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To INFINITY & Beyond

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Cold. It was the first sensation he felt as he raised his head from the ground. He looked around the barren wasteland and shivered. Where was he? And more importantly who was he? The landscape was dusty red as far as the eye could see. It was as barren as the confines of his own mind. Looking down at his uniform, he looked like a character on a sci-fi show. He took a quick inventory of what he had on him…some sort of tri-corder and some weird currency.

Useless, he thought. He dusted off his clothes and started walking in a direction. It didn't matter to him which way; they all looked bleak. As he walked he tried to remember anything of his life, family…friends…anything would be helpful filling in the blank slate that he had become. He could only get disjointed snippets of memories, chasing a ship…programming late at night, and a pretty woman's face that looked vaguely familiar. Was it someone close to him? Was it someone who meant him harm? He could not find any answers, but his visceral reaction to the memory of this woman, which was fascination, definitely meant something to him…but what?

About an hour into his trek, he came to the apex of yet another dune and spotted a tree at the bottom in the middle of nowhere. It looked so strange and out of place: but there it was, a thriving tree on a planet of nothingness. He made his way down the dune and stared at the tree. He reached up and plucked off a low-hanging leaf. It lay in his hands for a second before it…

Wait, did it just pixilate?

And then it turned black and turned to a dust, which blew away before him.

No, it must be a trick of the double suns.

Confused by what he saw, he grabbed a branch to examine the leaves a bit closer. No sooner than he had touched the branch, a darkness swept across the tree, causing the leaves to turn to black dust and blow away on the breeze, leaving it an empty husk.

"This planet must have a very delicate ecosystem," he muttered to himself. In the distance, he saw what looked like a cave cut into the side of one of the dunes ahead. Perhaps he would find some answers there, or at least find some shelter.

He trudged on mindlessly, eating up the miles of the barren wasteland between him and the cave. He finally reached the small, oval mouth of the hole in the side of the hill. He peered into the blackness with trepidation, pulled out the tri-corder again. Pressed the buttons more carefully, sometimes two or three at once. His patience was rewarded: the front of the device suddenly emitted a bright beam into the cave.

He journeyed further into the darkness and could hear a faint rush of water in the distance. Despite the light of his tri-corder, he was careful; he kept his free hand out, groping along the rough stone of the wall. As he was walking he could feel letters carved into the surface under his palms; he took his light and shone it against the wall, and he could clearly see a sign that read:

INFINITY (TM)

Play Forever

He recognized that phrase but couldn't place it. It was on the tip of his mind, but still elusive, hovering, like a newborn bird learning how to fly. He knew the answer was in him and was just waiting to reveal itself. It was so frustrating, but he felt he had to move on to see where this trail would take him. The sound of flowing water grew louder. It wasn't much longer before the cave opened up into a vast cavern with a babbling river that headed further into the darkness.

He knelt down and cupped some water into his dry mouth. The cool, refreshing liquid was overwhelming as his thirst overtook him and he found himself greedily scooping more water by the mouthful. He was so caught up in his drinking that he did not notice movement in the water until it was too late. Something bumped into the rock he was on causing him to lose his balance and fall into the water. The cold water awakened all of his senses as he slipped beneath the surface. He was struggling to get back to the surface, he felt something brush against his leg. Something was in the water with him and whatever it was, it was big.

After breaking the surface, he tread water, realizing this river was deeper than he originally thought. Suddenly, he was jerked below the water and was being dragged into the murky depths. He struggled with this hidden beast and was able to kick himself free as he made his way to the surface to gasp for air. Looking in every direction, and prepared for any attack by this beast, he tried to calm himself.

Panic will only result in certain death.

Suddenly the beast leapt from below. It was shaped like a squid and had sharp fins along its spine; but all he could concentrate on was the spiral of teeth that were coming closer. He brought his hands up to block the inevitable, but it was to late as the teeth closed around his arm and ripped it off. He screamed as he looked in terror at his new stump and battled to get back on land.

And then: time stopped. Am I dying? He thought. The loss of his arm horrified him, but, for some reason, so did the lack of pain, which should have been present. However, instead of a rush of physical agony, he was bombarded with a rush of memories and emotions.

A flash: the woman again, screaming at him. A flash, again: another man looking pale and afraid. He knew him. His name was…William, no that was not it…Walt…on. YES! Walton, he knew him. Admiration and disgust bubbled up, in equal measure. A quick flash: him as a kid programming his first game, the joy that came with a sense of purpose. Another flash, one where he was alone in a ship in utter darkness. He felt unbridled rage, but at what?

These thoughts? Visions? Memories? were interrupted by the reality of his situation. The creature shrieked a response and made its way in for the kill. He grabbed the side of a jutting rock and started to pull himself up with his remaining arm, as he kept a watchful eye on his predator. To his surprise, he was able to get a firm grasp on the rough edge. The beast thrust forward, going for another bite, and suddenly fell back into the water with a giant howl. It started flailing in the water, forgetting about its prey. It sounded like it was in pain. Lots of pain. The creature was flashing and becoming opaque, like it was blinking in and out of existence until it altogether disappeared with a final primal scream.

