TE21 Serbian Moments

M. Caterina Mortillaro

Virtual Truth

Usually his appearance is not too bad; perhaps ‘improved’ is a better word. He pads back to the bedroom, naked. There are clean clothes in a small cupboard. He puts them on. Then he turns on the porthole-screen. There’s a triumph of stars outside, streaking like silent, colorful fireworks. Traveling in light-speed mode. He turns on a destination screen and stares intensely at the one he would like to reach. Nothing happens. He blinks. Nothing happens. There’s obviously a bug. Or maybe he uploaded this adventure in static mode and he’s forgotten. That’s only to be expected, after being murdered by a gangster with a ruby ring on his pinkie. He’ll have a look around. After all, even a spaceship can be fun. He tries to open the door, but nothing happens. Shit. What got into himwhen he chose an adventure with an escape room on a fucking spaceship? He’s beginning to suspect it’s all Yuri’s fault. He starts tofiddlewithpanels andwires. He’s experienced enough. The door opens. The corridors are slightly different from last time. Improved. Brighter. He’ll write an excellent review, at least on that. He walks into the dining area. There are only three passengers and an officer. The room is fairly standard. He observes the characters. Doesn’t like them. The officer is too potbellied. As soon as he sees him, he calls someone on the communicator 222

and murmurs something that Jack doesn’t catch.

Jack sits before a colorless meal. The other passengers are two women and a man. Or rather, a man, a woman, and a young girl who looks lost. Jack is confused. What’s the purpose of this mission? Maybe that’s the purpose: to find out what he’s doing there. He tries to start a conversation with the other three. He asks them where they’re heading. “Don’t you know?” asks the man, surprised. He’s a tall, robust fellow with a beard. “I wouldn’t have asked if I’d known, would I?” His head is still throbbing. “Astarte-1” replies the young girl. She has absurd freckles on her nose, and hair of a carrot shade that hurts your eyes, even in the cold light of the dining area. Jack tries to think. He can’t remember any adventure with Astarte-1 as its destination. He’s never heard of it. Perhaps it’s made up. He’s beginning to get excited. So far, the story has been slow and boring, but there might be pleasant surprises in store. “What sort of place is that?” The three seem even more amazed. “A recently-established farming colony,” says the man. “But how can you possibly not…?”


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