It was a hot afternoon in front of Trigitech Branch Corporation building. A line of young people and teenagers were queueing up outside the hi-tech looking building. The irregular façade with a dome-shaped roof covered by reflective materials perfectly suited the corporation image as the premier VR gaming company. Today was the day the company started the Beta testing of its newest game, Second World.
Virtual Reality games had been flourishing in the past 30 years, almost all the entertainment in this modern world revolved around VR games and many professional gamers and workshops had emerged following these VR games, creating a new category of professional.
But of course, there were still many who just played for fun. One of whom was Jack Fei, a veteran VR gamer who had registered for the Beta Testing. He hadn't realized that it would involve queuing up under the hot sun for hours. His shirt was soaked with sweat, he would have brought an extra shirt to change into if he had known.
Second world had been heavily promoted in the past year. It was hailed as the pinnacle of VR technology that would implement a new engine pushing gaming further into realism. It was said to be able to truly become a second world for the people of this Earth that would make other VR games obsolete. Or so the marketing said. And it seemed many people believed it, looking at the number of people that had registered for this Beta Test.
Many among them were from famous workshops or members from well-known in-game guilds. But Jack didn't really think much about that, it was enough if he could enjoy a new VR game. The queue proceeded at a snail's pace as company employers performed multiple checks on each attendee at the courtyard entrance checkpoint.
'Do you need to be so strict?' Jack thought out loud.
It was another hour before it was Jack's turn. After his credentials and background were rigorously checked, he was ushered inside to yet another queue within the building's courtyard.
'Are you F***ing kidding me..?!' Jack was exasperated. 'At this rate, The sun will be down by the time I finally get to start doing the Beta test.'
Just then a blindingly bright light flashed and an intense sound began ringing in his ear, or in his head, he couldn't be sure which. Clutching his head, he fell to his knees in intense pain. Vertigo hit him hard. He didn't know if he was standing, lying on the ground, or falling into some sort of abyss.
When the ringing subsided, he opened his eyes and looked around trying to figure out what had happened. Could a bomb had just exploded nearby? Maybe a rival corporation trying to sabotage this event? His vision was blurry and it was some time before it cleared up enough for him to see things normally again. He was indeed on the ground on all fours. He surveyed his surroundings, expecting to find wreckage due to the explosion, but everything seemed normal.
Wait, no, it was not normal. He swiveled 360 degrees. Something was definitely wrong here. He couldn't see any of the people who had been in the queue with him a moment before. He went back to the entrance, but there was no sign of the company employees. In fact, the outside street was completely empty!
'Did I fall into a coma?' was Jack's first thought. Then he heard some noises from inside the corporation building. He turned around and tried to hear more. Yes, there were definitely noises, footsteps, and people's voices.
He immediately ran toward the building, he needed to find someone to ask what had happened. The double glass doors automatically slid open when he approached and he dashed inside. He immediately tripped over something on the ground and fell to the floor. He messaged his waist, hurt in the fall, and looked back at the thing that had made him trip. It was a black chest.
'Who the heck put a chest in front of a door?'
He reached out to push the chest to push out of the doorway. But as soon as his hand touched it, a notification message flared inside his mind.
"Please enter your alias," a mechanized female voice said, accompanied by a blue hologram that appeared above the chest.
"What…?" Jack was flabbergasted. 'What was this? Some kind of new interactive technology?'
"Please enter your alias," the voice insisted.
Jack looked around to see if anyone was present. Perhaps this was some kind of an elaborate prank.
The female voice asked him for the third time.
After some thought, Jack answered, "Storm Wind." His usual alias in most of his VR games was Lone Wind. He had decided that, for this coming Second World account, he would use new alias to start this new adventure with a clean slate. Storm Wind was the name he had decided upon just last night as he got ready for the Beta Test. He didn't realize he would be using it in quite this circumstances.
"Affirmative. Storm Wind registered. Please select your basic class."
The black chest opened with a click. The lid swung open and revealed three sets of items. A sword and armor, a dagger and suit, a staff and cloth.
A feeling of deja vu overwhelmed Jack. 'Why do I find this so familiar?'
"Please select your basic class." The female voice demanded again.
'I get it, this must be some kind of a promotion campaign,' Jack thought. These selections were what RPG players were usually given when they started playing a new game. As a candidate for Beta tester, he had received some general information on the upcoming Second World game. Players would start out by choosing one of the three basic classes: Fighter, Ranger, or Magician.
After raising up their character to a preset higher level, they would be able to upgrade to an advance class. The sword and armor must symbolize the Fighter class, the dagger and suit for Ranger, while the staff and cloth were obviously for Magician. He admitted this kind of marketing program was indeed interesting, it really boosted the game's realism.
'All right, how about this.' He stretched out both his hands. One to grab the sword, the other the staff. His hand stopped an inch before the weapons, it was as though an invisible force field was preventing him from touching the equipment.
"Please select only one class," the female voice reprimanded.
He pulled out his right hand, his left hand could now touch the sword unobstructed.
'Damn. This is really an advanced tech!' He thought. He didn't know technology had advanced so far.
He took out the sword and armor from the chest. He mostly played as warrior in VR RPG games, so it made more sense to pick the class he was most comfortable with.
Once the sword and armor were taken out, the chest vanished into fading sparkles of light. Before Jack could register his surprise, the sword and armor also disappeared from his hands and light enveloped him. In a moment, the armor reappeared on his body with the sheathed sword hanging from his waist.
"You have chosen the Fighter class. You have 1 free attribute and 1 free skill point, you can open your status window to allocate this point at any time."
"Status window…?" He asked aloud.
A blue hologram appeared in front of him showing all kinds of letters and numbers.
Storm Wind, Class: Fighter, Level: 1
- HP = 120/120
- Stamina = 110/110
- Strength = 12
- Dexterity = 11
- Intelligence = 10
- Endurance = 12
- Reflex = 11
- Wisdom = 11
- Luck = 1
Jack stared at the holographic projection for the longest time, not knowing what to make of it.
He was startled out of his daze by a scream. He turned around and scanned the hall. It was still empty, but now that he paid attention to it, there were noises from further inside the building, and the noises were getting louder and closer.
Pretty soon, he heard the sounds of hurried footsteps, probably running. It came from the floor above. A few seconds later, the sound materialized into a person in a white cloth outfit wearing a strange monocle on his eye. He was rushing down the wide stairs in the middle of the hall. The person was holding a long staff in one hand while the other was gripping a round metallic object. He was gasping in fright.
"H-help..!" He yelled out once he registered Jack's presence.
Jack was still processing all this when he heard more footsteps from behind the man. Before the man with the staff reached the bottom of the stairs, two ragged figures lurched quickly down after him. Jack saw that not only their clothes ragged, the faces and flesh were also ragged.