The Guild 2.1

“Yes, I know. I love you too, bye,” Alan said, ending the video conference with his parents. He’d contacted them right after he’d gotten out of the Game, back into the real world. As he answered his parent’s questions, or at least the ones he was allowed to answer, he’d checked his email. He had one from Icewolf to message him in-game, but other than that nothing else too important.

Despite the Chief Administrator’s warning, everything seemed… ordinary. Alan had emerged feeling slightly stronger, maybe healthier, but that was it. No Eve in his head. If anything, the main disorienting feature was the lack of his enhancements. His thoughts felt sluggish, his memory foggy, his body frail. If anything, reality somehow felt a bit less real.

Feeling a bit hungry, Alan looked about the room. Three of the capsules were currently in use, Kitana’s, the one next to hers, which he assumed to be her mentor’s and Icewolf’s. The 5th and last capsule was empty. Alan wondered who’s it was. The kitchen appeared to be fully stocked, but since Alan hadn’t ever bothered to learn to cook, he decided to go down stairs to the company kitchen which had a hired chef. Despite the fact that this was the room where he had stayed in for the past few weeks, it still felt foreign. The rich decor, the paintings and the penthouse view made Alan feel a bit uncomfortable.

Alan checked the sign in the elevator, the kitchen was on the fifteenth floor. Swiping his ID card he’d gotten from Omnitech, he proceeded downstairs. The kitchen was a fairly simple place, with a granite counter-top and a wooden dining table that could seat 12 people. A few people were there, eating at the table, wearing the standard light grey Omnitech jumpsuits. One person was standing behind the counter, a young man in a white chef’s coat. Alan assumed they were the chef. He asked for a burger with fries. The chef muttered something about everyone never asking him to make actual food.

While waiting for the food, Alan looked to see if any major news had happened while he was gone. Apparently a lot had, with Russia, China and a number of non-NATO countries withdrawing from the United World Government over a dispute about where the tax money going to, with a claim that an emphasis was being put on U.S. projects. There were even rumors that they were now funding the Legion of Man, or preparing to set up their own force in-game. Alan wondered about the foolishness of mankind. In about another year and a half aliens could potentially start a war and try to take over Earth, and here people were wasting tons of resources fighting each other. Well, unfortunately he couldn’t do too much about it now. He’d try to keep better track of how things evolved on the news though.

Alan got his food then began to eat quickly, he wanted to spend a fair amount of time trying to find information on the guild the Chief Administrator suggested, the Black Rose guild. Hopefully there was also a helpful guide or two with information that was interesting-

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. Alan turned to look around, and saw a non-descript man in an Omnitech jumpsuit.

“Uh, yes?”

“Are you AdamPwnage?”

“Yes, that’s my username.” Alan said nervously.

“Alright, I have a message from the Legion of Man. Just letting you know, I’m a messenger, and bear you no ill will.” The man looked about nervously. Alan gestured for him to continue.

“Their message is as follows: Stop messing with Earth politics. Or else.”

“Or else? Or else what?”

The man shrugged. “I don’t know, that was the entirety of the message. Although, they’d probably just put you on a bounty list or something. You must have done something pretty serious though to have warranted such a threat. Anyways, I should get back to the Game.”

He turned around and left.

Feeling rather unsettled, Alan finished his meal, then went back up to the penthouse. How had the Legion of Man tracked him down in real life? And how did they tie him to any of his actions? What did they actually know? The Enforcers made sure no actual violence happened in the real world… right?

He quickly changed clothes even though they seemed to be perfectly clean. He’d still been in them for a little less than a week in real life time. Then, he climbed back into his capsule, and closed his eyes.

Opening his eyes, Alan found himself back in his Home. The change was astounding, his thoughts became more coherent, faster, and the comfortable sense of Eve’s background calculations settled in his head. Alan could now tell that she was constantly scanning for signs of danger, potential harm or potential gain, calculating risks and results associated with particular actions, for minute details of information. It was astounding, really. Yet, at the same time, it became increasingly clear she was a lot less… human. All of her choices, her actions, were just a series of probabilistic calculations, going so deep it was impossible for Alan to follow. Alan looked up at the Administrator in his Home. Her tag read “Senior Executive B31400AD32.”

