“I can’t believe they selected you,” Ryan said as his sword sailed above Kyiel’s head.
Kyiel backed away, allowing a staff to appear in his hands. The pair were playing Dueling Gods, just another game in the virtual library of The Net. Helsingr was known for having the best games on their servers.
“Ditto,” Kyiel replied as he deflected another slash from Ryan.
Kyiel Morgan was a Beta, but a newbie one. Betas were the trusted voices that tested every new product in all of the Seventeen Hubs of Kalmaris. Those seventeen hubs were the only countries to survive the world’s first and only alien invasion. Betas are normally expensive but Helsingr, one of the biggest hubs, could afford to hire several Betas at a time. Kyiel was just one among many fighting for the good assignments. Testing the latest tech was one thing, but what he was involved in this time was infinitely cooler. He had been training for several months after he heard the news. It’s the year 3010, and pHase was finally confirmed.
The Massive Virtual Reality Game, or MVRG, has been in the works for almost twenty years. It has been even longer since an MMO existed. Thanks to the alien invasion all communication between North America and the rest of the world shut down. The world was facing a threat it had never seen before with abilities that couldn’t even be described. At first, it looked like the other countries were trying to start World War III, so North America acted accordingly. It wasn’t until after we were closed off that the real threat introduced itself, and by that time it was too late.
In the midst of total annihilation, the world did away with things that could be deemed as distractions. Our love of technology, video games, and fantasy worlds made us weak to any sort of actual threat, so they were banned. Over the years those laws relaxed, but communication between the different Hubs in Kalmaris was still strictly forbidden. However, all this information comes from the history books. In actuality, some old people probably just used the War as a smokescreen to finally get rid of an annoyance.
The weird thing about the War was that we never truly knew what we were up against. And anyone who fought up close with the invaders either died then and there or has no interest in telling the story. It was a traumatizing event that a lot of powerful people want to keep swept under the rug.
Nevertheless, here he was. Kyiel, a Beta, and super excited to test the game that has been in production since before he was born. In the next three months, this game would be played all over Helsingr. Maybe even all over the world. For the first time in hundreds of years, we were going to possibly be connecting with other Hubs. That’s what made this situation so important. The lines of communication were about to open up for the first time in decades.
“So when does the beta start?” Ryan asked as they sat on a ledge overlooking a cliff that seemed to have no visible end.
Kyiel looked down at his wrist and jumped to his feet. “I’m going to be late for the briefing!” He said as he ran back to the entrance portal. “I let you know how it goes.” He screamed over his shoulder.
Kyiel zigzagged through steel side streets and glass alleyways. Helsingr was a very big place, and very big places were always easy to get lost in. His main focus was keeping up momentum while managing to avoid any choke points that would slow him down. He didn’t have time to get lost in the beauty of the metal marvel that was Helsingr. After stopping to catch his breath, he saw his destination in the distance.
While entering the slanted crystal pyramid of a building that held the beta testing for pHase he flashed his Identification Number to the scanner on the door. I.N., just another outcome of the war. They decided to put the I.N. policy in place because it made them feel safer. They knew exactly how many people were living in Helsingr. Pushing the freezing door aside, he immediately caught a chill. Everything in the lobby felt so new, even for the Hub of Helsingr. As he walked up to the desk the man behind it handed him a name tag. His scanner instantly told him who Kyiel was; his I.N. took care of that.
“Of course they picked a slacker like you for this project.” A cold voice called out from behind him.
There was no need to guess the owner of the annoying voice. Chloe Sinci was a well-known Beta for weapons and computers. She was a trusted source, and her stamp of approval usually meant that the product was amazing. She was also a pain to all the other Betas who needed work to survive.
“Well, they needed more than one shrew to test an MVRG.” He shot back. “Too many digital mountains to explore.”
“Break it up, girls,” Davis interjected as he entered the lobby. Davis was their leader of sorts. He organized the things they were going to test. This assignment needed all of them working together. “Zack, Leo, and Rae are waiting inside the testing chamber. It would be in our best interest if we were to join them.”
