The wind blew gently in from the ocean, spraying mist into Jack’s face. The waves crashed into the shore at almost regular intervals, about a minute between each crash. The waves themselves were moderately large, some reaching high above his head. The three of them just stood in awe for a second before Max broke the silence.
“So… Who are you again?” He looked questioningly at the girl.
“Oh!” She looked surprised and slightly crestfallen. “My name is Anya. I would have thought that you knew my name, seeing as we share a couple of classes together.”
Max dropped his head sheepishly, looking embarrassed. For a few seconds, the only sound was that of the waves and the distant cries of the people at the other side of the beach.
“Well, now that we’re here, what are we going to do?” Jack asked, looking around at the beach. “We don’t have any bathing suits, so we can’t go swimming.”
“We could go to an arcade,” Max suggested.
“But we haven’t any money,” Anya countered. She looked around at the street signs before talking again. “Actually, I think I know where we are. My family owns a beach house in Brisbane, which isn’t that far from here, I think, if we fly. Would you like to go?”
“I’m down,” Max told her, while Jack just nodded, not sure if he could contain his surprise if he opened his mouth. The idea that anyone could own one of the monstrosities along the shore – most of them much bigger than his own meager house – astounded him.
She beamed at both of them. “Good! Now if I remember correctly, Brisbane is that way,” Anya pointed up along the beach before leaping into the air, her transition into flight much smoother than anything Jack had ever done. Without looking back to see if they were coming, she flew off in the direction she had pointed in.
Both of the boys jumped into the air and sped off towards Anya, her figure rapidly becoming smaller and smaller as she flew towards her house. They caught up to her quickly, and she spoke to them without looking at them.
“I was starting to think that you couldn’t keep up.”
“We only fell behind because you had a head start!” Max protested.
Anya slowed down and started descending, her eyes sweeping the houses below. After a minute of doing so, she swooped towards a light blue house and landed lightly on the beach in front of it. It was an old house, but maintained well enough that it looked better than some of the new ones near it. It had a large yard, unlike the rest of the houses, which were all packed together, and sat further back from the beach. Anya waited for them to land before turning to face them.
“Here it is!” She said. “The Nesterov beach house.”
She turned towards the house and started walking towards the door, using the stone path traversing the yard. Jack hurried after her, with Max right on his tail.
“Have you come here often?” Max called out from behind them, jogging slightly to catch up.
“Not since I was little,” Anya answered, bounding up the steps to the door. She stopped at the door, her hand resting on the handle, and looked at them.
“A lot of the things in this house are valuable, both in monetary and sentimental. Break anything,” She told them with a stern glare, “and I will break you. Am I clear?”
Jack gulped as he nodded his head, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Max do the same.
“Good!” She smiled brightly, her glare going away as quickly as it came. She held the door open for them to enter, and Jack complied, following Max inside. Two open staircases traveled to the second floor, both of them along the wall. He didn’t have much time to gape at the house, as Anya ushered them into a room off to the side.
“I don’t have the latest NeurImmersion here, but I do have an older version of it, which should suffice for a satisfying gaming experience,” Anya said, holding up three helmets.
“No way,” Jack heard Max whisper as he rushed over and picked up one of the helmets. He inspected it for a couple of seconds before carefully putting it on his head.
Jack remembered hearing of the NeurImmersion gaming before, but hadn’t cared much because it was too expensive. It interacted directly with your brain, supposedly, so anything you could do in real life, you could do in the game. Well, almost anything, Jack corrected himself. It didn’t let you use your powers.
“Jack? Are you going to play?” Anya asked, holding out one of the helmets.
Judging by the look on her face, he assumed that he’d spaced out again. “Of course I’m going to play. What do you think I am, crazy?”
She looked amused as he took the helmet, before putting on her own. “We’ll be playing Super Countdown,” She told them, her voice slightly muffled by the helmet. “Get ready to play in three… two… one…”
Jack saw her finger press a button on the console, and then his world turned black.