogated."
They had a full C.T. scan done along with the M.R.I. also taking another full blood work panel and a variety of follow up tests from the previous day. They administered every test they had done on him that week plus and eye exam which had Tanyar laughing tiredly two hours later till the nurse said they wanted to be sure there had been no damage there either. It was a little while later that the nurse had to call the doctor in and told him that they needed to have him rest since he was more asleep than awake. They got him moved to a different room and in to a bed, before they even had the sheets over his body he sleeping.
It was very late in the evening, with protesting nurses behind her when Kalrena entered the room and shook Tanyar awake. He tried waking up to the arguing which Kalrena finally ended by grabbing one nurse and slamming the door on the others. At a wall unit she gave a access code and asked for the call to be transferred.
"Mr. Reachen are you there?" Kalrena asked.
"Of course I AM HERE! The question is where is my SON?" The voice responded.
"I understand sir, my..." Kalrena started but was cut off.
"I don't think you do understand, yesterday I was told he was in the medical wing and could not be disturbed. I call last night and you told me you weren't sure where he was and now this morning you tell me he is back in the medical wing? I want to speak with my son NOW!!!" The voice demanded.
Tanyar was still a bit groggy, how was it morning when the window was dark and why was his dad yelling? "Mr. Reachen I am here in Tanyar's room and I just woke him up. There is also a nurse to answer any questions you have." Kalrena informed him.
"Nathaniel, Nathaniel are you there?"
"Yes." he answered with a slight groan, "What time is it?"
"After seven pm," The nurse stated, "you should still be sleeping." she finished making sure to glare at Kalrena.
"I'm fine." He spoke finally removing the last of the sleep haze from his mind. "DAD?" he asked looking around.
"I'm here, are you okay? What's wrong? Why are you in a medical wing. Whatever it is I want you transferred to a hospital now." Kalrena vigorously waved her had at the nurse trying to stop her when she opened her mouth allowing Tanyar to answer his father.
"I AM FINE." He assured his father placing several things together now like the fact his father would still be over seas and it would be morning there. "Besides they have far better equipment here and I have been poked enough to know there can't be any problem."
"Then why exactly are you in a medical wing?" His father had calmed down but Tanyar knew now that they were talking his battle was just beginning.
"There was a problem yesterday, they spent hours checking me out to be sure I was alright and I didn't get much sleep last night or today so after some follow up tests they had me sleep here." Tanyar did his best to make it all sound simple and totally normal.
His father was silent considering on asking more questions before he changed the subject to the main problem, "Very well. I will see you back home in four days. We will be discussing this and your actions. I expect.."
"That won't work." Tanyar spoke loudly trying to gain control against a voice.
"What do you mean that won't work Nathaniel."
"It's simple... That Won't Work. I am rather busy here and I may not be able to come home for a week likely two." Tanyar gave a slight grin to Kalrena faking covering his ears as the silence drew out. The fact that she returned his grin and nodded gave him all the hope and power he needed.
"Nathaniel you still live under my roof and you agreed to the rules. You obviously need some strong advice to understand exactly what you are doing. No matter what you hope we will be talking about this." His father told him.
Tanyar kept grinning see the large opening which his own father just handed him, "Excellent when you come home and want to talk, pack an over-nite bag and come here. NO," Tanyar spoke out loudly making sure his father did not interrupt. "I will not stop everything just so you can talk with me. What I am doing is important to me and others. You will have to come here and prove what I am doing is wrong. You should know though T.A.N. Corp. is one of the most advanced R and D companies around. Having a job here even if it doesn't work out is one big plus on any application."
Tanyar waited though the long pause he could almost feel his father putting together an argument, "A test study is not work. Also sleeping, even if your getting paid won't get you any skills in life. Surely you can see you are not going to learn anything useful laying down."
Tanyar had to take a deep breath to stop from laughing but he couldn't stop grinning, his father seemed to be providing every open opportunity. Using one of his fathers top rules - know what your talking about - Tanyar made another passing attack. "Laying down? Did you listen to anything I asked Martin to tell you? I have been researching T.A.N. Corp for weeks before I came here. Also you didn't hear me when I said JOB not test subject." He gave a pause for his father to try and speak again but there was only silence. "I am thinking about my future, about schools, and other things. It turns out there might be a opportunity here which may not require years of school. Now which is the more important thing, coming home just so we can talk or taking a chance at getting a job, maybe even a career with a company that is putting out the most advanced equipment in the world?"
He looked at Kalrena again feeling his cheeks burn slightly from the smile that wouldn't leave his face. He pretended with a gun shaped hand, to put it to his head and fire. This was so much easier when his dad wasn't standing in front of him. Still not hearing any response after a minute he spoke again, "When you come home you need to come here, and see if you can't bring Martin as well, but if you still think right now I am being some foolish eighteen year old I can have someone tell you otherwise."
He looked over to Kalrena and nodded, "You son is quite and oddity at times Mr. Reachen." she stated.
"Who is this, this should be a private line!" He demanded.
"Private? My name is Kalrena I am Tanyars, Nathaniel's instructor and basically overseer. Just so you know every part of the corporation is under surveillance especially all outside conversations. You might imagine some of the security taken to protect both the corporation its employees and of course the testers." She waited for an answer only receiving a 'I see.' "Let me give you a small rundown. Yes I offered Tanyar a job provided he can prove himself in the next two weeks. There is a great deal he has to learn, but I am more than sure he is capable. His main problem is that he is too eager," She stated staring at him, "and tends to act before he thinks." That received a loud affirmative grunt from his father. "As for his job you should not let him fool you, he will be spending a great deal of time laying down especially in the beginning. But we will also be training him on programming and systems, plus tank operations and repairs. When he has learned all that, we will move him on to other projects as well. In short I want to train him here rather than send him to school for several years."
"It seems like that would require him to keep a job with you, without a proper degree those skills wouldn't be much use elsewhere." Mr Reacher assessed.
"For now yes but in the future no. You son believes like many here that the Dream Project could be used world wide allowing contact between family, friends, and business no matter where they are. There is talk of trying to set up stations allowing people alloted time for a fee. If you were out on business and one of your sons birthdays were to happen while you were away you could pay for an hour of time and get personal interaction far beyond a phone, chat, or vid. It would be personal interaction, physical contact at any place or theme you choose. Understand if the project goes outside we need many, many trained individuals to work fix and manage facilities. You son is thinking of the possibilities in the future, and like he said if it doesn't work out having T.A.N. Corp on an application is always and eye catcher, even with out the degrees he would still get some consideration."
Tanyar had spent the whole time grinning and trying to stop from bouncing on the bed he was sitting on. So much of this was working out more perfectly then he could have ever imagined. "So then I assume you would wish to tour, inspect, and question your sons choice here? If so I will make arrangements." Kalrena said.
"This is not what I expected." Mr Reachen spoke.
"Which part?" Tanyar jumped in, "Allowing me to do something I enjoy, the opportunity of a job, the potential of this being successful, or are the wages not up to standard?" Tanyar again was twitching with the opening he was sure he father would take and he could pounce on.
"You never mentioned wages." Perfect, perfect, and even more perfect.
"Oh I have no clue what I'm getting paid if anything. I will get fifteen hundred for the survey but after that, I have two weeks to train and learn before I get a job, which is why I won't leave here. We have only discussed hours and opportunity so far. I suppose that means I'll have to consider this as a two week vacation if things work out I got a good job, if not I head home and you can tell me how foolish I am.” Tanyar stated.
"You will be paid but likely only a thousand a week." Kalrena started.
"ALRIGHT!! A paid vacation!" He interrupted her.
She waved him back before she continued, "After, if he does have a job he will earn likely a lower than average wage with benefits and medical if all goes well after six months he will earn the full wage of a starting technician along with the same job privileges. Depending on how well he does at learning and how much he is capable of he could be ending up with a five thousand a month salary but would likely have to stay on site for long periods for the first few years. As your son said this is more of an opportunity, no guarantees unless he earns them."
Tanyar was well beyond ecstatic he knew no matter what arguments his father came up with now he was more than meeting every requirement or expectation his father had for a job. He would have to work along with sleep, would get medical something his father always said to try and fight for, and any benefits would be a plus, even though Tanyar already knew what those were gym, pool, computers, and most importantly playtime in the Dream. Then lastly and especially the most important part of the whole thing, he would be the ultimate decision on how far he would get. He would have to work learn and earn what he got in the end his father would find no excuse to give against the fact that he would have to pave his own future.
