It didn’t take too much longer for Alex to get out of the shower or for dinner to be ready. All throughout dinner Alex spoke of his creation, of the different scenarios one could play through while wearing his V.R. goggles and gloves. Darrien barely spoke a word, but his quirked smile made me guess he was used to dinner being like that.
The plates were hardly off the table before Alex started tugging me toward the basement. I glanced at Darrien, about to ask if he needed help washing the dishes, but he just told us to have fun.
“Watch your step,” Alex said as he bounced down the stairs. Wall lights lit up the concrete steps and I held onto the bare wall while walking down. The landing veered off to the right, where Alex had already disappeared. I turned the corner and walked into a room that was a cross between a study and a junkyard for metal scrap.
A simple desk with a dual-monitor desktop computer was close by, a small rug under it and a shelf filled with programming books and knick-knacks next to it. Across the room was a large workbench surrounded by odd-looking devices. On the overhead shelf was smaller devices. A pen in a display case was the one that caught my eye.
“Here’s my personal Batcave,” Alex said from by the bench.
“It’s brilliant,” I said.
Alex blushed. “Thanks. Come here and put these on.”
He was actually the one to jam the V.R. goggles on my head, and it took me a minute to wrestle the gloves from him. With his excitement, he’d probably end up trying to put them on the wrong hands.
“Okay, take a seat.” Alex gestured to a chair by his workbench and he pulled out a keyboard from one of the bench’s drawers. I took a seat as he tugged up the top of the bench, revealing a hollow compartment and a flat screen monitor. He propped up the screen, turned the monitor on, and set up the some program while I gaped at the touch-screen technology.
While the keyboard and monitor searched for each other via the house’s wireless network, I watched Alex hook up my goggles’ wires to the back of the monitor.
“Where did you get these?” I asked, resisting the urge to touch the monitor’s screen.
“I built them,” he said. Before I could proclaim my disbelief, Alex tapped the side of the goggles. “I just hooked you up to the computer. I’ll be watching your brain waves while controlling the simulation. When you’re ready, just sit back, relax, and close your eyes. Let your thoughts take control.”
I nodded and took a deep breath before lounging back in the chair. For a moment, everything was dark after the goggles slid over my eyes. I was soon enthralled at a soft, pale yellow light steadily growing from the middle of the darkness until it completely enveloped me.
It felt like I was blinking as I gazed at the new room the light had transported me. The walls were the same yellow while golden streams of computer code ran up and down them. I was standing on a flat disk in the middle of it all. Within a few seconds, a small silver ball of light danced in front of my face.
“Good evening.” The masculine tone had a robotic drawl and it bobbed up and down as if bowing to me. “I am called Pip and I will be your guide.”
A trio of screens shot up in front of me out of nowhere, and a podium connected to the disk appeared by my right hand. There was only one button in the top left corner of it with a question mark label.
“I shall now explain the scenario,” Pip said. The screens showed off a city at dusk with tall skyscrapers blocking the setting sun. There was litter on the few streets that were shown, and shady-looking people smoking on street corners.
“The metropolis Goldshaft City,” Pip said, “is in dire need of heroes. Murderers, kidnappers, and robbers run rampant in the streets, and the mayor has issued a plea to any super being willing to aid the city’s police.
“Of course, it is not only the heroes whom have answered the call.” The side screens switched to play clips of citizens running and cowering in fear while powered beings fought each other by shooting lasers from their palms. “Villains also came to the city, looking for easy prey. You have answered the call as well, and have just arrived in Goldshaft.”
The movies on the screens faded away, and words appeared on the middle screen. Pip read the question aloud. “Are you a hero or a villain?”
A silly grin formed on my face as I contemplated being the bad guy, but I decided to play the hero the first time around. I was about to voice my choice when Pip said, “Please push the button of your choice.”
I looked at the podium and blinked at seeing two buttons in the middle of it. I pushed the one labeled “Hero,” and I almost lost my dinner as my hover disk soared straight up in the air.
The disk came to a sudden halt in a light blue room, and I swear I kept going before gravity came into effect. Pip had followed and made a sound as if he was clearing his nonexistent throat.
“Tech is working on that,” he said. A mirror was now in front of me and a giant menu was to its’ left. Names of various powers were listed in alphabetical order. There was accelerated healing, acid generation, aerokinetics, animal mimicry—
“Please scroll through the list and choose a power,” Pip said. I gaped at the silver light, wondering how I was supposed to go through every option. I glanced at my podium, seeing buttons in the shape of a control pad as well as the question mark button. I hit the latter.
“What is your question?” Pip asked.
“Is it possible to see these organized into categories?” I asked. Pip glowed white and the menu of powers suddenly changed to categories, such as physical-based, elements, and traveling abilities. “Thanks!”
Although it still took me a bit of time, I eventually settled on the “technopathic” ability from the mental-based category. Speaking with and manipulating electronics wasn’t overused like super strength, and a power that had to do with computers was right up my alley.
A much shorter list of powers appeared on the screen within moments. “Please pick a secondary ability,” Pip said.
I looked through the list, noting that the powers had to do with my technopathy. There were abilities with robotics, super speed, high intelligence, even linguistics. I eventually settled for electricity manipulation; it’d probably be more helpful against a mugger than asking a street lamp to blind him, anyway.
After I made my selection, the menu changed to show thumbnails of pieces of clothing, the default being a leotard like Wonder Woman. I frowned at my reflection for wearing it, and quickly scrolled through to find a long-sleeved shirt, even if it did look tight. As I continued making a costume, I noticed most of the female pieces looking a bit skimpy, and vowed to speak to Alex about it.
“What is your question?” Pip asked after I pushed the question mark button again.
“Can I see the male costumes?”
Pip glowed white while rearranging the menu, and I noticed pieces of costumes from various heroes. I eventually picked out the standard one-piece spandex suit, and Pip brought out a menu of patterns and designs. Using the codes running along the walls as inspiration, the pattern along my costume looked like circuitry. I picked a deep green as the base color and a yellow-orange for the circuitry. The next menu was accessories, like masks and belts, and Pip recommended a simple domino mask around my eyes.
The accessories vanished and the mirror showed a simple text box. Glancing at my podium, I noticed it had morphed into a computer keyboard. Pip told me that it was time to pick my alias.
I looked back up at the mirror, at a loss for ideas, when I noticed words floating around the mirror. Lightning Lass, Thunder, Bolt, Shocker, Sparky… It took me a moment to realize they were name suggestions.
“Is your name Gigabyte?” Pip asked for confirmation after I typed in my choice. I pressed the yes button and the mirror disappeared.
“You are now ready to enter Goldshaft City,” Pip said as my surroundings began to fade into that soft light again. “If you need help, please call for me.” I vaguely wondered what time it was in the real world, but the thought disappeared as I began to see gray outlines of skyscrapers surround me.