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Four identical walls surround you. Nothing entirely harmful is present in this virtual space, but it remains to be seen if it is going to stay that way. The walls are bland and suggest a calmness, but you are on edge none the less. You can try to break through the walls only to end in failure. You are armed with nothing but your wit.

Suddenly, you hear whispering outside the walls.

What do you do?

Heavy footfalls thudded through the steel floors, the only sound the lean man could hear was his heart pounding in his chest and own labored breathing from running for the past half hour, desperately chasing the small red dot visible on the translucent green screen that covered the left half of his face. That silly couple was going to cost him some time, the dot had moved out of his trajectory range when he had to slow down to avoid hitting them. His red bangs bounced wildly on his forehead, the rest of his obnoxiously vibrant hair secured tight to his skull by the lime latex that covered the back part of his head and stretched tight to his neck, the matching gem around his collar pulsing in time with his heart rate. He twisted and turned through corridors and pathways, winding down the populated indoor streets, ever in pursuit of that elusive dot. The world was just a blur around him, and he cared not where he was going as long as it was in the direction of his target. He ran until he thought his lungs would burst and then he ran some more, focus never faltering.

“Goddamn, I must be getting closer,” he panted, emerald eyes glowing feverishly as they flicked back and forth across the screen, absorbed in whatever the device was telling him.

Suddenly, the dot blipped out of existence, and a short message in an outdated, pixilated style flashed across his screen.

Game over, Myos.

He cursed in frustration, throwing his custom headphones to the ground in anger, the star emblem marked piece of technology skidding across the hard floor. He cursed again, hoping the things weren’t broken again – he’d already had to repair the things and he loved them too much to trash them and get another pair. Myos soon sunk to the floor next to them, tight, spandex like, orange shirt clinging to his body from sweat after all the running he had been doing playing the latest alternate reality game that he had downloaded to his advanced head set. Though the plot was very simple - find and rescue the princess - he was playing against all the others on the ship who owned the game. Not only was it a real time race against the clock, he had to be the first to rescue the princess or else he would never be able to gain enough points to become a knight rank. It had even gotten large enough to where those with extremely high ranks were rumored to be invited into the cities interior – where only those high in the government’s thorny branches had access. The game caught fire quickly, ever since the latest update in virtual reality simulators that made them sleek and completely integratable with the computer glasses everyone already owned. Though it was once a technology that had required bulky software and only the most costly of equipment, advances in the entertainment industry made technologies like AR available to every game company, and even indie game companies could get their start in alternate reality. Gaming was his life, and he ate up any game where he could escape his dull surroundings and become the hero of a fantastical story. Anything that could wrap him up in a tale of adventure excited him – especially alternate reality games. He owned all of the newest technology, spending his days playing any game he could get his hands on - meaning he didn’t have a job, but working wasn’t really required aboard the Astraia.

Myos leaned against the wall, careful not to jar the sharp shoulder armor that rested on his right arm. Many of his fellow gaming members raised an eyebrow at the strange piece that didn’t quite fit with the rest of his appearance, but it was a one of a kind promotional item he got for beta testing his latest game so damn if he wasn’t going to wear it proudly. Placing the headphones back on his head, he finally took a look around, realizing for the first time he had no idea where he was. The walls were not like those of the residence areas, nor were they the flashy neon of the city sector. Around him was dull chrome walls, thin hallways lined with doors that all were code protected and made of thick steel. It seemed to be an area he had never been in before.He stood up, dusting off his dual colored red and yellow pants and swiping a thumb over the star patch on the inside of his left knee, making sure that particular area was free of dirt. Habitually twisting the silver ring on his thumb, Myos started to wander down the hallway he had found himself in.

“It’s by order of her lady, the Empress.”

Myos paused outside of the heavily bolted door and pressed close to it, hearing the hushed voices on the other side and cocking his head to the side, feathery bangs falling into his face. The Empress? The regal title falls onto his confused ears once again as the group of what he could only assume was high ranking officials continued to discuss what was probably not meant for his ears. The whole situation reminded him of a covert spy operation and he tried to keep from grinning. No, he had to be professional he told himself and shifted into a more covert position. Myos tensed, trying to keep as quiet as possible. He had no idea what would happen if he was caught in this situation - everything around him seemed ideal and perfect and there was really no crime to worry about. No one in his neighborhood had ever been caught on anything more major than a noise complaint, and he had never even seen a prison or jailhouse in all his treks through the city space. Crime wasn’t reported in the papers and therefore neither were criminals - or what happened to them. The young man gulped, a thousand horrible executions playing in his head, but something within him told him to stay and listen. The hero always had to listen in to covert conversations to get the most vital information right?

“She’s decided. Free will is no longer necessary for her subjects.”

The eavesdropping boy jerked back. Had he heard right? Myos took a step back, the various belts on his person rustling against his body as he did so. There was no way this was possible - life on Astraia had always been peaceful and justly ruled. Sure, there were poorer and richer areas of the ship, but everyone always had the right to do what they wanted, when they wanted, and that was a basic element of human nature that couldn’t be taken away. That was the very foundation of the ship’s culture – they were a leisurely society that had no strict rules to adhere to and anyone could do anything they set their mind to. They were the last remnants of Earth for God’s sake; they were the people of the future. His heart began to pound in his chest, blood boiling in anger for this unknown force that was supposedly their ruler. How dare she decide what was right for humankind? A scowl formed of Myos’s narrow face, usual bright and energetic features transforming into something more serious. The boy found himself leaning forward when the voices grew quieter, and cursing when they faded out completely. He hoped whoever lay inside hadn’t noticed his presence. Looking at the layout around him through the map on his thin computer glasses, he hastily rerouted his headset to connect to that of some sort of monitoring device inside the room. He had basic knowledge in hacking – another of his drabbles – but he was only neat enough not to leave a trace, and didn’t particular prioritize cleanliness. It wouldn’t last long before he would be blocked out, but it had to be long enough to get a clear picture of the conversation. Pressing his star marked headphones to his ear, Myos listened intently.

“Our lady says she wants the technological lobotamations to begin in a few weeks, starting with her lower generals.”

Technological lobotamations? Myos pursed his lips. The term was not unfamiliar to him, but it was from days when humanity was still on Earth. He only knew of what was glossed over in the history books, and rumors from those who could remember their days on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of men and women had the process performed on them secretly to create vast armies of super soldiers that listened to the every command of their general. Many colonies did it before the Great Plague, and even afterwards in hopes that human test subjects might somehow help in creating an antidote for the disease. It was thought that such atrocities were wiped out, but apparently not. The copper haired boy scowled and continued to listen, though the transmission was getting fuzzy.

“Soon the whole of humanity will be under her command. Once her guards have the procedure, the rest will be a cakewalk.”

Somebody had to stop this. No self respecting person would let this continue on. This was the time the hero would rise up against all odds. The underdog, the everyday boy who had greatness thrust into their life. His eye began to sparkle at the idea, and it was all he could do to keep from jumping in excitement. The call for adventure was at hand, and Myos was itching to transfer the joy of saving of the world on a small screen to his everyday monotonous life. Somebody needed to stop this. A hero needed to stop this. And as far as he knew, he was the only one who knew about the Empress’s plot who was willing to do anything about it.

Well, that settled that.

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