It is arrogance to think, that all crimes are committed by the poorest members of society.

Chapter Forty One : Synthesized reality.

Light and sound issued forth from hundreds of different holo-projectors set into the walls. Having crossed the threshold into Cybertopia, Johnathan’s senses were suddenly assaulted by a flood of sensations. Some of them real, some of them not.

By taking advantage of the hardware inside his head to create a truly unique experience, Cybertopia’s trademark atmosphere had begun feeding sensory data directly into his brain through his NSB. And by further manipulating the chemical processes inside his mind to make him feel happy, sad, even sexually aroused, Cybertopia would be trying to give him whatever he wanted most, even if he himself didn’t know he wanted it.

Seating himself at his usual table, Johnathan signaled for one of the more human looking waitresses to come over and serve him a drink.

Ever since Exotica Geno-Works had first attempted to make genetic engineering fun and affordable, Cybertopia had begun offering free body modifications to its employees. It was a policy they had adopted after discovering that the more exotic their staff was, the more at ease their clientèle began to feel. This week, the waitresses all had silver skin with metallic highlights in their hair.

Welcome to Cybertopia,” Placing an empty glass in front of him, Sheila said. “Where all your dreams come to life.” Filling it with a strange silver liquid that had worms swimming around in it she added. “How can I serve you tonight?”

Sheila, I hardly recognized you.” Watching as the worm in his glass swam in a slow lazy circle, Johnathan lifted it to his lips. A synthetic organism that had been engineered to live solely on alcohol, it had no doubt spent its entire life swimming in that bottle. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable.” Sucking the worm into his mouth he started to smile as it squirmed all the way down. “While I think about what I want to order.”

Grateful for any excuse to get off her feet Sheila seated herself next to him and said. “We don’t usually see you here all alone. Where’s your shadow at tonight?”

For all I know,” Said Johnathan with just a hint of annoyance in his voice. “He could be off chasing his own tail.”

Pity, he seemed like a man who knew the value of good company.” It was a pity because the big guy was unfailingly polite, and always left a generous tip, unlike Johnathan . . .

Feeling himself starting to frown, Johnathan thought to himself. Why does she care about Kato? It isn’t as if he actually enjoyed coming here, he used to say the music made his fur stand on end. Suddenly angry that he had remembered such a thing, Johnathan said. “Who cares, what matters is that I’m here and he’s not.”

True, too true.” Pouring him a second drink, she said. “So, are you here to participate in the show, or have you come for a little something else.”

Johnathan was only half-listening as he looked over her shoulder.

The ‘show’ consisted of nothing more than six people sitting in a circle all enjoying the same shared scenario. The controller, the one paid to create the show, sat in the center of the circle, feeding new experiences into the group while incorporating their own personal fantasies into the mix. During peak hours, they could have anywhere from a hundred to a thousand people connected by remote, and if the show was judged to be a success, copies of it would be sold on the black market to all those who had been unable to experience it first hand.

It was the height of hedonism, and the moment Neural Dynamics released the technology to the general populace, there was already a wealth of amateur Synth Artists working hard to create a steady supply of material to feed the demand created among the youthful elite.

Johnathan sipped his drink more slowly this time. Judging by a blissful expression on one man’s face, whatever they were experiencing tonight had to be very good.

I think I’ll pass on the show. At the moment, I’m in the mood for something a little more, familiar.”

Well then,” Said Sheila, rising to her feet. “Familiar it is.”

Happy to leave Johnathan behind for any period of time, she disappeared into the crowd, only to return a moment later holding a plate covered with different colored datarods.

Containing exotic scenarios, manufactured memories, and even real life events, with the right combination of datarods you could upload into your own mind anything you wanted to experience, and unlike the unprocessed material produced by an amateur, at Cybertopia, you got exactly what you were willing to pay for.

Setting the tray down on the table between them, Johnathan saw that Sheila had taken the liberty of preselecting a variety of choices based on his previous visits. Though there were a few that he himself would never have considered, such as what it was like to have sex as a woman. That was one he planned to stay far away from.

Well,” Said Seila, “What would you like. Real, imagined, or something else entirely?”

Selecting a light blue rod Johnathan said. “Tonight, I’m thinking about something real.”

A man who knows what he wants. I like that. Well, we’ve got your standard so you think you can fly scenarios, the ever popular zombie apocalypse,” Staring at the thin blue rod as if she could somehow divine its secrets, Sheila said. “Why men enjoy this one so much I’ll never know. And here’s one we’ve just started to offer. If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it feels like to live life as a chimera,” She held up a golden rod. “We’ve got that too.”

Tempting,” Said Johnathan. “But I prefer to be the one giving orders, not taking them.”

Sheila pretended to act surprised. “You mean you’ve never wanted to take a walk on the wild side? To feel what its like to be covered in fur?” She leaned in and whispered. “I’ve heard rumors saying they can be very passionate lovers.”

More then just repulsed by the idea, Johnathan let a little bit of his disgust bleed through. “They’re forced to wear collars.”

And some of us wear them by choice.” Picking up a blank datarod, she dropped any sort of pretense and said. “A custom job. That’s going to be expensive.”

Not caring about the cost he held up a card with direct access to one of his father’s private bank accounts. “But worth every credit.”

Nodding slightly, Sheila took the card from him and left the datarod. Disappearing into a back room to confirm the transaction, she trusted that the money would come through.

Eager to get started, Johnathan inserted the datarod into the back of his neck and began to recall the last few times he had been able to enjoy the attentions of a streetwalker. She had been eager to get started as well. Merely the first of many such customers, he had enjoyed taking his time acting on his desires, and without Kato constantly following him around he had been able to amass quite the considerable collection. Still, none of his other toys could ever compare to the memory of the one that had gotten away.

Letting the memory come to life in his mind, the datarod began to record the information. When it was finally done, it would allow him to playback, fast forward, and even enhance the experience in any way he saw fit. It wasn’t a suitable substitute for the real thing, but as a stopgap measure, it was good enough to get him through the night.

Reality returned in all its unwanted glory as the digital illusions, the synthetic sensations, all of it just; stopped.

What happened? I was just about to get to the best part!”

Sorry sweetheart,” Said Sheila as she cut the card in half. “But your line of credit’s been denied.”