Virtual Life Experience Pt. 02bycoldwater1©
Author's Note: This is Part 2 of a three part series. It is recommended that you read the first part before reading this so that you understand the back-story.
Arizona State University, Earth
"Hey, it's Mario, right?"
"Yeah, that's me." Mario barely recognized the guy, but he suspected he knew what he wanted. The requests were coming with increasing frequency.
"I hear you're one of the guys invited to those VLE parties over at the Saguaro St. Apartments."
"Yes, and I'm sorry but I can't get you an invitation. First of all, it's not my place. Secondly, there's a list a mile long ahead of you of people wanting in."
The guy looked disappointed, but said, "No worries. No harm in asking, right?"
Mario gave a noncommittal grunt. No harm to the guy asking perhaps, Mario thought, but I'm getting sick of fielding the questions.
He had to admit, he understood. Being one of the few actually invited was worth all the harassment. Aziz's Virtual Life Experience (VLE) parties had become legendary in just a few months' time. His VLE chambers were top of the line and were incredible to experience. That alone would make the parties worth attending, but the extracurricular sex that went on put them over the top. At this point, the small group had shed their inhibitions, feeding off each other's sexual energy.
Yet for Mario and Marcella, the main point was still gaming the incredibly immersive adventure ongoing light years away in Antola. Jason and Nikki, the two subjects fighting for survival on that remote planet had thousands of sensors implanted in and on their bodies before they were banished for their crimes. These sensors allowed gamers back on Earth to experience everything they did in extremely lifelike fashion. A good VLE chamber could accurately relay every sight, sound, smell, taste and touch to the user. A top of the line chamber like the two Aziz had could deliver a mind-blowingly real experience.
When Mario got back to his dorm room, Zack, Sasha and Marcella were there. He immediately felt a strange energy in the room. Marcella looked a bit upset. He went straight to her in concern. He sat beside her on the bed and took her face in his hands and kissed her. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"
Before she could answer, Zack asked, "You haven't seen the news feeds?"
"A big scandal is brewing. Several execs at VLE Corp. have been arrested. They got busted for paying witnesses to give false testimony and bribing a judge. Apparently they've been throwing trials to ensure that they get the people they want convicted and sentenced to off-world deportation, all to feed their VLE cash cow."
"Holy shit. I always thought the relationship between VLEC and the justice system seemed a little too cozy."
"We were just wondering what that meant for us. If there's a federal investigation, they may shut down our Antola adventures."
"What about Jason and Nikki, could they have been falsely convicted?"
Marcella finally spoke up. "That would be awful. Can you imagine being convicted of something you didn't do, torn away from your life and sent to some remote planet to die?" She sounded like she was ready to cry.
"I think it's too early to know," said Zack.
Over the next few days, Mario watched the news feeds as the sordid story blew wide open. An additional 67 compromised witnesses, jurors, lawyers, judicial system and VLEC employees were arrested. At least a dozen deportees were identified who were either now alleged to be innocent or whose actual crimes should not have met the standard to be deported off-world. Included in that number were the two surviving deportees on Antola, Jason Conrad and Nichole "Nikki" MacKenna, aka "Red."
Marcella was heartbroken when their suspicions were confirmed. She had a profound attachment to Nikki, stemming from many hours of "being" her in reality gaming sessions. Anybody who spent time VLE gaming, seeing through the subjects eyes, hearing through their ears and feeling through their skin could not help but feel a connection to the subject. With Marcella, it went much deeper, as demonstrated by her falling critically ill when Nikki had nearly died from a bacterial infection.
"I can't believe VLEC did that to them," said Marcella, her voice thick with emotion.
Mario could see she had been crying. He put his arm around his girlfriend and kissed her forehead. "We should quit VLE gaming. I don't want to be supporting a company like that."
Marcella pulled away from him with a pained look. "I can't. I need to know that Nikki and Jason are OK. I need to be with them. They are an important part of my life."
"Marcella . . ." Mario struggled with how to say what he needed to without upsetting her too much. "I think you have a problem. I think you need to see someone."
"You're telling me to see a shrink? You think I'm crazy?"
"Of course not. You're just a little too obsessed with gaming them. Marcella, you're addicted."
