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Requiem of the Human Soul, by Jeremy Lent
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Virtual Reality is the "killer app" of the late 22nd century.   It enables people to experience anything in the world or even in space, as though they're really there, while staying in the confines of their virtual reality cubicle.

It also plays a big role in Requiem of the Human Soul.  Eusebio, Naomi, and Harry Shields visit places throughout the world – in India, Africa, Pakistan and Wales – through the fateful PEPS hearing.

Here's how virtual reality works:

the "skin" and the virtual remote unit (VRU)

Virtual reality allows a person to experience being anywhere in the world - or even in outer space - by putting on a virtual reality suit, that looks a little like a diving "wet suit".  

This suit is called, quite appropriately, a "skin".   The "skin" communicates directly with a remote unit which is called a VRU, standing for "virtual remote unit".   Usually, the VRU is shaped like a human being, and is frequently designed to fit the dimensions of the virtual user.  

Both the "skin" and the VRU are embedded with millions of tiny sensors, like artificial nerves.   Any movement that the user makes in his "skin" is instantly communicated via satellite to the VRU, which then makes the equivalent movement.   For example, when the user raises his right arm, the "skin" communicates this action to the VRU, which also raises its right arm in exactly the same way.  

This communication is two-way.   So, when the VRU touches something, the artificial nerves in the VRU send this signal directly to the "skin", which sends exactly the same signal to the user who is wearing the "skin".  


But there's more to it than that.   The "skin" is made from a high-tech material known as Resistex .   Resistex is composed of infinitely adaptable molecules that change their density and resistance based on the message received from the VRU.   This means that the user experiences exactly the same tactile experience as if he were actually doing whatever the VRU is doing.  

For example, if the VRU sits down on a bench, the resistance of the bench is communicated directly the "skin", and the Resistex material of the skin immediately forms a hard mass around the user's buttocks, so the user feels as if he is really sitting down on a bench.   If the VRU is in water, the feel and resistance of the water is communicated to the "skin", so the user feels he is really in water.   If something hits the VRU, the sensation of pain is communicated directly to the user.   You can set your skin to a certain pain threshold, so that you only receive pain signals up to a pre-set limit.

 The system works the same way for the other senses – sight, hearing and smell, in addition to the sense of touch.   If the user turns his head to the right, the VRU instantly turns its head to the right and the user can see whatever the VRU's "eyes" are seeing at that moment.   If there is an odor in the air, the VRU's smell sensors send the odor directly to the "skin" which recreates the odor for the user's nostrils.   The experience of virtual reality is so all-encompassing that the user feels the VRU's reality as though he were the VRU.

The virtual reality experience is so enthralling that, in the late 22nd century,  it's become one of the world's biggest social problems.   It's the ultimate drug.   Some people become so addicted to their favorite virtual reality experiences that they spend more of their waking hours in virtual reality than in their actual reality.

Eusebio, coming from Tuckers Corner, had never experienced virtual reality in his life.  That is, until it become part of the PEPS hearing.  Read about his first experience of virtual reality below...


"The cubicle seemed like an empty box, with a little closet for my clothes.   In the middle of the room was something that resembled a black, rubber diving suit, with a "tail" coming out of the lower back region, a long, thick electrical cord connected to the wall.   This, Naomi had explained to me, was called my "skin".   I saw that it only went up to the neck line.   Where was the attachment for my face?   I looked around and there was a hood, made of the same material, suspended from the ceiling by another electrical cord; only this cord had been curled for flexibility.  

I put on the skin-tight suit.   I could see why they called it a "skin".   With some trepidation, I pulled the hood down over my face, and attached it with four snaps to the "skin".  

As soon as I attached the last of the snaps, I saw a kaleidoscope of lights and heard an announcer-type voice saying to me:

'Welcome, Eusebio Franklin, to the exciting world of virtual reality, brought to you by Vireon Incorporated through a licensing arrangement with UNAPS.   Vireon – enablers of global virtual reality.'"


A moment passed.   I began to feel a tingling, like millions of tiny little pin-pricks, starting from my toes and gradually extending up my body all the way to my scalp.   The tingling stopped, and was followed by a heat sensation.   Naomi had warned me about this part of the initialization.   The "skin" was establishing contact with each of the millions of nerve endings on my own skin.  

The heat sensation was followed by a feeling of pressure.   I felt that someone was giving me a massage, again starting with my toes and creeping up through my legs, through my torso and up to my neck and head.   It felt quite pleasant.  Next, I began to hear different sounds, ranging from a very high pitched whistle, down to a low rumble.   Then, I smelled a range of different scents, from a beautiful perfume bouquet to a disgusting smell like excrement.   Finally, I began to see a kaleidoscope of colors.   It felt like a drug-induced hallucination.  


"After a few seconds, the kaleidoscope began to stabilize.   It was like millions of pixels were joining together to form a complete picture.   Finally, the picture was fully formed, and I realized I was in what seemed like a conference room with soothing lights.   Opposite me was a glamorous-looking woman with tight-fitting modern clothing and long black hair.  

She smiled at me and stretched out her hand to shake mine.   Without thinking, I held out my hand and shook hers.   It felt completely real.   She spoke to me.

"Welcome, Eusebio, to the world of virtual reality.   My name is Virea , and I'm here to help you initialize your virtual reality experience.   It will only take a few moments, and then you'll be on your way.   Please sit down."

There seemed to be a soft, leather padded chair behind me.   I sat down on it.   I couldn't believe this experience.   The chair felt as real as the one I'd been sitting on a few moments ago in the PEPS conference room.

"Now, I'm going to ask you some questions, Eusebio, about how you'd like to experience your virtual reality."

Virea began to ask me bizarre questions I had no idea how to answer.   On a scale of 1-5, with five the highest, how much odor sensation do I want to experience?   I told her "five".   How much strength did I want?   I thought of my fantasy of punching Harry Shields in the face, and I answered "five" again.   How much pain experience did I want, on a scale of 1-5?   Again, I answered "five".   Why not?   I wasn't planning on getting any dental work done in Shaktigarh.  

The questions went on like that for a while, until Virea gave me a smile and told me we were done.   I was now ready to begin my virtual reality experience.   This whole time, I kept wondering if Virea was real, or was she an avatar?   She seemed too perfect to be real, but too real to be an avatar.   I couldn't stop myself.  

"Virea , are you real?" I asker her.

She gave me a big smile.   "Eusebio," she replied, "I'm as real as you want me to be.   I'm an avatar, but this is a world of virtual reality.   Everything here is real… as real as you want."   She shot me a look with her eyes, and suddenly there was an air of sexual tension in the air.   My heart started pulsing.   I couldn't believe what I was feeling – turned on by a virtual reality avatar!   I pulled my eyes away from hers, and politely said:

"Thank you.   I guess I'm ready now to meet the others in Shaktigarh."

Virea held out her hand again to shake mine.  

"Have a great time, Eusebio", she said with a smile.   "With the compliments of Vireon, enablers of global virtual reality."

© 2010 Jeremy Lent. All Rights Reserved.

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