Reality And Other Virtues
by Minim Calibre


Wesley tried to slink into his chair at the loud and enthusiastic shouting of his name from across the restaurant, despite knowing that it would do him not a bit of good. Peering up surreptitiously from the 17th century demonology tome he was translating, he braced himself as a slightly tubby form he'd not seen for a couple of years barreled towards him like a Saint Bernard with two left feet. He stifled a sigh and forced his features into something that resembled a smile.

"David," he acknowledged, taking the offered hand for a perfunctory shake and somehow winding up folded into a rather humid bear hug.

Thankfully, the hug soon subsided, leaving just some aggressive back-patting in its wake. "Wesley! How are you and Cordelia and Angel and all the rest of the merry band of heroes? Gosh, it's been..." a hearty laugh with a touch of nervousness split the air. "Well, it's been a while. How've you been?"

"Not especially heroic, I'm afraid. We ended world peace, Cordelia's in a coma, and we've taken over Wolfram and Hart. You might have heard about the former?"

David blinked. Then he frowned. Then realization and recognition flashed across his face and the frown turned into a grin. "Oh, Jasmine! I heard about it when I got back from Russia. I was recruiting some software testers and missed the whole thing." The grin faded as he took in the rest of Wesley's words. "Sorry about Cordelia. She was a brave and noble warrior princess. Plus we went on a few dates, which almost never happens with women I'm not paying to be seen with me. What happened?"

"Actually, although I'm still somewhat fuzzy on the details, I believe she went through a bit of an evil period for a time." Something in the back of his mind tried to work its way to the front, something about why and how and when, but it all faded, like it always did. He hated the sensation and its corresponding uncertainty, always there whenever someone mentioned Cordelia. It left him unbalanced, with a strong desire to do something to clear his mind.

So when David Nabbit suggested an excursion to his new virtual reality lab (modeled after the Holodecks on Star Trek, Nabbit explained), Wesley abandoned his better judgment and agreed. The lab was as large and clean as Fred's, but the refrigerators were stocked with cans of Diet Coke and Pepsi instead of volatile chemicals, and instead of the crisp white lab coats and safety goggles Fred insisted on, Wesley was handed a padded and wired suit and a peculiar helmet that covered half his face.

"Isn't this cool?" David gushed. "Flip the little switch on the right side of the helmet to activate it. I've already loaded the program and oh! Here's your weapon!" He tossed a cylinder of black plastic in Wesley's direction. "Demons of the universe, prepare to be smited!"

The room dimmed and a surprisingly realistic looking scenario involving three Fyarl demons and a bound and nubile young woman with flowing black hair and violet eyes appeared before him. "I take it we're to rescue the maiden fair?"

"Princess Laurianda of Hanogard." David sliced through one Fyarl with a grunt as he confirmed the mission statement. "I have over a hundred variations on the basic model, plus some specialty 'exotics' if human maidens ever get dull."

Artificial though it was, it felt good to fight. There were no worries about life and limb, or about whether or not he was doing the right thing. Each fallen Fyarl generated three additional assorted demons, and each of those three more. Wesley found himself trapped in a corner, giggling like a fiend as he found the demon's blind spots and took full advantage of them. It was something of a letdown when they completed the level and David rescued the princess with a tasteless display of affection.

"So," David said as they removed their helmets. "What did you think?"

"Actually, I believe our R&D department may wish to speak with you about modifications to the system that would allow it to be used by the training division. If you'd like, I could give you their card." The euphoria drained from his system, leaving only polite professionalism behind. "After all," he said with a touch of bitterness, "with all our resources, we should at least make an effort to do good."

David wandered over to the refrigerators and pulled out two bottles of beer from behind the cans of soda. "You sound like you're not sure you're doing the right thing."

"We've gone from being champions of the people to running what is perhaps the single most evil firm in this dimension." Wesley took a deep swallow from the bottle he'd been handed before continuing. "It's hardly the sort of thing that leads to a belief in the courage of one's convictions."

"Because you have the resources to make things happen?" David's voice was all business, the firm tones causing Wesley to raise his head in startlement. "I'm in a position to know what that's like, and there's nothing morally wrong with what you're doing, so long as you keep a clear head."

"Do you think?"

"Well, sure. I mean, you guys did a good job on the micro level before, but now it's time to think of diversification. Rather than concentrating your efforts on just one or two cases a week, you can expand your focus and improve conditions a little bit for a lot of people. The net effect promises to be far greater than anything you could accomplish person by person."

Wesley looked at him, impressed despite himself. "Is that what you've done?"

David nodded. "More or less. I mean, I still do a lot of things for my own benefit, but overall, I like to think I've made people's lives a little easier. If you'd like, we could meet for lunch some time and I could help you figure out the right path."

With a smile, Wesley pulled out his PDA. "Yes, I rather think I'd like that a lot."


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