A concussive force rocked the hangar Alan was in, but no signs of damage appeared. It seemed like Eve had gotten him far enough away that the explosion wouldn’t harm him. While the explosion was loud, it wasn’t enough to set Alan’s ears ringing.
Glancing outside however, all Alan saw in the direction of the tent was smoke and debris. The constant gunfire returned. Looking upwards, Alan saw two small dots approaching. Whether they were ally or enemy ships however, he had no idea.
They are of an unknown force, failing to give any identification. Thus it is likely they are rebel forces. Eve answered his unasked question for him.
So, what, you’re just answering what I’m wondering? Wait, no don’t answer that. I need to figure out where to go from here… what am I supposed to do? Actually, this is a game, right? Maybe this is actually part of the tutorial.
Question unclear, under whose directive are you supposed to-
Stop. Don’t answer rhetorical questions.
Ok, if I try to go out there and fight the rebels, what are the likelihood I’ll survive? Actually, also, I should figure out how death works in the Game…
Should you attempt to engage the rebel fighting forces I estimate your survival to be 3.2%. Should you find and wield a weapon, I estimate your survival to be 1.6%.
What? Why is my survival rate lower if I get a weapon?
You will be more likely be seen as a threat, and thus annihilated.
Uhh okay… do you know anything about what happens if you die in the Game?
Unclear. Various sources cite loss of items, abilities, experience and currency.
Experience? Wait, what’s my level now?
Everything was so lifelike Alan had forgotten he was in a game. The world, the other people, his own body, all felt exactly like they were in real life. He could smell, taste the smoke that was in the air now. Each gunshot a loud shock to his mind. It seemed however like he’d been gaining experience for his actions, and for Eve’s. That meant if he killed a few rebels, he’d probably get experience too… except he’d probably die trying to do so.
Status screen, Alan thought.
His status popped up, along with a 360° picture of himself. He was shown having 100% HP, 89% stamina, free of disease. There was a tab for skills, but none were listed.
Where are the stats, the points I should be able to distribute now that I’ve leveled? The Game is supposed to have character development like a RPG, right?
Unknown. Most likely this is to be explained in the Tutorial.
Okay, well, what should-
A message popped up in front of Alan:
[The presentation by the United World Government has been determined to have ended. Please proceed to the designated ship to begin the Tutorial.]
Once he read the message, another popped up.
Ship: The Grasshopper, Scout Class.
Please proceed to your ship as soon as possible.]
A small icon appeared on Alan’s map of a spaceship of some sort, probably The Grasshopper. A green line on the ground showed him a path to the ship.
Alright well I guess that answers that question… What was the ship Kitana was going to be on? They were going to someplace, Khersath, I wonder what that place is…
Analyzing data… Kitana is designated for The Titan, a Haxlard ambassador ship. Khersath is the capital planet of humanoids within the Game.
Huh, alright, well-
The Titan’s AI detected my presence accessing it’s passenger list on the network, it managed to hide its presence on the network somehow. It wishes to communicate with me, accept?
Alan waited a few seconds, wondering what this was about, then a new message popped up:
[Transfer to The Titan, Light Battleship Class, destination Khersath?]
Alan thought for a second, then agreed. Kitana and her friends probably knew what the hell was going on, right? Then again, Alan had no idea if they had even survived the explosion/invasion/whatever was happening right now.
The Titan AI is transferring directions now, through a route which will avoid the majority of the fighting.
Alright, lead the way, Alan thought.
A second later, the green line on the ground and destination on his map changed. Glancing outside, Alan saw a few soldiers in mechanized armor running past. They appeared to be holding laser rifles of some sort.
Are you sure this is safe?
Both sides appear to be avoiding firing upon new players. As long as you do not engage anyone in battle, it appears to be safe.
Drawing a deep breath, Alan burst out of the hangar he was hiding in, sprinting as fast as he could. Alan kept his head down, following the green line before him. Better safe than sorry, after all.