“I was already on my way,” Chloe said as she headed out of Kyiel’s line of sight.
It didn’t matter if he could see her or not; he knew she was wearing her trademark grin.
“Of course you would start with her,” Davis said to Kyiel, dropping the leadership act.
“She started it.” He told him. “She always starts it.”
“You always let her start it.”
“That’s beside the point.”
“Whatever, we should be heading into the briefing chamber anyway,” Davis said as he turned around and walked into the room in front of Kyiel. He always liked to have the last word.
The doors glided open to reveal a long table. At the end of the table sat Rae, Chloe, Zack, and Leo. Like Chloe, Zack was an elite Beta. So much so to the point to where he only chose select assignments. Leo was the exact opposite. He was just a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. He came to Helsingr with only a bag in hand. It was a surprise that they let him live here in the first place. Davis figured that would make him the perfect Beta. No ties meant he didn’t owe anyone anything. Rae was the youngest of the group. She wasn’t even an official Beta, merely an intern who lucked into the assignment of a lifetime. In some ways, she was just like Kyiel. She seemed lonely, focusing more on merely existing than being alive.
As we made our way inside the meeting room, we were greeted by Doctor Norman Lawrence.
“Hello, come in come in.” He said as he ushered us to a group of chairs at the end of the table. Already sitting down were two more Betas.
“This is Garrett and Faye. They are two more Betas that have been selected for the program by our company shareholders. They will be assisting you in-game.”
Garrett softly nodded at us and Faye waved.
Once we were all seated a TV appeared out of the wall with the word pHase splashed across the screen. Norman walked in front of the screen and held his arms out wide. “This is the future. Over the past two decades, my company has worked tirelessly with our oh so generous backers in order to bring what was once a fantasy to life.” He paused to make sure everyone was listening. “In the next few hours, you eight very lucky Betas will be roaming the virtual masterpiece that is pHase MVRG. It has been a hard year, with us just getting permission to run this little Beta project of ours. However, we are here now, and the adventure is only getting started. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to go throughout the game and find any major bugs or plot holes. There are three main story missions that you will play through. You can choose to ignore the conflict that will be raging on around you and go your own way, but be warned you will have a better chance at picking up some extra cash if you make it all the way to the end. Throughout your journey, you will be faced with numerous amounts of trials. However, stay strong, for you will always have luck on your side. You will be plugged in for two weeks, yet if at any time in the next two weeks your vitals are abnormal than you will be logged out and sent to our onsite infirmary.”
Norman saw the excitement brewing in all of the Betas.
“Is it safe to be in the game so long?” Rae asked in a small voice.
“Completely,” Norman responded without a second thought. “We have already run an extensive test on the human mind to see if it was able to take the strain that pHase would put on it. It passed with flying colors.”
“And when are we getting paid for this?” Leo cut in.
“At the end of the trial, your respective bank accounts will receive the sum of fifty thousand dollars.” Norman’s assistant said as she entered the room.
“Ah,” Norman said as he held his hand towards her. “This is my helper Mary. She will be your correspondent in game, just in case you need anything.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mary said. Her eyes never left her clipboard.
“Fifty thousand,” Kyiel whispered to himself. He was in the big leagues now. He was getting paid to do something he would have gladly done for free, almost everyone would have.
“What I want you to understand is that pHase is much more than just another game. Once it launches to the Net it will be the center of attention. City clocks, alarms, cell phones, TV’s, even cars will be synced to it. No matter where your real life takes you, in your mind, you will always be playing pHase. Quests will adapt to real-world experiences and therefore lay out a rich and unique narrative for each player. You will be able to earn real money in the game and then use it out of the game. You could even work a job completely in the game. No two experiences will be the same. What we are working on here is much more than a game, it will be a way of life.”
“A whole life inside of pHase”, Kyiel thought to himself. He would be lying if he said the thought didn’t sound tempting. No more dealing with the bullshit of Helsingr. He could move to pHase. Work for some blacksmith and train in the art of making weapons. He could have a life. A better life than the one he currently had. It all sounded amazing.