"No I'm not, I just care for them. How is that wrong? It's not just a game; they are real people who are really out there trying to stay alive." Marcella's voice rose in anger.
"They don't even know we exist. It's not like gaming them will help. We can't do anything to help them survive. In the end, our money just pays for VLEC to continue their exploitation."
"You're jealous! You can't take the idea that I have a bond with Nikki and that we have sex with Jason. I don't get mad when you are with Nikki."
Mario realized just how deep his girlfriend was wrapped up in this, and just how irrational she had become. "Now you're being ridiculous. No matter how realistic it feels, it's not real. You aren't having sex with Jason, you're having sex with a machine . . . and no I'm not jealous of the machine."
"I think you should leave." Marcella turned away from Mario and folded her arms.
"C'mon baby, don't be like that." Mario tried to wrap his arms around her from behind.
She pushed him away angrily. "Don't touch me! Get out!"
VLEC Corporate Headquarters, Earth
Leonard Latham was terrified. He had not been arrested, but his boss and all of the Judicial Relations department had. This morning, he was handed a subpoena to appear at the congressional hearings. "Oh, fuck," he thought, "the whole world is going to watch them grill me. I'm going to be the fucking fall guy for all the twisted stuff this company has done." He would rather they had just arrested him with all the others. The worst part was the realization that he deserved it. He had been a knowing participant in destroying people's lives, even getting them killed.
The investigation would soon reveal the frightening knowledge and power wielded by VLE Corp. VLEC collected and managed massive amounts of data on hundreds of millions of ordinary people. They had powerful predictive tools that could crunch that data and pick out prime candidates to be their VLE subjects. Data from daily police reports around the world were cross-referenced to this list of candidates. All this was done by VLEC's computer system, nicknamed Violet by the Simulation Department, without any human intervention.
If any of these "primes" got into a hint of trouble that could be exploited, the human side of the business, in the form of the Judicial Relations Department, kicked into action, paying off the right people to steer the legal proceedings to the inevitable conclusion. This, too, was done with the aid of Violet's powerful analytics. "She" could pick out which witnesses, jury members and judges were susceptible to pay-off with almost infallible accuracy.
When Nikki was arrested, she was flagged by Violet as a "prime." Something about her combination of appearance, personality and skills set her apart based on Violet's complex algorithms.
Antola scored high in their simulations as a destination that would appeal to VLE gamers, so Leo had Violet run a baseline simulation sending Nikki there alone. It showed she had a life expectancy of 3 weeks and that she would have a strong appeal with gamers, scoring just over 960 on the gamer's interest index (GII).
Then Leo began to run permutations, hundreds of them run thousands of times. When he added survival and weapons training for Nikki and sent her to Antola with the thugs she was arrested with, the simulations said her life expectancy improved to 6 months and the GII score bumped up to almost 1100. The last tweak of having a witness recant her testimony after Nikki was shipped out, playing to the audience's sympathy, sent the simulation numbers through the roof.
In short, Leo and VLEC knew Nikki was a superstar in the making even before the corporation bought off their first witness.
So good were Violet's analytics that she predicted there was a 90% chance that one of Nikki's fellow deportees would try to rape her, the most likely candidate being Logan. The actual attempt came within hours of when the system predicted the best odds were for it to occur. Likewise 83% of the simulations showed her out-surviving the rest of her companions.
When Nikki arrived at Antola, sales numbers exploded, the growth reaching a crescendo just after she killed her attempted rapist. After Nikki had been on Antola for three months, the last six weeks of which were spent alone, sales numbers remained steady, but once again, Corporate came to Leo and Violet to find a way to expand their market. Simulations re-introducing human interaction with Nikki predicted a substantial surge in customers, especially if the right candidate could be found.
A big part of VLEC's success was not presupposing the answers to a problem, but to rely on data and statistics and almost unlimited computing power to steer the outcome. Thus data from a massive parade of people making their way through the world's justice systems were pumped into the Antola simulations, without regard to age, gender, size, shape, sexual orientation or any other factors.
The answer the simulations spit out was Jason Conrad.
Leo recalled when he brought this news to his superior.
