Albert Oon’s 100th book – Trapped Body and Soul in a Video Game Sequel

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Tutorial – New Game, New Genre, New Challenges

This is a game where you can only die once.  You only have one life. Once you’re dead, that’s it so I have to make every move I make count. This is a battle royale and I’m on a team with my best friend and my wife. When we get dropped into the battle zone, we try to wait in the helicopters as long as we can while the air is being lit up with heavy artillery fire. The further in we go, the better chances we have at getting better gear.

A helicopter just got shot out of the sky, so we take that as our hint to jump. Our helicopter gets shot out of the sky as we exit it and we get blown in different directions into the burning and destroyed war zone below. We try to regroup in the sky, but the artillery fire prevents that. The artillery is so heavy in this area that I see and hear people being shot out of the sky. I open my parachute to land safely, however, my parachute gets shot and I crash through a roof. I’ve lost half my health, so I need healing items fast before anyone finds me. Lucky for me, I find some in a nearby turned over medical truck. Now to find my teammates and a good weapon.

My wife is the closest, so I go to her location first. I can see her on my digital map that I carry around along with my best friend.  I can’t see anyone else until they start a fight with one of us. Ah crap, speaking of that, my wife is in a gunfight with a team of four. I have to get there fast. I’m weak since I’m a low level, but I am prestiged, so I do have my experience. When I get to the location, my wife is already dead. She’s taken out all but one of them who is currently arming himself to the teeth and organizing his inventory. Damn it. I thought we would make it to the end together, but I can’t cry over it now. I’ve taken cover in a small house. My luck hasn’t been good since I haven’t been able to find a weapon, but maybe my luck has changed.

These developers are crafty, so maybe I can find a secret weapon somewhere. Maybe it’s in this toilet? I have no other option, so I reach my hand into the depths of the murky toilet and pull out a special sniper rifle. It only has one shot in it, but it can hit anything and kill anyone in one shot. This is perfect. I position myself near the window and aim. Smile you, cunt. That’s right. That’s what you get for teaming up on a woman like her. Wow, she really gave them hell. All the armor they have are mostly broken and so are the weapons. Apparently, she used a gun with a weapon breaking status effect. She was good, but she didn’t plan on me getting their gear later, which I don’t blame her for. Still, I wish I had something I could use.

Luck isn’t on my side as I go to the other side of the map to find my best friend. No weapons, no gear, no traps, no medical supplies, nothing. All I find is a single flash grenade. When I get to my best friend’s location, I find him dead with three other players picking over his stuff. I can’t believe my entire team is dead. I guess I’ll have to win this by myself. The barrier that brings all contestants together is quickly closing in. This barrier can kill you within a matter of minutes and since it’s close by, I throw a flash grenade at the three players before booking it. I can hear them scream profanities at me as they die. Sorry, but that’s what you get when you mess with mine and me.

I don’t have much time to search around so I hope this next house I’m at has something. Oh, I think I found something use-ah damn it. It’s a powerful full-auto assault rifle modeled after an old M14. It can cut through armor and people like butter, but I’m stuck holding it up until I run out of ammo. The clip has thirty bullets in it, which is good for one and a half kill. After I run out of ammo, the gun is useless and can be loaded with any kind of ammo. I’ll have to be in a tight pinch for it to be useful in any capacity. Since I wasted so much time running around, I can’t look through any other place for gear, guns, or anything else to help me. There are only ten people left alive. There were a little over one hundred to begin with. It’s amazing how people will kill so many others to win.

The barrier will close us in on one location called Der Untoten. It reminds me of a zombies map from an old video game. I heard that this place is inspired by it and it’s updated for today’s standards. There’s a mine below the house that I use to enter it. Even though the barrier is close to the house, I don’t hear anyone walking around in here. I start to look through the house and the house barely looks like what it was inspired by. It’s more of an old dusty house than the bunker it’s inspired by.

Finally, I find a real gun in the house’s attic. It’s the KAP-4500, an automatic pistol inspired by the franchise that this house is inspired by. The gun itself is powerful, but I only have one fully loaded clip inside with two spare ones. There are ten other people left and it takes a little more than half a clip each to kill one. Fuck my life. The only thing that’s good about this special version of the gun is that people don’t know they’re being shot by my gun until they’re dead. They don’t hear the gun being shot nor do they see it firing nor do they feel or see the damage they are receiving until they die. It’d be good if I had something better to compliment it than my rifle. Ah! I hear people walking downstairs.

I slowly and I mean SLOWLY descend the stares with my only means of self-defense. I point the gun in all directions while walking then spastically look around when I take a step on the lower floor. Damn it. Being scared like this isn’t going to help. I loosen up my shoulders before heading into a sort of dining hall. There’s a large glass chandelier in the center of the room and stairs that lead down to a small glass table with fancy wooden chairs. My luck is bad again as I don’t find anything down here-! I point my gun at four people who casually enter the room. They’re better armed and geared up than I am. Wow, and they’re wearing anime type outfits and they modeled themselves after them too. What a bunch of weebos.

One of the boys speaks up and says, “You don’t have to worry about us. We’re going to wait for everyone else to show up here before we act.”

I ask them, “Heh. You guys are pretty confident that you’ll win. Who else is on your team?”

“Do you know the winners of the last battle royale?”

“What a team to be on.”

The team laughs. They then casually hang around the stairs even though I could kill them all, so I might as well. First, I take out the girl closest to me then the boy next to him. They do say ladies first after all. Even though two of their teammates dropped within seconds of each other, the other two don’t fight back. They must know what I’m doing by now.

