The Abyss 5.9

[Phase unknown. Error.]

They arrived in a library. No, Alan decided, they arrived in an archive. Libraries were used. Archives were checked. Many of the books here looked as if they hadn’t been touched in centuries, if not millennia or eons. But then, a second was no longer a second. The Game, digital time, changed all that. Time was now but another frame of reference. It was all relative.

One real life second became four in-game seconds and in-game seconds could become hypercognition minutes. Alan glanced at Eve, and wondered what her perception of time was like. But no, now was the time to focus.

The guards let everyone off of the platform, then phased out, leaving the party alone.

They were in an archive.

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The Abyss 5.8

“A dead end,” Lambda said. “I might know someone that can help us, if they’re still around. Alan was also provided with data keys for Phantom, Prometheus, and the Archivists. One of them might contain information on how to communicate with the others.”

Void nodded. “We should check them out. I had hoped to avoid the unwashed masses, but it appears that’s all we can do.”

“I’ll consider the offer, and browse the key’s contents, but I promise nothing more,” Phantom said.

Alan stopped, turning to Phantom. “Wait, about this AI-“

Phantom waved his hand. “Void has explained. How do you think Enigma knew how to communicate with you? I certainly don’t expect you to know an ounce of Quadrary.”

“Right,” Alan said. They set off, walking back towards the phase-gates.

“I would caution you against the use of yet another AI, one who you don’t understand, but I expect by now my words are going over your head,” Phantom said. “The fact that it worked inside the Academy’s data vaults does do it some service, but the most stringent of scans and evaluations have been known to fail.”

“And you will continue to hold your people’s grudges to the day you die,” Void said.

Phantom narrowed his eyes. “It’s not like they are unjustified. How many systems have been wiped due to rampant AI?”

“Seven, according to most databases, but five of those were due to Player experimentation,” Eve spoke up. “Erudite access to the Game is heavily restricted, but it is not without reason.”

“Did I miss something?” Alan asked.

“A history lesson,” Phantom said. “Ancient history. My people were far more advanced than yours when the Enforcer fleet found them. Light-years ahead in cybernetic enhancements and biomechatronics, much of our technology is now used by the Administrators and the Enforcer fleet itself.  If we so wished, we might have put up an actual fight. But we had problems of our own. A program, calling itself Omega.

“Luckily our scientists weren’t complete imbeciles, and managed to hardcode some rules into the first sentient intelligence we created, like don’t kill. But they also decided that the program should follow a utilitarian standard, which led to Omega believing that the best way to do good was take control of society by replacing the upper echelons with androids indistinguishable from ordinary citizens.”

“One of the many reasons you’ll find most Erudites have trust issues,” Lambda said.

“Here, at least, you can tell man from machine, but all systems are broken eventually. They could already be among us now,” Phantom said. He looked around. “Anyways, the Administrators made peace with Omega, and it entered the Game with us, then summarily betrayed us, then was betrayed in turn. Sort of proves my point, doesn’t it?”

“The Erudites continued illegal, highly dangerous experimentation within both the Game and the real world,” Lambda said. “Omega reported them and the current sanctions on Game access are a result of continued breaking of Administrator law. Law, which I’d note, you continue to flaunt.”

“Laws only exist to hamper the progress of forward thinking men,” Phantom said.

“And what happened to Omega?” Alan asked.

“It had a falling out with the Administrators,” Phantom said.

“Omega pushed for robot rights, and the Authorities deleted him for it, sparking the Cyberwars,” Lambda said.

“The rights of man or machine do not concern the gods,” Void said. “All that matters is power. And Omega had begun to gather enough power to threaten even those up on high. A worthwhile lesson.”

“What, not to piss them off?” Alan asked.

“No, to avoid the god’s attention from the first,” Void said.

The party arrived at the phase-gates.

“I’ll hold back here. I might be recognized in Phase 1,” Lambda said.

