Alan stepped out of the teleportation chamber into the fluorescent light of an underground concrete bunker the size of a small school gym. Along with the teleportation chamber, there were numerous tables at the edges of the room, with an assortment of supplies and weapons. An Administrator also stood in the corner opposite from Alan, next to a capsule. In the middle were a number of military cots, each with a pillow and blanket on them. Standing about the room were the others, everyone except Ace as far as Alan could see.
A message popped up:
[The Survival Test:
Try to survive three waves of enemies that will attempt to hunt you down. The first wave will begin a few hours after your entire team has arrived. To prepare for this trial, you are given 100 credits. You may purchase materials found in your starting zone.
At the end of each wave, should you survive, you will be granted additional credits and experience. You may spend Ability points by speaking with the Administrator found in the starting zone. Please direct any further questions to the Administrator.
Alan closed the message, then looked up. The others had noticed him by now, and Thiago was walking up to him.
“Heya, Alan, how’d the written test go? Not too long, I hope. You’ve probably noticed, but almost everyone else finished and arrived here hours ago.”
“Uh, no, it was fine. So, we’re ready for this survival test, then?”
“Yeah, bout as ready as we’re ever gonna be. The current plan is hunkering down in this here bunker, killing anything that gets close. We aren’t sure where we are, but well you and Kitana can go outside and figure that out once the door opens, while the rest of us try to barricade us up. Right now the door’s shut tight, and but it’ll open once Ace arrives.”
Thiago gestured at a shut metal door next to the Administrator.
“Anyways, we think it’ll be a good idea to go over purchases with everyone else, so we don’t end up buying two of the same thing. How many credits did ya receive, anyways?”
“Oh, really?” Thiago seemed a bit taken aback. “Huh, as far as we can tell, we’ve been given different amounts based off of our skills, and stuff we brought, to balance things out, you know? The only other that got so few was Kitana, but she brought a sword for god’s sake. Daisy got like 3000 credits, enough to buy a shield generator. She think she’s worked out how it works, and it’ll be up once we get it set up and the door opens.”
“Also, before you ask, all the items here seem to be bind until death, thus only the person who buys the item is able to use it. The cheapest gun is like 300 credits, just to let you know. All 100 credits can buy you is a few days worth of food and a med-kit, which is what I suggest you buy. Also, add me as a contact, so we can message each other while this thing is going on.”
A message popped up:
[Thiago has requested to be added as a contact. Accept?]
“Alright, looks like Ace has arrived. Get ready.” Thiago said, looking over Alan’s shoulders. Alan looked to see Ace emerge from the teleportation chamber. To his surprise, it looked like Ace hadn’t slept a wink, and had been doing some sort of physical activity, based upon the sweat on his brow.
Alan hurried over to the table Thiago gestured to earlier with the food and medicine. A drop down menu appeared before him. He bought three things of food, dark grey blocks of what looked like Jell-O for 10 credits each, a med-kit for 50 credits and a water bottle that somehow gathered water from the atmosphere and filled itself for 20 credits.
Opening the med-kit up, it looked like a futuristic first aid kit with bandages and different gels for wounds. Alan hoped Eve knew what to do with this stuff, cause Alan sure didn’t.
Someone had suggested he take a first aid class at some point, but he’d always figure he’d have the internet and a hospital nearby. Alan shoved this stuff into the green backpack he’d scavenged from the house he’d began the Game at. He also still had the combat knife the soldier had given him earlier in his pocket. Hopefully it would be enough for whatever it was they were going to face.
Another message popped up.
[First Wave: Predecessor Scouting Hounds, Lvl 30
Enemies remaining: 20
Time until arrival: 1:20:34]
The message included a 3-D hologram of a massive beast the size of an SUV, covered in scars with huge protruding fangs. It sort of looked like a enormous bulldog to Alan, if the bulldog had brown bear fur, a cat’s jaw with saber tooth teeth, and had been mauled a few times. Alan didn’t think his 5-inch knife would do much against that thing.
