The entrance to the Undercity was nowhere to be found. Alan had rushed over to the position indicated by the quest in the plaza, only to find himself standing in the middle of nowhere. He was standing at the exact location the quest designated, but there was no clear entrance or anything. Alan had inspected the ground and all the peddlers and players around him, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. No clear, obvious sign that said, “Entrance to deadly Undercity, right here!” Maybe there was a level requirement that he didn’t meet and thus couldn’t see the entrance….
Negative. The entrance is likely on a level below.
Oh, right, of course. Khersath was a city-planet, and this was simply the top floor. There were hundreds of floors below him, with only the upper 100 or so actually being occupied safe zones. The Undercity was below these safe upper levels.
Alright, so how do I get to the lower levels?
Querying… All the space directly beneath the plaza is controlled by the Administrators. The Administrative Center that you see is in fact but the tip of an even more gigantic structure. Most of the space is likely used as storage space for the Vault, however there are likely many secretive rooms and entrances to the lower levels of Khersath, like the one indicated by the quest.
Oh, so back to the Administrative Center?
Sighing, Alan ran back to the Administrative Center. This time however he bypassed the line by going through a VIP entrance, which the Administrators had told him we was allowed to use. Alan was beginning to get a bit nervous. He’d had Eve check how far away the Black Rose Docking Bay was from the center plaza. Luckily, it was only at the outer edge of the plaza, in the private sector. Unfortunately, that still meant it was around an hour’s run away. Alan only had around three and a half hours left, and was really beginning to worry he’d run out of time. Quickly approaching the first Administrator he saw, Alan initiated a mental contact.
Hey, quick question, um, can I use your entrance to the Undercity?
Greetings Traveler, please remove your helmet for a proper ID. It should remain off while within the Administrative Center. May I ask why you wish to enter the Undercity?
Um… Alan paused for a second, taking off his helmet. He wasn’t sure how much he was supposed to reveal about the task he was to complete. Well, I need to complete a task for a major guild as part of a trial to get in.
Hmm… Unfortunately, Traveler, you do not meet the requirements to enter the Undercity through our gateway at this time, and I cannot make an allowance without someone authorizing your entrance. You have the necessary reputation and gear, but lack the minimum safety requirement of level 200. I apologize for the inconvenience.
No, wait… Alan frantically racked his brain for reasons he should be let in, yet, in the nervous state he was in, couldn’t think of any off the top of his head.
Alan took a deep breath, telling himself to calm down, hoping he didn’t look like an idiot simply staring at the Administrator, breathing heavily due to the run over.
Alright, can you please wait a moment to contact the person who gave me this task?
Alan quickly sent a message to Phantom:
A: Hello, Phantom? Are you there?
P: Huh, what? Why are you contacting me so early in the morning? I just fell asleep.
Alan glanced at the clock, it was 7:34 a.m.
A: Um, sorry for the disturbance, I just had a few questions about the task you gave me. I’m having trouble entering the Undercity, and was wondering if you had the authority to grant me access to the Administrator entrance.
P: Grant authority? You mean you just went up and asked the Administrators to enter, and they just said they needed what exactly?
Um, what exactly sort of authority does the person authorizing my entrance need?
Any officer in any organization rank D or above or a party member that meets the minimum safety requirements should suffice.
Alan almost face palmed, he should of asked this question earlier. He could of just hired a bodyguard, without annoying [size=small]Phantom[/size]. Of course, the bodyguard might have betrayed him… or maybe [size=small]Phantom[/size] was planning a trap… No, he wouldn’t risk getting on the Chief Administrator’s bad side, right?
A: Um, apparently any officer of an organization rank D or above has to grant me the authority.
P: Well, I think I’m an officer and the Black Rose Guild is an A rank guild, so I guess you’re in luck, kiddo. Give me the Administrator’s contact info.
Alan quickly did so.
Alright, Traveler, you are granted permission to enter the Undercity. Please wait here for a guide that will take you to the entrance.
Okay, thanks for your help!
Alan cut off the connection.
A: Thanks a lot for the help, they said they’d let me through! Um, just a quick question though, how far away is the place that holds the package? I’m a bit worried about time.
P: Really? It was that easy? Huh. The destination isn’t too far, just maybe a twenty minute run from the Administrator’s entrance. Your quest should update itself.
A: Oh, how did you expect me to get into the Undercity? Um, also, I don’t suppose you could give me any sort of emblem that would grant me some sort of authority as a courier of the Black Rose guild? How am I supposed to let them know you sent me, otherwise?
