VIRTUAL REALITY

A Sid 6.7 story

By Atonia Walpole

PART ONE:

It was a darkened, cavernous building that Chris Smith led Kath Kendall into. He purposely waited a moment before flipping the light switch. Kath looked up, watching the lights come on one by one leading up to the area where it all took place.

“Would you like a closer look?” he asked. She nodded her head and followed him to the arena as he called it.

“I thought it had all been dismantled. According to the information I have it was put out of service.”

“Well, not exactly. As you can see it’s all here.”

Kath stepped up on the platform and turned, looking at the huge screen on the wall.

“That’s the big picture where you could watch all the action.”

“Were you here then when it was in operation?” she asked, stepping back and looking at the row of consoles.

“Yes, I was. Millions, and I mean millions, of dollars went into this project. It was to be the vanguard of police training. They were to come from all over the country, special units, to be trained here. It was a project before its time.”

Kath looked at him. “But there were no safeguards. Many people were killed, many officers disabled for life.”

“That’s true. Something like this could not be built today. Human guinea pigs would not be allowed,” he smiled slightly.

Kath looked briefly at the spiral notebook she carried. “You’re the caretaker, let me ask you something. Why hasn’t it been dismantled?”

“Too much money invested. The original designer has asked that it be left as it is. It’s not really functional as it sits now, but it could be made functional…I could do it.”

Kath flicked her eyes toward him. “How?”

“The headsets. I know where they are. You see here they were removed but they were never destroyed. Perhaps someday someone will start it up again.”

“I would hope not until some drastic changes were made. What are you doing?”

The large screen came to life as Chris worked the consoles. “Thought you might like to see the virtual world.” He turned, waiting for the screens to light up.

“Should you be doing this?” She turned to the screen.

“There’s no harm in it. Like I said, unless you’re over there plugged in with a headset nothing is going to happen to you. Here’s the man now,” he turned smiling up at the screen, “Sid 6.7.”

Kath watched as the man walked onto the screen. “I don’t know you. Who are you and where have you been?” Sid 6.7 asked.

“My name is Chris Smith and this is Kath Kendall, a reporter for The Times.”

“Oh, a reporter. Have you come to interview me?”

Kath hadn’t expected this. She’d done her homework and knew who Sid 6.7 was, knew he’d somehow gotten out of the virtual world and caused death and chaos in the real world. She turned to Chris. “He can’t get out again, can he?”

“No, he’s there for good. His crystal was destroyed.”

“I’m bored; nobody comes to play anymore. Why is that, Chris?” Sid asked.

“It’s all your fault, Sid. You were too violent.”

“It’s not my fault. You think I like being this way? I am what you’ve made me.Is that your girl?"

“I’m not his girl. I’m a reporter like he said and I’m doing a piece on virtual training. You say you don’t like being a killer. Why don’t you change yourself, or can’t you do that?”

Sid looked at her for the first time, studying her from top to bottom. He tilted his head and smiled at her. “It’s not my fault. He knows that. I was in your world, you know." He looked at his hands and back at her. "I know what skin feels like, how soap smells, how warm your body is. You are pretty, yes, you are.”

He made her skin crawl. It was too weird. “Turn him off,” she said, looking away.

Chris laughed, “I think he likes you!”

“Send her in,” Sid purred. “I’ll make it worth your while.” He snapped his fingers and a woman appeared, beckoning him.

Chris stood open mouthed as the woman writhed on the bed.

“I’ve seen enough,” Kath said in no uncertain terms. “Chris, Chris?”

“Oh, sorry,” he replied, coming to himself. “You say you’ve seen enough. Are you sure?” he grinned.

Kath crammed the notebook in her shoulder bag. “I’d like to be taken back to Mr. Turner’s office.”

“Of course, right this way.” He stepped off the platform. “Oh, almost forgot to turn off the console.”

Kath shot him a look and figured the pervert would be back after she left.

“How much does it cost to keep this thing running year after year? I mean, this is from the late 90’s.”

“I have no idea. That’s never been my concern. I just keep it running.”

Kath watched as the screen faded to black and she heard him, Sid, say, “Don’t, please don’t!”

Walking to the door, Kath asked, “You said you know where the head sets are. Have you ever used them?”

“No, honestly I have not, though I have thought about it. Fear keeps me from hooking one up. I’ve seen what can happen.”

“I imagine Sid 6.7 can be very persuasive?” she continued.

Chris turned out the lights and opened the door. “That’s why I don’t listen to him. He likes to taunt and tease.”

Kath had her answer. He did turn the thing on and play.

After taking the reporter back to Mr. Turner’s office Chris went back to the building and only turning on the lights to the arena, he walked up and flipped the console back on.

 

“Oh, no, no, no, it's more like a museum now. Nothing is fully functional. Even the headsets have been altered so if somebody tried to go into the virtual world, they couldn’t. There’s no danger now,” Mr. Turner assured Kath.

“Does Mr. Smith know this?” she asked.

“Of course he does. He was the one who altered them for us. No, there is nothing to worry about. All the crystals have been destroyed. I supervised that myself.  And as to who pays for this, it’s not the taxpayers so there’s nothing for you to alarm your readers about.”