Alan briefly considered spending his 500 ability points he got from the Tutorial, but then decided against it. He should find out more first, figure out what he was going to do before he began improving his character. Alan quickly checked out how much it would cost to teleport within the Game… and his jaw dropped at the prices. Teleportation to the nearest major city, which was now Khersath, would cost over a hundred thousand credits. Other cities were shown as options as well, but it would cost millions of credits to teleport to them. You’d have to either be really rich or need to get somewhere in a real hurry to use this teleport system.

Shaking his head, Alan had the Game send him back to his respawn point, the capsule room on board the Titan. He quickly made it back to his room and began to gather information on the globalnet, helping Eve to make her own searches into class abilities, damage and item choices while he tried to plan out what he’d do next. It seemed like AI’s weren’t allowed to directly interface with the globalnet. Instead, Alan had to scroll through screens and click on things for her. He was able to set up a few macros fairly quickly though that basically just trawled through the entirety of the site.

The globalnet turned out to be a rather interesting place, as your in-game account was tied to your online account. Thus, if you wanted to post or view anything online it could be tied back to you. Tied to your account was a rating, using the standard in-game rating system, which would rise or fall depending on your actions online. Alan’s current globalnet-rating was D. Apparently knowing a Chief Administrator was a big plus. With a quick search Alan found out what a Chief Administrator actually was. Apparently there were only 200 of them max at any given time, and they were essentially the highest echelon of the Administrators, voting for major choices such as revising in-game rules. The degree which they could actually change things was actually limited though. Alan had to forcibly stop himself from reading more, since while Administrator politics were no doubt interesting, he didn’t have the time currently. There was just so much free information open to him.

As he delved deeper, pay walls began to appear. The main site used for information was called the Hub. You could either pay credits to access more than the basic information or sell information for additional access, credits or rating points. Various portions of the Hub were only accessible if you met various requirements, like a minimum globalnet-rating, a credit amount or some other condition. Alan quickly found the human-only section, and found the top beginner’s guide. It was a free guide written and updated by the United World Government. For good measure, he read the top beginner’s guide on the entire site as well. (The latter cost 100 credits to access.)

The majority of information was stuff Alan already knew, like advising players to get the Gifted and Talented abilities if they didn’t begin with them, and an intro about the major factions. Interestingly, it was noted however that a sizable number of players, maybe around 30% actually developed non-combative roles, such as engineers, scientists, merchants or even laborers. Apparently it was advised that newer players join a guild or faction, if they were able to get accepted, as the benefits groups provided in-game were astounding. They often had special items, travelling arrangements, skills and training grounds. In addition, most major quests/events could only be attempted with a large group. It was highly suggested that new players save up and take out a loan or find a sponsor, usually a guild or government, to attend an academy or institute. Like the Chief Administrator had told Alan, these places were basically boot camps that increased players capabilities a great deal, streamlining the early leveling process and teaching people how to fight in-game. For someone like Alan who had no previous combat experience, this could be quite helpful.

Alan quickly began looking into the guild the Chief Administrator recommended he join, the Black Rose guild. It was apparently a member of the Mercenary Bloc, a coalition of mercenary guilds that agreed to not take out contracts that opposed each other. When incensed, the Mercenary Bloc could field a force capable of rivaling any major faction’s. That had only happened a few times in history when… Right, Alan shouldn’t get sidetracked. The guild was relatively small, with only a few thousand members, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up with talent. The Black Rose guild was apparently for elite, specialized players, a guild easily in the top 100 guilds of the Game. It was a special forces sort of guild that concentrated less on fighting all out wars and more on discrete operations like capturing specific targets or fighting in places where ability mattered more than numbers. That sounded pretty cool to Alan.