“Any more questions? Norman asked as he handed out pamphlets to all of us. “Great. First things first, you guys going to need to be fitted with response sensors. The release version will come with a handheld version, but we are using more accurate copies.”
“So two weeks then.” Davis cut in as he flipped through the pamphlet. “Find some bugs, kill some virtual monsters, and then hightail it to the logout portal.”
“Alrighty then. I’m ready to strap in.”
“Perfect,” Norman called out as he signaled for a few men in scrubs to enter the room. They led the Betas to the medical wing where they were given a complete physical. They needed to make sure that all parties were in tip-top shape so there would be no distractions when it came to the test.
When they entered the gaming room Kyiel’s eyes widened. In it was the X-3000 virtual reality chair, which looked like a giant goo filled tomb. They were planning on releasing it as a $4000 expansion to the core game. Not only were the Betas going to be playing pHase before the general public, but they were going to be playing it in style. The X-3000 was designed to keep you alive while you played pHase. The goo inside of the tomb filled your lungs right before you logged on and put your body into somewhat of a suspended animation. It was the same substance that doctors used on patients near death so they would have more time. The tomb was the only unpleasant part of the pHase experience. He heard stories of Betas actually dying because their mind thought that they were drowning, but those were mostly hearsay.
“I didn’t know that these things were even working yet.” He said as he stripped down to his boxers and laid in the goo. The inside did not feel wet like he expected it to. It felt like it was alive, going as far as to massage his body into a near sleep-like state. He was still holding his head up, but eventually, his eyes met the gaze of Mary.
“It’s time to go under.” She said to him with a half-smile.
Kyiel closed his eyes, counted to three, and then dunked his head. All at once he felt like he was dying. He couldn’t breathe, and something was stopping him from raising his head back up. He body settled into a comfortable position and he felt a tingling sensation all over. Above him, Mary hit a few buttons on the tomb and it sprang to life.
“Kyiel Rivers.” The machine hummed alive with beeps and vibrations. In a heartbeat, a screen took over the retinas in his eyes. He could no longer see the inside of the tomb, only the screen which started to fade into his view.
A blinding light burned his retinas. The tech was whispering to him, but he couldn’t make out the words. The language was foreign, alien.
“Please wait while the atmosphere of pHase loads.” Mary’s voice called from above. He couldn’t tell where she was standing in relation to his body. He only knew that it felt like she was everywhere, and nowhere, all at once.
It took Kyiel a while to realize that this was going to be unlike any of the games he played while growing up. His whole body was being thrown into the game. Full emersion.
After a flash of brilliant colorful light, the world began to form around him. It started in the square where he was standing and then spread out in all directions, engulfing everything around him. Building. Growing. He closed his eyes as a force threw his lungs crashing against his ribcage. He loved roller-coasters, but this was ridiculous. When he finally got his bearings he opened his eyes, and the first thing he noticed was that everything felt off. The air had a foreign weight to it. The grass smelled different. The sky looked like his own, only with several new objects thrown in. It wasn’t until he brought his gaze back down did he realize that he was surrounded.
Kyiel’s first reaction was to attack, but he had no weapon. Then he realized that all of his opponents had his face. His best guess was that this was the class selection screen. In front of him stood the Grand-Mage, an older wiser version of himself in long robes. Next to him stood the Knight, and to his left the Rouge. Those three classes were the backbone of most RPGs. However, pHase also had a Guardian class which was a tank that almost absorbed damage. A Dual Gunner and a Sniper class. And a Healer class just in case. It also looked as if there was room for a few more classes that had not been released or unlocked yet.
All of the classes looked a new level of realism. Kyiel took his time and examined each and every one of them. He wanted to be sure that the one he picked would be something he wanted to play. He liked the style Dual Gunner with his cool demeanor and a cocky grin, but Kyiel’s aim was less than satisfactory. If this game ran on your out of game skills than he was going to be screwed. He could be a Grand-Mage, but magic didn’t hold that spark for him like it did for other young adults his age. Then there was the Healer. It would be an easy role to play, but he wanted to be up front. He wanted to live out his wildest dreams. He wanted to be the hero in an epic tale of good versus evil. He wanted to be a Knight.
