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Ch 2: Destiny

Jamal kneels down into the grass of the open valley. His jaw hits the ground as he stares at his character's purpose in the game.
"Find the baker boy's pet." floats in the air in front of Jamal for a few minutes before disappearing.
"That's it?" Jamal says as he looks down at his shaking hands. "THAT'S IT!?" Jamal slams his fists into the ground. "I spend all day burying my head in books and dishes. I'm under the thumb of everyone I know. Just because I'm smaller than everyone, they all look down on me! Just when I think I can escape that life and become the hero I see when I close my eyes, fate pulls the rug from under me again!"
Suddenly, Jamal hears the sound of something small moving through the grass. Jamal stands up, slowly reaching for his axes strapped to his side. The small creature shuffles around in a zigzag motion as it closes the distance. It gets closer to jamal as the warrior prepares himself. A small rat creature jumps out of the grass barely missing Jamal's head.
He runs away from the scary looking creature for a few steps before turning to face his enemy. He puts up the two axes, but nothing is there. Jamal slowly looks around for any movement. He hears a screeching sound as the rodent charges as Jamal. With one swing, Jamal cuts the rodent with his axe. The rodent flies past Jamal landing on its stomach.
Jamal slowly approaches the creature as it gasps for breath. Now that the rat stopped moving, Jamal can see a name and number above it's head. "Field Rat lvl 1".
Jamal rears back and slices the rat in half. The body disappears into shiny flakes that fall to the ground. The flakes disappear as they hit the ground and in their place are 3 gold coins. Jamal instructs the gold closely. He sees the picture of a man with a castle on the back.
"This must be the drop for beating the field rat." Jamal says as he puts the gold in his inventory.
Turning around to get a a good look at the area, Jamal spots smoke coming from nearby. "I hope I can find a town nearby. Not sure how I'm supposed to tell where I am." Jamal makes his way towards the smoke.
As he gets closer and closer, he realizes the the smoke is coming from a building in the middle of a large town. He walks in the wooden front gate entrance, taking note of his surroundings. Jamal sees a black smith, a weapons shop, an inn,and at the end of the road stood a bar. Jamal looks at his basic clothes and weapons, "I'd better get some better equipment if I'm gonna explore any more."
Jamal walks into the weapons shop and the door rings a bell. "Good afternoon! Welcome customer." An old man standing at the front desk peaks over the counter at Jamal. Jamal greets the shop owner and begins to look around. To Jamal's surprise, everything in the store is way too expensive for him to afford. He checks the axes, the shields, the armor, but even the the charm bracelets made 3 gold pieces look like nothing. Disappointed, Jamal waves goodbye as he exits the store.
"If I can't even afford a bracelet, what can I buy around here?" Jamal walks through the town trying to memorize where things are. He sees NPCs (Non Player Characters) performing many different services in town. Some offer food and goods while others offer services. Jamal can smell the food cooking even though it was a digital world. "This technology is wild! I can feel the breeze from the wind and actually smell! I wonder what else feels real?" The thought sends a shiver down Jamal's spine when he recalls the level 1 rat jumping for Jamal's face.
Tired from walking around, Jamal sees the bar a block away. Jamal starts walking towards the bar when he sees something familiar. "The smoke I saw from outside of town! I wonder what they are making." Jamal walks down the street towards the bar with the building coming up on his left. The building comes slowly into view as the front sign peaks from around a corner. Jamal's heart skips a beat and his eyes open with dread. Jamal reads the sign in front of the building, "Bakery".
Jamal quickly walks past the building and into the bar, checking over his shoulder once to see if he was spotted. He continues to the bar keep who is cleaning glasses behind the counter. Jamal sits down and looks around for a menu.
"Won't find a menu down over there new guy.", the barkeep says. "It's posted on the board in the back."
Jamal turns around to see what he can afford, but the cheapest drink is 4 coins. Jamal slips down onto the floor and into deeper depression.
"Why did I even buy this game?" Jamal hell's in frustration.
"You must be new here." the barkeep says as he looks over the edge of the bar.
"Is it that obvious?" Jamal says as he picks himself off the ground.
