VR.5 Fan Fiction Archive
Maintained by Jonathan Gan
Last updated: 26 July 1995

Welcome! This document contains the full text of all of the stories based on the sci-fi/drama TV show "VR.5" that have been released on the Internet. The newest copy of this document is always available at:

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All of the rights to each of the stories in this archive are reserved by their respective authors. The stories are NOT in the public domain; they are the property of their authors and may not be distributed or modified without their express permission.


* "Running for Cover" ("The Escape")
23 May 1995, updated 22 June 1995
By Pat Moss

Running for Cover
A VR.5 Script by Pat Moss
SYDNEY is asleep, face down on hotel bed with a neon light blinking through
the curtains.  The flashes of light, and the drab decor speak volumes about
the quality of the hotel she is in.
OLIVER stands there, fidgeting nervously.  There is something bothering him,
but we don't know what it is yet.  OLIVER stretches and looks down at SYDNEY
as she rolls over in bed, her hair cascading down her face like a veil.
A knock at the door.
                        BEHIND THE DOOR:
Its Ari, let me in dammit.  This isn't exactly the best neighborhood to be
standing around in.
OLIVER unlocks the door, leaving the chain on.  He opens the door and peers
through the crack at the man standing there.
OLIVER's POV. We see a man in his thirties with a case of chronic acne, and a
rather scruffy goatee.
OLIVER closes the door.  SYDNEY is now awake and sitting in bed.
                        OLIVER: (softly)
Get in the washroom, and lock the door.
SYDNEY gets out of bed and goes to the washroom.  OLIVER watches her, and
opens the door when the door to the washroom is shut.
ARI walks in.  He looks worse in the light of the room.
Your best work I hope.
Of course.  Two Canadian passports, with valid numbers and credit cards in the
same name.  Just don't try to use the credit cards where they might get
scanned, but... they'll pass any customs inspection.
OLIVER hands ARI gold money clip.
This should cover it.  We were never here.
                         ARI: (smiling)
Of course.
OLIVER opens the door and lets ARI out into the night.
SYDNEY exits the washroom.
What do you think you are doing?  I did not tell you to come out.
He left, I thought it was safe.
Its never safe.  Lets leave NOW.
But, I thought we were planning on staying the night...
Yes, but ARI did not even count the money I gave him.  Something is not right.
Grabbing SYDNEY, OLIVER leaves the room.
OLIVER and SYDNEY are in a motel parking lot.  The motel is run down and from
the city scape nearby, you can tell they are not in a good area of town.
OLIVER and SYDNEY walk up to different cars.
Oliver, this is our car.
I know.  But we'll have to borrow this one.  There is too much risk taking
that one.
OLIVER slips silently into the car using his training and starts the car.
SYDNEY gets in next to OLIVER and they drive off.
ARI is talking to someone in the darkness.  His face cannot be seen due to the
extreme shadows.
Yup, they are still there.
Did you give them the IDs?
Uh huh.  And I rigged the car just like you said.  Now when do I get paid?
After you give me the passport numbers.
ARI hands reaches forward with an envelope handing it to the
person in the bushes.  ARI comes out the darkness with a different envelope.
NO.  Thank you.
ARI opens the envelope to check his money.  As he breaks the seal, he
coughs... shocked.  ARI clasps his throat.
Your payment for a job well done.
                     ARI: (gasping for air.)
You don't have the key.
ARI falls to the ground dead.  But smiling at his last act of defiance.
VOICE POV.  We see a sheet of paper with a PGP encrypted text, a phone number
and a hand-written message.  "Call me to decode the ID numbers.-ARI"
PAN to ARI's body on the ground and FADE OUT.
DUNCAN is sitting in a university coffee shop.  The cigarette smoke makes the
room dim, and the sound of blues/fusion is only a background noise compared to
the discussions going on at the tables around him.
A woman of DUNCAN's age walks in.  Her brown hair is done in dreadlocks down
to her shoulders and she is dressed in a loose peasant dress with leggings.
Her name is VIKKI and she sits down opposite DUNCAN.
What's up Dunc?  I haven't heard from you in ages...
VIKKI leans forward and gives DUNCAN a very friendly kiss.
I'm in trouble Vikki.  Actually, there's a couple of us in real trouble and I
could use some help.
                       VIKKI: (concerned)
What kind of trouble?  I'm already on probation on campus, and if I mess up
one more time I'll get booted out of graduate school.
Not that kind of trouble.  Real trouble.
VIKKI considers what DUNCAN is saying.
DUNCAN's POV.  Look around the room, from table to table.  You see nothing
It's like, really wierd.  Conspiracies, secret organizations... and I've
gotten myself caught up in it.  I need a place to hide for a while, for me and
some friends.
But how can I help?
Remember that cabin in the woods your folks brought us to a few
years ago?  Do they still own that?
                        VIKKI: (hesitant)
The WAITRESS walks over.
                      WAITRESS: (to Vikki)
Get you anything?
No thanks, not yet.
The WAITRESS walks off.
Duncan I really want to help, but this sounds so wierd.  Its awfully hard to
I know, but I'm serious.  We'll be in and out of there in a few days.  I
Oh, OK. (grinning)  I never could turn you down.  You know where the key is
hidden.  I'll tell my folks that I took a few friends up to explain why it got
VIKKI leans forward kissing DUNCAN deeply.
You owe me Duncan... I know how I'll exact payment.
VIKKI grins, and DUNCAN looks a little embarrassed.
I'll never forget this.  Thanks so much.
DUNCAN gets up and leaves.  VIKKI sighs, watching him leave.
>From the back of the bar, an old wrinkled man gets out a booth and leaves the
bar.  As the camera gets closer, we realize that its DR. MORGAN.
(I'm using MCM to describe the moderate committee member until I
get a good name, or confirmation from the show about his name.)
MCM is at the cryo facility.  He is agitated and rather nervous.
He is talking to the duty attendant who is just doing his job,
and really knows nothing.
What do you mean you have no-one by that name here?
Just that.  We have no Dr. Morgan stored here, and canister 5D is
empty... Never been used in fact.
But that's not possible.
MCM tries to remain cool, but is rather disturbed.
If you show me your contract, perhaps I could help you. But I
think you are mis-
                        MCM: (weary now)
Never mind.  Perhaps I was mistaken... I'll go home and check my
MCM leaves the cryo storage facility.  As we see him walk
outside, we hear him mutter:
What now?
MCM takes out a cellular phone, and dials a number.
Put me through to the Phoenix Desk, this is [insert name here].
FADE INTO a used book store.  Many customers are milling about
here, discussing the merits of different texts, and the
difficulty in finding good condition first editions.
Where have you been.
A man turns around and we see that it is MORGAN.
Searching for your daughters.  Someone has to track them, or we
can't protect them... What have you been up to.
BLOOM chuckles to himself.  He is not sane, and his wild eyes
bespeak the terrible things he has seen.
Its coming you know, and there is nothing we can do about it...
BLOOM mood darkens and he looks suspiciously around.  MORGAN
shelves the book he is holding and pretends to look at the
bindings of some others on the same shelf.
Do you have your gear here?
                    BLOOM: (tapping his head)
Its all in here.  Wetware.  I don't need any damn crutches.
MORGAN is surprised but restrains himself.
Good I have a name, and we can get a number. We'll get our
To where?  What's the point?  We can't avoid it.
BLOOM is really losing it, and MORGAN is tired of arguing with
Yes, I know.  But don't you want to help your daughters?  They
are in danger from the Committee.  Why else did you revive me if
not for that?
We all have our tasks...
Lets gets going.
MORGAN and BLOOM leave the bookstore and head off into the night.
FADE IN.  OLIVER and SYDNEY are in a car traveling down a
secondary highway late at night.  The car passes by a sign that
says: "Bear Creek - 18 miles".  OLIVER is driving and he is
nodding off, his head bobs as he fights to stay awake.  In a
startling moment, the car veers off the road into the ditch
shaking SYDNEY awake from her slumber.
                 SYDNEY: (sleepy, but waking up)
What happened?
                       OLIVER: (sheepish)
It seems we have run into the ditch.  Its entirely my fault...
but I thought I could continue driving.  I did not think I was
that sleepy.
So what do we now?
OLIVER tries to back the car out of the ditch, but there is no
traction and the ditch is too deep.  Show OLIVER's mounting
frustration at himself and their predicament.
I guess we are walking. How far are we from the rendez-vous
18 miles.  We can't afford to be seen by anyone here, and this
car is going to give our position away if they puzzle out which
car we borrowed.  We had better head cross country, meet the
others and leave.
OLIVER and SYDNEY walk into the woods, glancing at each other
occasionally.  The moon casts beams of shimmering light into the
trees, giving the forest a ghostly appearance.  This scene should
show the passage of time, and the fatigue felt by our two
I can't walk any further.
Thank goodness, I've been nodding on and off for quite some time.
Lets sit down and rest, we'll still make it before sunrise.
SYDNEY sits down, leaning against a tree.  OLIVER follows suit.
OLIVER glances over at SYDNEY and smiles, causing her to lower
her gaze and blush.
Do you think Duncan is okay?
I'm sure he is fine.  You care a great deal about him don't you?
                        SYDNEY: (pausing)
Well... we've been friends for as long as I can remember.  I've
never really had anyone to turn to except for him.  And with all
SYDNEY gestures to the forest around her.
With all this going on, he's stayed with me the whole way
through.  Not many people would do that... I don't think.
Well, I hope you can rely on me now.
You've given up so much for me.  I can't thank you enough... but
OLIVER leans forward, slides his hand behind SYDNEY's neck and
pulls her to him kissing he softly.  SYDNEY jerks back, but then
leans into OLIVER sighing softly and they continue to kiss.
PAN OUT showing the forest and the moonlight and the two figures
holding each other closely under the canopy of the trees.

* "What will Become of Syd?"
  Short Story - Parody
  8 June 1995
  By Matthew Kinsella 

     Duncan insists that they put the VR gear on Syd and, above Oliver's
protests ("VR's yucky," says Oliver), dials an adjacent phone, which
Oliver reluctantly answers.  Whoosh, he's whisked into VR and
finds himself in a day-glo version of Fox Mulder's office.  Mulder is
sitting with this feet up on his desk, reading a copy of the World Weekly
News bearing the headline "Sliders renewed, will wonders never cease?!"
Oliver excitedly explains to Mulder that they have to help Syd, who is
asleep on the couch, recently added to the office by the X-Files prop
department.  Mulder the Benevolent asks what he can do.  Oliver explains
that all he has to do is call Fox Programming and convince them to renew
"Only then will Syd wake up," he says.  Mulder picks up the phone, hits
speed dial, and says "Hey Rupert, you need to renew that weird show that's
on before us on Friday nights, Ok?"  He pauses and then says, "great,
thanks" and hangs up the phone.  Syd stirs on the couch and whispers,
"White Dwarf is fake, VR5 is real."  At this point, Oliver shakes Mulder's
hand, the escape key, and Oliver's VR5ed  back to real reality.  Of course,
upon his return, Syd's conscious, there are bear hugs all around, etc and
roll credits.
Actually, all kidding aside, in my version of VReality, Duncan's the hero,
Mom ends up back in Veggieworld, Oliver risks his life in VR (causing Syd
to swoon, of course), Sam is fried to a crisp, and Dr. Bloom walks in after
it's all over and asks if he can borrow some coffee (well, almost all
kidding aside).
Cheers! (as they say in ASH's homeland)
Matthew aka The Partner

* "Pinky's Choice: How I Would Save VR.5"
  Script - Parodyish
  12 June 1995
  By Wyndstorm Huntress (Terri Ann) 
This is directed more towards those who are familiar with the show
"Animaniacs".  If you've never heard of the show, stop reading...the rest
won't make much sense.  But, if you have, take a gander at this...
(Two lab-coat clad figures sit in front of a television set in the middle of
a cluttered laboratory.  They are quietly watching the season finale of
SCIENTIST #1:  Who would've thought that VR.7 would look like Wolf 3-D?
SCIENTIST #2:  Hey, I'm still trying to figure out how she can VR with an
        acoustic modem.
(As the show's end credits scroll by, we see two more shadows hiding in a
corner of the laboratory.)
PINKY:  Gee, Bwain, now that VR.5's been cancelled, whaddya' gonna' do
THE BRAIN:  The same thing we do every night, Pinky...Try to take over the
They're Pinky and The Brain,
Yes, Pinky and The Brain,
One is a genius,
The other insane.
To prove their mousy worth,
They'll overthrow the earth,
They're Pinky, They're Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain,
(The Cage.  Pinky sits on a spool, humming a song to himself as the Brain
stares in disgust at a blackboard filled with mathematical formulas.  Pinky's
humming evolves into singing the theme song to "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers".
A table with The Brain's latest experiment stands in the middle of the cage
covered with a large sheet.)
THE BRAIN:  (annoyed)  Pinky, must you sing that infernal song?
PINKY:  But Power Wangahs is my all time most favoritist show in the whole
        wide world, oh, yes, indeed it is.  NARF!
THE BRAIN:  I would grace your obvious absurdity with a witty yet stinging
        remark, but we have no time for that.  Come, Pinky, my latest plot
        to take over the world is ready to be revealed!
(The Brain, with a dash of bravado, pulls the cover off his project...two
pairs of gloves and matching pairs of sunglasses attached to a computer.)
PINKY:  (toys with the gear)  Oh, Bwain, what delightful accessories, but
        do you have these in a summer color?
(The Brain is silent for a few seconds.  Then, from behind his back, he
pulls out a mallet three times his size and whacks Pinky over the head.)
THE BRAIN:  You realize this is for your own good, Pinky.
PINKY:  (staggering)  Zot...
THE BRAIN:  It has taken weeks of sleepless nights, pouring over videotapes
        of "VR.5" frame by frame, to come up with my latest plot to rule
        the world.
(The Brain walks around the computer, pointing to its different components.)
THE BRAIN:  I have used a design similar to that seen in "VR.5" to create
        a VR set of my own, complete with acoustic modem, of course.
        Fortunately, the completion of my VR project coincides with a
        peace teleconference between the leaders of every developed nation
        in the world.  With this gear, we shall enter the subconscious
        of those politicians, and once in, we will order them to
        surrender all power to me.  And then the world will be *mine*!
PINKY:  (in amazement)  Nahhhhhhrf...
THE BRAIN:  In fact, why stop with the world?  For he who controls the mind,
        controls the universe!  Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
PINKY:  I think so, Bwain, but this time, you play the smooth American
        neighbor and I'll play the sophisticated British lady in the
        middle of a coffee crisis.
THE BRAIN:  Pinky, it's times like these when I wonder why your parents
        were ever allowed to reproduce.
(The two don their gloves and visors.)
THE BRAIN:  Now, Pinky, you must remember that while we're in there, *touch*
        *nothing*.  Anything in VR.5 could be the Escape Key, which, when
        touched, would violently tear us away from the connection.
PINKY:  Right-oh, Bwain, indeed I pwomise I will not touch a thing.  Pwomise.
        I shall not touch one thing while we're in VR.5, indeed I won't...
(As Pinky rattles on, The Brain gives him a cold, hard stare knowing full
well that Pinky will probably screw up.  The Brain then dials in a number
and waits for the other end to pick up.)
VOICE:  Hello?
PINKY:  (loudly)  How d'ya do?
THE BRAIN:  Quiet, Pinky, you'll lead them on to us...
(In VR.5 -- A large auditorium.  The leaders of the world are seated near
the front of the auditorium, babbling away in several different languages.
Suddenly from nowhere, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner run down one of the
aisles, chased by a security guard.  The Brain walks on to the stage,
followed by Pinky.  Both are wearing officer-type uniforms.  The Brain
climbs to the top of the podium and clears his throat to get everyone's
attention.  The babbling grows louder.  The Brain clears his throat
yet again, but still, no response.  Finally, Pinky pushes The Brain
PINKY:  Helloooooooo everyone!  Save "VR.5"!!!!!!
THE BRAIN:  Pinky, you have the opportunity to influence the most influential
        men and women in the world, and all you can say is "Save VR.5"?
PINKY:  Well, I really miss seeing those neat-o colors on the scween.
(The Brain, disgusted, shoves Pinky aside and grabs the microphone.)
THE BRAIN:  Ladies and Gentlemen, I...
(The Brain is interrupted by a strange force, pulling him backwards.  He
screams in anguish, realizing that he just touched the Escape Key.)
THE BRAIN:  Noooooooooooooooooooooo!
PINKY:  Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarf!
(The Cage.  The Brain stands in front of a blackboard, scribbling down an
array of mathematical formulas.  Pinky sits at the edge of the cage, watching
the show the two scientists below are watching.)
SCIENTIST #1:  We'll have to thank the genius who brought "VR.5" back.  I
        mean, who would've thought that leaders the world over would
        make a law requiring "VR.5" to remain in production until the
        end of time?
SCIENTIST #2:  Yeah, but they could've at least signed some sort of
        amendment forcing the writers to explain how Sydney can use
        an acoustic modem.
(Pinky ignores the babble of the scientists, completely hypnotized by the
VR colors on the screen.  When the show breaks for commercial, he turns
towards The Brain.)
PINKY:  Gee, Bwain, aren't you glad that "VR.5" has been renewed for the
        rest of eternity?  Now you can make as many VR thingymabobbies as
        you like!
THE BRAIN:  After the circuits on my last VR experiment overloaded, I
        realized that Virtual Reality is a plane that just doesn't
        suit my needs.  But never fear, Pinky -- tomorrow night, my
        superior genius shall carry me through to realizing my
        ultimate dream!
PINKY:  Whaddya' gonna' do tomorrow night?
THE BRAIN:  The same thing we do every night, Pinky.  Try to take *over* the
They're Pinky,
They're Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Terri Ann
Savouring the Sophisticated Taste...

[from Vikki Godwin :]
  Pinky, are you pondering     ,.   '\'\    ,---.
    what I'm pondering?       | \\  l\\l_ //    |   I think so, Brain,
        _   \          _      |  \\/ `/  `.|    |   but where will Fox
      /~\\   \        //~\    | Y |   |   ||  Y |   get fifty gallons
      |  \\   \      //  |    |  \|   |   |\ /  | of Taster's Choice
      [   ||        ||   ]    \   |  o|o  | >  /  at this time of night?
     ] Y  ||        ||  Y [    \___\_--_ /_/__/      /
     |  \_|l,------.l|_/  |    /.-\(____) /--.\  ___/
     |   >'          `<   |    `--(______)----'
     \  (/~`--____--'~\)  /        U// U / \
      `-_>-__________-<_-'         / \  / /|
          /(_#(__)#_)\            ( .) / / ]
          \___/__\___/             `.`' /   [
           /__`--'__\               |`-'    |
        /\(__,>-~~ __)              |       |__
     /\//\\(  `--~~ )              _l       |--:.
     '\/  <^\      /^>            |  `   (  <   \\
          _\ >-__-< /_          ,-\  ,-~~->. \   `:.___,/
         (___\    /___)        (____/    (____)    `---'

* "Enter the Government"
  Short Story
  12 June 1995
  By Augie De Blieck Jr. 
A VR.5 fan-fic
by Augie De Blieck Jr.
Trademarks and copyrights still belong to their original owners

This story takes place between "Many Faces" and "Reunion."

     The man took a puff of his cigarette and picked up the
ringing phone.  Then everything went screwy.

* * *

     He was standing in some shadows which obscured him from the
sight of the young lady standing some twenty feet in front of
him.  They were inside a blank room of some sort.  He could see
no visible signs of light, nor what could be blocking them to put
him in this shadow.

     Syd took a step forward and asked who he was.

     "My name's not important.  Hasn't been for years," he said
as he lifted the cigarette to his mouth.  He took a drag and
exhaled slowly, the smoke floating over his head.

     "You don't really believe that, do you?" Sydney asked,
puzzled.  She had only been given a number.  Not a name.  Not a
mission.  Just a telephone number.  She was supposed to find out
what she could.  And to make matters worse, she found herself
wearing the most stiff and uncomfortable pants-suit she had ever
worn in her life.

     "Yes I do.  The FBI needn't know my name.  It's not

     "You work for the FBI?"  Sydney was now genuinely curious.

     "Do you, Miss Bloom?"

     Sydney stood still, disbelieving what she had just heard. 
He knows who I am!  She screamed inside of her head.  She shook
her head as if to clear it up.

     "Why are you hiding in there?  In the shadows?"  Sydney took
another step closer.

     "Because you mustn't know too much about me. If you do, I
can fix that, too."

     Sydney felt a strange chill shoot through her body.

     "How?  Are you Committee?"  Sydney was beginning to get a
couple of ideas.

     "Committee?  What's that?"  His answer came back quickly. 
Sydney couldn't tell by the sound in his voice whether he was
mocking her - and thus he *was* a member - or was being truthful.

     She could see the lit end of his cigarette drop to the floor,
followed by the fleeing sound of footsteps.

     She walked up to the cigarette but.  She had learned
nothing.  Nothing except that the guy knew nothing about The
Committee.  Not his name.  Not his face.  Not his job.  He did
appear to have some sort of connection with the government,
though.  Or something else in Washington?

     "These things'll give you cancer," Sydney said to herself as
she picked up the cigarette but and the conduit opened, spitting
her out of VR.5.

* * *

     Sydney came out of it slowly.  With experience had come a
certain ease of use.  She didn't need to rip off the goggles
anymore, nor did she slam them down.  She knew it was over and
she slipped them off, and laid them on the table, followed by the
data gloves.

     "Who was it?"  A voice asked in a crisply British accent.

     "Nobody," she whispered back to Oliver Sampson.

     "What?  What do you mean?  What happened in there?"  He
didn't ask out of loyalty to The Committee.  Not anymore.  He
asked out of curiosity more than anything.  When his contact gave
him the phone number and nothing else, Oliver protested.  Oliver
didn't feel comfortabe risking Sydney's life in VR without some
sort of knowledge of what she was getting into.  His protest was
met by a dial tone.

     "There was a man. He hid in the shadows.  Smoked
cigarettes." She was trying to remember everything, but every
sense told her little or nothing had happened.  "He might work
for the FBI.  He wouldn't answer that question.  He may or may not
know who The Committee are."

     "How do you mean?"  Oliver was beginning to see Committee
conspiracies everywhere.

     "I couldn't tell by the tone of his voice what he meant.  I 
couldn't see the look on his face.  I just don't know."

* * * 

     The man had dropped his cigarette while he was on the phone. 
He didn't remember anything about what had happened, but a quick
check of his watch told him that little time had passed.  At
least, it was a lot less time that he though he had spent in

     He had heard of other experiences like his own.  Some odd
things had happened afterward in a couple of cases.

     Then he remembered that there was a file on it.  He picked
the phone back up and dialed carefully.

* * *

     Sydney was alone in her apartment the following night.  She
was enjoying a rare moment of solitude and peace.  She was also
blasting away at the Nazis who were racing down the hallway which
was drawn on her screen.

     She pushed the joystick forward as far as it went and ran
down the hall.  Pushing it quickly to one side she turned herself
around completely and faced the now oncoming Nazis.  With the
quick push of a key, her weapon changed and she blasted the Nazis
off the screen.

     "God, I love Castle Wolfenstein," she whispered to herself
as she put the joystick down to stand up.

     Then a knock came at the door.  Sydney cringed
automatically.  A knock on the door usually meant bad things. 
Oliver would be on the other side with another phone number. 
Before that, Morgan would have been there.  Or it could just be
someone else coming to kill her.  She had made a few enemies.

     She unlocked the door and opened it slowly.

     There stood a man and a woman in front of her.  The man was
dressed in a grey suit with a red tie and a long raincoat.  The
woman was wearing nearly the same.

     "Are you Sydney Bloom?" The man asked of her.  She half
expected him to pull a gun out of the coat, but he didn't.

     "Yes...  Who are you?"

     The two whipped out badges quickly.
     The man spoke again, "My name is Special Agent Muldaur.  And
this is my partner, Agent Scully.  We're with the X-Files."

     "What are the X-Files?" Sydney found herself asking,
thinking about her computer set-up behind her.

     "We tackle the cases noone else dares," Muldaur replied

     "Can we come in?"  The woman - Scully - was speaking now. 
Her voice seemed a little smoother, a little more reassuring,
than Muldaur's.

     She let them in an offered them coffee.  They politely

     "So what can I do for you?"

* * *

     Duncan heard the knocking from his rooftop pad through the
window.  His curiosity piqued, he moved closer to Syd's
apartment.  Running his hand through his long hair, he settled
into position, listening in on everything.  If it truly was the
X-Files, it was going to be interesting.

     And what he heard made him wish that Oliver was there.

* * *

     As he sat down, Muldaur noticed Sydney's computer screen. 
"I know that game.  Very violent.  A lot of glood and gore.  Does
your mother know you play that?"

     "No," Sydney whispered to herself.  And, changing the
subject, "What are these X-Files?"

     "The X-Files involve all sorts of unexplained activities,
Miss Bloom.  UFOs, the occult, telekinetics, aliens.  That sort
of stuff.  And more.  Anything which the government refuses to
admit to, basically."  Muldaur spoke like a man who knew his
territory.  He also seemed to Syndney to be slightly off-kilter.

     I mean - UFOs?  Aliens?  What is this guy thinking?  But
then she realized that if she tried to explain VR.5 to anyone,
they'd call her a nut for it.  Right away, she felt sympathetic
to Muldaur.

     "So what does this have to do with me?"  Sydney asked.