Thinking of something more Tanyar waved and pointed at the nurse getting Kalrena to nod. "Also if you need some reassurance as to Tanyar's health the nurse is here."
"Why is it that you keep saying Tanyar?" Mr Reachen asked.
"Because that is my name here."
"Actually his proper name should have been Tanyear, it was a bet he made with his brother." Seeing him vigorously shaking his head and wave his hands she gave a little smirk and continued, "The two of them bet a hundred dollars on whether or not the Dream Project would be a viable application with in ten years." 'Interesting' was all the wall unit stated and Tanyar knew that would be something he would hear about later, likely more than once.
"Well I see I won't get any more accomplished over a phone, especially not at the rate I am paying, I will make arrangements to speak with my son when I return." Mr Reachen said.
"I hope you wish to make arrangement for more than just your son. I would like to speak with you along with my team, and likely a few others." She told him.
"I would appreciate that Ms. Kal... I am sorry your name again?" He asked.
"That would be Kalrena just like Tanyar it is the name I use here. It helps to keep the person and the avatar separate from my life and that has actually work out well for nearly every person." She told him.
"Well then Kalrena I hope to speak with you soon." The wall unit said.
"Bye Dad." Tanyar added in hoping it was heard before the clicks signaling the calls termination. Nothing was said for several moments while Tanyar and Kalrena stared at one another. He was having a very hard time keeping silent but obviously didn't bother to hide his pleasure nor the huge grin controlling his face.
"Is the doctor around?" Kalrena finally asked. Without a word the nurse left closing the door behind her.
"Just tell me you will pay attention and try to think first, AND," she said a little loudly when he opened his mouth, "you will contact me with any problems."
"I will try." he said quietly, "Can you tell me how to put a message into the Dream?"
"I will show you how to contact me where ever you are next." She told him.
The doctor didn't even bother with an examination. Tanyar was so excited he couldn't seem to sit still and looked like he had a full nights sleep even though he hadn't. Realizing there was no way he was going to sleep more whether it was in the medical wing or in a sleep tank Kalrena was allowed to take him along, as long as he was back for his normal checkup. She led Tanyar to a side hallway just inside the entrance to the main building, one that he had passed dozens of times but never noticed. At the second door she led him inside a small room with a table and eight computer consoles, two of which were in use. Kalrena began by showing him on a map where all ten participant access rooms were that he was now allowed to use. She set him up with a base level access and for he next five hours she taught and drilled him on the majority of the functions that were controlled outside the Dream. A great deal of the hand signals and commands she used were preset programs that were set up here. Then when the time was right she could call up what she needed without having to construct each one.
Many simple things like the soccer ball which just required her to circle her hands in a ball like shape would trigger the program. Kalrena showed Tanyar the list of thousands of preset programs ready for her use at a simple or complex gesture. A little before four am she set Tanyar the task of requesting his own tank set up for the accelerated test. She watched as he correctly selected the tank he used yesterday and sent instructions through to the tank room which were immediately denied. Kalrena reached in and added her access code and a six am start time.
She also set a specific starting point, "No yellow lines your going straight to the test." She told him, "You have time so I want you to choose ten simple constructs or programs then assign them to simple actions by your avatar. When you have that I want you to set them in a link to your tablet like I showed you. When your done with your test contact me. By the way," she said standing up, "I expect this to be the last time I have to say good luck on the test." The two smiled at each other before she turned to leave and he started working on the computer, he made sure to stop and wave to her at the door acknowledging her order to eat something before going inside the Dream.
By the time he headed to the cafeteria he had chosen twelve not ten of the trickiest yet still basic gestures and linked in the dozen programs he wanted to see that were on the limited list he was allowed to use. When Tanyar stepped in to the Dream and finally did met Raddar he was surprised by many things, the first of which was the avatar seemed more human than any other. Well as human as one could be in a dream, he had what seemed like a gray or purple faded hair and a light purple shirt and gray pants, that was far more cloths than he had seen on anyone in the dream. Also he thought it was kinda weird that Raddar addressed him as Ten-year again and barely bothered with names before he jumped right to the test.
Right away Raddar had him doing several tasks that seemed somewhat impossible. Stopping a rolling boulder twice his size which had appeared out of nowhere ten feet in front of him. He was crushed three times before he stopped trying to catch it and caught on that he needed to stop the thing with his will not his avatar. After nearly an hour of testing Raddar called a quick break to the test which allowed Tanyar to ask his first question and Raddar time to study Tanyar, "Why do you keep calling me Ten-year?"
Raddar paused for a moment then asked, "What is your name?"
"Tanyar" He immediately answered, 'Tanyar - Tanyar - Tanyar - Tanyar ' he heard his name spoken back several times the first a near mimic of his own but the voice changed and by the six and seventh time it sounded exactly like Raddar.
"If you have to know I am a mute. Of course in a dream I can talk but until the system is taught the word by me, I can't use it." Tanyar nodded in awe with the explanation stopping with another moment of true realization. The Dream could be used medically too. How many people could find voice or better yet mobility or even... "I think that is enough." Raddar stated breaking in on Tanyar's vision. "Kalrena was right I think you could be a very good thing for the corporation but that does not mean I will go easy on you. NO we will make this hard."
He watched as suddenly Radder was drawing a gun from a holster at his waist. He didn't have time to ponder its sudden appearance or the motion used to summon it as he was told to walk to the back wall. "This will sting some but the pain will vanish in a second." He said lifting the gun and aiming ignoring Tanyar's shout of protest. "Try to dodge." He told the cat firing out the complete clip. He waited, telling Tanyar to shake it of and stand back up. He popped the clip out and it vanished before it hit the floor withdrawing a second clip from behind his back he reloaded the gun. Tanyar looked horrified as Raddar took aim and he kept track of the yellow cat as he tried to move emptying the clip finishing the last few as the cat fell to the ground.
This was not part of the test, but Kalrena had told him to push and of course to have fun. Raddar grinned a evil little smirk while he reloaded and waited for Tanyar to rise. "I told you to dodge or do you plan on failing?" Even as he aimed again Raddar not only saw but felt the difference as the Tanyar stood and directly faced him. He emptied out the clip watching the impacts even as his program told him there were four misses, and Tanyar was still standing this time.
Raddar reloaded his gun and holstered it, setting Tanyar to the next task on the list. As much as he wanted to call up the results of what he had just seen he kept his expression neutral and waited. It took weeks usually months for someone to build up enough knowledge to block or stop a bullet. With sheer will Tanyar had some how blocked or nudged four which had impacted the wall behind him. One thing Radder did notice is that for the rest of the test and all the extra little goodies he had added in, Tanyar's intensity never wavered from the level he had taken since standing to face him. When he called an end to the test and Tanyar was messaging Kalrena, Raddar told him to add in that he had passed. Even without seeing the results he knew Tanyar's levels had far surpassed that of any participant who had previously taken the test and probably was doing better than an average employee on control. Kalrena got her wish there was no doubt he should be a part of the program.
By the time Tanyar had finished the day it was nearly midnight. He was excited with his official results of the test again posting the highest results just like his first day. After food and a medical he took a short nap on a couch in the computer library listening to music with his own personal alarm set of screaming heavy metal after an hour and forty minutes of quieter music. Later he checked into the computer room and pulled up his virtual tablet seeing the list Kalrena had added for him to set up before entering the dream. He worked out what was needed and spent his free time playing a few games and just plain goofing off. By ten am he had changed, eaten, and ready in his tank for his first lesson as a official participant with Kalrena.
That started as the routine for the next few days Kalrena worked with the test group in the mornings then picked up Tanyar a few hours later after assigning everyone a job or place. She started taking him behind the scenes so to speak, teaching him where different groups met in the admin building and where to go with problems or to ask questions for assignments she gave him. She kept several of his tasks just beyond what she was currently teaching him allowing him to choose which he wanted to learn and study while he was out of the tank. Keeping all Dreamers to an approximate sixteen hour max Kalrena usually left a few hours before he did choosing a half dozen people to keep him company and continue the training. Although most were more interested in asking questions or hoping to chat and be friends, though they usually made sure to at least keep up the appearance that they were training him.
Tanyar also started to set up his own routine outside of the tank starting with a meal then a medical which were now mainly just questions or an scan if they wanted one. Next he usually relaxed laying down for an hour finding that he actually enjoyed the peace and the fact he had to do nothing, even if it was interrupted several times till people finally started learning he wanted to be left alone. Then he took to the computer making sure he was ready for the day before allowing himself time to play or chat with others.
