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Edward was nervous.

He’d arrived extra early at work, partly because the heat wouldn’t be unbearable yet in the early morning, and partly because he didn’t like to say hello to the group of smoking colleagues at the front entrance of the base.

So when he’d arrived, everything was quiet. In the lab, the little buzzing sound and soft lights of the pods where the subjects were hooked to the central computer was actually very serene compared to the heavy smog and cicada deafening noises outside.

Today it would make one week already. He hadn’t slept well all night, anxious about his appointment as avatar James in the virtual reality with Flo as Ascended Master Floverly. She couldn’t know anything about his real nature, or it would imperil the program itself. Some of the people of the pods continued living in the virtual world only thanks to that program. Destroying it would be killing most of them. He had to be careful.

He would have one hour before everyone would arrive for the day’s work. He put on the VR headset, and started loading his virtual avatar in the program.

The console projected a button for him to engage, as if to ask him if he was ready to break all the protocols he had helped put in place years ago to protect the integrity of the program.

He took a deep breath, and pressed the button to engage.