P: Ah, well, I hear most people just sneak into the entrance. I wasn’t even aware the Administrators knew it existed… Also, sorry, as you aren’t yet a member yet I can’t give you any sort of emblem or anything of the sort. Now, this package pickup is sort of under the table so don’t tell them who sent you, okay? No mentioning the Black Rose guild, or me. Just tell them the boss sent you to pick up the designated package, the quest will give you the info about which package. These shady deals happen all the time in the Undercity. Now, I’m getting back to sleep, as I was up late doing guild stuff. Very important guild stuff. Only message me again if the planet’s about to explode or something like that, okay?
A: Um alright.
Phantom ended the conversation.
A few moments later, a humanoid figure wearing a grey, flowing robe walked up to Alan. Like so many other people, they had a hood on, hiding their face. A gruff, digitized male voice said from beneath the hood, “Are you Alan?”
“Alright, follow me.” Alan didn’t even bother to ask how his guide knew that he had nodded.
The figure quickly turned around, surprisingly agile despite Alan’s assumption it was an older man or construct leading him. Alan rapidly followed the guide down a back hallway, then through a series of red walls of light, which Alan assumed to be scanners of some sort. Each time they turned a corner or entered a hallway, the lights would turn on above them. When they left, they would turn off, plunging the area into darkness. Each and every inch of space was the exact same grey, silver metal. The walls, the ceiling, even the floor. Alan was lead down a staircase made of the same metal, then into a hidden staircase within the staircase that was opened when his guide pressed his palm into the wall. Alan saw a glimpse of a hand with only three long, clawed fingers. They walked down this staircase for a while. It simply lead almost straight down, with no end in sight. After a few minutes of walking down the stairs, an exit abruptly appeared, which they took. Alan continued following the guide for a series of additional twists and turns. How he was ever supposed to have found his own way down here, he had no idea. Maybe that was supposed to have been part of the challenge for the task.
Still, the place was definitely barren, so he probably could have gotten away with sneaking around down here. Alan hadn’t seen another living (or mechanical) soul down here. Finally, after around a half hour of walking, the guide stopped in front of a wall, which Alan assumed to actually be a doorway.
“Alright, here is the lift down to the Undercity. It should be back up any minute, but the doors will only be open for a few seconds. It’s 15 minutes down, 15 minutes up, and continuously moves between the bottom and the top. Once you get out at the bottom just continue along the tunnel until you emerge into the light.
Let an Administrator know when you are back here, and they will send someone to guide you out. Do not sneak around, as you are more likely to get yourself killed than find any secret loot or anything like that. Most of the rooms are empty death traps, just in case you were wondering. Good luck with whatever it is you’re trying to do in the Undercity.”
Abruptly, the guide turned around and left, walking the complete opposite way they had came.
There are also numerous hidden sensors spread around this area. I doubt Phantom or anyone else was able to come here without the Administrator’s knowledge. Eve let Alan know.
Alright, interesting. It isn’t like I planned on sneaking around here anyways…
Alan silently waited in front of the metal wall, hoping this wasn’t some sort of practical joke. He should probably be more trusting of people, instead of imagining all the horrible stuff that might happen. Then, suddenly the metal wall opened up, revealing a metal room. Within was a girl, around Alan’s age, who seemed just as surprised to see Alan as Alan was to see her. She was tall and very pretty, with long blonde hair and blue eyes. The girl wore a grey, leather outfit with a hood, almost straight out of an assassin’s game, nicely accentuating an impossible figure of slim but with a heavy bust. Strapped to her sides was a knife and what appeared to be a wooden stake. Looking closer, she appeared to be wounded, with blood on her shoulder-
GET IN THE LIFT, NOW.
The door in the wall had begun to close, the room beginning to descend. Alan dived forward as the girl was apparently jarred into action as well. They quickly moved out of each other’s way, eyes briefly meeting as they passed each other by, the girl leaping out of the room, Alan diving in. Alan landed in the metal room, able to get a last glance at the girl’s shapely departing figure as she threw up her hood.
Alan closed his eyes and concentrated, quickly having Eve bring up an image of the girl, telling himself it was to figure out more about her, not just to look at her. Surprisingly, only a few details had escaped his initial glance. Upon closer inspection, the stave he had seen had a number of light blue glowing runes on it, making the girl a Psionic of some sort. Additionally, the blood on her didn’t seem to stem from any obvious wound, making Alan suspect it was someone else’s. Also, her ears were distinctly pointed, making her some sort of space elf or something. Eve quickly brought up a list of about 20 humanoid species with pointed ears.
Wondering what the girl had been up to, Alan began to think about the day so far. In the end, Alan felt a bit disappointed. Khersath was simply a city. A humongous, futuristic city, yes, but like any other city it was basically a collection of buildings and people, most of which Alan would never see the insides of or even know the use of. A hive of activity and experience that simply was. Yet, everything felt chaotic, too many new variables being thrown after him one after the other. Alan shook his head, such thoughts were irrelevant now, he had a task to complete.