"Mr. Sorrento, we got some unheard of GII numbers on 'Project Red' this morning from introducing a new 'prime.'
"What do you mean, unheard of?"
"Incredible. Contact Judicial Relations and tell them to make it happen."
"There could be a complication."
"What is it?"
"The guy is already in the public eye. There would be a lot of scrutiny on this one."
"Who is he?"
"Jason Conrad, he's a professional baseball player. Plays for . . ."
"Detroit, yeah I know who he is - second baseman. What the hell is he doing in the system?"
"He reported a dead man in his apartment two hours ago."
"Cause of death?"
"We should be able to work with that. Like I said, tell them to make it happen."
Leo had mused, more to himself than to his boss, "I wonder why he moves the needle so much in the Antola sims, I've never seen numbers like that."
"Latham, two things I've learned in this business: trust the numbers and don't look behind the curtain. It doesn't matter if it works because they are destined to be lovers or because they are destined to drive each other insane."
Leo's thoughts came back to the present. He had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Why the hell had he gone along with what the company was doing? He tried to rationalize that he was just reporting simulation scores, but it was not like he didn't know what they were doing with them. He tried to console himself that the subjects were not exactly boy scouts, generally they were on trial for a reason. Yet he was pretty certain that Conrad was completely innocent and the JR boys went and got him anyway.
No, Leo was as guilty as the rest of them. Corporate had stroked his ego, told him he was a genius with Violet, and he had wanted so badly to live up to that praise.
Jason looked down at the vision of beauty and sexuality lying naked beside him. She was going to need to learn to wear some clothes if she wanted to make it through a whole night's sleep without being attacked sexually.
Control yourself, he chastised, but he was already hooked. He propped himself up on one elbow and gently ran his free hand over her heavenly curves, chasing the reflections of the flickering oil candle as they danced across her skin. Adorable little goose bumps formed ahead of his hand, anticipating his touch.
He traced slow circles around each succulent pink nipple, causing them to lengthen and jut proudly from the soft curve of her breasts.
"Mmmmmm," she moaned softly and opened her eyes. "You're such a naughty boy. Aren't you ever satisfied?"
"Sure, every time we finish having sex. It just doesn't last. If you want me to leave you alone, you might want to think about putting some clothes on."
"Who said I wanted you to leave me alone?"
She rolled over and thrust her warm ass into his groin. She wiggled about seeking a connection between the end of his cock and the inviting wet folds of her pussy. When that connection was found, Jason thrust himself deep into her with a groan.
Jason began making love to her gently and tenderly, but that didn't last long. Once Nikki reached a certain point of arousal, she always got frantic, squirming wildly and demanding to be fucked hard and fast. Sex with her was a workout, and he loved it.
When they had both climaxed, the early morning light was just creeping into the cave.
"What's next on the agenda?" Jason asked, "Hunting, fishing or finding our new shelter?"
"None of the above. I'm not done with you yet. I demand another orgasm."
Jason laughed, "You're such a naughty girl, Red. Aren't you ever satisfied?" He happily lowered his nose into her red triangle of pubic hair and put his tongue to work delivering on her demand.
When Nikki had finished screaming, "Oh fuck yes!" a few dozen times, Jason tried again to turn her attention to something other than sex.
"We are pretty much out of food and I'm starving," he said. It was just an expression, but the truth is, in this wild land, they were never too far from that being a reality. Living off the land was not easy.
"We still have a little tusker jerky."
"We should probably save that for an emergency. Besides, I'd rather have something fresh."
"I vote for fishing, it's a lot easier than hunting. You have to promise to keep your mind on the task this time, though," Nikki admonished.
Jason grinned at the inference to their last fishing trip. They had ended up naked and fucking in the water. "Hey, that was your fault."
"My fault? How was that my fault?"
"If you keep squealing and wiggling that adorable little ass of yours every time you get a bite, I can't be expected to keep my mind on fishing."
It didn't take them long once they got to the stream to catch four of the creatures they referred to as fish. Truthfully, they didn't look like fish, but neither Jason nor Nikki could think of anything better to call them and they did behave like the fish back on Earth.
