As the doctors and nurses rolled up with a gurney, Dana started yelling at them.
“We need to get in the machine! We have to tell–”
“You are delirious from blood loss,” one of the doctor’s said. Dana screamed in frustration and looked at Ekundayo as they wheeled her into the elevator.
“Tell Samara what’s happened! And Shouta!”
Ekundayo tried to respond before the door closed.
He ran off to find Samara, who was having lunch in the kitchen by the VR room.
“We need to get back in the thing,” Ekundayo said.
“What? What’s going on where’s Dana?” Samara asked, taking her food with her as she followed Ekundayo to the pod room.
“Dana got shot and some dudes grabbed Yetunde. I think… The Dogs are real,” he said, pressing the button to bring an elevator. Samara smacked on her chips and looked up at him.
“You know… If this was any other time, I’d slap the shit out you for saying something so goofy. But at this point in my life, anything is possible.”
As they took the rather long elevator ride down to the pod room, Samara leaned against the wall.
“So, what did you guys do out there?” She asked, pointing to the bags that Ekundayo still carried.
“Oh! Uhhhh… Here,” he said, handing her one of the bags. She blinked, taking it and peeking inside. There was wooden facial jewelry inside.
“In case you wanted to change your look for one day,” he said, smiling.
“I’ve always wanted some of these but I could never find them…” she whispered, holding up to the 3 sets of jewelry. “These are beautiful, thank you so much.”
When the elevator stopped, they hurried to the pod room, their assistants already there. Moira was there as well.
“Oh, hello there Ekundayo and Samara! Dana is on her way down. I pretty much had to fight the doctors to let her come down here. They said they had to get the bullet out or something, but a waste of time, I always say. Anyway! Let’s get you both settled in and–”
“How do you even know what’s going on?” Ekundayo asked.
“Oh! Come over here.” She walked to her computer and opened up a video. It was a video of Yetunde with the same clothes she had on earlier that day.
“If you are watching this, the button on my chair has been pressed, which means Dekinai has caught me. Please get Dana, Ekundayo, and Samara ready for an immediate drop into the simulation. If they have also been apprehended, shut down the entire facility. Dekinai must not get his hands on this information.”
“Alright,” Ekundayo said, setting down the bags and getting into his pod. Samara did the same.
“Yetunde sent an encrypted email stating to let you stay in the machine for as long as you can. There have been updates to the system, so we can now get a… a script, I guess, of what is being said between you and other big players in the simulation. Other nurses are helping us with your outside care while you are in the simulation. If things get too tough for you, the word to let us know you want is “aabo”. Be safe in there.”
With the push of a button, the two gasped and collapsed.
When they loaded into the simulation, they were dressed in robes of cotton and silk, their hair swept up in high buns.
They were outside a house, a koi pond bubbled quietly, the sun setting to the West.
“Friends!” It was Shouta. Samara and Ekundayo smiled and nodded. Shouta walked over to them, his breath a bit heavy with sake.
“Come in, come in,” he said, slowly leading them inside his house.
It sat nestled in a wooded area, uphill, looking over the quiet town he lived in. The inside was spacious and lonely but held on a warmth from the candles. Shouta had the top of his kimono off, showing off his battle-scarred arms and chest. Ekundayo and Samara looked at each other, eyebrows raised.
“I… I never got any of your names, by the way. People have been thinking I’m craaaaaaaazy because you are never here to explain to my people what the FUCK is going on!” he said, laughing angrily.
“I’m Samara and this is Ekundayo,” Samara started, taking off her shoes and following him to the back of his house, where he was grabbing another bottle of sake. 3 were already on the counter.
“Maybe you need to slow up,” Ekundayo said, behind Samara.
“MAybe you need to shut the fuck up,” Shouta said.
Ekundayo clutched his pearls.
Samara blinked and covered her mouth.
Shouta took a shot of sake and wheezed. He poured 2 more for Ekundayo and Samara. They took one and downed it.
“Shit, that’s strong,” Ekundayo said, coughing.
“Pour me another,” Samara said. Ekundayo grinned and did so. She downed it.
“Yetunde sent us. She was caught by Dekinai,” Samara said, clearing her throat. Shouta blinked, the slight red on his cheeks from being intoxicated started to go away.