     This time Scully spoke up, "There have been a series of
incidents reported to us over the course of the past five months
or so.  People have answered their phone only to be hung up on
within a couple of seconds."

     Sydney felt herself shift in her seat.  How much do they
know?  Should I tell them?  No.  Imagine the government with this
setup?  No way.

     "But that happens all the time," Sydney protested as
nonchalantly as she could.

     "True. But that's not the end of it.  A series of odd things
have happened afterward.  One man falsely accused his father of
child abuse right after the phone call.  One gentleman killed
himself and turned out to be a serial murderer.  And there are
other episodes.  An air-traffic controller with hostages.  A kid
genius running away from home.  And so on."  Scully laid out
everything for Sydney.  Sydney suddenly found herself flashing
back to all of those VR.5 experiences.  She was involved with
each one of them.  

     How did the government find out?  Surely not on their own? 
None of those things would have stood out on their own.  Wrong
phone numbers happen all the time.  Hell, even Syd had had a
couple of them, especially since that incident with Alex and

     Sydney looked confused as she thought over these questions. 
Agent Muldaur noticed this and piped in, "We managed to check
phone records and determined that you made many of those calls. 
We haven't been able to prove all of them yet, but given time..."

     "Furthermore," Scully added, "you were working with the
serial murderer, you were in the psychiatric hospital wih the
gentleman who claimed child abuse, and you were seen at the site
of the hostage situation."

     Sydney surprised herself again by thinking first of the
Committee.  What would they want her to do?  Of course, she knew
they had connnections in the government.  She was surprised the
whole of the FBI wasn't in on it by now.

     Or maybe these two agents were Committee?  They could be
here to check her out.  Maybe they are testing her loyalties.  To
see if she'd throw herself on the mercy of the FBI.

     "So," she said, popping out of her thoughts, "you think I
crank-called these people and told them to do these awful

     After she said it, she realized how absurd it was.  You
can't tell people to do things over the course of a two second
phone call.

     "Miss Bloom," Muldaur replied, "have you ever heard of Flash


     "Simply put, they are people who, in a flash, can read
people's minds and implant suggestions in them at the same time. 
The process may only take a second.  There are X-Files on just
such a phenomenon."

     "Flash Psychic?"  It sounded absurd to Sydney.  C'mon, Flash
Psychic?  Sheesh.  

     She wasn't the only one who thought that, however.  With a
sideways glance at her partner, Scully offered, "It might also
have something to do with childhood trauma.  Your file says that
your father died when you were very young with your sister in a
car accident, correct?"

     "Yes," Syndey said sadly.

     "Well, it's not unusual for people to develop abnormalities
in their brain which lead to certain strange behaviors.  Besides,
you might have had a lack of oxygen to the brain.  That could
likewise result in brain damage.  I think you need help, Sydney."

     Sydney was defiant now. She stood up quickly and began to
pace.  "That's a helluva choice, isn't it?  Either I'm some sort
of deranged, brain-damaged lunatic, or I'm some super-powered

     She completed the sentence in her head, "Or I'm a member of
The Committee who has fallen into this mad plot due to my
father's scientific experiments."

     "Look, it's late, and I'm jet-lagged.  Why don't we go back
to our hotel and get a good night's sleep.  We don't think you're
that dangerous.  I think you just need help--"

     "But I've already seen a shrink!"  Sydney was beginning to
scream now out of frustration.

     "Yes, we know that, too," Muldaur replied.

     Scully: "So we're going to go get some sleep.  We'll come
back tomorrow.  Think about it.  We just want to help you."

* * *

     "So, what do you think, Scully?"  Muldaur would've looked in
the direction of his partner, but he was having a hard enough
time negotiating the freeways of California.  He figured it was
smart to look ahead at all times.

     "Well," Scully intoned, "I think she needs help. Just like I
told her.  Textbook case of brain damage.  Look at the way she
became so easily irritated back there."

     "Could be PMS, too," Muldaur dead-panned.

     "Doubt it.  She's easily irritable and a little seclusive. 
Look at her apartment.  It's nothing but a computer with a bunch
of monitors with a bed."

     "So she need an interior decorator.  I still say she's a
Flash Psychic.  And I don't think we should answer our phones too
quickly, either."

     "There's no way she could know our phone number, Muldaur."

     "How do you know?  She seemed to be in her own little world
a couple of times there.  Who's to say she wasn't probing us? 
There are X-Files on telepathy, too, you know."

* * *

     Sydney leaned her back against her door the second the two
FBI agents had left.  She felt cornered.  Trapped.

     Her mind raced.  She wished she could get in contact with
Oliver, but she had no number at which to reach him.  She could
run now, but where would she go?  (And why was she so suddenly
dependent on Oliver?)



     A knock on the door.


* * *

     "But they have no idea about the computer setup?"  Oliver
asked, ten minutes later.  Duncan and Oliver had shown up at the
same time.  Both were concerned about what had just happened.

     "Uh-uh," Sydney told him.

     "Good.  That's good.  The Committee is everywhere, Sydney. 
Don't worry.  It shouldn't be too big a problem to get these two
off our case for now.  Let me make a call."

     Whipping out his cellular phone, Oliver dialed some numbers

     Duncan took Syd aside.

     "These X-Files people are for real, Syd," he cautioned her. 
"I've read about them in some of the underground 'zines. 
Everything from what he said to plagues and vampires and alien
abductions.  You'd be amazed."

     "But Dunc, I'm not what they think I am," she protested.

     "Yes, and that will save you in the end.  But Muldaur will
not go away easily.  Let's hope the Committee pulls through for
you on this one."

     "Thanks, Duncan."

     "Sydney, I've got to be going now," Oliver said, clicking
the phone shut.  "I called my contact.  Everything should be
taken care of."

* * *

     "Damnit!" Cursed Muldaur and he slammed down the phone.

     "What is it, Muldaur?" Scully questioned.

     "We're off the case.  They have something bigger, supposedly
in Washington.  We're to leave on the next plane flight."

     There was a moment of silence between the two before Muldaur
continued, "Why the hell did they let us fly all the way out here
if they would call us back so easily?"

     "Just don't let Joe Q. TaxPayer find out, I guess.  C'mon,
let's pack back up."

* * * 

     Three men sat behind the table.  The lighting was adjusted
so that their faces could not be seen.  They stood there like
immovable blocks of granite.  In a spotlight in front of the
table stood a balding Asian man.  The spotlight shown on the
symbol of four circles which made up The Committee's insignia.

     "Those government agents have been taken care of.  They're
leaving for Washington as we speak," Abernathy said, looking
straight ahead.

     "Very good," one of the three spoke.  Abernathy couldn't
tell for the life of him which one had just spoken.  "Did Sampson
report back to you?"

     "Yes, sir."

     "So the question remains - Is Cancer Man Committee?"

     "We cannot be sure."  Abernathy seemed ashamed that Oliver
didn't find out through Sydney.  He couldn't look at the three 
figures.  His head was bent down.

     "Dammit!" One of the figures shouted, slamming his fist upon
the table.

     There was a moment of silence before another voice spoke up.

     "It is quite unfortunate," came the voice, "that the
government agents had to be involved in this.  But there is still
a chance they might come back, correct?"

     "No," replied the original voice, "that, too, has been taken
care of."

* * *

EPILOGUE.  Two days later:

     Muldaur sat behind his office desk, fiddling through various
folders, when he was reminded of the Flash Psychic case.

     He opened the drawer with the files in them.

     It was empty.

     Fox Muldaur slammed his fist on the desk.


Imagine my surprise when I looked at my e-mail this morning to see that 
Matthew K. had (sort of) already done this crossover.  Oh, well...  Glad 
it's out of my system.  It's tough to do this without the episodes in 
front of me.  I wanted to rewatch all of them to see what the government 
might have seen or known.  But without the episodes, I'll admit to doing 
this from memory and the FAQ.


* "The Guide"
  Short Story
  16 June 1995, updated 14 July 1995 and 16 July 1995
  By Donna Solomon 

I've been working on a VR.5 story, my own version of getting Sydney 
out of VR.  I realize that it will bear no resemblance whatsoever to 
what has already been filmed and that we will, hopefully, see one 
day.  But I'm having fun.

Anyway, this is one segment of the story.  It is Oliver's first trip
into VR.5 as the 'controller.'  I want to thank everyone in advance 
for helping without even knowing it.  (Hmmm...almost like VR.  I've 
been influenced by everyone's input.)  Some of this will sound 
familiar, as I've built on ideas I had about the system and Oliver's 
being connected to it.  And it's still pretty rough.

To set this up:  The Keeper has gotten everyone out of the Bloom 
house and to safehouse.  Duncan discovers that Oliver has some memory 
of being taken into VR by Duncan.  Sam says that it's easy to explain. 
Oliver is encoded into the system.  Alex was with the Blooms long 
enough to learn how to put Oliver's retina pattern into the VR 
system.  She's obtained this by hacking into government agency files.
Though Oliver balks at first at the idea of ever using the system, he 
is curious.  There's also the temptation to contact Sydney in this 
way.  He will be leaving soon to track down her father, since Dr. 
Bloom is likely the only one who can bring Sydney out safely.
Duncan offers to be the connection for Oliver if he'd like to do a 
dry run.  Sam reluctantly offers to help.  After some thought, Oliver 
types in the setting he wants but doesn't tell Duncan what it is.

  He pressed the enter key.

  Duncan stood less than twenty yards in front of him.  He wore the 
traditional regalia of the sport Oliver had chosen, although Oliver
could not recall ever seeing such vivid colors for the trim.  Neon 
shades of blue, green, and yellow on Duncan's uniform.  A hideous 
combination, actually.  Oliver stole a glance at his own uniform's 
colors.  Even worse -- bright purple, orange, and red stripes.  
Strangely, however, what should have been white pants and sweater 
were now gray.  Definitely not regulation.
  Duncan was looking around at the scenery, taking it all in.  Oliver 
had no such need to orient himself.  He knew every inch of the 
grounds where they stood, even if he didn't remember the grass being 
blue.  He watched for a second as Duncan became aware of the object 
in his hand.  The young man raised it and looked at Oliver with 
curious, glowing blue eyes.
  "A cricket bat?" he asked.  "What for?"
  Oliver allowed himself a small, satisfied smile as his left hand 
gripped a canary yellow cricket ball.  "For this," he replied.  He 
took aim at the lime green wicket behind Duncan and bowled.
  "Whoa!"  A startled Duncan jumped out of the way as the ball sailed 
past him to hit the wicket.  Oliver smiled more broadly.  Not bad 
considering he hadn't played cricket in nearly ten years.  But then 
why shouldn't he be as good a bowler as he ever was, maybe even 
better?  It was _his_ subconscious and he could do as he damn well
  "Where are we?" asked Duncan, quickly recovering from the surprise 
throw and setting up the wicket and bails again.
  "The cricket grounds at Cambridge," answered Oliver.  He reached 
down beside him to get another ball.  "I went to school here."
  "Big surprise there," Duncan observed wryly.  He straightened and 
faced Oliver.  "So -- why cricket?"
  Oliver looked down at the cricket ball, rolling it back and forth 
in his hand.  "My father always said that cricket was the great 
  "Man!"  Duncan shook his head.  "I _loved_ that show.  Why'd they 
cancel it?"
  A laugh escaped Oliver.  He tossed the ball into the air and caught 
it again.  "What do you know of the game?"
  "Well, I know that you're the bowler and I'm the batter--"
  "--batsman, and I'm supposed to keep you from hitting the wicket 
  "There's more to it than that, but it'll do for starters.  Ready?"
  "At least you're asking this time."  After some instruction, Duncan 
was positioned, holding the bat down and waiting for the next bowl.
  The first two times the ball was deflected, though not properly.  
Still, it wasn't bad for an amateur.  On the third throw Duncan 
missed.  But then so did Oliver.  That surprised him.  He'd assumed 
that he could control what happened in VR.  Didn't Sydney?
  He must have appeared very puzzled because Duncan relaxed his 
stance and turned more toward him.  "It's not what you thought, huh?"
  Oliver slowly shook his head.  "No.  Why are the colors so strange? 
And I should have hit that wicket.  The ball went wide."
  "You can't always control things in VR.  I found that out when I 
took you in.  You led _me_ around part of the time.  Like when you 
took me to the hospital room where the woman was.  You said it didn't 
matter, but it must have or you wouldn't have taken me there."
  Oliver had no response to the observation.  Instead he looked 
around.  "How do we get out of here?"
  "I don't know," Duncan shrugged.  "There's a key, but you won't 
know until you hit it.  Or it hits you."  A shadow passed over his 
features.  "Oliver?"
  Something in the younger man's voice caught Oliver's attention.  
Duncan sounded unsure, perhaps upset.  "What is it?" Oliver asked him.
  Duncan met his gaze.  "Don't trust Samantha," he said flatly.
  "What?"  The statement took Oliver off guard.
  "I'm not sure why," continued Duncan, "but there must be something 
bothering me about her.  I mean, it's here in my subconscious.  It 
just hasn't reached my conscious mind yet.  But I know I have to tell 
you."  Duncan paused, examining the cricket bat as if seeing it for 
the first time.  "Whatever is getting at me, neither of us is really 
paying attention to.  I can't see it because I'm hung up on Sam.  
Always have been, ever since we were kids.  Getting her back after 
all this time..."  His voice trailed off.  "But she's not what she 
  He looked back to Oliver.  "You can't see it 'cause you're hung up 
on Syd.  Her getting trapped in VR is eating you up.  And you're not 
thinking straight.  But just remember -- watch out for Sam.  And 
don't tell me about this when we get out.  I don't think I'll be 
ready to hear it."
  The self-awareness was a jolt to Oliver.  Duncan would not recall 
this in detail as Oliver would.  And the pronouncement "you're hung 
up on Syd" made him decidedly uncomfortable.
  Oliver didn't like the turn this had taken.  _It wasn't supposed to 
be this way!_  He wanted to get control of the situation again.
  "What do you mean that Samantha is not what she seems?" he 
demanded.  Duncan met his eyes briefly, then looked beyond him to
something else.
  "Hello, stranger."
  The voice, so familiar, so strange, came from behind him.  A hand 
touched his shoulder.  Oliver felt the hair on his neck stand.
  The words, the voice, the touch.  Alex.  Alex was there, standing 
behind him, waiting for him to turn around.
  He turned.
  It wasn't Alex.
  It was Samantha.
  Oliver could only stare as Samantha smiled gently.  "Your eyes are 
bloodshot," she said.  But it wasn't Samantha's voice.  It was Alex's 
voice reaching his ears, Alex's eyes holding his.  "You really should 
get more sleep."  She reached up to touch his cheek.

  Oliver jerked off the VR goggles and threw them on the table.  He 
was out, out of that damned thing.  He saw Duncan, the flip phone 
still to his ear, and Samantha staring at him.
  "You okay?" Duncan questioned, concern evident in his voice and 
  Oliver realized that he was sweating.  He reached up to wipe his
face.  There was a light touch on his shoulder and he jumped.  
Samantha was gazing down at him.
  "_Are_ you all right?" she asked.
  The gloves were still on his hands.  Oliver began to pull roughly 
at them.
  "I _bloody_ hate this thing!" he growled.

Part 2
    A car carrying six adults might have attracted too much
attention, even at night.  It was much easier to split up into two
groups.  Oliver sat behind the wheel of his own car, following the
Keeper and Duncan.  He hadn't liked hearing of their destination:
Lake Arrowhead, the same house where Alex had been kept.
    "Going to a place that's already been hit is too old a trick,"
he'd protested.  "And it's too obvious.  I'd never do it."
    "Which is why it should work," the Keeper had countered.
"Abernathy's people wouldn't expect it of you.  And as far as they
know, this is now _your_ operation."  He gave Oliver a very slight
smile.  "Our people have already cleaned up there.  We even replaced
the glass you broke in the front door."
    Oliver still wasn't happy about it, but there was no place he
could think of as an alternative.  It was as if his brain had shut
    Just like Sydney's.
    Reflexively he glanced in the rearview mirror.  Not that he could
see much, just the vague outlines of two people.  Nora Bloom held her
daughter in her arms.  Oliver could see movement as she stroked
Sydney's long hair.
    The anger he had felt toward Joseph Bloom threatened to return,
and Oliver had difficulty suppressing it.  That a man would submit
children to experimentation infuriated Oliver.  But he had to save
his anger for another time.  There were more important matters to
attend to at present -- like survival.
    Sydney's last words to him haunted Oliver's thoughts.  "If
anything happens, I'm counting on you."  She didn't have to say more;
he understood what she meant.  It was a request to watch over her
mother and sister and Duncan.  And her father as well, Oliver
realized.  That part might be a problem, all things considered.
Sydney would never have thought to include herself.  But Oliver did.
And he would not deny that she was his chief concern.
    Samantha squirmed in the passenger seat.  "How much longer?" she
asked, the first words she'd uttered since they had begun the drive
to the safe house.
    "About fifteen, twenty minutes," answered Oliver.
    She shifted around to look into the backseat.  Dropping her
voice, she spoke again.  "Do you really believe we'll be safe
    "Yes."  Oliver made his reply with more conviction than he felt,
but he saw no need to trouble Samantha with any doubts.  She'd been
on the run for a long, long time, and she deserved at least a few
hours without worries.
    What was it Samantha had said when they met?  "I will never trust
you.  I'll kill you if I have to."  At the time the statement had
irritated Oliver.  Now it amused him.  It sounded like something a
wild animal would say upon being captured.
    And it was something that he could never imagine Sydney saying.
Sydney _wanted_ to trust others.  Despite everything she'd been put
through with the Committee and its dealings and Oliver's own part in
some of it, she'd even decided to trust _him_.
    For being twins, the Bloom sisters certainly weren't much alike.
But then why should they be?  Siblings could be as different as night
and day.
    Oliver knew that better than anyone.

Part 3
    "It looks like she's just asleep," Samantha observed as Oliver
lay Sydney on the bed.
    "She probably is," said Duncan.  "All of us have been going
pretty steady for way over twenty-four hours.  Her body has to be
    They were all crowded into a small bedroom of the safe house.
The Keeper remained at the door.  "I'm sure you could all use some
rest," he said.  "There are two other bedrooms.  Some of our people
are outside to watch over things.  There's plenty of food in the
    "All the comforts of prison," Samantha said wryly.
    The Keeper appeared to take no offense.  "I hope it won't be for
long," he said.  "I'll make arrangements for a nurse for Sydney."
There was a pause, and Duncan could have sworn that he saw real
sadness in the man's face.  "I hope that won't be for long either."
    Samantha and Oliver were still concentrating on making sure that
Sydney was as comfortable as possible, so they missed what Duncan
saw.  Nora Bloom and the Keeper were looking at each other.  Their
expressions were enigmatic, but Duncan was sure that he saw distrust
in Mrs. Bloom's eyes.  Then the Keeper was gone and Nora sat beside
her daughter on the bed and Duncan wondered if he was getting punchy
and had imagined the whole thing.
    He went back over what he knew of this mystery guy.  It didn't
take long, since he really knew very little.  This evening must have
been a weird kind of deja vu for the Keeper.  Seventeen years ago
he'd walked into the workshop and discovered Nora Bloom in a VR
induced coma and a couple of kids about to join her.  Tonight, in the
same place, he'd seen one of those kids lapse into the same kind of
coma.  Spooky.
    "I gotta remember to thank him," Duncan said aloud.
    "What?!"  Samantha's tone was incredulous.  "You want to thank
this 'Keeper' for imprisoning us?"
    "No.  I want to thank him for pulling me and Syd out of VR
seventeen years ago.  And for saving Syd's and Oliver's lives
    The simple statement caught Samantha unawares.  She blushed and
crossed her arms in a defensive posture.  Oliver, however, gave
Duncan a half-smile.
    Oliver returned his attention to the two women on the bed.  "Mrs.
Bloom?"  He stopped.  "I'm sorry.  I should say 'Dr. Bloom.'"
    "I never minded being called 'Mrs. Bloom,'" Nora told him.
    "I know that you must be very tired," Oliver went on.  "Why don't
you and Samantha get some sleep?  Duncan and I will stay here with
    The older woman didn't take her eyes from Sydney.  "I've slept
long enough," she replied.  "I'll stay here with my daughter."
    "I'll stay, too," Samantha said, placing her hands on her
mother's shoulders.  Nora reached back to clasp Samantha's fingers.
    "I dozed in the car on the way here,"  Duncan commented, "so I'm
okay.  On the other hand, _you_, Oliver, look wiped.  You've had a
rough time of it today."  He didn't add any mention of Abernathy; but
Duncan understood that losing the old man was hard on Oliver, despite
learning of Abernathy's dealings.  And then to have this happen to
Syd on top of all that had to leave Oliver feeling emotionally as
well as physically exhausted.
    Oliver shook his head.  "I need to talk with the Keeper.  I need
to start looking for Joseph Bloom."
    "You need to lie down before you fall down," Duncan countered.
    Samantha cast suspicous eyes toward Oliver.  "Why do you want to
find Daddy?"
    "You know why," Oliver answered, trying and failing to keep
annoyance out of his voice.  "Because he's probably the only one who
can safely bring Sydney out."
    "Is that the only reason?"
    "It's the only one that matters."  Oliver rubbed bloodshot eyes.
"After that, I don't give a damn."  He looked at Duncan.  "Two hours.
I want to sleep for two hours.  No more than that.  Wake me then."
    "You got it," agreed Duncan.
    Still Oliver didn't leave immediately.  He stayed another minute,
simply looking at Sydney.
    Nora turned to him.  "You want to know, don't you?" she asked
    The truth was that they all wanted to know what Sydney was going
through, but Nora's comment was directed to Oliver.
    His reply came in a whispered, "Yes."
    "I wish I could explain it in a way you could understand."
Nora's tone was oddly unemotional.  "Time passes and you're aware of
it.  Yet it also stands still.  People talk, but you don't truly
understand their words.  Sometimes it's like a dream.  Sometimes it's
as if you're awake but not able to do anything.  And yet even as I
tell you these things, I know that it's a totally inaccurate
    Oliver remained there another moment.  Then Duncan heard him
leave the room.
to be continued.....