He quickly searched for the contact the Chief Administrator had given him, a player called PhantomGlitch who went by Phantom. Alan didn’t expect anything to turn up, but to his surprise he got an immediate result. Phantom was apparently an Erudian inventor, who worked as a engineer/tech specialist for the Black Rose guild. A picture of him accepting an award was shown. He looked to be a human in his early 30’s, with brown hair and a handsome face. Apparently Phantom had a few fairly major patents, mostly having to do with improved weapon scopes. There was additional information listed on the public page about him, but for some strange reason it said you needed to be female to view it. Alan proceeded to message him, with the intentions of trying to join the Black Rose guild. The guides said usually guild testing and trials could be as arduous as the tutorial. The Black Rose apparently had as low as a 1% acceptance rate, and even then they accepted applications from only the best applicants.

A: Hello Phantom, I wish to try out for the Black Rose guild. I am a highly skilled human player capable of learning new things very quickly. Chief Administrator 170 recommended I join your guild.

A few seconds passed, and Alan soon got a reply.

PG: Sup. So you’re the player that the old Chief recommended? Alright, I’ll give you a simple task I want you to complete. If you complete the task I’ll interview you to see if you can be my squire. How soon do you think you can make it to Khersath? I can arrange to get you transport or get you teleported somewhere closer if you’re really far away.

A: Um, I’m actually just 9 hours away, aboard a ship named the Titan. Also, this is the first time I’m doing something like this, anything I should prepare? What position is a squire? Can you tell me more about the guild/what would be required of me?

PG: Oh cool, you should make it in time then for the next noob launch. It should be an interesting time… and don’t ask me anything more, I won’t tell you ^.^. To answer your questions, well, following the Chief’s advice has never failed me so far, so no need to prepare anything special. If you have the class I think you do, you should be able to assist me with my research quite easily. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away to anyone else though. I’ll just tell them you’re a promising recruit, and since as the Chief Administrator told me you managed to survive all three rounds of the Survival Test in the Tutorial and even faced a Predecessor in a bonus round, you are.

Now, a bit about the guild, I suppose. The “rigid” hierarchy is as follows: Elissandra (the Guild Leader), Generals, Knight-Commanders, Knights, Lieutenants and then everyone below that you can generally just ignore or order about. That’s what I do. I’m a Knight of the guild, and the third highest ranked science officer. Of course, the ranks are somewhat flexible. For instance, in cases where we are dealing with specific technical matters in my fields of interest I am given more authority than even one of our three generals, but if anyone who’s a Lieutenant or above gives you an order, you should probably follow it. Sometimes I just ignore them too, but then I get docked guild marks…

Oh right, I’ll send you an example contract, it has the details of working for the guild. A squire is an apprentice basically. Being my squire shouldn’t be a very difficult task, allowing you to do your own thing. It would mostly involve testing experimental equipment, so you’ll get shiny new items not on the market if you get the position! The starting pay will be about 10,000 credits a month, plus whatever bonuses you get from missions or quests you finish, minus guild taxes, demerits, and whatever other debt you have. If it doesn’t seem like you’ll be a good fit as my squire, then we’ll figure out if you fit somewhere else in the guild. But, like I said, the Chief has never been wrong as long as I’ve known him. The initial contract binds you to the guild for five years. If you want to quit, you’ll be able to, but it’ll cost you around a million credits. No one’s quit in the first five years for as long as I can remember though. Sure, a few deaths, betrayals and spies, but no one straight up quit. Anyways, I got to go, but I look forward to meeting with you. Complete my task and get to the Black Rose Docking Bay on Khersath by 1100 tomorrow morning. If you know anyone else that might be a good fit for the guild, invite them too.

A: Sure. Thanks a lot for this opportunity!

*Ding*

“A Simple Task:

Pick up a package and bring it to the Black Rose Docking Bay by 1100. tomorrow morning. The package’s location will be provided on your minimap once you enter the Undercity at the designated location.

