You aren’t expected to survive each round. An estimated 1% of players survive each round of the survival test. Thus, one in a million players manage to survive the three rounds. Of course, as the number of players ranges in the trillions, this is not considered to be too impressive.
So, you’re saying that we have a 1% chance to win our fight?
Yes, I believe the Game coordinates it such that you have a low estimated probability of surviving. Thus, the rapidly increasing difficulty.
Alright… but, wait, if only 1% are expected to survive, how do you explain it when two different player groups go head to head?
According to my data, such a battle is a unique event, triggered by player actions, such as the ones we took when we attacked the United World Government sniper, and provided information to the shopkeeper. Also, the numbers actually worked out fairly well, 7 out of 209 players survived the test, approximately 3.5%. Generally, players fight generated NPC’s such as in the first round, or actual players that have gone past the tutorial, which I believe the Haxlards we are about to face are.
So they’ll be experienced?
Undoubtedly so. However, they won’t be aware of our group’s abilities.
Alan finished up gathering the loot of all the soldiers he killed, then proceeded back to the remains of the bunker. The top portion had been destroyed, and the stairs were covered in rubble, yet it was still possible for him to make his way into the underground bunker, where Alan found everyone else.
Thiago was talking with Ace, and looked up when Alan entered the room.
“All right everyone, gather around. It’s time to perhaps try to explain a few things.” Thiago waited until everyone had surrounded him before continuing. “Now, as many of you know my father is a… wealthy businessman, and with his help, I’ve gathered all of you here in the Game to start a new guild, independent of any world governments, but with the goal to help humanity. It is only with your help, along with your… backers, help, that such a thing would be possible. Together, we could become a force to be reckoned with, to gain power and do good in this Game.”
“So, wait, you’re just going to form a guild? Why’d you bother hiding any of this?” Alan asked.
Thiago grinned, while Aphrodite, who was standing next to him smirked. He was still hiding something.
“Have I heard of your father before? What’s your last name?”
“It’s Alvarez,” Aphrodite answered, as Thiago shot a look at her.
Searching… Match found. Thiago is the son of a powerful Mexican drug lord.
Alan’s eyes bulged, as he glanced around at everyone else.
“Um, guys, his father is apparently a drug lord.”
“Of course he is, otherwise this would all be a waste of time,” DaLong answered. Alan and Daisy stared at him blankly, while the others simply seemed to agree. “Do I need to spell it out for you? I’ve worked for various triads, Kitana’s father is a Yakuza head, Aphrodite is somehow tied to the Italian mob, KingArthur and MadMerlin have connections with various crime firms in the UK along with the rest of Europe, and Ace was part of the Russian mafia.”
Daisy let out small yelp as she stepped away from Ace, who had been standing right next to her. Alan glanced at Kitana questioningly, and she just shrugged like it was no big deal. It probably wasn’t for her.
Ace calmly said, “Look, I worked for the Russian mafia, but that was on behalf of an US agency. As you know, Daisy, I’m here to protect you, on behalf of your mother. She knows of my history and current responsibilities. You can ask her yourself when the Tutorial is over, although I’m sure you’ll probably have a lot more you want to discuss.”
“Yes, there is a lot more that should be said, as that was a rather blunt response from DaLong,” Thiago said. “Daisy and Alan, you should know that at this point pretty much all organized crime has been severely diminished as a result of the Enforcers, who do not take kindly to any illegal actions. All of the more dangerous elements of most organizations have been captured or killed, and there have been various attempts at restructuring and re-purposing that have generally… fallen flat. Also, unlike whatever preconceived notion you may have of criminals, I assure you we are not the greedy, malicious scum the media makes us out to be.
Organized crime is simply a necessary evil, to temper and manage the needs of men. The group my father created is a brotherhood, with a goal of helping the poor, keeping the streets clean, allowing people to live in peace. For a price, of course. It should speak volumes that when I approached a United World Government agency with my intentions for creating this guild, they told me to include Daisy here in our opening discussions.”
“What!?” Daisy exclaimed.
