“Payton!” Screamed the voice again as Payton’s body twisted and turned. It felt like she was on a rollercoaster that she couldn’t get off. The pain only grew in intensity as a blinding white light surrounded her.
Suddenly, with a gasp, she opened her eyes. Only to see darkness all around her. She felt different, her body felt heavy and complex.
“Payton?” Said the voice again. “Oh god, Payton? Where is the ambulance! Please!”
Payton could feel her body moving just outside the darkness. Suddenly, her brain realized what was going on. With a rush of panic, Payton yanked the headset off and threw it as far as she could.
She quickly rolled over, keen to get as far away from the headset as possible. As she moved Payton realized that Lin was the one shouting at her.
“Oh god, Payton, are you alright?” Asked Lin as she shook, her face white with fear. “Lay still, it’s okay, I called an ambulance, it should be here soon, okay?”
“I,” mumbled Payton. Piloting a body felt alien to her, it felt overly complex and very unnatural. She slowly tried to push herself up of the carpet, only to get distracted by her boss bursting into the room.
“What happened?” He shouted.
“She got shocked by one of those display units,” said Lin, obviously struggling to form words. “I called an ambulance about forty minutes ago but it hasn’t turned up!”
“She looks okay?”
“She just started moving a minute ago! She got a shock to her brain, Kevin!” Screamed Lin as Payton tried to remember how legs worked.
“Nanapon?” Blinked Payton. Her brain felt delayed almost like it was lagging.
“Take it easy, take it easy,” shouted Lin as she ran to Payton and held her tight, doing her best to support the wobbly girl. “We’re going to get you to a hospital okay?”
“Who,” blinked Payton as paranoia washed over her. Sure this girl looked liked Lin, or at least how she remembered Lin looking. But was this just another layer of the VR? Was the headset messing with her?
Payton broke out of Lin’s grip and quickly ran towards the door before bending down to look at her reflection on the doorknob. While the shape of the metal distorted it a little, she was able to tell that she was back in her own body. Her imperfect, non-idealized body.
“Real!” Giggled Payton as she saw Lin moving up behind her.
“You okay?” Asked Lin gently. “Look, I’ll drive you to the hospital, okay? Just take my hand.”
“No,” groaned Payton as she gritted her teeth in an attempt to stop the giggling. “Need address.”
“Address?” Asked Lin.
“Yeah, for that person!” Replied Payton as she stumbled around to point at the console that had tried to fry her. As she pointed to it, she realized just how broken the thing was.
It looked like it had exploded, the plastic was cracked and there were random shards of metal sticking out of it. Whatever had gone wrong had gone wrong in a major way.
“Well,” blinked Kevin. “I don’t think I can,” he started. Only for Payton to stumble up to him and grab him by the shirt.
“Hurt my brain!” She giggled, still feeling extremely delirious. “Need to get it fixed, warn!” She mumbled, trying to think up a good excuse to get the developer’s address.
“I,” mumbled Kevin.
“Your fault!” Screamed Payton as she pointed at Kevin.
“How is it my fault?”
“She is out of it, we need to get her to a hospital,” said Lin as she grabbed Payton by the shoulders.
“You let it be here!” Mumbled Payton, stumbling back into Lin’s arms. “You didn’t check it!”
“Well, I, of course,” replied Kevin, pulling on his shirt a little as he looked around. After a few moments, he let out a sigh. “Sure, you let Lin take you to the hospital first and I’ll go find where they’re staying and text you okay? Then you can warn them after?”
“First,” nodded Payton as she grinned.
“Okay, let’s go,” smiled Lin as she gently turned Payton and started to walk towards the door. It took Payton a few seconds to realize she actually had to move, and that she wouldn’t just teleport from place to place anymore.
“Left, right, left, right,” giggled Payton in her brain as she manually moved her legs. She had never realized how many muscles were required to walk, and she had never realized that it was just so tiring.
As she clumsily clambered into Lin’s car, Payton thought through her options. Her brain was still so fuzzy but she was slowly finding it easier to string together thoughts.
She had to go and find the dev and stop them from doing whatever they wanted to do. At least the headset at the office was broken beyond repair, there was no way that they would be able to fix it before the convention, but there was a chance they still had a spare.
Of course, the hospital would likely keep her in overnight. She had been given quite the shock and had been on the floor for quite a while. But at the same time, she could exactly tell them what had just happened because they would think she was mad, there was no way to explain “I was trapped in a failed government project’s VR simulation,” and not sound utterly insane.
Payton’s phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out and realized that the case had been burnt, likely from the heat generated by the machine’s failure.
She looked at the messages and smirked to herself. According to Kevin, the machine was owned by a Sabrina Floyd who was currently staying at a local hotel.
“Perfect,” grinned Payton as she chuckled to herself.
“Huh? What did you say?” Asked Lin as she turned to face Payton.
“Oh, my phone still works, only burnt the case!” Smiled Payton, doing her best to act as normal as possible.
As they continued to drive, Payton continued to plot. She needed to avoid getting a check-up, it was the only way she would be able to confront Sabrina before the convention.
As the car pulled into the hospital’s parking lot, Payton committed to her plan. It was full of holes, but at the moment it was all she had. “I’ll come to help you out,” smiled Lin as Payton undid her seatbelt.
“Okay,” smiled Payton. “Get me inside then you can go home.”
“Nah I’ll wait with you,” replied Lin as she helped Payton out of the car.
“Please don’t,” whispered Payton.
“Because, well,” said Payton as she rubbed her arm. “This is super embarrassing, I work with computers and a silly game shocked me. And I would feel super bad if you had to work the con tired because I don’t check if things are safe.”
“Don’t worry,” started Lin, only for Payton to cut her off.
“I know, I know. You’re kind and want to do it, but that doesn’t mean my anxiety and shame is rational. Please?”
“Sure.” Sighed Lin. “But seriously, if you need anything, literally anything. Call me. I’ll cover for you tomorrow as well, just focus on recovering.”
