"Did we win?" Donald asked, a limp pile of plated steel.
James lay on his back in the grass, too exhausted to respond.
Kanade spoke in his place, spreadeagled next to him. "I think we did."
"Fuck me, I hope it's over." The only part of Donald that could still move was his mouth.
Scattered all around were bodies of soldiers from both sides, many still groaning. Enormous masses of fallen earth and trees peppered the landscape—some carved from the monstrous enemy golem by force, some flung outward in all directions when it was destroyed.
"This would have been a lot easier with Daisy," James said, finally gathering the energy to speak.
Julia spoke without opening her eyes. "If all was well and done, we'd have gotten a message from system admin. The baron must still be out there. Though Lord knows I'm happy to leave him to his devices."
"No way! We gotta finish it!" Casey stood with a fist raised, wobbled unsteadily, and sat back down. "In a bit. Man, I'm beat."
James twisted his head to look at Kanade, assessing the probability of energy boosts. At a glance, it wasn't going to happen. Sara was the only one still on her feet, and even she looked like a boxer that had gone thirteen rounds with Rocky.
"What does it mean to get tired in a virtual world?" James asked, of no one in particular.
"Oh, Christ," Donald said. "Don't go there."
"It's an interesting question," Julia said, opening one eye to give James a wink. "Do tell, Mr. Marsh."
Donald feebly waved a hand, then lay still. "Kana, explain it."
"Well," Kanade said, staring up at the clouds. "It's kind of complex."
"Give me the Cliff Notes version."
"It's just a manifestation of mental exhaustion."
"That wasn't so hard."
"Your body here is generated by your brain, so you're ultimately limited in how much you can do. The limitations don't depend on your physical strength, but they're there."
So that was why even Sara could get tired. Her algorithms were a simulation of human intelligence, even to the point of simulating human fatigue.
In a world like this, was there really a difference between her and the rest of them?
The low, deep brooooooooooooooow of a warhorn crashed in from every direction at once. James brought out his phone and saw a message from system administration.
"Hell yeah," Donald said. "Sweet victory, motherfuckers."
James looked at the info box where the payout was listed. "That's a pretty huge reward, considering we never even saw the baron."
"It's because we did a lot of damage to the golem," Kanade said. "I think."
"Yahoo!" Casey sprang to her feet, revitalized. "Shopping!"
"Enjoy yourselves, darlings," Julia said, rising unsteadily. "Much as I'd love to share some of our little one's boundless energy, I do believe I need ... a nap."
"I know the feeling," James said.
"No way, Jose," Casey said, pouncing and putting him in an arm-bar. "You're not gettin away. Kana! Get his other arm!"
"Roger," Kanade said, gently holding James by the hand, a small smile on her face.
"Cute," Julia said. "Have fun. I'll be off, then." She pressed a button on her phone, and nothing happened. "That's odd." She tried again.
Julia stared at her phone as if it had grown a gargoyle head. "I can't seem to log out."
It didn't take long to confirm that everyone had the same problem.
"Has this ever happened before?" James asked.
"No." Julia's long hair swayed as she paced, all fatigue forgotten.
"Technically, it ain't possible," Donald said. "There's failsafes. If the phone doesn't work, the game should read your intent and let you out."
"It may not be that big an issue," Julia said, though the way she was striding back and forth belied her words. "Once the techs realize, they can manually discharge everyone."
James sighed. "What do we do? Wait it out?"
Casey looked up hopefully. "Shopping?"
YOU ARE READING
No Life to LoseMystery / Thriller
James Kirkpatrick's difficult life leads him to take solace in virtual reality—a momentary peace soon shattered by mystery, intrigue, and unseen forces bent on plunging the world into chaos. An epic tale of love, loss, and the boundless influence of...