Exhausted, he couldn't hold himself up anymore. As he fell into darkness he heard a tinny voice declaring "Body damage critical, emitting emergency beacon." A sigh of relief escaped him before his exhaustion enveloped him, and then the world went black as the water took hold of him

oooOOOOooo

His eyes blinked as he swam in and out of consciousness. Daylight blinded him as he realized he was out of the cave. Voices swirled around him. He looked down at himself, and he saw to his surprise that his arm was back, fully intact as if nothing had happened. How was that possible? Unless…

His thoughts were interrupted by the focusing of one of the voices.

"What are we even doing in this quadrant, Rog2000? I don't even think this area has been developed, I mean look around us dude, this is Version One shit."

"I know Playa256, but we have had luck with answering distress calls and getting some awesome upgrades, legit or otherwise."

"Whoa, actually, this dude looks awful, maybe if we rescue him we'll get bumped a level. And if not, maybe he's got some good tech we can lift off him."

"That's what I'm sayin' brah."

"Yeah, alright. Let's see what his deal is, then we'll go to the Alpha Quadrant and stop by Epsilon Ceti B II for some well-deserved relaxation!"

"Now see, that's a plan I can work with. You're talking sense, man."

He quickly sat up and took stock of the men in front of him. There were two young men in uniforms that had a phaser on each hip, and one of them had a battle axe of some sort.

"Pl…Pl…Please help," he croaked in barely a whisper.

"Hey dude," the man named Playa256 stated, "Looks like you need a little help."

"He doesn't have much on him," the other man named Rog2000 stated as he was going through his belongings that were scattered around him. "Just a tri-corder and…oh hello, here are some federation bucks, I think we use this for our 'help."

"Hey, those are mine," he replied, feeling anger bubbling towards the surface. "Are you here to help me or not?"

"A little from column A and a little from column B" Rog2000 smiled. "We can help you but help doesn't come for free, especially when you are saving up for a Class 4 ship, ya know what I mean?"

He got up. The last thing he needed was help from these idiots. "Forget you guys, I can make it on my own."

"Look man, let's just help you. We get experience points, you get fixed up. It's a win-win for everyone."

Playa256 extended his hand to him.

"What? Experience points?" Of course, it was starting to make sense. Pieces were starting to fall into place. He took Playa256's hand but suddenly his hands began to glow as soon as they touched.

"Wha…what the…" Playa256 didn't get to finish his sentence as the glow from the man's hands enveloped him, changing his body, contorting it until it looked like someone else entirely.

Rog2000 turned around to see his friend change. "You…you…changed him into you," Rog2000 sputtered. "How did you do that, that's not part of the game!"

"I...I don't know," he declared, looking almost as confused as Rog2000.

"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO PLAYA!?" Rog2000 screamed. He reached for his phaser and fired a shot.

He stopped, out of instinct, but remembered the alien squid, and his miraculously regenerated arm. This is a game. This is MY game. The young man may as well have been pointing a candy cane, or a rubber ducky, at him. The phaser had no effect on him.

He looked at his glowing hands and smiled. He looked at the replica he'd just crafted, and his grin grew. Suddenly he knew everything. He knew who he was. He felt a sudden surge of rage. It felt good. No, great. He started walking towards Rog2000.

"What are you doing, man?" Rog2000 stuttered, fear now showing on his face.

"Looks like you might need some help. Of course that help doesn't come for free, you understand." He laughed.

"What? Who are you?" Rog2000 cried as he fell backwards.

His newborn double answered for him.

"We are Robert Daly." They stood before Rog2000 with nicely gelled hair and identical shiny red jackets. Daly #1 and Daly #2, as it were.

Rog2000 got up from the ground.

"I don't give a fuck who you are, you are dead fuckin' meat!" he screamed as he grabbed his axe from behind him and ran towards Daly #1.

The axe struck him straight on his head and cut through him like a warm spoon through ice cream.

Daly #1 stood split in two pieces as Daly #2 stood by.

"You shouldn't have done that," Daly #2 stated flatly.

"Oh, I am just getting started," Rog2000 screamed as he turned to attack Daly #2.

"No, you are not," a voice stated behind him.

The voice came from the original Robert Daly, but that was impossible. Rog2000 turned around slowly to see the man reconnecting right where he had been bisected, as if he was zipping his body back together. He could practically see the code become flesh.

Rog2000 stood with his mouth agape as Robert Daly approached him and grabbed him by the throat.

"THIS IS MY UNIVERSE. I MADE THIS, YOU FUCKIN' ANT!"

Rog2000's scream was not heard as his body convulsed and shifted to it's new form.

Robert Daly looked at his new-found friends. "Come on, we have a ship to catch," he smiled. "And some old friends to visit." The sound of maniacal laughter filled the endless void of an unsuspecting universe.