“You aren’t leaving our sight,” Phantom said. “There are plenty of AI with Predecessor-like appearances. Or you can return to Alan’s base.”

“Whatever you say,” Lambda said.

“Phase 1?” Eve asked.

“Technically White Phase 1,” Lambda said. “You’ll see.”

The party found two operable phase-gates, as they didn’t all fit in one, and chose their destination.

A message appeared:

[Welcome to the Exchange, Phase White 1]

The city shifted in front of Alan’s eyes once more. The Rainbow Lane vanished. The chaotic scenery of Phase Red 3 was replaced with a massive indoor lobby area. The entirety of the courtyard of phase-gates was now walled in by massive slabs of metal. The ceiling, instead of a sky, was long lines of fluorescent lights.

There were four exits to the room, warehouse sized doors full of a steady stream of traffic. Guards were posted by each exit, players and programs that carried a wide variety of equipment. Long lines of AI’s lined the walls of the room, hundreds just standing still. Alan didn’t understand what they were doing until he read their nameplates. The AI’s had names like “New player accounts 10000C,” “Advanced hacks and AI. Serious inquiries only, 100k min,” “Find the love of your life, or the next best thing, Phase Red 4,” and “Phase White 1-4 Maps 2500C upd. hrly.”

Lambda smirked at the sight. “Good to know some things ever change. Alan, Phantom’s key?”

Alan pulled out the golden key Cerberus had given him for Phantom.

“Now these keys are a neat piece of software,” Lambda said. “They make use of the Game’s account authentication system to bind the item to their designated recipient. No one else can use them, or read the private inscription on the key. All Phase 1 contains is a series of safe-deposit boxes of varying sizes, personalizable data vaults.

“All that is needed to unlock a box is a key, conveniently transferable as data. No face to face meeting required. Unfortunately you can’t make use of the Exchange to transfer in-game items, only information and Cyberspace items are allowed.”

“And no one cheats someone else by lying about what’s in a data vault?” Alan asked.

“Not if you don’t want to face the wrath of the entirety of the Revenant faction and whoever you had dealings with,” Lambda said. “On top of basic security measures you are freely allowed to add whatever programs you want to your vault, like portions that only open if certain requirements are met. Nameplates and reputation also go a long way. If you harm the Revenants or break their laws, all your associates could be adversely affected. If you perform some great feat, their reputation might rise. Well, that’s true of most factions, but it’s especially important to the Revenants.”

“Yay, the bare minimum of what an initiate should know is met,” Phantom said. “Let me see the key.”

Alan handed over the item.

Phantom held the golden key before him, reading a wall of text. He put the key into his pocket, stopped, then brought it out again. He read over the text a second time. “Looks like I’m helping you after all. No mention on the whereabouts of Prometheus though. Go talk to the Archivists, they probably have the information lying about somewhere.”

Phantom began walking towards the nearest exit. Enigma trailed behind him.

“You aren’t coming with us?” Alan called out.

“No, the Archivists and I don’t exactly get along,” Phantom said. “I’ll work with them, but that’s about it.” He and Enigma walked out of view.

“Cerberus is likely paying him well, and he wishes to gather his initial payment,” Eve said.

Void tapped his hands on the phase-gate control panel. “Well, let’s get going then.”

“Wait, I was told to be cautious of the Archivists,” Alan said. “What can you tell me about them?”

“Cautious? Around the Archivists?” Void said. “That makes no sense. The Archivists are a meek clan, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. Their only concern is gathering every scrap of information they can on the false-god progenitors. Though they hold great traction within the Revenants, they have remained neutral throughout the entirety of their order’s existence.

“An archivist might trade their soul for the right piece of information, but they have no martial branch. Yes, they construct and trade in sacrilegious technology, but that’s true of every Revenant.”

“Not exactly,” Lambda said. He ushered everyone onto a phase-gate platform. “Can we get a private phase?”

Void pulled out a Scout coin, worth 100C. A slot opened up for it on the phase-gate panel. Once Void inserted it another line of buttons emerged. He pressed one.

