Stories

Chapter 15 : Contact

Gideon had managed to successfully navigate his way to the door. Moving forward carefully he made sure he had his good leg planted against the floor and his bad one held up and protected. It was still easy to move like this while he was unhindered by gravity but soon he found himself painfully hopping along. While he managed to keep all his weight off his bad leg, the jostling from the jumping was causing him a great deal of pain. With each jump it hurt him more and more, and as the pain grew, all he found himself wanting was the comfort of his mother.

“Your biological feedback is suggesting that you are under a great amount of duress and potentially near losing consciousness, may I suggest that you take a moment to rest?” The mechanical voice from his past suggested without invitation.

Ignoring the fact that the color was slowly beginning to fade from his vision Gideon pressed on, taking no heed of ViVi’s suggestions. The door to the transport hallway was only a few hops away, and the transport chair only a hop or two beyond that. He could do this. Spots filled his vision as he continued to push himself. Laying a hand on the door frame he steadied himself and felt victorious in his defiance.

Pausing a the door frame he took a minute to breath and collect himself before he made the final two or three jumps he would have to. Two more hops and he was pulling himself up into the oversized chair. After sinking into the material he felt it harden to secure him, it felt nice to have something protect his leg like that.  He braced himself for what came next.

The chair took off down the hallway like Gideon expected. Now that he no longer had to focus on

the monumental task of getting to the chair, unpleasant thoughts began nibbling at his mind. Nothing had been right since he woke up in that strange room with all the spare parts. Everything was too large, he was feeling things that he had not felt in years, the lack of people and data nodes for transfer, he had been doing his best to ignore it all until he had broken his leg. That had made it impossible to continue ignoring things, but still he felt like if he did not voice his concerns they would not be real.

He remembered something his mom had told him once when he had ignored doing his homework, she said “Just because you ignore a problem does not mean its goes away:” Breathing in deeply Gideon resolved to face this problem head on.

“ViVi, I have a question.” He stated.

Immediately the disembodied voice replied “How may I assist you?”

“I’m not in the simulator, am I?”

“That is correct, you are not currently connected to the simulator network.”.

Gideon groaned. ViVi’s confirmation made everything real for him. When he was smaller, after the newness of the meadow filled with flowers had worn off, he had often fantasized about waking up and exploring the ship by himself. It had not taken long for him to forget those dreams though. The simulation made him comfortable with its ability to offer anything a child may want, and in his childishness he had been quick to forget that a different and more ‘real’ world existed. Now he was stuck out in that world, alone, and without a clue as to how he got here.

He wished his mom had woken up too. She would know what to do and would make everything right, but she was not awake, she was still inside the simulator with Alice and everyone else. He decided he would rather still be in the simulator with his mom, Sara, and Harry, and not out here awake in this big ship. Unbidden tears began leaking from his eyes, being almost immediately swept away by the chairs swift pace. He tried to pull himself together but it was too late, he began wailing as water began freely flowing from his eyes.

Gasping for breath as the sobs wracked his body he struggled for control, but everything felt like it was running away from him. He was riding through a deathly silent ship he had completely forgot even existed until what he believed was several hours. He was being constantly assaulted by the most unpleasant and unfamiliar sensations, and to top it all off he had a broken leg. He wanted to be in that field of wildflowers so badly it hurt.

“You appear to be experiencing emotional duress again, is there anything I can do to comfort you?”  the emotionless voice asked.

“No you stupid robot! Just leave me alone.” He yelled at the bracelet on his wrist.

“I appear to have upset you, I apologize for any additional stress I have caused. Please simply call on me if I can do anything else for you.” The virtual intelligence stoically replied.

———

The rest of the seemingly long trip to the medical center had taken place with no other noise than the woosh of atmosphere as the chair rolled along. The pristine and gleaming white facilities of the medical center hurt gideons eyes. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he did not have to leave the chair and hop through the medical center. The painfully white hallways had been made wide enough to allow the chair to easily roll through them with plenty of room to spare.

Now that he was here, he was not sure what he was supposed to do, or where he was supposed to go. He was pretty sure that the chair would take him where he needed to be, it seemed like it knew where it was going, but what would he have to do once he got there?

Looking down at his wrist the silver band circling it seemed dull in comparison to the brilliant white of the medical center. He could ask ViVi, she would probably know, but he felt pretty bad about the way he had yelled at her earlier.