“Alright, everyone it’s time to begin.” Thiago called out. “You all have your directions, let’s do this. Please update me with any new developments.”
Everyone nodded, the majority of them gathering around a metal device Alan assumed was the shield generator. Kitana got up from a cot, where she had been sitting down sharpening her katana, gesturing Alan over. Thiago went back to talking to Ace, who had apparently been given 0 credits. Alan really wanted to know what his abilities were and what had happened to him, but he had work to do.
He and Kitana stepped out of the room into a narrow concrete hallway maybe 20 ft long. There were two completely empty storage rooms on either side of the hallway. At the end was a set of concrete stairs leading upwards. At the top of the stairs they saw DaLong, next to the door to the bunker, trying to get it open. Alan hurried up the stairs to help him. DaLong looked over at him, but didn’t say anything.
With one huge heave, the rusty hinges finally budged, and the concrete swung backwards, revealing a foggy sky. They emerged onto the top of a grassy cliff, next to a road, surrounded by what looked like mostly woods to Alan. It was hard to tell though, as the fog blocked most of his vision.
Alan occasionally made out the red roof tiles of various buildings around him, and they were next to some sort of body of water to the west, but other than that he wasn’t able to make out much other than trees and other vegetation.
“So, are you just going to stand here, or are you going to scout? I’m supposed to stay here guarding the entrance.” DaLong said after a few seconds.
“Just trying to try to see some landmarks. Let’s follow this road, see where it leads,” Alan said to Kitana, pointing in the direction away from the water. She nodded, and began jogging before Alan could say anything more.
As soon as the road stopped descending, it started ascending There were hills everywhere. According to a street sign, they were on a Lincoln Blvd. Alan soon struggled to keep up with Kitana’s pace, but didn’t want to say anything or demonstrate his weakness. Also, his attributes would increase if he worked hard, right?
A few minutes, later, Alan glanced at his minimap. He stopped, almost face palming.
“Wait, Kitana, Eve’s already figured out where we are.” Alan had made sure Eve had downloaded a worldwide map before beginning the Game, along with all sorts of other information he’d found on the internet.
According to Eve’s map, they were now in the Presidio of San Francisco, which according to Wikipedia was a park that was formerly a military base. If they followed the road they were on now, they’d reach the Richmond District of San Francisco. The body of water Alan had seen a glimpse of earlier, parallel to the road they were on, was the Pacific Ocean.
Let me know if you make a discovery like that, okay?
A discovery like what?
Like where we teleported to.
“Hmm, since we know where we are, we should probably ask Thiago what to do next then. You can message him.” Kitana said, moving her hands about in front of her, probably exploring the map Eve provided.
Text or voice?
A phone ringing sounded in Alan’s ear. A second later, he heard Thiago, speaking into his ear.
“Um, Eve figured out we’re in the Presidio of San Francisco. You can take a look at your minimap probably.”
“Oh.” A few seconds passed, as Thiago checked out the map.
“Very good. Anything you find that seems like it might be helpful?”
“Uh, no not really, just a bunch of hills and trees.”
“Alright, well the next thing you should do then is look for supplies. If this map is right then we’re properly in the Game now. I think San Francisco is under US military control, but I’m not sure, so try to avoid any other people you find. Remember that while this Game Earth may be a digital copy of the real Earth when the aliens first came here six months ago, things may have changed quite a bit. Time in the Game is four times as fast so two years have passed here. ”
“Got it, bye.”
Hey, Eve, where’s the nearest police station?
The nearest police station is approximately 2 miles away.
Alright, set it as my destination.
The familiar blue line appeared before Alan. He turned to Kitana.
“Alright, so let’s try to go to the police station, hopefully we’ll find supplies there. It’s about 2 miles away, but we still have over an hour left to get there and back.”
Kitana shrugged. “Sure, that sounds acceptable to me.”
A blue line appeared on the road in front of Alan, showing him the way to the police station, or at least where there was in the real world. On the jog over he tried making small talk with Kitana.