* "Enter the Labyrinth"
  Short Story
  6 June 1995, modifications on 19 and 20 June 1995
  By Vikki Godwin 

This story is non-canon. It takes place shortly after the events
of _Reunion_, after Dr. Bloom has fled to parts unknown due to all
the Committee activity around the Bloom house. None of this is
meant to infringe on any copyrights in any way.
Enter The Labyrinth
by Vikki Godwin
     As soon as Oliver opened his eyes, he realized he was
dreaming. Although he was wearing the same clothes that he had on
that morning, the colors seemed wrong somehow. Too intense. Also,
now there was a Committee ring on his hand, just like the one he
had found in Patterson's home. It was the maze that truly worried
him, however. It stretched out below him, down the hill from the
desert sand that currently surrounded him. Its design seemed so
simple at first, but the more he looked at it, the more convoluted
it became. Everything was interconnected, a series of circles
within circles. It was beautiful, and it was frightening as well.
It was the same design as the seal on the ring he now wore: the
seal of the Committee, writ large. Strange sigils glowed on its
walls, spelling out the code he had learned to decipher years ago.
"Enter the labyrinth." It was more than a motto, now. It was a
command. The walls slowly parted to reveal a narrow opening, just
wide enough for one man to enter, alone. Oliver Sampson drew his
pistol from its holster and went inside.
     It soon seemed as if he had been trapped inside for days.
Even though he thought he could trace the most direct path to the
center of the labyrinth, he was sure that he had been walking in
circles on the fringes the entire time instead. He was getting
nowhere fast. It wouldn't hurt to sit down for a moment, to lean
against the wall and to rest his feet. He sat there, staring at
the ring that he wore in this dream, trying to figure out where
he'd taken a wrong turn.
     "You shouldn't have come in here."
     He looked up at the sound of her voice. "Sydney?" She looked
ethereal, angelic, even though she wore faded jeans and a
sleeveless T-shirt.
     "Who else would it be?" She sat down next to him, watching
him as if she expected something from him. He didn't know what
that could be. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this. I was trying to
tell Duncan, like last time." She looked away, frowning. "I don't
know why you came instead."
     "I want to help."
     She turned to face him again when he said that. This time she
was smiling. "I believe you. Maybe you can help." On an impulsive,
she grabbed his hand. Nothing happened. No flash of light, no
conduit back to the real world.  Nothing. Oliver pulled his hand
     "What do you think you're doing? What if only one of us had
escaped?" That was exactly what had happened the last time. When
Sydney had attempted to rescue her mother, only one of them had
gotten out. Sydney had been trapped, alone, in this labyrinth ever
     "Sorry. Sometimes physical contact breaks off a VR session. I
guess I have to look for some other way out. A place, or an
object, instead of a person."
     Oliver looked down the passageway. It was seamless, with no
apparent variation in color or height whatsoever. "I'll assume
that you've already tried touching the walls."
     "I think I've run my hands over every inch of this place."
     "Have you tried turning out your pockets?"
     Sydney automatically started to dig into the front pockets of
her blue jeans, but stopped at the last second. "If I touch the
key, even without meaning to, it could end the session. I don't
know if I could take you with me." She stood there awkwardly, with
her hands still halfway to her pockets. "I can try this later.
Let's see what you've got first."
     After searching through his own pockets, Oliver carefully
laid everything out on the floor of the passageway. Even though
the floor appeared to be nothing more than constantly swirling
gray light, it seemed solid enough. He wondered if the sky, which
was identical to the floor, was equally as solid. "That's
     Sydney looked over the items, careful not to touch anything.
"I can't tell. I can't tell until I actually touch something, and
then it's too late. Sometimes the key is the same one from a
previous session, like the phone when I...well..."
     "When you began experimenting with VR. The virtual date with
your co-worker. I read about it in your file." He was still
concentrating on the items on the floor.
     "Is there anything that isn't in that file?"
     "You'd be surprised." He looked up and met her eyes then. His
mouth quirked into a characteristic half-smile. "Concentrate,
Sydney. If we find the key and we both escape, that's all well and
good, but if only one of us makes it out, we need some sort of
plan. At least an idea of how to rescue the one left behind
without having to exchange yet another person in their place. How
do you think that could be done?"
     "I've been thinking about that. It took all three of us - me,
Sam, and Duncan - to figure out the truth before. Maybe if three
people distributed the effort, instead of focusing it all on one
person, no one will be hurt or left behind."
     "Maybe. But there are only two of them now, since you're
already in here."
     "But Mom isn't," she reminded him.
     "I can't ask - you can't expect her to do that! Not so soon
after her recovery."
     "It's just an idea, and it's the only one I have. You can ask
her. But tell her it's OK if she says no. I'll understand."
     "I'll ask her if I have to. Hopefully, we'll find our own way
out. I don't relish the idea of spending the rest of my life in
     "Don't you like the company?" she asked.
     For a moment, he didn't say a thing. Then he smiled and
changed the subject. "We need to find the key before we have to
worry about all that. Are you ready?"
     "Yeah." She picked up the gun first, since it was closest.
Nothing. Oliver's car keys didn't offer a way out, either. She
picked up every other item from the floor until only the forged
passports remained. She opened each one in turn, first Duncan's,
then Oliver's, and then her own. She stared at her own face,
fastened onto the document next to a strange name. "Is this who I
would have become, if we had gone to Hong Kong after all?"
     "Just for a little while. I'd have to get new identities for
all of us, just to keep ahead of the Committee. I still have to
get new identities, since Abernathy knew about this set. Or
rather, your Keeper will do it. My Keeper too, now." He shook his
head, frowning. "I don't even know who to trust anymore, Sydney.
I'm in the Committee, and I don't even know."
     She let him sit there, absorbed in his own thoughts, while
she quietly went through the contents of her own pockets, ready to
reach for her companion if anything actually happened. Nothing
did. She scattered everything on the floor next to Oliver's
belongings. "I think we're stuck here."
     He stared at the jumble of objects on the floor, all of it
just so much junk. The two of them would probably wind up in a
nursing home, just like Mrs. Bloom, staring at nothing all day
while the nurses made their dutiful reports to the Committee. All
of his efforts to protect Sydney would have been for nothing. The
Committee seal was more of a brand than a badge of honor. He
worked at the ring until it came off of his finger and started to
throw it on the pile with the rest of the junk.
     "What's that?" Sydney's question pulled him out of his
     "Nothing, now."
     "Let me see it. We haven't tried it yet. It could be the
     "I really doubt that this will set either of us free. We're
already trapped inside it. Literally. Figuratively. It would all
be rather funny if it weren't so bloody pathetic. 'Enter the
labyrinth,'" he said, pointing to the motto inscribed on the ring.
"You just can't get back out again."
     "That's it! The escape key usually seems to connect to the
situation somehow. How much are you willing to bet that the ring
is the way out?"
     "We're betting everything, Sydney. This is all we have left."
     "Then let's do it." She held her hand out to him, palm up,
ready to take the ring from him. Instead, he took her hand in his
own, and gently turned it over. He slipped the ring onto her
     "I hope this works," he whispered. Then the light and the
noise of the conduit tore him away from her.
     Oliver woke to the light and the noise of the thunderstorm
that had followed them from the Bloom house. The car was crowded,
but Samantha had refused to split up. She was in the front seat,
quietly speaking to Mrs. Bloom while the Keeper drove them all to
some unknown destination. Duncan was staring out of the other rear
window. He kept rubbing the single bead on his necklace. When a
sudden burst of lightning and thunder made him flinch, he turned
away from the window with a shame-faced grin. "Hey, you're awake,"
he said.
     "How long was I out?"
     "You just dozed off. It's been a long drive, though, so I
don't blame you. I could use some sleep myself."
     As Duncan rambled on, Oliver fought to remember the strange
dream he had during those few moments of sleep, the dream about
Sydney, and the Committee, and escape. Wedged between Oliver and
Duncan, Sydney seemed lost in a dream of her own, even though her
eyes were still open. Oliver leaned across her still, silent form
to talk to Duncan. In low, hushed tones, he told the other man
about the dream and what Sydney had said to him.
     "Sounds like VR. But no phones, and you remember it. Weird."
     "I know. Samantha mentioned telepathy as a result of one of
the higher levels of VR. Perhaps Sydney made a breakthrough to
another level while she was stuck in there trying to get out. She
just needs help to get back."
     "Yeah. Our help," Duncan said, glancing briefly at the two
passengers in the front seat. "Sam isn't going to like risking all
three of us, just on your say-so. I'll tell her it was my idea."
He leaned forward and tapped Samantha on the shoulder to get her
attention before Oliver could stop him.
     Duncan spoke to the two women for some time. Samantha kept
shaking her head and frowning. Finally, Mrs. Bloom spoke up.
"Samantha, she's your sister. She'd do the same for you. I already
know that she'd do the same for me. I'll help you Duncan."
     "Thanks, Mrs. B. How about you, Lady Samantha? Are you in?"
     "That wasn't fair, Duncan," Samantha said with a smile.
     "That's Sir Duncan. The Loyal. And I can't just leave Syd in
there if there's a chance we can get her out."
     With one last exasperated sigh, Samantha gave in. "Neither
can I. We'll need a phone line. And we'd better be ready to get
moving again when the Committee traces out activity." She reached
under the seat for the case with her VR equipment in it.
     "I knew you wouldn't let Syd down." He leaned back again,
careful not to disturb Sydney.
     The Keeper finally chose a motel well off their previous
route as the site for their experiment. Even if the call was
traced there, it would send any pursuit in the wrong direction.
Although the rain had finally stopped, there were still occasional
flashes and rumbles in the distance, threatening its return.
Samantha hurried inside to set up her equipment. Oliver and Duncan
carried Sydney between them across the wet pavement to the motel
room. Once inside, Duncan gently pulled the VR gloves over her
hands and lowered the goggles over her eyes before he donned his
own equipment. "You take care of her out here, OK?"
     Oliver simply nodded in response to Duncan's request.
Samantha looked up from her work. "You're a fool to trust him,
     "Yeah, well, you gotta trust someone eventually." Duncan
turned to face the glowing computer screens. "I'm ready when you
are." Mrs. Bloom nodded her agreement, even though she seemed
understandably nervous. Samantha pressed the Enter key and sent
the three of them into another world.
     In those few seconds, Oliver must have checked his watch at
least a dozen times. With no idea what was going on, all he could
do was wait. Hopefully, they would all emerge intact. If not, he
would have to help the Keeper carry them all to the car and then
drive them to the safe house. At least their bodies would be safe.
     Finally, Samantha reached up and slowly lifted the VR goggles
off of her head. Next to her, Mrs. Bloom did the same. Duncan was
the last. "Well? What happened?" Oliver demanded. They were all
too quiet, and Sydney still wasn't moving. He ripped the goggles
off of her head, and tore the gloves off of her hands. "Come on,
Sydney!" He didn't even realize he was shaking her, as if he could
wake her up from some bad dream. When he felt the hands close on
his arms, he was sure that the others were going to pull him away
from her. Instead, it was Sydney who pulled him closer, into a
fierce embrace. Duncan laughed at Oliver's surprised expression,
then ran over to envelop Sydney in a hug of his own.
     "Don't come any closer!" Oliver hissed before Duncan could
close the distance. The younger man stopped in his tracks. As he
watched, Sydney slowly pulled away from Oliver, holding the gun
she had taken from him under cover of her earlier embrace. She
didn't step too far back, however. The pistol dug into Oliver's
side. At that range, it would be nearly impossible for her to
To be continued...

* "Mind Games"
  Short Story
  19 June 1995
  By Vikki Godwin 

This story takes place immediately after "Enter the Labyrinth." It
is not meant to infringe on any copyrights.
Mind Games
by Vikki Godwin, based on an idea by Jean Lambert
     "I'm sorry," she whispered. For one brief second, she seemed
absolutely lost and vulnerable. Then it was gone, and her eyes
were cold and hard and desperate. "But I can't let the Committee
keep running my life. I want out, now."
     "Hey, Syd - " Duncan started to say, but the look on Sydney's
face made him change his mind. "Never mind. Bad timing. It can
     "Just get over there by the wall. All of you," Sydney
ordered. Her voice was shaking as badly as her hands.
     Samantha took Mrs. Bloom by the arm and quickly led her
across the room to the far wall. Duncan followed the two of them.
They all blocked any chance the Keeper had for a shot in the
     "Put your gun on the floor, slowly," Sydney told the Keeper.
He hesitated for a moment, as if weighing all of his options.
Whatever he was thinking, no sign of it showed on his impassive
face. Without a word, he drew out his own weapon and laid it on
the floor at his feet. "Let's get out of here, now," Sydney said.
     "I need to get my equipment," Samantha replied.
     Sydney nodded. "Just hurry."
     While Samantha disconnected all of the VR gear, Sydney
constantly scanned the room, trying to watch her sister, Oliver,
and the others against the wall all at the same time. She was
still shaking. She only prevented the gun from shaking by almost
burying it in Oliver's side. He kept watching her, waiting for any
opening he could use to turn this situation around, preferably
without getting anybody shot. He watched as Sydney nervously
rubbed the fingers of her free hand together. "I just want out,"
she whispered over and over again. "I just want out."
     "Then let me help you." Oliver fought to keep his voice as
low and calm as possible. "I want to help."
     Her head snapped up suddenly, and she watched him, warily. "I
believe you." Oliver had the sudden impression that he'd had this
conversation with her before. He just couldn't remember when,
exactly. Slowly, he reached out for her free hand. Now her thumb
was constantly rubbing against her third finger. Even when he held
her hand in his own, she still kept fidgeting.
     "Give me your other hand, Sydney."
     "I can't." For just a second, she couldn't seem to decide
whether or not to listen to him, to trust him. That second of
confusion was enough. He shoved the pistol away from his body and
down, praying the entire time that he wasn't about to be shot yet
again. Quick intense pressure on the delicate bones of Sydney's
hand forced her to drop the gun. It didn't keep her from
struggling, however. She writhed in Oliver's grasp, trying to
break free. She was kicking and screaming and clawing like a wild
animal, and then she suddenly went very still.
     Slowly, Oliver pulled back his hand. After years as an agent,
and all of his time working for the Committee, those "highly-
trained reflexes" so revered by the writers of spy novels had just
betrayed him. He'd lashed out at the source of the attack, and
slammed Sydney's head against the wall hard enough to knock her
out. After gently lowering her to the floor, he frantically
checked her pulse, then checked her pupils for any sign of a
concussion. As the Keeper calmly retrieved his own weapon, Duncan
hurried over to Sydney's side. "Is she going to be OK?" he asked.
     "I think so," Oliver quietly replied. "I hope so."
     "No, she won't be all right," Against the wall, Nora Bloom
finally spoke, although her eyes seemed to be focused on some
distant point far beyond the motel room and its current
inhabitants. "She's still hurt inside."
     "Mom, I'm sure she's OK," Samantha protested. "VR.7 was
probably just too much of a shock for her all by herself. I'm sure
she'll calm down."
     "So what are we supposed to do until then?" Duncan asked.
"Keep her in a straight jacket just in case? I think Mrs. B. is
right. We tried to help Syd, but somehow we didn't finish the
     "It's time to finish what you started, Samantha," Nora said.
     Samantha nervously glanced around the room. "I can't take you
in again, Mom. The first time was enough of a risk."
     Nora smiled. "Of course, dear. I understand perfectly."
     "That's good. 'Cause I don't," Duncan muttered. When Oliver
looked over at the sound of his voice, the younger man simply
shrugged. "It sounds like they're talking about two different
things at once."
     "You should be used to that by now," Oliver commented. Duncan
nodded in agreement, a wry grin on his face.
     "Duncan?" Samantha interrupted. "We may still be able to help
her. I've got an idea."
     "So do I," Oliver muttered to himself. "I'm just not sure
that I like where it leads."
     Samantha had finished reconnecting the VR gear she had
unplugged earlier. "Plug in an extra phone," Duncan told her. "I
want him to listen in."
     "I don't think that's necessary," Samantha and Oliver both
said simultaneously.
     "I do." Duncan carried the motel phone over to Samantha's
improvised work station. In order to set it down, he had to move
aside the spare set of VR goggles. They wouldn't be any use this
time anyway, Duncan thought, since Oliver had never been imprinted
into the system. "Syd got hold of him earlier somehow, without
using the phone lines," he explained. "I don't know what Syd's up
to in there, but if we can tap into it by bringing him along, we
might stand a better chance of getting her out in one piece."
     Samantha frowned. "You should have told me about this
earlier, instead of passing everything off as your own idea,
Duncan. If Sydney made a breakthrough like that - "
     " - there's no telling what could happen," Nora finished for
     Without another word, Samantha finished her preparations.
     Once inside, Samantha took the lead. The corridors of the
labyrinth were so narrow that the three of them had to walk single
file. "This would not be a good place to be claustrophobic,"
Duncan commented. Although the two men quickly became disoriented
in the twisting passageways, Samantha chose their route without
     "She certainly seems to know her way around this place,"
Oliver whispered.
     "Yeah. The first time we tried to rescue Syd, she led us
straight to her." Duncan replied over his shoulder.
     "How fortunate."
     "Hey, they're sisters," Duncan said, as if that explained
     "So everybody keeps reminding me."
     Their whispered conversation abruptly ended when they reached
the center of the labyrinth. At least, that was what Samantha told
them it was. It was as stark and barren as any of the corridors.
It was just a wide circular chamber, nothing more. However, Sydney
sat in the center of the room, rubbing one hand with the other,
talking to herself. When the three of them entered, Sydney raised
her head and looked right through them. "I thought I'd found the
way out, but I keep ending up where I started," she told them.
     "We came back for you," Samantha replied.
     A whispered voice echoed through the labyrinth: "Leave her
alone, she doesn't know anything!" Samantha jumped when she heard
the voice.
     "You look like you've seen a ghost," Sydney said. Phantom
images flickered on the walls of the labyrinth. When Duncan tried
to look directly at them, they disappeared.
     "Sydney, something went wrong. We're here to help you,"
Samantha insisted.
     A blinding flash of light seared through the labyrinth. The
image of an eye appeared on one of the walls for an instant.
Numbers and letters scrolled across the image, and then it was
     "You're not going to find what you're looking for in here,"
Sydney said. She had stopped rubbing her left hand. Now the
Committee ring she still wore was plainly visible. It glowed with
a sickly light, and tiny bolts of yellow lightning snaked across
its surface.
     Oliver felt a sickening sense of deja vu when he saw the
ring. "It wasn't the escape key at all," he said. "It was a trap.
And I delivered it."
     Samantha turned to face him. "At least now we know why she
freaked out. Duncan, I said you were a fool to trust him." She
reached out to take Duncan's hand. As she did so, Oliver noticed a
brief yellow spark between her fingers. He lunged forward and tore
her hand away from Duncan's. A second ring flew out of her grasp
and skidded across the floor.
     "Duncan, it's not what you think!" she started to explain.
     In the middle of the labyrinth, Sydney sadly shook her head.
"Sometimes, the truth is worse than the lie, Samantha," she said.
As they watched, a network of cracks spread out across the floor.
Sydney calmly sat in the center of them, her green eyes so intense
that they seemed to be on fire.
     Samantha backpedaled away from the approaching cracks. One
wall after another erupted out of the floor between her and
Sydney, but the cracks slithered beneath the walls and brought
them crumbling down. "She's lost control of it!" Oliver shouted
over the din. "Sydney's breaking free!"
     "She's not there yet!" Duncan yelled as he picked his way
across the broken landscape towards Sydney. "Ready to go home,
Syd? For real, this time." He pulled the ring off her finger. She
grinned and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
     "C'mon. Let's get out of here," she said. She began jumping
over the chasms and the rubble, heading towards Oliver and
Samantha, who were waging their own little war across the chamber.
Duncan followed her.
     When he heard Oliver yell "How long were you going to let her
rot in here!" Duncan looked up from the uncertain terrain. He saw
Samantha slam her opponent against one of the nearby walls. She
laughed at Oliver's startled expression when the wall gave beneath
his weight. The labyrinth had transformed into a spider's web, and
all of the walls were now the sticky strands of that web.
     "This is too weird, even for VR," Duncan said as he stopped
and looked around at the new landscape.
     "Duncan, get over here!" Oliver was desperately trying to
hold onto Samantha and to pull her onto the web as well.
     As he and Sydney ran over to help, Duncan kept thinking that
it was impossible to trap a spider in its own web. He didn't like
where that train of thought was leading, however. By the time he
reached the two of them, Oliver's own struggles had thoroughly
trapped him in the webbing. However, he still held one of
Samantha's wrists. She couldn't pull away from him or from the web
that held him. In a way, Duncan was almost glad that the other man
was trapped, since the look on Oliver's face made it quite clear
that he would have killed Samantha by now if he had the chance.
     "I can't let you hurt her," Duncan said. He wasn't sure
whether he was talking to Oliver about Samantha, or to Samantha
about Sydney. It didn't matter at this point. "It's time to end
this." He still had the Committee ring he had taken from Sydney.
Now he fought to put it on her sister. His own hand was shaking.
"If there's any way to help you, to free you, I promise I'll come
back for you. I won't leave you here, Lady Samantha."
     Her scream followed him through the conduit, all the way back
to the real world.
     Nobody said a word when they emerged from VR. Mrs. Bloom
stood next to the table, holding the spare set of VR goggles.
"Duncan, are you all right?" she asked. Something about the way
she spoke seemed odd, yet somehow familiar as well. When Duncan
looked up, she only smiled, a nice, normal, reassuring smile.
     "Yeah. I guess so," he replied. Next to him, Samantha was
still encased in all of her VR gear. He didn't want to touch any
of it.
     "Duncan, she'll be OK." Sydney took his hand and gave it a
reassuring squeeze. "We'll figure out some way to help her, just
like you promised."
     "Well, we aren't going to figure out anything just sitting
here," Oliver said. "We need to pack everything up. Samantha was
right about that, at least. We have to keep moving." As Oliver
started to stand, he winced and held his head. "Wonderful. After
all of that, I have a splitting headache and I'm seeing spots. I
don't know how you people can keep doing this on a regular basis."
     "You'll get over all that in time," Nora said as she set the
goggles down next to the motel phone and put the receiver back on
the hook.
     "Besides, you aren't the only one with a headache, remember?"
Sydney pointed to the back of her own head. Oliver winced again at
the reminder. However, before he could say anything, Sydney began
to disassemble Samantha's equipment so they could finish their
journey to the safe house. She smiled as she turned off the
computers. The words and images on the monitors winked out of
existence before anyone else could see them.

* "The Convention"
  Description, Fictional VR.5 Fan Convention
  Originally posted in early June 1995; reposted and updated 22 June 1995,
     23 July 1995, and more
  By John Dobbin ; contributions from many others;
     saved by Jean Lambert  and Michele Santiago

Background (by Jonathan Gan)

    In early June 1995, John Dobbin commented that if the posts in
    alt.tv.vr5 numbered over 300 in a three-day period, fans would have
    a VR.5 convention in San Francisco.

        The creative fantasy included below stars many of the
    personalities on alt.tv.vr5 and the VR.5 mailing list.  It's a
    virtual history of the online fan effort:  it includes our
    impressions, moods, dreams, and hopes for VR.5 as we worked hard to
    get it back on the air -- well after the newsgroup started to become
    very busy.

        As we've worked together through the Net to promote VR.5, we've
    gotten to know one another through our numerous e-mails and posts;
    the various facets of our personalities, and the obstacles we've had
    to overcome, are reflected beautifully in this story.

What Started It All

Jon writes:
 Hi everyone,
 Looks like our alt.tv.vr5@news.demon.co.uk campaign is working!
 alt.tv.sliders, which used to have double the traffic that alt.tv.vr5
 had, is now way behind alt.tv.vr5.
 There were 6 new posts in alt.tv.sliders and
           42 new posts in alt.tv.vr5,
 between 10 p.m., 7 June, and
         noon,    8 June.
 Here's an interesting message:  :-)
 From: ugkdude32@aol.com (UGKDUDE32)
 Date: Thu, 08 Jun 1995 01:14:33
 Subject: Sliders Newsgroup slowing down!!!
 Newsgroups: alt.tv.sliders
 I notice that there are only about 20 new posts a day here. Whats going
 on? Is everyone giving up THAT easily?! Have I been spending all my hard
 earned money here on AOL trying to save a great show just for everyone
 else to abandon it?!?!?!? COME ON! START POSTING!!!!!

John adds:
 I suppose that is nothing compared to what will heading down the pike in the
 next days. Could we reach the magical number of 300 posts in the newsgroup?

Jean adds:
 What happens at three hundred posts?

