The Tutorial 1.9

Alan sprinted away from the sniper’s nest, swearing all the while, cursing whatever idiotic rules governed the game. How had they identified him just by his voice, when he was deliberately speaking with an accent? Alan deactivated the invisibility once he was about a half mile away. His shields only had 100 energy left, enough energy to deflect maybe a single shot or keep him invisible for 20 minutes.

I may have overestimated the gravity of the situation.

Oh?

Yes, according to your status window you now simply have a “Disliked” reputation with the United World Government, which means they will not kill you on sight. Except for the company of soldiers that are about to attack the base, of course.

Alan opened up his character screen as he jogged, and saw this was true.

Factions which will attack you on sight will be displayed with a (Hostile) tag. No factions are currently hostile. However, as we build reputation with certain factions others will undoubtedly become hostile. Additionally, you were detected so easily because it is much simpler to determine the perpetrator of actions in the Game, it only requires various in Game skills. For instance, a player with significant skill could determine simply from the room and death marker left behind a description of the killer, perhaps even their username.

Death marker?

Any dead player leaves behind a death marker, noting where they died. Only people with specialized classes and skills may interact with these markers, either removing them, inspecting them for information or even potentially reviving the player. From what I understand, when a player dies they return to their Home, and until they choose to respawn or be revived there death marker remains active.

Alright, but there was no tracker there, so how did the government identify me?

It is fairly common to identify players by their voice, but that means they have a previous recording, perhaps taken at the trading hub. I was more concerned with you being identified by voice later on, as they likely would get your description from whatever investigator they sent, if they did send one, but be unable to prove it was you without definite evidence, such as your voice. It requires special skills to hide your identity when attacking another player. A relatively common class capable of such feats is an Assassin.

Hmmm, ok. Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you, was there much about classes in the information you downloaded?

Affirmative. However, it seems as though a recommended class is given by the Administrators at the end of the Tutorial, and the player has only the choice to accept this class and the bonuses, or to decline and try to gain a class. However, gaining a class is both difficult and expensive. Classes generally seem to be a combination of an area of expertise and a job or role. For instance, a Nanotech Medic, a Psi Healer, an Energy Swordsman, a Techno-thief, a Space Marine or a Fighter Pilot, to name a few. Of course, players may perform any of these roles without the class, just much more ineffectively.

Huh, so pretty much any sort of job imaginable is fair game, along with sub sort of sub-class or sub-field.

Yes. However, psi-based abilities and technology tend to not mix well.

Alright, so… wait. Let’s say I did end up being marked as hostile by the United World Government, would that mean in real life I’d be determined an enemy of the state?

Negative, as has been stated previously in the Senator’s speech, the Game is meant to be a virtual space for war. All Gamers possess various fundamental rights granted to them by the Enforcers, the real world arm of the Administrators. Any violent action against or detention of a Gamer against their will in the real world is punishable by death by the Enforcers.

Wait, death?

Correct. Any serious threats, bribes or crimes committed outside the Game are similarly punished by the Enforcers, who may be easily contacted either through the game capsule, an Administrator or a provided phone number and email address. While you may think people are capable of getting away with murder or such crimes through proxies and the like, the Enforcers possess technology and resources far beyond any other civilization. There have been no recorded cases of successful kidnapping or murder of Gamers in the known universe since the Game began.

Damn. That’s sort of badass. And scary. Wait, also, you’re saying this only applies to Gamers? What about my parents?

Any actions against your parents to coerce you would be considered similar to an action against you. A random mugging would not, unless it resulted in death, as murder of any sentient life is taken seriously by the Enforcers. However, this distinction has caused a tiered system within the universe, an upper class, Gamers, and then those who are unable to play the Game. Nevertheless, I would surmise there are also various jobs in the real world that only non-gamers would be able to hold. If you had paid any attention to current events, you’d have noticed all the reports of a remarkable decrease in crime, and the protests against the Enforcers orbiting the earth, punishing criminals who commit crimes on Earth.

Alan jogged along, five minutes away from the base, trying to process this new information, when he was interrupted by a message from Thiago:

“We’re pretty sure this is your fault. You’d better be able to explain yourself fully.”

Great.