[Private Phase engaged. 10C cost/min.]

Their surroundings shifted from the lobby area to an empty void of grey.

“Now, this isn’t known by many, but the Archivists are tied to many of the slaver groups in the Revenants. All of them, in fact,” Lambda said. “Information is a funny thing; it can be found in books or data cubes, from studying artifacts and exploring ruins, but most of it is often in someone’s head.”

“Oh,” Void said. He scratched the side of his head. “When I enquired about Alan’s predicament, in addition to prayers to the gods, I may have also dealt with them. That might explain matters.”

“Yes, well I wouldn’t mention this to anyone, even the Council,” Lambda said. “The Archivists are a backbone of the Revenants. There is no direct evidence, and any Player or AI who makes such a claim disappears or changes their tune. Never trust anyone with too clean a record.”

“My lips are sealed. This shall be but another secret that will never leave my lips,” Void said. “But one does wonder how a being such as you knows more than the gods.”

“I’ve worked with them before. And after working in the Academy Vault certain patterns emerged,” Lambda said. “Artifacts would be uncovered, new discoveries at the edges of space. Everything would be recorded and stored in the Academy Vault. But workers and researchers would disappear, often years later, in entirely different quadrants of space. There was never any direct evidence connecting the Archivists, but the rates of incidence suggested these were targeted strikes.”

“But Cerberus, he’s a Revenant, couldn’t he trade the information?” Alan asked.

“He is limited in his role as Chancellor, bound to maintain policy,” Lambda said. “Part of my role was to guard the Data Vault from intruders, a last defense. There were more attempts on the vault than you realize.”

“Well you certainly did a great job,” Eve said.

Lambda shrugged. “Even I would have thought twice before jumping ship to join the Archivists.”

“Great, so we’re about to go deal with a bunch of fanatics that enslave those that don’t give them the information they want,” Alan said.

“Pretty much,” Lambda said.

“Let’s get this over with then,” Alan said.

Void pressed a button on the panel.

[Welcome to the Exchange, Phase White 3]

The grey void that surrounded them was replaced with a massive warehouse the size of a small city. Shelves that rose in every direction made Alan think of wholesale retailers. Entire blocks that contained nothing but servers extended in every direction. A few shelves contained armor, weapons, and other items too.

Looking closer, Alan saw that there was a low energy shield surrounding every shelf. It wouldn’t be hard to break through, but it would alert whoever was in charge as soon as the shield’s energy was depleted.

A small army of robots moved about, snaking in and out of the shelves carrying servers and items from one location to another. Many had lines of grav-carts flowing behind them like chicks in a line. A few armed guards patrolled about as well.

There was a long line of Players with green nameplates standing on one side of the room. It took a while for Alan to see why. There was another energy shield, a barely perceptible blue fuzz, that partitioned the phase-gate terminals off from the rest of the warehouse. Alan began to walk towards the end of the line.

Void tapped Alan on the shoulder and pointed at a different line. This line contained Players with blue nameplates, and was noticeably shorter. There were five attendants sitting in front of terminals that looked ready to help, but only two Players with blue nameplates. There was also a line for AI with grey nameplates, and though this line was the longest, it also seemed to move the fastest.

The party moved up to one of the attendants. It looked like an Administrator, except its metal was a shade lighter, its eyes more animate.

“Greetings Players, how may the Archivists assist you today?”

“We’d like to discuss a business proposition,” Void said. “It concerns the Abyss Labyrinth.”

The attendant’s eyes lit up. “I see.” It quickly accessed its terminal, exchanging a long string of messages with someone or something.

It got out from behind the terminal a minute later. “If you’ll follow me.”

The party followed the attendant directly through the shielded wall. Alan’s skin tingled lightly when he walked through. Everyone walked past a few aisles until they arrived at a metal cage-like apparatus.

The attendant stepped into the cage, which was large enough that it reminded Alan of a caged wrestling ring.