The Convention
Part 1
by John Dobbin
Friday Day 2 of  the First Annual VR5 Convention
 Jonathan and I break open the champagne and we'll throw a big party. Plans
 will be made for the first VR5 convention in San Francisco and John Sacret
 Young will be the keynote speaker. A quick peak at his notes will show him
 thanking the Virtual Storm campaign for the renewal of VR5 as a syndicates
 At the convention itself we'll see booksellers and souvenir hawkers selling
 their wares. There will be biographies of Anthony Head, Lori Singer and the
 producers of VR5. Interesting trinkets like committee rings and screen
 savers with visuals from the show will be displayed. The complete box
 set ofthe 100 shows will be marketed there for the first time. The VR
 goggles willstill be around but they will have become modified somewhat
 so that they are like a cool type of sunglass.
 The hotel adjacent to the convention center will be bustling with activity.
 The British and Norwegian contingents quite strong but barely dominant over
 the strong presence of Japanese, Germans and other worldly travellers. Most
 will be dressed elegantly in tuxedos and evening gowns for the dinner in
 honour of the creators of VR5. Unlike the earlier speech by John Sacret
 Young, the dinner speech falls to Anthony Head.
 ASH, as his fans have come to call him, is just coming off his second
 triumphant blockbuster film. Hollyood paparazzi follow him everywhere now
 and show up in droves at the convention. When his limosine shows up fans
 shriek and flashbulbs flash but Head manages to smile at them as he enters
 the hotel.
 Lori Singer, having arrived before Head, watches from the hotel window.
 Looking impossibly slender in her cocktail dress she sips Evian while
 waiting for the call to go downstairs.
 Jonathan Gan,in Tuxedo, shuffles the speech cards in his hands nervously
 knowing that he will be introducing the speakers at the dinner. Vikki and
 Pat will be telling him to calm down though they too feel nervous; their
 nervousnous coming because they are holding a seminar the next day on fan
 fiction. Both Vikki and Pat will have produced scripts for the show and some
 of the books in the series.
 John Dobbin will be running around trying to fix last minute details and
 arguing heatedly in Japanese that extra money WOULD not make it possible for
 some Japanese fans to sit at the table front and center. Little did John
 know what a pain the convention would be to run and secretly he envies
 Jonathan's position of coordinating all of the VIP guests. How did the man
 manage a seat beside Lori Singer at the head table?
 Terri Ann, Linda, Lorraine, Jean and Lisa, looking extraordinary in their
 evening gowns chat animatedly near the entrance to the front stage sipping
 champagne. Some of them cast eyes around for the yet still hidden Oliver.
 Dennis, Nathan and David are huddled in a corner worrying over aspects of
 the convention they are helping to run. David holds the latest copy of the
 VR newsletter that he helped to produce.
 Suddenly, a commotion occurs and voices become louder backstage as Anthony
 Head and Lori Singer enter the room. John Sacret Young and Thania St. John
 also enter the room. Applause is spontaneous and everyone feels the
 chill of excitement. It is time for Jonathan to read the intoductions to
 the head table...
John Dobbin's Note
 Apologies to the many I've forgotten to add to the list. Trust me, you're
 all there. The convention has just started.
Notes from Readers
Lisa Cunningham's Response
 With the best will in the world, I'm more of the organize everything type.
 And I have scads of experiences calming down nervous egos (aka actors) so
 I really think I ought to be backstage (in my very own drop dead sexy,
 cleavage revealing, slit-up-to-the-hip backless but tasteful black number)
 organizing and comforting the talent for their entrances while
 simultaneously stage managing the event with the lighting crew and various
 house and stage techs.
 Please note job placement request for future references.
John Dobbin's Response:
 Who says that that isn't exactly what you were doing Lisa? A convention is
 a big undertaking and you were there in the thick of things. Countless times
 you were involved with stage-managing the event but now just as the speeches
 are about to begin you're basking in the warm glow of a successful weekend.
 And don't think no one hasn't noticed that incredible dress you are
 Your partner is standing to one side amused as you talk to director Ridley
 Scott about the feature film VR. You seem to have drawn a crowd but who
 could blame them? You'll be thinking all night: "Is it my successful
 organizing or is it the dress?" Trust your partner for a truthful answer.
Jonathan Gan's Response:
That was a very flattering and imaginative essay.  Gosh...you even captured
 facets of my personality!  Yeah, I like dressing up and I'm always nervous
 before I give a speech.
 I feel honored.  It was beautiful.
John Dobbin's Response:
 Jonathan has bought a tuxedo especially for the event and accordingly
 has a tie on that he tied himself. He thinks to himself why haven't I worn
 ties bowties before and then remembers the old quote that women don't trust
 men in ties unless they're wearing a tux. "I'm wearing a tux now," he says to
 himself smiling.
 "Huh?" Lisa questions, overhearing him. Embarrassed, Jonathan starts to
 brush off imaginary dust from the suit. "Would you cut that out!" Lisa says.
 "You look fine."
 "Uh, Thanks." Jonathan replies, his face turning a little red. He notices
 that Lisa looks radiant and wonders briefly how it is that she doesn't fall
 out of her dress. The thought passes quickly as he moves to tackle the
 matter at hand, namely the introductions of the evening's guests.
 "I'll go tell the stars to get ready," coos Lisa and saunters off to the
 VIPs mingling nearby.
 Jonathan takes a deep breath and walks toward the entrance to center
Lisa Cunningham's Response:
 It all part of the work-out program.  Firmness is a girl's best friend!
 That and moving very carefully!
John Dobbin's Response:
 Uh, Lisa, I forgot to mention the dancing. Care to change your outfit or are
 you *that* careful?
Lisa Cunningham's Response:
 I am THAT careful!  Besides, my dress is designed for movement - remember
 the slit up to the hip?  It's so I can chase down errant stage techs and
 slave drive them.  Besides, I don't dance - I stand there on the sidelines,
 looking elegant with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other,
 observing the writhing masses!  Wouldn't want to muss my hair or break a
 sweat.  Besides, I'm doubling (when not slaving for the convention) as the
 lead guitarist for the band playing at our con, a band comprised of members
 of Virtual Storm.  For that gig, I might change - to something in black
Eva's Response:
 Sound like lots of fun!  Guess I better get started saving $ for the
 trip out
 to CA! :->  Save me a seat (preferrably by ASH!).
John Dobbin's Response:
 I saw you there with that stunning dress. ASH better watch himself. Enjoy
 the champagne, the convention lasts all weekend.
Linda Willard's Response:
 John -- Thanks for the vivid and wonderful fantasy!  According to Dr.
 Morgans definition, we all shared a VR experience by way of your
 posting!  I must say that, while it would be lovely to see the entire cast
 of VR.5 at our convention, the company of our group would be highlight
 enough for me.  You guys--Im talking about everyone here--are phenomenal!
John Dobbin's Response:
Saturday 5 Days Before the Convention
 Linda, of course, arrived in San Francisco a week early which was alright
 with her. Five days to shop for the dress that's to die for, she thought.
 Lisa, Terri Ann and a few other of the conventioneers were already ensconced
 at the hotel preparing for the event and Linda knew that she too had
 resposibilities to attend to.
 As Linda arrived by cab from the airport she sorted through her papers for
 the seminars she was holding. As the cab started to to slow to a crawl in
 downtown San Francisco she stared out the window contentedly.
 Suddenly she shouted to the driver, "Stop the car!"
 The cabbie pulled to the side of the road and Linda stared out the window.
 There in the shop window of Claire's Mystique Wardrobe was the dress of
 dresses. I couldn't wear that, could I? Forces beyond her drew her into the
 store and before she knew it she was trying on the dress. As she looked at
 her reflection in the mirror she smiled. Wearing this goes is completely
 daring, she thought wickedly. She bought the dress without so much as nip
 and tuck. It just fit that well.
 With her new purchase under arm she walked into the lobby of the hotel and
 was greeted by Lisa and Terri Ann before she got halfway to the reception
 desk. Hugs and kisses were shared and excited conversations began in
 earnest. Through the corner of her eye Linda saw hotel staff preparing a
 huge banner that said: Welcome VR5 Fans. First Annual VR5 Convention San
 Linda kept grinning as her friends led her away...
Linda Willard's Response:
 John, you're terrifying!  (And don't you *dare* tell anyone what I spent for
John Dobbin's Response:
 It was money that was dying to be spent, Linda, but *I'd* never say how much
 though. Hey, I bought a tuxedo just for this event. I couldn't decide on the
 flower, however. Glad someone brought some.
Jean Lambert's Response:
 For you sir, only a gardinia would do, pristine white on your stunning
 tux and the fragrance as sweet as your words about us.
Vikki Godwin's Response:
 I'd better start that diet now so I can look good at that dinner and the
 seminar! ;>
John Dobbin's Response:
Friday Six Days Before The Convention
 Vikki, waking up after a nap in her hotel room, stretched catlike late in
 the afternoon. The morning flight from Los Angeles leaving her groggy
 somewhat. On the desk in front of the bed was her notepad computer already
 plugged into her cell phone.
 Earlier on she had been monitoring several newsgroups for story ideas for
 her latest scripts which were stored electronically in her computer and in
 hard copy format in her sleek briefcase. How many scripts was that now? she
 wondered. She hated to admit that she was in competition with Pat but in a
 way they certainly motivated one another. Besides Pat had another career
 teaching and doing private consulting. I wonder if he'll give up his career
 to do this full time instead of showing up with a script every so often and
 turning his back on Hollywood with money in his pocket? she pondered.
 Walking barefoot in the room in a light slip, Vikki cheerfully opened the
 blinds to view San Francisco Bay. From the floor she was at she could
 everything far and away beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. plunking herself down
 on the bedside, she dialed up the first of two numbers. The first to John
 Sacret Young for a meeting on the new movie script and the next to Lisa to
 on the bedside, she dialed up the first of two numbers.
 Vikki smiled to herself, thinking how she would knock out Lisa with the
 dress she picked up in Los Angeles. I don't think she'll be teasing me
 anymore about wearing a t-shirt and old sweats to do my writing anymore, she
 giggled. She looked at the dress hanging in the closet and thought how
 did I think I was ever going to fit into that? The truth of the matter was
 that after the endless flights between coasts she was worried that she wasn't
 eating enough. Writing has become everything to me she considered and then
 she laughed; all the better to fit into that dress this coming weekend!
 She dialed up Lisa to plan their evening out...
The Convention Part 2
by John Dobbin
Further Notes From Readers:
Lynn McElhatton's Response:
>John wrote:
>There are over 200 Posts in the last few days in alt.tv.vr5. Last week
>there were between 40 and 60. We're almost approaching the magical 300
>posts and the upcoming convention in San Francisco.
What upcoming convention???
Lorraine Wong's Response:
After avoiding the net for four days
due to work-related events, Lorraine finally is able to sit
and read her email...As she sits and eats a slice of cheesecake for
breakfast she comes across the post for the convention and
immediately flips.
"I can't be eating cheesecake! Ack!
 John Dobbin has chosen a dress for me?!?" she squeals.
Quickly she throws away the disgustingly rich slice and attempts to
aerobicize herself into something resembling anything.
Meanwhile, Lorraine (often a scheming gal)
starts to prepare her performance of "I'll Be Seeing You"
in honour of the VR storm.
Secretly she knows she'll need a couple of drinks to do it,
more for an excuse rather than the courage.
Kathy Chyla's Response:
>>>It looks good.....but Micheal Easton is missing, and I'm an organizer...i
>>>did direct and produce 2 comcerts at my old school.....so I can be helping
>>>you...and I know how to deal with hotel staff......
>Lets see..I can wear the floor length purple on ei designed, the black
>velvet cocktail, the blue velvet cocktail, my black pant suit, which would
>be a great semi-formal thing, or for business meetings with the hotel
>staff.... or I can design a new one...I actually have a floor length black
>gown in mind to design....but I'll have to see......unless it's a summer
>thang...and I'll have to go for something in either a silver or gold..what
>shows off a tan better????
The Convention Continues...
Friday  6 Days Before The Convention
Lorraine looked from her widow seat past the wing of the Northwest
Airline flight out of Minneapolis. Below her San Francisco looked beautiful
in the the afternoon sun. I've not brought enough luggage she thought to
The two big suitcases and the carry-on luggage just didn't seem enough for
10 days in California.
As the big plane came in for a landing, Lorraine began to look forward to
seeing Lisa who said that she would meet her at the airport. She had never
met Lisa but had come to know well through the newsgroup and from the
convention planning. The fact that 20th Century FOX was bankrolling
the convention meant that many people involved from the early days of
the show's struggle were invited as guests of the studio. Lisa had actually
been on the payroll along with Jonathan for a few months to help coordinate
the event. John had been around for a few weeks after a rather difficult book
It was fairly easy to identify Lisa at the airport. Clad in a professional
suit and a dash of lipstick with Fox Mulder-like  sunglasses on, she looked
very much like Lorraine thought she'd be. The auburn hair was the big
surprise though. Cheerfully,  Lisa led Lorraine away to the awaiting limosine
that FOX had left at the disposal of the Convention organizers.
The driver of the limosine held the door of the car as both women exited
the doors of San Francisco International Airport. Lorraine's eyes momentarily
widened when she saw the obscenely immense vehicle parked outside but
quickly recovered when Lisa casually climbed in the back of it. What a treat,
giggled Lorraine to herself.
"Where to Ms. Lisa?" the driver asked.
"To the Four Seasons, Roger," Lisa smiled behind her dark glasses.
The dividing window went up and Lorraine in a hushed voice, despite the fact
that the driver couldn't hear her asked, "So what is the Four Seasons
Hotel really like Lisa?"
Lisa leaned back and replied grinning, "Lorraine, let me tell you about the
Four seasons Clift Hotel". The limosine pulled away from the curb and headed
to the
Thursday 7 Days Before the Convention
..Kathy, back at the Four Seasons hotel picked out her outfit of the day.
that morning she had rollerbladed around Union Square despite John's mocking.
After a quick shower she was ready to attend to a few more details. There was
still much to do. There was seven days to go before the convention and
although part of it was holiday, the rest was hardwork.
The previous day she and Jonathan had checked out the Moscone Center
where the screening of the 100th episode and  the international sneak
preview of  VR, The Movie were to be shown. With seven days left,
Ridley Scott was still in London editting the picture. Kathy recognized the
look in Jonathan's face because she had seen it in herself a few times over
the last months.
As with all things in Hollywood, politics played a role in who was to see
the sneak
preview. VIPs from all over the entertainment industry were angling for
seats to the
theatre and when the first seating plans were handed to Jonathan, he was
None of the Virtual Fan supporters were listed in the seating arrangement.
FOX had
made a arrangements for a screening for the fans the next day.
Needless to say Jonathan was apopletic. A few of the suits from FOX tried
him but he wasn't having any of it. It was this moment, that Kathy slipped
from the
room to make a phonecall to Lisa. With amazing calm, Lisa called Maritza who
happened to be enroute by air to San Francisco. The two of them decided to
their sources at Rysher  and then the ball started rolling. Kathy took
another call from
Lisa and was asked to see if Jonathan was making progress.
As Kathy entered the room, she saw that Jonathan was still ranting at the
three low level
execs from FOX but making no headway. Suddenly, one of the exec's phone rang
and everyone stopped while he took the call. The man looked nervous as he
talked to the
other person on the line and said "yes sir" a number of times.
When he clicked off the phone he said to Jonathan, "I'm sorry, you're right.
We shouldn't
change the seating plans". Jonathan was dumbfounded and Kathy could only
chuckle to herself.
Kathy wondered if each day wouldn't be like the previous day at Moscone
Center. At
last she found the right outfit and quickly changed before Lisa got back
from the airport...
Thursday 7 Days Before The Convention
..Lynn came prepared for the convention. She had her notes, she had her
and she had her map of San Francisco. With seven days left to the convention
she was looking forward to having one weekend where she wasn't goping to be
Her arrivel in the city the night before had left her well rested. The
morning swim with
John, Lisa and a few others was also pleasant. She was very impressed with
the service
at the Four Seasons and planned to mention it in the freelance article she
was writing
for  VRFANzine magazine. Of course, the main purpose of the article was to
both the 100th episode of VR5 and the movie premiere of VR, The Movie.
She knew it was going to be useful having Donna and Vikki around because of
insights. Chuckling to herself, she remembered the late nights already spent
about the minutiae of the show. But who cares? She loved it.
With map in hand Lynn left the Union Square area and headed to Chinatown. She
knew from the time she opened her eyes that it was going to be great day...
The Convention Part 3
by John Dobbin
Further Reader's Response:
Jean Lambert's Response:
Ok, I *loved* the limo!  The political seating thing was right on target,
and the phone call (yes sir, gulp, yes sir)  was wonderful!  Love all the
things everyone is involved in (writing, publishing, movies, magazines etc.)
I want to see the 100th ep! wah!
I want to go to the Four Seasons! It sounds like a very classy hotel!
I want to go to the convention!  I want VR5 back!!! If I throw myself on
the floor and threaten to hold my breath till I turn blue do you think
they'll bring it back?!?
Kat Vogele's Response:
LOL, John.  Really great stuff!!!  :)
Nathan Donato's  Response:
Thank you.  I actually did not have the pleasure of reading all of it the
first time around.  An absolutely wonderful job, John.
Jonathan Gan's Response:
>theatre and when the first seating plans were handed to Jonathan, he was
>Needless to say Jonathan was apopletic. A few of the suits from FOX tried
>As Kathy entered the room, she saw that Jonathan was still ranting at the
>three low level
>execs from FOX but making no headway. Suddenly, one of the exec's phone
rang and
Brilliant!  Brilliant!  (Really, I'm not *that* confrontational in Real
Life. ;-)  Excellent work, John!
Ari Messer's Response:
could you send me all the info you have on the convention john?
thanx a million,
Laurie Amber's Response:
ok, I'll bite.  Let's seeee, I could man the VR.9 booth. It's like one of
Quark's holosuites,
you pick a reality and the operator manufactures it for you.  (Did you ever
see the movie
Dune?  I just flashed on one of the Guild navigators folding space,
transporting passengers
to a distant planet...)  One of the VR.5 writers steps up to the booth.
Everyone at the
convention similtaneously gets this eerie feeling, just for the briefest of
moments.  Next
thing ya know, it's 10 years later and we're all sitting together at yet
another convention
dissecting the nuances of an episode plotline from the latest spin-off,
"VR.7: The
Dreamland."  VR.5's been so successful it's gone the Star Trek route...
..you take it
from here John ... :-)
Augie de Blieck's Response:
John wrote:
>Augie, just prior to the convention I have you flying from the Republican
>Convention in Los Angeles on Pete Wilson's plane. Don't worry he's a
>fraternity brother of mine from Zeta Psi. He won't mind. We go way back.
>Wouldn't and couldn't vote for him though, I'm Canadian.
I'm honored.  But don't worry - I wouldn't vote for Pete Wilson, either.
I'd take
Dole or Gingrich or Gramm or Buchanan over him.
Now I'll try to gracefully back out of this political discussion before it
into anything else...
Pat Moss' Response:
Well, you can see what I look like from my web page. I'm thinking I might
dress up like Morgan... you know, wrapped in plastic and on ice.  (Kinda like
a side of beef.) :)
Does the Committee run a dating service?
The Convention Continues...
Sunday  5 Days To The Convention
Augie checked his watch for the third time the third time since he got to
the airport. The
Los  Angeles Republican Convention had just ended and as usual Augie was one
of the
last to leave. Several of the stragglers were Sacramento bound and
arrangements had been
made so that Augie would join them on the sanFrancisco leg of the trip. Pete
wouldn't be on the flight which was just as well since they disagreed on
many subjects.
Still Wilson courted Augie as one of the New Jersy delegates and this suited
Augie fine.
A quick call fom John Dobbin to Wilson, a fraternity brother from Zeta Psi
ensured Augie
a telephone call from Pete himself.
The Biltmore Los Angeles Hotel was very comfortable and Augie had been
staying there
for a week. The Los Angeles Convention Center was just down the street and
couldn't  remember how many times he gone back and forth on Figueroa Street
from hotel
to convention. The only break he could recall was the baseball game at
Dodgers Stadium.
The Lear Executive jet rolled up to the private gate at LAX and Augie
watched with
increasingly sand-papery eyes. It was late Sunday night and Augie wasn't
interested in
talking to the Sacramento people. Instead, he hunkered down and entered the
low roofed
Lear and slunnk down in a cramped seat. He was out like a light with the
thoughts of the
Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and the wonderful Saturday he had witnessed.
Next stop, the Four Seasons Clift Hotel and a few short days later The VR5
san Francisco
Sunday 5  Days before The Convention
Donna Solomon sat in the lobby of the Four Seasons Clift Hotel reading her
notes. Like
many of the people involved with the convention, she was hosting a seminar
on fan
fiction. Her writing had evolved though and she had written two books in the
VR5 series
and other writing as well since she first became involved with the sensation
The lobby was busy with activity and Donna watched with blue gray eyes for
recognizeable faces. It was early morning and after a little fun in the
exercise room with
Kathy Chyla she had just wanted to sit in a comfy chair reading the San
Chronicle and her notes. Hunger pangs were beginning to call her though and
since she
didn't want to eat alone she continued to wait.
"Breakfast Donna?" a voice said from behind. Donna turned to see Jean
Lambert and
Kathy Chyla standing behind her. Both women were resplendent in professional
but summery outfits. Donna was similarly dressed and she grinned at how the
women had all
seemed to take pleasure in looking their best while at the Convention.
"I'd love to," answered Donna.
"The big question is where," said Kathy." I don't want to eat in the hotel."
A sudden loud discussion drew all three women's attention to the elevators
Jonathan Gan, David Shaler, John Dobbin, Ari Messer and several others were
engaged in
conversations bordering on a riot. All were dressed in jeans and t-shirts
and looked like
they were heading off  to college classes. In fact, they were on their way
out to breakfast
at some fast food joint before heading off to a baseball game.
Cathy cocked an eyebrow."They're like little boys,"she said with a grin.
"Yes, but they look like they are having fun," replied Donna.
Jean smiled a crooked grin," Didn't they say they were going to a
doubleheader at
Candlestick Park?"
"Now, what exactly did you have in mind,"giggled Donna.
The three women conspired...
Sunday 5 days Before The Convention
Kat Vogele, after spending a considerable amount of time in the pool lounged
around in
her room for awhile before deciding to go exploring. Upon arrival in the
lobby, she
frowned as she saw no one that she recognized. Cursing her bad luck, she was
about to
head out the doors on her own when she saw Michele Santiago breeze through
into the
"Michele!" she shouted.
Michele turned and smiled, "Oh hi," she said as she recognized Katherine.
"Going out for
"I hadn't thought about it," answered Kat.
"I have my car" Michele said serenely.
Katherine smiled." You're on. Where we heading?"
"I think I know of a place. But first you have to agree to help me with a
little problem I
have," said Michele.
"Sure," answered Katherine, as they headed out the doors. Michele's sporty
little car was
already at the doors courtesy of the garage valet service. Kat wondered to
herself what
Michele might need help with but her thoughts quickly turned to self
preservation as they
zipped semi-quickly out into the street. Michele smiled cooly from behind
sunglasses as
the convertible picked up speed. Kat gulped and put on her own sunglasses.

The Convention Part 4
by John Dobbin
Michele Santiago's Response
ROTFL!! Can't wait to see part 4.
All the guys were in jeans and shirts?? Well, *that* was a quick dress
change, from your tuxes! Or are we on day two now?
John Dobbin's Response:
This happens on the Sunday *before* the Convention. Dates will now be
included in all
Convention stories
Donna Solomon's Response:
John, I finally got some time to read The Convention.  In the words
of our heroine, I looove it.  You did a wonderful job capturing
personalities.  And thank you for the lovely business wardrobe.
Augie de Blieck's Response:
I KNEW I forgot to e-mail someone! Sorry, John.  Yes, I did ant to thank you
for including me in the most ambitious fan-fic yet attempted for VR.5.  I
think you may have actually nailed me. Glad to see my Wilson option is still
open.  I guess it made sense using his plane since all of this takes place in
I just want EVERYONE to like me. =)
John Dobbin's Response:
>Didn't reveal who you were
>supporting at the Republican Convention but Pete Wilson still likes you.
>Just keeping your options open
Augie de Blieck's Response:
John Dobbin wrote:
>You'll miss the doubleheader on Sunday in San Francisco because you get in
>so late but we got tickets for you on Wednesday. Candlestick Park, here we
That's OK. I'm more of an American League fan than a National.  But, then, I
loathe the A's.  Depends on who they are playing, I guess.  I could just root
against the Mets, but that's WAY too easy. =)
Too bad we can't take in a Sharks game but the season hasn't begun yet.
And hockey is my second favorite sport to watch. How do you know all this
me?  I'm suddenly very afraid. =)
Good point!
-Augie, will NOT pull a Rob Lowe at the convention
The Convention continues...
Wednesday 8 Days to the Convention
David Shaler sat back comfortably in the the window seat of the Canadian
Airlines jet
taxiing down the runway at Vancouver International Airport. All of the
camera equipment
was safely in the overhead compartment.  David felt the safest place for the
was with him. Of course all the film and his regular luggage was safely
stored in the
cargo section.  Grinning to himself, David remembered how he foolishly
agreed to be the
photographer for the event. It was true that FOX had its own photographers
at the
Convention but none would be covering the event from the point of view of
the people
who for years had been supporting the show of VR5.
David had come a long way in four years. The creation of an Intenet Service
Provider in
Vancouver had turned into quite a business for him. The Bulletin Board
System for
Lovers of Science Fiction had been wildly successful as well.. VR5 had beem
a prominent
feature of the BBS since its founding and David felt a certain pride about
how the show
had taken off and how alot of it was attributed to organizers like himself.
The aircraft's slow glide into the air was greeted with a smile from David.
It would only
be a short time before he touched down in San Francisco. As the plane
leveled off, a flight
attendant made her was to his seat and he stared up at her with brown eyes.
He took the
orange juice and newspaper that were offered and he reclined the chair back
so that he
could relax while reading.  The headline in the Vancouver Province said that
nealy 40 per
cent of North Americans were now hooked up to the Internet.  David chuckled
thought: only 60 per cent more to go.  Quite a business opportunity lay
there and he
pondered that some as the plane neared its destination.
Wednesday 8 days to the Convention
Eva Wong strode through the airport in San Francisco with the confident gait
of the 23
year old that she was. Her long black shimmery hair fell lose down her back
and the
summer dress she wore flowed as she walked.  As she stepped out into the
sun, the light
caught the auburn highlights in her hair.
The relatively short flight from San Antonio, Texas on American Airlines had
been a bit
exciting for Eva especially when the aircraft began its final descanr into
San Francisco and
she saw the Golden Gate Bridge from the window. Wow, she thought, I'm
finally here.At
time she thought she would never see the day but here she was.
Only a short time had passed since she graduated from the University of
Texas at Austin
and Eva was considering several job opportunities.  She put that at the back
of her mind
and wheeled the trolly with her luggage on it to the reception area where Lisa
Cunningham said she's be meeting her.  Lisa had been meeting key people
throuhout the
week using the limo that FOX had left at her disposal.
The only description Lisa gave of herself was that she was tall. Eva gulped,
thinking of all
the many tall women who had revealed themselves to be fans of VR5. At 5'5".
Eva had
never felt self conscious but she wondered how she would feel at the
Lisa stood waiting serenely as Eva approached.
"Hi!" Lisa exclaimed to Eva.
Instead of feeling shy, Eva greeted her just as enthusiastically. "Hi!" she
shouted back.
They gave each other a little hug of greeting before Lisa told her to
follow.  They chatted
amiably like they had known each other for years which in fact they did, but
it was the
first time they had ever really seen each other.
People watched the two attractive women as they walked to the exit...
Friday 6 Days to the Convention
Alexis Massie and her husband David disembarked from the Northwest Airlines
jet that
had just come in from Boston. As per usual, Lexi's hair was in a ponytail
and she was
wearing a light summer dress.  David was wearing the LL Bean shirt Lexi had
bought him
recently and a favourite pair of jeans. At 5'10". David kind of loomed over
Lexi at 5"6".
She leaned back against him as they watched for their luggage at the carousel.
A few moments before David had arranged for a car with Alamo. The couple
intended to
see as much of the Bay area as they could while in San Francisco. Lexi,
however, was no
stranger to San Francisco as she spent many days a year there. Lexi  worked
for San
Francisco based HotWired but found she could do this from Boston. Lexi's
love of
Rockport  made any decision of leaving the Boston area academic.
Lexi was typical Irish, with upturned nose and long straight brown hair. She
thought to
herself often how she ended up with a goober like Daid Olson who was
Scandinivian in
descent but as she watched him walk back from the car rental booth she
remembered all
over why she did.
As they made their way to the parking lot, Lexi thought that maybe she
brought too much
luugage. In fact, the Chrysler they had rented groaned under the weight of
her three bags.
David avoided making comment but couldn't stop grinning as Lexi stuggled to
things fit in the trunk.  What will I do after I go shopping? she thought to
herself.  She
began to consider those problems as David pulled out of the parking lot.
David turned on the radio just as the weather report came on. It was 86F or
30C.  The
skies were blue and the winds were light. What a perfect day Lexi thought...
They drove to the Four seasons Clift Hotel...