“Sure!” Nodded Payton as she let Lin lead her to one of the chairs in the lobby. “I’m sure everything will be okay.”
“Right,” smiled Lin as she started to walk back to the car. “See you whenever then!”
Payton waited in the lobby for a little while. She was finally getting used to having control of all of her limbs again. Once she was sure that Lin had left, she walked out of the hospital and started to head towards the hotel.
As she walked, she enjoyed the feeling of real air on her skin. It felt amazing, it was like she had been trapped in a stuffy box for days and was now finally free.
Payton wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do when she met Sabrina if it even was Sabrina who was at the hotel. She was feeling a lot of different emotions. She was angry and upset but she was also fascinated by this whole thing.
She wanted answers. Answers about the code and the tech as well as to know just why someone would go to all this trouble. Being on the project showed that they must have been competent at one point, they must have shown a spark of promise.
So how had they ended up making such a terrible game and trying to show it at a convention? It seemed like quite the step-down, but then again, the fact she hadn’t signed the wrapping up document suggested that she hadn’t exactly left by choice.
As she approached the hotel Payton took a few deep breaths and tried to focus herself. She needed to make this look like a business matter, it would be the only way she would be to get the receptionist to let her upstairs.
Payton took a step forward and watched as the automatic doors slid open. “Good evening,” smiled the receptionist. “How can I help you?”
“Hi,” replied Payton as she walked forward confidently. “I’m here to visit a Sabrina Floyd? She is in room 515.”
“I see,” nodded the receptionist. “May I ask the reason?”
“She is signed up for GameCon, she left her prototype in our office and well, it had a bit of an accident. I was sent to relay the bad news.”
“Oh no,” gasped the receptionist politely as she picked up the phone. “I hope no one was hurt, let me call her and see if she wants to come down.”
Payton winced a little at the mention of hurt. She had been hurt, or at least she thought she had been. Sure, the physical damage was only superficial and the world she had been hurt in didn’t exist, but that still meant she had been hurt even if the argument didn’t really make much sense.
Before Payton could finish her internal argument the woman put the phone down and smiled. “Miss Floyd says you are more than welcome to come up, I’ll come and let you into the elevator,” said the receptionist as she stood up and waved for Payton to follow her.
The lady beeped a card against a reader and watched as the elevator doors opened up. “Okay, I hope you have a good evening.” Beamed the woman as Payton stepped inside.
As the elevator went up, Payton tried to finish shaking the cobwebs out of her brain. She still wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to say to this woman, but she did want to keep her cards close to her chest, to see exactly what this person was like before she blurted out about the Veix system.
She walked down the corridor and knocked on the door labeled 515. Her whole body was shaking. She was totally unprepared for this sort of situation.
The door slowly opened revealing a very messy looking woman. She looked strung out, her hair was dry and frizzy and she obviously wasn’t wearing make-up. Her very stained and tattered t-shirt and ripped jeans only served to make her look even worse.
Payton tried to not judge, it was the night before a convention so most devs would look strung out. But this woman looked more like she was exhausted on a spiritual level. In fact, the more Payton looked, the more exhausted she seemed.
“Hey,” smirked the woman, breaking the silence. “You wanted to see me?”
“Oh right,” mumbled Payton. “So, you’re Sabrina right?”
“So the game you brought for GameCon sort of exploded in our break room.”
“Oh no! That is terrible,” gasped Sabrina. “Why don’t you come in and tell me about it!” She said as she gestured into the hotel room.
“Sure, yeah,” nodded Payton as she followed the woman in. The hotel room was an utter mess. There were wires and power cords all over the floor, the bed was unkept and there were take-out containers strewn everywhere.
“So what happened?” Asked Sabrina as she sat on the edge of the bed.
“Well,” mumbled Payton, watching as the girl swayed awkwardly and stared a hole into her. “We had a power surge at the office, your console thing shorted out, caught fire.”
“Oh no!” Chuckled Sabrina. “Did you get the chance to test it before it did?”
Payton raised an eyebrow. The tone of Sabrina’s voice suggested that she knew something was up, or that she knew something Payton didn’t. “I didn’t, no.”
“I see,” giggled Sabrina as she stood up and walked over to Payton before gently touching her on the shoulder. “Shame.”
“I’m busy with our project, it was on my list of things to do as one of my office mates recommended it, but I didn’t get around to it before the surge.”
“Right,” nodded Sabrina as she giggled and leaned towards Payton until their noses touched.
Payton felt uneasy, something about this girl really creeped her out. Her movements were erratic and twitchy, almost like she had drank several energy drinks in a short time. Or like she was badly animated.
Sabrina reached forward and rubbed Payton’s hair, causing her to wince and pull backward. “Why are you lying to me?” Questioned Sabrina with a smirk.
“What?” Blinked Payton, her heart rate growing even more intense. “What are you accusing me of?”
“I’m asking a simple question, Payton. Why are you lying to me?”
Payton froze as a cold shudder ran through her body. How did this girl know her name? How did she know that she was lying?
“How do you know my name?” Asked Payton, doing her best to stop herself from freaking out.
“Your boss called!” Laughed Sabrina. “He told me all about what happened!”
“Well, I was trying to be polite!” Blurted Payton as she flailed and tried to think of a way to fix her cover story. “I didn’t want to worry you!”
“You’re not good at lying.” Replied Sabrina as she pushed Payton backward and pinned her against the wall.
“Fine!” Shouted Payton, making her fists into balls. Anger flowed through her veins, she didn’t care anymore, she didn’t care about politeness, she wanted answers. “I know about the Veix system! I know it is meant to brainwash people!”
“Really?” Said Sabrina, as her smirk faltered for a moment.
“I’m going to tell everyone! I’m not letting you take that game to the convention! It is dangerous and evil!”
Sabrina laughed, almost as if Payton had told the funniest joke in the world. “Oh, you’re not going to the convention.”
“Are you threatening me?” Blinked Payton.
“Just telling the truth. You’ve got work to do.” Replied Sabria as she hopped from foot to foot, her laugh sounding more and more manic.