As he stepped closer to the Knight it came to life and reached for its sword. Kyiel jumped back, but the war-torn knight did not flinch. He kept moving at a slow and steady pace until he got right in front of him. Then, slowly, he just handed the sword to him by the handle. Kyiel looked around the world again. None of the other versions of himself were moving. As he reached out for the sword he felt a connection that he had never felt before. It was as if the blade was binding itself to his person.
Before he could blink, the Knight and Kyiel traded places. His body was still standing in front of him, touching the sword. The only difference now was his eyes looked lifeless, that and now he was in the body of the Knight. A door of light opened behind him after sheathing the sword. And, without hesitation, he stepped into it.
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Even though Kyiel’s eyes were open his vision was blurry. It took him a minute before he realized where he was. He could hear the sound of rats fighting over food and rushing water in the distance. He was surrounded by the calls of other people. He couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying but he could tell from the tone that they were using that they were not happy. Once his vision finally cleared up he realized that he was standing in what looked like a jail or a dungeon. All of the armor and weapons that the knight had were replaced by cloth armor and a wool hat. “Right.” He said to himself. “Can’t start off too awesome, it would break the game.”
In the distance, he could hear more chatter and mumbling. Seems like the other players were here too, but he couldn’t see them. Then out of the darkness came a knight in shining armor. This is far from an understatement because the armor was blinding Kyiel in the low light prison. It took his eyes far longer than it should have to adjust to the newcomer.
“Kyiel.” He spoke to him. The voice that resounded from within him was strong yet strange.
Keys to the cell materialized in his hand. “You are needed.”
When he opened the cage his aura hit Kyiel head on. He felt stronger, wiser, and invincible. He handed him the sword from his side and nodded his head. “The kingdom is under attack.”
Kyiel’s heads-up-display was activated upon him exiting his cell and featured a host of interesting information. For starters, he knew that he didn’t want to fight the knight in front of him. It also showed him a chat stream, inventory, and a mini-map of the current area that he was in.
The nameless knight led him to an open hall in the tunnel, and that’s when he felt the atmosphere of the area shift. Standing in front of the knight was a monster of some sort. Its skin was made of black scales. Its eyes were glowing a bright yellow. The sword in its hand was crooked and damaged. When it growled, Kyiel covered his ears and closed my eyes. His nose burned with its stench. This was insane. The level of realism that the tomb added to gameplay was astounding.
“Chin up.” The knight said to him as he triggered his aura. “Let’s slay these monstrosities.”
“These?” Kyiel said before he took the time to search the tunnel.
There were eight more.
Three behind the original one and four in the tunnel on the other side of them. They were surrounded.
He hesitated, and one of the creatures lunged at him and clashed its sword against his. Its name flashed into view. Hasion Minion. Its health came into view as well. 40hp.
The attack activated his HUD which showed his own health. 300hp. These guys weren’t as bad as they looked. With his new found confidence he flicked the creature off of the blade and sliced him across the chest. With one slash it fell to the ground. As the creature’s body disintegrated Kyiel looked up at the other three who had begun to back off.
“This is what I’m talking about.” He said as he charged into combat. Damage counters appeared above their heads with every swing of his sword. The knight behind him was having no trouble with the goons he was dealing with. “This way!” He called as he removed the last one’s head from its body.
“Right,” Kyiel said as he slashed the last one to the ground. This one dropped something, a shoulder piece of sorts. He figured it was low-level armor but decided to put it on anyway. The crest on the armor resembled a symbol his father used to always show him. Man, these game designers sure did do a lot of overtime on the graphics.