While he was working the courage up to ask ViVi, the chair took a sudden right, and then another quick right after that, coming halt in a room dominated by a large cylinder made of white plastics and glass. The chair paused before the large cylinder and released its hold on Gideon, the material of its seat once again becoming soft and pliable. Without a doubt, this was the room the chair was taking him too.

He stayed in the chair, looking at the intimidating tube before him. Now that he was here he had little choice, he looked down at his wrist and prepared himself.

“Uhmmm….ViVi I’m here, what do I do now?”

“All you need to do is approach the medical pod, then the pod will open and you can enter it. Once inside the Pod will automatically diagnose and treat your leg.” She stated.

“Ok…” The trepidation in his voice was obvious.

He looked at the pod from his position on the chair, hesitant to crawl into the confines of the pod. He uneasily shifted in the chair, sending a fresh bloom of pain through his injured leg. The gave him a strong and clear reminder of why he was here. Steeling himself he pushed himself off the chair and hopped towards the pod, as if in anticipation of his approach the pod lowered itself to his level, filling the room with a gentle hiss before it split in half and opened before him.

Looking down at his black and blue leg gave him the last bit of strength he needed, he had to get his leg fixed if he wanted to get back into the simulator. There was just no way he would be able to hop all the way back to his stasis pod. Inhaling one last time he spun around, then sat down on the edge of the pod. Being especially careful he pulled his injured leg up onto the flat surface of the medical pod. Laying himself down along the length of the pod he felt nervous as the upper half of the pod slowly closed in on him.

With another gentle hiss followed by three quick clicks the upper portion of the pod sealed itself against the lower half and the internal user interface sprung to life on the glass before his eyes. Focusing on the projected menus Gideon began reading through them, but soon found himself overwhelmed by terms he could not even pronounce. He was about to ask ViVi what he should do but the screens before him suddenly vanished. New screens began rapidly appearing before him as the pod began acting of its own accord.

Afraid and unaware of what was going on Gideon lay perfectly still, hoping the pod did not decide it needed to cut off his leg or something else equally as valuable. Bright white light flooded the compartment from beneath his feet and it began slowly creeping up his body. The wall of pure light stopped its’ advance just short of his head. Straining to look down Gideon felt a tremble of fear slide up his spine, with the light in place it looked like he was just a decapitated head.

This light faded, and his body returned, he was no longer just a head. The screens before his face quickly dissolved, only to be replaced by pictures of what Gideon assumed was his leg. The image showed that the bone labeled “Fibula” had not broken all the way through, but had instead buckled on one side, and splintered out and away from the buckle on the other side. The phrase “Diagnosis : Greenstick Facture of the Fibula” flashed across the top of the screen, quickly followed by another prompt asking him if he would like to begin treatment.

Without giving himself time to think about it he confirmed treatment. Moments later the interior glass display blinked an angry red, as an error message scrolled across the screen. The words “Unable to treat pod occupant. Missing pediatrics module.” blinked down at him. At first he did not understand, but as the harsh red light cast a strange reflection in the light it began to dawn on him. He allowed the error messages to fall out of focus, then he refocused on the reflection, looking past the projected error messages.Staring back at him was a face he had not seen in just over six years, his own.

Talking to himself he slowly chanted “No, no, no” as he studied the reflection looking back at him in the glass. It was him, but it was not him. All of the features on the face were painfully familiar, but none of them were exactly right. His jaw line and teeth seemed too small while his head seemed too big. The more he studied the face, the more he came to the conclusion that it was his face, only it was his face from six years ago.

As his mind struggled to cope with the deluge of information, it wrestled over which problem was more significant: the fact that this pod could not fix his leg, or the fact that his face and body were that of a six year old. His brain was still scrambling to sort out the situation, unable to choose which problem was more important when the medical pod presented him with a third and even stranger problem.

The error message explaining why Gideon’s leg could not be healed was abruptly removed from the screen and replaced far more confusing string of characters. Text began scrolling across the screen as if someone was typing it out as he read it.

Hello, is anyone there? I don’t even know if this is sending, but it is currently the only option I have left. My name is Claire Steya, I work at the Bureau of Information. Things are stable at the Bureau, but from what we can tell, things are steadily getting worse inside the rest of the simulation.

I am currently using a console access point in what appears to be a private and isolated partition. This console tool is telling me that the medical pod I’m transmitting to is active, if you’re hurt please respond, Ithink we can help each other.

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