James found himself standing in the hallway. He wore nothing but his boxer briefs. This didn’t bother him though. He felt no embarrassment or chill. All his physical, mental, and emotional attention had focused on a pinpoint of light in the distance, drawing him to it.
James walked through the thick maze of hallways and rooms. The spot of light did not feel closer. He ran, chasing the distant light, taking stairs down into the lowest levels of Omegaphil. He found himself in parts of the underground laboratories he’d never seen. When doors blocked his way, James ignored them and ran through the metal and glass as though they were mist.
He slipped through a wall that stood between him and the seductive light, slowing to a walk when he noticed he was no longer alone. A creature huddled in the corner with too many limbs sticking out of the filthy gray blanket to be mammalian, but these appendages were covered in thick fur. The thing beneath the blanket howled. James shuddered and stepped through another wall.
James picked his way through a small garden where silvery saplings grew, singing softly to each other. He passed through a wall into a chamber filled with screams. A man with iridescent scales pounded on the glass of his cell, his screams filled with agony. His eyes locked on James, but the screams and pounding never stopped. James walked past the poor lizard man with an apologetic shrug.
He wandered through several more labs and empty cells. A thought came to him. “Computer?”
“Am I dreaming?”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Helpful as always.”
“What is the light I’m seeing?”
“I don’t know. I see no light. Your course will take you to section nine. To me.”
“Section nine? You?”
“My processors are in section nine. And, now, so are you.”
James stepped through another wall into a room of wonder. Tubes ran from the walls into glass globes suspended above the floor. The tubes pumped a blue-green liquid into the glass balls. Lights flashed along the curved interiors, bathing the room in shifting patterns like sun through a waterfall. Sheets of a translucent material hung around the globes like spider webs, but these hummed with electricity.
“My quantum processors, suspended in liquid, surrounded by graphene, silicene, and nano-copper memory sheets. From here I reach out across the world to gather information. In the next room I run DNA through nanotubes. Would you like to see that, James?”
“Yes. In a minute.” James ran his ghostly hand through a spidery sheet of graphene. His movement did not stir the thin sheet, but his skin prickled and the hairs on his arm stood up.
The computer chimed in. “It’s good you are here, but not here. It would be very dangerous for a human to do that in person.”
“Uh huh. Noted.” James didn’t feel any fear, but didn’t reach out to the sheets again.
“Did you find your light?”
James nodded. He pointed to one of the spheres. It stood a few feet away at the heart of the flashing lights, but also still distant, stretching the center of the glass globe away from him.
“That’s odd. I have that processor working on understanding your ability to move through the world while asleep, an odd medical event that is taking place in a western hospital, and an interesting algorithm I discovered imbedded in the coding of the BOCS last week.”
He stepped toward it, reaching out to the still distant light. As his hand passed through the glass he felt the tiniest resistance and then he made contact with the center where the spark of light stretched away from him. Pain boiled up his arm and James screamed as the world exploded in a flood of fire.
James shot up out of his bed slick with sweat, his head pounding. Sirens screamed out in the hall. Streams of color flowed through the air toward him, carrying a deluge of information and images, burning through his synapses faster than he could receive them. He couldn’t focus on anything or hold on to any of it. What’s going on?
“Computer? What happened?”
“I’m not sure. You seem to have released a holo-dragon into the complex, but the fires are very real. I have my suppression systems containing the blaze on three different levels. And…”
James waited for the rest, but the computer wasn’t speaking.
Still here, James.
“And…what? Wait. Did you say that in my head? I thought it didn’t work like that outside the BOCS.”
It doesn’t. I don’t know what happened. Something strange. I can see your mind as though it were one of my processors. This is…very odd.
“You’re telling me.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Never mind. How do we fix it?”
Unknown. I don’t know how we did it.
“The switching back and forth from in my head and out is kinda distracting. Wait. You said fires? Do we…I mean Ineed to evacuate?”
“No. The suppression systems are operational and I’ve removed the dragon from the holo system.” You like Dr. Reed.
“What? Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”
“Concern for her ran through your brain just now.”
“Oh, this has got to be a nightmare. Computer, get out of my head!”
“I’ve attempted to extricate myself, but have been unsuccessful.” Your thoughts are chaotic and emotions are more powerful than I would have surmised. The experience is unsettling.
“For you and me both. Vander’s going to be insanely unhappy…or insanely happy. Not sure which is better.”
“My historical data shows neither.”
“Just what I suspected.”
“I told you. I’ve tried.”
“This is going to suck.” James rubbed his head and crawled out of bed. “Really suck.”