450 Virtuna

    [1400 hours, Haven]

    Mina smiled slightly and nudged Nix with an elbow.  "I agreed to stay in Haven until after Khione is dealt with but after that, I'd like to return to the Sea World."

    Nix shrugged but didn't say anything.  He confiscated the second Deep Blue and changed the permissions so that no one but him could enter the Sea World.  The water nymphs, turtles, and the rest of the sea life that Inferno brought in would remain undisturbed until Khione was slain. "Hopefully we'll deal with her before Lisa is born."

    Mina smiled and leaned forward until her pale eyes were only a few inches from his.  "Please see to it.  Then perhaps a second daughter would be possible."

    "Hmm... No deal."  Nix planted a kiss on her forehead and then stood up.  "What do the Aquarions think of Khione?"

    "Those of us in Inferno, feel the same as you.  However, that isn't the same for the rest of my people."  Mina placed a hand over her stomach and leaned back on the couch.  Although she wasn't showing yet, she could feel the growing life inside her.  "You of all people should know.  Khione caused the Aquarions to evolve into their current state."

    Nix knew more about the Aquarion evolution than anyone.  "They should consider that she is also the reason for their inability to have daughters with their own kind."

    Mina considered the statement for a moment before replying. "Before we evolved and had to start relying on the Cai'Song artifact, our numbers were much higher."

    "Of course.  There's no way that Aquarion's would be able to snatch enough human girls to maintain millions of people."  Nix opened his hud and brought up a map of Colonial.  He knew that there was a rift between the two races that might never be completely crossed.  Forcing interspecies mating in order to survive was a good start.

    "I feel tired."  Mina approached him while his back was turned and circled her arms around his waist.  "I'm going to lay down. You may join me if you like."

    Nix stared at the Aquarion as she made her way to the stairs.  He understood the meaning, her race said exactly what was on their minds. "I have a few things to do, Min."

    "Any sign of our dragon friends yet?"  Pon walked in from the balcony, his eyes landing on Nix and the retreating Mina.

    Nix shook his head.  "All three are building nursery sanctuaries somewhere in Haven.  After they are done I'll mark the spots as off-limits."

    Pon lowered his voice. "Heading into Virtuna?"

    "In a bit.  Officially I'll be visiting Tharaka in Colonial."

    "Question.  When are the dragons suppose to do their mating?  Or has that already taken place?"  Pon's face wrinkled in amusement.  "You had a dragon orgy... Don't deny it."

    Nix laughed at his expression.  "Seriously?  I have enough on my plate already."  He needed to talk to Diedra and Tai about approaching one of the male dragons on Sinfaya's behalf. "They'll want to complete it in the next few days."

    "Pink, Tess, and Gypsy will be joining you.  Have you used Virtuna before?"  Pon opened his hud and displayed his Virtuna options.  Although not part of Colonial, Virtuna was partnered with the Virtual Gaming company because many of the long term players regularly needed to contact the outside world.  "Import your friend list from Colonial and you'll be notified when they ask to visit."

    Nix watched as Pon demonstrated.  "Who knew an old bastard could be so handy?"

    "Semmy showed me, jackass."  Pon grew quite suddenly, elbowing Nix to warn him.  "Hey, guys."

    Nix looked up to see Fajii and Shae standing in the kitchen, both of them were watching him.  He closed his hud and smiled at the two of them.  "Everything okay?"

    Shae nodded.  "Sure."

    Fajii sipped from the glass she held. "Heading to the old Gladis Hub?"

    [Whisper: Pon to Nix] Sorry, Nix.  I didn't see them there."

    [Whisper: Nix to Pon]  Don't worry about it.

    Colonial lore stated that the heroes summoned into the world would sometimes return to their own worlds.  Although not all guilds followed the role-playing guidelines, Inferno and most of the top guilds preferred it that way.

    "Yes.  I won't be gone long." Nix accepted a quick hug from each of them and then opened a breach.