“I’m going to out you!” Shouted Payton, totally unsure how to react to this girl and her weird mannerisms.
“Nope! You’re not!”
“Are you going to stop me?”
“Oh I’m not going to stop you,” cackled Sabrina as she tapped Payton on the chin. “You’re just going to be doing other things.”
“What do you mean?” Growled Payton.
“Because,” said Sabrina as she leaned in close to Payton’s ear, so close that Payton could feel the girl’s hot breath. “You’re my L-O-V-E Lovely Nanapon.”
Payton’s brain stung, it felt like the phrase was echoing inside her mind. It was almost like she was disconnecting from her body as if her consciousness was a helium balloon that had just had its string cut.
She heard a quiet voice deep in her mind that slowly grew louder and louder until it drowned out all of her thoughts. “I love Nanapon,” smiled Payton as she swayed on the spot. “She is my favorite idol in the world!”
“You love Nanapon, Purin loves Nanapon,” echoed the voice in Payton’s head, drowning out her own faint thoughts.
“Nanapon?” Grinned Sabrina as she kissed Payton on the cheek.
“I love her! She is amazing, the Nanapon song is great!” Nodded Payton, her voice slurred and distant as the other voice invaded her brain.
“So you’re a Purin!” Giggled Sabrina as she skipped over to the bed. “Well, that is good, as this place doesn’t look like a suitable home does it?”
Payton felt her body looking around. She wanted to say something about it being disgusting, about the place being as messed up as Sabrina was. But she couldn’t, whenever she tried to open her mouth, the other voice shouted over her.
“Not a good house, not a good look for a housewife, this isn’t a perfect house for a princess! Nanapon couldn’t come home to this mess!” Shouted the voice as Payton’s body started to move without her input.
“Nothing I can’t get cleaned and perfect!” Said Payton, the words tumbling out of her lips, her voice cracking as her vocal cords tried to imitate Purin’s higher tone.
“Then why don’t you Purin?” Laughed Sabrina as she went to a computer that was set-up on the desk.
“Okay!” Grinned Payton deliriously as she skipped to the kitchen and started to clean it. The place was a bigger mess than she first thought. The floor was covered in old food containers, random magazines and sheets of paper.
Payton wanted to stop, but she just couldn’t. Her body wouldn’t listen to her and the voice would not shut up. It was like a tape recorder was playing on a loop in her brain, the same inane and girly Purin thoughts echoing and looping forever.
Sabrina tapped on the computer and giggled to herself. “So Purin, what happened to you when you put the helmet on?”
“Umm,” replied Payton as stopped cleaning. She wanted to scream out that the system had tried to electrocute her, to call Sabrina out for being an idiot. But the other voice overrode her and spoke through her mouth.
“Well I put it on, and it made my brain hurt and everything broke!” She giggled. “It made a big mess, but I got to see Nanapon. I love Nanapon.”
“I love Nanapon as well,” purred Sabrina. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon have a Nanapon to date.”
“I will?!” Gasped Payton.
“Of course, tomorrow we’ll get you a Nanapon.” Laughed Sabrina as Payton almost exploded with excitement. Her body bounced up and down on the spot as thoughts of Nanapon filled her head.
“Of course!” Squealed Payton as she returned to her cleaning, realizing that she couldn’t bring Nanapon to such a lackluster and dirty apartment!
Sabrina continued to work at her computer, gently rocking in her computer chair. Payton slowly finished cleaning the kitchen and moved into the bedroom, picking up as much of the trash she could.
As she moved behind Sabrina, Purin did her best to look at Sabrina’s screen out of the corner of her eye, trying to work out what she was working on. She recognized a lot of the code, it was the terrible game code that she edited to make her escape.
However, right beside the computer, Payton spotted another headset. An exact duplicate of the one she had used. A shiver ran down her spine as her body continued to work.
Despite the voice in her head chanting about Purin, the little whisper of her own thoughts grew fixated on one single thing. Destroying that headset, no matter the cost.
Payton tried to think of a plan, a way to break out of this weird fugue state and gain control of her body again. It seemed like Sabrina thought she had won like she had crushed Payton totally.
Suddenly, a spark of inspiration ran through Payton’s mind. Of course, Sabrina thought she had won, Kevin couldn’t have told her about anything other than the explosion as Payton hadn’t mentioned the VR incident to anyone. Sabrina had no idea that Payton was still there.
Sure, she was disconnected, unable to control her own body and hardly able to think. But she was still there and she was determined to do whatever she could to make sure that she obliterated that stupid headset.
Slowly but surely, the room started to resemble a cheap hotel as opposed to the industrial accident it had when she arrived. Payton hated to admit it but having a clean room felt so good. This feeling was only amplified by the Purin thoughts cheering at the thought of bringing Nana back to a wonderfully clean house that was fit for the number one idol in the world.
“Done!” Chirped Payton as she stood behind Sabrina, watching as she used a screwdriver to cut little holes into the headset. Payton could only presume that this was Sabrina’s attempt to stop the headset shorting out again.
“Okay, okay,” nodded Sabrina as she twitched a little bit, her screwdriver scraping against the plastic.
Payton struggled in her body, trying to think of something to say. However, whenever she tried to demand answers, Purin’s internal monologue drowned her out.
“I should put a mat down to catch the plastic shards,” said Payton as she ran to the kitchen, only to realize there were no towels, disposable or otherwise. With a sigh, she quickly ran to the bathroom and grabbed a roll of toilet paper.
By the time she got back to the desk, Sabrina had already made a much bigger mess and this just made Purin desperate to clean. “Let me get this,” she simpered as she swept the shards off the desk and into the paper.
Sabrina didn’t seem to care about Payton’s cleaning. In fact, she slowly grew more obviously frustrated by the headset. Her jabs with the screwdriver became less precise and targeted until she was just hitting the plastic over and over.
“What is wrong?” Said Payton gently, only to blink in surprise as the words actual exited her mouth without issue or being shouted down by Purin’s thoughts.