On their way back, they harvested a new oil plant to bring to the camp. These short, barrel-stemmed plants contained a flammable oil. When the top was sliced off, the oil could be lit and it would sustain a steady flame for days.
They also dug up half a dozen purple-vine tubers. The purple-vine could be a dangerous plant, with paralyzing toxin in its spines and the ability to grow so rapidly, that it could ensnare an unsuspecting creature that dozed off within reach of its tendrils. Its root system contained tasty edible tubers, though.
Back at camp, Jason and Nikki had a satisfying meal. Just as they finished, Jason heard something in the distance. "Listen."
"That's a lot of rustling. I'm betting on a pack of tuskers."
Nikki and Jason each pulled their laser pistols out and backed toward the cave entrance. The tuskers were dangerous, especially if they were in a large pack.
The tuskers broke into the clearing around the camp and the group split, half veering one way and the other half the other way. There was a look of panic in their eyes and they seemed oblivious to the two humans.
"Something has spooked them, they are running away," remarked Jason.
"That's a bad sign. Those guys usually aren't afraid of anything."
A few moments later a ridge backed cat came barging out of the undergrowth and, like the tuskers, veered to one side and passed them at a run.
Dozens of smaller animals fled in the same direction.
"This is not good," said Jason.
"Jason . . . I feel like we should be running, too." Nikki grabbed Jason's arm.
"I don't know . . ."
"C'mon, let's get the fuck out of here." She pulled on his arm.
Jason decided to follow Nikki's lead. She could be right or wrong, but he didn't have a better idea. Besides, the rest of the forest seemed to agree with her.
As they ran, they began to hear a sound behind them, faint at first but slowly growing, like a combination of a low rumble and wind rustling through the leaf litter.
Jason snuck a look behind them. 100 yards back, a wave of black covered the vegetation. He couldn't make sense of it, but it was gaining on them.
"Jason, I can't go any faster. We're not going to make it."
He looked behind them again and noticed something he hadn't before. A chance.
"Climb! There!" Jason pointed to a fleshy stemmed plant about 20' tall. He wished it was a proper tree, like back on Earth, but it would have to do.
Jason grabbed Nikki and shoved her up to the first branch ahead of him. "Go, go, go!"
The black wave swept beneath them. Up close, Jason could see that it was a swarm of tiny creatures no more than a half inch in length. There were untold millions of them, maybe even billions. He watched the swarm overtake a three foot long lizard-like creature. The animal's body dissolved under the black horde.
"Holy shit! Did you see that? It just disappeared," said Nikki.
The swarm seemed to react to her voice, and a wave began growing, reaching up the stem toward them.
Nikki's eyes went wide with terror. Jason put his finger to his lips to signal for quiet. The wave crested and collapsed and the swarm continued on. After a few minutes, the end of the black moving carpet swept beneath them and off into the distance, leaving devastation behind.
Arizona State University, Earth
There was a knock at the dorm room door. Mario went to answer it wearing just a pair of sweatpants. Marcella stood in the hall, a contrite look on her face and a distinctly bottle shaped paper bag in her hand. He could see brown nipples standing at attention through the thin fabric of her white sundress.
"I'm sorry I got mad at you. I know you were just concerned about me. The part about you being jealous, that was totally uncalled . . ."
She was stopped midsentence by Mario's lips on hers. She reacted by pressing forward, driving him backwards into the room. She kept pushing forward until they both fell back onto Mario's bed.
Zack got up from his desk and made for the door. "I'll just be at the library." He wasn't sure why he said that. He wanted to give them some privacy, but more importantly, he found their passion arousing. He was going out to find Sasha and fuck her.
Marcella broke off the kiss and straddled Mario's chest. She pulled off the sundress leaving her completely naked. Just the idea that she had walked all the way across campus in nothing but the short, flimsy dress had Mario instantly hard. He couldn't believe he had pegged her as demure when he first met her.
He loved her soft brown skin, those petite breasts and her smooth stomach. He reached up and fondled her nipples. She cooed and began rocking back and forth, rubbing her wet pussy on his chest. Mario managed to work his sweat pants off. Putting her hands on his shoulders, Marcella slid back, her pussy leaving a wet trail down the center of his abs.