“Well, they couldn’t send anyone official, of course, and we are trying to be rather incognito about this all. You see, most of the illegal activities in the real world have been stopped. Almost all of the real money-makers, anyway. It was not until I learned more about the Game that I realized these operations could instead be moved into this virtual world. Nothing sinister like kidnapping or human trafficking, I assure you.
For instance, it may surprise you, depending on how sheltered you are, that some people will do anything to get a fix, a certain type drug they crave. Apparently, there are quite a variety of drugs available within the game. Currently however, the majority of dealers are alien, making money selling their wares to humans on earth, bringing back the money to their home planet or guild. If people are going to buy these substances anyways, shouldn’t the proceeds be going towards humanity?” Thiago rationalized. When neither Alan or Daisy responded, he continued.
“Of course, the United World Government can’t deal in such illicit substances. But we could. We could also take illegal actions against other alien governments, such as the theft of key resources or bribery. Then, if we were apprehended or detected, it would be tied back to us, rather than the United World Government.
What I’m proposing, now, is the formation of a new guild which combines the remaining power and members of all the various criminal groups to operate in such grey areas, with the main goal being helping humanity. Of course, along the way, we may make a fair amount of money, but as such money will be put towards items and making ourselves stronger, it should benefit the earth all the same. For various reasons, which I won’t go into now, as they don’t concern some of us,” he glanced at Alan, “I believe that we have the best chance if we join together under one guild.”
“And who would be the leader of such a guild, you?” DaLong asked questioningly.
“Perhaps. I was thinking more of a council, with separate branches of the guild for various organizations, but as I said we should go into the details of the organization later, after the Tutorial,” Thiago answered. “I’m simply asking you to spread the word, the offer, of what we may achieve within the Game.”
“So, wait, why am I here again?” Daisy wondered.
“Later, I’ll outline my plan for the guild, what we may or may not do. I’m sure, once you are done with the Tutorial, that you would naturally talk with your mother. Tell her my plan, then bring up any concerns, questions or advice she may have. Like I said, we’ll discuss details later. I plan on working with the United World Government, rather than against it. At least, on some level. We must use every resources available to us. We must realize that the good of humanity as a whole is paramount. We must create a common front against the organizations that may wish humanity harm.
Any questions, Alan?” Thiago smiled.
“Why tell us this right now?”
“Well, hiding all this was getting to be a bit bothersome. Also, after hearing about your more recent exploits, killing a government soldier and stealing their weapon, I figured you’d probably be more open to such a venture than I originally expected. Anything else?”
Um, right now I’m still trying to process this, and the other questions I want to ask would probably go unanswered, do you have anything I should ask?
Negative. If you think about it, this is a logical evolution. However, Thiago may be interested in the black market we found, as it is clear other forces have already set up shop. Additionally, for such a venture it is imperative they have an information guild supporting them.
“Um, not really. Are you aware of the underground markets already on earth? There was one shop at the trading hub. Um, Eve also says that if you want to succeed you need to have an information guild supporting you.” Alan brought out the black metal coin the shopkeeper had given him.
Thiago narrowed his eyes, examining the coin. He handed it back to Alan. “Yes, I am aware of the Revenant shadow network. I’d appreciate it if you could tell me the precise shop, however. I assume that’s where you got your armor. Additionally, getting the support of such a guild is one of the reasons we are travelling to Khersath. I am hoping to find allies and backers there, as nearly every guild and government has at least some sort of presence on the planet.”
So, the shop had ties to the Revenants. I suppose that explains how they came to posses the Revenant Power Armor.
When Alan didn’t say anything more, Thiago said, “Well, I guess that’s all of it. I hope you understand that since you are an unknown, a civilian without connections, you’ll have to be left out of the ensuing discussions. That is, unless you’re perhaps interested in joining?”
Are we interested?
Negative, there are much stronger, more stable guilds which we should try to join. Perhaps you should say we are interested however, to gain information we may be able to sell later. If you are afraid that such a lie may be detected however, simply decline the offer.