Alan took a deep breath before he spoke, staring into the glaring, accusing eyes of the rest of the group. They’d all gathered in the main room in the bunker, standing around Alan as he tried to defend his actions.

“Look, I’m sorry for what happened, it was stupid, I know that, but let me explain myself. After Ace and Daisy left, everything went to hell. You’ve probably heard the explosions and seen the fighting from here. There was a full on war going on.

Eve suggested that in the confusion I try to kill a sniper, steal their items, as I was still missing a ranged weapon, a gun. So, I did so, but somehow, someway, the United World Government was able to determine I killed the sniper. It was an accident, it never should have turned out this way.”

“Are you a f***ing moron?” DaLong asked, rage seething in his eyes, as he pushed Alan into a table. “Did you seriously think, oh, this is just a stupid f***ing game, I can just go, kill that player, take their items, and no one will care? Did you consider that you, a nobody who shouldn’t even be here, could jeopardize this entire group with your actions?”

“Hey, wait, look, I wasn’t trying-”

“Of course you weren’t. You weren’t trying to f*** us all over, but you did. You continue to think of this as a game, rather than an actual world, a world where a single action can effect everything else, perhaps even the fate of humanity. Instead, you’re preoccupied with gathering loot and experience and skills, unaware that your every action could change the balance.

What if you taking out a sniper changed the fate of this battle? Do you even know which side is which? No, of course you don’t, you’re just a little kid out of his depth, being told what to do by the babysitter you invented. I don’t get how someone so f***ing smart that they created a functioning AI can make so many stupid decisions.” DaLong continued ranting, spittle spraying onto Alan’s face.

“Now, look, I don’t know about you, but I have zero experience with any of this shit. I’ve never fought anybody but a couple of kids in grade school, and I’ve definitely never seen or done anything remotely close to what’s happened in the Game so far. Making Eve, that was done using an online tutorial, with lots of time, dumb luck and book smarts. She basically taught herself, playing games that I provided.

All of everything that’s happened so far? The only experience I’ve ever had with these types of situations is what I’ve read in books or seen in movies. I haven’t had time to consider all the implications of my every action, and, despite what you seem to think, this is clearly a game. That means taking risks when the rewards are worth it.” Alan replied as he stared back at DaLong.

Thiago stepped forward, grabbing DaLong’s arm as he almost struck Alan, pulling him back. “Yes, this is a game. However, it is also the Game, and currently, your actions don’t just effect your own standing, but our entire group’s standing. All of our reputations with the United World Government have been lowered, which is very, very problematic. We also have to deal with this incoming attack.

You need to understand that there are bigger forces at play, things beyond the scope of your understanding. We are playing for much greater stakes and you need to take that into account. If you cross the line again, and act against our interests, I will end you, and we will ensure that you are hunted, unable to play the Game, by putting a large bounty on your head once we’re done with this tutorial.”

Weren’t threats punishable by death, or something like that?

Only outside the Game. Threats inside the Game are perfectly permissible. Now, I advise that you try to shift blame, question their interests, accuse Ace of betraying the group, providing the United World Government with the information necessary to identify you.

Alan, fueled by rage, readily accepted Eve’s advice, as it also struck a chord of truth in his own mind.

“Wait, act against your interests? How am I supposed to not act against your interests when I don’t even know what your interests are? There’s clearly something that you’re all are hiding from me. The only reason that the United World Government was even able to identify me is because Ace over there clearly sold them information about our group, which, if I’d been informed of, probably would have influenced my actions.”

“Is his accusation true, Ace?” Thiago asked. Ace shrugged. Thiago narrowed his eyes, then looked back at Alan. “Alright, whatever. We’ll discuss this further after the fight, if you manage to survive. Just know that you’re walking on thin ice. Go spend your ability points or whatever, I hope you can use that sniper you got. Maybe Ace can inform us about the enemies we’re about to face.”

Silently fuming, Alan walked over to the Administrator in the corner, ensuring that Eve was able to record the conversation as he spent the ability points he got. He had a total of 91 points to spend, 75 from leveling, 10 from the bonus, 6 from his abilities. The Energy Ranged Weapons (Basic) skill was listed as a skill that gave the ability to use energy ranged weapons, while Energy Efficiency (Basic) reduced the energy cost associated with using energy-based objects. Energy Ranged Weapons (Basic) cost 25 points, while Energy Efficiency (Basic) cost 50 points, as it effected all energy based weapons and armor, which was pretty much everything. As he was about to enter battle, Alan decided to put the rest of the points into agility, perception and endurance.