“I can’t get this to work, I can’t risk it overheating again,” groaned Sabrina as she twitched slightly. “Overheats are bad.”
“Oh that sounds bad,” smiled Payton.
“Of course it is bad,” growled Sabrina, only to start giggling. “But a domestic princess like you wouldn’t know that, would you?”
“I don’t!” Laughed Payton. “I just know about my cakes,” she added. She felt like a fool for saying that, but at the same time, she felt smug. She could seemingly get away with asking things if they made sense from Purin’s perspective.
The more Payton thought about it, the more sense it was made. The Veix system had been designed to augment thoughts, not to replace full personalities. So, provided she thought around Purin instead of against her, she would be able to have some control.
However, Payton also realized that she would still have to be careful, while Sabrina didn’t seem to suspect that Payton was still around, she would likely realize that something was wrong if Payton started acting too much like her usual self.
“I know, I know,” smiled Sabrina as she gently brushed Payton’s cheek, making her feel slightly nauseous. “Don’t worry about it.”
“But I like to help,” whined Payton softly. “A calm home is a happy home.”
“So sweet!” Cooed Sabrina as she continued to chip away at the plastic. “Well, okay.” She said as she twitched again and pointed to a bit of the screen. “The issue is that the electrodes get too hot when processing and that can melt the contacts and cause everything to go wrong.”
“Oh,” nodded Payton. Trying to think of the best way to probe while still sounding like Purin. “What do the electrodes do? Do they work like ovens?”
“No silly.” Laughed Sabrina. “They do the thing. With the brain. They make them into you or into Nanapon. They do the thing with the brainwaves.”
Purin’s brain throbbed. The Purin part of her couldn’t get her head around the concept of there being more than one Purin or more than one Nanapon. How could there be two of the greatest idol in the world?
“The thing?” Blinked Payton, doing her best to block out the pain in her head.
“I,” started Sabrina only to wince and rub her head. “I.” She said again only to grimace. “I used to know it, I used to know this!” Shouted Sabrina as she rubbed her forehead. “It does, it does.”
“Used to?” Blinked Payton.
“I know this, I know this, I know this,” shouted Sabrina as she slapped herself a few times. “It does the thingy! The thingy that’s the,” she started before twitching and shuddering.
“It’s okay,” smiled Purin as she gently wrapped her arm around Sabrina. Payton shuddered a little bit, she couldn’t believe she was touching this creep, but at the same time, she understood why Purin was doing it. She didn’t seem like the type of person who could ignore someone in pain.
“It isn’t!” Shouted Sabrina, her voice muffled by the desk. “I used to know this and I’ve only got one left and if that goes bang we won’t get a Nanapon! And if we can’t get a Nanapon then we won’t get the whole set!”
“I’ll make some tea,” smiled Payton as she wandered to the kitchen, her brain flipping between her desire to interrogate Sabrina and Purin’s desire to be the happy housewife and peacemaker.
As she slowly made the tea, Purin’s mental monologue grew louder and louder. “Need to make everything happy for when Nanapon comes home, Nanapon can’t have sadness ruining her mood. No one wants a sad album! Sad albums are for concerts that smell bad and lack good stage design!”
Payton cringed a little bit, Purin’s thoughts were so unlike her normal ones, and the fact she was still thinking them worried her. She wanted to escape this hell and to never deal with it again, however she couldn’t just run off and leave the headset intact. Not with a clear conscience.
She didn’t want to admit it, but her current situation was likely the best result she could have asked for. If the headset had worked properly, then she wouldn’t be around anymore, it would just be Purin all the time. But if it had failed worse she would have likely been killed or permanently disabled due to the electric shock.
Once the tea was done Payton slowly walked over and placed it in front of Sabrina. “So what is wrong?” She asked softly as she started to rub Sabrina’s back again.
“I don’t remember things,” sighed Sabrina as she twitched again. “I used to know things and now I don’t but I still think I know them,” she mumbled as she rubbed her head against the table.
“I don’t understand?” Said Payton and Purin in unison. “How can you know and not know things?”
“Because I, used to know.” Groaned Sabrina. “I did the things and then we made them and then we tested them and now I don’t know but I think I still do. My brain is full of gaps.”
“Did the things?” Asked Payton softly, only for the Purin part of her brain to cut in. “You made cakes?”
“No, not baking sweetie.” Giggled Sabrina, a small smile forming on her face.
“Oh,’ replied Purin as she softly hugged Sabrina.
“I made this dumb thing,” mumbled Sabrina as she slapped the helmet. “I made so much of it. Other people helped but I can’t remember who they were.”
“Why? Don’t you have a yearbook?” Giggled Purin as Payton started to feel awkward. She felt a little guilty about using Purin’s cutesy innocence to dig for answers, but at the same time, she didn’t have much of a choice, it was the only way she could have any control over her body or mouth.
“No, because it went wrong for me and now I can’t think straight!” Shouted Sabrina before groaning. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell,” she stammered. “I can’t remember I wanted to make it better but it didn’t work and then the holes formed and now, and now,” she rambled as she twitched.
“That is terrible.” Consoled Purin.
“I just want my Purin and my Nanapon!” Shouted Sabrina as she smashed her fist in the desk. “Is that too much to ask?”
“I’m here!” Grinned Purin. “And you said Nanapon is coming tomorrow!”
“So stupid,” mumbled Payton internally. The Purin part of her brain was totally oblivious to everything going on around her. But that made sense considering she was effectively an AI that was only made to respond to a small set of very specific situations.
“Right, yes,” nodded Sabrina. “Tomorrow, we’ll get you a Nanapon. Promise.”
“Yay!” Cheered Purin, still not fully sure why they were going to need to get a Nanapon as opposed to just inviting Nanapon over, but she didn’t mind. Sabrina seemed to be cheering up and that meant she was a good homemaker.
“You know what,” said Sabrina as she looked up at Payton with a lecherous glint in her eye. “Why don’t we see just what you and Nanapon can do?”