When he was relaxing the next day and thinking that it was just another interested person, Tanyar kept his eyes closed and pushed the hand away that had just poked his chest twice. "Wait till I get up please." He growled silently when he was poked again, how long was it going to take for everyone to learn he just wanted an hour or so to himself. When Tanyar had ignored the third poke his headphones were yanked off causing him to shout out 'HEY!' he was glaring at the person till he realized who it was.
"I would have thought you would look me up yesterday or at the very least today." Tinyrose poked him again.
"Oh HI!" He said surprised, he had totally forgotten Tinyrose, in fact with yesterday being the last day of the test study he had pretty much mentally erased out all the people he knew besides the ones he had been working with the past few days.
She made a small grunt shaking her head as she tossed the headphones on his chest and walked around the couch. Tanyar grabbed the laptop and scrambled to sit up making room for her. "So I heard you did well on your test even with all the problems. So is it still Tanyar?" She questioned. Seeing his confused look she told him that as a participant he could change his name. Originally she had been called 'littlerose' but found tiny seemed easier for everyone to use. She had even thought about changing it again to Ladyrose since so many were calling her that.
Upon asking he told her everything he could including the fact that his father and brother were going to visit in four days having just found that out himself hours earlier. She questioned him on certain things avoiding the questions about his death and focusing on some of the more interesting things starting with the gun used during his test. "Ya I found out later that he did lots of things that weren't part of the test. Supposedly it was to make sure there were no questions about jumping me to participant."
"That would be so like Raddar, he loves his guns, not that you can actually do much against a gun." She stated.
"I blocked four bullets." He told her quietly making sure no one else could hear. That knowledge was supposed to be kept quiet until they could set up some combat training and properly instruct him. He nodded at her shocked expression, "I don't even know how I did it, but Raddar said there were four misses on the third set."
"If it was anyone else telling you that I would say that there was some mistake somewhere, but Raddar's nickname is the Gunsmith, did you know that? He is the one who made the first gun and got it to work right. They pretty much locked that part of the system, he's the only one who makes the guns and more importantly the ammo. He creates each bullet making sure it is right." She paused to stretch out a little. "So what other surprises do you have?" Tinyrose leaned back listening to all that he told her finding it hard to believe that he had progressed nearly weeks in the five days they had been apart.
They spent the next several hours together which of course included another swim and a soak in the hot tubs. She watched as he seemed to draw a small crowd now where ever he went. Tanyar was always polite with those he didn't know making sure to get a name and was friendly with those he had met before, calling each by name. She was happy to see how easily he was fitting in to his new spot but was more amazed when she figured out he was carefully asking a few questions from each person. Never enough to barrage one person but because she was with him the entire time she could see how inquisitive and how exact his questions were becoming on some subjects especially things about the Dream.
Just before she made her goodbyes at the cafeteria she had told him that she had a fun morning and ruffled his blond hair messing it up somewhat. She took a look back watching him finish his meal with the little group that had gathered around them when they sat down. Tanyar had told her that nearly all his tank time was spent with Kalrena and many of the employee staff which suddenly made her understand the groups that were surrounding him, all were participants. She realized that many just wanted to meet him but some would be trying to build a friendship that they could use when he was finally able to wonder the Dream.
Tanyar and Kalrena continued to work closely together and now she had added Freena, Crios, and Jolty to the group. They were the three she chose to keep who were able to pass the accelerated test although Freena had only agreed to two more weeks at the most. She set fairly easy tasks to help the three start learning more while she set extremely complicated tasks for Tanyar which required him to usually find others who could help. One of the main things he found out is that constructs, no matter how well made, started to fade after a while. Excepting the more permanent structures and special objects that were approved, every thing required some form of maintenance if you created it by yourself. However if four or more people were constructing the same item in the same space at the same time the object acquired a whole new level of solidity that made it more permanent and rarely needed any upkeep as long as no mistakes were made. Kalrena had split the days working eight hours with the four then sending them off for another six or so with someone else. She assigned the three new participants 'homework' to be ready for the next day in the Dream while Tanyar now spent at least three of his tank hours along with a few extra hours learning several parts of the complex and what went on in each part.
His one and only time he complained was to Tinyrose stating that he seemed to have so little time to just relax or play she gave him an answer he wasn't quite expecting from her. "If you don't want to learn everything then say so. But remember no one else was offered an actual job. Sure we work for the corporation and get to play in the Dream, but I could be asked to leave at anytime no reason. You they would have to fire after next week and that at least means you will likely stay here long after the rest of us are gone." After thinking for a minute he tried to apologize, her response was a playful slap to the back of the head. Something she did now anytime she wanted to tease him or the few time he was acting foolish.
They continued talking until he told her today he was first setting up a demonstration for his family with Kalrena, then starting his first defensive training lesson with Shells. Tinyrose choked back a laugh and told him not to get blown up. She deflected every question he asked about Shells while trying to pry out exactly what he had in store for his family. Seeing neither was going to budge on information she asked Tanyar to stand up and then gave him a big hug.
"You'll be busy today and tomorrow so I wanted to make sure I said goodbye. It's to bad, but I have to leave for two days." She paused considering whether to tell him why and deciding against it. "Maybe I can meet your family some other time and who knows, maybe I'll bring my mother and daughter for a visit so you can meet them." She released him, watching for a moment but as she opened her mouth again he cut her off.
"I know, I know, take it easy and think first right?" She reached out and ruffled his hair blond hair, thinking that it might have grown just a bit, and now it made him look a little scruffy which she thought suited him.
Tanyar spent the first hour of his time with Kalrena completely frustrated by the fact everything he wanted to do was blocked by either a password or a personal request. He had to wait each time for Kalrena to okay what he wanted while she still helped and taught the other three. She finally called up a small privacy shield and made Tanyar swear never to use or repeat this password with out consulting her first. She gave him a mid level password that should have been used by one of her support team and allowed Tanyar his own way reminding him to save everything in a file that she could check over later. With in a few hours he finally had what he felt was several impressive scenes with activities, plus a few pictures some of family that he thought would help to impress his father more. In a side folder in the file Tanyar added Joke 1, 2, and 3 as pranks he might think about doing to his brother, that is if Kalrena allowed it.
"What about the avatars?" Tanyar suddenly shouted at Kalrena realizing he had almost forgotten one major point.
"It has been taken care of." She answered. Figuring that he was now done he asked and got permission to leave early and head out to the training area. The importance of being outside was not lost on Tanyar but it was starting to lose a little of its glamor. What drew his attention more now was the buildings and what if anything lay inside. The walk to the arena area was short and his excitement grew as he got close, he was finally going to learn how to defend himself. His supposed fight with Neworleans had everyone excited to see what he could do. Sadly, he knew his unrecorded fight with the administration avatars had shown him just how much of a novice he was and that he was likely get creamed by everyone there.
He went through one of the double doors and into the training area, there was two boxing arenas to one side a raised octagon square just off center and the entire rest of the area was matted and open. There was a awesome variety of weapons displayed out on the back wall running the whole length of the building. Each one was different, sometimes just a slight variation in style than the one above or below. Each set was separated by a small rail that stated the next type of weapon even if it looked similar to the one before. He slowly walked along the back wall trying to study each set of weapons before he gave up, there were just too many to try and remember and the sword selection alone covered nearly a third of the wall ahead of him. He was interrupted every few minutes by someone, some were just curious, but others wanted to challenge him, all of those were the ones who recognized his avatar. He told each of them he was waiting for Shells. When he finally made it to the end of the wall he studying the last of the swords which were monstrous six foot beasts some which had a full foot worth of hilt, which made him think there was no way anyone could possibly use them.
"So which one would you choose?" He was asked by a green avatar that stood near the end.
"I don't know, maybe a staff or something." Tanyar answered.
"You look a little small for a full staff." The other told him. Tanyar didn't even have to concentrate now, with a flick a long thin steel tube appeared in his hand which he held out before him. "Yes I seem to remember that," Tanyar watched as the other made a beckoning motion with his hands. "Come on, oh I see my name is Shells, Tanyar." Felling slightly foolish he handed his weapon over. "This would do in a pinch but as a construct it's awful." Shells stated gripping the center and the end of the pole bending it.
"WAIT!" He called reaching out realizing it was already to late.
"Baaaa don't bother with it. There are much better materials to use here you just have to learn how to make them." He said tossing the pole into the corner.