He heard a soldier call out to him, but he continued running with all his might, adrenaline pumping through him. Unfortunately, it seemed like even though he had gotten stronger and faster, he still tired just as easily as in real life. A minute later along the path Alan was completely winded, panting, slowing to a walk as he glanced around him and saw no one. Maybe he should have worked out more in real life… this correlation to his endurance in real life certainly explained why all the people the companies were hiring looked super fit.
The path he was following seemed to lead him along a bunch of runways, which couldn’t be safe, but Alan continued along the path. Behind him, he could see the hangars and smoke where the tent had been. The ships he’d seen approaching earlier appeared to be small jets. They were firing laser fire onto the ground while missiles were fired back at them. However, the jets appeared to be far more nimble than any aircraft Alan had seen before, weaving back and forth, reversing as though inertia wasn’t a thing.
Suddenly, two giant green lasers shot out from where Alan was running to, slamming into the jets, disintegrating them.
Uh, was that The Titan?
Squinting his eyes, looking forward, Alan could see a faint outline of a small ship landed in the middle of a runway. Eve classified it as a Haxlard dropship. It was fairly nondescript, a small grey aircraft that looked sort of like a carrier helicopter but without the rotors, designed to carry goods and people to and from larger class spaceships. Alan started jogging forward. He could make out a Haxlard mounted on some sort of assembled laser turret. Alongside him was a truck with Kitana and her friends on it.
As Alan approached, Kitana looked up at him, looking surprised to see him. The Haxlard, wearing a green mask with a single white, vertical stripe, stepped forward. A few more Haxlards, wearing completely black masks stepped out of the aircraft and began disassembling the turret.
He is an Ultihaxlard not a Haxlard, Eve told him.
“Greetings Earthling! You must be AdamPwnage, our new addition. I am Pharaoh, the captain of the Titan.”
“Uh, greetings Ultihaxlard sir. Um, you can just call me Alan,” Alan responded, really wishing Icewolf had used a different username.
“New addition?” The Mexican guy in a white suit asked. His body language practically yelled that Alan shouldn’t be here. What was his name again?
“Yes. Alan here somehow managed to convince the Titan AI to allow him aboard and grant him passage. Also, how did you manage to discern I was an Ultihaxlard?”
“Uh, actually my AI told me.”
“Well, I suppose that answers both questions then. Now that we’re all here, let’s get aboard this dropship so we can get to the Titan.”
Thiago threw Alan a questioning glance, but followed Pharaoh as he walked up the ramp of the dropship. Alan waited until everyone else was in front of him, following Kitana who was the last of the group to walk aboard. Alan noticed a splattering of blood on her robe. Everyone else seemed rather disheveled as well, the knight was missing his helmet and had a small dent in his armor, while there were small tears he noticed in other people’s clothing.
Pharaoh led them into the loading zone, where five seats aligned each side of the ship, silver rectangular blocks that adjusted for each person that stood in front of them. In the middle there appeared to be space for other belongings and cargo, but there was nothing there now.
Pharaoh paused before entering the room where Alan assumed the pilots sat.
Negative. Dropship most likely piloted by Titan AI.
“Alright well then, you’ll all begin the Tutorial once aboard as agreed. You should also explain some things to Alan, as he likely doesn’t know what’s going on. Rest assured however we aren’t brainwashing your leaders or anything like that too.
Now for the rest of you, in case it escaped your notice, his AI managed to leave enough of an impression on Titan’s AI that the AI requested Alan to come aboard, so remember to use that to your advantage.”
Pharaoh entered the cockpit as everyone sat down.
Once seated, Alan noticed a metallic seatbelt and strapped it over his waist as he looked up at everyone. Not sure what to say he just looked up at Thiago, seated directly across from him, and said:
“So uh, what happened to you guys?”
“After the announcement of the bomb, a force field covering the stage and first few rows was activated while people evacuated. The force field stopped most of the blast, however the people in the middle and back rows weren’t so lucky. It seemed like one of the new players was used as a suicide bomber of some sort. We were quickly extracted and found our way here, although some of us decided to join in on the fighting,” Thiago answered, glancing at Kitana.
Well at least the blood probably isn’t hers.
“Well, I’m glad to hear the announcement helped.”
“Wait, that was you?”
