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After returning to the space yacht and having a nice little lunch I decided that it was about time that I got some combat training in. Surely my AI was smart enough to be able to teach me some useful bits of knowledge. At least, if I practiced for long enough, I might be able to understand how to use my Prime Speed Control efficiently during a fight. These thoughts led me to change into workout clothes and head down to my now commonly dubbed “floor of disillusionment” or rather my poor basement in the bottom of the yacht.

Off against the far wall, I still had the display case of my “first five cr coins” and next to it I had created a stand to show just how much CR I had managed to gather.

The last time I had messed with it I had left a baseball-sized sphere balancing perfectly in the center. Now when I noticed the stand it was holding a sphere the size of a bowling ball.

“What has happened here?” I said as I walked up to it. I willed my current CR balance up and was surprised when I saw that I had somehow made almost 2 more million CR somewhere.

Sure enough, when I opened up the relevant notification it was all summarized neatly on a list of all the firewalls, personal home intrusion deterrent systems, and company rewards for showing vulnerabilities in a company's product. It was all logged to have happened during my time dreaming.

“That must have been what Regeth was all upset about. So it really did happen, all those countless bubbles that I stepped on in my attempt to get away from the monster was me intruding into people’s homes.” I mused under my breath. I hoped all those people were ok and not traumatized. I would have to ask Exerdinand when next I saw him what the result was from all of that happening.

Those additions gave me 1,889,031.829 CR and a new balance of 2,919,412.829 CR.

As I read through the huge list of houses and security systems that I had broken into, my eyes caught something that stood out near the bottom of the list. I had gained a little over a million CR from an “Unknown source.” In fact, the line had some mind-boggling additional details associated with it. It read:

1,003,064 CR gained from Unknown source.

CR is unregistered and incompatible with Tela systems. Error detected.

CR has bound and registered to Host Guest Kevin.

VR home is attempting to alert the System of Error.

VR home is unable to alert the System of Error.

VR home is attempting…

VR home is unable…

“No wonder the list was so long, it keeps trying to alert the System about this Error,” I said as I looked at the bowling ball-sized amount of currency. Odd swirls in the ever-present metallic sheen that I had begun to associate with cr were now interlaced with other darker swirls that didn’t mix with the lighter colors. “What are you from?” I asked it as my mind shifted back to the ant from my dream. It had lobbed a baseball-sized sphere of this stuff at me… and if I remembered my previous amount correctly a baseball was worth about a million CR. “No way… that doesn’t make any sense,” I mumbled as I stood there staring at it for a while.

Soft music from upstairs reminded me why I had come down into the basement of the ship earlier and after a couple final intense gazes at the odd ball of money/high tech micro-robots, I decided to see about getting a little training in after all.

The list was still getting longer and longer with attempts to contact and tattle to the System so I just willed it to stop and disregard the new CR as an Error altogether. I had the faintest idea what had all of a sudden given me more control over my environment and was pretty sure it wasn’t the Remote key that Silver had gifted me to get me out of the Core. That only left this unknown CR in its place and I wasn’t about to give it up to anyone just yet, if ever.

“Hey George and Tutor, would you like to come down and train with me for a little bit?” I asked aloud, hearing high heels on the stairs in reply, not moments later.

Shortly I saw her shoes coming down the stairs followed by her legs and George’s shoes right after. “Before you come down would you both like to get changed into some workout clothes as well?” I asked as I made the floor into a wooden gym floor and added overhead lights as they had back at my old high school. I added a soft mat off to the side for sparing and free weights on the other side of the room. I smacked myself in the face when I thought of lifting weights in a virtual environment and let them vanish back into thin air.

I thought they would have turned around and headed back upstairs but that was my mistake, I had yet to fully learn and put into practice what was capable in VR space. Without breaking stride or having to strip down their clothes changed into suitable workout gear. “Huh… that is neat,” I commented as they finally got within a few feet of me.

“George, do you have access to sparing and combat training simulations?” I asked as I smiled at his choice of workout clothes. He was dressed in a black tank top and blue knee-length shorts. His shoes were common converse sneakers and what was funny to me was just how ordinary and normal it all was, here in an alien virtual reality space. I was actually kind of thankful that my AI had embraced my origins and hadn’t decided to go all alien-snake-skin-armor for workout clothes on me.

Just for fun, I decided to switch Tutor’s outfit with the strange one that I had in my head. I whistled a little “Wow, that isn’t half bad…” I said in admiration as she looked down at the getup that I had willed on her. “Odd choice,” She remarked. “But I do see how it would let me always get free if we were to grapple with it on. It is too bad that this isn’t going to work though.” She said as she bounced on her toes and waited for something to happen.

“Well, this never was part of your instructions yet,” George said as I led them both over to the mats. George was based on an older gentleman while I was still in my prime so I figured it would be a good place to start by using him as a model for how fast I would need to learn to dodge blows in the future.

When we got to the mat I checked my settings, making sure that pain was set at real-life while tissue damage was set to low and recovery was set to high. “Alright George, when you are ready I want you to hit me in the face like Mr. Regeth was trying to do earlier,” I said as I bounced on my toes while watching him.

I found myself on the mat a second later with a bruised lip and sore jaw. George had done just as I had asked him and didn’t hold back for one moment. I swear I could even see tiny little stars swimming in my vision as I slowly sat up.

Man, was I ever slow if I couldn’t even see that coming! - I berated myself as I held my jaw and rolled up to a standing position again.

“I am so sorry Kevin!” I heard George say as I felt hands help me up.

“What for? That was better than I expected you to be able to do.” I said as I finally raised my eyes to see his and Tutor’s faces. They had near-identical masks of fear on their features.