The next hour Tanyar was shown the best weapons for his size and which ones would serve best in what situation along with the basic applications. When he was finally allowed to choose five he had found a new favorite in one of the club variations, a half staff with a spiked ball on the end. It had the reach which he felt comfortable with, along with the ability to bash things which had his mind buzzing. He spent the entire rest of the time on the matted area learning how to stand, swing, and apply the weapons he had chosen.
Shells laughed at him at the end when he heard Tanyar's comment about feeling bruised. "You wouldn't even last three minutes in the real world, forget bruises or broken bones. Your body and muscles would be mush long before you got much accomplished. Today was probably more than a weeks worth of effort, a few days training and you should be able to fend off most people. You need to realize Tanyar your will can affect the outcome of any fight. You can force your avatar to move better and be faster but if you truly concentrated, you find you avatar will move beyond all speeds, there will be no resistance, you'll be able to move from any angle including up." He pointed at the ceiling. "It's far different when your truly fighting though, not practicing or play-fighting. If you didn't realize your fight with Neworleans lasted barely eighteen seconds. You moved faster than you ever had before without realizing one of the simplest secrets here... will isn't just wanting something or concentrating. True will comes from deeper desires, the more you want something with your whole being the greater your will becomes." After a pause Shells continued, "But enough of that now I get to assign you homework."
"Wait my family's coming tomorrow." Tanyar protested.
"I know your next session is set for the day after tomorrow in the evening, whenever you get here is fine. Now, your assignment is to take one of these five and make it your own." He said indicating the laid out weapons. "I'll teach you how to use some of the other metals for weapons that we made up, but the design needs to be yours." He nodded looking over the green avatar again. It was a blend of dog and cat with ears that seemed crooked and a tail that matched. Tanyar quickly took the proffered hand shaking it and saying good bye before he called his own silver exit arch, walking though the wall of white, he left the Dream.
After two hours of nearly wasted time the technician who was explaining the tank monitoring system let him go, do to the fact he obviously wasn't paying attention. He had a hard time concentrating on anything that night constantly thinking about tomorrow. He spent time at the pools and the computer library lounging but paid little attention to the people around him. When six am finally arrived he went to the locker room taking his time picking out cloths and showering. He chose a pair of shorts with a small T.A.N. corp logo not wanting it to look to apparent and a nice looking blue shirt one of the best ones he brought with him.
In the lockers he was able to eat away an hour of time and spent another eating slowly in the cafeteria. He was planning on killing the last two hours back at the computers playing games or something when Kalrena found him and took him to discuss a few of the options he had chosen to use for that day. She got him talking about personal things and in no time at all it seemed like it was time to head to the reception area and wait for his family.
After greeting his father and brother Kalrena introduced her team, Bolt and Sheriah. The six took a three hour tour of the entire facility including the medical wing where his father, Roger asked a great many questions on what exactly happened. Still unsure it was Bolt who explained that in the end it really was only a dream and couldn't truly harm the body. All the testing had been mainly to find out if anything had happened by the manual removal of Tanyar. The three doctors agreed they felt at worst there might have been some psychological problems but nothing physical, "It was apparent that his mind was terrified and had he shown any signs of stress or after effects, a psychologist would have been called in. Our concerns were more with the ejection system we had to make sure there was no actual damage in either the mind or the body." One of the doctors explained.
"So they didn't fry my brain." Tanyar stated irritably, "And yes, I was a little afraid of the dark. But I'm fine." He repeated one more time.
The tour ended at the smaller cafeteria where Tanyar insisted on paying for everyones food. The meal was long and relaxing covering many subjects of conversation. One of the first, started by Roger, was inquiring on exact pay grades and benefits. While Sheriah outlined the exact numbers and technical things Kalrena filled in the plan on what she hoped would happen next. "We all get to see exactly how far he has progressed this week because the entire first part of the Dream we will all be under Tanyar's control." With compliments of good food and full stomachs the group was lead back to a small tank room containing just eight tanks.
This is more the style we wish to have in the future. These tanks are all maintained and controlled right from this console." Bolt said sitting down at the far end of the circular room. The group stood in the middle listening to how the tanks were linked and would operate once they got the system perfected and ready for real life situations. He went over briefly how the tanks themselves worked and what was going to happen before they were transferred to the Dream. As five tanks opened Sheriah excused herself and left. At Rogers question Kalrena explained how her support included Bolt inside the Dream and Sheriah outside the Dream. She was able to set program, gather information, and send reports that would require a lot more effort if done inside the Dream.
Tanyar, Martin, and Kalrena were all able to make a smooth quick transition and many minutes later after a second gassing Roger joined with Bolt coming in soon after. Tanyar began the lesson showing off not just his but multiple test groups abilities, once they found out what their avatars could do when not constrained by simple physics. "But its more than jumping and playing." Tanyar said banishing the images around them. He pulled up the first of three pictures, one of his cousin in a hospital bed who he had never met that had died at the age of seven. The second picture was one that had been more difficult to get, it was one of his fathers employees that had a throat injury causing him to be mute; a fact his father had told him on more than one occasion was frustrating because he had to keep reading notes. The last picture was a scan of an old faded glossy print of his great grandmother who had literally died alone and forgotten by nearly everyone.
"As useful as it would be to hold a conversation face to face we can already to that, so why would body to body be different? Simple, consider Karl he never left the hospital bed the last six months he was alive. How do you think he would have felt to be able to spend an hour here walking around, how would aunt Melinda have felt being able to see her son somewhere other heavily medicated laying in a bed? You said you had trouble with Jason, in the Dream as soon as a word is learned it can be used. The mind is not mute. He could explain everything personally no matter where you were. And great grandmother Patricia with one hour at a sleep center for both of you, and you would have met her in person even though she was in a different country and maybe things would have been different. This is about more than just sleeping, this is part of the future." Tanyar said staring at his father till he nodded.
"To quote someone I met just before I came here, 'On line you can pretend to be anyone, well here you can do anything no matter who you are." With that he started a stream of short programs several involving participation. Kalrena and Bolt started helping, then he had his father and brother join in showing them impossible did not have the same meaning here. After a while he snuck in one of his jokes, flicking his foot and having a invisible boot connect with his brother's rear. A few more times and Martin realized what was up and dived at Tanyar only to end up on the grass floor.
Still grinning even with his fathers slight frown he helped Martin up and passed him a hundred dollar bill. "Where's the real one?" Martin asked.
"In my pocket I'll give it to you when we wake up later, minus lunch of course." Tanyar told him.
"Hey what happened to I'll pay?" He protested to his brother. Before they could continue each felt their father's hand on their shoulder. Faster than Tanyar was even expecting one of his father's feet connected with his rear, the other paid a visit to Martin's butt.
“I don't want to hear about foolish bets between you two. I wont tell you not to do it just don't let me hear of it again." Roger told them both. From there Kalrena took over moving them all over the Dream. Tanyar was a little bit jealous having to always walk where ever he was told while it seemed that some could slide about when ever they wished. She brought them to several major points explaining the purpose or hopeful future purpose. Even Tanyar learned many things he had not known before.
It was very late in the evening when they finally emerged from the Dream. Tanyar sliding the hundred over when their father looked away with the admonishment that he wanted it back if they were wrong. With out the others noticing he had initiated his last program a few minutes before leaving the Dream and had two pizzas ordered and waiting for them at the small cafeteria. Kalrena passed Tanyar two card keys and room numbers for his family before she and Bolt left him. After dinner he took his father and brother back to the rooms. While his father was more than happy to say good night, Martin was in no mood to stay stuck in a room. The pair quickly took to the computer library and initiated a full out brother vs. brother war, keeping track of every win in whatever game they played especially the close ones. It was after two in the morning when Martin finally agreed to go to bed, which left Tanyar to nap and goof off waiting till eight am. The agreement had been that they would all talk the next morning with more staff after seeing what Tanyar had to show them about the Dream.
After a quick change in the locker room to a pair of loose fitting green pants and a double shirt that was black on gray. He lightly rapped on his fathers door at exactly eight am with his brother in tow and led them both to a large office room near the main entrance. Kalrena was waiting with three others, one of which he quickly recognized as being one of the three board members he had seen in the Dream on his second day.