"I'd recognize that look of soulless depression anywhere. Let me guess. You don't have enough money to buy a drink let alone a place to rest or eat right?" The barkeep finishes polishing the glass he was working on and leans against the counter.
Jamal looks away, embarrassed to hear the truth out loud.
"Yeah, you'd be surprised how many newbies come into the bar looking for fame, fortune, and adventure just to realize they don't have a pot to pee in hahaha!" The barkeep slams the counter with his huge hand while he laughs at his own joke. "You can earn money by doing mini quests. You can find them all posted on the pole in the center of town."
Jamal looks up and smiles at the first bit of good news he's heard since he entered town. Jamal stands up to face the barkeep.
"Besides, you'll earn plenty of cash while you complete you character mission." The bartender begins to turn, but stops when he sees that same depressing look return to Jamal's face. "Oh, I get it." Jamal bites his lips in embarrassment. The bartender reaches under the counter and pulls out a large piece of paper. "Here, take this."
"What is this?", Jamal asks as he unravels a map of the game. "Woah!"
"That should help you get around a little easier." The bartender grabs a new glass to clean.
Jamal looks at the bartender and asks him, "are all NPC's this generous?"
"Hahahaha!" The bartender loudly laughs until everyone in the room notices. "I'm not a NPC, I'm a player." Jamal leans back in surprise. His eyes get as wide as dinner plates.
"It's not all NPC's working in the town. Some people are players, that don't have anywhere else to go. The game uses data from a national data bank to create a realistic version of yourself. They then place that character in a virtual world filled with magic and wonder with a single overall purpose. That purpose is your mission and to many it feels like the only reason to play this game.
However, for many players they have to face a bitter truth. The one variable that changes everyone's experience in this game. Destiny. The wrist band reads your pulse and couple your heart rate with the data from the database. This creates a unique pattern that only you will have. This pattern guides your entire experience in the game. It determines your mission in the game, your purpose.
Many characters log in to find their Destiny is to save a small village from a fire, save a damsel in distress, stop a thief from robbing a bank. What do those players do once they complete their mission?
It's not like the heroes that save entire kingdoms over and over again. Those players get millions of views every day. Their views get the product deals and commercials. They get all this money playing the game so they can afford to buy all the most expensive things. With their stays cranked up by all the gear they wear, they can take on all the difficult mission no one else can handle. This allows them to get more viewer to watch their adventures and earn more money for more equipment.
Players like us get jobs in the towns and try to make as much cash as we can to pay for our next adventures." The bartender flips his own mission screen up for Jamal to see. "Save the girl next door", with a large green "complete" underneath.
Jamal looks at the message and realizes he is talking to someone who had a similar destiny to his own. "But, wait a minute. I thought romantic destinies are some of the best ones to have! Didn't you get the girl and live happily ever after?"
"Wake up kid. This Is a game, not a fairy tale." The bartender said as he put the glass down. "I thought the same way you did at first. Thought I'd fight some bad guy and his band of evil henchmen. I woke up next door to a girl that sold flowers. She was one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen. I wanted to introduce myself so I walked to her store to say hello.
As I walked up to her house, I noticed a hanging flower pot swaying with the wind. It swung more and more as I got closer. The flower girl started walking back towards the door just under the pot so I ran to warn her. As the pot fell I pushed her out of the way.
The pot smashed on the floor and coins fell out. The girl stood up and said thank you to me.
I thought I would ask her to dinner with me, but before I could an old man exit the flower show. He was an NPC for the flower shop. He thanked me for saving his employee for the day. He didn't want to pay insurance for hurting the help. As soon as he shook my hand a loud ringing and a voice yelled congratulations to me. I checked my mission status and that big green complete sign stared at me in the face. No viewers, no fame, no love, not even an adventure. My experience was over before I even got started."
The story brings Jamal nearly to tears, thinking about his own fate in the game. "Wait, so what happened to the girl next door?"
"Heh", the bartender points to a poster on the wall of the 5 top players in the game known as the guardians. "She was one of the guardians doing work in exchange for some rare herbs for a potion she was mixing in this huge side mission. She didn't even need my help with how high her stats are. I never saw her ever again."
The two said their goodbyes and Jamal walked out of the bar. He walked a few more steps and turned to face the bakery.
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