When he was done he followed the knight’s trail which lit up like fire in front of him. The tunnel broke out into the courtyard where he immediately heard to sounds of combat breaking out all over the game. The entire kingdom was in ruins. Flames were rising into the sky and he could hear crying in the distance. As he looked onto a level below him he saw Chloe making her way through many minions in front of her. She was fantastic.
“This way.” The Knight called from ahead. A much bigger minion had appeared to block our path.
Kyiel ran at top speed and slashed through the giant’s midsection. It did much less damage than he had hoped for. The massive form before him shrugged off the attack as if it were nothing.
“Crap,” Kyiel screamed as the minion swung his heavy arms and smashed his weapon into his chest. He flew backward fifteen feet and hit the wall behind him. Above his head, his life bar trickled down twenty points. “Not getting hit with that again.”
The Knight was doing most of the damage to the brute and it was obvious that he was supposed to take the creature down. But damn it if Kyiel didn’t try. The brute knocked the knight to the side and moved closer to Kyiel and he froze. This wasn’t like anything he had ever experienced before. It wasn’t a simple visor game that could be paused and put away at any time, it was the next two weeks of his life. As the brute brought his weapon down gunshots crashed along its right side.
“You’re looking a little down,” Zack called to Kyiel as he continued to distract the brute. This gave him the opportunity he needed to strike. And while picking up his blade an options menu popped up on the HUD. New Skill Acquired a voice rang in his head. “Severe Strike Huh,” He whispered to himself, and the blade reacted. It gave off a red glow as he felt himself being lifted off of his feet. He charged at the brute once again only this time he slid under him, dragging his sword along his underbelly. A roar of pain could be heard from all around and was only silenced when the knight impaled it with a bolt of light.
“Yea,” Kyiel shouted and jumped into the air. He could feel himself getting stronger. The sword felt different too. Runic words had now appeared along the side of the blade. He couldn’t make out what they said but he decided to worry about it later. Kyiel and the Knight fought their way up the castle and into the main throne room. Once they were inside The Knight looked back at him and pointed to the throne. Sitting upon it was a man in all black armor. His eyes were glowing white and his body emitted a black aura.
“Final boss,” Kyiel asked the knight and he nodded in kind. “Alright, let’s go.”
Before he could move, the man lifted himself off of the throne and drew his blade. The Knight stepped in front of him and was instantly struck down by a flash of black light.
“Shit!” Kyiel screamed as he dodged the darkness. The Knight’s aura protected him from the blast, but he still had to face the man. “Alright, you wanna play?” He said as he ran for the man. His blade shining a bright red and growing brighter with each step towards him. With a flurry of darkness Kyiel’s feet lifted off of the ground and brought him closer to the man in the dark armor.
“Are you ready to begin your journey, Kyiel?” He whispered to me in a disembodied voice. His touch was cold and depressing. He couldn’t make out his facial features despite being so close to him. Even though he couldn’t see it, it felt like he was smiling at Kyiel. Behind him, the knight lies lifeless on the ground. Outside of the window, a dark shadow flew past it. Even though he wanted to, he didn’t feel too bad for the knight. It was a game, and the second Kyiel left the room he was going to get back up and do it all over again.
“Yea,” Kyiel said to the man in front of him.
“Good answer.” He said. His hand flicked to the side and Kyiel’s body flew out of the window behind him.
As his body crashed through the window, the damage he took made his HUD go crazy. He didn’t know what to do in order to save himself. “Did I do something wrong. Was I supposed to attack the man faster, or use a different move, or even help the knight?” The ground was approaching faster. His stomach rushed its way into his throat. His head began to throb. He couldn’t focus on anything long enough to try it. The ground was getting closer. And then, light engulfed him. His body slowed to a little faster than a crawl and his health bar went back to full. He let out a sigh of relief as his feet touched the ground that formed below him.
A screen appeared in the air in front of him. At the very top of it were the words heads-up display. The HUD included a map of the surrounding area. His friend-list. Weapons and items that he had or could equip. And all of the skills of the Knight class. He also noticed that it was always on the screen, but it would go transparent when he wasn’t looking at it.