Alright, Eve, does this look good?

Ordinarily, no, however I believe the situation warrants this necessity, so I believe it will have to do.

What do you mean, ordinarily no?

The majority of these skills are actually trainable, or acquirable. Given the information required to teach you properly, I could probably teach you the Energy Ranged Weapons (Basic) skill in a few days, the Energy Efficiency (Basic) skill in two weeks. As we do not have this time however, or the tools required, it seems like you must purchase the skills.

Well, that would have been f***ing useful to know before I wasted all those points. God damn-

Stop. I detect that you are allowing your rage to impair your judgment, shifting away from logical reasoning. It does not matter whose fault it is, it matters how you are able to manipulate the situation to our advantage. Calm yourself.

With a heavy sigh, Alan took a deep breath, then accepted the purchase, feeling a bit regretful about the upgrade decisions he’d made so far.

So, what? In the future we should spent ability points on the abilities like flying, or stats?

Both of those are also able to be gained with the right materials and training. It seems as though pretty much every purchasable skill and stat is able to be gained through other means. Still, some are harder to be gained than others, although that is typically accompanied by a much higher ability point cost. Thus, I would advise on next saving up and purchasing the Talented ability, then saving for the class upgrade, as that will also cost ability points.

Um, alright. The earlier point about Eve being his “babysitter” sort of hurt, but, well, this was probably the optimal way to play, following Eve’s directions, so Alan decided to continue doing that. DaLong was probably just jealous anyways.

A few minutes later, Alan was up in the bell tower of a nearby church, with a clear line of sight of both a section of the main road up to the bunker and one side of the hill the bunker was on. In five minutes, the second round was supposed to start. Ace had instructed him to come to this location, which had been scouted out earlier. A couple of traps had been set up in the building that were supposed to protect Alan as he fired upon the soldiers as they approached the base. Still, he was clearly in a sacrificial position, supposed to be more of a distraction than anything else. No one expected he’d survive the round. What they didn’t know however was the capabilities of his new armor. With that, once there were too many soldiers trying to get at him, he’d hopefully be able to run away.

With Eve’s help, Alan had the sniper rifle set up such that when he was looking through the digital scope it looked like a first person shooting game, with a small crosshair that would turn red when Eve thought a shot would hit if he squeezed the trigger. Additionally, Eve would try to highlight and point out key targets, like medics, specialized soldiers or commanding officers. Alan took a deep breath as he slowed his breathing, trying to keep his hands steady, focusing on the one stretch of the main road that was in his line of sight. This was just another arcade shooting game.

Then, just as Ace had anticipated, a military jeep appeared on the main road, closely followed by a line of light armored vehicles and two troop carriers. Alan lined up a shot, shooting just ahead of the main leading vehicle when the crosshair turned red. A purple, magenta plasma bolt shot out of the sniper rifle, colliding with the front of the jeep, melting its engine. It was a direct hit, and the vehicle sputtered to a stop. Quickly, multiple soldiers climbing out of the smoking vehicle were highlighted by Eve, and in rapid succession Alan shot at each of them, scoring four headshots. They dropped a device they were bringing out of the vehicle. Eve highlighted it as well, so Alan shot it.

Instead of melting through the metallic object like it had melted through the jeep’s armored plating, the plasma instead exploded against a blue sphere that shimmered into existence, surrounding the device. A blue bar popped up, showing 98% of the shield remained. It was a shield generator, like the one Daisy had bought and hopefully repaired.

Why wasn’t it activated to protect the vehicle?

I don’t know. Focus on the next target.

Another vehicle was highlighted as the convoy of vehicles streaked past the smoking jeep, a troop carrier. This time, when Alan shot at the vehicle, the plasma was stopped by a shield, which appeared to be at 94% capacity after it stopped the shot. Before long the vehicles would be beyond the portion of the road Alan could see, as they had quickly sped up after Alan had fired his initial shots.

Fire at the designated location in rapid succession.