“Who does pay for it?”

“I’m, um, not at liberty to say. It’s now owned by a private party.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. Somebody must have had a lot of bucks to spend.”

“Well, yes. Now any more questions?”

“No. Thanks for your time, Mr. Turner, and for allowing me access to the training center.” Kath got up and extended her hand.

“Of course, Miss Kendall, anytime.” He smiled broadly and walked her to the door.

Kath took the stairs down the outside of the office building and glanced once more over at the huge building before walking to her car. It would be interesting to know, she thought, just who had that much money to spend on a police training center.

Inside the cavernous building... “Look at this, Chris! You know you want to. This could be you, Chris, doing what I’m doing. Just one time, Chris. I promise you won’t be hurt. I’ll watch the time for you. Come on, Chris! You’ll be out of my world by 4:30. It would be so easy, Chris,” Sid purred and grunted as he entered the woman on the bed. “She’s hot for you, Chris. I’m just warming her up.”

Chris closed his mouth, feeling the sweat trickle down his forehead. He’d never seen Sid go this far before. “Oh, God,” he groaned, feeling his pants fill with his need.

“You’re not going to whack off are you when she’s waiting for you?” Sid purred again.

Blindly Chris fumbled for the keys in his pocket and hurried over to a locked cabinet, bringing out a headset. He worked it in his hand for a moment then placed it on his head. Taking another look at Sid’s progress on the screen, he strapped himself into position. Sid’s voice was in his head now, teasing and taunting him. Chris reached up and pushed the button, sending him into the virtual world of Sid 6.7. The woman was still on the bed and he joined her immediately, tearing off his clothes.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” came the voice from the arena.

Sid unstrapped himself and tossed the headset on the floor.

 

PART 2:

Kath folded her cell phone, tossed it back in her shoulder bag and turned the ignition. She had one more interview today with Parker. Retired and in bad health, he'd agreed to a short visit.  She stopped at the security gate and rolled down her window. Showing her press ID, she was waved through. Right on her bumper was a vehicle belonging to the training center. It barely stopped at the check point and still rode her bumper to the street.  Kath noticed him but turned down the street without thinking anything of it.

She pulled into the driveway of the rundown bungalow and hurried to the door, running a little late due to heavy traffic in the city. The door was opened by an elderly woman wearing a smock.

“Miss Kendall, come right in. He’s been waiting for you.” She led Kath down a hallway to a dimly lighted bedroom.

It looked like Parker was in worse shape than she had imagined. “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Parker. Traffic was heavy coming out of the city this time of day.”

Parker opened his eyes and took in the woman dressed in a trench coat, her red hair tumbling carelessly over her shoulders. “Thas alright. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.” His voice was low and raspy.

“I appreciate your granting me a little time, Mr. Parker. I’ve been out to the Virtual Training Center today and I’ve got a few questions. “

“I ‘speck you have. It’s still standing?”

“Yes, sir, it is. In fact it's semi-operational. I had a little demo of the screen. Do you have any idea who owns the center now?”

“No, I don’t. It was sold after I left, then it was shut down…” he dissolved into a fit of coughing.

Kath waited until he had control of himself. “I understand it was you who brought the dangers of the center to the media after the character got out of the virtual world.”

Parker turned his head to the wall for a minute. “I don’t want to talk about that. It’s over. It ain’t gonna happen again. I made sure of that.”

“You were present when the crystals were destroyed?”

“Yeah.”

“Tell me about the crystals, Mr. Parker. Exactly what did they contain?”

“They contained the make-up, all the info that was fed into the computers, for each character.”

“With the crystals destroyed would it still be possible to change a character’s make-up?”

“You’re askin’ me somethin’ I don’t know. It was some damn geek that brought Sid out, playin’ around in the laboratory. He’s dead now.”

“I saw him today on the screen, Sid 6.7. They have a caretaker who keeps everything running along but according to Mr. Turner the actual virtual trip like you took is no longer functional.”

“I don’t know why they keep it goin’. It ought to be burnt down, burnt to the ground.”

“Somebody’s paying to keep it up. Any ideas?”

“I don’t know, I just don’t know, but it ain’t healthy.” Another fit of coughing took him.

Kath thought he looked gray and folded her notebook. “I’ll leave you, Mr. Parker. Thanks for seeing me.” She stood up and pushed the chair back over to the wall.

Back outside she pulled her collar up. The gray skies had opened up. Already puddles had formed along the walkway to the drive and she splashed through to her car. Kath sat with her motor running until the wipers were adjusted. Something about that place gave her the creeps. There was too much security around it for it to be sitting idle. Too many secrets.

 

Sid was out. He drove off  the compound with Chris’s hat pulled down over his eyes and Chris’s ID badge, which he flashed at the gate.  He smiled as he followed the silver Mazda down the street. Kath Kendall. He liked that name; he liked her.  He was proud of himself. He hadn’t hurt the security guards at all. In fact he’d learned a lot the last time he was out and had lots of time to think about it. It would be different this time. He had learned control.  He laughed again, thinking of Chris in the virtual world. Was he still going at it or had he realized his predicament?  "Stupid man thing!" he laughed.