“What?” Blinked Payton, not fully understanding what Sabrina was implying.
Sabrina slowly rose from her chair and stumbled over to the wardrobe. She yanked it open to reveal a mess that made Purin shudder. Dirty clothes and bags were just shoved haphazardly into the wardrobe without any order or effort to keep the dirty clothes separate from the clean ones.
She rooted through the messy pile, only to quickly find and pull out a long body pillow. Payton cringed, realizing where this was likely going. However, as Sabrina turned around to face her, Payton realized it was even worse than she had expected.
The pillow had a crudely printed image of Nanapon on it. The colors were all slightly off and you could see her limbs clipping into each other as she lay looking up from the cheap cotton.
It took Payton a second, but she actually realized where the image came from. It was one of the poses that Nana used during the sex scene that she had stumbled upon. Her stomach dropped as she realized she was going to have to endure that horror again.
“Look, its Nanapon!” Smiled Sabria as she put the pillow on the bed. Payton felt Purin getting excited, the mere sight of Nanapon made her grow warm and tingly all over.
“Nanapon!” Smiled Purin as she bounced with excitement.
“Yes, why don’t you come and give her a hug?” Giggled Sabrina as she twitched a little bit.
Payton could only watch in horror as Purin quickly skipped over to the bed and straddled the pillow, already starting to softly rub against it. Payton knew that Sabrina was watching her and that made it even more humiliating than before.
“Do you like Nanapon?” Asked Sabrina as her breathing became heavier.
“I love Nanapon!” Smiled Purin as she started to rub her groin against the pillow. “She is the best idol in the world!”
“Show her how much you love her,” stuttered Sabrina, her voice slowly becoming horse due to her heavy breathing.
Inside her body, Payton was seething. She couldn’t believe she was having to suffer this humiliation. But she couldn’t get control of her body, she felt so distant, she could only watch as Purin rubbed herself against the pillow.
“Nanapon I love you so so much, I’m yours!” Shouted Purin as she kissed the image on the pillow, her grinding becoming faster and harder as she grew more and more aroused by both the image and friction from the pillow.
“That’s it!” Groaned Sabrina as a soft wet sound filled the room. Even though Payton couldn’t see the source, she knew exactly what was going on. Sabrina was masturbating over this disgusting scene.
“I love Nanapon, I’m her wota, she is the best! The best idol in the world, I want to make her cakes and clean her house and be her wife and kiss her and make her pudding,” continued Purin, her voice cracking as waves of artificial pleasure ran through her body.
“Yes, yes yes!” Groaned Sabrina from as the wet noise grow louder and more disgusting by the second. Payton was full of shame, she couldn’t believe she was doing this, that she was letting this happen, Purin or not, it was her body!
“I love you Nanapon! I love you so much! L-O-V-E! Lovely Nanapon! L-O-V-E! Lovely Nanapon!” Screamed Purin, biting her lip as she slammed her crotch into the pillow.
“Yes, Nanapon is such a cutie and you’re such a cute couple,” groaned Sabrina as Payton felt the world start to spin. The pleasure was intoxicating, it was like her whole brain was being dipped in warm liquid honey.
She felt warm waves of bliss radiating out from her groin and brain. These waves met in her tummy and made her feel like she was dancing on air. This felt like nothing she had ever experienced before, it was like a whole new world of pleasure was opening up before her.
Suddenly, Purin screamed as her body started to pulse with euphoria. Her body stiffened as she started to gasp and shake. Sparks of bliss ran through every single nerve in her body, totally overwhelming her mind,
Behind her, she could hear Sabrina reaching orgasm, her gasps, and squeals of pleasure echoing around the hotel room. Payton felt herself fall sideways, her body totally spent.
As she lay in the hazy afterglow, Payton was able to think a little clearer. It seemed like the sudden blast of pleasure had knocked Purin out, leaving Payton’s brain delightfully quiet.
After a few minutes, Sabrina lay down on the bed next to Payton and pulled her into a tight hug. Payton hated the girl’s touch, but she couldn’t get her body to move, no matter how hard she tried to focus.
“I love you both,” mumbled Sabrina as she nuzzled Payton’s cheek. “I’m so glad I have my Purin and my Nanapon. Everyone is going to be Purin and Nanapon. No one gets to say mean things about my characters again.”
“Mean things?” Said Purin and Payton in unison.
“They said you were stereotypical and that idols are not cute and it’s creepy!” Whined Sabrina as she continued to nuzzle. “They said I should focus on real people and the project and not you guys!”
“They have a point,” thought Payton to herself. Creepy and stereotypical was the best way to describe Purin.
“That so mean!” Replied Purin as she quickly turned and kissed Sabrina on the cheek. “Nanapon is the best idol in the world! She deserves respect for her artistry!”
Payton rolled her eyes. Of course, Purin would overlook a direct insult to defend Nana, it was her only personality trait. It was almost like they were two halves of the same person.
Payton tried to think of what to do about this whole situation. Partially as she still lacked a concrete solution and also in an attempt to try and ignore the fact that Sabrina was groping her.
She eyed the window and for a brief moment considered throwing Sabrina out of it, only to instantly dismiss the idea. She had hardly been able to cope when she threw Nana off the roof. And she knew both Nana and the roof were fictional, she would never be able to do that to a real person.
And on top of that, Sabrina didn’t seem evil. She was sort of pathetic. However much hatred Payton had for her, she couldn’t mentally justify hurting her.
Payton continued to ponder, trying to work out a plan that would prevent Sabrina from hurting anyone else, without her coming to harm. However, nothing seemed to come to her.
After a while, Sabrina sat up and grinned. “I need to get more parts!” She said as she twitched. “Need to tape up the holes so they’re not obvious on the model so that Nanapons won’t be scared off by it,” she added as she jumped out of the bed and grabbed a purse from near the desk.
“I’ll clean more!” Chirped Purin as her mental monologue kicked back into high gear, totally drowning out Payton’s thoughts.
