516 Vasai Virtual

    Nix smiled in his sleep, the soft caress of a hand on his cheek doing nothing to wake him up.

    "Nix,"  Shae's familiar and comforting voice whispered to him.

    "Hmm?"  Nix opened one eye, a fairly strange event since he shouldn't have eyelids while in bone form.  "Problem?"

    Shae's red hair fell against his face; the open tent flap let in just enough light for Nix to see that they were alone.  Fey, Pon, and Duran had taken up the other cots, but they must have left during the early morning.  "Can't you hear everyone talking?  The entire camp woke up in human form."

    Nix turned on one side and propped his head up on one elbow. "You doing okay?"

    "I'm fine; guess we won't try Trinity flames again for a while."

    Nix smiled slightly and nodded in agreement.  "Leave the crazy explosive stuff to me."

    "Remember the message yesterday?  About Inferno being awarded the [Undead] form?"

    "I remember."  Nix used his hud to view his character sheet.  "We reverted back to natural forms until after the first time we use it?"

    Shae nodded.  "That seems to be the general consensus.  We are still limited to our undead abilities."

    Nix sat up slowly and swung his bare feet over the side of the small cot.  "We'd march right through them if we had our full abilities.  Anyways.. suppose I have to get up.  Shae?"  The Salamander's warm brown eyes seemed to be looking through him.

    [Bone Fortress Message: Players Only]

    Because of the Bone Fortress Seed World's constant stress, all players are required to take a 24-hour break.  NPCs will remain in place and will not notice the passing of time.  You may make use of Colonial's Virtuna or use whatever virtual service you subscribe to.  Logging you off in 15 seconds.

    /Logging Off: Colonial: Nix

    Nix found himself in the white virtual room, similar to the one that he originally made his character in.

    [User: Henry Jones]

    Please choose from the available options.

    [Vasai Virtual] [Virtuna]

    "Vasai Virtual, please, send Pon and Semmi an invitation to join me."

    Understood, accessing your Colonial Friend's list, two invitations have been sent.

    [Logging you into Vasai Virtual]

    Please choose from the available options. More options are available with reservations made 30-days in advance.

    [Mountain Retreat: Vale: Winter/Summer]

    [Beach Retreat: Southern California]

    [Lake Cabin: Michigan: Upper Pennisula]

    [Desert Villa: Chalupa, AZ]

    "Hmm... Lake Cabin it is." Nix selected the option, and an instant later, the white room vanished around him.

    Nix found himself standing on a long redwood deck overlooking a large but calm expanse of water.  The deck connected to a traditional-looking log cabin with a sliding glass door.  Instead of heading inside to check out the facilities, he opted for the view instead.  "So this is the Upper Penisula?  I've always wanted to come here."

    The cabin was nestled comfortably in a thickly wooded area within a hundred feet of the lake.  The deck was adorned with a brick fire pit and several comfortable looking chairs.

    [Pon has accepted your invitation]

    [Semmi has accepted your invitation]

    [Sahara Obrien has sent your a query]

    "The hell is this?"  Pon's Texas accent was much more noticeable than normal.  "Vasai Virtual?  This is top-end **."  He wore cut-off blue jeans with ugly sandals and a tank top that said, 'I heart beer.'  Mirror sunglasses rested on top of his thick head of brown hair.

    "Eloquent as usual, Pon."  Next to him, the petite blonde greeted Nix with a hug; she was barefoot and wore a knee-length yellow sundress that showed off her slim tanned legs.  "Is this the U.P.?"

    "Yep!  My first time here.  Give me a sec; need to answer a call."  Nix opened the query and read the attached note.

    Vasai Virtual Customer [Sahara Obrien] has sent you a friend request.

    Nix selected approve and sent her an invitation.

    "Got beer?"  Pon pulled open the sliding glass door but waited until Nix finished with his call before entering.

    "Dunno.  Let's check it out."  Nix ushered his two friends into the cabin.  The sliding doors opened to a large kitchen bar, complete with double stoves and a 3-doored fridge.  Pon disappeared inside the fridge while Semmi took a seat at the bar.  "Going to have another guest in a few minutes, then we'll head down to the dock."

    Semmi spun her seat until if faced the sliding door again; a small dock and white boathouse were clearly visible.  "Think there's a pontoon?"

    "Wouldn't surprise me," Nix walked into the small kitchen, pushing the door closed on Pon.  "Sem's dying of thirst, and you're taking a nap?" He opened the cabinet above the stove and found the hard stuff. "Glenmorangie whiskey?  Let's give it a go."

    Semmi made a pouring gesture, her bright smile widening considerably when Nix found three glasses and filled them half-full.  "No ice?  Good man."

    "Going to enlighten us?"  Pon finally emerged from the fridge with four bottles of beer.  "Tell me it's Ronnie."

    Nix chuckled and shook his head, as before, he wasn't prepared to see the Scandinavian version of his favorite archer.  "Someone familiar, but let's pretend you don't know her."

    Semmi glanced at Pon for a moment before tipping back her drink.  "That's an odd statement."

    "No, **."  Pon cracked open a beer and grabbed one of the whiskeys.  "What are you about?"

    Nix shrugged slightly.  He trusted these two but didn't want to have the Shae/Hara discussion since it dealt with her job.  "Complicated... My friend is coming over; you've never met her."

    "Fine with me."  Pon took a seat next to his virtual girlfriend.  "How long until we wrap things up in Bone Fortress?"

    Semmi stalled the question with a hand, her blue eyes showing natural curiosity. "You having a girlfriend isn't exactly surprising."

    Pon scoffed and tossed his whiskey back like it was water.  "Got that right."