As I shoot down the second to last person, the last girl looks at me with a smile and says, “Our friends will win the competition for us. It doesn’t matter what you do because we’ll win in the end.”

Cheeky bitch. I gun her down with my last bullets. Okay, now these people have to have something I could-damn it! Yup. They weren’t lying. These two girls are the winners from the last battle royale. They’re decked out in advanced gear and weapons that make them look more like cyborgs than human. I thought I saw them get shot out of the sky, but I guess they really did land in the furthest drop zone with the best gear. Just like their friends, these girls are dressed up as anime characters. I back up the stairs as they slowly approach me.

“Give up. You don’t stand a chance against us,” one of the girls say.

“We can see what you have,” the other says, “You might be able to kill one of us before you die.”

Damn. That’s one of the perks of being one of the best of the best. They know what I have on me. Unfortunately, my prestige doesn’t give me an equally good ability. There’s only one thing I can do. I leap downstairs as they start firing at me. In the next room, I find three pens, two breakable and the other is unbreakable. They’re supposed to be used as distractions and not as real weapons. Whelp. I guess it’s better than nothing. I barge through the room and into the entrance.

“Woah!” a girl with boobs way too big says.

It’s probably a guy playing as a girl. I’m pretty sure a normal girl wouldn’t increase her boob size by two hundred percent. They are just way too big. Okay, I gotta focus. The rest of the people are here but are just resting here for some reason. Maybe they’re all a team? Whatever the case is, I run into the basement and into the mine.

“Hey, what’s going on with you two?” I hear a man say before he and everyone upstairs gets slaughtered.

I only have one shot at this. As I hear the two girls coming after me, I double back then get in between them. They take out their giant fist melee weapon and are about to hit me. This is it! I stab one breakable pen into one of their eyes and now they’re blinded. I then drop myself to the floor, so they hit each other. They’re stunned by the system and lay paralyzed on the floor. Friendly fire isn’t allowed and their weapons should stun them long enough for me to finish them.

One of them looks up and me and says, “How did you-?! You’re…?!”

“So you recognize me? I’m glad someone finally does.”

The other one says, “You’re Kaylen or Cazzuto Salvatori! You’re the Bloody Swordsman from Rule Humanity Online!”

“That’s right ladies.” I take out my unbreakable pen. “Unfortunately for you, I’ll have to sign my autograph all over you.”

“No, don’t! Don’t embarrass us like this!”

“I wish I didn’t too, but I don’t have any other weapon so…”

They scream in terror, “No! Stop! You’re a psycho!”

“Only idiots say video games make you psychotic. I’m sorry about this, but I’ll try to make this as quick as possible.”

I begin to quickly stab them with my pen while using my special skill, one million stabs. It’s one of the special perks I have. I think the move itself might also be a reference to another video game with the same move. My prestige as both an experienced player and survivor of the Rule Humanity Online incident has given me a ton of special skills when it comes to melee weapons. I manage to kill both girls with my pen within ten seconds. That should be it. The royale isn’t over yet? Oh? I hear someone upstairs.

“What happened?” a male player says, “Did you guys get him-?”

The man stares at me in shock in terror with my pen of terror.

I say in an attempted terrifying voice, “If you don’t want to end up like them, then I suggest killing yourself.”

“Ah!” the man turns his gun on himself and shoots.

I win. That’s it. After all of the struggling and close calls, I finally win the battle royale. I hope you’re proud of me Angel and Kerano. The game ends and I’m transported back to the main hub of the game where I’m greeted by a crowd of people who cheer for me. Angel and Kerano come out of the crowd to meet me.

“We’ve finally won! I knew you would clutch it!” Kerano says.

“You did great, Kaylen,” Angel says.

“Thanks, guys. It’s about time we won a battle royale in this game. It’s all thanks to my mindset going into it.”

“You treated it like an actual life or death game kind of like…”

I guess I was acting a bit overdramatic.

“Yeah,” I say, “Just like Rule Humanity Online, but that was three years ago, so let’s just leave it behind us, okay?”

“Right. So do you guys want to go spending all that money we just won? I’ve been dying to get new armor and equipment.”

“Yeah, let’s go. We still have an hour to kill before we have to pick up our kids from the daycare.”

This game, After the Fall, came out two years after the Rule Humanity Online incident, where all its players were trapped within it and forced to complete it lest they die of thirst or starvation. I was the one who beat the game alongside my friends. Unfortunately, the governments of the world didn’t catch the developers of the game, but that’s all behind us. This game is inspired by the lore of that previous game and makes it into a completely different game. Instead of a dark fantasy RPG, we’re playing a first-person shooter with role-playing elements in a sci-fi setting. It’s a great game that my friends and I have been playing for a while.

In this game, people can earn real money by winning tournaments, trading gear, helping others out, and even help repair the in-game systems from the inside. You can even bring your kids into the game and have them enrolled in a daycare where they can learn through games and make friends. Everything in here can make you a living. It’s honestly a paradise for gamers like me. This is how we make a living in a world where most low and middle tier paying jobs are mostly taken by androids and AI. College used to be the only (terrible) option, but now with this game, people who don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars can work honest jobs while enjoying themselves in a virtual world. The only things we need to do IRL is to eat and go to the bathroom. We can even sleep in the game without any negative side effects. I don’t think anything can ruin this present time we’re living in though I feel like thinking this will immediately turn things sour.

We arrive at the daycare after shopping for better gear. A woman, who’s volunteering as the daycare worker seems distressed for some reason. I would be too if I had to work with kids all day, but I’m feeling worried as well because of her.

She turns to us with a makeshift smile and says, “Oh, uh. Hi, Kaylen and Angel. I was just looking for Allen. He seems to have wandered off again. I’m sorry.”