    [Create Breach: Haven: Glory Island]

    A few minutes later he stood at the end of the dock.  For some reason, he felt anxiety about leaving Colonial.  He'd have to contact Deidra as soon as he returned.

    [Logging Off: Colonial]

    [Logging In: Virtuna]

    Nix whistled softly when he appeared in the spacious suite.  This wasn't the patch apartment that Colonial used for emergencies, it was part of his gaming package set up through Vasai Virtual.  He grabbed a remote from the nearby table and clicked on the virtual screen that took up an entire wall.  "Let's see how the crappy Bills are doing."

    A large liquor cabinet caused him to freeze in place.  "Hello, beautiful."  He grabbed a bottle of 30-year-old scotch and poured himself a glass.  It burned going down, just like the real thing.  "Yeah... That's really good."  A knock at the door stopped his next drink, a quick glance at his hud showed that none of his friends were currently in Virtuna.

    Nix opened the door, a hesitant smile on his face when a woman he didn't know smiled at him.  "Yes?"

    "Not going to invite your girlfriend in?"  The woman smiled at the surprise on his face and walked in through the open door.

    "It's really you?"  Nix closed the door, he could feel his face heating up.  Suddenly he felt nervous, even though he knew the person well.  The face wasn't an exact match, but the voice and demeanor instantly gave it away.

    "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Sahara Obrien, you may call me Hara."  The redhead grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight.

    "Hara?"  Nix stared hard at the woman, leaning close while studying her features. "You're ..."

    "Gorgeous?  Completely beautiful?  The sexiest thing you've ever seen?"  Hara nodded in agreement.  "This is the real me, so feel free to continue." She reached her hand out and touched his blond hair.  "Interesting look, but we'll get back to that shortly."

    Nix nodded, vaguely recalling Ronnie's theories on NPC roleplayers.  "NPCs are played by real people?"

    Hara pursed her lips slightly.  "I know your secrets Nix, it only makes sense if I share a few of mine."

    Nix listened while Hara explained the DRP program, the small numbers of actual people hired by Colonial to participate, and how Inferno has been changing NPC interaction for all of Virtual Reality.  "How many others?  From the ones close to me?"

    Hara shrugged slightly.  "Unsure, that sort of information isn't readily available, even for me."  She didn't care for his blond hair nor the blue eyes, but it was definitely her Nix.  "Two of your wives for sure, perhaps a third."

    "Wives?"  Nix felt his face heat up, something that never happened while in Colonial. Virtuna must process human emotions differently.

    "That's what we call ourselves when we are talking about you..."  Hara laughed when he covered his face.  "How do you think we manage to schedule things?"

    Nix held up a hand, he could feel that his face was red.  "No more.  Why are you here?"

    Hara sighed loudly and leaned back.  "Sorry... I was enjoying teasing you a bit.  Colonial keeps a close eye on you and the rest of Inferno.  There have been quite a few times that I've been forced to step in to stop them from tampering with you guys."

    "Really?"  Nix grabbed his glass and finished it off.  "What else?"

    "You have to make sure you do all the mid-spire quests and then advance into the Great Desert."  Hara picked up the bottle and poured him another drink.  "Face Khione at the end of the journey and Colonial will take care of Inferno.  I can guarantee that."

    Nix swirled his drink with one hand, watching the whiskey sway in a lazy circular motion.  "What if I lose you, or one of the people close to me?"

    Hara smiled sweetly.  "I would come back to Colonial as a player."

    "Who is the other DRP that you mentioned?  Wait... the one you were standing with when I left?"

    Hara shrugged slightly.  "I don't want to say too much.  It's okay if I give you my secrets because we both have skin in the game."

    "I guess."  Nix watched as she stood up and headed across the room.  "Where are you going?"

    "I'm guessing Gypsy, Pinky and Tess won't be here for a few hours?"  Hara opened the door to the bedroom with one hand and peeked in.

    "Maybe, I'm not really sure."  Nix stood up when she disappeared into the room.  When he entered a few seconds later she was already sitting on the bed.

    She patted the space next to her.  "Come sit.  I'll keep you company until they arrive."
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