The Convention Part 5
by John Dobbin
Nathan Donato's Response:
The whole world will be watching the VR5 Con- and Mr. Donato will surely be
apart of the medias' fascination.
-Nathan, who does not intend this to be overly-snobbish :)!
John Dobbin's Response:
I think Nathan's date to the Convention will certainly catch everyones's
 Michele Santiago's Response:
Hee hee...a convertible eh? I can see a Knight Rider crossover, with a
talking computer and VR...and Kat's a lifeguard... ;D
Well, can I at least have a little red scanner in front of my car???
John Dobbin's Response:
Ack! Michele, isn't the convertible enough?
David Shaler's Response:
I'll be
taking all the pictures throughout the entire event, which I will
then transfer into gifs and then mail to everyone on the list.
John Dobbin's Response:
I guess you'll be putting them on your bulletin board after? How about
for us all.
Terri Ann Tguing's Response:
After much thinking (and a little bit of procrastination), I've finally
decided on what to wear to the Con...
John Dobbin's Response:
People will be definitely be amazed with what you decide to wear!
Wendnesday 8 Days to the Convention
Pat Moss and his wife Diane drove their rented car from San Jose up the
highway towards
San Francisco. For a few days they had been lazily travelling around wine
country. The
previous weekend they had participated in San Jose's Internet NewsCon and
Pat's involvement was more than extensive, he was an organizer! Each night
while they
travelled,  Pat monitored the chatter on his six lists on VR5 and he was
amazed at the
depth of  passion the show seemed to create. The six lists, VRCurrent,
VRPlot, VRFanfic,
VRFans, VRMovie, and the new list VRCon each had hundreds of subscibers. The
newsgroup too had expanded to two newsgroups alt.tv.vr5 and
alt.tv.vr5.creative. Pat and
Jonathan Gan had waited a long time before creating the second newsgroup but
it had become neceesary.
For the First Annual VR5 Convention, Pat was responsible for the Internet
Q&A taking
place throughout the four day convention. 20th Century Fox was renting the
needed for the link and Michele Santiago, working for America Online would
act as host.
AOL had contracted Pat to ensure a continous feed from Thursday to Sunday.
How did I
manage to get this involved? Pat mumbled to himself as he drove on.
Diane watching Pat become distracted in thought began to scatch him behind
the ear. He
realized he was drifting lanes. He let out a sharp exhale of breath as his
wife laughed
gently at him trying to stay between the lines.
"You want me to drive?" she teased.
He stared at her with deep blue eyes and a smirk. "Think I'm overdoing it
this weekend?"
"Maybe," she giggled. "It depends on whether you're too tired dance in the
next nights."
"I don't think that will be a problem," Pat laughed back. " I just hope the
band Lisa
arranged is decent."
The overhead sign read 20 miles to San Francisco. Pat and Diane smiled at
one another
and drove on...
Monday 10 Days to The Convention
Nathan Donato drove quickly and knowledably through the streets of San
Normally, not one to indulge in sport cars, Nathan couldn't pass up the new
Stealth. It comfortably  accomodated his 5'10" frame and was suitably
impressive in the
Bay Area to LA run that he had been making for the last two years. The
reason for his LA
travels were a secret except to a select few. Most did not know of his
girlfriend but would soon find out in the coming weekend.
As Nathan sped along , he noticed a white stretch limo lumbering along
beside. Curiously,
as passed alongside,  a darkened widow in the back rooled down. An
attractive face
peered out from behind sunglasses. Red lips suddenly blew him a kiss and
Nathan lowered his own sunglasses to take a look. The face suddenly became
clear. Lisa!
He laughed when he recognized Lisa Cunningham.and she gave him a warm smile
as he
sped ahead to the Moscone Center.
Three and half years earlier Nathan had become famous in a 60 Minutes
episodes on whiz
kids. It was at that time in private discussions with Mike Wallace that he
had learned of
Wallace's interest in VR5. Among the notes that Wallace had brought with him
was a
program guide to Anthony Head's smash appearance in Taming of the Shrew at the
Manitoba Theatre Centre.  Head, following in the footsteps of Keannu Reaves
and many
other actors, was performing in Winnipeg during the off season. Shakespeare
drew the
greats every time.
Nathan's enthusiasm for VR5 convinced Wallace to do a fullblown story on the
cult status
of VR5 instead of just a feature on Anthony Head. Jonathan Gan and Augie de
were interviewed for the feature on behalf the the VR5 fan club.
The Moscone Center appeared just ahead and Nathan moved deftly through the
traffic. As
he pulled onto the ramp leading to the underground parkade, he saw Lisa's
limo pull up to
the front door.
Wednesday 8 Days to the Convention
Maritza Stember rested comfortably in the first class section of the
American Airlines jet
one hour out of New York. She sipped her tea and scrolled through her mail.
There was
some business mail, some list mail and personal mail that she responded to
with quick
efficiency on her notebook computer hooked up to her cell phone. this was
the third time
she had flown out to San Francisco in as many months. Each time her
excitement grew as
the Convention approached. She closed her sea green eyes and imagined
herself at some
of the gala events in her killer dress. She laughed to herself a moment and
a moment later
broke from her reverie.
It hadn't been easy for Maritza to get time off for the Convention despite
knowing well in
advance about it. Several promotions in the last years had always presented
challenges and she had to schedule time so that she could pursue her love of
VR5. She
brushed her dark hair from her eyes and folded the computer down. Her hair
she had let
grow longer on a whim and she was beginning to like it but couldn't decide
to wear it up
or down at the balls.
Generally a light luggage business traveller, Maritza grinned to herself
about the three
bags that lay in the cargo holds below. One bag had an entire section
devoted to shoes and
thinking about this made her laugh. What made her laugh even more was that
she had
packed a sheet and accroutements for a toga. Gawd, a toga party! she
thought. How
juvenile! And how exciting!
It would be awhile before she landed in San Francisco and Maritza didn't
feel like
sleeping. Instead she pulled from her briefcase the latest issue of  Starlog
which featured
Anthony Head. She licked her lips and grinned as she turned to the pages
that ASH was
on. Despite her long involvement with VR5, she had yet to meet the actor.
She did
manage to have dinner with Michael Easton once and was forever teasing Kathy
about it.
Some of the people in the first class section looked with amused looks as
they saw
Maritza pouring through the magazine. It was easy to see they were wondering
what this
attractive woman in business-like attire was doing reading Starlog. Let them
laughed Maritza.
The jet continued its flight following the sun to San Francisco...
To be continued...

* "Shock Therapy"
  Short Story
  24 June 1995
  By Linda Willard 

(Disclaimer:  No infringement of rights pertaining to characters or
situations created and/or owned by Samoset, Rysher Entertainment,
or FOX is intended.)
                            Shock Therapy
                             Linda Willard
     Oliver Sampson sat up in his hard-backed chair, scrubbed at
his face with both hands, then rose all at once.  Behind the drawn
curtains, dawn was filling the sky.  Inside the hospital room, it
remained dark and uncomfortably chill.  The IV dispenser clicked
and wheezed as it measured out a precise cocktail of nutrient
chemicals in a saline solution.  The muted whir and hum of a
half-dozen monitoring units provided background chorus.
     Sydney Bloom still breathed.  Oliver could hear that soft,
steady susurrus from where he sat several feet away.  It was, by
now, a rhythm he knew well.
     Twenty-eight hours had passed since she had taken her mother
into VR.7; twenty-eight hours since her mother had returned, whole
if mildly disoriented; twenty-eight hours since Sydney had fallen
into a state of unconsciousness which her doctor was unable to
     The facility was one she would recognize once she recovered.
Experimental subject and patient, she had been here before, months
ago.  That time, Oliver's vigil had lasted round the clock.  At the
end of it, Sydney had awakened, reluctantly, uneasily, and upon
seeing him, recoiled, convinced he was her enemy.  What, he
wondered, would she think now?
     In the last tumultuous weeks, she had come to trust him
without reservation.  The boundaries of their working relationship
had blurred as a result; she knew more about him than anyone else
now living.  She understood his weaknesses, his present lack of
direction, his dismay at a world turned upside down.  It made him
vulnerable.  But no more vulnerable than Sydney Bloom.
     Oliver stepped up to the window and slipped a finger between
the curtains.  A shaft of light fell across his face, half blinding
him.  He let his head rest against the glass and dredged a breath
from the depths of his lungs.  He had not slept for three days;
exhaustion resided in every cell of his being.  But there would be
no rest for him until Sydney had awakened.
     His cell phone rang.
     Across the room, Sydney lay in unnatural repose, her face as
pale as the regulation-white pillow beneath her head.  The
high-pitched chirp of his phone had not affected her.
     "No, Duncan, there's been no change.  I don't--"  Oliver's
lips formed a thin line.  "No, I don't have any other suggestions."
For a moment he listened without speaking.  "All right, Duncan," he
said wearily.  "If you think you must, then do it.  Yes, yes, I'll
stay on the line."
     Holding the cell phone open, Oliver walked to Sydney's side.
He reached out and brushed a long tendril of hair off her face.
The bedside phone trilled, making him wince.  He picked it up and
laid the handset next to Sydney's head.  Features set, he returned
to the chair and raised the cell phone to his ear.  "Hallo?" he
     Oliver had experienced VR.5 at least three times in his life.
Not one of those experiences had been to his liking.  It was an
invasion of the most personal sort, on a level of intimacy that
could not be described.  But if nothing else, he had developed a
certain proficiency at it.  The distressing sensation of
dislocation, the awareness of another presence, the incongruity of
thoughts not his own flitting through his brain were symptoms he
now recognized.  All signalled his whereabouts--or at least the
whereabouts of his subconscious--in VR.5.
     Suddenly, however, everything changed.  The world, his
surroundings, his very consciousness ceased to exist.  For an
indeterminate period of time, he lost his sense of self.
Nothingness defined him.
     And then he was back, whole and himself once more.  A little
light-headed, more than a little confused, he was nevertheless in
a place he knew.  There was the hospital bed where Sydney yet lay,
half on her side, one hand stretched out on the sheet before her.
She appeared to be deeply asleep, lashes resting upon high
cheekbones, her lips parted, revealing the glint of white teeth.
Nothing, in fact, was different, save that sometime during that
futile VR-induced reverie, Duncan had arrived and sat now hunched
forward on the edge of Sydney's bed, his face obscured by the fall
of dark hair, one of Sydney's hands clasped between both of his.
     "Duncan--?"  Oliver cleared his throat. "What happened?"
     Duncan shrugged.
     Relief warred with acute disappointment.  Exhaling sharply,
Oliver muttered, "I suppose it was worth a try."  Duncan raised
Sydney's hand to his lips; otherwise, he did not respond.
Considering the other man curiously, Oliver prodded, "Was that
VR.7?  Was that why it was so strange?"
     Duncan said, "She's getting weaker, isn't she?"
     Head turned slightly, Oliver strained to hear her barely
audible breathing.  "Yes," he said grimly.  "How long have you
     The door swung open.  A woman entered, blonde hair cascading
in loose waves down to her shoulders.  At sight of her, Oliver's
heart advanced a beat.  He shot a quick glance at Duncan, who
seemed oblivious of her.  "Duncan, no," he breathed.
     "Oliver," the woman said plaintively.  "You shouldn't be
     Swallowing hard, Oliver rose to his full height.  "Alex," he
     "I've missed you."  The winsome smile that softened her mouth
failed to reach her eyes.  "I don't understand why you're involved
in all of this."
     On one level of his mind, Oliver knew that this woman could
not be the Alex he had loved for so many years; on another--and
unfortunately the one that presently held control--she was as real
to him as life itself and could not be dismissed.  "No?"
     "There's nothing you can do for her," the woman reasoned.
"She's not your assignment any more."
     His throat felt tight, his head hurt; with sickening
certainty, he knew what was coming.  "She hasn't been my assignment
for some time."
     Pursing her lips disparagingly, the woman tsked.  "Oliver,
have you fallen in love with her?"
     Oliver chose his words with care.  "Sydney's important; you
know that.  She can do things nobody else can.  I can't let her be
     The woman shook her head.  "Oh, Oliver."  She slid a hand into
the purse slung over her shoulder.  "I am sorry."
     A gun appeared in her palm.  It was an automatic, large
caliber, touted by handgun aficionados for its excellent stopping
power.  She leveled it directly at Sydney, her finger on the
trigger.  "Unfortunately, she's my assignment now."
     "You're not an assassin," he argued angrily.  "You were never
an assassin!"
     "I was everything I had to be."  Dismay darkened her eyes.
"Please, Oliver, get out of my way."
     "Why prolong this?  You can't protect her forever.  You must
know that!"
     "I won't let you--"
     "You can't stop me.  Don't even try."
     He threw himself at her before she could pull the trigger.
Jerking her into his arms, he felt the unyielding snout of the
handgun stab into his chest.  She struggled, writhing violently in
an effort to free herself.  When the pistol went off, the recoil
slammed the grip into his solar plexus, taking his breath away.
His nostrils were assailed with the odor of burnt fabric, and
     She slumped against him, her brows knit with agony and
disbelief.  "Oliver, I--"
     "No!"  He clung to her as she crumpled to the floor.  "Alex,
please!"  He let out a groan.  "I can't do this.  Not again."
     "I loved you," she whispered.
     As the life flowed out of her, Oliver brushed his lips against
gossamer-soft hair.  He laid her down, trembling fingertips gliding
across the curve of her mouth in a parting caress.  The pistol was
on the floor beside her leg.  "Sydney," he said tiredly.  His hand
wrapped itself around the molded grip.  "I refuse to go through
this again, Sydney."  Heat radiated from the muzzle, warming the
tender skin of his throat.  Determining the exact angle for
greatest efficacy, he fit the barrel right up under the ridge of
his own jaw.
     "Oli-ver."  Sydney's voice, thin and quavering from lack of
use, seemed to come from a vast distance away.
     "Never again," he intoned.
     Oliver pulled the trigger.
     The shattering report struck like a tidal wave.  Seconds
passed before the deafening reverberations faded away like water
streaming from the shore.  For a moment there was profound silence.
     It was dark where he was, immensely dark but also immensely
soothing.  That scream of denial, wrenching in its anguish, barely
scratched the outer edges of his consciousness.  It was not enough
to attract him, much less engage him.  Easier by far to stay here
and continue this gradual disintegration of self that was so
winningly painless.
     Footsteps: running, skidding.  Doors burst open, impacting
loudly with walls.
     "What the--!"
     "No, let me go!"
     Shouting voices: abrupt, unnerved, panicked.
     "Stop her!  She's pulling the IV out of her--"
     "Hold her down!"
     "Put her out, damn it!  Put her out, I said!  She's going
     At that instant, Oliver Sampson chose life over death.  He
simply could not disregard that despairing cry, which engaged not
only his consciousness but an urgent sense of duty as well.  He
surged to his feet, the hard-backed chair crashing to the floor
behind him.
     "Let her go, Dr. Clarke."  He hardly recognized his own voice,
tautly cold, edged with shock.
      "She's going to hurt herself--"  Doctor Clarke broke off at
sight of the pistol in Oliver's hand.  "Mr. Sampson!" he protested.
     Seeking support from the wall,  Oliver lowered the gun.
"Sydney," he said with a calm he did not feel.  "It's all right,
     Her eyes were wide and stricken, the pupils black points
within circles of blue.  "You're--alive."
     "So it would appear."  He licked dry lips.  Sweat ran down his
back, trickling between his shoulder-blades.  The arm holding him
upright shook visibly.  "And you're awake."
     "Let them examine you, then, Sydney.  Please."
     Warily the doctor and his assistant turned back toward her.
"Ms. Bloom?" Dr. Clarke asked.  Sydney cast frowning, suspicious
glances at them both.  Then she gave an assenting nod, her eyes
returning immediately to Oliver.  They remained on him throughout
the examination that followed, as though she dared not look away.
     He watched her in turn, his head swimming, well aware that the
last of his reserves were evaporating with each passing second.
     An eternity later, Clarke was finally satisfied.  "I'm going
to remove her IV," he stated, looking to Oliver for permission.
"She's a little weak, which is only to be expected.  Otherwise,
she's doing very well.  In my opinion, she'll be all right."
     With some reproach, Clarke murmured, "And you, Mr.
Sampson--how are you?"
     "I'm fine," he replied, his tone forbidding further
questioning.  "Perhaps Ms. Bloom can have something to eat?"
     "I was going to suggest that.  You as well?"
     He waited until everyone was gone before abandoning his post
at the wall.  Sydney's eyes darkened as he walked haltingly to her
bedside.  There, he took hold of the back of the chair which had
been restored to an upright position by Clarke's assistant.
Leaning forward, he waited until the sparkles cleared from his
     "I saw what happened."  She shifted uncomfortably.  "You--"
     "Trick of the light?" he suggested wryly.  This feeble attempt
at humor was not well received; Sydney bristled with anger.  He
raised a hand to forestall an outburst.  "Sorry."  Then he laughed,
a brittle sound.  "It is good to have you back, Sydney.  But I do
wish you wouldn't make a habit of this sort of thing."
     "I--oh, Oliver--"  Her voice broke on his name.  She covered
her mouth with a hand, tears welling in her eyes.
     "Don't, Sydney.  I'm okay, really," he insisted.  He sucked in
a deep, steadying breath.  "Look--d'you mind if we share?"
     She blinked up at him without comprehension.  He gestured
toward the bed, lost his balance, and only just caught himself
before he could fall on top of her.
     "You're not okay," she said accusingly.  With the heel of her
hand she wiped her face.
     "But I will be.  Promise.  Shift over, will you?"
     He lowered himself onto the mattress at the top of the bed,
turning so that his back was braced against the headboard and the
wall.  Without waiting for an invitation, Sydney climbed onto his
chest, tucking her face in the hollow of his shoulder.  He folded
his arms around her, expelling a long, weary sigh.
     "You remember, don't you?" Sydney said tentatively.  "All of
     His voice lacking all inflection, Oliver agreed, "All of it."
     "Because you've been in so many times?"
     "I don't know, Sydney,"
     She fell silent for a long moment.  "You didn't take us in,"
she mumbled pensively.  "So, who--?"
     "You know very well who it was."  Oliver's eyelids felt like
lead weights.  Mechanically he stroked Sydney's hair, surprised to
find that he was capable of even so simple a task.
     "From the scenario, I'd've guessed Sam," she commented
ruefully.  "But of course it was Duncan.  Crazy, but somehow I
forgot he was there."
     Her fingers plucked fretfully at something on his shirt.
"Oliver, I really thought you were--"
     "I know."  His hands fell idle, fingers tangled in strands of
gold.  "So did I, actually."  Inch by inch his head came to rest on
top of hers.  Soft and warm, her hair smelled of shampoo and a
pleasant scent distinctly Sydney's own.  "Is it all right if I just
lie here for a moment, Sydney?  I can't seem to keep my eyes open."
     "It's okay," she assured him.  He felt her smile through the
fabric of his shirt.  "I'm here."
     It was late afternoon.  The drawn curtains held brilliant
sunshine at bay.  Oliver sat in the darkness, head in hand, dozing
shallowly.  The tiniest of sounds was all that was needed to awaken
him:  There was someone at the door.  Alert but unmoving, he
watched it swing open, dimmered light from the corridor slanting
into the room and hiding the visitor's features in shadow.  Oliver
did not need to see the face of the man to know who it was:
Duncan's was a distinctive silhouette.
      Sydney's childhood friend stood inside the doorway for a
moment, looking round her room.  He lifted a hand and waved when
he spied Oliver.  "Thanks for calling," he whispered huskily.
     Oliver acknowledged his greeting and his thanks with an
abbreviated nod.
     Slowly, almost reluctantly, Duncan crossed to Sydney's
bedside.  Wordlessly, he stared down at her.  After a moment, he
said, "You sure she's only sleeping?"
     "I'm sure."  Rising stiffly, Oliver left his chair and strode
noiselessly to the other side of Sydney's bed.  Bending forward, he
lightly touched her shoulder.  "Sydney."  He gave her a little
shake.  "Sydney, Duncan's here to see you."
     "Hm?"  Uncurling, Sydney stretched out beneath the sheet,
unhurriedly rolling onto her back as she opened her eyes.  "Hey,
     "Hi, Syd.  How're you feeling?"
     "Weird."  She offered him a fey, sweet smile.  "A little.
Oliver says I can come home tomorrow."
     "That's great."
     "How's Mom?" Sydney asked.  "And Sam?"
     "Both fine.  They can't wait to see you."
     Collecting his jacket, Oliver murmured, "Now you're here, I'm
going to excuse myself for a bit."  He felt the weight of Sydney's
suddenly anxious gaze.  "Just for a little while."
     "Well," Sydney said, "okay."
     Duncan's expression as Oliver moved toward the door was
     Oliver let himself out.  As he strolled down the corridor, he
pulled on his coat, letting one sleeve hang empty while he
concealed a yawn.  His brief nap and a light meal had done wonders.
The fatigue had relented:  He no longer staggered when he walked,
and each breath of air now seemed to reach the bottom of his lungs.
     The daylight beckoned and he went toward it.
     As expected, Duncan was still there when Oliver returned.  He
was sitting, one leg hooked over the knee of the other, in the
chair next to the bed, studying Sydney's chart.  She appeared to be
sound asleep.
     "Interesting reading?" Oliver asked.
     "Lacks poetry.  And it's the abridged version."
     "Ah.  Doctors prefer brevity."  Padding toward the window, he
remarked casually, "You know, I'm surprised you came alone.
Where's Sydney's sister?"
     "She stayed with Mrs. B. and our keeper."
     "And has she threatened to kill him yet?"
     A smile teased the corners of Duncan's mouth.  "Sure.  Same
old Sam."
     Hands in his pocket, Oliver left the window and sauntered
across the room to Sydney's bed.  "It is fortunate, Duncan, that I
didn't know the extent of your abilities.  I might have mentioned
something to Abernathy."
     Duncan had the grace to look sheepish.  "Yeah--I'm sorry,
Oliver.  I couldn't think of any other way to flush her out."
     "You might have driven her deeper."
     "No," he said firmly.  "I know Syd.  And anyway, it brought
her back, didn't it?"
     Acknowledging this with a vague smile, Oliver ran a finger
along the headboard of the bed.
     "Just--" Duncan hesitated.
     "Just--don't take advantage with what you know, okay?"
     "I don't want her hurt any more than you do," Oliver said
     Pushing the hair off his forehead, Duncan conceded, "No, I
didn't think so."  He studied Sydney, who slumbered on,
undisturbed.  "Something else--"
     "In there--"  He made a face, wrinkled his nose, rubbed his
jaw.  "Did you, you know, did you--?"
     Duncan nodded.
     "Yes," Oliver answered quietly, "I think I did."
     "So--What was it like?"
     The question should not have surprised him.  Sardonically
amused all the same, Oliver murmured, "No worse than I've ever
     "Imagined good, or imagined bad?"
     "Let's just say that I didn't expect to survive it."
     "But you did," Duncan persisted.  "Syd said there are others
who have never come back at all."
     "I had no choice."
     "Because of Syd, right?"  Duncan smiled artlessly.  "Actually,
I was counting on that."
     Oliver blinked.  Somehow, not one of the myriad emotions
provoked by Duncan's words broke through his composure.
     "You, uh, won't tell her, will you?" Duncan asked.
     "She was there, Duncan," Oliver reminded him.  "She knows."
     "Not that.  About what I made you do."
     "What you--?"  Several seconds passed before Oliver attempted
speech.  In a hushed whisper, he asked incredulously, "Do I
understand you correctly?"
     "I'm not proud of it--but, no, you didn't pull the trigger."
When Oliver said nothing, Duncan gave a cough of embarrassed
laughter.  "Well, you don't really think you would've done that, do
     "I--honestly hadn't considered."
     "Suicide's not your style, okay?"  Scratching at his stubbled
jaw, Duncan inclined his head.  "Anyway--thought you should know,
if you didn't already.  Just don't tell Syd."
     Stunned, Oliver muttered, "Very fortunate indeed."
     "If that's meant to be a compliment, don't worry about it
going to my head."  Stretching out a couple of fingers, Duncan
lightly traced a circle around the ball of Sydney's shoulder.  "Why
didn't you tell Abernathy?  About me, I mean?"
     "I'm not really sure."  Oliver forced himself to concentrate.
"Maybe I just sensed it would be safer that way.  For all that I
trusted him, I never told him everything."
     "Safer for who, me?  No--For Syd, right?"
     Arching a brow, Oliver countered, "For both of you."
     "Hm."  Duncan suddenly stood and paced to the far end of the
bed.  There he folded his hands together upon the footboard.
"About Syd; about what happened to her:  Mrs. B. thinks she went
into a kind of overload when she was in VR.7.  Nothing, you know,
dangerous?  Given a few more days--if we'd had the time--she'd've
been all right.  Would probably have come out of it on her own."
     "I thought you said she was trapped in there."
     "No, that's what Sam said could happen.  But Mrs. B. said
that's impossible for Syd."
     "Why impossible?"
     "Because she's `VR compatible.' "
     "And what does that mean?"
     "She was hardwired," Duncan said soberly.  "Nothing about VR
can harm her."
     "Back up, Duncan," Oliver requested patiently.  "Something
hurt her when she was in VR.7."
     "Just overload, like I said.  Mrs. B. says the stress of the
last six months probably didn't help much either."
     "Mrs. Bloom," Oliver observed acidly, "seems to be showing
remarkable improvement."
     "She's catching up," Duncan agreed.  His eyes twinkled.
     Unamused, Oliver persisted, "According to Samantha, Dr. Bloom
believed that VR.7 presented a hazard--or was that merely a ruse?
To keep her from experimenting?"  His eyes cut sharply to Duncan.
"It was he who `hardwired' Sydney, yes?"
     Contemplating the ramifications, Oliver began to frown.  "You
knew all of this when you took us in this morning, didn't you?"
     Duncan went very still.  "Yeah," he said slowly.
     "And that's why you were certain she wouldn't be `driven
further in'--no matter what scenario you created."
     Watching Oliver warily, Duncan said, "Guess so."
     "You are," Oliver stated softly, "unconscionable."
     Duncan flinched.  "Said I was sorry.  And, anyway, I knew if
I could get Syd back, she'd make sure that you'd be all right,
     "I see."  Oliver tapped a finger against his lips.  "Now, the
only thing you haven't told me is that Sydney's not the only one
who's `VR compatible,' is that right?"
     Duncan's hair swept across his shoulders with each bob of his
head.  "When you're right, you're right.  Dr. B. did a job on all
of us--Sam, Syd, and me."
     "Any idea how?"
     "Nope--I mean, I don't remember ever waking up in his lab when
I was a kid with hatch-marks on my forehead, if that's what you're
     "It would've been a start.  I presume it was Mrs. Bloom who
told you all this?"
     "In words of one syllable."
     "Duncan."  Oliver's voice dropped a note.  "Was the man, your
keeper, there at the time she spoke of this?"
     "Our keeper, Oliver, remember?"
     Head thrown back, Oliver studied the ceiling, his mind racing.
    "So--are we going to Kowloon after all?" Duncan asked
     "It's beginning to look that way."  Allowing himself an ironic
smile, Oliver asked, "And how do you think Mrs. Bloom and Samantha
might react to the idea?"
     "Mrs. B.--no problemo.  Sam--"  Duncan put out a hand and
waggled it expressively.
     "Only to be expected."
     "So when do we leave?"  Both men turned toward the groggy
voice emanating from the hospital bed.
     "How much did you hear, Sydney?" Oliver asked gently.
     "Enough.  You don't think that guy--the man--you don't think
he can help us?"
     "I'm afraid that someone suspects that the three of you might
be able to do things in VR together that none of you may accomplish
singly.  If they have you under their control and succeed in
capturing your father, what do you think will happen?"
     "He seems pretty harmless," Duncan objected.
     "Hasn't he," Oliver demanded, exasperated, "given you a name
     "Uh--yeah."  He chuckled.  "The man's name is Mann.  Robert
     "You're joking, Dunc," Sydney scoffed.
     "Swear it!"
     Sydney's quiet chortle died in her throat.  "Oliver?  What is
     Oliver focussed on Sydney's face.  "Morgan mentioned him to me
once.  Not long before he was killed.  Sydney--"  He anticipated
her reaction too late.  "It may mean nothing at all."
     "And it may mean he had something to do with his murder!"
She began to throw off the bedcovers.
     "Syd," Duncan exclaimed, alarmed, "are you ready for this?"
     "If Oliver's ready, so am I," she retorted.
     Oliver placed a hand on her shoulder.  "I'll get your things.
And while you're changing, I'll check you out of here."
     "Wait!  Is that safe?"  Sydney shot an uneasy glance toward
the door.  "I mean, if they know we're leaving--"
     "I think Clarke's trustworthy," Oliver assured her, reaching
into the drawer of her bedside table.  "And we really have no
choice.  You'd be missed soon in any case."
     "We just won't telephone the press before we head out to the
airport," Duncan said blithely.
     Sydney muttered, "If they don't already know."
     "You're becoming more paranoid than me, Sydney," Oliver noted
with approval.  He placed her clothing on the mattress while Duncan
helped her to stand and held her loosely when she began to totter.
"It'll be best if you go on ahead, Duncan.  Prepare the others.
They'll listen to you."
     Baring his teeth, Duncan smiled mockingly.  "Thanks for giving
me the easy stuff."  Slowly drawing away, he said, "Okay, Syd?"
     "Yeah.  Was just a little wobbly."  She squeezed his arm.  "Go
on, Dunc.  I'll manage."
     "Okay."  He gave Oliver an eloquent look.  "See you guys in a
     "Or less," Oliver agreed.
     "Why a taxi?"
     "Just in case," Oliver said absently.  "Probably my
imagination, but something didn't feel right when I had a look at
the car earlier."
     "Then it wasn't your imagination."
     They stood on the curb in the shade of a jacaranda tree, its
drooping purple blooms dangling heavily from ferny branches.
Clarke had offered precautions but no resistance; their departure
had proceeded without incident.  Upon walking dazedly into the late
afternoon sunshine with Oliver's arm round her shoulder for
support, Sydney had searched for his car, only to be told that they
would not be taking it.
     "I hate taxis," she said darkly.
     "Why?" Oliver asked, amiably perplexed.
     "Too many crazy cab drivers, I guess."  Shielding her eyes
from the light, Sydney said without enthusiasm, "There it is."  She
gestured toward an approaching yellow vehicle.  It rolled to a stop
alongside the curb.
     Oliver thumbed the handle to open the back door and ushered
Sydney inside.  He slid in next to her, reciting the address for
the driver.  The instant he closed the door, the cab pulled away
and began to accelerate down the street.
     Leaning heavily against Oliver's shoulder, Sydney wondered,
"So what's it like in Hong Kong?"
     "Nothing at all like Los Ange--"  Oliver seized her arm in a
painful grip.  "Sydney!" he hissed.  She squeaked; startled blue
eyes darted to his face.  He nodded curtly toward the rearview
mirror.  The driver, who wore a cap and shaded glasses, stared
expressionlessly back at them.
     "My God," Sydney breathed.  "Daddy?"
     "Hello, Sydney," said Dr. Bloom.  His foot dropped hard onto
the accelerator.  As the car leapt forward, he said, "I think it's
time we had a little talk, don't you?"