I tell her, “I don’t blame him. I used to wander around too when I was little because the world around me seemed so wonderful. I’m sure he’s even more excited than I was because of how this place looks.”

Angel says, “We’ll look around the city. He couldn’t have wandered far like always.”

“Thank you, and I’m sorry for this happening again.”

“It’s no big deal. We’ll be able to find him,” I say as Angel and Kerano go to search for my son.

Angel elbows me then says, “We should take some time off playing-”

“Working.”

“Whatever. We should spend another week or so with Allen. He’s still a growing boy who needs his parents’ attention and teaching.”

“Alright. I don’t have a problem with that.”

“You’d think we do because of how many times we leave him in the daycare.”

“I do the same with my daughter,” Kerano comments.

“But at least your wife spends more time with your daughter while you earn money for them,” Angel responds.

“You don’t have to pick up for me, Kerano. I understand. Being a father really makes me want to settle down somewhere and just spend the rest of my life with the people I care about. I just want to earn as much as possible to make that happen.”

“We have enough now to do that for a little while.”

“I just wish it could last a little longer.”

“Me too, Kaylen.”

The three of us search for a while, but can’t find Allen anywhere, which is strange. Usually, we find him within five minutes of searching. Huh? What’s happening? The sky just turned red. This reminds me of…Oh no. Someone appears on the monitors scattered around the city.

It’s a cloaked figure in a half human half skull mask. They say, “We’re glad that you’re enjoying our game. Now that you have enough experience playing it, we have a new challenge for everyone. Watch.”

The floating mountain from the first game that was once just an easter egg is now lit up and a bridge comes out of the ocean to connect this piece of land to it. Who is this person? They have a voice that sounds like a mix of female and male voices.

“Complete all of the challenges in the mountain along with various other challenges that will be clear to you later in time to free everyone from this game.”

Free? You don’t mean…I can’t log out. Everyone around us tries to and can’t manage to as well. This is just like before. The three of us look at each other.

“Don’t panic guys,” I say, “We beat a game like this last time, and we can do it again.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Kerano says.

“Yeah.”

I can tell they’re uneasy, but they try to put a strong face on.

“Kaylen,” the mysterious figure says.

“Huh? Are you talking to me?”

“I am. You were the winner of the last game, so you’ll probably make it far if not win the game again. I just want to give you some motivation so we can meet a bit faster.”

The mysterious figure spawns in-Allen! They put a pistol to his head. Don’t you-FUCKER!

“You son of a bitch! Do you think you can just shoot my son and think you can get away with it you piece of fucking shit?!”

“Motherfucker! You’re dead! I’m going to beat the shit out of you for doing that!” Angel screams at the figure.

“Calm down, Kaylen. All of you have three lives, but you can earn more if you complete impossible level challenges. You can even earn lives for your friends. If you lose all your lives, you will enter a coma until someone gives you a life. You have until you die of thirst or starvation in real life to complete the game, but knowing what happened last time, you’ll probably have all the time in the world. Good luck.”

That piece of shit is going to pay! I swear it.

“Oh, and Kaylen, here’s your son to show that’s there’s no bad blood between us.”

My son spawns in my arms with a scared and confused look on his face. I collapse to my knees and cry harder than I’ve ever before. I’m going to beat this game and make the people who did this pay. For the first time they trapped us. For the second time. And most importantly for shooting my son.

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – A Sequel in a Different Genre

It takes me a while, but I let go of Allen and hand him over to a technician team within the game. They’re supposed to be the ones who protect the game from hackers, but what’s happening is from within the game and from someone that can access the game’s system with proper clearance. At least that’s what they tell me. It’s weird that some of the people who work on the game genuinely don’t know what’s going on and currently don’t have a way to get us out of the game. This makes no sense to me.

“Kaylen, I think we should go sit down, and start cooling off.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the past ten minutes, Kerano!”

Angel hugs me and doesn’t say anything, but I know what she’s saying.

“Alright. Let’s sit down somewhere so I can clear my head.”

We go to one of the many shiny bars in the city run by humans. The game has its own shopkeepers, but they encourage other people to start their own businesses, which was a mistake for the AI since the creativity and efforts of people overtook the businesses of the AI. This was possible because the AI can’t make recipes found the world and they can’t decorate their businesses. Now the AI businesses are there just for cheap stuff for beginners.

When we sit down at the bar, people start to look at us. Before any of them say anything, my two friends take out their guns. This means “don’t bother us” in this game and everyone backs off.

Angel says to Kerano, “Did you tell your wife not to come in the game?”

“I did, and she told me people on the outside are already trying to get us out.”

“I don’t get this,” I say, “They know we can get out. They even made the game easier for us by giving us a way to earn and give lives, and by trapping us after we’ve gotten used to the game. Why?” I slam my hand down on the counter. “Why damn it?!”

Angel puts her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll find out why, and make them pay for shooting Allen.”

“You’re damn right.” I get up and head in the direction of the mountain. “Let’s get this done.”

We head out to the mountain that already has dozens of people going into it, but no one is coming out. The mountain is a PVE dungeon where players bring in their equipment and try to beat the challenges inspired by the previous games in one go. This mountain isn’t as big as the previous one, so I wonder why people are coming in, but aren’t coming out. We haven’t completed this dungeon because we beat the original without guns.

As soon as we head in, we see that it’s just the three of us in the dungeon. This place allows teams and solo players to enter it, but not everyone at once since that would make it too easy. The first floor we’re on is full of normal fantasy monsters that we bypass. It’s not worth fighting them right now. We enter the boss room to find…what the hell? It’s a combination of two bosses. Half of the boss is a man with wings while the other half is a snake lady. It flies around spitting poison while trying to wrap us in its coils.