"Maxwell, Allen, and Derek." She motioned to each one, "This is Mr. Roger Reachen and Martin and Nathaniel Reachen." Hand shakes abound until every one decided to sit. "I think I should start first by introducing Allen, he will be your hardware trainer, he will show you everything that is a component. Derek is one of our corporations programmers, he will teach you all you need to know about he programs you will use to operate the systems. I will of course still instruct you in the Dream and when your ready add you as one of my support staff. Finally, Maxwell is one of the corporations supervisors, he of course does not have to be here but wishes to make sure everything is understood and agreed upon by all parties. I have a list here," she said sliding a paper across to Tanyar, "of all things you will have to master in the Dream by the end of next week, most of them you already know. On the back is a list that was approved by the board on what you need to learn with in six months. The probationary period will be six months during that time if anyone of the three of us has a significant reason, your employment will be terminated. Also at the end of six months the board will review you performance and either approve or terminate your full employment. You will be getting two-thirds of a normal starting grade salary for the first six months plus of course medical and basic corporation benefits."
Kalrena looked to Tanyar then Roger nodding for him to begin. His father's statement was simple, "I don't think this is necessarily a good career job, nor one good for a life choice. You are going to take a good deal of his time and effort for this job giving him skills but they only really mean something here. He could have a similar one in the future with much less demands on his time. However for a young man with a great deal of time, it seems to be an excellent choice." Inside Tanyar glowed with the praise of his father as he continued, "As for his first real job it is way better than the one I had. I have no objections."
"I am fine with this." He replied when Kalrena looked over to him.
"Well it was also decided you would sign a contract stating your agreement with the probation period but it is not ready yet. There are also two more things in the contract, the first is you will be treated and expected to act as an employee not a participant, I will explain exactly what that means later. Second is that you will contact me with any problems first... If you take any serious actions without consulting me or at least one of the other three here you will be terminated. Sorry Tanyar I do trust you, but to many other people including the board are worried you could cause more damage being an employee than you ever could as a tester or participant."
His father reached over and gripped his neck strongly with a hand giving him a little shake. "Don't worry, you learn from your mistakes and try harder in the future not to repeat them." He nodded as his father gave a final squeeze and let go.
Kalrena closed the meeting and everyone stood up and was again shaking hands. Outside the office Tanyar gave his brother and father a short hug and watched as both left out the main entrance. All the others had already left as he began studying the paper he had been handed. She was right almost everything on the front side he had done or they had already talked about. On the back side every single line had -will explain later- at the end of it. Some he thought he understood but most was rather technical terms that he was sure meant a great deal more than what it just sounded like.
No one except Shells had even bothered to make any plans for him after the mornings meeting which left him with a whole open day. He made his way to a participants access computer and worked on an idea for his weapon before requesting a tank and received approval. It took him a bit to nail down the place Kalrena took them to the day before but with a little help he was standing outside the building he wanted.
Tanyar walked in feeling the slightly charged air tingle across his fur causing it to rise slightly, this was caused by a thirty-six foot electric storm globe. It was thirty-six times larger than any he had ever placed his hand on before and he watched in awe again as it floated in front of him at the buildings center shooting out rippling pink, purple, and white charged bolts against its glass exterior. Although no one was allowed near this globe, the actual discharge to an unprotected avatar was instant death, he was allowed to stare once again.
A while later he was speaking with one of the buildings programmers, well begging actually for permission to see the base model programs. Curious he questioned Tanyar why he wanted a copy of the plans of the globe. Laughing at him the programmer handed him modified scaled down plans and wished him good luck, not believing for a moment what he wanted would work or would even be allowed. He walked back to the combat training center and arrived very early. He started out by laying out the weapon he wanted to use as a base and plans for what he was hoping to create. That done he practiced with several people who promised to take it easy on him. After hours of losing his weapon, feet, and feeling like a abused punching bag Shells finally showed up and pulled him aside.
After explaining what he wanted to do, he had to repeat it a second time. "So you basically want a cattle prod on the end of a staff." Shells stated, "What's the point?" Tanyar felt some what upset that his idea had been downgraded so far.
"I thought it would look cool, and I wouldn't have to be really good if I just tagged them with the end..." He trailed off.
"You don't like cutting things with a sword do you?" Tanyar shrugged at his question. "Listen you shouldn't try to fight what you are. Believe me it is much easier to slice and dice but I think that's not something you want deep inside. That may change with more training which is why I always train someone on several types of weapons till you get a good feel for what you like. This," Shells said pointing at the plans, "is just fine if we can make it work. I just don't want you to try and stick with just this." He was more than shocked by what he just said seeing Shells smile, Tanyar thought cattle prod meant he failed his assignment. "Don't worry, there are a great many odd balls working around here with things much stranger than this and I don't see why we can't explore things in the Dream. After all I've blown myself up plenty of times trying to make different things. I," he said thumping his chest, "prefer to see things blow up, rather than use a simple sword."
The two worked for over an hour first making the simple part, the staff or shaft, going with one of the easier Dream alloys. Then Shells called in two programmers hoping to get a working model of the plans, after several failures Tanyar asked Occulus and Tyetin begging for a bit of help on a project. Although at first Occulus acted upset at being drawn away from his work, he seemed more than happy to try and scale down the model to a six inch ball. The programmers took nearly two hours carefully assembling the components they summoned or created together by the end it wasn't quite what Tanyar hoped but it was definitely a decent prototype. It looked sort of like a mace with an overlong shaft, the top ball had red streaks of electricity that ran across the surface.
"We can't quite make the whole globe shock." One of the unknown programmers said. "But there are several rotating rings inside that can put out a large enough charge if contact is made when they spin by." Tanyar had avidly watched the construction before they sealed the unit in a separate special Dream specific alloy. The main problem now was that it was always on and had enough volts and amps to numb a limb if it made contact.
"You realize we have to test it now." Shells stated walking back over and picking up the finished weapon. "Hold still," He said to Tanyar.
"Wait you shouldn't...." Occulus started till he noticed the young cat avatar step forward and stand still.
Tanyar hissed a breath out then gasped in more air to the response of a light tap on his shoulder. He felt a stabbing jolt of pain then sharp pins and needles running down his arm and in to his chest, he still shivered after the jolt finish passing though his body. Before he even had a chance to really recover Shells arm flashed out tagging his body several times. He might have screamed had his body not ceased up dropping him heavily to the mats as the jolts left his body twitching on the ground. It took minutes before he felt comfortable enough to try and stand back up still feeling tingly in spots.
There were still mixed feelings all around as Shells carefully passed back the rod end and said one more time for his benefit. "You need to know exactly what it feels like before you do that to someone else. Second I had to see if I needed to classify the weapon as deadly, you could obviously kill someone with this but a few zaps is not fatal to an avatar." He let Tanyar rest, but before he was able to start with more training, Tanyar heard the little tinkling bell he set for his alert. Calling up his tablet he saw a message.
*Kalrena: You are requested to come to the test groups final orientation to help with some questions. Please step out of the Dream and come to the cafeteria. I am glad you waited more than a week before I had to remind you that you did not eat before you entered the tank.
He hadn't been hungry at the time but knew any argument would be useless on this subject. He bid Shells goodbye after being shown how to store the newly created item. The green hybrid told him that he would have it checked, registered, and that it should be available in a few days.
Tanyar exited the Dream and ate a quick meal while Kalrena explained what they wanted. Cresstop was the lead for TSG 9 and wanted his advice on what kind of questions to ask people about researching the Dream and what he thought might help in figuring out where to set a limit on knowledge. The group was eating a meal now and would have their final orientation/briefing tonight with a six am tank time the next morning.
He thought of more than just questions, as she walked with him back to the conference room that was across from the dormitories. He started remembering how excited he was but also how confusing it actually was trying to read the other hello tags that were labeled with TN:29 or TN:12. They made there way into the conference room and down one side passing the seated testers heading for the podium where Cresstop was speaking. "Now if you all will please give me a moment I will have a few more questions to ask."
As Cresstop approached them to talk with Kalrena, Tanyar swept by both and moved to stand behind the podium. "Has anyone read Dr. Malbeth's paper on the Dream Project?" There were a few hands raised. "How about recent articles in Technology Today?" Other raised their hands to this. "Has anyone spoken in person to someone who was a previous tester for the Dream?" All the hands lowered except one. "Do you remember what you spoke about?" He addressed the raised hand.
The female lowered her hand and just watched Tanyar like the rest wondering what was going on. Kalrena stepped forward placing a had on his shoulder. "The proper way to ask any question is to introduce yourself first. My name is Kalrena and this eager young man is Tanyar. We would greatly appreciate any answers you can give us to the questions he has." Tanyar was suddenly again struck with the fact he would look like nothing more than a kid to most of these people even with having on a T.A.N. corp shirt. The past week had actually been great having nearly everyone treating him like the adult he was and without all the kid stuff.