“Actually,” grinned Sabrina. “Why don’t you make us a cake? I would love a cake right now!”
“Of course!” Beamed Purin, her heart filling with joy at the mere thought of baking for Sabrina and Nanapon. She was a good housewife and this house was missing the delicious smell of fresh baked goods.
As Sabrina left the room Payton jumped up from the bed and quickly headed over to the kitchen, her brain fixated on baking a cake. She quickly went about pulling out all of the bowls and utensils she could find.
While the hotel had a kitchenette, it was woefully understocked. However, within a few minutes, Purin was able to scrape together enough stuff to bake with.
As she yanked the fridge open, she realized that Sabrina had obviously planned for this. The fridge was full of sweet ingredients, enough to make enough deserts for a whole group of people.
Purin slowly removed everything and laid it out on the counter, only for her brain to suddenly start throbbing and aching. “I need to make a cake, what cake am I making?”
Purin’s brain started to spin as she tried to work out exactly how to make these ingredients into the cake. It seemed so simple, but at the same time, she just couldn’t work it out. It was like the recipe was on the tip of her tongue but she just couldn’t vocalize it no matter how hard she tried.
“Cake,” mumbled Purin as Payton tried to pull herself together. “Make a cake,” she Purin again, almost like she was trying to convince herself.
“I don’t know,” groaned Payton as the pain danced through her mind. “I don’t know cake you’re the baker.” However, as she let out another groan, something clicked in her mind.
The imprint had failed, she hadn’t been taught exactly how to make cakes, just that Purin liked to bake them. So now Purin was unable to do anything, she had no idea what to do with all of these ingredients.
An idea slowly formed in Payton’s brain. If framing her thoughts in a way that made sense to Purin prevented Purin’s internal monologue speaking over her, could she control her body’s actions by filling in the gaps in Purin’s thoughts?
“I can make a cake. I just need to pour all the flour into the bowl.” Thought Payton to herself, trying to sound as confident as she could. She repeated the thought over and over until she was almost chanting it in her mind.
“I can make a cake. I just need to pour all the flour into the bowl,” echoed Purin. Payton felt her body reach out and grab the flour before tipping the whole bag into the bowl, causing a massive cloud of powder to fill the room.
Payton was ecstatic, this could actually work. She could control her body again, she just needed to make sure whatever she did made sense to Purin. As Payton’s eyes scanned the ingredients she spotted the computer out of the corner of her eye.
“Milk in the bowl, all the milk! All the milk!” Shouted Payton in her head, her excitement building as she committed to her plan. She felt Purin echo her thoughts before tipping the whole carton of milk into the bowl.
After the milk, Payton turned the oven on as high as she could get it to go before emptying a load of sugar and vanilla into the bowl and mixing it together.
Payton steeled herself, she knew the last part of this plan would be the hardest, but she needed to pull it off. Purin’s brain throbbed again as she tried to work out what to do with this bowl full of flour and liquid.
“The cake needs computer parts,” said Payton in her head. “The cake needs computer parts,” she said again as she tried to chant the sentence. Purin’s brain spun with confusion, obviously having issues understanding Payton’s logic.
However, Payton fought through the pain. She focused all of her mind and all of her energy on the chant. She was totally committed to this action. It was now or never.
As she continued to chant, Purin started to stiffy move towards the computer on the desk. “Computer parts,” said Purin’s thoughts, echoing Payton’s chanting.
“Yes, the cake needs computer parts, the cake needs silicone, the cake needs circuitry,” chanted Payton. As she focused, she felt her limbs again, it was almost like she was slowly clawing her way back into the driver’s seat of her body.
Her hands shook as she reached out and grabbed the headset. As she stiffy wrapped her hand around the plastic case, she yanked it forward, ripping it from the tower.
She slowly moved her arm so the headset was positioned above the bowl of batter. For a moment, her hand locked up, almost like it was refusing to damage the headset, but Payton gritted her teeth and continued to chant.
“The cake needs the computer, the cake needs the computer!” She screamed in her head. The Purin part of her brain was confused, it was spinning and throbbing, it kept trying to debate the point, but Payton kept shouting over it.
“But,” whimpered the Purin thoughts. “Something feels wrong.”
“Nana wants her cake like this!” Shouted Payton in her mind. “Do you want to let Nana down and not make her cake?”
She heard another whimper as a wave of pain washed over her brain. Payton winced as her body shuddered. Her fingers opened and the headset fell into the batter with a soft splat as Payton collapsed in a heap.
The pain was immense, it felt like someone had smacked her in the head with a shovel. It was like the worst hangover she had ever experienced. She reached up and rubbed her temples, hoping to try and comfort herself a little bit.
“Wait,” she mumbled as she rubbed. “I can control my arms.”
She moved her hands around a bit, trying to confirm that she actually was back in control of herself. She wiggled her arms and legs, waving her hands in big circles as she watched with joy.
Payton spent a few minutes appreciating the feel of her limbs before she pushed herself up off the floor and started to smack the headset with the whisk, covering it in the thick, slimy batter.
“Not going to hurt someone again!” Laughed Payton as she put the bowl down and went to grab the rest of the computer. As she grabbed the keyboard, the screen came on and Payton stopped in her tracks.
Part of her was excited to finally destroy the system. To finally end all of this. But part of her wanted to have a look. If only because she had so many questions.
“Five minutes,” she mumbled to herself. “I need to let the oven heat anyway.” Payton started to tap on the keyboard, trying to see if she could spot anything of interest.
However, the more she browsed the computer, the more confused she became. There was a lot of random images of Purin and Nana, including various short stories and ideas for them, including some very explicit details about their sex life.
There was also a load of different J-pop videos, complete with in-depth guides to all of the different singers and musicians involved. At first, Payton presumed this was the result of Sabrina’s research before creating Nana. However, there seemed to be an awful lot of it, and it seemed odd that she would do all this research for Nana but not download a recipe book for Purin.