“Angel!” I call out.

“Don’t you worry guys, I got this!”

“I’ll help!” Kerano says as he sets down turrets.

Angel’s build consists of light machine guns and explosives while Kerano’s build is proficient in shotguns, traps, and buildable defenses. Kerano’s turrets shoot at the flying boss to keep it busy while Angel locks onto it. Once she gets a lock, she fires a volley of rockets at it, which knocks it out of the sky. Since bosses never die easy, we keep firing it once it hits the ground. It lets out a yell before charging at me.

“I got this!” I say as I switch my assault rifles to swords.

My build is a gunslinger build upgraded so I can dual wield assault rifles. I can also dual wield swords as well. It’s pretty sweet that this game has guns that can turn into sword, hammers, knives, and spears. It’s useful in situations like this where I’m fighting the boss up close and personal. Since it’s almost dead, I launch a flurry of slashes that stagger the boss so I can take it down without having to worry about it fighting back, and my attack finishes it. We’ve managed to beat the boss without it scratching us. The game rewards us by replenishing our ammo and opening the way to the next area. Since we finished it without taking any damage, we are given a slight boost in health and ammo capacity.

Kerano says, “I don’t remember that from the first game.”

“Neither do I. The people who trapped us here must’ve changed it,” I say.

“Maybe they did it so it won’t be easy for the veterans?” Angel guesses.

“That’s probably the answer, but it doesn’t matter what the reason really is. We have to keep going,” I say as we move for the exit.

They follow me into the next area, which is…what the hell? Literally. This place looks like Hell. It’s a battlefield with lake flowing down the cracks in the ground like rivers with the grass turned red because of the red rain falling down that smells like blood. We can see other players here fighting against demons and monsters of all kinds alongside AI soldiers that decide from helicopters in the sky. I can see three bosses that are molten monsters in metal armor protecting a large castle that is launching out fireballs onto the battlefield. That must be our destination.

“Get down!” someone yells as a mortar almost hits us.

We go to cover with some other players who are in a hole.

“What’s going on here?” I ask one of the players.

“This is how this floor is now for some reason. A lot of people are stuck here. It wasn’t like this before when my friends and I used to grind this dungeon. Hey, aren’t you, Kaylen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You can get to the end like last time, right? We all have family and friends who are worried about us.”

I look at him and his friends.

“Of course I can. I am going to need your help though.”

“Just tell us what to do.”

“First, I’m going to need more people.”

“I can message people, but they’re afraid to lose another life.”

“I’m only going to need one shot at this.”

“Okay, I’ll tell them that. We can also get more of our AI allies to spawn if we make it to those flare guns.”

“Alright. All you need to do is get my friends and I passed those three bosses then you can back off.”

“Okay…okay, we can do that.”

“We’re going to show those people who trapped us in here that they made the biggest mistake of their life. Are you ready?”

“We’re ready!” the group yells out.

“Then let’s get some!”

We run out of the holes and into the madness. I’m not sure if the screaming and dying are coming from the people behind us, but I ignore it and press forward. Because there is so much debris and hiding holes everywhere, my team and I take advantage of them for a second before going to next one when we think it’s safe. Before we know it, we’re halfway there. The people behind us have gotten to the flare and pop them off to send in several helicopters full of soldiers to help us. The AI and the other players distract the molten armored bosses while we pass by them and enter the castle.

This castle is a dark place with blood dripping from the stones. There’s rusted treasure everywhere with skeletons everyone that are wearing clothes from the ages long past. We enter a throne room to find a wounded human-like dragon with four serpent arms. It takes the large swords out of its body, lets out a yell that shatters the glass windows in the castle, and starts to fight. We dodge its attacks while firing all of our heavy and armor piercing ammo at it, but its health is barely decreasing.

“I hope we don’t have to go inside it to kill it,” I mention before it opens its mouth at us to release several lizard knights.

Kerano and I take care of the smaller lizards while Angel launches explosives into the dragon’s still open mouth for massive damage. The dragon’s mouth now lays open and we can see inside it too, which means we can enter it in unsaid video game hints. The makers of this game can’t be just dedicated enough to design the dragon’s insides.

“Get in his mouth so we can end this quickly, Kaylen!” Kerano says.

“What?! Why me?! I can’t swing my swords in there! You do it with your shotguns!”

“Uh uh! I ain’t going in that putrid place!”

“This is a video game! You aren’t going to catch a disease, be dirty, or smell after you come out!”

“Can one of you just do it?!” Angel yells.

“Fine.”

I go into the dragon’s mouth and drag my blades through the inside of his throat. This seems to wake it back up. Big mistake pal as my blades cut deeper into his throat. I take my blades out of the inside of his throat so I can land deeper inside him so I can cut him up more. I never want to think that thought again. With my smaller blades from my submachine guns, I tear out the dragon’s chest until I break through its skin and cut a hole through its stomach where a bullet almost hits me.

“Hey, watch it! I’m still in here!”

After a little bit more cutting, the dragon falls over. Great. Why can’t its body just disappear? I cut my way out of its stomach and step out of it with my body drenched in its blood. Angel and Kerano give me a weird look.

To ease the weirdness, I dance a little while singing, “Hello my baby, hello my honey!”

“No, don’t even do that,” Angel says while shaking her head at me.

“I get the joke, but…I can’t feel comfortable about this,” Kerano says.

“Hey, I stepped up like a real man and did what you couldn’t!”

“Urgh. I think the game makers really did add in smells and make you dirty.”

“It happens in some parts of the game but do I really-UCKK! I really do.”

