"Sorry, Lin is a little busy. I hope you don't mind me tagging in, Yume."
She looked up at him mistrustfully. "Who are you? Where is Lin?"
"My name is Retter. Lin is busy, though saying where she is... that's a little more complicated. Will you walk with me?"
She glanced at the people passing around them, nodded, and took his hand. "Where are we?"
"Different people call it different things. I call it Sa-Rai. Some people refuse to call it Sa-rai just to spite me, but I don't mind. Whatever you decide, I hope you come to call it home. Shall we?" He gestured at the way ahead of them, and she started walking.
"Where are we going?"
"Where would you like to go?"
"Can I see my ship? My shipmates?"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay? It's going to be a rough transition, and I don't want you to get lost. We save every soul we can, but we can't save everyone. You being here, walking with me, is a good start, but you're not done yet. And I'm afraid nobody here can actually save you; we can only give you the opportunity, the hard work is up to you."
"Who is we?"
"Me, mostly. And Lin."
"Waitwaitwait. Wait. Tell me what happened, start from the beginning, don't leave anything out."
"I'll tell you as much as I can, but I wasn't here from the beginning. That's Lin's story, and honestly, it pains her to remember."
There's a problem with the gates. What most people don't know is that they were formerly part of a larger network that spanned the universe. As time passed, the links between galaxies splintered. The math is beyond me why, but... those connections aren't actually gone. "Broken" is a better term. Sometimes, when someone uses them, the old connection fizzles into existence at one end, tries to send you to the other end, but you end up somewhere in the middle. And not just you.
"When I got here, there were about a hundred people still alive, but they were trapped. Lin... she's not from our galaxy, and she's definitely not human. But she has tech that allows her to sustain us, to access our drives, and to watch our dreams."
"What does she look like?"
"I have no idea, and honestly, I don't want to know."
"Wait, you said 'still alive'..."
"Lin isn't human. she doesn't fully understand what we want, what we need. She tried to raise us like her children would have been raised, with people in our memories breaking the bad news." Retter paused, a tear welling up in one of his eyes. He brushed it away, and then continued. "People would get trapped in a loop of thinking they were coming out of cryo, meet someone from their past, get the bad news, their mind would break, and then they'd wake up again like it was a fleeting dream. She tried and tried, but no combination she could ever find kept them from rejecting the reality she built for them."
"Lin said there was a man."
He laughed. "Yeah, she does that. What she doesn't tell you is that people have flaws, and the person she lauds as savior is no different."
"I'm an addict. This... world is my drug. It was like coming home the first time. I could feel it. She paints me as some kind of savior because she was feeling just as lost as every other being who came here, human or not."
"...Are you saying this is a sim?"
"Most of it, yeah. Most of the people too. That's the other thing I taught her. She used to take whole people from our dreams. I showed her how to only take parts, individual characteristics, and merged them into someone they've never met before, but reminded them of people they would probably never see again."
Yume held up her hand. "That's enough. I need--"
"Time. And you have it. Here's my card, and here's Lin's. You have a week before you have to decide what you're going to do."
"A week? For what?"
"Giving people a free ride doesn't work. You can't accept a selfless society as reality. You get a week to take it all in, go anywhere, try anything, talk to anyone. After that, you have to do something. It's like a free demo."
"What do I have to do?"
"Find something to earn your way. Don't worry, the cost of living is really low. We welcome you to make mistakes, because that means you're trying." Retter stopped walking, turned to her. "Find a way to be yourself. Maybe I'll see you around."
He held out his hand, but Yume didn't shake it. He turned it into a casual salute, and walked off into the crowd.