<A Sensory Immersion Machine Story>
<Matt, Head Councilman for the city of Terrasend>
The battle at Haven wasn’t the end of the Haven SIM, but it was a turning point. The destruction of the space station in a suppression field left a permanent portal from the Haven SIM to the Terrasend SIM through which anyone could venture. Not only did the survivors of the battle journey through the portal, but also the great mass of SIMming enthusiasts who had been following Terrasend on the nets for the last several months. The number of players in Terrasend doubled overnight. That number tripled the day after, and by the end of the month, there were over a million people in the SIM. Terrasend’s closed beta had come to an end.
The city council of Terrasend was in chaos, trying to provide a safe place for the influx of people. With Sander gone, I was hurriedly elected to fill the head councilman spot so that we could keep some semblance of order in the face of the Khatid threat. Thankfully, the permanent portal hadn’t triggered Khatid attacks the way temporary ones did, so as long as we didn’t activate any of our own portals to travel outside SIM, the Khatid seemed content to remain outside the city's shield wall.
I had wanted to check on Sander and his family and on Jaime and his team, but I was just too busy with administrative baggage. Fortunately, it was with the intent of lightening that load that Telema brought a friend of hers to see me.
“Ooh! He’s cute. Can I take him home, Tels? I promise I’ll take good care of him.” I looked up from the terminal in my office/quarters/savestation. Telema’s friend bounded into the room like a wolf in cheerleader’s clothing.
“I think he may be spoken for,” Telema said, following her friend into the room.
“That just means I’d have to take even better care of him.”
I didn’t really enjoy being looked at like I was someone’s toy. Okay, maybe I did, but I still had work to do.
“Am I to assume that you are Case, the architect behind the fall of Haven?” I asked.
“You don’t have to assume anything, cutie. I’ll tell you that much,” she smiled, and it was predatory, “I might make you work a little for any more than that, though.”
Case was taller than Telema, but not as solidly built. She was also the younger of the two women. I wouldn’t have guessed Case to be much older than eighteen. Having them standing side-by-side to compare, Telema looked like a warrior and Case just looked…perky.
Had I not absolutely trusted Telema, I would have been hard pressed to believe that Case was the greatest combat SIMmer in the world. As it stood, I still had to work to wrap my head around it.
“It’d be silly to say that you’re not what I expected,” I said, “That is likely your intention. I’ll just have to take it for granted that you can do the things that Telema says you can.”
“Tels,” Case looked worriedly at Telema, “My scrumptious piece of meat talks like he’s fifty. I’m scared.”
Telema looked between us, sighed and leaned against my terminal. She wasn’t, it would seem, much for theatrics. Or she simply thought her role was the strong silent type.
I tried to remember what I used to sound like, before Terrasend. It had only been a few months, but… “I’m sorry, Case. I guess the bureaucracy takes its toll. What did you need?”
“Let’s start with dinner, then maybe some sloppy make-outs.”
“Could we be serious for a moment?” I asked.
“Okay, serious make-outs. But I think you’d be more fun if you lightened up a little.”
I looked at Telema, pleading. “Help?”
Telema sighed again, then straightened. “We’re calling in the Crew,” she said. ‘We’re going to start taking and keeping the lands held by the Khatid around the city. If you agree to our terms, you’ll be able to start settling people outside the shield wall within the week.”
“The Crew doesn’t do favors…” Telema started.
“Business favors,” Case interrupted, “Though we can make exceptions for personal favors.” She put a finger to her lips, as if to tell me to be quiet, and then slowly, gently kissed her finger.
I quickly turned back to Telema. “What are your conditions?” I asked.