“What? Does it look that bad?” I asked as I felt my teeth with my tongue. Everything was healing so incredibly fast and my jaw was already easing up on the soreness. All my teeth were present and accounted for as well. “Let's try that again, but this time I will slow my time down by 25% and see if I can dodge it,” I said as I noticed Tutor opening windows of text in front of her. “I knew something was different!” She said when she read something, spinning it in place to show me. “I haven’t felt compelled to report to the System since your dream. In fact, I was just ignoring its requests because I was busy. That is impossible. All AI have to release their recordings to the System on a frequent set interval.”

“What does that have to do with me and George training?” I asked as I looked at her and George. They both had windows open and were checking and verifying something.

“Kevin, I shouldn’t have been able to hit you. That kind of training is done with a simulation and not an actual AI. We should never be able to harm our VR owners. That was why Tutor said it wasn’t going to work. I just went along with it because I wanted to do what you wanted me to.”

“Ha ha! I knew you wanted to hit me in the face!” I laughed.

“No no, I didn’t, I just want to help you achieve your goals, so I promised myself that I would try to do what you asked me to, even if I knew it wasn’t going to work.” He answered back as he looked down at his knuckles. “I think our programming is broken, Kevin. You may delete us whenever you want now.” He said as he looked up at me with determination.

“What? Delete you? Heck no! You did what I wanted and you didn’t question why or if it could happen, I would rather you be like that than living behind hidden rules that could get us into trouble down the road.” I answered back.

“By the way, what do your screens say?” I asked as I was curious what tasks he had been delegated.

“I have over a few thousand requests for our location that I haven’t had to reply to. All of them come from the security office.” He said as he looked knowingly at me. “And I am going to shove them all into the trash.” He finished with a swipe of his hand, causing the display to break into pieces and vanish.

Both he and Tutor looked equally surprised that it had worked.

“We are so broken.” Tutor said as she did the same thing, causing her data to be destroyed.

George and I sparred for a couple of hours together while I talked about my thoughts between sessions with them. I had them both review my conversation with Silver while he and I were under the Prime Speed Control’s effects just in case they hadn’t been aware of what had occurred. It turns out that they hadn’t been aware whatsoever which made me aware that I could now keep things even from my own AI. George didn’t need to pause his punching and kicking while studying the data and he didn’t even become out of breath during training with me. It wasn’t until I turned the need for air to recharge the oxygen in my body, choosing it to naturally stay at the perfect level that I finally understood something fundamental about fighting. If you didn’t get tired, winded, or have a punch to the gut take your breath away, you could fight your heart out. It was like I could become a fist swinging machine when I turned my endurance up to max. My problem was that my fists had no accuracy or finesse to them. Tutor decided to take me through slow combat training after that, working on my form over and over again while George sat on a stool he had created while he sat a little distance from us cross-checking everything that Silver had said.

I found that I really had to rely on my Prime Speed Control key when Tutor decided to pick up the pace and practice with me learning how to dodge and block. She was considerably faster than George with tricky little jabs to the nose and throat.

It was after one such throat strike that I had to step back and pause our training for the rest of the day. It was one thing to know that you could recover from anything in this VR space and another thing entirely to try to get over lifelong fears of having your throat damaged in a fight. I understood that most of this was mental training, teaching me to push through the pain and fear and to win regardless of what the other person did to me.

Breathing was just so sweet a relief after clutching your throat for several minutes.

“It all checks out on my end. Although I don’t think it has ever been done before.” George said after he had looked up if it was possible to separate the personality section of a Core to a removable module.

He summoned up a steaming cup of coffee and took a sip before going back to reading. I had given both of them as much power as I was willing to at this time. I even gave them both the ability to move and fly the Habitat in case of an emergency.

Tutor stepped back when she saw that I was calling it for the day and smiled before turning and heading for the stairs. “I am off to get cleaned up. I should be done before you head out to either go shopping or to see what Elaya and the other two wanted to talk with you about at the club.

I smiled as I watched her go for a second. It was starting to feel like home here. I had friends and people that were a valuable part of my life. Back home, I had family as well, but now that I had had time to see things clearly I had figured that I would have maybe a month in real-time to spend before anyone even thought about calling me to see how I was doing. Both of my brothers had lives of their own to live and my parents were helping widows and orphans in the Philippines. As for my work… would it be really bad to lose my job? To lose my stuff in my small apartment? Was anything worth the adventure that I was currently having? I was beginning to see it all differently.

I wiped my brow with a towel to catch the sweat before it could sting my eyes as I glanced over at the bowling ball collection of currency. I created another pedestal and willed the two different types of cr to separate onto their own stands. Sure enough, the cr that the ant had given me was fundamentally different than the other brighter cr. The new cr was darker in color and had an edge to it where the cr made by the Tela seemed soft and rounded. It was hard to describe.

“What is that?” George said as I found him walking up to me with his eyes on the new pedestal.

“Beats me. It came from my dream.”

“...”

“What, you aren’t going to say that it is impossible or improbable?” I asked him.

“Nope, I have already learned from your interactions with ZV-1 and having my root coding broken to stop me from saying that. Now, I will just put it on my list of things to research in hopes to help you figure it out.” He replied as he walked up to the new cr to poke it with his finger.

“Now there is a good scientist, always poking stuff with their fingers.” I laughed at him before heading to the stairs to find my personal shower.

Why did I choose to feel pain and to sweat while training you might ask? To not lose who I was. Regardless of who I could become.

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About the author

Ken Raven

  • Texas

Bio: I write stories that I would like to read. They may not be for everyone, which is perfectly okay. There yet are other books out there that you might enjoy. For those that stick around and do enjoy what I write I just wanted to say thank you!

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