“You’re going to have to sleep by yourself tonight,” Angel says while she heads for the exit of the castle.

“Hey, I’ll shower and use plenty of soap and have my gear cleaned, I promise! Don’t you laugh at me, Kerano!”

“Ha, I’m sorry bro. You did a good job.”

We head into the next area to find a bridge that leads to a giant castle that’s supposed to be at the top of the mountain. Kerano and I look at it each and Angel notices.

She asks, “What is it?”

“It’s nothing. We’re just surprised to be here already,” I say.

“Yeah, me too. At least we get to finish this quicker.”

She seems to have bought the explanation. I’m not sure what will happen once we enter the castle, but I’m feeling uneasy because I feel like I know what or who the final boss is going to be. We enter the castle and into the throne room. It’s just as nice as it was in the first game, but it has a cherry-rose color to it for some reason. On the throne, is a man with a cloak and red and black armor. He gets up with his red sword and takes off his cloak to reveal his face. It’s a mix between Kerano and I. I can even see my old sword on the side with my shield on the boss’s back.

I can see that Angel is more surprised than Kerano and I. I’ll have to explain everything to her later. The boss charges at us with his buster sword coming down to separate us. We fire at it while avoiding his swiping attacks that hit the walls around us. Debris starts to fall on us that we take turns shooting down, so it doesn’t land on us. After taking down the bosses to half, it smashes its buster sword into the wall to bring down the ceiling on us. We avoid the debris by getting out of the room. When the dust settles in the room, we see that the boss is holding a shield so that the debris doesn’t crush it. This move has cost it some of its health, but it did almost kill us.

It then flings the debris that is on its shield at us before going back to swinging and slashing at us. We try strafing around the boss while taking turns having its attention, which makes it put its shield on its back to deflect our bullets. Kerano tries putting down multiple turrets to make the boss put up its shield and put it in a difficult position, but it just throws its shield at the turrets to ricochet it off them and destroy them all. This was a dangerous way to get it to drop its guard, but we manage to deplete its health before its shield comes back to it resulting in the shield cutting off the boss’s head.

“We did it!” we yell out in victory.

A cloaked figure forms itself out of the shadow. It looks like the same bastard who shot my son.

“Congratulations on winning. I knew you three would be the first to beat the new challenges on this mountain,” the figure says in a male/female mixed voice.

“You better explain what we need to do next,” I say as I approach the figure with my guns pointed at it.

“Or what? What’s shooting me in a video game going to do to me? You might as well say mean words at me for all its worth.”

“Just tell us!”

“You’ll see as soon as you step outside.”

“I want to know more before you go. Tell me why you’re doing this-He disappeared. What an ass.”

“Is it a good time to ask why that boss had both of your faces on it?” Angel says as she stops me from passing by her.

Kerano and I look at each other before I explain that, “Back in RHO, Kerano finished the game before I did, but he decided not to free us because the developers convinced him not to.”

I can she’s stunned and pissed at the same time.

“…why didn’t you free us when you won the game first, Kerano?”

“Because I thought life would be better if we just spent the rest of it in the game. The developers promised me that everyone was being moved to hospitals so we could live full lives within the game! I don’t think that anymore and regret my decision, of course!”

“And why did you two lied to me about this?!”

I say, “We didn’t, kind of. The first person to beat the top of the tower in the game’s lore is like Kerano so we didn’t technically lie to you when we said that the final boss was a person who beat the mountain already.”

“Tch.”

“Angel…”

“I’m not mad. It’s been too long for me to care about what you did, Kerano. I just need some time to rest.”

Kerano and I give Angel some space as we exit the castle. In the distance, we see the survival warzone alive with danger as the ground breaks apart. I guess that’s where we’re headed next after we rest. If this was difficult for us, then I hope our experience can carry us through the next challenge and the ones after that. What am I thinking about? I have to have more faith in my wife, my best friend, and myself. When I look in their faces, I see that I can trust them. Angel softly smiles at me and Kerano smiles with a wink and a thumbs up. Yeah, we can all make it through this and beat the game.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Secrets of the Wastes

The challenges of the mountain took a lot out of us, so we’re resting back in the city in our special rooms. We gained these for our skills and our previous experience in RHO. We’re in the center building, which is a leaning tower with a golden bird at the top that acts like a marker in the city, so they know where the center is. Even though the tower itself is leaning, the resting rooms themselves don’t lean, but the view outside of the window is leaned, which is a bit odd and cool at the same time. The rest of the resting rooms in the city are for people who haven’t earned the better ones. Once they do, a room is automatically generated for them in the better buildings. The buildings can never run out of room as they grow or shrink depending on their occupants. Heck, even the city grows depending on how many businesses and apartments are needed.

This growing city still amazes me when I look out at it. The city hasn’t changed much ever since the amount of people coming in has nearly ceased. I hear that a lot of people coming in are experienced VR gamers who think they can beat this game. I’m not even sure if anyone else has beaten the mountain yet. I hope someone does beat the game soon. I don’t even want to be the first one to beat the game, unlike the first time. I’ve learned my lesson about rushing things like this.

Right now, Kerano is resting in the living room while Angel is resting over me as I sit up on the bed while looking out at the sci-fi city and its glow. Allen is sleeping in the room with us. We’ll teleport him back to the system security when we’re doing resting.

“Do you think we should stop playing these kinds of games? I think the government might shut them down after this,” Angel says.

“No, because it’s not like we can find a better place to make money for a living. I don’t think the government will shut these games down because hundreds of thousands of people make their living in here. The only jobs worth anything IRL are ones that you can only get with expensive college degrees. The rest of the jobs that aren’t taken already by robots and AI are ones that barely pay for anything.”

