- Author: Elizabeth McLaughlin
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Quantic Dreams Book Two
Copyright © 2021 by Elizabeth McLaughlin
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For my loves.
32. Author’s Notes
33. Special preview from book three!
About the Author
Belief in the unreal can comfort the human mind, but it also weakens it.
-Gabriel to John Constantine, Constantine
My encounter with George still fresh in my mind, I checked in with the exploratory team. They had done excellent work and were ready to send out our first test subject. One of the mice had grown big enough to be released. I watched the little thing chitter away in his cage and thought.
“Odysseus.” A member of the team spoke from behind me.
“Hm?” I picked the mouse up and let him scamper over my fingers, turning my hand so the path continued.
“I was thinking we should name him. After all, he will be forging a path into a new world. I thought it was only fair to name him for someone ingenious and cunning. The little guy will need it out there. Who knows what’s waiting for him?”
“Odysseus.” I set the mouse back in his cage and he scurried away, burrowing a hole in the flooring to make a shelter. “A good name. Where did you learn it?”
“My name is Jason. My parents are hardcore Greek mythology nerds. I can only be grateful that they didn’t go with something more ‘exotic’.”
I turned and shook the young man’s hand. “Jason, it is a pleasure to meet you. I think you’ll be a good friend to little Odysseus here.”
Jason smiled. “I’m actually here to inject him with a tracking chip. It won’t do much other than tell us whether or not he is alive since it’ll be powered with bioelectric impulses-but it’s something. We can get an idea of how far he’s gone, too. I know the team is working on something more sophisticated, but this is the best we could do for now.”
I stood aside and watched as Jason plunked an impossibly small piece of technology into a large syringe filled with saline. He picked up Odysseus by the scruff of his neck and gently held the mouse down as he injected him with the tracker. Odysseus squealed and tried to bolt as soon as the pressure on his body lessened. I couldn’t blame the poor thing, if I had a huge needle stabbed into me, I’d want to bolt as quickly as possible too.
“And with that, our explorer is ready to go! I’ll assemble the team so we can give him a proper sendoff. Can I meet you back here?”
“Sure.” I went back to trying to play with Odysseus. This was an epic endeavor indeed and I thanked the mouse for what he was about to do. I grabbed a cube of 3D printed fruit gummy from a cooler in the lab and fed it to him. “Just stay alive, little friend. Stay alive, and I’ll make sure you get all the sweets your little stomach can handle.” Odysseus only looked at me, his cheeks full as he scarfed down the treat.
“Jacob.” Jason had returned with the members of the team that were available to see Odysseus off. “Shall we?”
“We shall.” I lifted the mouse’s cage, and the group set off to the shelter doors. The doors operated in a kind of airlock system. The inner door to the shelter was there both as reinforcement for the outer door and to serve as a seal against bringing contaminants inside. A couple of hazmat-style suits were neatly shelved next to it. I stared, more out of anxiety than anticipation as Jason and a woman donned the suits. Jason stopped halfway through sealing himself up when he saw my expression.
“Mr. Alvaro.” He gestured to his suit. “Would you like to be the one who sets little Odysseus on his quest?”
The notion of going outside in any way made my anxiety skyrocket, but I was the leader of these people now. If anyone was going to risk their health and safety, it should be me. That, and if Odysseus died out there, I thought only fair that I was responsible. “If you think that’s all right, sir, then yes, I would.” The gathering held a kind of formality to it. It’s funny, you know. We must have been the first people to set out on a quest of exploration in a few centuries, but the impulse to treat it as a solemn occasion was written into our DNA.
Jason helped me into the suit and showed me how the seals work. It was bulky and thick, but not too heavy. He introduced me to my companion, a woman named Nicole, and put the helmet on my head. Whatever anxiety I had managed to hold back burst forth, my mouth going dry and my breath coming faster the moment I felt the seals of the helmet engage. It was like being back in one of the hibernation pods but worse. I focused on clenching my toes in my boots and scaled the fear back to a level where I thought I could hide it. My reaction had not gone unnoticed.
“You okay, Jacob? I can take the helmet off if you need me to.” Jason’s voice came through