I can’t afford to get this wrong. I swallow hard and jack into the Metascape, bringing up the Meta-map screen. It doesn’t feel weird yet, but then again, jacking out is the bitch.
I enter the door on the right and find a small, closed-off room with a high ceiling and a seemingly mechanical wall. This can’t be right. Got to be the left one. I zoom back out of the meta-maps program and prepare myself for the unpleasant part. I grit my teeth and attempt to jack out.
And I do. With no trouble whatsoever, no unpleasant sticky sensation, no vomiting, no going unconscious. I just jack out. Unsettlingly, though, the view in front of me is indiscernible from what I was looking at in the Metascape. I guess that’s to be expected, though, considering the level of detail I was working with in the map. I take a second to collect myself, and then I grab the cool silver handle of the left door and push it open.
The room inside is huge, almost impossibly huge. The ceiling stretches over sixty feet above me and the glass windows on three of the four walls look out over the city. Nearly a hundred feet away from me in the middle of the room – could the pyramid really be that big at this height? – stand twelve men in a perfect line, all just staring at me. For a millisecond I’m put off my game by this surprising development, but I recover my surefootedness almost instantaneously. Time to end this, here and now.
“CyberCorp!” I yell across the vast – is it growing? – expanse of the room. “This ends now! I’m here to stop you!”
“Oh, are you?” a man in a gray suit with pepper-gray hair replies. “Are you so sure of that?”
“Why is he so goddamn cocky? If they’ve got a security system, they better activate it now. “I’m sure of it. CyberCorp is going down, and the Awakening will never come to pass!”
“Jack,” says the man, “I have some rather unfortunate news for you. You see, you have already been Awakened. We had to rush yours, I do hope you feel honored. That last time you jacked in, just now, well, that did it.”
“What . . . what are you saying?” I stammer.
“Dear Jack, you see, you’re in the Metascape. This is TRUscape, Jack. Isn’t it glorious?”
And with that, the twelve men vanish and the room seems to grow in all directions until the ceiling peels back like a linen curtain to reveal the most vividly blue sky ever seen on earth. Pinpricks of white light all over the sky suddenly burst into mini explosions, out of which soar glowing white angels. The sky writhes with the mass of angels flying loops around each other. One of them floats down to the board room, his luminescent white robes billowing in the breeze. A gentle wind washes over me from the angel’s wings, bringing with it the scent of spring flowers and new life.
“Jack Fenix,” the angel says, hovering over my bed. “It is time to rise.” His voice is melodic, sweet and whimsical, yet forceful at the same time.
I can’t even reply. They got me. They really got me this time.
“Good.” The angel beckons to me once, and I float into the air, flying up, up, above the city, above everything I tried so hard to save. The bastards won, and I failed.
Below me, I hear a group of twelve men let out giggles of childlike glee. But then I’m too far up to hear anything but my own thoughts, which really only consist of one thing; they won. The bastards fucking won.