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Virtual Reality: Halo

by fieryjen 02/17/07

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Author's Notes: This is a part of the Virtual Reality chain story started by FallingtoFly, whom I would like to thank for the idea.

~~~


Toby was sitting on the couch when I got home, eyes unblinking and fixed on the TV screen. The only movement I could detect was his fingers, relentlessly pressing buttons on the controller. His blond hair was tousled; he probably hadn't taken a shower this morning.

"Toby," I called. "Do your homework."

"No!" he said, and I rolled my eyes. Typical. The boy was failing almost all of his classes, and still, all he did was play videogames. Either it was Diablo on the computer, or Halo on the X-box. At least he was flexible, using whatever I didn't need to use at the moment, but that was the least he could do since I let him crash on my couch for free.

"Damn it, Toby," I said when I had taken off my coat and dropped onto the couch next to him. "They'll actually throw you out if you don't show massive improvement this semester."

Toby only shrugged, continuing his game undisturbed. We had been friends for a while, and I had gotten used to his various annoying habits, but I still hated it when he ignored me while playing his games. He had lived here for two months now, thankfully moving in after the two people he had shared his apartment with had refused to pay their share of the electricity bill for the second month in a row. He was poor, like most college students, and hadn't been able to afford his own place. He gladly did the dishes and cleaned whenever I asked that of him, but it stopped at him doing his homework. Being three years older, I felt obligated to take over the parental role in this regard, but I didn't seem to make a very good substitute mom.

Toby had finally paused the game, and actually turned in my direction.

"Co-op?" he asked hopefully.

"You're driving me crazy," I let him know, but grabbed the second controller nonetheless. While I was still annoyed with him for spending way too much time with his X-box, I couldn't deny that he had gotten me to enjoy playing one or the other game. While I still didn't have half as much skill as he did when it came to Halo, I didn't hinder him either, and he seemed to be happy that he could share his love of the game with me to some extend.

Toby saved his progress and restarted the game. During that time, I sighed and reviewed the various buttons on the controller. Move, this stick. Look, the other. Throwing grenades... the white button. No, that was the flashlight. Grenades were the left trigger. I often annoyed Toby by pressing the trigger on accident, blowing the both of us up with a grenade. At least I still remembered which trigger fired my weapon.

I hadn't paid attention to which chapter Toby had selected, but I didn't really care that much either. All I needed to know that I had to kill the guys that were aliens, and be careful not to blow myself up. Toby was way more into the whole storyline than I was. All I needed was a way to relax after a hard day at work without making my brain hurt. This provided it.

"Ouch," Toby said when I shot him for the first time. "Check my screen, Liza. I was standing right in front of that Elite."

"Sorry," I said. "I haven't played in a while, I have to get used to this again. The controls aren't exactly easy."

"Those are some of the best controls for a game, ever," Toby lectured me while charging ahead and shooting everything in his way. It was my job to clean up after him and collect grenades and ammo of whatever he killed. "The Master Chief is one of the best characters ever, and the storyline is one of the most brilliant ones ever. Seriously, Liza. Just accept the facts."

"Alright then," I relented, not keen on an argument about this. Toby felt strongly possessive about Halo.

At this moment, the phone rang. Toby paused the game so I could get up and answer it, handing it to him after only a second. "It's Stacie."

Toby grabbed the phone from me, and I turned back to the game. "I'll play single player for a while, okay?"

Toby nodded, leaving the room with the phone while already speaking in the most soothing voice he had. His girlfriend Stacie, from back in Wisconsin, hated my guts out, the only apparent reason being that Toby lived in my apartment. They talked on the phone for hours at a time, blocking the line. I let them simply because I knew Toby was having a hard time away from her.

I ended the multiplayer game and switched to Toby's controller, starting a random chapter in my single player file. While the game loaded, I contemplated Stacie's jealousy. I could understand that she wasn't too happy that her boyfriend lived with another girl, but it was unfounded in that I didn't find Toby sexually attractive in the slightest.

"A shame, too," I said to myself, counting back to when I'd last gotten laid. I stopped at two and a half months, unable to remember. I was simply too busy to go out and meet a guy, and Toby's friends were all just like him, more in love with Halo than any girl they might meet.

"What's with you anyway?" I wondered aloud, staring at the Master Chief as the movie intro to the chapter played. He was the main character of the game, not that I ever saw much of him, since this was a first-person shooter. The only feature of his I was all too familiar with was his heavily gloved hands, in which he held his weapons and with which he occasionally punched opponents. In the intro movie, it was easy to see that the entire character was hidden inside a greenish shimmering battle armor, which, to my knowledge, he never took off once during the game.

"I suppose you might actually be kind of hot, once you take that thing off," I said towards the screen, then immediately glanced at the open door to check if Toby had heard me talking to a video game character. But he had stepped outside, probably to have some privacy, so I turned back towards the screen.

One thing I did like about the Master Chief was his superhuman strength, the existence of which, Toby had assured me, had an entirely plausible explanation. I'd always liked strong, protective guys, the likes of which seemed rare around here.

I leaned forward when the chapter finally started, ready to fight the bad guys. While Marines went into position around me, I took cover behind a rock, always careful, and selected the sniper rifle I had just received to shoot the alien covenant forces from a distance. The Marines around me made amusing comments as I zoomed in the rifle, picking out a hapless Grunt that was carelessly walking around the open grounds. When the crosshair turned red, I pulled the trigger. The Grunt fell over, dead.

"Hah!" I exclaimed triumphantly and leaned forward even further, selecting my next target. My eyes were glued to the screen as I searched around, finally settling on a Jackal. Those were harder to shoot, because I had to get them when they were not hiding behind their energy shields.

I could almost feel the rifle in my hands as I concentrated on getting the shot, irritated by the Jackal's erratic movements. When I finally squeezed the trigger, the Marines around me congratulated me, but suddenly, one of them started to shoot.

"Idiots!" I hissed, annoyed. They were supposed to wait for me to finish sniping, not run onto the battlefield like... well, like idiots.

Sighing, I moved even closer to the TV and ran forward, into the battle. A little Grunt charged me and I swatted it aside with my rifle, faintly noticing a bead of sweat that was rolling down my nose. Suddenly, a second, and then a third and a fourth Grunt came at me, and I had my hands full. I aimed and squeezed the trigger, but not fast enough, and suddenly, something hit me from behind and my shields drained. I squeaked, jumped and hit the wrong button, and before I could prevent it, I saw myself fling the grenade at the next rock. It bounced off and landed at my feet.

"Oh shit!" I exclaimed, frantically trying to move away from it. I could literally feel the heat that radiated out from it, but my way was blocked by the Grunts and whatever had attacked me from behind. As a second blow rained down on me, I started to fear for my life, desperately trying to flee the area. Once more, I lashed out with my rifle, landing a blow, but then I could hear a sharp click.

The explosion took me full force, and I could feel the incredible heat and smell the singed flesh of Grunts as the controller slipped out of my hands and I was catapulted away, into the darkness.

***


"Ow," I said. My body was hurting quite a bit, and although I had no freaking clue what had happened, I could tell it involved heavy bruising on my part. It was still dark when I opened my eyes, even after I had blinked several times. I lifted my hands and checked my body for injuries, but there didn't seem to be anything majorly wrong with me except for the soreness when I moved. I felt the floor I was laying on, it seemed to be some sort of solid stone, but completely smooth. Strange. This was definitely nowhere near my living room.

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