“Um, not really, thanks for the offer though. I’m still not entirely sure I’m okay with this development. Things are generally illegal for a reason, and I’m not sure what the consequences for such actions in the Game might be.”
It varies. If you break a law that the Administrators created, you may suffer a suspension or ban from the Game, a loss of credits/levels/items, or a permanent debuff until you finish a penance quest. If you break a law a government or guild has set in their territory, you will be most likely fined, or, depending on the severity of the crime, you may be forced into an indentured-servant type of role for a period of time.
Oh. That’s… a lot less severe than I thought it would be.
Yes, it is almost as if the creators of the Game acknowledged and anticipated that crime would become rife in the Game, just like it was once in the real world.
“Alright, well, if you change your mind, let me know. We should plan for the incoming Haxlards now, anyways, and spend the credits and points we gained from the last round.”
The group dispersed. Alan browsed all the items, as he now had a little over 26,000 credits, a whopping $260,o00. Unfortunately, he recalled the prices from the Trading Hub, and realized what a rip off every item in the bunker was. There weren’t even any items that were direct upgrades to the gear he now had, just side-upgrades, such as weapons more effective against machines, or armor that could take a much larger beating, but lacked an invisibility function. Even running as fast as he could, he probably couldn’t make it all the way downtown and back. He also wasn’t sure how the army might respond.
Ace walked over to him as he browsed the items. “Just so you know, I am sorry about leaving you earlier, and realize that my actions may have led to your detection. I do have connections to the United World Government, and if you paid reparations for the stolen rifle, I’m sure they’d reset your reputation. They do support the growth of new players.”
“Um, you do realize that Thiago just told me you guys are a bunch of criminals or previous criminals, right? How do I know you’re not ripping me off?” Alan said.
Accept his offer.
“But, um, as a gesture of good will and trust, I guess I’ll accept your offer. How much do you think they’d want?”
Ace messaged someone, then replied, “Including a tax for the… method of acquirement, they say 10,000 credits should do it.”
“Um, alright.” Ace sent another message.
That seems like too little…
They are probably also giving you the Tutorial “discount.”
Shortly after, a message appeared before Alan:
[Transfer 10,000 credits to the United World Government?]
Alan accepted the transaction.
[Reputation with United World Government reset to neutral.]
Huh, so you can make transactions from wherever?
You may transfer credits when you are in the vicinity of an Administrator. However, as you are undergoing the Tutorial who exactly you may trade with is limited.
After thanking Ace for the help in getting his reputation sorted out, Alan proceeded to the Administrator, to spend the 91 ability points he’d gained. He browsed through the list, and a few more abilities were now available as a result of the abilities he’d gained, but none stood out. Alan wished he’d saved an additional 12 points so he’d be able to purchase the Talented ability, but he’d gone into the battle expecting not to survive, and had placed all of the remaining points into stats.
So, what do you think, should I just upgrade my stats?
I am conflicted. I believe you should save your points so you may purchase the talented ability, however at the same time you are not very likely to survive the next battle.
Hmm… Alan checked his experience logs. Well based upon the experience I got from previous rounds, and for the completion of a test, I should gain 10 levels at least once this round is done, if I survive or not. Thus, how about I spend 43 of the points on stats?
That is acceptable.
Alan proceeded to further increase his agility by 13 points, and, at Eve’s request, increased his intelligence, willpower and strength by 10 points as well. She apparently wanted to test its effect on his actual ability in-game, to better optimize future attribute point allocations.
As the bunker was now in rubble, and added little to no fortification, it seemed like they would need to meet the Haxlards in open battle. There wasn’t even another shield generator for sale. Thiago wanted to try hit and run tactics, if possible. To prepare for the battle, Alan decided to rest, and try to review everything he’d learned, the fights he’d had so far. With Eve’s help, he was able to review each encounter from his own perspective. Eve pointed out things he could have or should have done differently. The amount of time the actual fights took up though was surprisingly little, so he also decided to try to think about what still didn’t make sense, or seemed to good to be true.