“Heh, we’re fighting to get out of here only to go back in.”

“At least we aren’t as dedicated as some of the pros. They’re already hooked up to a machine that feeds and cleans them. I bet they don’t even care what’s happening right now.”

“Then it’s up to people like us. This must be a scary situation for newcomers.”

“This situation is making me remember the first time this happened. Remember when you were an angry tough girl who wanted people to like her?”

“I think you’re remembering it differently than I am, but I definitely remember that you were a sarcastic jackass who wanted to get to the top of the mountain first at the cost of our lives.”

“Hey, that’s not exactly true. I changed.”

“Yeah, you definitely did.”

“Do you remember the first time we held hands? What about the first time we slept together?”

“I remember that. How could I not remember getting cut to pieces for wanting to save your ass?”

“Oh, don’t bring that memory back up. That was horrible.”

“I wish I could completely forget it along with most of the memories associated with that game.”

“Except for the few good ones spent with me, right?”

“Haha, you’re right. I want to hold onto memories those forever just like how I want to hold onto you forever. Can we just stay like this and let someone else finish the game? There are plenty of teams of pros that can finish it for us.”

“I know that, but I don’t want to. What that ass did to Allen was a direct challenge to me. I don’t care if nothing actually happened to him. He did more than disrespect my son and us by shooting him in the face. No sane good person shoots a baby boy.”

“You’re right, but I just want to be with and protect both of you instead of just leaving him in the hands of the system security.”

“You can’t save neither us if they just teleport and insta-kill us. We have to go to them and beat them at their own game. To do that, we should be heading out soon.”

“Let me spend some more time with Allen first just in case anything else happens to him.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to Kerano. You aren’t mad at him or me, are you?”

“It’s been too long for what he did to matter to me, so no, but I don’t want to hear about it again.”

“Thank you for understanding.” I get up and give my son a kiss, which makes him giggle and smile. “I’ll see you later, buddy. I love you.”

I leave the room and sit on the coach across from Kerano, who is checking his shotgun.

“Is Angel still mad at me?”

“She’s not mad at you at all. Just don’t remind her of what you did.”

“Do you think she’ll tell my wife?”

“Probably not.”

“I hope not because I was being stupid back then. I made a horrible mistake.”

“Don’t worry about it. It seems like you got what you wanted anyway since most of our time is spent making money playing video games.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“So, why are you cleaning your shotgun there? It’s not like it gets dirty.”

“Unlike you.”

“Hey, the smell and the guts are gone.” I smell myself to make sure. “Right?”

“Haha, it’s gone. I just like cleaning it because it’s my favorite.”

“It’s one of the starting shotguns.”

“It’s also the shotgun that I’ve done the most with, but it’s one of the best because of the rest of my perks.”

“I swear you got lucky with that. The mechanist perk that you choose decreases the damage of your primary damage so your turrets can do more, but since the perk subtracts the damage of your shotgun to negative one, the damage amount loops around so that your shotgun does the maximum amount of damage to make it as powerful as the most powerful shotguns in the game. That’s not all either since the starting shotgun has an above average fire rate, it makes it better in some cases than the best shotguns, which have lower fire rates. To top it all off, what’s happening to your gun isn’t a glitch.”

“I was surprised when the developers said it was a secret to make the ordinary weapons legendary. Do you remember the story they told about how a basic weapon saved their lives in a gaming tournament and allowed them to win it?”

“Yeah, I don’t blame them for getting attached to basic weapons because of that.”

“But just because my main gun is good doesn’t make your guns less special. Your golden roaring lions with its sixty round clips coming out of both barrels of your gun and ability to change into swords is amazing.”

“You got that right. This gun is exclusive to my combined build.”

“Your other guns are amazing two like your twin viper shotguns, death’s kiss handguns, and siren’s scream submachine guns.”

“They’re pretty great, but all you have to do is beat the same high secret level quests that are exclusive to my build to get them. Tons of people probably already know how to get them, so the quests aren’t as much of a secret now. Besides, Angel’s heavy weapons are great too. The white lotus LMG packs a punch and staggers every player and small to medium-sized AI enemy it manages to hit once. It’s deadly despite its low fire rate because once it hits you, you’re dead in seconds.”

“There’s also that purple dragon of wrath rocket launcher. We had to kill an actual purple dragon to get that weapon.”

“How worth it was it to get it? That thing causes bigger explosions along with greater damage along with fire damage. It’s basically a mini-nuke launcher.”

Angel comes into the room and says, “Are you two done talking about gun porn?”

“If you’re ready to go,” I say, “Did you teleport Allen back to security?”

“I did.”

“Then let’s go. Are you ready?”

“I am.”

I cock my gun then say, “Let’s go then.”

“That wasn’t as cool as you thought it was,” Angel says.

“I thought it was. If it isn’t, why do so many people do it? Whatever, let’s just go.”

We head out to the survival wasteland, which is both the place that is used for the hunting, dungeon, and one-third of the story mode of this game. The story is found by talking to people in the different areas of the game world. Unlike a lot of games, you have to keep note of what you have to do unless you get a helmet or visor that will help you keep track of your quests. Kerano has a visor that also doubles as a headband. He uses it to keep track of the health of his turrets.

The dungeons are mini-quests that let you earn different loot and also affect the world in different ways such as; the look in certain areas, the enemy spawns, loot drops, random encounters, events in the areas, and your faction’s status. Now, the survival part of the area lets you face dangerous areas while obtaining loot and secret quests. If you die before you exit the area, then you lose everything and have to do it all over again. It’s less of a gamble than gambling in town for rare loot and it’s more exciting. I wonder what the asses who trapped us here want us to do.