The more she dug, the more she found. To her surprise, some of the Nana and Purin doodles were years old and used totally antiquated file formats. These two characters were not some random flash of inspiration, Sabrina must have worked on them for years and years.
Payton closed the file tree and sighed. It was a shame to ruin all of this, but she couldn’t risk a copy of the Veix system existing in the wild. As she steeled herself, Payton spotted a file on the desktop, simply entitled “Sabrina.txt”.
She quickly opened it, only to realize that it was effectively an autobiography. Except it was very fragmented, there were massive gaps and the margin was filled with notes where Sabrina debated the facts of her own life with herself.
As she scrolled through the document, Payton spotted a section focused on Sabrina’s time working on the Veix system. However, this segment was by far the most fractured, each sentence had a note where Sabrina debated or doubted the details she had written.
“Kim (Ling? Lin? No, it was Sasha. Maybe?) found my journal and found the story about Nanapon and Purin going to Paris (Germany? Tokyo?) and put it on the office noticeboard so everyone could laugh,” read the document as Payton’s heart dropped.
“No wonder she is messed up,” she mumbled to herself.
“Wanted to test the new printer (helmet? Painter? Out Print? Imp Print?) and it went wrong. It was meant to fix (break) things. Makes brain fuzzy tingle went to the doctor (hospital?) said I had a problem with the back (front? In front?) cortex? And hippocampus (Maybe?). Can’t remember things well,” continued the document as Payton let out a sigh.
Part of her wanted to reconsider her actions, but at the same time, she knew she couldn’t. Even if Sabrina wasn’t all bad, she was going to hurt someone if she continued with this. “Maybe she’ll move on,” lamented Payton as tried to comfort herself and rationalize her actions.
She grabbed the computer tower and tipped it on its side before pulling the side off and pouring the batter in. She then proceeded the smash the whisk around inside, doing her best to break as much as possible.
Once everything was mixed Payton marched over to the oven and shoved the tower inside before slamming the door shut. Once it was done Payton leaned against the counter and took a few deep breaths, doing her best to center herself.
Payton spent a while recovering, only to be brought back to reality by the smell of burning cake and plastic. However, before she could go and check on the computer, Sabrina opened the door and walked inside.
“Tape is hard to find at this hour,” sighed Sabrina as walked a few steps into the room before sniffing the air. “What is that smell?” She mumbled before she gasped and dropped the tape. “My computer!”
“I know,” said Payton calmly as she walked towards Sabrina, doing her best to sound non-threatening.
“What did you do?! Purin? What did you do?” Shuddered Sabrina as her twitches grew more frequent.
“I stopped this, I’m not Purin, your computer didn’t work. Your system is broken.”
“No, I can fix it,” whined Sabrina. “I can do it, I did it before, I can do it again. I will have Purin and Nana! You’re my L-O-V,” she started, only for Payton to cover her mouth.
“Let’s not? Okay?” She said firmly, gazing directly into Sabrina’s eyes. “This won’t fix your memory issues or anything else. Your headset nearly did to me what it did to you, you could have killed me.”
Sabrina tried to say something, but Payton’s hand totally muffled it. Payton felt slightly bad, Sabrina looked absolutely terrified, but Payton knew she had to be firm.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but you need help. Serious help.” Explained Payton. However, a soft noise distracted her. She quickly turned her head only to see flames pouring out of the oven.
Sabrina used this moment of distraction to push Payton back into the wall, causing her head to hit the plaster with a hard thud. Sabrina quickly ran to the bed and grabbed her Nana pillow before reaching into the wardrobe and grabbing one of the bags.
“What are you,” mumbled Payton as her vision blurred. However, Sabrina didn’t respond, she dashed out of the room with her stuff, obviously keen to escape.
Payton tried to get her footing, she could feel the room heating up and smell the smoke in the air. “I messed up,” she groaned as she used the wall to lift herself up.
As Payton peered around the wall, she saw that the kitchen was being consumed by flames. She quickly stumbled out into the corridor and yanked on the nearest fire alarm.
Within moments a loud siren started to echo through the corridor and people quickly filed out of their rooms and headed down the stairs and into the parking lot.
Payton was hardly able to see straight, but she was able to follow the crowd and find her way out before the flames left the room.
The next hour was a blur of light and sound as the fire department did their best to put out the fire. However, Payton was too fixated on her headache to focus on the events unfolding around her.
She found a van at the back corner of the parking lot and sat down next to it, letting the cool metal sooth her sore head as closed her eyes for a few minutes to try and process what happened to her.
It all seemed so weird and unreal. Payton was still unsure if she had done the right thing. A small part of her had hoped she could talk some sense into Sabrina, but it was obvious that the girl was beyond sense.
“Madam?” Said a voice, breaking Payton from her thoughts. Payton slowly opened her eyes, only to see a firefighter, a police officer and the hotel’s receptionist stood above her.
“Madam, are you alright?” Asked the receptionist.
“Yeah, just, in a lot of pain.” Mumbled Payton.
“Do you need medical attention?”
“Nah, I’ll be fine,” mumbled Payton. “I suppose you want to ask me some questions?”
“Yes, we do,” nodded the officer. “We couldn’t find the lady who booked the room, do you have any idea where Ms. Floyd is, and why there were computer parts in the oven?”
Payton looked around for a few moments, mentally debating her answer. She couldn’t really give them the truth, they would never believe it in a million years.
“Well,” said Payton as she rubbed her head and decided to lie as best she could. “She was signed up for GameCon, and left her project in our office. It caught fire when we tested it and I came here to tell her that. When she heard about it, we tested her back up and it had the same issue.”
“I see, and how did it end up in the oven?” Asked the officer as they made notes on a pad.
“She got angry, she flipped. Pushed me into a wall, knocked me out for a bit I think. By the time I came around, the place was on fire. I tried to ask her, but she ran out of the building.”
“I saw her,” nodded the receptionist. “I feel so bad, I saw her come back with tape and I just presumed it was for the convention thing, I didn’t realize she was going to tie her down!” She said as her lip wobbled.