“Welcome.” A voice hailed from behind him. He turned around to see a blue looking man with four eyes and a stunning set of armor. The man held out his left hand which only had four fingers on it. Kyiel reached out his hand and the man shook it ecstatically.
“Hi.” Kyiel said once he pulled away.”
“You are the last one to arrive, your party has been expecting you.”
He looked out into the distance and a town faded into view. It looked old, predating the war old. There were still natural trees surrounding its gates. There was even a lake that surrounded the left side of it.
“Where am I?” Kyiel asked.
“Why the town of Flagres of course.”
The area was quaint, hidden beneath what looked like a mountain. The town itself held a lot of activity. Little children ran through the streets. Armors and sellers were peddling their goods. Some of them were human. Others were the blue humanoids. There even was a few lion-like people roaming around. In the distance stood a large male with a huge shield on his back. As he turned around the name Davis appeared above his head.
“Dude.” He screamed at the top of his lungs as he lifted Kyiel into the air. He wanted to fight against it but he decided otherwise. He reminded Kyiel of his father when he used to toss him up as a child. “I bet you crapped your pants when the guy tossed you through the window, didn’t you.
“No,” Kyiel said as he shoved him off.
Chloe materialized behind him, a cocky grin on her face. Her armor says that she chose to play a paladin. She walked up to him with such grace. He hated himself for liking it so much.
“We have been waiting forever for you. The first mission can’t start without you here.”
“What happened to all of the other players?” He asked as he looked around.
“We have been broken into teams of four in order to clear the first dungeon. Rae, Zack, and those other two people have already left. Leo is waiting for us up the path.”
Kyiel shifted the sword in his grip. He was ready to start his adventure. “Then what are we waiting for.” He said as he ran past Davis and Chloe. He felt them link their characters to him as he essentially pulled them along. The town opened and engulfed us as we traveled through it. All of the shops look dingy and old school. There were no metal buildings to be found anywhere. The town’s people seemed to ignore us mostly, moving out of our way as we charged by. We stopped only when Leo came into view.
“Bout time you got here.” He said as he handed me a paper that lite up with my touch. “We are hunting down a Rageion rebel. He and his minions are hiding in a dungeon to the south.”
“A dungeon?” Kyiel asked him. “They couldn’t think of anything other than a dungeon.”
“So they don’t get points for creativity,” Chloe said as she made her way past him. “So are we doing this or what?”
“Of course we are,” Davis said as he stepped up between them. It seemed like he had gotten accustomed to the game's surroundings and was now taking to his leadership role. “We are going to travel there after we get all of our items in town. Stock up on healing supplies as our healer is in the opposing party.
It wasn’t until I walked into the general store did it hit him. Kyiel could smell the bread in the oven behind to counter He could feel the heat rising from the oven and he wasn’t one to test but he was pretty sure it could burn his hand if he touched it.
“Can I help you?” The man behind the counter asked.
“Umm yea, do you have any healing potions?”
“Sorry sir, I have no clue what you are talking about.”
He looked around the store and realized that everything was written in the same language that was on his blade. He couldn’t read anything in here. “Oh come on, no translator.”
“Sir?” The man asked.
“Yea, yea. Just give me the red one. Four of them.” He said as he reached under the counter and grabbed the liquids for him. He smiled and ran out of the store as the number that represented his money trickled down in the corner of the screen.
Their party traveled till they hit a split in the road. One path lead through what seemed like a forest, the other veered off into the distance.
“Where to now oh great leader,” Kyiel asked Davis. Davis was staring off into the distance, probably looking at his map.
“The forest.” He said. “We can ambush them in there.”