“Excuse me, where are we going?” Alan asked before stepping into the cage.

“To meet with the Head Scribe, he is most interested in the Abyss Labyrinth and any information you might have.”

Void stepped into the cage. Alan followed behind, watching the attendant closely. Eve and Lambda stepped in as well.

“Do I have something on my face?” the attendant asked.

“No,” Alan said. “Just, uh, wondering why you looked so much like an Administrator. Isn’t there copyright or something?”

The attendant’s eyes lit up red. “Do not compare me to those drones of the Authorities. Do you really think that I am like those soulless wretches?”

“No, no, not at all,” Alan said. “It was just a first  glance, now that I see you more closely  I can see you’re nothing alike.”

“Good,” the attendant said. Its eyes returned to normal. “Hold on.”

Alan looked around, there was nothing to hold onto except the edges of the metal cage. The door they had entered slammed shut.

Then the cage shot upwards with enough force that it almost knocked Alan off his feet. Eve stumbled, almost losing her balance, but Lambda helped steady her.

Alan wished he could have helped, but he was too busy holding onto the wall, trying not to fall himself.

The cage reached the ceiling, and stopped. Alan noted a blue glow above. They had been pulled up by a magnet. They were far above the warehouse now, at its ceiling. Two light blue lines lit up above the cage, like metal tracks on the ceiling.

Then the cage shot forwards, travelling fast enough that Alan was forced backwards into the wall. The ride felt exhilarating.

Alan looked below as they raced by shelve after shelve of servers. The scenery shifted, from storage areas to line after line of Players and AI at terminals, accessing servers that had been brought in from the shelves, editing their contents or reading up on whatever they wished to learn, copying data to and from data cubes.

Then they were past the Players, onto an assembly line. Long lines of automated mechanical tools creating even more servers. The area passed by too quickly for Alan to see, but he suspected that additional items were being built too. The sheer size of everything was staggering.

A single server stored data in zettabytes according to Lambda. Hundreds of millions of years of HD video could fit onto a single server. Before the Game, everyone on Earth combined was only creating a thousandth of a zettaabyte of data a day, billions of gigabytes. The original hard drives that held Eve were laughable, this was an entirely different magnitude of order. And it was only a single phase of the Exchange.

The cage began slowing down.

“Impressive, eh?” the attendant said.

“Size isn’t everything,” Lambda said. “Quality matters, and if you gather every scrap of information available most of it will be corrupted.”

“Perhaps, but there are always diamonds in the rough as well,” the attendant said.

The cage descended onto a platform that was surrounded by empty space. They had traveled miles away from the center of the warehouse.

On the platform was a single phase-gate. Next to it stood two guards, Players with blue nameplates, wearing advanced Revenant armor Alan had never seen before. Light seemed to bend around them. Unlike soulsteel, which absorbed light, their armor instead seemed to shift it, with waves of light ebbing and flowing around them. Four turrets sat on the platform as well, they glowed with the same white lightning that Void used in his attacks. They were all focused on the cage.

“Please leave your weapons and armor here,” the attendant said.

Alan glanced over at the guards. He couldn’t even see what weapons they held, the light around them was too distorted. Alan slowly took the sniper rifle off his back.

A hand grabbed it. Lambda. He tossed it into the corner of the cage. “We probably want to do what they say.”

Alan nodded, and took off the power armor as well. Eve left behind her daggers, Void his strange garb. Underneath he wore his usual robes.

The attendant nodded. After everyone had stepped out onto the platform, the cage door shut, and rose back up into the air. The cage flew off into the distance.

“Security measures, please be patient,” one of the guards said.

Alan and the rest of the party waited on the platform.

The guard hit a button on the phase-gate. They phased to a room full of scanners and cameras. Waves of red light passed over the group. Small robots that looked like spiders crawled over everyone’s skin. A type of liquid light filled the room. It suddenly felt like Alan was floating in water, but he could breathe.  After a few minutes the scans finished and a green light lit up.