    "Tell that to Bev." Nix refilled the three empty glasses and grabbed one of the six-packs Pon removed from the fridge.  "Let's take this onto the deck."

    Pon grabbed Semmi's hand, causing her to slow down.  He shook his head slightly and then shrugged.  "Just go with it," he mouthed the words when Nix walked past them.

    Semmi nodded in agreement and gripped Pon's hand tighter to keep him from escaping. "With the progress, we've been making; we'll be knocking on the Keep in three or four months."

    Nix held the sliding door open for them and closed it behind them just as a fourth person appeared on the dock. There were slight differences between her and the Salamander character she played.  Her red hair was a few shades lighter, she had a smattering of freckles crossed the bridge of her nose, and Hara appeared a bit taller.  The familiarity was still there, easily recognizable to anyone who met both versions.  "Glad you could join us, Hara."

    Hara smiled warmly at Nix and hugged him close.  "Works kept me busy, glad we could meet up."

    Nix struggled to keep a straight face in front of his friends.  Pon's mouth was opening, and closing like a guppy stuck on the rocks, while Semmi stared speechlessly.  "This is my friend, Sahara."  Nix gestured towards the shocked couple.  "Pon and Semmi, two awesome gamers, and good friends."

    Pon snapped out of the spell he was under when he heard the introduction.  "Damned straight!  Nice to meet you, Sahara."

    "My friends call me Hara."  Hara shook Pon's hand; in reality, the Colonial Fire Mage was only in his mid-30s.  He had the wiry strength of someone who grew up working.

    Semmi interrupted the introductions by throwing herself at the redhead; she hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek several times.  The blonde's blue eyes shone with emotion, but instead of crying, she stepped back.  "Sorry... It's so nice to meet you finally."

    Pon nodded in agreement.  "I applaud your patience, and not many could put up with our boy here."

    "Thanks, old man."  Nix scowled at the Texan before offering the new arrival a beer from the sixpack he was carrying.  "We were just about to check out the boathouse."  He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the deck steps.

    "Sounds fun."  Hara exhaled and let herself relax.  "Know anything about boats?"

    "Not much," he admitted.

    Semmi pulled Pon back, waiting for a moment while a small gap formed.  "Holy **... Holy Shit."

    Pon smiled lazily.  "It's cute when you repeat yourself like that."

    "Pon!  Why aren't you floored?"

    The Texan grinned and started to follow the couple.  "Cuz I'm happy as **."

    Semmi laughed nervously and pushed a hand through his arm. "Right... That's my Pon, Mr. Happy."

    Nix removed his deck shoes when he stepped onto the dock.  It was roughly 30 meters long and two meters wide.  His clothing must have been adjusted with his choice of destinations; he wore blue swim trunks with a white shirt sporting the Union Jack.

    The white boathouse was built perpendicular to the start of the dock; large wooden doors swung outward easily when Nix pulled them.  He whistled softly when he saw what was inside.  "Nice.  Jet Skis!"  He called back to the couple behind them.

    "How long have you known?"  Pon waited until the two women returned to the cabin before he spoke.  They went back for more beer and to change into swimsuits.

    "Let's get these out first." After driving the Jet skis out of the boathouse, they moored them to the docks.  They were standard jet skis, overpowered to the point where they could pull tubes and large enough for two people.  Nix accepted a rope that Pon tossed him; he fed it through the mooring bracket and tied it off.  "Since our clerics were turned to stone, she visited me in Virtuna."

    Pon laughed and handed Nix another beer.  "Shit... I can't imagine what went through your head. Your pretend girlfriend just became your real one."

    Nix dangled his bare feet in the water, enjoying the feel of the sun on his face.  "Once we take down Khione, I'm going to ranch full-time in Haven."

    "Virtual living? We were thinking the same thing."  Pon slid his mirrored sunglasses over his eyes, his head turning at the sound of the sliding door opening again.  "Don't do anything that makes me look like a **ty boyfriend.

    Nix laughed at the Texan's sour expression. "You don't need any help with that."

    The two women had both chosen modest one-piece swimsuits, Semmi with yellow, while Hara chose blue.  Pon was already climbing onto the nearest Jetski by the time they arrived.

    "Guess this one's ours?"  Hara offered Nix a smile while he untied the mooring.

    Nix nodded and extended a hand.  "Get on; you can drive first."

    Semmi wrinkled her nose at Pon. "Very gentlemanly, Mr. Nix."

    Nix ignored the scowl Pon shot at him and climbed up behind the slim redhead.  They had the entire lake to themselves, something that would have been impossible in real life.


    Several hours later, Nix and Hara sat side-by-side on one of the comfortable reclining deck chairs.  Pon and Semmi were dozing in the sun, the tiny blond was snuggled up against him with her head tucked comfortably into his shoulder.

    Hara laced her fingers into his, unexpectedly feeling a bit of shyness.  "Semmi told me that the two of them visit Virtuna quite a bit.  I didn't know that."

    Nix grinned at the Texan's sleeping form.  "The old man puts in some effort."  There were dozens of empty beer bottles stacked neatly on the deck.  After sampling several different kinds of beer, Pon had settled on Bud-light while Nix elected for Primo.

    Hara's face was slightly sunburnt, something that would fade in a few hours and not cause her any discomfort; a clear advantage of virtual get-aways.  The group barely mentioned Colonial during the day, opting instead on getting to know each other a bit more.  "Can we do a bonfire tonight?"

    Nix nodded, feeling his eyes grow heavy, he shook his head in an effort to stay away.  "Yep."

    Hara squeezed his hand and leaned against him.  "Short nap first, then we'll gather some wood."
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