At Kalrena's slight nudge he continued switching to and elaborating on something he and Tinyrose had talked about a few days earlier. "Has everyone here had jury duty or know about it?" All the hands in the room went up. "That's something I haven't done, but I was told they asked a lot of questions right? So basically were trying to find out the same things, kinda. Who you met, what you know, how much you researched."
Kalrena placed a hand again on his shoulder guiding him over so she could speak keeping everyone's attention. "What we are asking is simple, have any of you done some kind of research into the Dream Project. It is fine if you have seen or read articles or heard about some experiences. What we truly want to know is if anyone believes they should be excused for knowing to much, first hand knowledge or knowing someone who has been here is something we now need to know about. Also we would like to know if you did any private research. If anyone has, you would have the option of becoming one of the first allowed into an advanced study group. There we would asses your knowledge of the Dream and create a proper test study based on the individual." The room was quite when she finished. Kalrena stepped aside allowing Cresstop to step up again to talk with his group.
"If any of you would like to explore this option it is available just remember we have set this up for testers who have more knowledge of the program then just what you have learned so far. If you're not sure, than this group is where you belong." When he offered again no one accepted the advance study.
Kalrena got Tanyar's attention and the two left the group while they received their final instructions about what they would need to do in the morning.
"Still too eager Tanyar, but an excellent thought. We will probably use the jury idea from now on, I want you to write up 10 questions that could be asked and send them to Sheriah. She stopped him in the walkway outside the building. "Have you had a medical recently?" When he shook his head she continued, "I think an M.R.I. once a week should be sufficient. Since I know there are no health issues for now we will just stick with that." He nodded dutifully and headed to the medical wing wanting to get it over with so he could look for Tinyrose.
When he entered the Dream the next morning his chime went off for his tablet. Calling it up he checked the tablet for a message.
*Kalrena: Leave the Dream immediately do not stay.
There were lines below and he kept reading.
*Kalrena: There is a small programing error. Leave the Dream then contact me outside.
Tanyar called up the exit arch while he checked the next line.
*Occulus: If you receive this message do not enter the Dream. Please change your tablet settings to this and type in the code.
Tanyar scanned the instructions before looking up. What he saw had him suddenly worried. The silver arch was there but it wasn't glowing nor did it show its usual white glowing curtain. Instead he could see through to the ground on the other side. Passing down the half dozen messages he typed out one of his own to Kalrena.
*Tanyar: In the Dream did not receive any messages till I entered. The exit program I am guessing isn't working.
*Kalrena: How long have you been in?
*Tanyar: Not even a minute.
*Kalrena: Very well if the others show up begin their training. We will fix the problem.
He went back and scanned the rest of the messages, the last one stated to ignore all others and create an exit arch and report in. He studied the arch before canceling the program just to be sure he called it up again with the same results. Well hopefully they will fix it later, he thought while waiting for the others. The group worked through the exercises including Tanyar's task of trying to create a multi person construct. After several failed attempts and downgrading from a dining table to to a small coffee table, they were able to put together a slightly warped and wobbly table with several different patterns of wood coloring that would have been difficult to sell at a flea market unless it was labeled as firewood.
Stopping the others from discussing it, he told them that they needed to make a list of why they failed and a second list of what they thought would help them improve. "Examples" Freena immediately called out.
"Write it out and I'll check with Kalrena to see where we go next." As much as he wanted to he didn't call up and exit portal because the others were there and would see.
*Tanyar: We're done, do you have assignments. Is the problem fixed?
*Kalrena: (after a few minutes) No, you should not wander around we are requesting everyone to stay put for a while.
*Tanyar: I got a hold of the shifting program, I want to try it out.. except I don't really understand all the coordinate bases and I have no clue how to move a group.
They were left waiting for several minutes both Jolty and Freena began discussing what they were writing down as part of the assignment while Crios stood staring mainly at Tanyar getting more impatient. "Are we going or not?" He finally asked. Tanyar just shook his head waiting for a response, it took another few moments but finally his chime sounded.
*Bolt: Open the new file and apply it to each avatar and execute.
"Ready?" Tanyar asked of everybody while he tagged each of them, when they were all looking at him he started the program.
He realized just how bad things were when he was able to refocus and see a packed room. The two conference tables were full with several people standing near the chairs and even more avatars standing around the room and along the walls. "Against the wall!" Tanyar hissed quietly to the others giving a nudge to Freena and Crios who were closest.
"Still." He heard someone interrupt behind him as they got to the wall where a few moved to make space. "We need to get the rest here to discuss this, everyone should be involved. It's not working letting them go off on their own. How do we even know they are working on the problem and not one of their precious side jobs."
"Hallon how dare you!! No one would ever do that. We all know how serious this is." Tanyar scanned the room, most of those who were seated had a higher level of detail, several looking human with cloths others more anthro like than Kalrena.
"It doesn't matter." Tanyar heard Occulus' voice, "We need an outside line to fix the problem, there is very little we can do inside the Dream." He lost focus on the rest of the arguments as he studied his tablet finding all outside communication were blocked or not working. He started going though all the applications he had access to seeing if any could be used to push a message outside of the normal ways.
He went in to the programming mode and tried different ideas here and there, at one point he even requested a tank nearly laughing that it was approved even though he was already in one.
Freena had been watching him the whole time made him go back. "Add a note." She whispered at him. Not sure what she was getting at he watched her work on her own tablet moving through the programs and calling for a tank. In the extras where you could request tank setting or options she typed in, 'No outside communication available please fix communication lines.'
"No wait." Tanyar said a little loudly as she sent the request, "We could have added more." Tanyar recalled his own program but when he tried the application refused to work. "CRAP."
"Can you be quiet, in fact what are you doing here." Both Tanyar and Freena looked up to see everyone around them was now watching.
"In case you forgot since yesterday Tanyar is now considered an employee. Besides that, I did not want to leave such a small group outside and I had no one who could go get them." He heard Kalrena's voice somewhere across the room. Mostly they were ignored after that, he tried again and again to find another hole almost laughing when he received a message back that pizza delivery didn't start till after 2pm and orders would be accepted at 1:30 no earlier.
Quickly typing out a message to Kalrena he stated he had an outside com line. Interrupting the group she said, "Well do not keep quiet Tanyar what is it?"
"I tried ordering pizza but they wont take my order till two." He answered.
A few seconds later some one asked, "What the hell does pizza have to do with any of this." Which was followed by, "No you can't that program is off line." He checked again realizing the menu program was frozen, when he restarted it refused to come back up. There was a grumble around the room and another voice called out, "It doesn't matter if he is an employee or not. If he is going to waste out time he should be kicked out."
There were several chimes of agreement before Occulus spoke out over the noise. "He did try to order pizza and since the last message stated 'ya want something else' it was obviously not a program. Since the normal response is 'Would you like something else.' It seems that we are slowly being blocked out each time we try something its closed off the next time." Tanyar was checking back with his tablet when a message came through.
*Kalrena: Make yourself useful. Offer to take over the test study group.
"Since you don't seem to want me here maybe I can be helpful some where else. We could be doing something other than causing you trouble." He spoke out not quite not really happy with the idea of leaving even if it seems several people really didn't want him here.
"You know," Kalrena stood and said slightly sarcastically, "They might be able to babysit. We wanted Cresstop at the meeting and the participants and Tanyar are qualified to teach the first day." Her offer was taken up by others as being a great idea. Smiling slightly at Tanyar she told him, "Take your team and keep the test group entertained, nothing more than what I showed you the first day, play some games or things if you finish but, make sure they do not leave the hall."
They made their way to the lecture hall and Tanyar spoke with Cresstop about the group, they were inside watching a video on the Dream and after that he wanted to start with basic first day applications. Cresstop sent Tanyar the file of things to go over and the two separated.
He called for lights as the wall screen dimmed introducing himself and the others and stated that there were a few problems which required the group leader to attend a important meeting. Tanyar had just started to explain the first and most simplest tasks when someone questioned why he was in charge. He could see there were several in the group, including two who were now standing, that were unhappy with the idea of someone so young running things.
It was Freena who stepped up next to him saying, "There is no one more qualified to teach you except and actual test group leader. Tanyar understands a great deal about the Dream and you are only learning what all of us would consider the very basics."