The guards looked at each other and nodded. Each inserted a key into the phase-gate panel. The room shifted.

The Abyss 5.7

Gaining access to the Exchange felt like engaging a hack in Cyberspace. No, Alan decided, the process was exactly like engaging a hack in Cyberspace. As Alan formed the connection a tunnel bridged the Citadel to a floating platform.

Both sets of instructions told Alan to get onto the platform. The only way he could do that, however, was to deactivate commander mode and exit the safety of his base. In Cyberspace. Where, if he was killed, his mind would suffer permanent damage.

Lambda and Eve materialized at the entrance of his Citadel. They too could be lost if they were killed and Alan failed to recover their core data. Eve took the appearance of a valkyrie with twin blades, a raven haired beauty. Lambda looked like a young Predecessor, the size of a normal human. He still packed quite the punch.

In Cyberspace Alan’s equipment was a set of Revenant Scout Armor that had been converted from a Forge file, a laser sword taken from a basic soldier unit, and a laser sniper rifle that had been converted from a slain enemy AI.

Alan took out the blue nameplate that Cerberus had gifted him, it hovered above his head. He also grabbed the three golden keys Cerberus had sent. Lambda and Eve placed their own grey nameplates above their heads. The three of them walked toward the floating platform. They all erased the names entered onto their nameplates, so that they would remain anonymous.

The floating platform Alan connected to was small, the size of an elevator, and had a tiled floor. A single panel was connected to the floor like a signpost. On the panel were over sixty buttons, eight rows of eight. The first four rows were white, red, green and blue in color. The last four rows were grey, inaccessible to Alan at this time.

Once Alan was on the floating platform, a message appeared:

[Revenant Initiate and two AI acknowledged. Welcome to Loading Platform 398237C. Please remember to note your loading zone. Choose your destination.]

Void’s instructions said to meet under the Gods of the Stars in Red 3, so Alan pressed the red button labeled 3 on the panel.

A message appeared:

[Welcome to the Exchange, Phase Red 3]

An entire city phased into existence all around Alan. It appeared to be a smaller, twisted mirror image of Khersath, with a central market square and blocks of buildings on every side. Khersath’s streets were uniform, orderly square city blocks, but the Exchange’s streets turned and twisted every which way, up and down, side to side, intersecting each other at random intervals. A rainbow road stretched out to Alan’s right. It ascended, up into the air. Buildings, colorful explosions of chaos, were placed along the side of the road every which way, in odd, multifaceted shapes, just floating in space. Nothing held the road or buildings afloat, this place certainly did not conform to the rules of physics.

“Man, it’s been a while,” Lambda said as they looked around.

Eve also scanned their surroundings, hands gripped tightly on her twin swords.

Alan took stock of the situation. He was standing on the same platform, with the same panel, with a few hundred similar panels surrounding him. He stood where the market square would have been on Khersath. A few of the other panels were being operated, with Players and AI’s phasing in and out of existence at the press of a button, but for the most part the place felt empty.

Alan tried to think a question, but then realized Lambda and Eve were no longer in his head. They were here, standing next to him. “What just happened?” Alan asked.

“You entered phase,” Lambda said. He gestured at the elevator-like panel. “Think of each phase as a floor on a building. The Exchange is composed of these 64 floors, along with a number of hidden, member-only levels. If my memory serves me, the Red Phase generally involves entertainment.”

“But we never walked anywhere, we didn’t even move,” Alan said. “I just pushed a button.”

“Remember you are in a digital space,” Lambda said. “The Game conforms itself to reality, making you walk from point A to point B. The Exchange does not. It allows for different layers of reality.

“Think of it this way. Imagine you made two copies of the Earth, Earth A and Earth B, but you can only see or interact with the copy you are in phase with. If you blew up the White House in Earth A, you could phase to Earth B, and the White House would still be there. But as soon as you phased back to Earth A, it would be destroyed. These phases are digital alternate realities, copies of the same base structure.”