“So, um, have you played many video games?”
“Oh, um, what’s your favorite anime or manga?”
“I haven’t had the time for either. I have devoted myself mainly to training.”
“Huh that’s cool.”
Kitana didn’t respond.
“Well, if you haven’t really played any games before, all these ability points and skills might be a bit confusing. I’ve found it best to try to stick with one sort of character and focus on doing that as best you can.”
“Also, there are a few pretty useful skills that you can buy that will allow you to improve faster. I don’t know if you noticed them, but Skilled and Gifted seem pretty over powered.”
“Yes, those skills have been quite useful in accruing extra ability points. I began with them.”
“Oh, you did? Um, if you don’t mind me asking, what other abilities did you start with?”
Kitana made a gesture, opening a menu, looking at it while she ran.
“Sword mastery, a various number of sword-moves the Game seems to have converted from the style I’ve learned, various breathing techniques, meditation, sprint, sneak, endurance, there are quite a few here.”
Alan opened and looked at his character menu. The only skills were the ones he bought, Skilled and the G rank sneak ability.
You should align yourself and become “friends” with this Kitana. Discover her goals and aid her or blackmail her. Eve suddenly said.
Um, right… I’ll do that, but probably not for the same reasons you want me too, and I’m definitely not going to try to blackmail her.
Fine. Based upon the games I’ve played girls are likely to like you if you are strong, cute, handsome, charming, funny or a lovable buffoon. Based upon my observations, you would be best suited for the role of lovable buffoon. First,-
Wait, no, stop. Too far. Please don’t give me relationship advice.
Is that a command?
Yes, it is. Stop.
Blushing slightly, Alan continued jogging along the road. What were they talking about again? Oh, right, skills.
“Huh, that’s pretty amazing. I actually only have a few skills. Um, by the way, what level are you?”
Oh, well that explains a lot… I guess your abilities in the real world transferred over to the Game, which sort of makes sense if it’s supposed to represent fighting in your actual body, just virtually. That’s probably why all the people I saw in the Omnitech building were super buff and looked militaristic.
Still, to be told that I don’t have any skills worth mentioning is sort of depressing. I may have spent most of my days sitting inside reading stuff or watching things or playing games, but I also studied pretty hard. Ok, well, I studied hard when it mattered and I wanted to, so like just a few times. Whatever, I have Eve to do that.
Alan ignored the fact that a lot of his inability came from laziness. He’d do the hard work. At some point.
Alan began to tire, but Kitana kept up the quick pace. Urging his body onward, Alan resolved to take this time to push himself harder than he ever had before. It was a game after all.
A mile and a half later, Alan was sort of regretting his decision, but they’d arrived at the police station in under 15 minutes, and he’d gained a point in endurance. He’d also almost thrown up.
“Wait,” Alan panted, talking to Kitana, “Let, me, *pant* rest a bit.”
“Very well, we shall wait a minute.”
Alan collapsed onto the stairs in front of the police station, taking a long drink from the self-filling water bottle he’d bought earlier. It was already half full.
Looking up at the station, he noticed a board tacked up above the entrance.
It read: “Gamers, if you require medical aid please proceed to Pier 27. If you wish to trade or purchase items, proceed to the downtown mall nearby the Metreon. If there is an emergency, add IntelligienceAgent.23 as a contact.”
Scrawled onto the sign were a few words of profanity, doodles and a few messages that were fairly helpful. The key ones were the ones that said, “You fail the Tutorial if you get outside help, don’t ask them to aid you,” next to it was “You can still buy items though! Visit Igor’s Emporium!”, “No items here, all taken,” and “The Army rules San Fran, get out while you still can.” There was also apparently some sort of base camp across the Golden Gate Bridge.
“So, umm, looks like there isn’t anything to scavenge here. Any idea what to do next?”
“What do the green dots on the minimap represent?”
“Neutral or allied life forms larger than a frog, I think. If they’re particularly important life forms will still show up if they’re smaller though.”