“Don’t worry about it.” Replied Payton as she waved her hand. “How were you meant to know?”
“Still,” started the woman.
“Nah, I mean it,” nodded Payton. “It’s fine.”
“I see,” nodded the officer. “Could I get your name and address?”
“Sure,” smiled Payton, her confidence buoyed by the fact the officer seemed to believe her, especially with the receptionist backing up her side of the story. She took the notepad and wrote down her details, doing her best to keep it neat despite her blurred vision.
“Okay,” nodded the officer. “This seems rather open and shut, but if we need you, we’ll be in touch. Now, do you need a ride to the hospital?”
“I’m okay,” replied Payton. “I feel pretty okay. But a ride home wouldn’t be bad, my clothes stink of smoke.”
“I can give you a ride,” smiled the receptionist as she waved for Payton to follow her. “It’s the least I can do.”
They drive was silent but for the rumble of the sedan’s engine. Payton gazed out of the window, her brain was tired and at this point, she just wanted to rest.
Thankfully, the late hour meant that the roads were basically empty and she was soon back at her building. As they pulled up in front of it, the lady looked at her.
“Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital?” she asked.
“I’m fine, I’ve got friends I’ll call if I don’t feel good.” Replied Payton. “Thanks though. Just after tonight, I want to rest.”
“I understand.” Replied the receptionist. “You went through something really traumatic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help okay? You might need to talk it over with someone.”
“Yeah, I will, thank you.” Smiled Payton politely as she got out of the car. It had been a traumatic night, but she doubted that even the most open-minded therapist would believe her story.
“Then you have your roll, use it to dodge blows! What I’m super into is the hitboxes, they’re very exact so considering your movements is very important, swinging exposes your arm to hits,” explained Lin as she watched a man play the game.
The convention floor was bustling. Everyone was doing their best to get somewhere despite every inch of floor space being full of either people or tables.
As the man finished the demo, Lin did her best to explain the game’s features and drum up hype before passing him a massive stack of promotional materials.
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Payton walking towards the table.
“Payton!” She shouted as she ran around the table and hugged Payton tight. “You don’t have to be here, seriously, I said I would cover for you!”
“I wanted to come,” smiled Payton as she patted Lin on the back. “Hospital said I was fine, I got very lucky, the electricity arced around me.”
The rest of the team surrounded Payton, all of them smiling and hugging her. “I’m so sorry,” said Bethany as joined the group. “I should have got everything tested before allowing them.”
“Don’t worry about it,” chuckled Payton. “Accidents happen.”
“Yeah, I guess they do. They must feel bad about it, as apparently, they didn’t turn up.” Added Bethany as she pointed to a single empty table.
“Right, yeah,” nodded Payton as she rubbed her arm.
“Hot chocolate! With cinnamon!” Interrupted Lin as she thrust a cup into Payton’s hands.
“I thought you told me not to come?” Giggled Payton.
“Well yeah, but like, it is a tradition we all get drinks before the con opens. And you’re part of the team even if you’re not here. So, you got one.” Blushed Lin.
“Like an offering to a shrine,” added another coder from the back of the crowd.
“Well thank you,” nodded Payton as she took a sip of the now cold hot chocolate. “Actually, Kevin can I have a word?”
“Sure,” nodded Kevin as the others returned to the table. The pair walked a short distance before Payton started to speak.
“So, last night,” she mumbled.
“Did you go talk to her?”
“Yeah, the girl was nuts, she flipped out, beat the crap out of me and then set her hotel room on fire with me in it.”
“Holy crap!” Shouted Kevin. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” sighed Payton. “And working is going to be a good distraction. Just letting you know in case the police come knocking.”
“Right, they doubt your story?” Asked Kevin.
“Nah, I mean what is there to doubt? You called her and I think she just snapped.”
“She seemed slightly erratic on the phone,” nodded Kevin. “Thanks for telling me. And hey.”
“Don’t push yourself today. I have no objections to you helping out, but if you want to go home, don’t feel you need to ask.”
“Thanks,” nodded Payton.
While the convention was a good distraction, Payton couldn’t help but think about what had happened. She was unsure if she had done the right thing, Sabrina was still roaming around, but at least she didn’t have the Veix system anymore and didn’t seem capable of making another copy of it.
As Payton wandered around the con floor, she tried to rationalize her actions. Her anger had gotten the better of her, but at the same time, it wasn’t like she could have called the police. No one would have believed her and the creators of the Veix system would likely do anything in their power to prevent knowledge of the project from becoming public.
A melody pulled Payton from her thoughts. She tapped her foot and smiled. Something about it seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place it. She slowly walked towards the sound, trying to work out exactly where she remembered it from.
Eventually, she worked out that the sound was coming from an arcade dancing machine. She started to hum the melody only to instantly work out where she had heard it before. The song was basically exactly the same as the Nanapon♥ song.
She couldn’t deny it, the song was super catchy and she could listen to it on loop all day. She pulled out her phone and tried to look up what this track was called so she could download it.
“Not your usual style,” chuckled Lin as she walked up behind Payton and patted her on the shoulder.
“I listen to stuff other than metal sometimes,” laughed Payton, as she tried to cover her embarrassment.
“And I can always beat you at these games,” winked Lin, “come on, take me on.”
“Sure,” replied Payton as she stepped onto the machine. “It could be worse,” she thought to herself. “I just like J-pop now, I can cope with that.”
The machine counted down before the song started to blare out of the speakers. Payton tried to move her feet in time with the myriad of arrows on the screen.
As the song washed over her mind, Payton tried to reassure herself. She had a new guilty pleasure and that was fine. Liking idol pop was a small price to pay for her safety.
“This is fine,” smiled Payton.
“You’re losing!” Chuckled Lin causing Payton to blink as she realized she had accidentally said her thought out loud.
“I’m not going to be losing in a few minutes, this song is super easy and I’m going to win!” She giggled as she started to move quicker. Her worries fading into the background as she focused on the real world that surrounded her.