The Myopian Defence

Abe

Abe roused with a dust caked throat. He gasped, spluttered, and coughed up a mixture of saliva and sandy debris. He doubled over, heaving for a few seconds, trying to clear out the foreign matter in his throat and lungs. In his fit of dry reaching his vision blurred with grimy tears, and he rubbed his eyes through balled fists so he could see. Relatively satisfied, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and sat on his haunches. He was in a ravine, dry and dusty, surrounded by desolate terrain spiked with the occasional thirsty looking shrub and speckled with an assortment of desert grass. He was sitting in the middle of what looked like a sandy trail, softer than the surrounding hard landscape. In every direction, rocky, arid elevations gave the illusion of colliding with one another. The washed-out suggestion of larger mountains could vaguely be glimpsed in the distance. Strange, Abe thought to himself. Must have got loaded last night and treated myself to a spaghetti western Sim. That didn’t seem right though, he had run out of juice so he shouldn’t have been able to Sim up again. He had obviously found a way, better not waste it. Suppose I should look around for some context here. Abe heaved himself upwards, noticing that he was completely naked except for his credit band and his platinum necklace. Now that was odd. Abe had purchased hundreds of sims, and certainly had not been able to remember them all, but entering a simulation scene that began with an overwhelming urge to vomit, naked in some desert? It was one of the more unique experiences, that was for sure. And why did he have his credit bracelet and platinum necklace on? These details were too personal, too specific to have been written into the simulation plot. He put aside these thoughts and began traipsing along the sandy trail. The soft sand swallowed his feet up to the ankle and there was an inviting warmth to it, but it made it difficult to make progress. The path banked upwards, and he could now see the metal, criss-cross thatching of a railway bridge. Abe quickened his pace, the strong wind whipping at his hair and privates with a sandy sting and the sun’s rays intensifying on his back motivated him not to dawdle. He reached the top of the trail and arrived at the bridge structure, where he stepped into the enclosed arch of the bridge’s tunnel. The respite from the wind and the sun was immediate, and he was thankful for the reprieve. A glance inside the interior of the bridge structure revealed optical tube tracks extending several hundred metres in the distance. Spokes of sunlight perforated the low light in the tunnel like haphazard spotlights on a concert stage. Apart from a slight whistling sound the wind was generating through this structure, there was absolute silence. In order to immerse himself in this sim narrative, Abe was apparently expected to explore this creepy, odd looking track. He carefully stepped from sleeper to sleeper, the safest looking surface for his bare feet. There was a treasure trove of electronic parts in between the tracks. Shards of glass, fuses, wires, computer chips, transistors, batteries, broken plastic, and syringes. They were the kind of remnants you would expect to disperse if you took a sledgehammer to a drone. It was not, however, consistent with refuse you would find on train tracks. Abe would know, working in a waste disposal unit for the worst part of five years. It was the sort of paraphernalia that reminded him of robotics class, which he had been subjected to on the rare occasion he had actually bothered to go to school. This was at least a clue as to the sim’s setting, he had to be off world, perhaps advanced in time, quite possibly on old mother earth. As Abe pondered this, he felt an arresting sting on the underside of his right foot. He steadied himself on his left foot, raising the bottom of his right foot into view in order to examine what was causing the pain. A serrated, triangular wedge of curved glass had penetrated the arch of his foot. Warm blood slowly trickled around the edges of the wound and slid off his foot, down his raised leg. Abe wrenched the glass out impulsively, the shard dislodging without much protest, subsequently transforming the trickle into throbbing glugs of blood that made it hard to see the wound at all. The pain was intensifying, as was his sense of panic. Simulations were supposed to have pain limitation parameters, not unlike pinching yourself in a dream. The odd spike of dull pain was acceptable