“Well it was Eve, my AI that did it really.”
“Uh, well she was able to access the base’s network, and detect the bomb somehow. Now, wait, so everything the senator said was real, there’s this intergalactic federation or something, but all the territory and what not is determined by this game?”
“Yes, although it’s not quite as dire as it sounds, or at least if it was someone would have told us. I guess I should explain a few things. Firstly, sorry about ditching you earlier, however, we are on a mission of sorts. All of us are actually the relatives or friends of fairly influential figures with shared interests, and it cost millions to get us aboard this ship to Khersath, which is partly why I was so surprised to see you joining us.”
Alan glanced around at the rest of the group, they didn’t seem particularly remarkable, yet he recalled that Daisy was the daughter of the senator that was speaking, and Kitana was somehow related to some Japanese corporation. None of them looked too alarmed at having a bomb blow up in front of them, except maybe Daisy.
“Okay, but how do you know what the rebels or whoever they are weren’t telling the truth? How do we know the government isn’t already in the hands of the aliens?”
“Well, we aren’t certain of the details of everything, as the amount of information we can be told is limited before we complete the Tutorial. That is a key point that you may have missed if you left the tent, do NOT tell anyone information about the game, as otherwise the Administrators will penalize you strictly.”
How would they know? Oh whatever…
The Administrators likely have eyes and ears everywhere, scanning the internet, phone calls and mechanical inventions.
“Now, to answer your second question, we can’t be absolutely certain the government is free, it is very unlikely. The Haxlards allied themselves with us as apparently we are in a section of space they control. They’ve equipped us with a fair amount of new technology and weapons, as long as many, many game capsules.
I believe the explanation is if we fell to an enemy group, Earth would be a prime staging point for war with the Haxlards, thus they are trying to ensure our defenses are secure as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if these so called rebels were being funded by some of the Haxlard’s enemies. But, like I said we have limited information due to the restriction on us before we begin the tutorial.”
“Wait, you said not to tell anyone anything, yet someone clearly explained all this to you beforehand.”
Icewolf gave me information about the game too.
“Well, apparently certain information isn’t taboo, yet exactly what is and isn’t is somehow determined by the Administrators, thus it is better to be safe than sorry, and not really tell anyone anything.”
Well I should have an interesting conversation with my parents then once this tutorial phase is done. What was the Game like? Classified. Have any interesting adventures? Maybe.
The Game has been suboptimal, at least your actions so far. Please optimize your actions for better results. I am not sure how to classify “interesting”.
… Wait, suboptimal? What would you have me do!?
Yes, you have performed many wasted actions that were unsuccessful or pointless. For better results, I would have disarmed the bomb or taken out rebel forces, feats unfortunately you probably would have failed.
Great, so Eve is a backseat gamer too.
Thiago begun talking again, and Alan realized that these conversations with Eve were progressing at the speed of thought, thus very little time passed for anyone else… that was interesting, and possibly quite useful.
“Now, you may not know this but there are various Tutorials, and levels of tutorials. Unlike most games which just explain to you how to play the game, the Tutorial is more of a test to determine your class and place in the Game. One of the reasons we paid so much to get here is that we are about to undergo a group, Ultihaxlard tutorial, which promises significant rewards should we do well.
We know there is going to be some sort of group fighting exercise, thus we had determined the following. KingArthur is going to try to tank enemy attacks, Daisy will be the medic/healer, and everyone else is either ranged or melee damage dealers. ”
“And I shall be THE WIZARD,” MadMerlin shouted, leaping up, arms stretched wide.
“Dude, we don’t even know if magic exists in the game yet…” KingArthur murmured to his friend.
“We don’t? Or, do we?” MadMerlin grinned and extended his hand.
“Let there be LIGHT!” A small glow emanated from his palm.
“What!? How did you do that?” Aphrodite, who was sitting next to him said.
“A wizard never reveals his tricks!” MadMerlin shouted as KingArthur shoved him back into his seat, strapping his seatbelt on, treating him like an unruly child.
Don’t you mean magician? Whatever.