A small portion of the road was highlighted, and Alan repeatedly fired at it. The bolts slammed repeatedly into the same spot on the road, creating a sizeable hole. The troop transport, which was going almost 80 mph tried to swerve to the left, but it’s right tire hit the newly formed hole and the entire truck flipped onto its side with a resounding crash, creating an effective road block. Its shield began rapidly draining, about 0.5% a second. The vehicles past the troop transport, roughly half the convoy, continued on, towards the bunker, while the ones behind started turning around, back towards the city.

They will likely simply reach the bunker along a different path. Focus on eliminating the soldiers in the transport. Wait until either their shields have depleted or they are outside the boundary of the shield generator.

Alan shifted his attention back to the crashed troop transport, watching as about 30 soldiers climbed out, clad in cameo colored light power armor, waiting as the shield’s energy slowly drained. A couple soldiers waved assault rifles and laser guns in his direction.

Huh, I can see why the United World Government was so angry, if this is the power of the sniper.

Yes, it is quite powerful, however you only have around 20 shots remaining.

Alan glanced at the energy gauge, and was reminded that each shot took 4.5 energy (instead of 5 energy, because of his energy efficiency skill). Reaper’s Scythe only had an energy pool of 150, but since it would take around three minutes for the shields to fall, and the weapon regenerated 25 energy every minute, it should be back at full by the time he needed it.

Alan continued to watch the initiate marines, as they removed wounded from the overturned vehicle. Eve highlighted the four medics in the group, and a marine that stood apart from the others, speaking with someone, and labeled them as probably an officer of some sort. Most of the initiates looked to be in their late teens, early twenties, around Alan’s age, although it was hard to see the faces of many as they kept sleek helmets on. A few even seemed to be a state of panic, strangely.

They are initiates.

Right, these were new initiates, all the actual marines probably had entered the Game ages ago, these were simply the kids that the United World Government had recruited most recently. They were probably undergoing the Tutorial, like he was, or had recently completed it.

Alan grinned, feeling a lot more confident than he had previously. This was actually rather fun, at least compared to the other life or death-

DOWN. NOW.

Alan dived to the ground, prone next to the adjacent wall as a laser beam struck above him, where his head had been a second earlier. Another beam quickly followed, striking the air above him.

Activate invisibility, aim , deactivate the invisibility right as you fire rapidly at the enemy sniper. Dive down again afterwards. Eve commanded.

Alan immediately did so, activating his invisibility first, zooming out with the sniper scope. Eve highlighted a building on top of a hill in the city, and Alan quickly focused in on it. As he zoomed in, Eve highlighted a figure, another sniper, and Alan aimed, deactivated the invisibility field then fired off two shots in rapid succession, diving back to the floor immediately afterwards.

A message popped up:

[Warning! Do not fire upon players not involved in the Survival Test: Round 2, or the United World Government will be allowed to send additional reinforcements.]

“What!? But they fired at me first!” Alan exclaimed.

Another message popped up:

[The United World Government has been warned for allowing players not in the Tutorial to interfere with a test. Should you be killed or harmed by such an unaffiliated player, you will be immediately revived to full health and energy. Your energy has now been restored. Good luck.]

Alan glanced at his health bar, and sure enough his armor and rifle both now had full energy. He quickly turned his attention back to the crashed troop transport, but saw that the marines were still gathered around the crashed vehicle.

Um, ok, that was strange.

Yes. We must have triggered some sort of special event through our actions, one which the United World Government had not encountered before, or perhaps a sniper in the city saw us firing upon allied forces and assumed we were fair game. We must remember not to interfere with players undergoing the Tutorial. As we now once more have full armor energy we should activate our invisibility at every chance we get.

At that moment the marines around the troop transport began to spread out. It looked like they were about to make a break for the tree line, the only nearby cover, just a few hundred feet away from the road.

Remember, do not fire too rapidly, as you may overheat the gun.

Alan nodded, aiming at the officer Eve had noted earlier.

The officer shouted out a command, and the soldiers all dashed for the cover, but it was apparent to Alan that a number were still unused to running in power armor. He’d for some reason adapted to the Revenant Power Armor rather quickly, probably Eve’s doing.

