Roger walked through the calm and quiet woods. Birds were twittering in the trees and there was the faint sound of running water, signifying that a river or creek was nearby. Trees with trunks wider than Roger shot into the sky, and the sun peeked through their branches.

Roger held his breath for a moment and listened carefully. Something was wrong. He took another step and silently moved a few inches forward. That was the problem- Roger was wearing heavy rubber boots and he should not have been able to walk silently. The forest floor should have been littered with crunchy dead leaves. Silently, Roger added the detail to his quickly growing mental to-do list.

The wind picked up, and settled again in a carefully constructed pattern. Through the trees, Roger imagined he could see ghosts and elves, even though he knew such a thing was impossible.

The serenity of the forest was interrupted by a mechanical beeping noise, and a monotone voice said, "Someone is waiting at the door, Roger Egarx." The computer pronounced his last name incorrectly, saying Egg- erts instead of Egg- garx.

With a sigh, Roger turned and strolled to a mossy cave. He walked inside, and said, "Computer, quit program." The rocky walls around him shimmered, then disappeared, revealing plain-looking metal walls.

Feeling slightly claustrophobic, Roger quickly pushed open the door behind him, and stepped onto the cold tile floor of his kitchen. The automatic intercom system of his home beeped again, and once again, the mechanical voice said, "Someone is waiting at the door, Roger Egarx."

"Yeah, yeah. I know," Roger muttered, hurrying through the labyrinthine hallways that lead to the front door. The man who had rung his doorbell had turned away and was walking back to his shiny sports car when Roger thrust the front door open and called, "Wait, don't leave! I'm here!"

The man, who was wearing a three-piece business suit, peered at Roger. "Are you Roger Exon?" he asked.

"No, I am Roger Egarx," Roger said. It wasn't by any means the first time his name had been mispronounced, and it most likely wouldn't be the last. "Are you the representative from Imagination Toys?"

"Yes," the man said, holding his hand out for a handshake. "I am Andrew Johnson and I hear that you have made some interesting breakthroughs on virtual reality technology."

"Please, come inside," Roger said politely. When Roger had been in school, he'd learned about the good old days before the Industrial Revaluation. When a person had an idea about an invention, he could build it, market it, and make a fortune off it without all the hassles of companies and deadlines and worrying about if another man was making a profit. Sometimes, Roger wished he could have been born in those days.

"My invention is going to change virtual reality as we know it," Roger said enthusiastically. "Has the company briefed you on the nature of my invention?"

"All I know is that it relates to virtual reality and it is called the Egarx Version One," Andrew said. "I assume you named it after yourself?"

"No, actually, it's named after my dad," Roger said, but Andrew didn't seem to catch the humor. "Anyway, the Egarx Version One, or EV one as I like to call it, is going to shake the virtual reality world. Think of when virtual reality was first invented. It consisted of a helmet that covered the eyes, and tiny nodes the consumer would attach to their body so that they could feel the virtual sensations."

"I am well aware of how virtual reality works," Andrew said dryly.

"I'm sure you are," said Roger. "I'm just explaining to you my concept. Now, these original virtual reality machines worked fairly well, but they were huge, and frankly, ugly. People didn't have the living space or the resources to afford the contraptions. Therefore, the companies started making more compact versions, but quality was sacrificed in the process."

"And I suppose you've found a way to make a smaller model without loosing quality," Andrew said without emotion. The sound of his voice grated on Roger's ears.

"Sort of," Roger said. "I've spent several years studying holographic technology. Now, with holograms, consumers can make landscapes to replace windows, broadcast television shows and movies onto any flat surface, and even surf the Internet."

"Mr. Egarx, I am as familiar with hologram technology as I am with virtual reality," Andrew complained.

"However, no one has ever thought of making an interactive hologram," Roger continued, ignoring the interruption. "I used a combination of holograms and virtual reality to make the ultimate interactive story. You feel like you really are walking through the scenery, whether it's a desert, forest, wasteland, or even the moon! Now, the EV one is almost as big as the original virtual realities, but the great thing about it is that with the holograms, there's no need for helmets or nodes. We could build them into walls and all the consumer would need to do is open a door and step inside. The EV- one accepts spoken commands, and it can have up to twenty programs installed, even though I've only created one so far."

Roger and Andrew were now standing before the EV- one. "Would you like a demonstration?" Roger asked.

"No thank you," Andrew said. "Is your program finished?"

"I only need to create a few more characters and tweak some details," Roger said quickly.

"I suggest you be finished within the month," Andrew said, and Roger was relieved for the extension on the deadline. As Roger led Andrew out the front door, Andrew said, "The world of virtual reality is changing daily. In order for your machine to be successful at all, we need to beat the competition. If you are not finished by your deadline, we may have to cancel the contract."

"Don't worry, I'll be done in time," Roger said. Andrew left, and Roger slammed the door behind him.

How dare he? Andrew said those things as if Roger had put a minimal amount of work into his project, while in reality the EV- one was all that Roger had thought about for a year.

When Roger had first come up with the idea for combining virtual reality and holograms, he'd researched all information about both things he could find from the United States Patent Office. The idea was so simple, Roger couldn't see how anyone could have not seen it before.

Assured that he'd come up with the idea originally, Roger had then proceeded to draw up blueprints for the EV- one, and he'd needed to wait a month for his patent to be approved. Then, it was even more time when he sent his idea to all the leading computer and toy companies, and only one had approved his ideas and offered to pay for the parts needed for the EV- one's construction.

After several long weeks of waking up early and staying up late working on his invention, Roger had realized that he couldn't work on his EV- one and hold a steady job. Of course, Roger also needed to eat, so he'd taken a loan from a man known only as Big Max.

Big Max was vaguely connected to several murders throughout the state, as well as prostitution, thievery, and money laundering. While the police had never been able to convict Big Max on anything, it was fairly common rumor that he was connected with the mob.

Roger didn't usually do business with people like that, but he wanted the EV- one to be built and to succeed so badly that he'd taken a loan from the person. As far as Roger was concerned, once the Egarx Version One hit the market, he'd be rich enough to pay off the debt and never have another thing to do with the crime lord.

Of course, that was assuming that he finished his invention before Big Max sent someone after him for the money.