for realism, but not pain resonance. This was all pain, persistent, unadulterated and raw. The forceful throbs were unlike anything he had felt in a recreation, or the real for that matter. Abe was losing blood fast, and none of this was making any sense. He tried to hop to the next sleeper in desperation, misjudged and fell on the tracks in a heap still holding his profusely bleeding foot. He blinked a few times, staring directly along the track, and he caught sight of a shadowy figure that was slowly lumbering towards him. He could no longer hold on to his consciousness, and darkness fell. Abe awoke staring at a red corrugated ceiling. Alarm. Not his apartment. He jerked upright and smashed his already aching skull on an old piece of technology suspended from the ceiling. It was some sort of display device, a panel that did not seem to have power to it and laid dormant. ‘Easy there Boy-o,’ croaked a voice from across the room. Abe felt like he had had the living shit beaten out of him, and he was trying to shake the jarring sensation of his vision spinning and then resetting. It was akin to waking up after a serious bender, and he suspected he had sustained several injuries including trauma to the head which had only been exacerbated by his ungraceful attempt at getting up. ‘Wha…where…who are-’ Abe struggled to form anything coherent. ‘That’s enough for now son,’ added the raspy, yet somewhat warm voice. ‘You need rest after that spill you took. Lost a fair bit of blood by the time I got you back here. Not like I have the resources for a blood transfusion,’ he wheezed rhythmically with what Abe deduced must have been laughter. Abe tried to take in his surroundings, but the spinning meant all he could see were blinking green lights and a dark figure hunched over a screen at the end of a long narrow room. He couldn’t fight it; he gently laid his head back down on the sack provided and let sleep take him. Abe awoke again with the same view of the corrugated red ceiling. Still sporting a splitting headache, and his foot throbbing persistently, he was relieved to find the room wasn’t spinning. He slowly sat up, having the sense not to smash his skull on the display directly above him this time. He was surrounded by mounds of what looked to be obsolete bits and pieces of technology. Coloured wires, display panels, exposed circuitry and optical fibres were chaotically clumped together. The basic cot he was sleeping on was no doubt a storage area for some of the junk and had been cleared to accommodate a patient. The far end of the room appeared to house the technology that was functional, atop a large sturdy looking desk. Computer towers that spiked with green and red flashing lights were stacked together on the left, and to the right of them were a hive of display panels, some more archaic looking than others, surrounding a basic holographic display. There was a large dark figure furiously typing away on a blue projected keyboard. Abe cleared his throat, ‘Ah hmm.’ The figure spun around in a swivel chair with the adroitness of someone who had been practising this move in private extensively. ‘He lives!’ exclaimed the gruff voice. The man groaned slightly as he got to his feet, and with a slight hobble made his way over to the cot Abe was laying on. The enormous figure loomed over Abe. Long, shaggy, sun-drenched hair was shooting off his scalp in different directions as if opposed to a magnetic force. It gave way to a cornucopia of facial hair sprouting from high on his cheek bones and culminating in a long, unkept beard that drooped right down to his chest. His open necked shirt exposed more of this seemingly endless supply of hair, adhering to the same palate as his beard, rust, silver, black and the odd blonde hair. Below this was a formidable gut that was testing the fabric of his putrid shirt, his considerable height was matched with significant girth it seemed. Warm, dark eyes peered out at Abe, with what looked like a genuine smile. ‘The name is Rufus,’ he whistled, Abe suspected he had lost some teeth. ‘Rufus Jules, General Commander of the fifth fleet, Myopian Corp, but you don’t have to bother with all that!’ He wheezed again with what Abe was now sure was laughter. Abe’s head was swimming again. ‘A pleasure Rufus, appreciate your assistance back there,’ he decided to play along. ‘Now if you can excuse me, I have had quite enough of this bizarre 20th century-esque simulation.’ He paused, ‘Sim terminate.’ A few seconds passed as a blank looking Rufus stared incomprehensively at Abe. ‘SIM TER-MIN-ATE!’ Abe shouted now, anxiously awaiting the collapse of this scenery into confetti like squares, revealing his pathetic apartment. Nothing happened. Rufus was now bulging, red in the face. He couldn’t hold it any longer, and exploded into his raspy laughter, which was interrupted with fits of uncontrollable coughing, and when his lungs had filled with air again, more laughter. ‘He thinks he is in a Sim!’ he barked through more laughter as he hugged his belly. He fell backwards on a pile of various electronics, the hilarity continuing to grip him, sniggering to the point of tears as he studied Abe’s look of bewilderment. ‘So, where the fuck am I? Who are you, what is this strange box we are in, and where have you taken me!’ Abe was frantic, this was either a complete psychotic break or someone’s idea of a very elaborate and terrifying practical joke. Rufus’ demeanour quickly hardened at the sign of hostility. ‘Just a second now, you ungrateful, prepubescent little shit!’ Rufus was spitting more than he was shouting this. ‘I saved your arse back there on those burnt out tracks. You were bleeding out, buck naked and whimpering like a blubbering mess!’ Abe had only just realised he was now sporting a light blue jumpsuit, with some sort of planetary symbol embroidered above his left pectoral. ‘If it wasn’t for me, you would either still be back there bleeding to death or dead, unless of course the Siphons found you and then you’d wish you were dead I can assure you!’ This last part did not register with Abe, but it did make him reflect on his naked spill. Rufus drew in a breath through gritted teeth, seemingly trying to compose himself. ‘You are obviously not one of them, I knew that even before I checked under your chin’- he continued to make references that puzzled Abe- ‘but if you don’t mind, I have a few questions of my own, Buck-o.’ Abe was suitably intimated by this monster of a man and decided to save his protests in the interests of self-preservation. ‘Where are you from?’ Rufus softened a little. ‘Project 3224, subdivision 5 of outer Acetyl.’ ‘Myopia?’ Rufus asked. ‘Of course, Myopia!’ Snapped Abe, what was this hobo’s malfunction? Rufus’ eyes widened. ‘Listen to me kid, this is important.’ He levelled his eyes at Abe. ‘What is the last thing you remember?’ Abe was feeling vulnerable now, it seemed unnecessary to share his mischievous evening with some crackpot he had just met under duress. ‘I was in my apartment, preparing for a night in, when I sat on my bed and-’ Abe paused; his memory was slowly blurring into place. ‘I downed a yellow pill that I had pinched off this guy on the Magnatrain!’ Abe exclaimed. ‘I must be still tripping out from that chem I took!’ Abe had never embraced the thought of a drug induced hallucination with such fervour. It finally all made sense. Rufus slowly moved closer to him with caution, as if he was approaching a cornered rat. ‘One last question kiddo,’ he dropped his speech to a whisper. ‘Where did this pill come from?’ Rufus’ demeanour had turned grave. ‘There was some executive from Lysericorp on the Magnatrain that I lifted it off.’ Now that Abe had convince himself this was a hallucination, he was practically boasting about this. Rufus’ face dropped. ‘What is your name kid?’ He was wincing now, as if he was in pain. ‘Call me Abe.’ ‘Listen Abe,’ his tone was low, and his voice was soft. ‘You need to understand something. You are not tripping buddy.’ The seriousness of his tone was enough to send the waves of anxiety flooding back to Abe. ‘If I had to guess,’ he paused solemnly, ‘I would say that those shifty bastards at Lysericorp have finally perfected a Quantum Entanglement pill.’ Rufus elaborated, ‘They were working on it back when we launched our expedition donkey’s years ago. They were making progress but couldn’t QE animated objects.’ Abe was too dazed to put any of this together. ‘Whilst you may be an unintended or unwilling participant, they have figured out a way to displace biological matter, and you are living proof of it.’ Abe was starting to catch Rufus’ drift subconsciously, but his mind refused to accept the implications. Rufus bent down, there was kindness in his eyes and he looked reluctant to continue. ‘I don’t know how to break this to you Abe,’ Rufus blushed. ‘You’re not in a Sim, you’re not tripping, and I doubt you have lost it, but I suspect you may be about to.’ Rufus looked at the ground, then finally looked Abe in the eyes. ‘You’re on Ross.’

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