There are a lot of people near the gate into the wasteland both on the outside and the inside. They’re talking about what to do and what groups to go in. It appears that they beat the mountain, so we join in on the conversation. Angel and Kerano talk to a few people while I talk to one who looks like he specializes in pistols and submachine guns, so he’s a fellow gunslinger.

I say to him, “Hey, man, do you know what everyone is doing here?”

“We’re planning on how we should approach the wasteland to find what we need for everyone to escape the game. You’re Kaylen, right?”

“I am.”

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m surprised you picked a gunslinger class like me.”

“You should combine it with the sword class. You can get some sick weapons like the ones I have.”

“I’ll think about it if I ever decide to play this game again.”

“Has anyone decided to do anything yet?”

“So far it looks like we’re going to separate into large groups of seven to search the dungeons and the wasteland.”

“That sounds like a good plan. I’m up for it if you guys are.”

“Did you hear that?” he says to the crowd, “We got Kaylen approving our plan!”

The crowd of people seems excited and starts cheering as they get into groups.

The gunslinger then says, “I’d like it if you’d join my group since we only have five. We can use an expert like you.”

“I will as soon as I can ask what my wife and best friend want to do.”

Angel manages to find me. She’s followed by others who have similar weapons to her.

“Angel, what group are you going with? Do you want to go together?”

“My group over here is planning to take out the tougher enemies together, and they need a person like me to help them. Can you handle being without me for a while?”

“I can as long as I get to see you again. The real question is if your group can handle you on their team.”

Angel jabs me with her elbow, “Oh, shut it. I’ll see you later.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

I then find Kerano in a group of people who in a similar build class as him. He says the same things as Angel except his group is going to handle the hordes of lesser enemies and act as distractions to draw in the bigger enemies for heavy hitting groups like Angel’s. I let him go and join the group with the gunslinger. Together we go out into the wasteland in search of a possible dungeon to raid for secrets. Along the way I talk to the group about how the developers held secrets such as the one that makes Kerano’s starter shotgun so powerful, and how their fond memories of video games could help us find what we’re looking for.

We find a few possible places to search and separate into teams of two to investigate the different areas with a campsite that we use as a rendezvous and fast travel point. The gunslinger and I go investigate a dungeon behind a waterfall. It’s where one of the developers had spent the first day with his newlywed wife who had a similar interest in games. The developer wrote his and wife’s initials near the cave’s entrance and made the lore reflect the first time he met his wife. It’s a bunch of romantic mumbo jumbo that I can’t help but like because I know what it’s like to be in love. The enemies in the dungeon are nothing special that can’t be taken be easily taken out with a single headshot since gunslingers like us do better headshot damage than most builds.

“So, you didn’t tell me your name yet,” I say to the gunslinger.

“My name is Dante.”

“Is that your username or actual name?”

“It’s my actual name.”

“I’m sorry. I thought it was just a reference.”

“Don’t worry about it, I get that a lot. In fact, I picked gunslinger as my main class because of it.”

“What’s your secondary class?”

“It’s the secondary part of my reference. I use buffs and debuffs that I activate by saying quick lines to activate them. The ones that I use are the second part of the reference in my build, which is Dante Alighieri. The lines taken from the Divine Comedy are some of the best buffs and debuffs to use.”

The carryovers from the previous game aren’t just guns that can turn into swords and melee weapons builds, but also healing, buffing, and debuffing magic. There is offensive magic, but it is limited to giving your weapons certain effects as if it were a magic wand. You got be shooting magical bullets or throwing out long-range slashes with your swords. I think the game blends its previous fantasy elements with the sci-fi ones pretty well.

“Spitting poetry while being a stylish gunslinger? You sound like a real cowboy.”

“Haha, you think so? Oh, I think we might found something.”

The boss that spawns at the end of the dungeon is a couple who look like the developers. They’re both wearing their wedding outfits and they’re using a dual sword build that can deflect our shots. They work well together, which gives me an idea.

“Dante, we need to focus on taking out one of them. The other should easily fall after that.”

“Okay, but which one?”

“The woman.”

“Gotcha.”

“A man is nothing without his woman, am I right?”

“I see. You’re right.”

The developer should fall if his wife does or at least lose the will to fight, so we concentrate on her. She’s more skilled in defense and the developer tries his best to defend her, but our concentrated fire eventually goes through her defenses to defeat her. She might’ve been fast and skilled, but her health was low enough to deplete within seconds of getting staggered. The developer falls to his knees, which gives us the opportunity to finish him off. Dante and I then bump fists with our guns in victory.

“Your plan worked. How did you know that killing his wife wouldn’t just send him into overdrive?” Dante asks.

“Eh. Honestly, it was a gamble.”

“Haha. Alright, let’s see what we can find here.”

Dante and I search around the room and don’t find anything. We didn’t earn anything special besides high-level loot and a lot more money and EXP than you would usually get from a dungeon like this. Hold on…

“Dante…”

“What’s up?”

“Do you remember this letter being here before?”

“No, I don’t think so. What do you think a giant T means?”

“I don’t know. It could be part of a password. Oh! There’s a bunker in the destroyed nuclear test site with a keypad that you can enter a password in. The developers said they would eventually reveal the password to it to show us something special.”

“Oh, that’s right! I forgot about that since it was impossible trying to find the code.”

“I didn’t think they had this planned from the beginning.”

“I hope we can get back at these people before they do this again.”

“That’s the same thing I was thinking. We should regroup with the others to see what they found.”