The forest was alive, for the most part. The trees held a purple hue, not like the ones in the history books. The only trees in Helsingr were made of metal with engines in them that produced oxygen. After waiting merely moments a caravan surrounded by three guards passed through the part of the forest they were waiting in. Kyiel looked over in Davis’s general direction and waited for a sign. A pop-up window appeared in his view and basically screamed “now” and that was good enough for him. Within seconds, several bullets rained down upon the caravan. Leo was doing a great job at keeping them at bay. Chloe stormed in and lifted one of the guards off of his feet with a sweep of her bastard sword. It glowed blue within her hands, and several sparks came off of it and struck the other guards. Kyiel took this as an opportunity to spring into action, driving his sword into the chest of the nearest guard. The caravan started to shake, and it seemed like whatever was in it was trying to get out. But before anything else could happen a huge shield formed over the caravan and locked it in place. Davis appeared from behind the trees while holding his shield high.
“Shit,” Kyiel said as he backed away from the dome of light. As it dissipated, the caravan cracked in half and a chest appeared, next to the body of one of the blue men.
“What was that all about?” Kyiel asked as he checked his sword. The words were still there, and he still couldn’t understand them.
“I believe that this was one of the extra side quests that Norman was talking about.” Leo cut in as he scanned the area for more enemies. Every once in awhile, something will just happen and we have to choose how we react to it.
Chloe had already made her way to the chest and opened it up with the tip of her sword. Light poured out of it, and then a sword rose into the air. “A one-handed.” She said in disgust. “Well, that sucks.”
“I don’t use swords,” Leo said as he made his way to the bodies on the ground and started to loot them.
“Take it Kyiel,” Davis said while pointing to the sword.
As Kyiel picked up the sword, an energy swerved around him. His HUD informed him that dual wielding was now unlocked for his character. He swung the swords around to try and get a feel for them. The second sword was a lot lighter than the first, but he was getting a rhythm to his slashes. “Alright,” He said as she sheath both of his blades. “Let’s go finish ourselves a mission.”
Mary flicked through her notebook and jotted down some recent findings as she stood over Davis’s body. “Interesting.” She muttered to herself before she turned to walk away. Past the eight pods in the room was a giant flat screen TV that broadcast what the players were seeing in the world. Leo was going through his skills, looking for new ones to try out. Rae had just used her Healer’s Renewing Light for the first time. The aura surrounded her party and supplied them with a tingling feeling that made them feel uneasy. Zack was using his Rouge’s Hidden Sight to spot out treasure or events that he could partake of.
Then she looked at Kyiel. But more importantly, she looked at his weapon.
“Norman.” She called out when she saw the words on the blade.
The door to the room slide up and Norman’s form came into view. He looked more tired than he did when he was talking to the Beta’s but his smile never left his face.
“Yes Miss Paige,” He said as he walked to her side.
“Did you give him that?” She asked while pointing to Kyiel as he was slashing his weapons at some dire turtles that appeared from the lake next to where he was standing.
The smile grew on his face. “Why no, but it seems like this game of ours wants to make things a little interesting.”
Mary walked away from the screen and up to an empty spot in the room. Her presence activated a chair and desk to rise out of the floor. She sat at the desk and rubbed her head. “This isn’t going to bode well for his party.” She said as she put on a headset that was in a cabinet on the wall. The desk formed a screen and she touched it in order to pull up the viewpoints of the players.
“Hello.” She said through her headset. Every player almost instantly stopped what they were doing and looked around.
“This is Mary speaking. The first mission will begin when you all enter the dungeon.”
Mary took off her headset and motioned to Norman. “Are you going to watch the first mission take place?” She asked as she returned to his side.
“Of course.” He said. She could hear the soft sound of the ring on his hand as he fiddled with it. “The first act is about to take place, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s in store.”
As the team approached the starting area, they were greeted with the sounds of combat. The first team had been ambushed by some of the minions in the area.
“Are we going to help them?” Kyiel asked as they moved into view of the encounter. Zack and one of the other Betas were back to back as Rae through heals from the sidelines. The other member of their team was nowhere to be found.
“No,” Davis said as he motioned for us to take a different path. “If they are busy with the guards at the front, then we can sneak into the dungeon undetected.”
Inside the dungeon was damp and spacious. Thick black vines lined the walls and moss were growing on the bottom of them. The echoes of howls could be heard throughout the corridors.
“Wolves,” Chloe said. She placed her sword on her back and a war hammer materialized in its place.
