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Immersive mode

The creature trembles violently as it’s being hosed down. When the water collides with its form the impact shifts it to the side, the water blasting from two directions shifts it twice over and traps it in a torturous cycle of pain. Its’ lifeblood constantly pours from its injuries with the uninterrupted pressure. The white tiled floor is obscured by the green sludge 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. Sia shudders and jams her finger against the screen twice, nothing happens.

“Zoom out.” The device doesn’t comply. Verbal commands are not an option.

The dark form glistens under the bright lights except for the deep white holes in its flesh that are seeping green fluid. Scaly skin has been peeled away in several places to reveal white muscle and bone, each of the deep white gashes excretes viscid green fluid 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 are alert and her body locks up for a moment as the sound is registered by her system. It petrifies her down to her core. After a moment of immobility, she breaks from the paralysis, and her fingers circle the screen before sporadically taping a few areas and shaking the visual prism. Amid 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, but it ceases after a few seconds. Sia blinks away tears as 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 the camera 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 cringes internally when 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.

“What?” A second later, immersive mode is submerged in darkness. The visual prism in Sia’s hands goes dark as well. She drops it as she tries to rise to her feet, but when she reaches out for the wall that was beside her, her hand passes through empty space. She keels over and collapses 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 remains on the ground and shakes her head a few times. This must be what motion sickness feels like. The dizziness subsides, 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 the orb of pleasure, but there are no orbs of light here. Behind her… is complete darkness.

“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. Again, 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 this was their plan after becoming 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 was hurt, and they 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 has been curled up on her knees 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 a possible collision, but she never collides 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 pauses several meters from a cloud of blue particles swirling around in the air.

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 the increasingly blinding light. The particles swirl 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 body is 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, within her core. She’s blinded by the neon blue cloud and thrashes against the ground, out of reach of death but unable to contemplate life beyond this moment.

“Aaaaaaaaah!”

Dernel knows that voice, empathizes with her plight, but can’t stop the events unfolding. He doesn’t understand. Why won’t the pain stop?

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2

1

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

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