Kath had pulled into a drive. Did she live here, he wondered?  Sid parked down the street where he could watch her car. She came back out again and got in her car. That made Sid happy. He was glad she didn’t live in this neighborhood.

He drove sedately two car lengths behind her, calm and collected, until somebody cut in front of him obscuring his view of her car. He sped up and rammed the back of the car. Now it stopped and somebody was getting out. Sid drove carefully around the car and the woman standing in the street shaking her fist at him. She was small fry. He was after Kath and didn’t want to be distracted.  At the stop light he was behind Kath again and followed her home. He parked down the street again to make sure this was actually where she lived and not another stop she was making. Satisfied she wasn’t coming back out to her car, he threw Chris’s hat on the seat and got out of the vehicle, leaving the keys inside. He wouldn’t be needing it anymore.

Kath hung her dripping raincoat on back of the kitchen door. Kicking off her heels, she padded over to the fridge and took out a bottle of wine.  A glass of wine in hand, she went over to her desk and brought her computer to life.  Her phone rang so she dug it out of her bag hanging on the back of her chair.

“Kath here.”

“How did it go today? Get anything?”

“Ham, figured that might be you. Yeah, well, I got more than I bargained for. Ham, I think there’s more to this than meets the eye.  It’s still operational and it's owned by some mystery billionaire that nobody is naming. It’s like a fortress out there.” Kath took a sip of her wine. “Parker is in bad shape. I didn’t get much out of him.”

“Stay on it. Let me know if I can help.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Like I was hit by a fire truck.”

“Sorry about that. I know I keep saying that, but I really am. I miss you.”

“It wasn’t your fault. Keep in touch. Keep me in the picture.”

“I will. I’ll send you my notes. Maybe you can connect A to B.”

“Right, see you soon Kath.” Hamilton Crocker moved his cast-covered legs under the sheet. He trusted Kath to get the story. After all he’d trained her, but it sure frustrated him not being able to do the leg work. If his hunch was right this was going to be a big story and he still wanted to be a part of it.

The door opened to his hospital room, another meal on wheels.

“How ya doin’, Mr. Crocker?”

“I been better. What kind of poison do you have for me tonight?” Ham sighed.

Kath began transcribing her notes ,barely noticing the rain beating against her window. Her empty stomach however did get her attention and she went to the kitchen for a sandwich.

Sid had been sitting on her front porch watching her through the window. When he saw her go into the kitchen, he took that opportunity to let himself in her front door, which he noticed she hadn’t locked when she went inside.  He looked around her living room, nice, neat and clean. He liked that about her, especially the clean part.

Kath was humming to herself, making a ham and cheese sandwich, and grabbed a small bag of chips on her way back to her desk. She sat down, took a bite of the sandwich and nearly choked. Reflected in the window in front of her desk was a man. She turned quickly.

“Who the hell…?” She stared, swallowing the mouthful of ham and cheese. “What, how?”

“Hi, Kath. Are you glad to see me?”

“Ah, no. How did you get here? How did you get out?”

“You have many questions. You’re a smart lady, I think. It’s your job, isn’t it, to ask questions? Will you do a story about me?”

Kath swallowed again. “You’re not…going to…hurt me, are you?”

“Now, why would I want to hurt you?” he smiled, most beguilingly. “I like you, Kath.”

“I know what you are.” Kath’s breath was coming in short gasps.

“Oh, Kath, you know what I was. I’m not like that anymore.” Sid tilted his head, still smiling.

“You can’t change. There are no crystals anymore, Sid. You are what they made you.”

“Yes, it's true. I am what they made me, but I am smarter than they are. I’ve learned a few things all by myself.  I was out before, you know. It didn’t go so well for me and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.”

“But...you’re a killer. That’s what they made you, that’s why they made you.”

He looked sad for a moment. “I know, but I don’t want to be just a killer. In the virtual world it is different, it’s fun to kill, but out here it’s not acceptable. You see, I do learn, I can learn, I want to learn. I’ve learned control, for instance.”

“How can you control all those personalities programmed into you?” Kath couldn’t believe she was actually having this conversation with a…what was he exactly?

“It’s not easy sometimes,” his eyes glittered, “but I’m strong, very strong, I can do it.”

“What are you going to do? Why are you here?”

“I’m going to stay with you. I have to stay somewhere and I like you. You’ll be my friend.” 

“Ah, listen, um, Sid, you can’t stay here. Maybe, uh, I can help you find a place?”

“No, I’m going to stay with you. I like you. I told you I like you. I like this chair, too. It's comfortable.” He ran his hands up the sides of the arm chair.

“They’ll be looking for you, Sid. The caretaker, Chris, he’ll know you’re out.”

Sid laughed, “But he’s in! Ha, ha, ha! He’s in! Oh, I didn’t hurt him. No, I didn’t. He’s…enjoying himself, I’m sure. We just traded places. Yes, that’s what we did. I helped him, you know, when he altered the headsets. He was so stupid. I knew someday he would put them on, he was weak, he had no control.”

 

ON TO PART 3

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