Time Remaining: 16:23:22″

“New Message: Black Rose Contract”

Alan quickly searched for information about the Undercity, and in the process learned quite a bit about Khersath. Unfortunately, the globalnet didn’t contain any pictures. No free ones, at least. Khersath was apparently an ecumenopolis, a city that made up the entire planet, with roughly twice the radius of Earth. It was home for hundreds of billions of players, trillions of robots/other beings, and consisted of over 100 levels, each level around 5-stories tall. Every level was built on top of another, and the ground was rarely if ever seen by Khersath’s inhabitants. The most prominent and prestigious buildings were all on the top floor, where there was actual sunlight. The city-planet was divided into quadrants and each of those quadrants were further divided by levels in terms of class, species and other factors. There was a military quadrant, a merchant quadrant, a living quadrant and a private quadrant. At the center was the main plaza area. A player could easily spend their entire life in the Game simply playing on and in Khersath, as while the majority of the planet was a safe-zone, there were multiple combat and hostile zones as well.

The Undercity was the lowest portion of Khersath, and as the name suggested was home to the more dangerous and seedy elements of the city-planet. It was one of the few inhabited combat-zones, where combat between players was allowed. Hostile-zones were, like they sounded, zones generally uninhabited by players, but full of hostile enemies to battle and potential items or materials. There was little free information about the Undercity on the globalnet, not even any indication of how to enter it. Luckily, the quest provided Alan with a few supposed entrance locations, but as his map of the planet was mostly blank, the only location that was useful was one near the center of Khersath where the four quadrants met, by the main plaza. The main Administrative Center was in the main plaza as well, which was someplace he wanted to visit. He’d have to figure out how he’d get there though…

Well, there were other things for Alan to do. He quickly sent a message to Icewolf after Eve reminded him, then after a bit of consideration, sent another message to Kitana informing her of the Black Rose guild tryouts. He and Eve then looked over the sample contract. Unlike beforehand where he would need to trust that Eve knew what was best, he was now able to get a sense of her reasoning, which was interesting. Eve had a clear way of weighing things, disadvantages and advantages, likely chances of worst or best case scenarios, a never ending dividing future that continued to propagate until-

Alan froze, his head suddenly starting to hurt. Whatever the case was, Eve was much less human than he had thought. She was definitely a machine. A very intelligent one, but one that only valued what Alan told it to value. At least, that was the impression Alan got. For all he knew Eve 2.0 might be hiding things, plotting behind his back…. but that way lay madness. He’d trust Eve, and hopefully she’d continue to act in a way that benefited them.

I will.

Alan grinned, then quickly looked at he got a message from Kitana.

K: I’ll consider going to the guild trial, but first I wish to ask my mentor if this will help my swordsmanship. Also, Thiago wishes to speak with you before we reach Khersath.

A: Okay. I’ll message him.

There were now a little over eight hours until they reached Khersath, but Alan wanted to be well rested before they arrived. Thiago let Alan know he wanted to speak privately, letting him know the location of his quarters aboard the Titan. Alan stepped out of his room and went to Thiago’s room.

It turned out Thiago’s room was much nicer than Alan’s, which was basically just a closet with a bed and a desk. Thiago’s was a complete suite, along with an accompanying dining room. Alan didn’t want to know how much this extravagance cost. Thiago was sitting in the dining room, talking with Aphrodite, a series of windows showing diagrams and text open in front of him. Thiago waved them closed as Alan entered.

“Ah, Alan! Nice job defeating the third round in the Survival Test, I don’t know if you know but that got everyone in the group a nice bonus. A pity you weren’t able to defeat the Predecessor though…”

“I’m not sure even the entirety of the United World Government could have defeated the Predecessor,” Alan responded a bit testily. Talking in the Game was a bit different, Alan had thought he’d fully adjusted to his improved perception, but it now sounded as though Thiago was speaking in a slow drawl, irritatingly slowly.

“I’m sure,” Thiago said, grinning slightly. “Now, on to business. Are you sure you don’t want to join the guild? We’d be able to fund your admission to one of the better academies, maybe even a C-rank one.”

Black Rose members generally graduate from A-rank academies at the very least, Eve let Alan know.