Behind her, Leo was watching the entrance. They didn’t want the game to spawn enemies behind them. Davis was out front. His shield held high and his armor clinking with every step. And then, they heard it. It was swift, and it hit them without warning. The first strike knocked Chloe off of her feet but she recovered quickly. The second strike knocked Kyiel on his ass and he tried his best not to let the creature bite his head off. Because growling in his face stood a wolf made of pure shadows. A shot rang in the direction of the wolf and it disappeared, but the howling could still be heard down the corridor.
“And that was,” Kyiel asked as he brushed himself off.
“Dangerous,” Davis replied.
The shadows came fast again, but this time the team was prepared. Davis got down on one knee and forced the shadow to run directly into his shield. The stunned beast staggered back slowly which allowed Chloe to bring her hammer down on top of its head. The shadow winced slightly but wasn’t able to free itself.
“Kyiel,” Chloe screamed.
“I got this.” He screamed back as he allowed his blade to cut through the shadows. The sword gave off a red glow that seemed to obliterate the presence.
The next one met the blunt force of Chloe’s hammer in mid-swing. The shadow wolf shattered into a smoky mist. However, the howls didn’t stop. “Shall we proceed,” Davis said to the group as more of a command than a suggestion.
The team moved further into the level with not much trouble. Kyiel was determined not to let the creatures take advantage of him again. They keep following the path until eventually, it gave way to an open cavern.
“Rushing water?” Davis asked as he moved forward. His footstep sunk into the floor with a soft click.
“What was that?” Leo asked. The hall grew quiet. The howling disappeared. The only sound they could hear now was coming from the waterfall in the cavern.
“Nothing,” Davis said as he rose his foot, that’s when the corridor they were in collapsed under their feet. The dropping feeling found its way to Kyiel stomach again, only this time his fall was cut short by the water beneath him. He hit the water and sunk immediately. He tried to force his way to the surface but he wasn’t very good at swimming. Actually, he didn’t know how. His HUD began to display his air meter as he fought his way to the top, and then he saw it. What he thought was rocks at the bottom of the water was actually bones. So many that they covered the entire floor. And then an eye open in the water. “Shit.” He shouted as he fought his way up vigorously. After a minute or so he was able to drag his body to the muddy shore.
“You ok,” Davis asked him as he helped him back on his feet.
“Never better,” Kyiel replied, shaking. “I just want to kill this guy so we can get out of here, how much longer is it?”
“Not much further.” He said while pointing to a small opening at the end of the clearing.
Kyiel glanced over that water, “I think there is something in there.”
“Of course there is something in there,” Davis replied in a matter-of-fact sort of way. “But let us save whatever that thing is for later.”
“Right.” He replied as he walked closer to the exit of the room. Now that he was able to get another view he realized that there were several holes in the wall that lead to this room. It seemed that the entire dungeon was designed to lead them to this point. The floor of the cavern was also littered with items. “Over here,” Leo called out to Kyiel. “Knight’s armor, we need you better equipped.
As Kyiel touched the armor, his HUD gave him three options. He could either equip it, break it down, or drop it. He didn’t have a pack yet, so it made sense that he wasn’t able to carry it with him. The armor itself had a subtle red hue to it, making it match his blade. When he equipped it, his beginner cloths fell to the ground and disappeared leaving only useable materials in its place.
The exit to the cavern led to an old gate, and standing outside of it was an old man with a long staff.
“Kind sir,” Davis said as he stepped up to the man. “Is the boss through there?”
“Why yes.” The old man replied in a wavering voice. He was almost hard to decipher.
“Then stand aside,” Leo interjected. “Let us handle this beast. As he stepped up, the entire area was engulfed it lightly. The words “Mission Start” floated and spun above their heads. The old man held out his hand. It was black and looked to be poisoned. The party backed away, all except for Kyiel. The man looked harmless, so he reached his hand forward.
“Don’t!” Davis screamed. But to no avail.
Once their hands touched, they all vanished with the light.