He quickly put his helmet back on, to try to ensure no one could ID him once he reached the Undercity. His mind soon began to wander again, and he briefly went over his future plans for developing his character with Eve once more.
Alright, so, within the different classes are various talent trees, further narrowing the direction a player might take, and usually only one talent tree’s main skill can be active at any given time.
Can you perhaps tell me more about why you chose the Jack of All Trades and Enhanced Control talent trees specifically?
Certainly. The two possess a strong synergy, as I believe both will allow you to more easily train your body, mind and skills. As far as I am aware, the largest drawback to the Machine Lord class is the prevention of use of Psionic abilities, which most combat talent trees heavily depend on. I believe the main method to counteract and balance this deficiency is through powerful, advanced equipment and adaptability with a wide variety of skills. The Jack of All Trades talent tree is actually fairly common, and thus there was a fair amount of information about it on the globalnet. If you continue down the talent tree path where you decrease the amount of time you spend to learn a new skill, there is actually an ability that will allow you to gain an additional class that aligns with a specific skill you have trained in, such as a Swordsman or Pilot. Of course, you would gain this class at a far higher level and thus be at a disadvantage when compared to players who began with the class, at least initially.
Now, while you may want to go down every path in the Jack of All Trades talent tree, that would be inadvisable as the number of talent point’s you’d need to spend would far outweigh the number of points you might feasibly save, as you can only reasonably expect to reach an upper level of around 5000. Additionally, it would prevent you from spending those early ability points in other places, such as attributes, the general ability talent tree, the Machine Lord/Rogue talent trees and the Enhanced Control talent tree. Trust me, I’ve done the calculations.
Wait, but can’t you just buy talent points, so doesn’t that mean that some rich person could just become ridiculously overpowered, and dump all their points in the Jack of All Trade’s path?
Ah, players can only gain five times their level ability points exchanging marks. Thus, a level 10 player may only gain an additional 50 ability points through this method. And yes, I did take this into account in my calculations. Additionally, yes, I believe the combination of me helping to teach you in addition to Jack of All Trades will be fairly overpowered, allowing you to learn new abilities at a pace unreasonably fast, at least compared to most other players. One slight drawback about this heavy emphasis on development however is the lack of early abilities to help in combat or other situations that other classes might gain. To counteract this, we have luckily gained equipment far above our level. Our current gear I would say would be equivalent to that of an average level 500 mercenary. In fact, we’re unlikely to acquire gear with large improvements any time soon. Are there any other current concerns you may have?
Well, something that I’ve noticed is that none of the abilities I have give exact percents. Usually a game will provide an exact benefit, like 10% more strength or a 25% additional chance to crit. None of the abilities give me any sort of ability like that though, they seem to just say they’re helping, without telling me how much.
Alan brought up the new Enhanced Control and Jack of All Trades abilities as examples.
|Skill Name:||Skill Rank:||Skill Proficiency:||Skill Rarity:|
|Enhanced Control (Basic)||F||???||C|
|An ability that gives you greater control over your own body and mind, allowing you to surpass normal limits.|
|Skill Name:||Skill Rank:||Skill Proficiency:||Skill Rarity:|
|Jack of All Trades||N/A||N/A||E|
|Gives a basic understanding of many elementary skills. Allows player to acquire new skills more easily.|
Well, unlike most games there is not actually really a predetermined point system for damage and the like. The points that you see and most players use are more like helpful user interfaces to allow players to better calculate things. Better information would also allow me to give you more exact details. The Game is much more like real life, at least compared to most other virtual reality games. A level 1 character with a sneak attack might defeat an unprotected level 1000 player, although it would be unlikely that would happen given a level 1000 players abilities. If you get sick, your abilities will be shown as lessened, but only to the degree that you allow them to. There is not any status subtracting your strength by a certain percentage other than how much weaker your body actually, physically is. A better example might be no matter how powerful a swordsman may be in real life, could you calculate the amount of additional damage being a trained swordsman gives them, compared to an untrained swordsman? It would depend on far too many outside variables, not just their skill. Thus, the absence of any exact percentages in your abilities.
Of course, using the correct tools and methods, such things like approximate percentages or proficiencies could be measured, but as skills are variable, constantly changing, taking such measurements are generally inefficient other than to be used as rough guidelines. Also, knowing the numbers doesn’t actually change them. That brings up another typical drawback of the Jack of All Trades ability. Skills within the Game are not things that you will be able to constantly remember perfectly without practice. If you neglect them, their rank and proficiency will fall. Given your enhanced memory due to the Machine Lord augment, that proficiency should decrease at a far lower rate than normal, if it falls at all. As you have no doubt noticed, most abilities are passive, and dependent upon your own actions more than say activating an ability by voicing a command word aloud.
Okay, and you didn’t tell me all this sooner in a lesson because…?
