Over the next week Andrew fell into a groove. He’d go to work at the warehouse, load freight all day, and then promptly go to sleep once he got home. His avatar would load beside a desk, he would sit down, and the instructor would begin to teach. There wasn’t any interaction available between other students while the instructor taught, but Andrew didn’t mind; he had things to do. Today was no exception.
He walked up the stairs to his apartment, sealed the door, and began his routine before getting to sleep. First he’d take a shower to wash off the remains of the day, then he’d have something to eat, and once all that was done he’d unlock his safe to clean the visor. It didn’t really need to be cleaned on a daily basis, but it had cost him nearly two months wages so he wanted to take care of it.
Andrew checked the door to make sure the locks were engaged and then stretched out on his bed. The visor slid easily into place. A slight hum began to emit from the equipment as it engaged. Two long blinks and he drifted off to sleep.
LOGGING IN . . .
Instead of the lecture hall he was in an open auditorium. There were voices behind him. Andrew turned around in a slow circle to find a table of four students talking over open notebooks. They were all dressed in the uniform green outfits, he found that the two-piece suit was a popular choice as it was now repeated three times with his arrival.
“First time?” The andy on the right asked.
“For?” Andrew ventured.
“Study group.” The same student waved a hand at the open seat. “At the end of each week of classes there’s a study group. It helps the program track your progress and load the next sections.”
“Oh.” Andrew sat at the open seat. He looked down at the table. Everyone else had identical notebooks and pencil cases out in front of them. “How do I get those?”
“Open your inventory.”
The talking at the table stopped. Eight sets of identical eyes rested on him.
“What?” He shuffled under the collective gaze.
“Move your right hand like this.” The andy raised his hand and popped his wrist up.
Andrew mirrored the movement. A small, semitransluscnet box about the size of his hand there were three icons on the display: a notebook, a piece of paper, and filmstrip. He tapped the notebook icon and his very own supplies appeared in front of him.
“What are the other two?” Andrew tried not to look up as he spoke.
“Class transcript and entertainment.” The same student offered. “I’m Quinn, I’ll add you as a friend.”
“Thanks.” A notification popped up in place of his inventory, he hit accept. “Andrew.”
“The tutorial is kind of lacking, right?”
“Yeah.” Andrew tapped the pencil box and a facsimile of a writing utensil appeared in his hand. “What section are you on?”
“Wow, you’re really ahead of me. I’m only at the endocrine system.”
“That’s not bad.” Quinns’ leaned over. “Can I ask you something personal?”
Andrew paused. “Sure.”
“Why did you choose nursing?”
“It seemed like a good idea.” Andrew shrugged. “I mean, we’re always going to need hospitals and people to work in them. If I get lucky I could work at a private one.”
“You’re pragmatic.” Quinn pointed a faux pencil at him. “I want work, so I’ll go into a field that needs workers. You just log in for classes, right?”
“Well,” he shrugged. “Yeah.”
“What’s your specialization?”
“When you go for it, you really go for it, eh?”
“There’s always something going on.”
“True enough, but have they talked to you about burn out Listen, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I’ve seen a bunch of people like you come through the course and just…” Quinn mimed a streak through the air and an explosion. “Do you think we all just study constantly?”
“You need a break, you need something to relax.” Quinn leaned back in the chair. “Why do you think they gave you that entertainment option?”
“Because it’s a billion dollar industry.”
“Fair enough, but then why can you earn free time with your completion?”
“Pull it up, it will show your balance.”
Andrew flipped up his inventory and selected the filmstrip. A small readout told him he had two months of free time at his disposal.
“I’ve got two months.”
“Well, one month.” Quinn shrugged. “They give everyone a free month to start, but the second one you’ve earned through class.”
“Yeah.” Quinn leaned in. “Do you want to check it out?”
Andrew looked down at his notebook. “I should really get back to class.”
“No class today.” Quinn smiled. “Today is a free day, default setting is the study group. Check your transcript, do you have any open assignments?”
“Sweet.” Andrew smiled as he read the transcript. “I’m running three days ahead.”
Another invitation menu popped up by his inventory.
“Join me for a game?” Quinn held the smile. “You need to defrag.”
“Sure.” Andrew returned the smile and hit the button to accept.