“Okay, yes,” Thiago said, “and MadMerlin will be the wizard, whatever that means. Now, what role were you thinking of, Alan?”
Well I was thinking being a sort of scout/sniper maybe tactician, does that sound good to you, Eve?
“Well, I was thinking I could be a sort of scout/sniper, maybe set up traps, gathering information. I think I could also be a tactician with Eve’s help.”
“A scout? Do you have any experience scouting or with combat? How would you gather information?” Ace, the guy Alan had thought was a soldier, asked.
“Well not really, but I usually played a rogue type character in RPG’s umm…”
Permission to attempt to access other players maps.
A message apparently appeared in front of the other players in the ship.
“Should I accept this, Alan? Your AI is requesting the ability to access my UI.” Kitana inquired.
“Um, yeah I was thinking that Eve should be able to give you a minimap and maybe update it, as that’s what she’s been doing for me.”
Now, for instance Eve showed the ship in space, the nine other passengers and three other beings in the cockpit. The dropship was now passing by Saturn.
Wait, we’re passing by Saturn already? Damn, the game must have given these ships some improvements.
Negative. Such speeds should be achievable in real life as well with the correct materials.
Wait, really? That’s impressive. Hey, why didn’t you answer my question this time?
It was deemed rhetorical.
Oh, right, yeah, keep up the good work.
“Huh, interesting,” DaLong commented, apparently fairly impressed with the minimap he now saw. “So, we should be approaching the Titan soon then. It’s on some space station outside of Pluto, outside of our solar system. Another reason you shouldn’t worry about the Haxlards, their ships above a certain class aren’t allowed into our solar system.”
Yeah, but you did just tell me they built a space station right outside of it. Alan didn’t say anything aloud though. He was, after all on a Haxlard ship, and he felt like a certain degree of paranoia was necessary.
Alan hadn’t ever really liked picking sides before, he more enjoyed picking sides apart. Thus, playing the rogue mercenary, loyal to whomever paid him the most. Now, though, that the fate of humanity and the control of Earth hung in the balance, maybe he should reconsider his choice of just trying to make a bunchy of money…
Negative. Current objectives of wealth and power best course for ability to impact the fate of humanity.
Uh, okay. Sure Eve. Is it dangerous if I start thinking of Eve as a crazy dictator? Wait, she heard that didn’t she? Shit.
Negative, as my master I exist to ensure your safety and growth. I did hear that. However, as you have directed I will never divulge information about what you think or act in such a way that would harm you.
Uh, great. Cool. Good job me for programming you… sort of.
“Alright, this will be fairly helpful. However, as you noted you don’t have any combat experience, I feel like it would be best if you went out with one of our more experienced members, Ace or Kitana.”
Alan looked over at Kitana hopefully.
“Very well, I will be paired with Alan.”
“Excellent. Now, is there anything else someone would like to say?”
Alan thought this might be a good time to voice his opinions about the whole mercenary thing.
“Uh, well unlike you guys it is probably fairly clear I don’t really have connections. So, um, I’m a couple million in debt, so I’m probably going to try to play this game at first to make money so I can pay off my debt to Icewolf,” Alan said, wincing as he was reminded of just how much money he owed.
“Yes, that’s fine, even expected. Of course we don’t expect you to play solely for the sake of humanity. Just like if the Earth gets invaded or whatever, you would hopefully either send aid or help defend it. I’m not sure how this all works out, but apparently certain guilds are often stronger than governments, so well, I’m not really going to tell you how to play. I’m sure we all have different plans.” Thiago said, looking at everyone else, implying something, Alan wasn’t quite sure what.
Alan noticed Thiago seemed to be the one that spoke for the group the most, yet often various people didn’t look like they completely agreed with what he was saying.
“Wait, we’re not going to be expected to actually kill things, are we?” Aphrodite spoke up, demurely. She suddenly looked to have been quite shaken up by the bombing and ensuing escapade.
“Well, that is sort of the point of being a ranged damage dealer, which was the position you agreed to. Also as we saw earlier there luckily isn’t much blood and gore in the Game, just sort of digitized deaths.” Thiago said deadpan.