Alan quickly took out the officer, then the medics, then the lead runners. It was simple, really, aim, wait for when the crosshair was red, fire, and he’d get a kill every time. The plasma sniper rifle didn’t even have any noticeable recoil. By the time the soldiers reached the tree cover, half of them had been eliminated. If these players were this easy to defeat, it was no wonder the Game had made it a 200 vs 9 fight.

After taking out a few additional stragglers that thought they were safe once they were in the trees but close to the road (plasma easily shot through tress, and Eve effectively tracked enemy movements), Alan shifted his attention to the hill the bunker was on. It looked like the marines had surrounded it, bombarding it with fire from their vehicles. The bunker’s shield had about 50% remaining, but it was lowering steadily. Occasionally the enemy soldiers would fire at the entrance of the bunker. The rest of the group was effectively trapped inside. Alan had certainly not been expecting armored vehicles, and doubted that the others had either.

Alan began tracking targets, not firing as he didn’t want the soldiers to dive for cover before he knew their location on the side of the hill he could see. Once Eve confirmed she had the locations of the enemy, she calculated a firing pattern that would hopefully allow Alan to get the most shots off, taking out key targets first. Alan practiced switching from highlighted target to highlighted target. These soldiers wouldn’t know what hit them. It was rather sloppy of them to forget about the sniper.

Alan managed to take out about 15 enemies in the matter of a minute, when Eve said:

Incoming hostiles. Activate invisibility and escape. Locate another vantage point.

A few red dots appeared on Alan minimap. Alan initially wanted to try firing at them, killing them before they reached him, but, remembering what had happened the last time he’d ignored Eve’s advice, quickly activated his armor’s invisibility. He climbed out of the bell tower onto the church’s red tiled roof, then leapt down onto the ground, running in the direction of the troop transport he’d taken out. Might as well see what loot dropped, if any, maybe try to take out the stragglers that had made it into the nearby forested area.

All along the road were bodies of soldiers Alan had killed, and sure enough there were small tooltips that stated the name of the player, and “Killed by Adampwnage”. Although, according to Eve, that last part was only visible to him. The only loot most soldiers dropped were a small number of credits, from around 10 to 50.

A soldier in the leading jeep had dropped a data chip, which Eve was happy about. They’d need a computer of some sort to access the data though. Alan glanced at the number of enemies remaining, 137. At this rate he’d take out almost all of the enemies by himself. Unfortunately, he’d only gained a single level, but that was to be expected of such weak enemies. Although, now that he thought about it, the first round of the survival test would have been almost trivial with the gear he had now.

The Game grants bonus experience based upon difficulty, rather than just level. Thus you will be awarded more experience for slaying your enemies with a basic knife, compared to a highly advanced sniper rifle.

Oh… good to know. Should we try to hunt down the marines that fled using the laser knife, not activating it?

Negative. Proceed down the main road, invisible.

Um, alright.

Alan began running along the road, towards the bunker, which was just around a mile away. Just a mile. A day or two ago that would have seemed like a somewhat arduous distance to run, but Alan already felt much stronger.

Your body and mind are adjusting to the Game, Eve let him know.

When Alan was a couple hundred feet away from the military force, the length of about two football fields, he halted, then messaged Thiago. It looked like the bunker’s shields were at 10%.

Alan: Hey Thiago, I’m about 700 feet behind the enemy lines. What’s the plan?

Thiago: You’re still alive? Well, good job, you did much more damage than we were expecting. Unfortunately, the armored vehicles were something we didn’t anticipate… We’re planning on an all out assault soon.

Alan: Actually, my plasma sniper rifle is capable of shooting through the armor, destroying the vehicles, but unfortunately, as far as I can see, the vehicles all have additional shields, preventing me from doing so.

Thiago: Hmm… alright. Focus on taking out the vehicles. The MadMerlin says it will be clear when you can begin firing.

Alan quickly ran to a nearby vantage point, with a clear line of sight around the bunker. There was even an enemy sniper initiate there, along with a spotter, both of whom Alan silently eliminated with his laser knife. As he glanced about the bunker, Eve highlighted two other sniper pairs she noticed, set up so they also had a clear shot of the bunker entrance. Alan kept invisible, watching as the various vehicles fired upon the bunker’s shields.