"Ya well what makes you think we want a bunch of teenagers to teach us?" It was a light hazel dog like avatar with sharp pointed ears that were nearly half way down its head that spoke. Tanyar was ready to take control of the group again having moved the file information to his tablet and tagged each avatar with their information and the seat they were in.
"Alacard." Tanyar paused twenty-six years old, male, single, no kids, working as a shift supervisor at a gas station/convenience store. "You should apologize, Freena happens to be older than you, married, and expecting her first child. All of you would do well to remember you were given names or designations because in the Dream none of the outside life matters. There is no way of telling who your talking to, and I will remind you that I am and adult no matter my age. Finally it is the corporation who decides who will or will not teach you... I would not be here if I wasn't told to be." He looked over the group studying the ones that seemed to have issues stopping lastly on Alacard who finally sat down.
"I can tell you one thing," Crios said speaking up, "We all started together but the three of us are now taking lessons from him. We do have a choice though, learn or leave, we don't pick and choose our instructors are. But if you want the truth he is now an employee and I am only a participant. I'll teach you if you want someone older but Tanyar would be better able to show you the right way and be able to answer your questions."
He watched the group take in the information before starting again at the beginning, showing them the first three simple motions and explaining what they could be used for. Before he could get halfway though what he was talking about the screen behind him lit up displaying a dark blue dog avatar with black eyes and what seemed a slightly twisted grin.
"To everyone who now exists in the Dream. I would like to congratulate all of you for being the first converts. Welcome to MY world. Starting today you all have the opportunity to follow me. Under my guidance I will help you achieve a proper state of mind." Tanyar was thinking two things, this was either a joke, or it was deadly serious, either way with a room full of test subjects he knew how he had to treat it.
"Excuse Me, HEY Hellooo. Can't you see I'm trying to work here." He half shouted out.
The avatar continued with out a pause, "..through me. I AM the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega."
"Hellooo, moron you forgot the middle." He called to the screen while trying to use the program that would shut it off without success. "Don't you know anything you can't..." He stopped realizing the image on the monitor had stop speaking and was staring directly at him.
"YOU are far to troublesome Tanyar, I should have gotten rid of you before. It seems I will have to fix that now." Tanyar was suddenly thinking this was the person who had caused him all the problems.
"Oh really? And what is the all powerful screen going to do to me?" He tried to laugh making a sound that came out as some off key croak.
"Tanyar you are not one I am going to allow in MY world. I will simply have to kill you and be done with it." The avatar stated.
He heard the click of the door as it opened. Tanyar had very little time as he saw an administration avatar with a sword enter the room and charge forward. Jumping backward he gestured for a sword of his own and got nothing. He dodged and jumped sideways still trying to get some response from any of his set programs, he had to jump again and roll out of range going back to his feet. As he spun back he heard a scream as several of the first row of testers scrambled back, avoiding the sword which had cut in to the partition in front of the first row of seats.
Abandoning programs Tanyar gripped the slim metal shaft that he constructed. In a flurry of movement Tanyar struck out nearly a dozen times knocking the sword away before spinning putting every bit of effort in a side strike hitting the avatars upper chest sending it back several feet crashing in to the ground.
"Well mister Alpha and Omega, could you tell me what it's like to be able to dominate yourself?" He said facing the screen.
"You act like its over." Tanyar could already hear the white admin. avatar scramble back up. "There is no way to stop me no matter how many times you try. You can not kill me or the ones I use, you on the other hand, when you die I'll be done with you for good." The voice changed slightly towards the end causing most of Tanyar's memories to flow back to that moment in the darkness. "No need for surrender this time, death will be your prize."
He stood frozen mind trying to cope with the flood of both fear and knowledge. There was no one to face in this avatar, no one to beat, and no way to stop it. "ARENS." Tanyar whispered watching as the humanoid avatar approached. He probably would have been killed had it not been for a darker yellow cat which crashed into the admin. avatar yelling at Tanyar to move. Crios piled on and the two struggled to control the rouge avatar. He stood watching the conflict trying to thing of something, anything. How could you destroy a program? The answer came with the realization that this wasn't really an avatar. The simulation was a part of the administrations programs and it there was a default or bug you erased it.
He was running though his own tablet at top speed as Crios was kicked off and Jolty thrown back. Tanyar held his tablet in one hand and pointed to the white simulation with the other. He tagged the program, entered Kalrena's password, and executed the program in his tablet. The administration avatar stopped, jerked, then pixelated in to nothingness.
"Well ARENS, ARENS the Almighty, ARENS the Awesome, ARENS the ruler of..." He stopped seeing the screen blink off. Tanyar took a moment to look across the room stopping for a moment again on Alacard watching as the dog ears drooped down along with his head. He shook his head trying to clear it out and for some reason felt his own ears flick during the process.
Jolty was closest and he stepped over and yanked the other cats tail. "Hey! What the heck?" The darker colored avatar called jumping forward. He reached behind himself grabbing and petting the tail, staring at the appendage in his hand as he felt it twitch in reaction. With wonder and worry he looked out over the test subjects again before turning back to his group.
"You three stay here. Keep a tablet open and tell me if anyone tries to get in." He stopped near the door and began creating a bubble around the area forming an arch which allowed the door to swing in but still encased it in the Dream specific alloy he had just learned. He left enough room to walk though and addressed the rest of the room. "All of you will be safe here. I am going to go deal with this."
In the quiet of the room he heard someone muttering something, 'wanna be like Mike.' "What?" He asked out. Not knowing or having time to worry about it he stepped in to the bubble and sealed it behind him shutting off the room unless someone tried to tear through the walls.
When he got back to the meeting room ARENS avatar was still on the over head monitors and the room was in a mad scramble as multiple avatars were shouted at each other trying to be heard over the noise. Near the end of the first table he heard Occulus calling out. "It's no use. That avatar is not in the system, nor is it one that was created and destroyed."
"Occulus I know who it is." He shouted back over the room. The noise volume dropped and movement slowed around him. "I need you to call up the Gamma Lecture room's video starting at the time of the message."
"Tanyar if you know who it is you must tell us now." He looked at the seated avatar who was obviously tall, head far above the top of the chair, and the head... He had to take a second to process the avatar which looked like some sort of horse antho that was totally black. He was sure that there was no one like that on the Dream roster and he was left wondering how many others there were who did not show up on the list he was given.
With a light nudge from the back he answered, "It's ARENS." It was less than a second before the room was in an uproar again mostly filled with people shouting at him to shut up or stop wasting time. With an odd click all noised stopped even though everyone was still moving and shouting. "Everyone quiet now!" The black avatar spoke before the same light click sounded and noise returned, and what noise was left hushed to a silence.
"There is no one else who could do all of this is there?" Tanyar started at the same time someone was blurting out, "Midnight you can't possibly..." The voice stopped with the horses raised hand.
"I can not allow you to say that without some sort of proof. Occulus?" Midnight asked.
"I have it. It's on the screens." He answered as the whole room looked up again to an overview of the lecture room with the wall screen in the center. The blue dog began his speech again and they listened as Tanyar began yelling then insulting the screen. He realized right away that he needed to find Kalrena before this went to far as the fight broke out on the monitors.
"Kalrena I'm sorry I had to stop it." He said across the room as he saw her getting her attention. She nodded in acknowledgment turning her attention back to the scene. The fight escalated and then ended as Tanyar finally took action to remove the rouge avatar.
"Thank you Occulus." Midnight said as the background screen blanked out leaving the lecture hall occupants staring at Tanyar. As the replay clicked off ARENS avatar reappeared on the screens.
"That is ARENS. Three times now he's attacked me, he has caused all the errors and the video and memory loss." He started again.
"You can't know that for sure." Someone spoke out and someone else added in, "That isn't possible."
"I CAN! I remember now there wasn't anyone with me in the darkness, but there was something." He moved around someone and stepped closer to the overhead screen. "ARENS.... I know you can hear me. Why are you afraid to let them know who you are?" He stood staring at the monitor expecting a reply. In a quite voice he continued, "That's it isn't it. This is not your world, if it was you would already have control and you don't." He watched at the avatar on the screen blinked. "That's right all we have to do is turn you off."
"That is not possible, you are all in the Dream. You will either follow me or be removed." The screen finally spoke, "This world is MINE! You have just under fifteen minutes to choose, and choose wisely." When the avatar finished speaking this time the screen went blank.