* "Why I Watch VR.5"
  26 June 1995
  By John Dobbin 

Why I Watch VR5
by John Dobbin

I used to watch the Parliamentry Channel but couldn't stand to watch 295 
people rob 27 million others. I used to watch Seinfeld but got too excited 
during the Master of My Domain episode and had to leave the room after ten 
minutes. I used to watch America's Most Wanted until they started looking 
like members of my own family. I used to watch X-Files until I was abducted. 
I used to watch Star Trek but someone had been there before. I used to watch 
sports but struck out. I used to watch ER but became critical. I used to 
watch Picket Fences but couldn't choose as side. And I used to watch 60 
minutes but they lied, it was only 40.

And for these reasons I watch VR5.

Forgive me I'm alittle giddy after two cappucinos after midnight.


* "Wizard of Oz Trope"
  VR.5-Wizard Mix
  28 June 1995
  By Linda Willard 

(Consider, if you will, that the first episode of VR.5 incorporated
not-so-subtle references to the Wizard of Oz.  Let us, then, fast forward to
the last episode [not Reunion--the very, very *last* episode of this renewed
and subsequently long-running series]):
     Sydney muttered, "...home.  There's...."
     "Look," Duncan exclaimed.  "She's waking up!"
     Clutching her pillow, Sydney raised her head, lashes fluttering as she
opened her eyes.  She swallowed as she took in her surroundings.  A shiver
ran down her spine like a startled snake bolting for its hole.
     Mom, wearing plain clothes and a brilliantly white apron, stood next to
Dad Bloom at the foot of her bed; both had stricken expressions on tired
faces.  Perched on the edge of her bed was Duncan, bits of straw caught in
his short black hair.  Looking over his shoulder, one hand tucked inside his
collar, Samantha surreptitiously brushed dust and pieces of straw off the
back of her skirt.
     "It's good to see you, Sydney," a low, warm voice said from the other
side of the bed.  "I've missed you."
     She rolled over.  There, his features wreathed with concern, waited
Oliver.  "Here."  He lifted a mug to her lips.  "Drink some of this."
     Sydney eyed the stained cup with apprehension.
     "It's your favorite," he smiled.
     Arms closing tightly round her pillow, Sydney scooted back against the
headboard.  "Where's my computer?"
     "Why, over there, darlin'," Oliver said assuringly.
     Mom and Dad Bloom stepped apart, both pointing across the room at the
rectangular unit propped on top of Sydney's desk.  The metal casing contained
a 5" monochrome monitor and a single disk drive.
     Sydney's chest tightened with alarm.  "A Kaypro?"
     "Nothing but the best for our Sydney," Dad Bloom said proudly.
     "Are you all right, honey?" Mom Bloom asked.  "You've been talking in
your sleep about all sorts of crazy things.  And we couldn't wake you up."
     "We even had Dr. Morgan over to take a look at you," said Oliver
soberly.  "All he'd say was, 'It's not what you think,' before he wandered
off back to town.  Hasn't been quite the same since--What is it, Sydney?"
     She tore her eyes away from the computer squatting so toadlike on her
desktop.  "It was so real--" she protested.
     "Sip your coffee, love."  Oliver stroked her pale cheek with a
dirt-encrusted fingertip.  "You'll feel better."
     "You were all there," she whispered.  "Oliver, you worked for a group
called The Committee.  You wore black and leather, you carried a gun, and you
had an earring--"
     "A what!" Duncan hooted.  Oliver silenced him with a searing look.
     "And, Dunc, you lived on the roof outside my apartment."
     "Your apartment!  You've lived on this farm your whole life, Sydney
     "Mom was in a--"  Sydney gulped.  "And Dad and Sam were--"  She closed
her mouth abruptly.
     "We were what?" Samantha asked curiously.
     Sydney's eyes fell shut.  Sighing raggedly, she muttered, "It was so
     "You kept saying that."  Oliver rubbed his earlobe between thumb and
forefinger.  "And, 'virtual reality is real.'  What does it mean, Sydney?"
     Sydney's pained gaze returned to the Kaypro.  To her horror, tiny
letters appeared on the screen.  Squinting hard, she read, "Game over, Sydney
     Choking back a cry, Sydney pulled the pillow over her face and sank back
onto the mattress.
     "Sydney!  What is it, love?  Sydney--!"
     [Roll end credits.]
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

* "Little Boy Lost"
  10 July 1995
  By Kay Subich 


        It was dusk in Los Angeles. The summer air was heavy and thick
with smog, the growing darkness interrupted by the flickering of neon signs
coming to life along nearly deserted streets.
        Behind one of the second class apartment buildings common to the
area a lone figure stood looking up at the fire escape leading to the roof.
Tall and lanky in build, with long dark hair that hung below his shoulders
and beard stubble peppering his chin and upper lip, anyone observing might
have dismissed him as a street person or vagrant. The oversized T shirt,
baggy jeans and partially unlaced black work boots he wore also contributed
to the image of someone who didn't seem out of place lurking in back alleys.
        Duncan took a deep breath of the smoggy air then wished he hadn't as
he stifled a sneeze. After all, he was on a secret mission here. Stealth was
of the utmost importance. He eyed the metal steps a few seconds longer, then
not hearing anything from above, cautiously climbed to the roof.
	For the past two weeks Duncan had secretly harbored the hope that
Abernathy's death might mean an end to the Committee's obsession with Syd and
her family. What he found upon emerging onto his former rooftop abode
convinced him otherwise. The place looked like it had been hit by a tornado,
books strewn everywhere, bedding ripped open, drawers pulled from cabinets,
even the refrigerator had been searched.
	Duncan shivered slightly in the sticky night air. He'd taken his most
prized possessions with him the night he and Syd fled with Oliver, but he
still felt violated as he looked at the way total strangers had been tearing
apart his things.
        Reaching down he picked up a paperback copy of Dashiell Hammett's
"The Maltese Falcon" that had been torn in half and tossed aside. The pages
were dry. It had rained in L.A. for three days after they'd made a run for
it. Whoever had searched his rooftop had done it within the past 10 days,
which meant it hadn't been ordered by Abernathy. The Committee, or at least
part of it, wasn't going to give up so easily.
        "I wonder what they were looking for?" he said softly to himself as
he tossed the ruined book aside.
	Seymour's neon sign suddenly flickered to life beside him, a sound so
familiar for a moment Duncan had the eerie feeling that maybe all of this was
just a dream and he'd wake up any minute with Syd calling out the window
asking him if he wanted some orange juice for breakfast.
        Shaking his head slightly, Duncan forced his mind back to the mission
at hand. He hadn't come here just for old time's sake. This morning he'd
overheard Syd telling Sam and Mrs. B that she wished she'd brought along the
photographs of herself and Samantha as children that had been in her loft.
They were irreplaceable, and Duncan knew what it would mean to them if those
pictures could be retrieved before they all left the country three days from
        In spite of their new keeper's search attempts, or maybe because of
them, the professor was still missing, and Oliver absolutely insisted that
the rest of them had to get to a permanent place of safety as soon as
possible. He'd been working on travel arrangements all week, as usual
keeping it terribly secret. "The brooding Englishman," as Duncan sometimes
referred to the former Committee man, hadn't told them the itinerary yet,
something about a "need to know basis," and even their keeper wouldn't be
appraised of the final destination until later.
        All of this was cool with Duncan. Personally, he liked surprises
and it didn't matter a whole lot to him where he ended up living, so long
as it meant Syd and the others were safe.
	So, later in the afternoon Duncan had left a note for Syd, hiked two
miles down the road from the safe house they were temporarily staying in to a
bus stop and caught a ride into the city.
	Duncan picked his way carefully across the littered rooftop, bent over
and peered through the window into Sydney's loft. As expected, the Committee
had been there as well. If anything, his friend's apartment was in an even
bigger mess than his space, but that didn't necessarily mean the photos
wouldn't be there.
        Duncan pushed on the window. He and Syd had locked them from the
inside before leaving and it appeared they were still that way. He'd have to
get in through the regular door.
        Descending the fire escape a bit more quickly than he'd gone up,
Duncan paused a moment in the street then turned away from the the enclosed
back stairway. It'll just take a minute to check the mail, he thought, as he
searched for the key ring in his pocket. A new copy of  "The Conspiracy
Reporter" should have arrived last week, as well as "UFO Digest" and
"Strange but True Happenings." At least I'll have reading material for the
plane flight.
        Orwell Kravitz, the landlord, was just emerging from his ground floor
apartment as Duncan came into the lobby. The fat little man did a double take
at seeing the weird hippie he'd rented the roof space too. He thought the guy
had pulled a permanent disappearing act, him and the blonde girl in the loft
running out on their rent. Kravitz wasn't surprised they'd vanished at the
same time. From the way they were always hanging out together it was obvious
they were more than just friends.
	"You come to pay the rent!" he shouted, his pudgy face sleek with
perspiration in the heat of the hallway.
	Duncan, standing in front of the mailboxes, glanced back over his
shoulder. He'd been right. The magazines were there, along with invitations
to a Mickey Mouse art exhibit and an underground S&M museum opening. Syd's
box, which he couldn't get into because he didn't have the key with him,
looked like it just contained a couple of bills.
        Tossing the invitations into a nearby trash can, Duncan tucked the
zines under his arm and turned to face the rather irritated landlord.
        "Evenin' Mr. Kravitz," said Duncan, favoring the man with a brief
smile and half-hearted wave of his hand.
	All right, what am I going to say to get out of this?
        "Uh, yeah, right, the rent ... It's due this week, right? Well, it's
like this. I've been visitin' relatives out of town and just got back tonight
and ... "
	"What about the girl?" snapped Kravitz.
	"What girl?" asked Duncan, for a moment truly baffled.
	"Your girlfriend in the loft," sneered the landlord.
        "Oh, you mean Syd? Well, she's been out of town too and she sent me
to, uh, to square things with you. We've found another place to live, really
nice view and all, by the ocean, and ... "
	"I'm keepin' the deposit."
	"The what? The deposit. Yeah, right, the security deposit ..."
        "I've seen the mess you two left up there. I ought to charge you for
the cleanup."
	"And it's very gracious of you not to, sir," said Duncan as he backed
towards the front door. "I'm just gonna pick up a few personal possessions
then I promise we won't be bothering you again." Before the landlord could
say anything else, Duncan ducked out the door and headed around the building
to the outside loft entrance.
	Meanwhile, back inside his own apartment, Kravitz was dialing a phone
number. When the connection was made he said, "The long haired guy's back." A
pause. "No, he's alone. I didn't see the girl. He said they'd been out of town
visitin' relatives and they were movin'." Another pause. "O.K. And don't
forget. You said another thousand." There was a click as the line went dead
from the other end.

	Using his key, Duncan unlocked the door to Syd's apartment. A wave of
heat so thick it was almost palpable struck him in the face as the door swung
back, and the foul odor that accompanied it made him wrinkle his nose.
        "What died in here?" he said, then remembered Steed and Mrs. Peel,
Syd's goldfish. But a couple of dead fish certainly wouldn't smell this bad.
Taking a deep breath of the fresher air in the hallway, Duncan stepped
through the doorway into the loft, its interior painfully familiar in the blue
and red light of Seymour's flashing sign.
	Sydney's possessions, like his own, were strewn across the floor. Even
the couch, which was really a black vinyl covered booth seat, had been slashed
open in a dozen places. Glancing up at the shelf where the fish bowl had been
Duncan saw that it was gone. Pieces of glass on the floor told the fate of the
late "Avengers" couple. The refrigerator door swung open on its hinges,
revealing the source of that gagging odor. A package of hamburger sat rotting
on the second shelf.
	All of the computer equipment was gone. Duncan wasn't surprised. Of
course they would take it, not that it would do them any good.
	He turned his head towards the upper part of the loft where Syd had
slept. Duncan didn't want to go up there. He already had enough nightmares
about what he might have found at the top of those stairs, in that bed, if
Oliver had carried out his mission as ordered.
        "Yeah, as if he'd have left you alive to find the body," said Duncan
to the empty room.
        It was now fully dark outside. Realizing how late it was getting
Duncan brought his thoughts back to the task at hand. The pictures ... they
had to be here somewhere, probably on the floor. Putting his magazines down
on an end table, he began his search.
	It didn't take long to find them. After only a few minutes of sifting
through the papers, books and clothing that lay in drifts around the room
Duncan triumphantly pounced on one of the photos, pulling it from under a
pile of Syd's underwear. This one had been hanging on the wall above that
small chest of drawers, he remembered. The glass was cracked and the back
missing, but the picture itself, of Syd and Sam, was unharmed. The others
shouldn't be far away.
        Slightly embarrassed and feeling inordinately self conscious, Duncan
settled himself cross-legged on the floor and continued his search, picking up
and tossing aside the silky underthings, pausing briefly once to blink
curiously at a tiny, see-through, black lace something or other that he could
never, even in his wildest fantasies, have pictured Syd wearing. That image
was going to stick with him awhile.
	"Hmpf," he said, setting it aside a bit more carefully than he had the
other undies.
        Finally, beneath a flannel nightgown, he saw the rest of the
photographs. Snatching them up triumphantly, Duncan held them aloft with a
spoken, "All right!"
        His goal achieved, Duncan realized he had better be getting back or
the others would worry. Scrambling to his feet he looked around for
something to put the pictures in, maybe a folder or envelope, and from old
habit glanced out the window at the clock mounted on the adjacent building,
checking the time.
        On the edge of the rooftop, silhouetted against the brighter light
behind him, stood a man holding a gun.
	Duncan froze, his heart jumping, then settling into a pounding beat so
fast and loud it seemed that the man on the roof must hear it.
        For one brief, disorienting moment Duncan couldn't think as panic
clawed at his mind. He was sweating from the hundred degree heat in the closed
apartment, but the trickle of moisture between his shoulder blades felt like
ice water.
	"Man, if you lose it now you're gonna die," a little voice whispered
inside his head. "Get it together, Dunc." That made sense. Calming himself
with great effort, controlling his breathing,  his knees stopped shaking and
the dizziness passed. Duncan assessed his options.
        He could see through the window that the man had left the fire escape
and was now making a circle around the roof. A naive thought suddenly
occurred to Duncan. Maybe he isn't looking for me at all. But there had been
too many dead bodies piling up lately for that to be true. This guy is from
the Committee. Kravitz tipped 'em off that I was here.
        Luckily Duncan had not bothered turning on any lights in Syd's
apartment. He was used to working and reading by the light of Seymour's sign.
That meant the guy outside couldn't see him in here, nor could he get in
because the windows were still locked. The freight elevator hadn't worked
for months. The inner door leading to the building's interior was kept locked
by Kravitz, against all fire regulations as Duncan had frequently pointed out
to the landlord. The only other way out was through the loft's outside
stairwell which meant a sprint down the hall and across the open space of the
lower roof before he could reach the stairs.
        Once in the street he'd be safe. Duncan knew this part of the city
like the back of his hand. He'd canvassed every alley, side street and
deserted building many times in search of suitable material to recycle for
his metal sculptures.
        However, just when he was going to make his move Duncan heard someone
in the hallway outside.
	The footsteps paused outside the door which he'd left standing open
several inches for ventilation. There was more than one person out there and
their shadows flickered in the dim light of the corridor. Realizing that
hiding was useless, not to mention a humiliating position to die in, Duncan,
still holding the pictures in his hand, slowly turned and faced the doorway.
        One of the men eased open the door then reached in to flip on the
light switch. Duncan blinked, holding his hand up to shield his eyes. All
he could make out were business suited silhouettes.
	The second man spoke into a flip-phone. "We've got him."