“Well, as you mentioned before you have no combat experience. I believe it would be best if I tried to train you, maybe try to kill a few of the life forms I notice appeared on our run over here.”
“Oh, yeah, sure, sounds good!”
Kitana proceeded to show Alan how to hold his knife, and make cuts and thrusts, especially at a large animal like the ones they were probably going to need to fight. Alan gained a few stat points and even a rank G knife fighting ability. Both that and the sneak ability had a question mark after their rank. Alan assumed that this was the number Icewolf had told him about earlier.
They then moved on to try to find a live target to practice on.
The city definitely looked like it hadn’t been maintained for years, with rampant growth everywhere. It wasn’t much of a surprise that wildlife had moved in as well. Alan and Kitana managed to spot a deer standing in the middle of a yard, with Eve’s help. Alan wasn’t sure how she was detecting things blocks away, but it seemed like she detected everything within a 5-block radius.
Alan slowly and patiently crawled over to the fence in front of the yard the deer was in. He proceeded to climb over it with a precision and silence that surprised him. It must be the sneak ability. The deer was nibbling on some fallen fruit on the ground, oblivious to Alan.
Once he was a few feet away. Alan ran up and leapt at the deer, stabbing it in its flank, expecting numbers or some sort of critical hit message to appear. Instead, the deer let out a startled noise, and sprinted out of the yard. A small health bar did appear though. Alan had taken maybe 10% of its health.
Alan sprinted after it, just in time to see Kitana leap out and decapitate it, swinging almost faster than he could see. The insides of the deer that Alan briefly saw was all just sort of digital fuzz, luckily, but a spray of red blood did appear.
Kitana bent down, picking up something Alan didn’t see, and the deer’s body disappeared. Alan glanced at his XP bar, he’d gained maybe 1% of a level. In comparison, just discovering the police station and the messages had given him 5%.
“So, um, what’d it drop?”
“What loot did you get? Items that you got from the body.”
“Oh, a vial of deer blood. Do you know it’s use?”
“Um I’m not sure, probably better to hold onto it though.”
“Okay. We should discuss your… attack. As I instructed earlier, you need to attack vital areas, this game replicates every creatures weak points, as far as I can tell. You do know what areas are vital, don’t you?” Kitana asked Alan dubiously.
“Um, of course I do.”
Eve, you can show me creatures weak points, right?
Great, when we’re in combat, show me where I should attack.
Very well. Shall I create a shadow outline for you to follow?
Can you do that?
Alright, well, I think we should test that.
“Um, actually, can I test something out? If I attack you with this knife, you’re able to avoid it, right? Wait, no, let me find a stick.”
Kitana scoffed at the idea of Alan landing a hit on her, ensuring him that he could attack her as much as he wanted with his knife. She turned towards him, holding her katana in front of her.
Okay, Eve, show me how to attack.
An image suddenly appeared before Alan, a blue outline of a human body with a grey grid on it, lunging forward then slicing sideways.
Um, Eve, I don’t think I can move that fast, and I’m definitely sure I can’t stretch my legs that far.
This move is within the bounds your body is capable of.
Ok, how about something I’m able to do without a lot of pain.
The blue outline appeared once more, Alan realizing that it was emerging from his own body. It took two steps to the right then darted left, making a sharp, diving stab at Kitana’s left leg.
Alan tried following the motions he’d seen. The moment that he started taking a step towards Kitana’s right however, she also stepped forward.
A new blue outline appeared in his mind, leaping back. Frantically, Alan started to try to leap backwards, and ended up tripping on his own feet, falling to the ground.
Kitana raised an eyebrow.
“Didn’t you want to attack me?”
“Um, yeah, wait a second.”
Why’d you show me leaping back?
You had an approximate 0% chance of landing a successful attack from that position.
Oh. Well, I can’t respond instantaneously to the actions you want me to take, can you try to incorporate some sort of lag time?
Calculating… Please follow the shown blue outline as best as you are able to, so I may form a basis on how well you react.