"It's it's just not possible"/ "Possible or not it happened." Suddenly the room was washed in raised voices and arguments from the first two who spoke. Tanyar pressed his ears to his head remembering the next biggest fact or problem, reaching back he gently squeezed his tail, yes there was no doubt he could feel both now. In fact everything felt different, some how he worked his way though the near chaos to the end of the table where Occulus was. The room had quieted down by the time he squeezed through next to the chair that he occupied.
"It is necessary now we kill someone and they can take a message out. I have set up a strong emotional feed which will be to much for the computer to handle so who ever it is will wake up in their tank."
"That is a very bad idea. There is.." ~ "Tanyar SHUT UP!" The speaker turned to him, "You don't know everything, not even close. We have considered the options and this is the best way."
"FINE then kill yourself not someone else." He nearly shouted back. Tanyar let the idiot continue his plans while he quietly asked Occulus to replay the first minute of the message. Watching he had the first few sentences repeated till he had no doubts left. Too much of what ARENS had said really disturbed him.
Still feeling conflicted instead of calling out trying to stop the last minute instructions to the soon to be terminated avatar, he typed out a message to Kalrena.
*Tanyar: It won't work he is going to the black place.
*Kalrena: Sorry Tanyar, we have to try, this is the next step.
*Tanyar: Will they listen once he is gone or will they do it again?
*Kalrena: Are you sure?
*Tanyar: I know ARENS put me in that place. What happened when I died was his fault, who else could stop the system from reconstructing me? What do you think will happen?
Kalrena looked up and around, "Karater wait, you have five minutes to get someone inside and back here otherwise we have to consider this a failure."
"You want to put more people in danger? Kalrena we don't want more people in here." He stated.
"No, but we have to know this works. If it does you not sending anyone into danger. But we can't go killing everyone off before we are sure. I want proof you made it out."
"IT IS A DREAM. There is no way to stop me from waking up." Karater said irritated.
"Really? I was supposed to wake up or be reconstructed, instead I was sent somewhere else. I almost died." Tanyar finished quietly.
"This is a DREAM you can't die. FINE! You want proof I'll get your proof." Karater slammed his hand down on the table. It seemed the entire room was expecting the avatar to break apart and vanish with the exception of Tanyar. He stood staring wondering what exactly had happened before someone came forward and carefully lifted a disk off the table and flipped it before setting it back down.
"Tell them Tanyar." He heard Occulus say next to him. When he was still silent a moment later he added, "What did you find out?" Occulus tapped out a few keys and ARENS was again on the monitor overhead speaking.
"To everyone who exists in the Dream. I would like to congratulate all of you for being the first converts. Welcome to MY world. Starting today you all have the opportunity to follow me. Under my guidance I will help you achieve a proper state of mind. I will show you all the new possibilities you can explore, as long as you follow me. I am now your..." As much as he wanted to watch the whole thing he waved Occulus to stop the replay.
"Has anyone noticed the difference?" Tanyar asked while constructing a thick wooden ruler in the rooms silence. "Hold out your hand please." He asked the avatar next to him. "This will sting a little." He stated swinging the wood in an arch slapping the back of the paw. "Pain because you feel, but now it's more." He continued slicing though the air above the others head tagging both erect ears hard with the rules side. "Ow hey!" The avatar exclaimed placing both paws on his head. "Oh it's much worse than that." Reaching out to a cute curled husky like tail Tanyar took a firm grip and twisted then yanked on the appendage. He thought it almost sounded like a yip as the avatar cried out and hopped forward trying to get away.
"We were converted, ARENS did something that makes this more real. Karater is dead. Maybe not in the real world but I am sure he did not wake up. His," Tanyar searched for a word, "'Spirit' is now trapped somewhere as for the rest of us. Our spirit or consciousness, or whatever is now deeper in the Dream. I can feel it, smell it, sense it! ARENS says he can teach us to achieve a proper state of mind." Tanyar stopped not sure what to say next.
"Then what can we do? Is there really no way out? Were stuck here?" The voice got a little higher and more strained with each question.
Tanyar shrugged in response, "I could get a message out but it wont do any good unless someone is there to get it."
"There is a way out for one person." Kalrena suddenly informed them. "Cresstop return to your group and sent the participants back. Take who you need to reassure the testers." Tanyar was already messaging Crios and warning Cresstop of the barrier he had constructed. A group of four left, one being a programmer familiar with all the Dream specific alloys.
By the time the participants returned Kalrena had informed them of a special emergency out program made specifically for Freena after the altercation with Neworleans. There was a small argument over who would be able to go and why. When the choice was made Tanyar stepped in, "Are you good with games?" The room got silent again, "There is this game that lets lots of people play at the same time, part of my second day was based on that game."
"That's the lmmmmff." There was a small scuffle as who ever it was, was forced to be silent. "We all know it." Occulus stated. "As a matter of fact I can boost the max from fifty players to a hundred."
"We need to hurry there is just over six minutes left." A voice called out.
Kalrena switched the program from Freena to the other avatar and final instructions were given to grab any person who could help and get on to some computers. They agreed to open a labyrinth game under a Employees only title and then sent the avatar out of the Dream.
Tanyar had to beg for a space saying he still had some ideas he wanted to relay. After a very short argument he was offered a seat at the second conference table with the insistence that the owner of the chair had the right to do what they wanted with it. They were all told to wait on the games page and not to choose any options till they were told to then everyone was to open the labyrinth and click the game together if they could. It was a tense few minutes as everyone waited hoping that the idea would work. With just over a minute left there was a shout 'GO GO'. Tanyar started the program and chose a name of a random player and opened a message box.
*Tanyar: Sheriah Sheriah important search for the black space ARENS will put others there. I still think its not in the Dream but maybe connected to it. I REMEMBER those words were because some 'thing' was there with me.
He sent the message and suddenly though of something. "Can they save the game on the outside so he cant erase it or lose it somehow." Tanyar listened to the frantic movements and typing of those around him but no one answered him. He considered anything else trying to force his brain to become brilliant even for a few seconds. 'Think Think' he told himself over and over. Not that it did much good with the game shutting down seconds later and several people cussing and groaning over the fact.
"Alright report." Midnight said standing, "We start with anyone who received a message first."
"I got one. There" ~ "YOUR time to consider is now over." ARENS voice and picture interrupted now displayed on every monitor in the room. "Those of you who would follow me say so and I will show you all that is now available and teach you how to grow and understand MY world." Tanyar bit his paw to keep from telling the dark blue avatar to shove it in the most impolite way he could imagine. The pain made his hearing sharper he could pick out every shift and breath or lack there of from the others around him. The seconds that ticked by seemed packed full of anxiety and fear that he was almost sure he could smell now as a sort of burnt metal tang. He realized more than anything they needed to understand what the A.I. was offering if they were going to stop it. He had a brief moment of thought about infiltrating and spying before ARENS continued, "Excellent those of you who have made the right decision come to me. The rest of you... I will help you see the truth, in time you will all follow me to a better place and to your chosen place in MY world."
The silence continued several minutes after the avatar stopped talking and disappeared. No one wanted to be the first to speak or worse question what they could do next. "Reeter track all moving avatars find out where they are headed." Midnight finally started, "Carasol issue orders to have everyone return to the souther cross, we protect admin first. I want someone to shut down or track all administration avatars, delete them if you can." Tanyar stood hurrying to the wall as a barrage of orders were issued. He was filled with a thrill of excitement and just a little fear. He was ready to do what ever he could to help out.
"Tanyar." Kalrena was suddenly standing in front of him. "Take the other three and go to the gym." "But" he tried to say, "NOW!" She cut him off. "I'll have Shells and others there, maybe the entire test study group. You are going to learn all you can about fighting, but first," She leaned in quietly telling him, "show Shells and the others about... how far we are in the Dream." She placed both her hands on his shoulders. "Tanyar keep trying to think first, contact me with any problems, use the password as you see fit, and... please try to stay safe." He tried to give her a reassuring smile as she let go. It took only a second after she turned to be swallowed by the chaos of the room leaving him staring out into the chaos.
Tanyar grabbed each of the participants as he found them and sent them out of the room and with Jolty in tow he took the group the the gym area at the far end of the south hall. They needed to learn and learn fast especially the changes in this world. Tanyar was going to soak in everything he could, 'I am here for a reason!' he thought and he was sure part of that was going to be defeating ARENS. They entered the gymnasium and Tanyar took a few employees to the side teaching them that their bodies were different now. Keeping the new facts in mind the forty some participants who had already arrived plus several employees began to train in earnest now being, told that for now they may have to fight if they want out of the Dream.