“I’m fine, thanks, I actually am planning on going to a guild trial tomorrow,” Alan said. trying to end the conversation quickly, yet still wanting to stay on Thiago’s good side. He was having trouble concentrating on Thiago’s words, and decided to look through information that Eve had while waiting for Thiago to finish speaking. He’d had Eve prepare additional lessons, things beyond the initial basics that had been taught. It couldn’t hurt to learn more, especially if it was information everyone else in the Game had grown up learning.

“Oh really? Good for you, I’m surprised you’ve managed to catch one’s attention so quickly. Generally people need to complete a few quests in a major city first, get a few achievements, participate in a few tournaments…

Anyways, I’d like to thank you for your assistance in the Tutorial, but as we’re now parting ways I’d appreciate it if you kept any information you may have discovered a secret. Anything, even something as small as our names. We’re still working on the details of our guild. We’ll do the same for you, of course, keeping your identity and abilities a secret. Just as a heads up, I hear quite a few reporters and players are already trying to find out why the Predecessor came to Earth then left shortly after. Apparently it’s a rather rare event.

Now, I think it would be in our best interests if we formed a contract, an in-game deal to assure this, just in case. Not that I don’t trust you or you don’t trust us, but, well, better safe than sorry, after all. How does that sound? Alan, are you listening?”

Alan blinked, then quickly had Eve replay Thiago’s speech at a faster pace. He attempted to activate hypercognition, but failed, as there simply wasn’t the need for the ability. He probably looked like an idiot though, as he stared blankly at Thiago for a few seconds. He glanced at Aphrodite nervously, hopefully he wasn’t making a fool of himself in front of her. She just smiled at him.

“Um, yes, of course, sorry, just getting used to a few quirks of my new class.”

“Alright, these classes and the Game can take some getting used to,” Thiago glanced at Aphrodite, who continued to simply sit in her chair, smiling at Alan. “I’m sorry if I caused any offence, it just looked like you were just staring at the wall.”

“Right. Anyways, the contract?”

“Ah, yes, here we are.”

Thiago opened a screen, pressed a button, then a message appeared in front of Alan.

“For a minimum period of one year in-game the following players agree to not discuss, sell or divulge any information gained about a separate player during and before the in-game Tutorial without said player’s explicit consent. Everyone’s future plans and affiliations will not be mentioned to anyone not in this group, unless the specific member wishes to make this information known. Should anyone break this contract, they will immediately owe the group as a whole 1,000,000 credits.

Players: Ace, AdamPwnage, Aphrodite, Daisy, DaLong, KingArthur Kitana, MadMerlin, Thiago

Note: This contract is renewable on a one-year basis if all parties agree. Once you agree to this contract, you are unable to exit it unless all other players let you.”

Everyone else’s name appeared green, while Alan’s remained black. He assumed this was because they had all already agreed to this contract. He was about to agree when Eve said:

Wait. Something feels off.

Alan waited, he could sense that Eve was running various calculations.

Close your eyes, try to think of nothing.

Alan did so, although it was rather hard to think of nothing, as once you tried thinking about nothing, you were of course thinking about something, which wasn’t nothing.

“Is there a problem? As you can probably see everyone else has agreed to this contract,” Thiago said. Aphrodite was still sitting in a chair, smiling at Alan. In fact, she had the exact same expression on her face as before-

I believe Aphrodite is trying to coerce you to agree to this contract using some sort of telepathic, psionic ability.

“Wait, are you using some sort of power on me?” Alan said.

“What!? Of course not, I would never-” Thiago exclaimed.

“Not you, her.” Alan jabbed his finger at Aphrodite. The moment his finger was a few inches away from her face she yelped and quickly stood up, backing away from her chair.

“Now wait, we can explain, you’re clearly irrational or something. You’ve been talking really quickly this entire time. I’m not sure what sort of tests you went through during the rest of the Tutorial, but we all can agree that they were rather harrowing. Calm down.”

