“Daddy,” She whispered. “Daddy, are you awake yet?”
He shook his head, trying to clear the memory of mornings long ago. This was not how he wanted to start his day. A small hand pushed on his shoulder. The slight pressure not quite achieving its goal of jostling him awake.
“Daddy, if this is you trying to not make me pancakes it won’t work. You tried it last week remember? It’s Saturday. That means pancakes. Also it’s my turn to pick. I want kiwi pancakes,” She rambled, failing to keep her voice to a whisper.
Blearily he peeked through his lashes. There, standing right next to the bed, was a little girl. Her strawberry locks curled crazily around her head. Scrapped knees from outdoor adventures peeked out beneath her night gown. It was his Anna. His little girl. He couldn’t believe it. He felt a push from behind him. Turning he saw his wife, trying to push him out of the bed while still remaining asleep.
“Go,” She groaned. “I’ll join you in a bit. Certification was terrible, I only got in two hours ago.”
This wasn’t right. It had to be a dream, or a nightmare. It was far too vicious of an illusion to be a dream. His family, alive. He pinched himself hard. It hurt, but he didn’t wake up. He tried again, this time digging into his skin. He only stopped when the nail bit into the flesh and he started to bleed. Sucking on the wound, the metallic taste seemed like genuine blood. His senses told him it was all real. His mind told him that it was impossible.
The little girl was getting impatient. She gave her father the look. She was about fifteen seconds away from doing a kamikaze dive onto the bed. If that happened, Beth really would wake up. Then their happy Saturday would be off to a very shaky start. He smiled, deciding to make the most of whatever this was, and swiftly slid out of bed. Taking Anna off guard, he swooped her up into his arms and carried her downstairs.
“Kiwi pancakes huh?” He laughed. “Where do you come up with these things sweetheart?”
Just then the doorbell rang. Setting the girl on a stool at the kitchen table, he went to answer the door. Two men in suits stood, looking worried. After a moment of silence the shorter of the two took a minuscule step forward.
“We-we-we’re so-so-sorry sir. But, uh, there seems to have been an incident wi-wi-with your profile. We-We’ll need to p-p-pull you out of the simulation and reload it.” The boy took a deep breath, probably in an attempt to calm his nerves and control his stutter. “There was a virus in the system. Instead of loading the training simulation it fed off of your memories and created its own reality. Now, if you will come with us, we can guide you out. There is no way for you to leave on your own. We a-a-apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. We assure you, all data will be erased and no one will have access to the data stream the virus duplicated. F-f-furthermore we would like to report that we caught the glitch early. If we leave now your t-t-training will only be delayed about an hour and you will be home in plenty of time for dinner. “
“Yes sir. Your boss was quite clear, that you didn’t need a lot of training and that a one day session would suffice,” The other boy added.
“Yes sir,” They chimed.
Then he remembered. Biotech. He was here to do basic self defense training as part of the new company policy. They thought cross training would build a stronger sense of camaraderie between the departments. If the sales people understood what the scientists have to go through everyday then they might have a higher level of empathy for them and vice versa. He was currently understanding more of what the security division did. He had been right. This wasn’t real. It was just a holodeck. When he went home to dinner tonight it would be to an empty house.
He heard a slight swish-swish-swish behind him. Turning he saw his daughter dragging her feet down the hall. She held her arms and body at an angle that made it look like she was the most put-upon person in the world. In reality she was just a “starved” four year old. No, not in reality, but it could be. He could make it his reality. Why not? He could just stay here. Live in the holodeck. Live out his life with his daughter and wife. A fake life with them would be better than any real life he had without.
“I believe, gentlemen,” he replied, finally looking back at them, “that I am late for breakfast with my daughter. Now, your company policy states that no person can be pulled from the deck by force. I will not be leaving before I eat with my daughter. Why don’t you both scuttle off and report to your superiors. In fact, you might want to let them now I won’t be ready to leave for awhile.”
He slammed the door in their face. Smiling he turned to his daughter. He was taking a great risk, banking on the fact that they were just pawns in the operation and didn’t actually know company policy. Hopefully they didn’t call his bluff. That was all he could do for the moment though. He was a coder, after breakfast he would find away to hack the system from this side, maybe even lock the simulation room. But he couldn’t do that on an empty stomach. He picked his daughter up again and went to search the kitchen for kiwis.