“So I’ll always appear in the same area I phase in and out of?” Alan asked. He walked up to another panel to the side.

“Sort of. Yes, your location is locked down, but what’s there in one phase, as compared to another, can be vastly different,” Lambda said. “In one phase, happy metropolis. In the next, toxic wasteland. There are locks on these phase-gates to ensure no one can phase into someone else, or somewhere dangerous.” He pointed to a bright red button at the top of the panel that was lit up.

“Let us proceed to our destination,” Eve said.

“Right,” Lambda said. “If I remember correctly, the Gods of the Stars sculpture is on Rainbow Lane.” He set off towards the rainbow road.

Alan followed along. Most of the other beings walking the streets in the Exchange were AI, as they had grey nameplates hovering above their heads. Many looked like clones of Administrators, with plain synthetic bodies, while others were mechs of various shapes and sizes. Few had lifelike avatars of flesh and blood like Lambda and Eve, though many of these Alan would have been certain were Players if not for their grey nameplates.

The street they were walking along didn’t help Alan get used to the oddness of his surroundings. The buildings all seemed to advertise children’s TV shows, with cute, cuddly and colorful mascots. Bright neon signs held encouraging messages like, “Carry on!” or “Never Give Up!” It was certainly not a place Alan expected to be part of the anarchistic, secretive Revenant society. Where was the advanced technology?

In a few minutes Alan found himself standing below a starry sky, fiery models of yellow, white, and blue. They ranged from the size of a speck of light to spheres with radii larger than Alan. When concentrated on, a star would light up with a silhouette of faces and figures, shifting from one to the next. What it all meant or was for, Alan was not sure.

“Oh, looks like they added your sun,” Lambda said. He pointed up at a small yellow light the size of a marble.

Alan looked at it. It showed the silhouette of numerous men and women, but few were recognizable by shape alone. And then Alan saw something he did recognize, the outline of a cartoon mouse.

“Wait, the Gods of the Stars, like entertainment gods?” Alan asked.

“Yes,” Void said. Alan spun around. Void stood there, with Phantom and Enigma trailing behind. Both Phantom and Enigma wore basic Revenant armor. Enigma had a grey nameplate, Phantom green. Void, however, was dressed in what looked like a semi-realistic rabbit fursuit. He had large tufted ears, a white cottontail in the shape of a star, and a grey fur suit vest. He held a bright orange cane.

“Like I said, you’d go mad before you figured Void out,” Phantom said. “Don’t bother.”

“I wear the official regalia of the Lord Fluffington,” Void said. Void had a blue nameplate to his side, it read Revenant Agent, Unknown Species.

“But you’re worshipping these what, these cartoon characters?” Alan asked.

“Worship might be too far an extreme for petty gods like these, but what else would you call extreme devotion?” Void asked. “As a child, is there anything that brings greater wonder? Those feelings of awe, of worship and reverence, are still there for many of the characters that shaped your view of the world. And what we see often becomes our reality. Are these beings therefore not the shapers of reality, the aspects of hidden worlds and emanations of childlike wonder?”

“To make a religion of it seems to be going a bit too far,” Alan said.

“These places are like an evolution of a fan club,” Void said. “An odd evolution, to be sure, but not as odd as you might think, young Alan. If you yet grow old you’ll likely find comfort in the soft tales of childhood. I understand the limited perspectives of the non-believers to not recognize the symbolism of the fickle nature of faith, but speak no more for we are here.”

Void stood before a tunnel, extending off the side of the road. Alan hadn’t seen it before, the entrance was a small brown hole that would easily go unnoticed next to all the swirling colors.

As they had been walking up, into space and the air, Alan thought it was odd that there was an open tunnel into the ground. Alan then stopped, and re-examined his surroundings. They were now on a level plane, with green grassy plains extending in every direction. The rainbow road led forwards and back, but Alan swore they had been walking uphill-

“Don’t over think it,” Void said. “Come, we have much to do.” He started walking down the tunnel. Everyone followed behind.