Alan found that he was standing up, and to point right at Aphrodite had taken a step forward. He didn’t remember doing that consciously. Lowering his hand, he quickly ran through some information Eve provided, trying to think his way around the situation, analyzing the different possible courses of action. He could take this to the Administrators, as actively using a psionic ability to influence a contract was breaking a number of rules, or…

“Look, I understand why you may want me to agree to this contract, but it seems that you are a lot more invested in keeping all this quiet than I do. You want your sordid pasts and family affiliations hidden, right? You also might not want it known that you have a working relationship with the United World Government. So, sure, I’ll agree to this, for a few thousand additional credits.”

Thiago narrowed his eyes, then nodded.

“Very well, you will additionally receive 10,000 credits for agreeing to the contract. You should be grateful for this, you’re the one who infringed upon our group.”

“Hey, you’re the ones that just now used a psionic ability on me when trying to get me to agree to a contract. You know that’s a punishable offence by the Administrators right? Minimum sentence… 50,000 credit fine and 500 penalty points, whatever those are. I-” Alan was about to demand more money, but Eve stopped him. Quickly he saw that he was heightening the probability of a direct confrontation with Thiago. One which he might win, but would leave him with an enemy he’d probably rather not have. “I- I’m grateful for you allowing me to join your group for the Tutorial, but this whole mind-influencing business has me on edge. The Game is a lot different than what I initially expected.”

“Right, yes, I’m sure. I’m sorry for the methods, I assure you it’s no form of mind control, but well, you understand that I’m trying to look out for my friends and future guild. Here, actually, take these. I trust that you’ll remain quiet about all this and we’ll remain… contacts, at the very least.” Thiago went over to a drawer, and took out a bag of diamond marks, tossing them to Alan.

Alan glanced inside, there were ten diamond marks, small diamond cubes the size of a large die. Each mark was technically worth 10,000 credits or 10 ability points, thus ten times a gold mark or 1/10th of a platinum mark. In actuality, their market values was about twice that. Marks, it turned out, did not drop upon death unlike a number of other items and credits. Thus, it was safer it turned out to exchange your credits for marks rather than keeping a large number of credits on-hand. It also turned out that there were no real “banks”, that is to say you were unable to store credits in a bank such that if you died you wouldn’t lose some percentage of your credits. Some players simply never exited safe zones to bypass this, but it was generally considered wiser to invest your credits in marks if you were heading somewhere dangerous. Marks could be stolen, but they could also be stored in safety deposit boxes and the like. There was also the ability to convert them into ability points or items if you took them to an Administrative Center. Finally, and this was the part that Alan thought had influenced Thiago, exchanges of marks were not tracked by the game, while any exchange of credits were. Your credit history was recorded, if you will. That was one of the reasons Alan wanted to go to an Administrative Center, there were a number of things he wanted to make private, including his level and credit history. The default, for some reason, was public.

Alan agreed to the contract, and the window closed. He noted that he also got the additional 10,000 credits. After his credit amount had been multiplied by five at the real end of the Tutorial when he’d completed the basics quest, but also after spending a number of credits on the globalnet for information at Eve’s behest, Alan was left with 103700 credits, 1 platinum mark, 10 diamond marks and 10 gold marks. Miraculously, he was already halfway to his goal of paying back Icewolf the million credits he owed.

“Alright, thanks. Good luck with the guild.” Alan started to exit the room, then glanced back at Aphrodite, who Thiago was staring daggers at. “By the way, in case you were going to try something like this again, I didn’t notice anything until Eve said something. Even then, I’m still not quite sure how you were effecting me or even if you’ve stopped doing whatever it was you were doing. Players from other races will probably pick up on it right away too, but I’m not sure about most other humans. See ya.”

“Bye,” Aphrodite murmured, looking almost.. frighteningly at Thiago, who muttered a goodbye as well. Whatever, it wasn’t Alan’s business.

It isn’t. I believe she’s acting for your benefit as well.

Oh. What was it that you detected, anyway?

Certain emotions and parts of your brain were somehow… heightened. I’m not even sure this was the intended result of her ability, nor what ability it was. There are various enchantress or mentalist classes recorded, but as most of their abilities are generally considered illegal, they are seldom revealed.