        Sydney Bloom had seen Oliver Sampson undergo a great many mood
swings during the past few weeks, but never before had she seen him in such
a cold rage.
        "He did what?" The words were spoken quietly, almost softly, but
the look in the former Committee member's gray eyes belied his calm tone of
voice. Slightly narrowed, a cold hardness in their depths, Oliver's gaze
was enough to make Sydney's own voice tremble as she answered.
        "I just found the note. He left it on the nightstand beside my bed.
He should have been back hours ago."
        It was one o'clock in the morning and the entire household was wide
awake. They'd been searching for Duncan since eight that evening.
        Samantha had remarked late in the afternoon that she couldn't find
the third member of their little VR trio, but Sydney had assured her sister
that Dunc often pulled a disappearing act, sometimes wandering around for
hours, losing all track of time while he sat curled up somewhere with a
book or watching the ocean, or even feeding the animals at the zoo.
        "Dunc kind of lives in a world of his own," she'd told her sister,
and at Samantha's curious look Syd had added, "He's not like other people,
in a lot of ways. But you don't know him so it would be hard for you to
        Sydney was instantly sorry she'd used those words. One of
Samantha's biggest regrets was that she was not as close to Duncan as her
twin sister was, and perhaps never would be. After all, Sydney and Duncan
had been together for 17 years. Their relationship went beyond friendship.
Even though Duncan had been going out of his way to be nice and making
conversation, Samantha sensed from their joint VR ventures that, in his
heart, her childhood friend saw her not as a grown up version of the little
girl he'd once been a bit smitten with, but as a stranger he couldn't quite
bring himself to trust.
        Samantha, however, kept her thoughts to herself, like she'd been
doing all of her adult life.
        Nora Bloom was making dinner for them that night, fried chicken,
mashed potatoes, carrots and Duncan's favorite chocolate walnut pudding for
dessert. Their mother was recovering quite well physically from her long
coma. Her mental state was another matter. Nora remembered absolutely
nothing from the past 17 years, nor did she have the slightest memory about
VR or the disastrous series of events that had caused the coma in the first
        However, she seemed happy enough about her present situation,
asking few questions, content to be with her daughters even though they
were now adults. She did, however, have a disconcerting tendency to treat
the girls, and Duncan, as if they were still 12 years old. Only last night
she had tried to tell Duncan he should be "running along home." Duncan had
gently and patiently tried to make her understand that his home was with
them now, and he had looked so sad when he realized Mrs. B just wasn't
capable of understanding.
         It wasn't until Duncan missed their special dinner that Sydney
became concerned as well. She and Samantha went looking for him in the
nearby woods and meadows, and Oliver joined the search at midnight, taking
the car into the village and making inquiries at the community's only
tavern. When he returned the expression on his face was grim.
        That's when Sydney had gone into her room, picked up the technical
manual she'd tossed on her nightstand, and found the note underneath.
        It read: "Syd. Gone to fetch the pix. Back around 10. Save me some
pudding. Dunc."
        Oliver stared a long time at the note, as if seeing something more
than the handwriting. Then he swore with a word Sydney had never heard him
use before. Usually he was much more of a gentleman. Even Nora glanced up
with raised eyebrows.
        "What 'pix' is he talking about?" snapped Oliver, turning to Sydney
in exasperation.
        "Family photos of Sam and me and mom and dad," she explained. "They
were in my loft. Dunc heard me say this morning how much I hated it that
I'd left them behind when we ran that night."
        "He should have been back by now," pointed out Samantha.
        "Yes, he should have," commented Oliver dryly. "And the fact that
he isn't means one of two things. Either Duncan has his head in the clouds
and simply lost track of time ... or he's dead. At least now we know where
he went and that he intended to return."
        "You thought he might have run out on us?" asked Sam with surprise.
        "Not really," Oliver sighed.
        Nora spoke for the first time. "Duncan is such reliable child, and
your father thinks he has a good head on his shoulders. I'm sure he's all
        "Duncan's changed, Mom," said Sydney, and under her breath added,
"We all have. Where are the car keys? I'm going after him."
        Oliver's hand on her arm was not gentle as he jerked her to a stop
on the way to the front door. "You're not going anywhere. I will take the
car into the city and check out your old apartment."
        Sydney pulled away, freeing her arm. "Dunc's in trouble and I'm
going to help him, with or without you. If you take the car then I'll take
the bus."
        "Then I'm terribly afraid that I'll have to handcuff you to the
bannister," said Oliver. He wasn't joking.
        Sydney changed tactics. "Oliver, you know how I feel about Duncan.
I can't just sit here waiting to find out. Please, let me come with you. I
promise I'll do whatever you say."
        Oliver closed his eyes a moment in thought. He had a pounding
headache and the last thing he needed tonight was to have Sydney running
loose in Los Angeles wildly searching for her friend. He had no doubt that,
unless he literally knocked her out, she would find some way to get into
the city. Better she be with him.
        "All right," he said. "You can go with me. But remember, you
promised to follow my orders without question."
        Samantha suddenly said, "I want to go too."
        "No!" said both Sydney and Oliver in unison.
        "Why not?" she said, hurt showing in her eyes. "I care about Duncan
        "Because someone has to stay here with your mother," said Oliver
patiently. "And if anything should happen ... if the Committee splinter
group should find this safe house ... then it would be up to you to get her
to safety. After all, you've managed to protect your father the past six
months. Now do the same for your mother."
        "Besides," added Sydney. "You never know. We might need you in VR
and all the gear is here."
        Somewhat mollified, Samantha gave in, but there were tears in her
eyes as she watched the car leave.
        Dawn was breaking when they pulled into the alley behind Sydney's
old apartment building. Oliver parked beside the outside stairwell, turned
off the engine and turned to look at Sydney.
        She'd slept part of the way and he was glad for her. She really
wasn't completely recovered from her ordeal in VR.7. Her face was still too
pale and thin, and her eyes looked perpetually tired, but under her mother
and sister's administrations Oliver was certain Sydney would soon be back
to her old self. All she needed was proper nourishment, peace and quiet,
and no VR for awhile. At least that's what Duncan claimed. And since
Duncan, at the risk of his own conscious life, was the one who had gone in
to lead Sydney out of the VR.7 maze, Oliver was inclined to agree.
        Duncan ... Oliver was still furious at the younger man for pulling
a stunt like this, endangering not only himself but possibly all of them.
Even if he'd made it out of the apartment he could have been followed back
to the safe house. Duncan never seemed to think about those kinds of
things. Not for the first time Oliver wondered how someone so brilliant in
some ways could be so unbelievably naive in others. It was a mystery to
him, but then Duncan's mind and actions were pretty much a mystery to
everyone else as well.
        "Stay here," he ordered Sydney as he started to open the car door.
        "You promised me you'd obey orders."
        "I'm coming with you."
        "No, you're not. It could be dangerous and I don't want to have to
worry about you if things get nasty."
        Oliver didn't really think there would be any danger. Duncan would
have been here hours ago. If something had happened, it would all be over
by now. But he was afraid of what he might find up there. God only knew
what it might do to Sydney in her fragile state if they should go in and
find Duncan lying on the floor with a bullet in his head. He wanted to
spare her that. Usually the Committee cleaned up after itself ... but not
        Suddenly Sydney made a lunge for the car door handle. Then she was
out and running for the stairs. Oliver caught her halfway up where she
struggled in his arms. "I've got to know! Oliver, I've got to see!"
        "All right, Sydney! All right!" he had both her wrists in his hands
and could easily have subdued her, but the last thing Oliver wanted to do
was to hurt this girl. In fact, what he really wanted right now was to pull
her to him and reassure her that everything would be all right.
        Instead he let her go. Sydney sprinted up the rest of the stairs
and across the roof to the door of her apartment, fumbling in her pocket
for the key. Then she saw that the door was already slightly ajar.
Fearfully, cautiously, she entered.
        Inside everything was in a shambles and a foul odor caused her
stomach to heave. Turning on a light her eyes darted quickly around the
room, then she ran up the stairs to the bedroom. No sign of Duncan
anywhere, and a feeling  of relief washed over her, for she too had feared
what they would find. Coming back downstairs she peered out onto Dunc's
rooftop. The windows were still locked.
        Maybe he never got here. Then she turned around and caught site of
the pictures on the floor by the door. They were all together, as if they'd
been stacked. There was only one reason they would be that way.
        Oliver picked up a magazine from an end table. Holding it up he
asked, "Your choice of literature?" It was "The Conspiracy Reporter," the
latest issue. Checking the label confirmed it was addressed to Duncan.
        "He was here," breathed Sydney. "He got his mail downstairs then
came up here for the pictures and something happened."
        Oliver was now looking at the floor, pushing articles of clothing
aside as if searching for something. Sydney suddenly noticed that her
underwear was scattered all over the place and self consciously nudged a
pair of black lace pantys under the couch with her foot.
        She started to ask Oliver what he was doing, but when she saw him
kneel and peer closely at a dark stain on the floorboards she knew.
        "Blood?" she asked, afraid of the answer.
        Oliver rubbed his finger over the stain then touched it to his tongue.
        "Oh," said Syd, suddenly remembering that Duncan had spilled an egg
cream soda on the floor the evening before their flight.
        Let's go talk to your landlord," said Oliver.
        Sydney picked up Duncan's magazines and the pictures before closing
the door of her loft for the very last time.
        The interrogation of Mr. Kravitz was swift. At first he denied
knowing anything, but Oliver's hand on his throat and the gun pointed at
his head loosened the pajama clad man's tongue quite quickly.
        Yes, the long haired guy had been here. Yes, he'd been told to call
someone if either he or the girl came back. Yes, he had the phone number.
Men had come and taken her boyfriend away."
        Oliver loosened his grip on the man's throat and indicated Sydney
should get the number from beside the phone. It would probably be their
only lead.
        Then, as they were about to leave, Oliver turned and asked one last
        "When they took her 'boyfriend' away ... he was alive?"
        Kravitz looked away.
        "Was Duncan on his feet when the men took him away?" repeated
Oliver, annoyed at himself for allowing his own anxiety to show. At his
side Sydney stood totally still, holding her breath, waiting for the
        Exasperated beyond belief Oliver was about ready to take the fat
little man by the throat again.
        "Did you hear gunshots?" he tried.
        Finally Kravitz answered. Looking at Sydney he said almost
apologetically. "There weren't no gunshots that I heard. But they were
carryin' him when they put him in the car."
        "He's alive," said Sydney as soon as she slammed the car door shut.
"Dunc's alive and we've got to help him."
        "Sydney ... Duncan is dead. " Oliver felt helpless, like when Alex
had been shot. It was pretty obvious what had happened. The splinter
faction of the Committee that had ordered Sydney's death had caught Duncan
in the apartment and executed him. His body would never be found.
        "No, he's not," Sydney screamed, suddenly flying at him, beating on
his chest with her fists. "He's not dead! He can't be dead!"
        Oliver pulled her into his arms, holding her close, the way he'd
wanted to earlier. "Sydney, I liked him too. But getting hysterical won't
bring him back."
        "Dunc's always been there for me," she sobbed. "And I wasn't there
when he needed me."
        Oliver hushed her, stroking her soft blonde hair while her head
rested on his chest. Other than this, he really didn't know what to say or
do. He knew that a bond had existed between Sydney and Duncan, a bond as
strong as the one between siblings ... or perhaps even more. And, although
he'd never admitted it to himself before, he, like Samantha, had envied the
two of them their easy relationship.
        Sydney, exhausted, was relaxing against him. They should be getting
back to the house. Tomorrow they could leave for their new home.
        An unexpected pang of sadness passed over Oliver as he realized
there was one plane ticket and passport they wouldn't be needing. He really
had liked Duncan, in spite of the young man's maddening eccentricities and
stubborn insistence on personally protecting Sydney to the point of making
himself a nuisance. In fact, up until now, Sydney's companion had actually
been quite competent in a strange sort of way, and his courage and loyalty
were never in question. Duncan would be missed ...
        Suddenly Sydney stirred in his arms and struggled to sit up. Her
eyes were still bright with tears, but she was smiling.
        "He is alive," she whispered. "Dunc's alive. Oliver, we've got to
go get him."
        "What are you talking about?" asked Oliver, fearing that Sydney had
finally been pushed over the edge of sanity.
        "I heard him. In here." She pointed to her temple. "You know we
were in VR.7 together and that it involves telepathy. I was thinking about
him, calling to him in my mind and he answered. Oliver, Duncan is alive. He
heard me and I heard him."


        He was cold. He was so cold it was keeping him from going back to
sleep. Sleep ... He had to go back to sleep. If he could just get back to
sleep everything would be all right.
        Without opening his eyes he reached for his blanket. If he could
get the blanket pulled up he'd be able to go back to sleep.
        There was no blanket ... nor was there a pillow or even a bed for
that matter.
        Duncan slowly opened eyelids that felt like sandpaper. He was lying
face down on the floor ... who's floor he had no idea. It was cement,
smooth and very cold.
        "Boy, I must have tied one on last night," he muttered, pushing
himself up on his elbows. His right arm tingled with pins and needles from
lack of circulation and he shook his hand to restore the blood flow. Long
hair hung forward in his eyes and through its veil he could make out a
concrete block wall. The lighting was dim, almost like twilight.
        Brushing the hair off his face Duncan said aloud, "Syd?" There was
no answer to his call.
        Why would she leave him here like this?
        Sitting up straighter, Duncan eased himself over until his back was
against the wall. He felt kind of sick on his stomach, but at least his
vision wasn't so blurred anymore, although his head was pounding. He took a
deep breath, trying to calm the queasy feeling. It hurt, as if his lungs
weren't used to taking in that much air lately, and made him cough. His
mouth was cottony dry and had a funny taste in it, like metal. Swallowing
made his throat burn like fire. Scratching at his cheek he noticed that his
beard no longer felt stubbly but had grown out enough so the whiskers were
soft. That meant he'd been out for more than one day.
        Jeez, this is the worst hangover I've ever had. What was I
drinking? Am I in jail? Where's Syd? What the hell's happened?
        Totally perplexed and hating the feeling, Duncan looked more
closely at his surroundings. It was a cell. There was no other way to
describe it. Four stone block walls, concrete floor, no windows, single
door with no visible handle or knob, open toilet in the corner ... and a
video camera mounted just beneath the 12 foot ceiling that was slowly
moving back and forth, sweeping the room with its lens.
        The air smelled strange too, like maybe it was filtered or
        Sniffing loudly, Duncan glanced down and noted someone had dressed
him in a light green cotton tunic and matching loose fitting pants with a
drawstring waist, surgical scrubs. I look like an escapee from "Medicine
Ball," he thought, a touch of his usual wry humor asserting itself briefly.
Man, I wish they hadn't taken my clothes. That was my favorite T shirt.
        They'd also left him barefoot. No wonder he was cold, his feet felt
like blocks of ice.
        Chafing his toes with his hands, Duncan concentrated ... and
discovered that the harder he tried to remember what had happened the more
it seemed he'd forgotten. I really don't know how I got here. I don't even
know what day it is or what city I'm in. My name ... for one incongruous
moment Duncan thought he'd actually lost track of his own name. He reached
for the information, and it just wasn't there, like a computer disc wiped
clean. But he remembered Syd and her computers ...
        Computers ... something about computers and Syd and ... VR.
        That was the key, and the memories poured back into Duncan's brain
like water filling an empty vessel. Sydney, VR, the Committee, Oliver,
Samantha ...
        Sitting cross-legged on the floor, tucking his feet underneath his
thighs for warmth, Duncan closed his eyes, letting his mind drift as the
images flitted by.
        As the Committee men advanced towards him in Syd's loft, Duncan
figured he was dead. After all, orders had been issued to kill Syd, why not
him as well?
        But apparently there had been a change of plans. One of the men had
a hypodermic syringe in his hand. They wanted him alive.
        "What do you want? Who are you? What are you doin' in here?" Duncan
asked in a belligerent tone of voice that he hoped masked his fear. "Syd
ain't here. You can't hurt her anymore. I've made sure of that."
        Their silence, and the mere fact that they weren't trying to
explain, was terrifying. Fearing capture almost more than death, Duncan
turned and leaped for the windows, having the silly notion that he could
break through the glass like they did in the movies. He probably would have
bled to death from the lacerations if he had succeeded, but one of the men
landed on his back before he could reach the casements, bringing him hard
to the floor and wrenching his arm up and back in a painful hammerlock, at
the same time pushing his face down into a pile of Syd's flannel work
shirts. Duncan was on the verge of blacking out from suffocation when the
needle stabbed his arm, completing the job.
        He had opened his eyes once, briefly, at the airport. There was the
drone of a plane's engine nearby that obscured all other sounds and
contributed to the pounding ache in his head. He was lying in the back seat
of a car. The seat covers were smelly  and it felt like his hands were tied
together behind him. (Duncan looked down at his wrists in the cell and
noted the abrasions. Truth at last. Then he closed his eyes again.)
        Syd ... Syd would never know what had happened to him. Somehow he
had to let her know before they got him on that plane. She'd reached him
when the Committee had captured her, why couldn't he reach her. Samantha
said they didn't need the computers and gear for everything ... at least in
        Theories are nice ... Duncan closed his eyes against the blinding
glare of the landing field kleg lights. Syd. Where are you?
        Then he felt a stabbing pain in his arm again and everything faded
to be continued ...

* "John Plays John Belushi FAQ Posting"
  Insanity (Script?!)
  15 July 1995
  By John Dobbin 

With apolgies to John Belushi and the makers of the movie Animal House.
Jonathan Gan: War's over guys, the Net Gods dropped the big one.
Suddenly John jumps in to the center of the room wearing his blue shirt with
College written on the front.
John Dobbin: Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over till we decide it's
over. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Jonathan Gan Germans?
Lisa Cunningham Forget it, he's rolling.
John Dobbin: It ain't over now. Because when the going gets tough....
Everyone waiting expectantly
John Dobbin: The tough get going! So who's with me? Let's do it!
No one moves as John charges out of the room, arms waving.
He returns when no one follows him.
John Dobbin: What happened to the VR5 people I
Augie de Blieck: Well, what do you expect us to do, you moron!
John Dobbin: Look at you! Sitting around like this. Tonight could be the
best night of our lives but you say "Ooo, Johnny, we might get in trouble!".
Well, kiss my ass!
Jonathan Gan: He's right guys.
John Dobbin: I am?
Jonathan Gan: We could fight this battle with conventional means at the cost
of millions or we could do it with one utterly insane act of some sort.
John Dobbin: And we're just the guys who could do it. So so with me? Let's
do it!
Michele, Augie, Jean, Eva, Maritza, David, Lori, Pat. and Lisa run out of
the room screaming maniacally. Everyone else joins them, waving their arms
in the air.
John  Dobbin: Go! Go! Go!!!!
Jonathan runs screaming out next followed by John Dobbin
Egad! What could they be up to?

* "Secrets"
  26 April 1995
  By Katherine Vogele 

Note:  Kat wrote this story after "Simon's Choice."

April 26, 1995
"Secrets," by Katherine Vogele 
        "$12,000?" Oliver repeated.  "For one visit into VR?"
        "The Committee owns my life, Oliver.  It's taking over.  It's
working its way into interfering with Tel-Cal...I need money.  Maybe not
$12,000 for each visit, but I need $12,000 for all the previous visits and
I need it now."
        "Sydney, why on earth?"
        She shifted her gaze from Oliver's hazel eyes, and looked first at his
gold earring as it caught the sunlight, and then at his wingtips.  "I just
need it."
        The money, which was actually to prevent her childhood home's
foreclosure and subsequent demolition, seemed excessive to her.  She felt
ridiculous asking for it.  Duncan had convinced her it was all right,
though -- she *was* the only one who could go into VR.  It was an invaluable
skill.  No one knew why; some said her father had biologically changed her.
Sydney was still working on decoding his cryptic notes.
        "Ah.  I see," said Oliver offhandedly.  "I suppose I can agree to
that.  It'll be here by tomorrow morning."
        "Oh."  Sydney turned back to her computer, staring at the yellow
        "Oliver," she started, but when she turned to look he was gone.


        Sydney was dreaming.
        She was in her childhood home again; her twin sister was still alive
and both she and Sydney were having iced tea with their father.  It was as
though she was in VR -- lately everything had seemed as though she was in VR.
The colors were so vibrant they almost hurt her eyes; her hair, normally a
whitish blond had turned Hi-liter yellow, and her green eyes had suddenly
become neon.
        She was young, though; both her and her twin's hair was in pigtails;
they wore horrid pink apron-like dresses their mother had put them in.  They
were expecting guests; Father had gone to greet them at the door.  She and
Samantha were to wait here, in the backyard.  Mother was in the kitchen,
smiling over them from afar, as usual.
         Sydney was looking into the teal-blue sky when Father came, followed
by Mr. Sampson and his sons.  Mr. Sampson was over a lot; he and Father were
good friends.  Sydney thought they worked together; she wasn't sure.  She
and Samantha were six.  The Sampson boys were only a little bit older; Duncan
was six, Oliver was ten.  They came over a lot, too.  Sydney and Samantha and
Oliver and Duncan were good friends.
        The dream changed suddenly, quickly, just as VR did, and Sydney was
suddenly older.  She was thirteen and standing in the gazebo, watching a
cherry-red ladybug crawl across an incandescently stark white board of the
gazebo.  Oliver and Duncan were over; they were playing hide and go-seek.
Sydney was waiting for the others to hide.
        She felt a tap on her shoulder, and she turned around, only to find
herself staring into Oliver's carmel brown eyes.  Oliver bent and kissed her
lightly on the lips.  Her first kiss.  As Sydney swooned, Oliver kissed her
again, then whispered, "I'll be hiding," and ran off to continue the game.
        Sydney awoke with a start.  As she climbed out of bed, Sydney glanced
downstairs.  Oliver stood, dressed in business attire as usual, staring out
one of the loft's windows.  A manila envelope lay on the table.  She stumbled
downstairs, and, without acknowledging Oliver, made a beeline for the
refrigerator and the orange juice therein.
        Glass in hand, she walked to the kitchen table, trying not to spill.
She took a sip and looked at the envelope.
        "What is this?" she asked, her voice coming out still sounding sleepy.
        "A certified check for $12,000." said Oliver, turning only slightly.
He turned back to the window.  "Go ahead, Sydney.  Open it."
        Sydney opened the envelope with her fingers, ripping it clumsily.  It
was, as Oliver had said, a certified check for $12,000.  The dream started to
come back to her.
        "Oliver," she said, about to ask him, then stopped.  It was only a
dream.  Had it been VR, there might have been a kernel of truth -- but dreams
were unreliable, silly.  Subconscious ways of working out frustrations.  It
had just been too long a day.  Or perhaps something she'd eaten.  Maybe even
too much VR.  Who knew?
        "Why are you here?" she asked, continuing so as not to make her
disjointed thought apparent.
        Oliver caught it anyway, turned, and arched an eyebrow.
        Looking at him, Sydney realized how much of a contrast they were;
Oliver with his crisp, clean British accent, his sharp but impersonal clothes,
his shiny earrings, his slicked hair -- and Sydney with her soft muttered
phrases, muted clothes, and yellow hair which always seemed to be hanging
in her eyes.  What an absurd thought -- the two of them, friends.  She
wondered from where, out of the depths of her subconscious, the idea had
arisen.  Closing her mind to the fact that in the dream they had not only been
friends, but young loves, she stared at Oliver defiantly.
        Oliver took a step and rested his hand on the back of a chair.  "My
liason has agreed upon your price -- for every VR job you pull for our . . .
organization."  He waited a moment for this to sink in.  "Of course, we'll
want you to quit your job at Tel-Cal, so as to be at our beck and call."
        Sydney swallowed hard.  "Can I ever become a member of The Committee?
        "Sydney," scolded Oliver.  "Was I imagining it, or don't you think us
a shady, questionable government organization?  Isn't it true you think that
we are, in fact, Public Enemy Number One?"
        "Yes.  But my father was a member.  I have to..."
        "Discover your past?"  Oliver came forward, crossed to Sydney's side
of the table.  "Figure out who you are?" he whispered in her ear, immediately
walking to her computer table.  "You may become a member, if you wish.  Bear
in mind, Sydney dear, that once you join, you may never leave.  We're a bit
like the Mafia in that respect."
        "But the Mafia is family-run."
        "Who said we weren't?"  Oliver paused before continuing.  "If you want
to become more involved with the Committee, though, without actually becoming
a member, it can be arranged.  But not now.  Take care of your father's
house."  With that, Oliver turned and stalked to the door.  It closed behind
him with a muted slam, leaving Sydney to wonder how Oliver knew why Sydney
wanted the money.


        The house had been taken care of, and there had been no more dreams.
Sydney hadn't gone into VR for a full week, and was beginning to miss it.
Yesterday had been her last day at Tel-Cal.
        Oliver, as usual, was in her loft unannounced when she had arrived
home from work.  Sydney had stood, awkward as usual, unsure of what to say.
        Oliver turned and crossed to her, urgently.  "We have a job for you,
Syd.  This one won't wait."
        Sydney groaned.  "None of them can wait."
        With a smirk, Oliver replied, "We're procrastinators.  I'd say 'sue
us', but we're not the kind of organization a court order affects."  Then, on
with business: "Art thieves have been commissioned to break into the New York
Metropolitan Museum and steal fabulous art -- for private collections."
        "They *have been*?  They haven't done it yet?"
        "No, but they will."
        "But how do you..."
        "We monitor conversations on the World Wide Web.  Conversations, mail,
images -- whatever's there to monitor.  We came across this."
        Half to herself, Sydney muttered, "Of course you monitor private
conversations; you're the Committee."  To Oliver, Sydney asked, "But how can
*I* help?"
        "We've narrowed it to a list of subjects -- we'd like you to, ahem,
give them a buzz, and see what's on their minds."
        "The Committee saving artwork?"
        "We're involved in a bit of everything, Sydney.  But there's no time
to discuss the Committee now."
        "But I don't understand..."
        "You don't need to.  You may call their numbers, day or night -- these
people are always up.  Take them to the Metropolitan Museum.  See how they
react.  If you need to, we can get you closer to some of the people."
        "All right," hedged Sydney, hesitantly.  "I want to know more."
        "You probably will, by the time this is done."
        Sydney nodded, and sat down at her computer.  The door slammed as she
studied the list of names and numbers Oliver had given her.


        Sydney had called Oliver and asked him to meet her near the woods,
where they usually met.  Sydney and Oliver had an unspoken understanding that
she would never take him into VR, but there had been another dream last night
-- the idea of taking Oliver into VR was more appealing now than ever before.
        As she walked to the woods, Sydney rehashed the dream.
        She had been seventeen, and on a beach.  She remembered this; it had
happened in reality.  Again, everything was in a VR state of clarity.  She
had been swimming.  Her strawberry red bathing suit.  A wet pony tail.  She
had swum out too far, and remembered struggling, before giving in to the
tide.  She remembered blackness.
        Her father and sister were dead, drowned in an awful car accident.
Sydney had survived, although the authorities had no idea how.  It had been as
though she was pulled from the submerged car.
        Sydney had blacked out with no one around.  She had awoken in the arms
of a lifeguard, staring down at her with eyes the color of a melted
butterscotch.  They had been the only two on the beach; it was early morning.
        She awoke without sickness or even slight illness.  Staring into that
virtual reality-butterscotch brown of the lifeguard's eyes, everything had
seemed all right.  "Good morning, Sydney," said the lifeguard.  "Are you all
right?"  He'd  had a smart British accent and wet hair in his eyes.
        She didn't speak, but kissed him.  He responded, slowly (as if
shocked) at first, then passionately.  He drew back, and studied her for a
moment.  An odd smile crept across his face, as though laughing at a private
joke, and he licked his lower lip.  Their faces were so close that his tongue
wet her lower lip, slightly.  Sydney breathed.  He kissed her again on the
lips, and then went to her neck, chin and shoulders.  Sydney ran her hands
through his wet, blond hair, and closed her eyes.  Sydney began to pull off
her suit, and again pulled back to look into his eyes.  He pushed his hair
back and there was a gold earring, glittering in the sunlight.  "Well,
Sydney," Oliver had said.  "I know the water is knowledge, Sydney, but it'd be
insane for me to save you from drowning a *third* time."
        Sydney remembered the lifeguard..  She had lost her virginity to an
unknown, unnamed lifeguard at the beach.  Feelings aside, it had merely been a
lifeguard.  Not a younger version of Oliver, as the dream had suggested.  She
had no idea were these images were coming from -- she certainly wasn't
attracted to Oliver.
        She pushed the thoughts out of her mind as she closed the distance on
the woods; she saw Oliver's car.  She opened the door and slid inside the car.
She blurted out what was on her mind.
        "Oliver, if the Committee is family-run, it isn't a coincidence that
my father worked for it and now I'm working for it, is it?"
        He turned, letting one arm slip loosely over the back of the seat.  A
small smile hid any emotion.  "Who said the Committee is family-run?"  He
turned and faced forward again.  "How's the art business, Sydney?"
        She hung her head, looked out the window, and finally answered him.
"Not good.  I can only narrow it down to a few people.  Which paintings are
going to be stolen?"
        "We don't know."
        "All right, well, there's a few people obsessing over paintings that
are in the Museum."
        "All right."
        "You said that the Committee could get me closer to some of the
        "Which of the people did you have in mind, Syd?"
        She read the names.  "Why?"
        "Those people all own vacation homes in the Bahamas.  Which is where
they are now," said Oliver.  "If you meet them face to face, you'll know more,
what to look for when you go in the next time, correct?"  He thought for a
minute.  "You need some sun, I think."


