And In Beta is back from its three week break to finally get back to wrapping up Chapter 7! I went a week longer in my writing break than I had expected, but now I’m ready to continue Sam’s tale.
Sam is finally getting some answers, but likely not as many as he hoped for. We also meet another side character; one that I hadn’t planned to introduce but realized would need at least some attention due to the circumstances.
If you need a refresher, head over to the story hub. Enjoy!
Meanwhile, Sam was just waking up from a drug-induced nap in the Academy’s infirmary. Whatever they had given him earlier had knocked him out almost instantly; a welcome relief from the pain that had set in after his forced ejection from Beta. Even in his groggy state, he could still feel it waiting at the edge of his awareness, only held back by the presence of the medication.
His memory since being pulled out was still hazy, but he did remember that he had not been able to reach the infirmary under his own power. Dr. Baker had half-supported, half-carried him from the Simulation Chamber. Lt. Cartwright had been in even worse shape, needing to be wheeled out on a gurney by two of Baker’s assistants. She had lost conscious shortly after unsteadily stepping out of her pod, though Baker had assured him that she would be fine.
Sam turned onto his side to see if anyone else was in the room and groaned as his stomach did a flip. It seemed that whatever medicine they were giving him wasn’t doing anything for the nausea. The infirmary’s doctor looked over from his computer and rolled his eyes before going back to his work. One of Dr. Baker’s assistants was waiting by the room’s entrance though and he jumped to his feet and quickly walked to Sam’s bedside.
The assistant was one of the two who had helped wheel Lt. Cartwright in from the Simulation Chamber. He had deeply tanned skin that hinted at Spanish heritage and his dark brown hair was cut short. Sam guessed that the assistant was older than him, maybe in his mid-thirties. The older man itched his nose nervously and asked, “How do you feel?” His voice had a vague Spanish accent, Sam noted.
With another groan, Sam propped himself up on his elbows. “I can’t tell if this is worse than my last hangover, but it’s close enough, um…” He trailed off, trying to remember the assistant’s name.
The older man shook his head, “We didn’t have a chance to get acquainted before the… incident.”
Sam winced at the memory. In his mind he could still see Nephil’s scythe arcing towards him. “Yeah, about that. What happened? I thought my dive was supposed to be safe and easy.”
André’s eyes flicked towards the door and then back to Sam’s face. “I’m not sure what I can tell you yet. What happened is sort of unprecedented and we’re still working out what happened.”
“Can you tell me about Nephil?”
“Your Nemesis? Yes, of course, that’s something every agent learns about. Your encounter came a bit earlier than most, of course.” André chuckled nervously, but then stopped when Sam didn’t seem to share his mirth. “The Nemesis is part of Beta’s world creation program. If you’ll remember from the lieutenant’s explanation about your virtual world, Beta uses bits and pieces from your dreams to create a new environment. If there’s enough data, then settlements, animals and other creatures are also generated. Excuse me a moment.”
The research assistant halted his explanation while he retrieved his chair from where he had previously been seated. He gave an apologetic look as he seated himself again next to Sam’s bed. “Sorry, this could take some time.”
“Now the world creation program is intended for many things in Beta, but one key aspect is to train our agents how to properly interact with the virtual world so that they can be better equipped to take on other projects. The Nemesis is like a final exam in Beta. When you can defeat your Nemesis, you will be a fully recognized agent of the Academy.
“So just as Beta creates your world using your dreams, it also uses them to create the Nemesis. The catch here is that the program searches for the negative aspects of your dreams to develop your ideal adversary.”
“But why wasn’t I warned about Nephil if he is so dangerous?” Sam interrupted. “I get that the Academy has its secrets, but this kind of strikes me as a need-to-know sort of moment.”
André hesitated before he answered, as if he were unsure that he was allowed to. “Normally the Nemesis doesn’t appear so soon after an agent’s first dive. When your world was initially seeded two weeks ago, the Nemesis was also implanted there, but far away from where you and the lieutenant were first deposited. Ideally, the Nemesis stays in the area it is placed in and waits for the agent to come to it. We’re still exploring the data to determine why your Nemesis, Nephil, roamed so far from its initial spawn point.” The assistant shifted his weight uncomfortably, “I’m not sure if there’s anything else I can tell you without Dr. Baker’s permission.”
Sam grimaced, “Well is he available? I’m tired of being left in the dark with these things.”
André looked towards the door to the infirmary again, “He’s a little tied up right now. Don’t worry, he will want to speak with you soon. For now, I suggest you get some more rest.”
Sam nodded and leaned back into the bed as the research assistant carried his chair back to the entrance. He closed his eyes and tried to fall back into the cloudy sway of the drugs in his system, but sleep was a long way off.