Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

(9x10) Virtuality Incarnate: Part 1, Episode 1

Tom and Xiuying awaken out of VR pods in the rebuild World Ring above post-post-apocalyptic Earth, seemingly exactly where they just were before climbing into identical pods. They are greeted again by Metis, who apologises for the deception. She explains that the original plan was for all of their memories to be reintegrated in the virtual World Ring under the the not-untrue pretense of recovering from Virtuality use, and then to reveal that that was itself a simulation and awaken them, now mentally recovered, into the real world. But she foolishly forgot to disable magic in that level of simulation, which tipped them off, and once they were so mistrusting, she needed another pretense, one with an enemy to explain the deception, under which to continue their memory integration. And that once Tom broke through the magic obfuscation, the metaphysical story was necessary to maintain that pretense long enough to implement the dream-based memory reintegration that finally completed the process.

Tom and Xiu, having been deceived so much already, are not quick to buy this new story, so Metis tells the rest of it with visual aids. Travelling down to the base of the rebuilt Starbridge America, she shows them the body of Xio, the creator of the system and an an ancient immortal like Metis, who explains that the story about her ancestry and everything she claimed was an illusion forced upon her is in fact the actual truth of the world. Metis wants nothing more than to awaken Xio, but to do so would end the instance of Virtuality he has been sustaining for thousands of years, and kill all of the people who have been preserved inside it. So instead, they have forced the Queen of Hell, who has hijacked Xio's administrative access of the simulation, to allow them to restore the original memories of its users and awaken them to the virtuality of their world through the process Tom and Xiu have undergone, and allow them to connect to the real world in newly-built robot bodies, on threat of disconnecting Xio from outside and destroying her and that entire world.

The Queen has agreed not so much out of self-preservation, being an omnicidal nihilist, but rather as a way to keep Metis and Xio from reuniting, as she personally hates them both and especially their love for each other and wants nothing more than to keep them forever separated. To that end, the minds she allows "free" still actually run in Virtuality, their virtual-selves controlling the robot bodies through those virtual VR pods, as leverage to keep Metis from just awakening Xio anyway once everyone is freed. Tom and Xiu, as the least-scrambled minds inside the virtual world, are the first test cases of this program.

Next: Virtuality Incarnate: Part 1, Episode 2