        Sydney looked at her computer equipment, packed up.  "There will, of
course, be similar facilities available at the house."
        "Oliver, whose house is this?  Is it just a Committee house?"
        "Well," Oliver hedged, "actually . . .  it's mine."
        Sydney looked up in amazement.  "What?"
        "The Committee pays for it and I use it for Committee-related
activities," Oliver said defensively.
        "What do the neighbors think?  A dark brooding Englishman . . . away
so much on business . . . armed with deadly weapons?"
        Oliver smiled.  "Ah, yes.  I was meaning to get to that:  instructions
on how to behave down there.  You will attend every party you are invited to.
A personal assistant has been provided for you to, ah..." Oliver eyed her
straggly hair and torn jeans.  "...prepare your face for the faces that you
meet.  You are there as Sydney Bloom, so it's all right to reveal your name,
        Oliver stopped.  It was his turn to break eye contact.  He stared at
the floor of Sydney's loft.

        "I've told them I'm a doctor -- a plastic surgeon.  It takes me out
of the country frequently.  I've also told them that I've been engaged to the
same woman for three years."
        "I can't imagine you ... you know, engaged."
        Oliver smiled his funny, tight smile again.  "I'm not.  Again, Sydney,
this is what I have told them  A fiancee is more convenient because it makes
me look like a family man -- not a bachelor.  It gives me solidity, makes me
more trustworthy.  Of course, a family would be out of the question in my
line of work."
        "So the Committee isn't family-run?"
        "What are you talking about?" asked Oliver, confused.
        "If the Committee were family run, then that means that you and I are
family, which would explain my dreams."
        "I've had dreams of you and me knowing each other when we were kids."
        "We're not family, Sydney."  Oliver said the statement sharply.  There
was an emotion he was masking; Sydney had no way of knowing what.  "In any
event, you are there as the fiancee.  If they have any reason to suspect you,
I will have to put in an appearance."  Oliver stopped, and looked harshly at
Sydney.  "I do not wish to put in an appearance."
        "So behave, or else..."
        "Or else I'll have to reestablish an entirely new invented fiancee
*I don't want to do that.*"
        "Yes, Oliver."  Sydney smiled.  It was an absurd assignment.


        Sydney eyed the beach house warily.  It was stark white, all of it.
Black leather furniture.  Black (probably onyx) tables.  But the rest of it
was stark white.  The walls, the ceilings, the floors.  There were abstract,
colorful paintings around the house.  But the ... whiteness of it all got to
her.  There wasn't a single snapshot, or sign that Oliver lived there.
Sydney was beginning to realize what an aloof person Oliver really was.
        "Hey y'all!"
        Sydney turned to face her "personal assistant."
        "My name is Janette Brown; I will be your personal assistant.  I
refuse to clean anything.  I will cook only if dire need -- i.e., a dinner
party.  According to my assignment sheet from the temp agency, your fiancee
wants you to look your best for his friends.  And honey," said Janette,
studying Sydney as Oliver had.  "We have our work cut out for us."
        "So you know Oliver?"
        "Who?  Oh, is that him, sweetheart?  Your fiancee?  No.  I'm assuming
he's rich, though.  This is a great house."
        Sydney nodded dumbly.  "He's a doctor.  Plastic surgeon."
        "How sweet!  Is that how you two met?"
        "Did you have...surgery done?"
        "What?  Oh, no, no," blushed Sydney.  "I could never..."
        "I'd reckon that's what he likes about you," drawled Janette in her
slow Southern accent.  "Not that you need any to begin with."
        Sydney turned red, and brushed her hair out of her eyes.
        "Let's check out the upstairs."
        "Let me help you with your bags," Sydney said, and grabbed some.
        "Didn't you bring anything?"
        Sydney shifted Janette's bag to her other shoulder.  "Um, not clothes.
Mostly equipment.  I...um....like computers."
        "Well, I'd reckon that's fine.  I doubt torn jeans makes the debutante
around here."
        They started upstairs.
        The upstairs was much like the downstairs.  Largely done in white,
with abstract, colorful paintings.  There were two bedrooms ready for use.
Each had a separate bathroom.  One bedroom was white, except for a maroon bed
in the middle.  White bedroom furniture.  The other bedroom, the master
bedroom, had the bedroom furniture made out of the same black stuff as in the
kitchen -- marble, maybe? -- and dining room.  There was a black leather love
seat, and walk-in closet. The bed was covered with black satin.
        Janette inhaled deeply.  "Quite a sexpot, you're marrying.  Black
satin sheets!"
        She shook her head and took the other bedroom, leaving Sydney to stare
glumly at her new bedroom.  She went to the closet, and took a step inside.
        One side of the closet was completely dark clothes.  A few white
shirts or undershirts, but largely dark suits.  Like Oliver wore.  The ties
were colorful and abstract, like the paintings, but the clothes were ...
black.  The other side of the closet contained gowns, dresses, pants outfits,
suit outfits, short outfits, bathing suits, and so forth.  No jeans amongst
the bunch.  And while Oliver's preferred color was dark red or navy, Sydney
preferred grey-ish and oatmeal-ish colors.  None of the clothes for her were
grey, or oatmeal.
        Sydney began to try things on.  Everything fit perfectly.
        "Sydney," called Janette, and walked into the room.  Sydney walked out
with what she had on -- a peach silk short-suit ensemble.
        "Now, that's better," said Janette approvingly.  "They fit you like a
glove!  Did Oliver buy those for you?"
        "Yes," said Sydney, not really sure.  She smiled, beginning to get a
feel for what this job would entail.  "He loves to shop for me."
        "I'll bet," said Janette knowingly.  "Did he buy you any jewelry?"
        "I don't know...let's see."
        "How long have you two been together?" asked Janette.
        "Gosh, it seems like forever," said Sydney, distracted.  Who had
bought her all those clothes? she wondered.
        "I just mean, it seems like this is the first time you've been to his
        Sydney, still distracted, blew at a tendril of hair that had fallen
into her face.  "Oliver and I travel quite a bit," she said.  "I don't like
jewelry, he knows that.  I'll be upset if he went out and bought me some
without even asking me."
        They found a jewelry case atop a bureau.  Sydney opened it to find a
simple gold chain, a simple silver chain, three strands of pearls, a diamond
necklace, and corresponding rings, bracelets, and earrings.  All of it was
very simple, and Sydney, who in reality did not like jewelry, did like this.
Again she wondered if she was related to Oliver some how.
        "Where's your engagement ring?" asked Janette, watching Sydney go
through the jewelry.  Janette seemed to be getting suspicious.
        Sydney, who was no longer distracted and growing quite alarmed, did
her best to act aloof and distracted.  "Oliver and I are searching for the
perfect ring.  We want everything to be..." Sydney paused, realizing how
absurd she sounded.  "Perfect.  We want everything to be perfect."
        "Everything is," said Janette suspiciously.


        Sydney found herself at her first neighborhood party the next night.
Janette had forced her to wear the peach silk shorts outfit she'd had on,
and had loosely French-braided her hair.  Everyone agreed she looked
adorable.  The women she met at the party all cooed when she'd said she
was Oliver's fiancee, she was "such a lucky girl!" and "my, what a catch."
The men eyed her suspiciously, but Oliver's name brought a grin to their
faces.  Everyone seemed to have played golf with him at least once or twice,
or gone yachting with him.  One woman mentioned how Sydney didn't seem to be
Oliver's "type", but stopped abruptly.
        "Then again, you are very beautiful," she'd said, bringing a blush
to Sydney's bare cheeks.  "And natural, too.  You have an ethereal quality to
you," decided the woman.  "Definitely intelligent, that's Oliver's type.  But
you're like..."
        "An angel!" chorused several women.
        "Yes," said the first.  "An angel.  Just what Oliver needs."
        The women nodded their heads decisively, and Sydney smiled shyly.
        She'd meandered herself into the men's conversations before long --
these women were all talk of fashion, hairstyles, makeup.  Sydney knew none
of it and wanted no parts.  She heard the word "computer" mentioned and was
involved in the conversation before the men knew she was.
        "Oh, no, you can't use a 2400 baud modem with an on-line service like
America-On-Line," explained Sydney.  "Unless you want a huge phone bill," she
said, smiling.  It was such elementary stuff.  She found it hard to believe
anyone could find computers complicated.
        Sydney steered the conversation into art.  "Oliver has so many great
artworks hanging up...I wish I knew more.  Are there any good museums around
        Art was something these men knew far too much about.
        "Oh yes," said Juan Silva, a Venezuelan high on the suspect list.
"I am quite a heavy private collector.  Art is one of the things that never
perishes -- it is beautiful today, it is beautiful tomorrow, it is beautiful
        "What style do you like best?" asked Sydney, who was not as ignorant
as she was pretending to be.  She had done her research.
        Silva fingered his collar, and buttoned and unbuttoned his second
button.  He squinted his eyes, and stared off at a point in the far distance.
"I would have to say Impressionism,"
        "Is that...um...Rembrandt?"
        "None of the Dutch masters were Impressionists.  Manet or Monet would
be the best examples of Impressionism," said Silva.
        "How about you, Adam?" she asked, turning to a second suspect.  A tall
Texan, he and Janette would have gotten along perfectly -- if only he weren't
flamboyantly homosexual.
        Adam answered immediately.  "Definitely the nationalistic.  To hell
with art for art's sake.  I like a message with my beauty.  And, as Juan said,
art is forever."
        Suspect #3, a tall woman dressed in all white, wearing dark burgundy
lipstick and nail polish, with heavily kohl-ed eyes, had left the party.
        "Melissa Evans is also a collector.  She's an expert in medieval art
-- she loves egg tempra paintings.  You might want to speak to her, as well."
        "Thank you," said Sydney.


        Sydney went home to her computer.  She called Juan Silva first, at
11:03.  She took him to the impressionist wing of the New York Metropolitan
        "Do you like what you see?"
        The colors, more than the message, was what the Impressionists
emphasized.  The color, in VR, leapt out at Sydney, almost overcoming her.
She avoided eye contact.
        "Why is everything so ... strong?" asked Silva, a mite confused.
        "This is virtual reality.  Colors are always a bit stronger here,"
explained Sydney.
        "Virtual reality will be a good marketplace for art in the future,"
decided Silva.
        "Do you like what you see?" Sydney repeated.
        Sydney and Silva began to walk down the corridor.  "Monet and Manet
were hacks," said Silva.
        "What?" Sydney turned, and a world of colors swirled around her.  Her
eye sight adjusted a minute after she turned.
        Silva faced her.  "I hate the Impressionists."
        "Who do you like?"
        And suddenly it changed, as VR is prone to do.  Sydney and Silva,
stopped in front of Salvador Dali's Crucifixion, suddenly became Sydney facing
her crucified Father.  He hung over the sunrise and lake as Dali's Christ had
done, but his head was up, alert.
        "I did it for you, Sydney," said her father.  "I could tell you would
never like The Committee."
        "Sydney..." said her father.  "Had I raised you as my daughter, you
would have belonged to The Committee.  You would never have escaped them...
death is the only way out.  I'm sorry ... I tried to take both you and
Samantha under with me; the car, the bridge, the water . . . but . . ."
        "Daddy?  Why is the Committee like that?"
        "We're like royalty, honey.  Members of the Committee, which I was all
my life, may only marry within the Committee.  Oliver was your fiancee.
Duncan was Samantha's."
        Her father changed back to Juan Silva, and suddenly he was crucified.
        "Why so many questions, Sydney?" he asked, grinning a skeleton's grin.
        Sydney leaned against the wall and put her hand on a potted plant.
She was out.
        She threw down the VR gear, and hung up the phone.  "Augh!"
        Janette had snuck into the room behind her.
        "Why did you put on your ... whatever ... and then immediately take
them off?" asked Janette, gesturing to Sydney's VR gear.
        "I'm testing them for a friend ... she, um, makes computer games."
        "Oh," said Janette, turning on her heels and sauntering out of the
        Sydney went on the World Wide Web and looked up crucifixions.  The
museum did have quite a few crucifixions.  Heavily guarded.  Some famous,
others not so famous.  Sydney called Adam next.  It was 12:05.
        Before she called, she locked the door to the study, where she'd set
up shop.
        "Hello?" asked Adam, and Sydney slammed the phone down onto the VR
        Both Sydney and Adam looked around.  They were in a room with
nationalistic paintings.  The colors, not as bright as the Impressionists,
were brighter, but that was not what was so ... surreal about the experience.
The paintings were moving.  The slaves, the oppressed, the about-to-be
executed were real.  Their screams echoed in the rooms.
        "Nice message, eh?" asked Adam.  He had lost his Texas accent and was
shooting Sydney strongly sexual glances.  She doubted he was truly a
        "How can you like these?"
        "Who said I liked them?"
        "What?" asked Sydney.
        "Who said..."
        "I heard.  You just ... sounded like someone I know."
        "Well, I don't."
        "I like crucifixions."
        "Really.  So did Juan."
        "We all do."
        "All of you?"
        "All of us," confirmed Adam, in a rather drunken way.
        "Who are you?"
        Adam smiled.  They stopped in front of Salvador Dali's painting.
Sydney refused to look at it.
        "Look at the painting, Sydney."
        "No."  Sydney shook her head violently.
        "He won't like this," said Adam.
        "He?  Oliver?"
        "Of course not.  Oliver is one of us.  I'm talking about Him."
        "He who?"
        "You'll find out."
        Suddenly it occurred to Sydney that Adam was as evasive and as aloof
as Oliver.
        "Do you work with Juan Silva?"
        "Yup.  Good buddies."
        "Is there intermarriage in the Committee?"
        "Janette's and my son  is betrothed to Melissa Evans's daughter."
        "When's the wedding?"
        "Not for a while.  Her daughter was only born three months ago."
        Sydney collapsed on a leather bench.  Her foot kicked a potted plant,
and she was out.
        Janette was a member of the Committee?  What was this?  And what was
all this stuff about betrothed...intermarriage...Oliver...He?  Sydney felt
sick to her stomach, but proceeded to call Melissa Evans.  It was 12:22.
        "Whaaa?" asked Melissa's husband, apparently roused out of sleep.
        "May I speak to Melissa?" whispered Sydney.
        "Yeah....oooof...." The phone was handed to another party.
        "Hello?"  Melissa's cultured, Aristotelian voice.  Sydney took her
inside VR.
        "Are you a member of the Committee?" asked Sydney.  She had taken
Melissa to the Dali painting.
        "Of course.  How did you know we wanted this one?"
        "This is where the escape button is."
        "Interesting.  And how does that make you feel, Sydney?"
        "You're a shrink." guess Sydney.
        "How did you guess?"
        "What's all this about intermarriage?"
        "The Committee feels that only its members are enlightened enough ...
we may only marry within the organization.  Your father was a member, like
your grandfather before you, and your great-grandfather before him."
        "Why always men?"
        "It's not.  I believe it was your great- great-grandmother before your
        "What happened to my father?"
        Melissa sighed, leaning back.  She was older than Sydney, but not old
enough to remember.
        "I was only a small girl when your father was alive, Sydney.  Not
terribly older than you.  I was away at school when the accident happened."
        "Was it..."
        "Your father had come to hate the Committee.  He had loved you so
much, and you were ... not cut out for us, Sydney.  You repressed your
memories faster than the Committee could make them.  You liked Oliver, you
liked Oliver's father.  You didn't like the tests, the evaluations.  We always
knew you'd be valuable to us some day, Sydney.  That's why we didn't let you
        "Let me go?"
        "Oliver pulled you out from that terrible . . . accident.  He was
always a good swimmer.  Surely you know he saved your life.  After all, we
couldn't let you die.  Your sister ... wasn't as useful to us as you would
have been.   Strong powers of analysis, for sure, but not your powers of
understanding when it came to technical things.  You're going to take us into
the future, Sydney.  I'm so glad you came around."
        "Was Oliver always with me?"
        "Of course.  He can't let his fiancee go ... you're the only one
he can ever marry or have a family with; and he's the only one you're ever
allowed to marry.  It's simple."
        "But I don't love Oliver!"
        "What does love have to do with it?  His communication skills and your
technical skills will breed a fine child.  You're two of the most intelligent
people working for Him.  Once you're initiated you can be properly married."
        "Mmmmn-hmmmn."  Melissa fingered her watch, her dark purplish-black
vixen-like nails digging into the skin around her watch.  "Our time is up.
 Why don't you push that escape key you told me about?  And feel free to call
me if you ever need help."
        Sydney touched the potted plant, obediently.
        Sydney hung up the phone, and went up to bed.  She now wanted Oliver
to put in an appearance.  Rather than one of the silk nightgowns the Committee
had bought for her, she put on Oliver's black pajamas.  She curled up and was
asleep immediately.
        It was another dream...so much like virtual reality it was scary.  It
was another of Sydney's sexual encounters, this time at college.  Obliged to
take an art-history course, she was wallowing in the Romantics and the Baroque
painters when she saw *him*.  He had been staring at her, unabashedly, from a
bench near Monet's Waterlillies.  He wore a black T-shirt and black jeans,
and his hair was hidden beneath a black baseball cap, reversed on his head..
His hazel eyes were oddly familiar.
        Sydney's class migrated to the more contemporary arts, and it was
while she was staring at an Adolf Kiefer painting that he came up to her.
        "Hello," he said, his voice husky and deep.  He had a British accent.
        "Hello," she said, blushing ferociously.  Although she had dated men
since the anonymous lifeguard, he had been the only one she had fantasized
about.  These eyes ... the lifeguard had had eyes the color of the sky.  So
did this . . . art student.  She wondered if he was the lifeguard.  She
fantasized about it a bit, then looked back to the man in the baseball cap..
        "They're ruining the environment," he said suddenly.
        "That's what Kiefer is saying," he explained.  "Art with a message."
        "Oh.  It's so...dirty. . .  and layered."
        "Kiefer works hard to get it like that."
        "Are you an artist?"
        "No.  I'd love to, but...I've studied advertising, psychology...my
father wants me to go into his business."  He took a step closer to her.
        "His business?"
        "Yes..."  His voice trailed off, and suddenly he was kissing Sydney.
He feathered kisses on her neck and shoulder, and eventually he was back to
her mouth, kissing her with a desperation that Sydney somehow understood.
        He took a step back but kept his face near hers.  He licked his lower
lip; when he drew away Sydney found her lower lip also wet.
        "Do you want to go get some coffee?" he asked.  "Or something?"
        "No," said Sydney honestly.  "Let's..."  She blushed ferociously.
        He understood.  He had a loft nearby, in the Artist's circle.  They
were undressed before they made it to the bed.
        In the morning, he had walked her to the door.  Kissed her
        Then said he would be going out of town soon; it was his last day in
town because tomorrow he really was going into his father's business.
        "But we'll see each other again," he said with his British accent.
"I promise."  His baseball cap had been removed the night before, but Sydney
now realized how much he looked like the lifeguard.  How much he looked like
Oliver.  How much both the lifeguard and the would-be artist looked like
        Sydney sat up in bed.  This was really happening to her.  She was
betrothed to Oliver.  She was unable to understand how she had missed the
obvious similarities to the anonymous lovers of her past.  Sydney decided
therapy might be a good idea.
        She called Melissa Evans, took her to a virtual art museum.
        They stopped in front of the Adolf Kiefer piece.
        "This is where we met the third time," said Sydney."
        "What were the first two?"
        "My childhood, and then again on a beach when I was sixteen."
        "You lost your virginity to him?"
        "Your first kiss?"
        "Have you ever slept with a man other than Oliver?"
        "No.  I'm only beginning to understand The Committee's influence,
aren't I?"
        "Welcome to the game, Sydney Bloom."

        Sydney had a cocktail party the next night.  Janette did her hair in
a French twist; it wasf far too sophisticated a look for Sydney.  She wore
a black evening gown.  It was a simple dress; it had a collar like a tank top,
and was skin-tight from her neck to her ankles.  Big chunks of the
waist-section of the dress had been slashed out, showcasing Sydney's slim
figure.  She wore the diamonds with the outfit, although Janette insisted
the pearls were better.
        She hated herself all the same.
        She was reclining on a chaise lounge at the party, discussing art with
Melissa -- who had no idea whatsoever that Sydney was aware of everything,
when Sydney caught sight of Oliver.
        Standing with the men and wearing shades, even in the moonlight,
Oliver was smiling and joking with several men.  Sydney realized that Oliver
truly was in his element.  Oliver caught sight of Sydney, and motioned for her
to meet him by the punch bowl.
        Sydney got there first.  Oliver came from behind, slipped his arms
around her waist, and began to kiss her neck.  He whispered in her ear as he
        "Sydney, Janette is suspicious."
        "Oh, is she?" asked Sydney dryly.  "It might have helped had you told
me more about us.'"
        "I suppose so.  You should be able to improvise."
        "Mmmn-hmmmn."  As much as Sydney hated it, there truly was something
familiar about the kisses.  She felt her heart beat rising, and a flush began
to creep into her cheeks.
        "You look lovely, by the way.  Now turn around, Sydney dear.  Because
you have ... misbehaved, I think you said way back when in your loft in Los
Angeles . . . it's time to act the happy couple.  Turn around, we're going to
dance and have a nice conversation."
        There was no warmth in Oliver's voice.  Sydney hated him but at the
same time was growing increasingly attracted to him.  She did as she was
told, and turned around, kissing him lightly on the lips.  He bent down,
kissed her on the lips.  It was nowhere near as passionate as previous
kisses -- in previous lifetimes, it seemed -- but Sydney enjoyed it
nonetheless.  She looked up, hoping to see his butterscotch hazel eyes, and
realized they were blocked by dark shades.
        Oliver coughed uncomfortably.  "Do you know who's going to steal the
 painting?"  His voice wasn't as cold.
        "Yes," said Sydney.
        Oliver stifled a laugh.  "Wonderful.  We're very proud of you.  Do you
want to stay at the party, or go?"
        "We leave together," said Sydney.
        "I'll go get your wrap," said Oliver.  He bent and kissed her, again,
then patted her waist, where his hands had settled, and sighed contentedly.
The coldness returned to his voice and Sydney wondered how much of this was an
act.  "Tell your friends good-bye."  He kissed her again, then licked his
bottom lip.  Her lip was wet, as well.
        He turned to go, but Sydney caught his wrist.
        "Why?" she asked.  "It was you, all those years, all those..."
        Oliver smirked.  It was impossible to tell what he was feeling; his
eyes were shaded and the rest of his face betrayed no secrets.  "We'll discuss
it later, Sydney," he said, with an indefinable emotion in his voice.
        She glided over to Melissa Evans, and thanked her for a wonderful

        "You're a fabulous hostess, Melissa.  Really.  Oliver and I just
haven't seen each other in forever. . . you know how *that* goes."
        Melissa smiled.  "Of course, dear.  Enjoy yourself.  Call me sometime
. . . maybe we can go to the art museum sometime."
        "Yeah," smiled Sydney, as Oliver wrapped her in her wrap.
        Sydney behaved until Oliver and she were in the backseat of the
limousine.  First, she pulled off his sun glasses.  Oliver arched an eyebrow
and looked at her, curious to see what she was going to do next.
        She grabbed his tie, pulled him toward her, and kissed him.
        That shocked him.  It showed plain and clear in his beautiful eyes,
and Sydney understood why he wore shades so often.
        Oliver tapped on the glass for the driver to begin, and leaned over
and began to kiss her.  As always, his kisses feathered her neck and her
shoulder, moving lower to her chest.  They arrived at the house all too soon.
        "Sydney, I don't think you understand what you're doing."
        "I think I do." said Sydney, never one for words.
        She pulled him out of the limousine and into Oliver's house.  Together
in the bedroom, she took out the ridiculous French twist, and held up her
hair, turning around.  She motioned for Oliver to unzip her.  Oliver did, and
Sydney turned to kiss him.
        "Sydney," Oliver said inbetween kisses, "How did you know?"
        "I know everything, Oliver.  This was a set-up, wasn't it?"
        "A what?"
        "To test my undercover ability."
        "To test a lot of things.  Unfortunately," he said, playing with the
hair at the nape of her neck, "you're not very good at undercover work.  We
also found, though, that three of the people who are best at it, aren't so
good.  How much do you know?"
        "Adam isn't gay, Juan hates Impressionists, and Melissa is a shrink.
All of them are Committee members, all of them told me about the
intermarriages, and all of them were thinking of stealing the Salvador Dali
Crucifixion painting."
        "Hmmmnnn," said Oliver between kisses. "A torturer never would have
gotten those things out of our operatives.  Virtual reality is truly unique."
        "We're not only pretending to be fiancees, are we, Oliver?"
        He sighed, and kissed her deeply.  "No," he said.  "I'll never hold
you to it, though.  I know you hate the Committee."
        Sydney moved to turn out the light, and suddenly found herself back
in her loft.
        She took off the virtual reality equipment and stared at the screen.
Oliver, fully clothed in an olive suit, was staring out her window.  A manila
envelope lay on her kitchen table.
        "It was all in VR?" she asked in dismay.
        Oliver turned.  "What was?" he asked.
        Sydney looked at him, struck speechless.  "I..."
        She looked at the location she'd gone to.  She must have awoken after
her dream and immediately put herself back in her dream by calling herself.
        "How is the virtual reality business these days, Sydney?"
        "Getting less and less virtual and more and more real," she said,
remembering vividly the smell of his cologne, the taste of his kisses, and
the butterscotch tint of his eyes.
        "What's that?" she asked, rising and gesturing to the envelope.
        "Open it," said Oliver, not turning from the window.
        It was the certified check for $12,000.  "Thank you, Oliver."
        He turned in shock.  "You're welcome.  By the way, The Committee wants
you to quit your job at Tel-Cal before we pay your $12,000 for every VR
        "Sure," she said, nodding.  "No problem."


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