Dreams fade when you wake, crerish them while they last.
The late 21st century saw an increase in the use of virtual reality.
Whether it was to escape real life or simply try something new, people flocked to the idea of living a separate life, a life where they could choose and change anything they wanted.
The mid 22nd century had seen the development of large scale fully fledged VR platforms, with the ability of support entire countries worth of populations within their servers.
Gaming platforms merged and consolidated, as did companies till a singular worldwide server remained.
Once fleeting thoughts of a one world global village became realized, abiet in a different sense, set upon the backbone of acres upon acres of mainframe computers systems.
The people took to it, and by the late 22nd century, it was estimated 85% of the population on Earth played an average of 18hours a day within the servers.
Whole civilisations found themselves rebuilt within this new reality, new worlds, new lives, endless possibilities.
And now, the city of Invi, boasting a membership of close to 5 billion user, known for their sprawling towers into the sky, and the undercity crawling into the depths.
It started in the underground, as all things somehow always did.
Not the deeps that swallowed the light from the surface, the deep where only the worst players and degenerates went to haggle their lifes, or the lifes of others.
But it wasn't the fringes between the worlds eithier, where the light of the surface still lit the area modestly, where law and order was still previant, clashing with petty crime and small time thugs.
He had been underground before, but never this deep. And yet he now stood in one of the alleyways of lower level 30, the result of mindless wanderings and musings gone wrong.
He exhaled, hearing the faint whistle of air escape from his mouth as he thread through the bolleys of the undercity.
He could leave, he could always leave, given the all level pass he possessed, yet something kept him around, drawing him ever so deeper into the underground.
All around where new sights.
Bioimplants where common place here, ranging from elaborate piecings to total modifications to the body, such as fanged teeth in some cases, or swaying barbed tails that swung free from the crooks of the backs.
Frowned upon by those of the surface, with extreme cases being reported as harassment, yet here in the underground it was he that stood out among all.
The ambience was only to be described as seedy, the majority of the streets lit by colours off the natural spectrum, giving the alleys and roads eerie hues and tones.
Whatever light that managed to trickle down were simply splots and patches, the majority of the area being lit up by artificial neon lights and signs.
And yet it was all so new, so different.
Flickering signboards from intent or neglect, meshed by the crossroads of the alleyways and passages.
The Dirty Angel, an almost quaint little storefront poking out from the mess of streets claimed a variety of services, as was the norm around these levels.
'Happy ending massages' the words were scrawled across on the billboards besides the shop, along rather explicit art leaving no dispute as to what exactly the term meant.
Scrawled below was a note to enquire within for more information.
It intrigued him.
Sex and such services were hardly discrete or hidden, and it was no secret those of the surface often frequented such outlets in the underground to relieve themselves.
He was no exception, though admittedly, he never ventured this deep before.
Entering the shop, he found it to be a quaint little place, the interior surprisingly cleaner than what was expected, and though at first glance everything seemed a mess,
and it was on his second look around that gave the impression of an organised mess.
It was fascinating, a wonder to see this whole new world, as he thread through the little building.
All his log time in the surface would never see something so bizarre, yet so profound in its individuality.
Jars containing substances he could never fathom lined the shelves, as with age old tack boards filled with posters and papers.
A little bell had gone off as he stepped into the reception area, followed shortly by a rough mechanical voice barring through hidden speakers, "One moment."
Soon, a whirling sound filled the room, as with clanks and bangs as a figure came into view.
A golem, he silently noted, one of the older models, from the looks of it, as he watched the being stumble through the overhanging pot and buckets and approach him.
It was larger than him, given that the older designs had yet to become sleek enough to look human, instead the model that stood before him looked about three generations old and counting, with the distinct hum of its engine still audible at the proximity it was at.
Golems were 100% programable, with a classic in built programs preventing violence, though it was fairly common information that those in the underground didn't care much about restrictions and often overrode those programs anyways.
His left hand drifted downwards, fingering an almost unnoticeable button like device clipped around his waist.
His personal handgun, which when triggered, would unfold and latch onto his hand frame, providing a good 6 shots of energy toggleable from lightly tased to overcook burnt.
Not that he would need it, since it wouldn't exactly be in the interest of the propeitior of the establishment to have his golem attack potential customers.
Still, it felt calming to have at least one familiar item with him in this strange and bizarre world.
"Services? Services?" The same voice from before screeched out, as the golem rattled in place before him.
It took him a moment to realize the golem was indicating a worn laminated menu pasted on its chest piece.
He frowned, before biting the figurative bullet and leaned forwards, making out the scratches of words and text on the laminated piece.
Even for suppository durable plastic, the laminated piece was browning at the edges and warping in little bubbles across its surface.
"Happy end massage," he spoke, deciding that dechriping the text was going to take too long and go with what drew him in in the first place.
"Yes please! This way. This way." The golem whirled before the sentence completed, jutting a mechanical limb out and jabbing at what he initially assumed to be a darkened corner of the store, though approaching it, he found it to be a curtained flap to a hallway.
"Room b-13. Room B-13!" The speakers barred out from behind him, as he squeezed himself through the passageway into the hallway.
B-13, he noted, was one of the room furthest down the hallway, with the last room being B-14. Stopping at the door sign, he took a moment to observe the doorway.
Unlike the rickety look of the shop previously, it seem the hallway, and these pods were about a couple decades ahead in technology, with proper lighting systems and air condition units.
Noting another laminated paper at the door control device, he crouched down to have a better look at it contents;
'Price deduct staright from account upon entry. Tipping mandatory to workers. No touching. '
Simple enough, it seemed. Grammar non withstanding, at least this place still supported the credit system, where credits could be deducted from or transfered to via an avatar's account.
That meant some degree of legallity, as payment modes such as these meant approval given by the server's monetary system at some point.
Straightening up, he stepped forwards, noting his credit being siphoned off as he activated the gate and stepped through.
He had the most updated virus deduction and security clearances installed, so it wasn't a matter of concern that he was allowing such transactions to occur in a place like this.
The gate beeped once, and the double door slid open with a flourish, admitting him to a pod like room.
Well. Time for a little relaxation.