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Immersive mode

The creature trembles violently as it’s hosed down. When the water collides with its form the impact shifts it to the side, seconds afterward another blast from the second hose sprays, shifting it twice over, trapping it in a torturous cycle of pain. Its’ lifeblood oozes from its injuries under the harsh pressure. The white tiled floor is obscured by green fluid that is meant to revitalize its form.

A medical cabinet and an examination table are fixed in the background. Sia can’t see any other items or people standing in the camera’s field of view. She presses her fingers to the screen and mimics the movements she would make on her smartphone to zoom into an image. The image adjusts and a long appendage is seen wriggling in the light green sludge. She shudders and jams her finger against the screen twice, nothing happens.

“Zoom out.” The device doesn’t comply. Verbal commands don’t seem to be an option any longer.

The dark form glistens under the bright lights except for the deep holes in its flesh. Its scaly skin has been peeled away in several places to reveal white muscle and bone, each of the gashes excretes viscid green blood which is washed away to reveal pulsing white pits of nerve to the air. Its’ back arches off the leather and a deep, terrified wail erupts from the tortured being.

The wail chills the blood in her veins. The hairs on the back of her neck raise and her body freezes. It petrifies her down to her core. After a moment of immobility, she breaks from the paralysis, and her fingers attack the screen. She’s in a frenzy, sporadically taping and shaking the visual prism. Among her frustrated attempts was the correct gesture, the device zooms out. Her trembling fingers slide over the top of the reclined medical chair and the image adjusts.

EEEEEEERR

Sia closes her eyes and grinds her teeth as a loud siren erupts from the ceiling. After a few seconds it ceases and Sia blinks away tears. She looks back down at the viewing screen. The first thing she notices is that the water is no longer spraying, but the next moment she gasps.

Glaring up into the camera are dark brown eyes. The familiar eyes trigger a jolt up Sia’s spine, she presses the device to her knees and looks over at the other visual prism floating in the air. When she looks back down at the device held tightly in her grasp, Dernel’s eyes are shut. “Is this a live stream? Dernel? Apex? Can you hear me?!”

The Underling lay limp across the chair he is strapped to. Sia almost wants to toss the prism as far away as possible. Knowing that this is someone she’s related to, no matter how strained their correspondence, brings a whole new wave of feelings into her mind. Is it always this bad? Oh god.

She squares her shoulders. “I have to pay attention to this…There could be—” She bites the corner of her lower lip as her eyes dart across the screen. When she drags her finger down the screen the camera follows with a short delay. When it stops as far left as possible, Sia spots a glass wall with several documents taped to it.

Some of the documents have photographs stapled to them of ….

Organs?! She zooms in to get a better view of one of the documents and spots a company insignia printed at the left corner of the page. ExplorerTech Industries. She gapes at the image. “What?”

A second later, immersive mode is submerged in darkness. The visual prism in Sia’s hands goes dark as well. She reaches out for the wall to her left, but her hand passes through empty space. “Woah!” She drops the prism and keels over, falling sideways onto the hard ground.

“What the hell is going?!” Sia rubs a hand down her arm from habit, no pain came from the fall. Pain from reality may leak into immersive mode, but nothing in immersive mode has ever hurt her. When she tries to rise once again, intense dizziness strikes her mute, she stumbles and falls to her knees.

She rubs a hand across her forehead and up into her hair, dragging her nails along her scalp. “Ugh.” Is this motion sickness? What the hell is going on? The dizziness subsides, but Sia remains on her knees and calls out toward the ceiling, an endless plain of darkness. Terror creeps up her throat as she recalls a memory of a terrifying abyss and an orb of pleasure, but there are no orbs of light here. Behind her…is nonexistent for the most part. There isn’t even a hum, something must be wrong.

“Hello?” The silence is unnerving. Sia presses her hand to her lips, to muffle the sound of her breathing as if the sounds of her panic might make a reply difficult to notice.

“Is this that program…that Dark mode thing?” She drops her hand to clench at the fabric on her legs.

“Did it switch us out again? Apex? S.I.D? Hello?!” There isn’t even an echo.

She takes a moment to calm down. It’s not real. She’s still alive, or else she wouldn’t be able to…think? Right? That’s how this works…I think therefore I am.

This isn’t new. This has happened before… and she survived it. The thought comforts Sia, and the build-up of tension abates momentarily as she tries to think of a solution. She sweeps out her arms at what used to be walls but doesn’t make contact with any solid structure.

“A…Apex?…S.I.D? Computer? Hey!!”

Silence.

“Don’t do this…. Stay. Calm…. This is…This is..” I don’t know what this is….

“Hello? I need help!” She holds her breath, waiting for a reply, but nothing happens.

Her newest prison without walls, absent of all signs of life, furnished by absolute silence and unceasing darkness. She’s experienced this before, but this feels more final. She gave up control of her body, she got them trapped in that underground base with countless enemies.

What if they were tired of her continual failures? What if this had been their plan all along? She sets her head on her knees and squeezes her arms around her legs. No. No…

Maybe Apex is hurt, and S.I.D needed to get him away from the pain, but how long before they switch her back? An hour, a day, a week? How does time work in this place void of the laws of physics?

For several moments, she sits…It feels as if she’s been curled up for hours, but it could have been minutes…seconds?

“Hello?”

“Let me out!”

“Come on…. please?”

“Let me out! What is going on?! Let me out!

She crawls in a random direction, bracing herself for any possible collisions, but she never bumps into anything. Her lips mumble nonsense statements to calm her nerves as her hands and knees slide across the smooth terrain beneath her. It feels like an eternity passes before she stops several meters from a cloud of blue particles.

The cloud drifts closer and closer to her position until it surrounds her in a mist of blue flakes. She reaches out to touch it and the particles seem to pass through her. Then the small flakes emit a strange pulse that forces Sia to shield her eyes from an increasingly blinding light. Bright as starlight, they glow then pulse once more before swirling around her form.

The first few circuits around her body are slow, but as they continue to circle her the speed increases until Sia’s lost in a thick neon, blue twister. Her skin is riddled with tiny stabs of pain, gradually the feeling expands from along her spine to her shoulders to down both of her legs until agony radiates throughout.

She’s deaf to her own screams. It feels as if acid is circulating within her veins, incinerating her from the inside, beneath her skin, deep within her bones. She’s blind and thrashing against the ground, unable to contemplate how she’d gotten to this moment.

“Aaaaaaaaah!”

╚╗╔╦╩╗╩╝╚╗╔╦╩╗╩╝╚

Dernel knows that voice, empathizes with her plight, but can’t stop the events unfolding. Because he’s trapped as well, and doesn’t understand what’s going on. The pain…when will it end?

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2

1

Twin currents of torment coexist in the azure hellscape until suddenly they wake.

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