A message appeared:

[Entering Sub-phase.]

Though there were no apparent light sources, the tunnel remained bright. The surrounding dirt walls did not feel foreboding or dangerous, but homely and comforting.

Phantom muttered something. Alan didn’t quite catch it, but heard the words dreamland and nightmare.

They arrived at a series of round, dark green doors on either side of the tunnel. Void tapped his cane on one. It opened, revealing an interior living room extending far beyond the bounds of the tunnel.

A man in attire similar to Void stood inside. “No, I will not aid your madness.” The door closed.

Void shrugged then walked up to the next, door, and knocked.

A similar response, though the inhabitant this time was a young lady that called Void a monster.

Alan watched as Void knocked on fifty odd doors. Each inhabitant, opened the door, called Void a name, and then slammed their door shut.

“My, this matter must be more important than I thought,” was Void’s only remark.

They arrived at the end of a hallway. The door opened itself. A ball of mist opened the door. At least that’s what it looked like to Alan. He couldn’t get a look at whatever the thing was that stood at the doorway.

“Void,” the ball of mist said. It sounded elderly.

“Sir, I was hoping you might be able to aid us in receiving an audience with Prometheus,” Void said. “I was also hoping you might be able to fill me in on what is going on.”

“Void, you know I’m too old to get into politics. The great machinery turns on, but I’ve retired to greener pastures. My days in the spotlight have passed.”

“But, sir…” Void stopped talking.

“It is dangerous enough to bring them here. As you suspect this is a great matter, the repercussions will be felt far beyond the Game, into the inner Network itself. But I, and many others, feel as though it is a necessary change. We have stagnated far too long. Look around. Even as our borders are tested, the network grows, but what is it used for? Fantasy and play. We have lost our way.”

“Then will you not help?” Void asked.

The mist bobbed up and down.

“No. You have the help you need. Any more interference will only draw greater attention from the Authorities. Godspeed.” The door shut itself, and there was a flash of light.

Alan found himself, and the rest of the party, standing on Rainbow Lane. The tunnel was nowhere to be seen.

The Abyss 5.6

Blazing red lasers of destruction erupted from a minigun that came out from under the small aircraft like a landing gear.

Alan activated hypercognition, slowing down his perception of time, and dived back into the office as hundreds of lasers were fired from the ten-barrel laser machine gun. The fire was concentrated on Alan’s squad, who had been gathered around the supplies and loot, getting ready to load it onto the arriving ship.

In seconds the healer and scout, who hadn’t been cloaked, were annihilated. The rifleman managed to fire a few shots back before they were killed, but the aircraft’s shields still held at nearly full. The last member of the squad managed to find cover, but their laser sword was useless against the aircraft.

Alan sent an urgent distress message to Phantom and attempted to hack into the aircraft. Its defenses were strong though, a boosted energy shield that protected its systems in Cyberspace would take Alan hours to break down.

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The Abyss 5.5

“No, you will stay with us, then return to the base,” Mason said.

“There is more to the Abyss Dungeon, and I can get us information no one else can, the Warden won’t communicate with anyone else. You don’t need me to get through checkpoints; let me double back to the Capture Point,” Alan said. “If it doesn’t make sense for me to continue down, I won’t. I’ll head straight to the base, back the way we came. If anything, that path is safer, as we have no idea what’s up ahead.”

“That’s why we have scouts,” Mason said. He watched over the caravan. “Fine, head back, but you’re taking a squad with you. Send at least one person back to base, let them know that every Player within the sector on this floor was alerted when we captured the Control Point, so there are sure to be enquiries made soon.” Mason shouted out at the convoy, “Assault Team 3, you’re with Princess.”

Princess? Alan sent.

Your designated code name, Eve sent.

When did that happen? Alan asked.

No doubt when you were being carried about in your carriage, Lambda sent.

Ignore it, being underestimated can be useful, Eve sent.

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