This is generally simple theory, which is irrelevant to actual combat and in-game situations. I have been teaching you information you need to know if you are to do well in a battle or confrontation.
Alright, I guess that makes sense… this stuff is pretty interesting too, though.
And I will teach you more once it becomes more relevant. Now, we should be soon arriving at the bottom, near the entrance to the Undercity. I advise going into stealth mode, which is actually you just actively sneaking about rather than an activated ability/mode, in case you were wondering. Prepare to activate the armor’s invisibility and run, depending upon what awaits us at the bottom.
Alan nodded, and hid in the corner opposite where the room had opened to let him in. Of course, it was the wall that he had his back to that ended up opening up a minute later.
Alan quickly turned around, but all he saw was a dark tunnel, like the guide had said there would be. As he stepped into the tunnel, the door to the lift closed behind him and a new message appeared:
[You have entered into the lower levels of Khersath. Once you exit this tunnel, you have left the safe zone. Death penalties will once again apply, along with all the risks typically associated with the Game. An unsafe zone does not equate with a lawless zone however, and all players are reminded that local rules should still be adhered to. That includes theft, murder and unwanted soliciting.]
Shortly thereafter, Alan emerged from the tunnel into the Undercity, and froze. He’d expected maybe a seedy looking downtown area, or a ghetto slum. Instead, it was a fairly well lit, clean space, looking similar to the top level, with hundreds of people going about their business. The “sky” however was clearly a ceiling, about 100 stories upwards, providing artificial light that appeared to be just like sunlight.
In front of Alan was a city gate, accompanied by numerous armed guards guiding people in and out, inspecting them carefully. Everything seemed quite neat, even orderly, with shops and various buildings and compounds lined up along streets like city blocks within the Undercity’s walls. The first immediate, noticeable difference however was the presence of numerous armed guards everywhere, guarding merchants, stores, lining the walls of the cities. Most of the guards aboveground in the plaza had been carrying nonlethal weapons, stun batons and constraining weaponry. Everyone here however carried weapons that were clearly capable of deadly force. The second thing Alan noticed was the way most people were carrying themselves. Everyone was seemingly alert, constantly scanning their surroundings. Alan, however, began to relax a little, as there didn’t appear to be any immediate danger. At least, until numerous red marks started to fill his vision.
Eve evaluated everything and anything as a possible threat, and right now everyone turned up remarkably dangerous. Even the kid that looked to be about eight was somehow dangerous, with an associated threat level of around 8%. A number of people that seemed to be watching the entrance Alan just came out of had relatively high threat levels as well, around 30-40%.
Um, what exactly is the threat level?
The chance I estimate they’ll be able to cause you substantial harm should they possess the will to harm you. The kid, for instance, could cause you a great deal of trouble should he think you’re an easy mark, as would most of the other spotters watching this entrance to the Undercity. I advise walking steadily towards the location indicated by the quest, acting as though you are clearly on official business. Answer no one unless they are clearly important or an official working for the Undercity. Street smarts, as I’ve taught you.
Taking a deep breath, which hopefully no one noticed as his face was completely behind his helmet, Alan immediately began walking with purpose towards the city gate. One of Eve’s initial lessons had been on posture, and how to carry himself. Additionally, Eve had taught him different simple methods to avoid confrontation in case someone approached him, such as simply holding out his arm, bent at the elbow, to stop people that tried to get too close. Of course, these were lessons from Earth, but the general principle should still apply. However, most of the “spotters” that Eve had pointed out seemed to ignore him, either assuming he wasn’t worth the trouble or he wasn’t among the list of targets they were looking for. Bounty hunting was, after all, a remarkably lucrative job in the Game.
The guards standing at the city gates had simple, uncolored metal power armor with an emblem of a single metal cube, which Alan assumed to be a platinum mark. They generally carried a laser rifle on their back, a laser sword in a holster to their side and an assortment of what looked to be grenades.
As Alan was about to enter the city, a guard turned to look at him.
“Halt. Please state your business in this city and reveal your identity.”
Quick, hand over a gold mark, but make sure to not reveal any other marks. Deflect.
Alan slid his hand to a compartment that held the remaining gold marks Alan had, and then quickly flicked one into the guards outstretched hand stopping him.
“I’m here to perform a simple business transaction, and would like to maintain my identity as my own.”
The guard quickly glanced down to see what Alan had tossed him, and, upon seeing gold, quickly shoved the mark into a pocket compartment of his own.
“Of course, sir, please have a pleasant visit.”
Alan, having learned it was better to keep his mouth shut, simply nodded, and continued on his way, despite the desire to quietly whisper something along the lines of “Oh, I will,” to the guard. Unfortunately for Alan however, neither he nor Eve noticed a hidden watcher that saw the gold mark Alan had brought out.