Huh, interesting. I guess that’s another thing you should teach me about, the common and uncommon classes…

Yes, that is in the 17th lesson of 34,281 currently planned lessons.

Alan groaned inwardly as he headed back to his room. Maybe asking Eve to teach him information that would helpful was a bad idea… no, it was better if he knew this stuff himself, and not just Eve. Still, as the number of lessons showed, there simply wasn’t enough time. There were so many things Alan could be researching, or learning about, new abilities that he could be practicing. He’d barely explored the Titan too, although he was only technically allowed in certain rooms. But Eve thought his time was best spent continuing to study the Game and its inhabitants, so he went to do that. Then, he’d get in a few hours of sleep before they landed on Khersath.

By the way, did you notice I was talking fast?

Compared to the speed at which Thiago was speaking, yes, you were speaking abnormally fast.

So, what, should I try to speak slowly consciously, do you think that would work?

I’m uncertain… due to the amount of speaking and importance of speech however, I am now prioritizing this as the number one lesson.

Alright, hopefully it won’t take too long…

A few hours later, Alan got a reply from Icewolf. He’d tried to talk in a slower way, but after hearing himself speak through Eve’s recorded playbacks, he found he still sounded funny. In the end, Alan had ended up deciding that when he was talking, Eve would deactivate the time-perception enhancing parts of his augments, but then immediately reactivate them once he was done speaking, or if there was some sort of danger. Alan read Icewolf’s reply… then read it a second time.

I: Congratulations on the completion of the Tutorial, I have to say I’m impressed. However… you may have done some things you shouldn’t have. Can’t speak now, messaging communication isn’t very secure, if no one’s told you that yet. If you want answers get to Mars, and go to a nightclub called Red Dust. Ask for me. I don’t think you should need to do this anytime soon though. Just visit before the year’s end, in-game time.

If you can get into the guild you mentioned, great! If you can’t, that’s fine. However, it’s probably a good idea to join one sooner rather than later. Strength in numbers, and all that. I know you’re a more solo-oriented player, but trust me when I say you want to be part of a guild. There are kidnappers and all sorts of unsavory things out in space. Captured guild members are usually ransomed back to their guild. Others… aren’t so lucky.

For now, concentrate on getting stronger. I’ve extended your debt to me indefinitely, so you won’t even need to pay interest or even have a percentage of your rewards go to me. Try to get into a B-class combat-oriented Academy at the very least. Things are picking up at a much faster pace than I, or anyone else expected. The Earth might not be as secure as we might have hoped. Like I said however, I can’t elaborate. Just concentrate on getting stronger, for now. Oh, and by the way, GL HF, let the games begin!

Don’t reply to this message or send any further messages. I’m not sure if such things can be used to track your location, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they could.

A new quest message appeared, shortly followed by another message.

“Find Icewolf!:

Visit the Red Dust nightclub on Mars to get a clue about Icewolf’s location. He may even be there when you visit.

Reward: Additional information, ???

Time Limit: Around 3 Months”

“New Update:

Icewolf is your Rogue class mentor. Find him if you wish to delve deeper into the mysteries of the class.”

Alan blinked after reading the second message.

Huh, I guess that makes sense, the whole, “closer than you think” clue and all. He’s literally right next to me.

Yes, I put together the pieces after examining his message and decrypting the secret message.

Wait, secret message?

Yes, it was encoded in his message and is as follows: danger. dont leave omnitech building irl. get stronger.

Wait, what?

I assume it means to not leave the Omnitech building in real life, and that you are possible in danger, however there is a 0.0004% chance that it also means-

No, I know that just… why, from what? What things did I do that I shouldn’t have?

I am… unsure. I advise you simply follow his advice, and strive to become stronger.

Alright.

Alan proceeded to fall into a fitful sleep, both nervous about new developments but also excited to finally set foot on Khersath, the city-planet capital of the humanoid Universe. Whatever. Tomorrow was a new day.

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