The blue outline appeared once more, but this time chose to jog around Kitana. Alan hurried, trying to follow it as best he could. It occasionally stuck out a foot, a hand gesture or made a jump. Alan imitated as best he could. Soon, Alan was smoothly following the outline, maybe a tenth of a second behind it.
Kitana stood, watching him.
Suddenly, the blue outline darted towards her. Alan followed it. She turned, the outline stepped right. Alan stepped right. The outline stabbed at her, pulling back halfway through. Alan did so as well. When Alan made his feint, Kitana moved her sword a fraction, but otherwise didn’t move at all.
The outline suddenly made a series of attacks that Alan tried to follow as best he could. All of his attack were met by Kitana’s blade, perfectly stopping the thrusts and stabs with the minimum required movement.
Alan learned not to commit too strongly to the blue outline, just use it as a sort of guideline, as it would usually change as soon as Kitana moved. Soon, Eve also showed him the likely path that Kitana’s sword would take, allowing him to sort of anticipate her actions before she made them. It seemed like the blue outline was also starting to accustom it to the amount of time it took to actually react to a new action it showed.
Midway through one slice, the blue outline’s right hand opened, dropping the knife. Unconsciously, Alan did so as well. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the blue outline’s left hand dart forward, grabbing the knife, stabbing forward. He followed through, not even marveling at his ability to catch a falling knife midair perfectly, instead focusing on another outline showing that Kitana’s blade would knock the knife out of his weak grip.
As he lunged forward into the stab, the blue outline used the momentum to pivot onto its left foot, letting the knife fly away. The outline instead focused on using its right leg to kick at Kitana’s, trying to knock her legs out from under her.
Alan could see that Kitana was focusing on the knife, but as soon as the sword met with his knife, knocking it out of his hands, and he began to kick at her legs, Kitana shifted focus onto Alan himself. Alan watched as an outline of the katana started a motion to cut off his leg, then stop, and revert, allowing Kitana to be swept off her feet. To his surprise, he was able to connect his kick just as his outline did. However, Kitana absorbed the blow, making a forwards somersault while holding the katana with apparent ease, not reacting to how painful it must have been to be kicked right in the shins.
When Kitana completed the somersault, a step away from Alan, she leapt up, stabbing at Alan’s neck. Eve’s projection showed that it would stop right at his neck, not piercing it, thus he stood there, allowing the katana to brush against his Adam’s apple.
Kitana grinned. “Huh, that was rather impressive, actually. I almost cut your leg off, though.” A slight amount of her health, maybe 0.05% was missing, but that might also have just been wishful thinking.
“Um, yeah, that was quite something.” Alan then realized how tired his body was, now that he no longer was in his trance like state, following the blue outline. He was covered in sweat as well. Replaying the memories in his head, he was amazed at the various stabs, lunges and almost aerobatic maneuvers he’d been pulling off.
To his surprise, in addition to his agility, perception and endurance increasing, he’d also gained seven levels and a series of new skills. What sort of game was it that didn’t require killing things or turning in quests to gain levels? If training was all it took, maybe he should just become a hermit and spar with Kitana. She’d probably need some convincing though.
As he was about to look more closely at his new skills, Eve said, Thiago is calling. Accept?
“Where are you guys? Why aren’t you back yet?” Thiago sounded almost frantic.
“What? We still have 20 minutes until round one is supposed to start.”
“Alan, where do you think the hounds are coming from? That they’ll just appear? They are travelling to the bunker, and will ARRIVE in 20 minutes. That means they’re racing closer, probably from your direction, right now. They may be at your position in just five minutes, depending upon how fast they’re travelling! They may even speed up if they smell you out in the city!”
“What!? But…” Honestly, Alan had been thinking the hounds would spawn right outside the base.
Suddenly, off in the distance to the south of them, Alan heard the loud howl of a large animal. A series of other howls joined it. Then, like clockwork, the timer for the start of the round shifted from 0:20:23 to 0:07:53.