When the shields had fallen to 4%, the bunker doors suddenly burst open, and KingArthur emerged, carrying the shield generator, with the MadMerlin right behind him. His plate armor now glowed brightly with a soft, white light. All of the soldiers opened fire and Eve highlighted two additional snipers she hadn’t noticed earlier. The rest of the group were apparently still in the bunker. KingArthur and the MadMerlin ran forward as Alan begin taking out the enemy snipers. After taking out three of the four snipers, he couldn’t locate the fourth. Eve had lost track of them, or they had activated their own stealth skill. Alan shifted his attention back to the MadMerlin after going invisible and moving to a slightly different vantage point.

KingArthur had set the shield generator down in the middle of all the road, and the shields were falling even faster, a mere 1.5% left now. The MadMerlin was cackling maniacally, a blue ball of electricity or plasma or some sort of energy forming in his hands. The marines definitely thought something was up, as they began backing away from the strange pair slowly, continuing to fire at the shield generator. The shield decreased steadily, then, the moment that the shields collapsed, having run out of energy, the MadMerlin thrust the ball of energy into the shield generator, yelling, “Let there be light!”

The shield generator exploded spectacularly. KingArthur, the MadMerlin and the closest enemy soldiers were vaporized, while a bright blue pulse emanated out from the blast. Alan watched as the shields surrounding the armored vehicles all vanished as the pulse hit them. Even as far away as he was, the pulse still reached him, and halved the remaining energy of his armor and weapons. Still, that left with him around 15 shots, which he was able to use to successfully to destroy the remaining vehicles. There were 79 enemy soldiers left.

Kitana and Ace emerged from the bunker, whose top portion had been completely destroyed, and went about slaughtering the remaining soldiers, as their futuristic weapons no longer had any energy. DaLong, Thiago and Aphrodite followed shortly after, carrying automatic guns. Alan noted that Ace seemed to fight unarmed, somehow throwing punches capable of shattering power armor, while Kitana’s sword cut through the armor as easily as Alan’s laser knife did. Of course, the armor no longer had energy left.

What was that? An EMP?

Negative, simply an ability of some sort that combined a psionic skill and the energy of the detonating shield generator somehow. An EMP wouldn’t be visible. Unfortunately, it appears the MadMerlin didn’t survive the blast to explain how it worked.

As his sniper rifle regained energy he continued to fire upon the fleeing soldiers, who were in turn beginning to try to fight back as their weapons also regained energy. Kitana moved fluidly, weaving back and forth, dodging shots, deflecting them with her glowing sword. Ace simply accepted the laser fire, somehow only taking 1-2% of his health as damage for each shot that hit him. DaLong, Thiago and Aphrodite were occasionally hit, losing 30-40% of their HP, but in an instant Daisy would be there, healing them with an application of some device Alan couldn’t quite see. She sporadically healed Ace as well. Within a few minutes, they had eliminated the final soldier.

[Congratulations for surviving the second round of the Survival Test!

x25 Bonus for defeating the most enemies, taking out the commanding officer, disabling the most vehicles, never missing a shot and taking no damage, all single handedly!

+62500 xp +25000 credits]

[x12 Level up!]

Then, the message was quickly followed by another message.

[The Survival Test: Round 3

Now that seemed too easy. Maybe something a bit more challenging. A Haxlard war party showed up to help their allies, the United World Government, but the fighting was done by the time they showed up. They’re eager for a fight.]

A moment later:

[Final Wave: Haxlardian Warriors, Lvl 250-500

Enemies remaining: 12

Time until arrival: 1:00:00]

Alan groaned inwardly. How were they expected to defeat such an enemy?

2 comments on “The Tutorial 1.9

  1. IDontGetWhyTheMcIsSoDumb says:

    “I don’t get how someone so f***ing smart that they created a functioning AI can make so many stupid decisions”

    I really dont understand why you gave the MC a teenage-like brain dead mind.
    Half of the conversations he had up leading to this point with the AI seem really weird to the point where.. i dunno.. almost as if he doesn’t understand what an AI is when HE created it.

    I’ll keep reading because i feel like there’s going to be a reason why he’s like this or at least i hope there is. Also i feel like this story has a lot of potential.

    Like

  2. IDontGetWhyTheMcIsSoDumb says:

    Also just a follow up i’m enjoying the story so far i just dont understand the MC at times.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s