Was it a coincidence that Alan had ended up joining this group? The only reason that had happened was because Alan had met Kitana, who was in the same building he was… Wait, he never had asked Kitana how she knew Icewolf. He walked outside to find Kitana, who was sharpening her sword. It looked like she had purchased various upgrades to increase its capabilities. There were some optics and other upgrades he could have purchased for Reaper’s Scythe, but since it was going to drop once he died, it seemed like a waste.
Kitana looked up at Alan.
“So, um, your father is a Yakuza head?”
“Yes. Although, I have not thought about the family business much. I’ve mainly concerned myself with my swordsmanship.”
“Uh, right, your ability with that sword is definitely quite impressive,” Alan said, hoping Kitana hadn’t actually killed anyone in real life, but too scared to ask if she had. “By the way, how do you know Icewolf?”
“Icewolf? Oh, right, your sponsor. I only just met him at the Omnitech facility the day we started the Tutorial. My sponsor was in one of the other capsules, unable to logout at the time, or at least that’s what Icewolf told me. My sponsor is one of my previous sword instructors, who readily agreed to sponsor me to play the Game.”
“Oh, okay.” Alan felt a bit disappointed, maybe there wasn’t some conspiracy. “Well, want to pair up for this battle? I’d feel better if I had someone covering my back at melee range, and I can handle anything that’s farther away.”
Alan went back into the bunker, lying down on a cot.
Hey, Eve, why doesn’t everyone have an AI? Like why doesn’t the government hand out personalized AI’s for all its trainees or something like that?
Within the game, having a personalized AI you are able to interface with severely limits your ability to develop psionic talents, unfortunately. Additionally based upon my analysis of current data, I am operating at a much more advanced, proficient level than most other AI. I am… unsure of why that is the case.
Okay, so the ability of Eve seemed to surpass anything anyone else had, but what was that the result of? The specialized gaming capsule? Icewolf had said there was a captain that had wanted to sell the capsule on this particular planet, but why? Who benefited from having a capsule capable of increasing the abilities of an AI on earth? Wait… Alan checked his status window.
Eve, according to the data you acquired, why are the Administrators considered a faction? As the Administrators of the Game, shouldn’t they be completely neutral?
Negative, the Administrators act similarly to a typical NPC faction in an RPG game, with a capital city and even guild associated with them. However, they are the only known AI controlled faction. Their main objectives seem to be to simply administrate the Game, enforce order and apprehend criminals. The vast majority of space is actually considered to be unlawful, chaotic territory, while the major cities and planets are civilized, primarily based upon their Administrator presence. The information I downloaded includes fairly little about them though, perhaps we should speak with the Administrator here?
Alan walked over to the Administrator in the bunker. At first glance, it looked like the sort of android you’d expect in sci-fi. The Administrator had a humanoid design built with translucent, silver metal plates covering its circuitry, like a living suit of armor with wiring inside. Now that he thought about it though, Alan had yet to see the Administrator move a single part of its body other than its head even though it was clearly designed to be capable of movement.
Alan opened his mouth to begin talking with it, then glancing at the people around him, wondered, You can hear me, right? Did you hear my earlier thoughts?
Correct. I can hear you quite clearly, traveler. However, I can only listen to thoughts you deliberately project at me, thus I do not know any of your earlier thoughts.
A rigid, mechanical voice responded in his head. Whereas Eve and the Administrator back at his Home base sounded female and almost humanoid, this Administrator sounded much more robotic, transferring the reply without inflection.
Well, can you tell me what the Administrator’s main objectives are? What is your purpose, exactly?
The Administrators main objective is to preserve balance in the game and enforce the rules of the Game. My purpose here is to help facilitate the Tutorial, answering any questions that may arise.
And who created the Game, exactly?
The Predecessors and Lords of Life. You are not qualified for additional information.
How do I become qualified?
That information is classified.
Um, alright. Why do you need a capital city and guild? Can’t you just enforce the rules by banning people or using various mod powers you have?
The Administrator shook its head.
