102 Death of the Arsonis
"This is Vic Hjari reporting live at the Gladis News Conference in Syracuse, New York. Gladis Corp has just dropped a major bombshell. Nicholas Phire, AKA Phoenix Phire has been reported as one of the victims of this accident."
Cora was trying to read the teleprompter while listening to her producer talk in her ear. "What was Phoenix Phire doing at the Gladis Corp facility? He was supposed to be doing time at Rikers Island."
Vic shook his head in disbelief. "A misfiled piece of paperwork resulted in him being placed with the Contracted workers from Gladis Corp."
"Unbelievable. Do we know what VR world he was working in?"
Vic nodded, "According to Gladis Corp, he was never assigned a VR job. He's been in a VR confinement area for the past few months while Gladis Corp was trying to fix the mistake."
"Amazing Vic, and the cause of the accident?"
Vic read directly from the notes he had taken. "According to the Fire Marshals report, faulty wiring next to a gas line on the lowest level caused the initial explosion. This explosion also disabled fail-safe devices on a few stasis capsules. All bodies have been recovered and positively identified by DNA."
Nick turned away from the screen and watched the changing landscape. He was dead then. How would his friends and family react?
12 days later in Camden Main, nearly four thousand people turned out for the funeral of local resident Nicholas Phire. A blonde-haired man watched silently from some distance away. "Why are there so many at my funeral?"
His hud buzzed and a moment later a text appeared on the screen. "Prince Albert, Canada. 3440 Baylor." He saved the location on his hud and then started walking. They were burying him next to his mother and sister, their memory caused his steps to turned toward Camden Orchard.
A half-hour later he sat peacefully on the banks of the Iris River, a small creek that ran through the Camden Apple Orchard. He had spent countless hours here as a kid playing with his two sisters. Lisa and Bev were separated by only four years but they were like night and day. Nick was the middle child and often times would play the role of peacemaker between his sisters. Lisa had been funny and artistic while Bev was serious and intelligent. He laughed at the memory, back then he had been close with both of them.
Nick turned at the voice, for the first time in a long time he was unable to move or speak. The dark-haired woman charged at him, knocking him back on the grass while she sobbed.
"I knew it... I knew it, Nicky." His older sister hugged him tightly, refusing to give him any space. Finally, Nick forgot about standing up and stroked her hair softly.
"Nicky?" A deeper voice told him that his father had also arrived. Did nostalgia bring them here?
After a few minutes, he managed to separate himself from his sister and slowly stood up. The man watching him had only the slightest bit of gray in his hair. "You look, good dad."
His dad lunged at him, nearly knocking him down again while hugging him. His body shook as he wept openly. "Nicky... I'm so sorry Nicky."
Finally, Nick was able to step away. "I shouldn't have come here. Dumb move on my part."
Bev shook her head. "I'll die before I ever say anything Nicky." She grabbed his face and kissed him several times. During this time he felt his dad hug both of them together. They stood like that for several minutes, all that was left of the broken Phire family.
"I'm sorry Nicky. That should have been me. I should have been the one that paid them back." His dad's normally calm face was wet with tears. "I was too scared to act."
"No dad, I didn't get justice. Mom and Lisa are still gone. It's better that you kept your head."
The next hour saw the trio talk quietly amongst themselves. They were careful not to ask him about his plans. In the end, Nick had to force them to leave, both of them visibly distraught as they walked away hand in hand.
Almost exactly two weeks from the day he left Gladis Corp, Nick buzzed in at the front gate of Vasai Virtual, a Candian company that specializes in Deep-Stay customers. A black man in a blue uniform walked out. "May I help you, sir?"
Nick nodded. "I'm Henry Jones, I have an appointment."
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A half-hour later Nick was sitting in an office, signing documents and turning over his belongings. A lovely red-haired woman was helping him.
"We are all set, Mr. Jones. Your Character Card has been loaded into your custom deep-stay module. You will be going to Colonial for the next ten years. You may contact us from the game at any time if you need to leave stasis early. If there are no questions. You can proceed to room 211. Use the shower and put on the blue jumpsuit. Leave your things in the bin there. One of our technicians will escort you to your module."
After a few more minutes he climbed into the deep-stay module. Nick shut his eyes before the tech closed him in. The capsule module would be stored in a hive-like facility deep underground. He hadn't seen Darsi on his way in, but he had a feeling he'd be seeing her soon.
[Logging On: Colonial: Nix]
Nix glanced around slowly. Still, on the dock, the exact place he had disappeared from a few weeks earlier.
/Inferno: Nix: Wow... No one here to welcome me back from a short vacation?
/Inferno: Ronnie: Nix?
/Inferno: Semmie: NIX!!
A burst of light appeared in front of him before he could react a red-hair woman jumped into his arms, her beautiful face tucked into his shoulder while she sobbed loudly.
He stroked the Salamander's head soothingly. "Oh come on... It wasn't that long."
The sound of people running announced the arrival of his guildmates, while Shae refused to release him several of them squeezed in long enough to hug him. Even the old Fire Mage was crying, although he did his best to hide his tears.
/Inferno: Nix: Okay, party at my houseboat in twenty minutes. Let me say hi to Hyai and I'll be right there.
/Inferno: Pon: I'll bring the booze.
/Inferno: Semmi: We'll start a barbecue, don't be late.
Shae was the last to go, she held his hands and stared up at him. "Don't be too long and...Please don't go again."
Nix smiled at her. "Can't promise that, but I can say that I will most definitely come back."
Someone must have told her, just as Nix was reaching for the front door of the Kindled Spirit it was jerked open. Hyai stared at him from the doorway for a moment. "You're back."
Nix bent forward and kissed her before wrapping her up in a hug. "I'm back!"