Freelance Saga 2: Quantum Interference
Chapter 1: Painful Discovery
    Pain ! He awoke to darkness and indescribable, all-encompassing, pain. When his vision returned he was greeted by whirling patterns of light and discordant imagery. His ears betrayed him by playing a dissonant chorus of riotous notes that he could barely decipher.
    Even in his current state it was obvious that something had gone terribly wrong. Scott Hunter , freelance beta-tester, moaned aloud then struggled to sit up.
    He looked down at his hands and saw that they were red, raw. In time he began to put words and feelings into place. His body felt as if it were both frozen and on burning at the same time. It was as though someone had put him into a microwave and hit the popcorn button.
    He stru ggled against the weakness and pain for a time, and as a reward for his efforts he was finally able to speak the words, “What the hell?”
    His v oice came out as a hoarse croak. It was a damaged sound that greatly reminded him of his equally mistreated body. Scott closed his eyes and relaxed back onto the ground. He did not have the strength to rise. Darkness claimed him once more.
    Time passed and the sun wheeled by overhead. The moons rose and set. It was midday on the following day before he awoke again. This time his injuries were far less severe. He had survived the cold, lonely, night and the rest period had restored some of his strength.
    He looked around bleary eyed then gazed down at his hands. They were no lo nger red and raw. Instead he was now covered in a myriad number of hideous bruises. Every part of his body protested when he forced his way to his feet.
    “What happened to me?” He leaned heavily against a nearby tree and tried to catch his breath. Even breathing was a terrific agony.
    Where was he? He did not know. His memories were jumbled and scattered at the same time, a technical impossibility but who was he to judge?
    Tears poured freely as he struggled to move forward. The overwhelming sense of pain was too much and he fell to the ground. More bruises would be added to the collection.
    He reached out and clutched at a clump of grass. The stinging pain of moving his arm allowed him to gather his thoughts and focus his mind. He used the new pain to fight off the effects of his original pain. It was all he had to work with.
    Breathing was hard. His body felt heavy, useless. His chest could barely push against the ground. It did not matter. What mattered was determining what had happened. Scott needed to understand what was happening and why he was in this situation.
    He squeezed the clump of grass, felt the mild stinging pain, and tried to remember. It took a while, far longer than he would have liked, but memories did begin to surface. The game world, he had tried to return to Alterra. The time limit of twenty-four hours had ended and he’d readily attempted the quantum transfer protocol that would allow him to return there.
    Whatever had happened afterward had left a blank spot, a hole in his memories. His sole recollection from that space of time was nothing more than a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of darkness and pain.
    “Did I even make it there?” He struggled to look around but he was still too weak to move properly. He had used up all of his strength trying to stand earlier.
    His vision began to fade and he knew that he would lose consciousness again soon. The last thing that he saw before the darkness claimed him once more was the clump of grass in his hand.
    Scott lay on the ground completely vulnerable and exposed to the vagaries of that foreign world. Whether it was due to sheer luck or divine providence, nothing molested him in his time of need. Though all around him the forest was filled with terrible creatures and inhuman monstrosities, he slept without being disturbed.
    He awoke once more after several hours had passed. Night had fallen and the moons had risen.
    The blinding pain had subsided to a dull-ache. It was a sure sign that he had made it to the game world.

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