“Oh, uh, right. Well actually I think I might be better suited to be a healer then like Daisy, or maybe a negotiator. We might not necessarily need to fight, right, just survive?”
“I’m not sure, we should let the tutorial begin, and then figure it out.” Thiago firmly replied.
“Um, okay.” Aphrodite murmured quietly, eyes downcast. Alan thought he might have seen a tear or two emerging, and he felt like he should say something. Thiago, for some reason, was rolling his eyes, but didn’t say anything else.
Then, looking at the minimap, Alan saw they were approaching the space station. The lights above, which had been a fluorescent yellow turned green. Pharaoh emerged from the cockpit. Aphrodite wiped her eyes and sat up immediately, looking remarkably at ease for someone that appeared to be in a great deal of distress seconds earlier.
“Alright my little earthlings, we are about to land on the Titan. Please remain in the areas designated to you, although you won’t be able to see your quarters until you finish the Tutorial. Once we land on the ship, you will be guided to the capsule room, where the Tutorial will take place.”
“Wait, we’re going into capsules within a capsule?” Alan asked.
“Yes,” Pharaoh answered, glancing at Thiago, “Evidently their explanation wasn’t very good. Capsules are one of the key features in this Game, allowing you to access your Home Base, teleport to various nearby locations and exit the Game.”
“The majority of mock battles, tournaments and tests take place in worlds accessible only through a capsule. The Tutorial may take place in one of these worlds, or it may take place within the Game. Now, I’m sure this and more will all be explained when you enter a capsule for the first time. Now, please follow the guards to where everything is set up, I need to go to the bridge.”
Huh so I guess the terminology we use was even transferred.
Incorrect. The Game translates all communication for each player, thus while Kitana has been speaking in Japanese, you in English and Pharaoh in Haxlardian, you have all been able to understand each other.
Oh, well, I guess that make sense.
Amazed once more at the Game, Alan unbuckled himself as the dropship landed. The ramp extended, and Alan followed everyone else through a narrow corridor similar to those before you entered an airplane. He could see a series of three or four additional corridors, most likely leading to other small aircraft.
At the end of the corridor stood two Haxlards, wearing metallic light blue armor that covered their entire bodies, making them look like robotic statues. They had blue faceplates, which Alan figured by now had to stand for rank or something, although he wasn’t sure if it’d be polite to ask about it. Alan didn’t see any breaks in the armor, yet as the Haxlards gestured them forward their joints moved with ease.
Each Haxlard held a laser rifle in one hand, or at least that’s what Alan assumed it to be. The device was curved into a U-shape, and each Haxlard gripped the weapon at the base of the U, while a green laser beam stretched across the two tips of the U, connecting them.
Following the Haxlards, they emerged into another corridor, only slightly larger than the first. There wasn’t much to see, just narrow, grey metal corridors with the occasional closed grey door.
Connected to Titan network. Acquiring basic layout.
As everyone else followed the two Haxlard guards, a few of the doors they were passing had their basic layouts filled in. A few were labeled as dining facilities or restrooms or storage, yet the majority were just a foggy space labeled classified. The restroom sort of reminded Alan that he had to go, thus he’d probably need to eat and sleep as well. He figured the goal had been to make armies or whatever as realistic as possible, and armies needed to eat, sleep and drink. At least, biological ones did.
When the layout appeared, Kitana glanced back at Alan, thus he surmised that everyone else got this basic layout of the ship as well. It looked like they’d arrive soon at their destination, which was labeled as the training room.
As they walked up to the shut door, it slid open, revealing a room remarkably similar to the original capsule room Alan had seen in real life. Arranged at the edges of the room were twenty metallic capsules, all a monochrome silver.
A message appeared in front of Alan:
[Please enter an unoccupied capsule. The Tutorial will then begin.]
“Alright guys, this is it, good luck.” Thiago announced to everyone, climbing into a capsule.
Alan grinned. Finally, he hoped, he’d be able to slay some monsters or something. He walked up to a capsule at the end of the row. It opened up for him, revealing a similar liquid. Climbing in, Alan closed his eyes, breathing steadily, ready for the adventure to truly begin…