“We aren’t sure, but she has been caught and we are just passing this information on to you.”
Shouta nodded, trying to process Yetunde being alive.
“Who even is Dekinai?” Ekundayo asked. Shouta was about to open his mouth to answer but there was a loud noise outside. They looked in the direction the sound came. Shouta immediately rushed to the front of the house, going outside. Samara started to follow but he came flying through the wall only to freeze in mid-air. Samara blinked. Ekundayo was inches from being knocked over by Shouta.
“What the hell is going on?” He asked, stepping out-of-the-way. He watched Shouta’s body, curled up, clutching at his abdomen, his eyes full of surprise and bewilderment. Ekundayo stepped forward only to go back to standing in front of Shouta and having him flung into his body.
“The shit froze!” she howled, doubling over.
Shouta gasped, trying to get some wind back into him. Ekundayo groaned, pushing Shouta off of him. Shouta pointed to the hole he made. Samara, still giggling, looked out of the wall. Her laughter suddenly stopped. She jumped through the hole, her fists balled up. She slowly circled around what had caused Shouta to fly through the wall.
Yetunde stood there, in the outfit Dana had met her in. Her eyes were neon red, her skin ashen and flakey. Yetunde smirked and rushed Samara, punching her right in the mouth. Samara yelled and fell back, tasting blood in her mouth.
“Alright, then,” she said, getting up and spitting. Yetunde charged at her again. Samara grabbed her arm and spit on it. Yetunde screamed and jumped back. Samara watched as Yetunde’s arm slough off at the elbow. Yetunde just laughed, as her arm warped back in place.
A giant rock hit Yetunde from the right. Ekundayo had gotten up and saw the whole thing.
“Virus? Hacker?” He yelled at out at Samara, watching Yetunde slowly getting up.
“Why not both?” Samara called back.
The simulation started to shift, the background turning into pixels, Yetunde’s body being affected as well.
“The hell is going on?!” Ekundayo asked. The game returned back to normal, but Yetunde still looked different. She screamed and ran at the two. Ekundayo threw up piles of earth to slow her up. All she did was jump on them and give a swift kick to his face. Samara tackled Yetunde, bringing her to the ground. She started punching her in the face. Yetunde threw Samara off and started to get back up, a pile of dirt hitting her in the back of the head.
“St– –ocks at — e!” Her voice came out distorted, almost sounding pained.
The simulation freaked out again. Shouta came out of the house, leaning on Yetunde’s sword. His hair had fallen out of its bun and it spread out over his shoulders.
“Con— –t,” Yetunde stammered. She started to scream, holding onto her head. She fell to her knees, blood coming from her nose.
A ball of fire came from the sky, sweeping Yetunde up in its blast. Dana followed, landing on the ground in front of Samara and Ekundayo.
“Shouta, hold her!” Dana yelled out, her hands and arms covered in fire.
Shouta started chanting, his eyes on Yetunde. Yetunde was covered by a pixellated blue-purple bubble. Dana shot fire at the bubble, it catching up into flame but not harming Yetunde.
“Contain it! Good, yes!” Yetunde’s face showed up on the ball of fire.
“I am not safe. Dekinai has me. If you can contain this virus, people on the outside can trace its origin and that’s how they’ll be able to find me. Shouta, he’s broken the treaty. He’s trying to steal this technology and sell it to the Damned Ordered Gravers.”
Samara stared wide-eyed at Yetunde.
“That’s the… That’s that white supremacy group,” Ekundayo said.
“And he wants Shouta and me dead so he can sell this tech. Shouta, I’m so sorry. You need to destroy this body. It’s not mine. It’s not me.”
Shouta nodded and closed his eyes. The ball of fire exploded , Yetunde’s disappearing.
Shouta sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
“God damn he is fine,” Dana said quietly, Ekundayo nodding in agreement.
Shouta walked back inside his house, turning on his computer and putting in the USBs he had acquired. Dana and Ekundayo followed him inside his house, watching him.
“So uh… What’s the plan?” Dana finally asked. Shouta started clicking and typing away at files, quickly scanning through them.
“We find Yetunde,” he said.