All beings within the Game must follow the rules set forth, including Administrators. We may only take administrative action once various criteria have been met, and move about using in-game transportation systems. Before in-game criminals are punished they must be caught and brought to an Administrative Center, commonly found in any major city. Of course, if the actions of an agent result in real life harm or permanent damage is done to the Game, that agent is immediately ejected from the Game and additional powers may be granted to us.
Ok… So you can move about or be killed?
I may move about. I will remain here until the Survival Test is completed. If you wish, you may attempt to damage me, however none of your attacks will have an effect.
Alan noted that the Administrator sidestepped the question about whether or not it could actually be destroyed, but decided not to push the issue.
Interesting. I’ve also noticed you sound different to me than the Administrator who was at my Home, is it because you’re different entities or ranks?
Checking database… requirements met. Yes, the Administrators have various ranks, for instance I am an Assistant while Home Administrators are typically Junior Executives. Each rank has a base program, but Administrators are capable of evolution. The base program is simply a modified version of the program you used to create your own AI, Eve.
Huh, are you talking with Eve right now, too? Alan was wondering a bit about why Eve was being so quiet.
Negative. Personal AI’s are not allowed to directly interface with Administrators.
Oh, any chance you can tell me why?
That information is classified.
Of course. Although, wait, is there any chance that you could perhaps just transfer this data about Administrators to Eve?
Querying… please wait.
A couple seconds passed, until a message popped up:
[Purchase data from the Administrators for 10,000 credits?]
Eve, I should purchase this information, right?
Eve remained silent.
Alan agreed to the purchase, and a bar appeared displaying the amount of data transferred, at about a rate of 1% every other second. There were ten minutes until the third tutorial round started.
That is all the current Administrator data you have access to. Good luck, traveler.
A connection broke off in Alan’s mind as he sensed another sort of reappear, a more familiar presence, Eve.
Where did you go?
The Game prevented me from interacting in a particular manner. Analyzing data now… I believe you should ask the Assistant about this classified information.
Won’t that just get the Assistant pissed off at me?
The Assistant does not have feelings.
Alan refocused on the Administrator, trying to pay attention to the connections forming in his mind. This time he physically felt Eve’s connection break immediately before he was connected to the Administrator.
Yes, traveler? I do not believe I can answer any additional questions that your AI can’t answer for you now.
The mechanical voice sounded almost… exasperated, despite Eve’s assurance that the Assistant Administrator had no feelings. Maybe it was just Alan projecting human characteristics onto it.
Um yeah, you might not be able to tell me, but perhaps you could tell me who can? Are there any players with the information you considered classified in the nearby vicinity?
Searching… Yes, there are.
Could you tell me who and where they are? Or is that information hidden?
The player has opted to be seen in public searches. Please wait… Player notified of search… Considering options…
Wait! Notified of search!? Stop. I don’t want-
It seems like they’re willing to come to you.
A new message popped up before Alan and apparently everyone else as well, based upon their expressions:
[The Survival Test: Bonus Round
You’ve managed to acquire the attention of a powerful being! Time will tell if that was a good idea or not. If you manage to survive both the Survival Test: Round 3 and defeat the Predecessor in battle, they are willing to share information with you, and more.
Adampwnage must survive the Survival Test: Round 3
“Bonus Wave: Predecessor, Lvl ???
Enemy remaining: 1
Estimated time until arrival: 0:24:36]
“Um wait, I can explain,” Alan said as everyone turned to look at him. DaLong motioned him to continue when he didn’t say anything more. Honestly, Alan had been expecting some sort of outburst and hadn’t really thought about any explanation. “Uh well I asked the Administrator to look for a player with answers about the Game, and apparently such a search notifies that player and so that resulted in this quest. That’s really it, actually.”
“Alright, well, additional rewards and challenges are a good thing, although I doubt we’ll be able to handle a Predecessor even if we manage to defeat the Haxlards. It looks like the Haxlards will be arriving by ship, thus they’ll need to dock or unload somewhere. All of us will meet the landing party on shore, while you snipe at them from afar, with Kitana as support if they manage to get past us.”
“Alright, sure,” Alan said, and they headed out.