When we get to the campsite, we find that the other two groups have one member whose died once, but they’ve managed to find a letter like we have. They’ve found the letters T and O. Tot? Like tatter tot? Maybe it’s thot? I don’t know. We probably need more letters. While we talk about where to go next, Kerano finds us and joins in on the conversation.

After we tell him what we found, he says, “It sounds like you need help from yours truly.”

“Doesn’t your group need your help? What happened to them anyway?” I ask.

“My group has more people who are better at crowd control than I am, so they’re fine without me.”

“That’s good. Would you mind if we left to go help our friends earn the lives they lost? They’re scared to lose all of them,” one of the others say.

“Are you serious? It doesn’t matter if you lose all of your lives because people can just earn them back for you,” Dante says.

“Dante, it’s fine. You two can go if you want,” I say to them.

“Thank you.”

Once the two of them leave, Dante says, “Why did you let them go? They could’ve helped us.”

I explain to him that, “You have the two of us with you, so you have nothing to worry about. Besides, I’m sure we can find other people to replace them.”

“What if we face a threat that’s too much for the three of us to handle?”

“Then we retreat and find someone who can help us.”

“Alright. I’m just wondering because I want to get at the people who trapped us here as quickly as possible.”

“Don’t worry about it. We feel the same way. They’ll get what’s coming to them soon. Let’s move out.”

The three of us head out into the wasteland. After we walk through the wasteland while Dante introduces himself to Kerano, we discover a lake near a small town.

I tell Dante and Kerano to stop here because, “A few developers came from a small town near and a lake. Also, who wouldn’t hide an easter egg near a lake in a wasteland?”

We search through the town first before going near the lake.

As Dante looks closer into the lake, he says, “I think I see a letter down there.”

Before Kerano and I can see what he sees, a giant Hydra with six heads.

“Kerano!”

“I got it!”

Kerano starts laying down turrets to distract the heads of the Hydra while Dante and I start firing at its heads. We don’t seem to be doing the much damage to it despite hitting critical hits. I think I see a small glow in the hydra’s mouth when it opens it, but since the turrets are making it shut its mouth, I can’t hit it.

“I’m going to need you to shut down your turrets except the ones to defend you, Kerano!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I am!”

“…alright then.”

Kerano self-destructs his turrets that aren’t protecting him, which makes the snakes open their mouths to spit their poisons at us.

“Dante! I’m going to need you to shoot the snakes in the mouth particularly the glowing part.”

“Those glowing spots are really small. Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Gunslingers like us specialize in hitting the enemy where it hurts most after all.”

We both smile at each other and shoot the snake in its mouth like real sharpshooters. When the glowing spot takes enough damage, it explodes along with the head of the serpent. We then repeat the process until there are only three heads left. The three heads into turn into one serpent that’s larger with sharper scales and teeth. It tries to eat me, but I manage to stop it and hold its mouth open with my assault rifle swords.

“Guys, I’m going to need your help here!”

“We got it!”

Both Kerano and Dante concentrate their fire into the hydra’s mouth until the glowing spot blows up along with the hydra’s head. The rest of its body disappears as we get a reward for killing the beast. We raise our guns and cheer in victory.

“You must trust Kaylen a lot to let down your defenses without any explanation,” Dante says.

“I trust him. He’s been like a brother to me ever since that time we played RHO together.”

“I mean we basically live in the same house so we might as well be family. We both left our families behind to pursue our careers in gaming.”

“Really? That’s dedication to your friends and your beliefs if I’ve ever heard of it.”

“Haha, I guess you could say so. Now, what’s that letter you saw?”

“Let’s see. It’s an A.”

“An A? So we have T, O, T, and A.”

“Nothing about that sequence of letters brings up anything to my head. What about you, Kaylen? You know your references.”

“Nothing. Let’s keep moving. I think I know where we should go next.”

“Right,” both of them say.

We head out to a volcano near the bunker. This surrounding area in general has a ton of easter eggs such as; the destroyed nuclear test site is a reference to a town used to test nukes in a popular multiplayer game, there’s a cabin nearby that’s broken in half with a giant arm coming out of it, a downed alien space ship that’s in the form of a C, and so on. As we get closer to the volcano, we find groups of people fighting all kinds of enemies. Among these people is Angel.

Kerano starts setting up his turrets as Dante and I start cleaning the killing floor. I shoot my way through the crowd of enemies with my pistols in order to not hit anyone else until I get to Angel.

“Hey, babe, you come here often?” I ask her.

“Hell no. Did you find anything?”

“We found hidden letters that I think we can use to enter the bunker that’s not far from here.”

Kerano’s turrets then activate and launch a barrage of homing shots that kills the crowds of enemies. I give Kerano a thumbs up and he does the same. The ground then shakes as the volcano begins to become active. An enormous dragon made of fire erupts from the volcano and yells out as fire begins to rain from the sky. Knights also made of fire form themselves from the fire rained from the sky and the lava pouring out of the volcano.

Angel says to me, “Think we can take them?”

“Of course we can. We can do this! Let’s kick some ass!” I say to the group to rally them.

They scream out with their guns raised. The players with short to medium ranged charge the enemy while the ones with long ranged weapons take up positions to shoot at the knights while others shoot at the dragon. Angel and I go after the dragon as it flies towards us while Dante and Kerano with his turrets help the others with the knights. The dragon itself has no real critical areas to hit-wait, strike that. Its weak points move as the bubbling fire on its body reveals it. I fire at those to bring it crashing to the ground.

Angel uses her rocket launcher on it while I empty clip after clip of my assault rifle in it until I run out of ammo. I then switch to my shotguns and get up close and personal to the dragon’s head. It tries chomping at me while breathing fire at me, but I dodge its attacks while switching my shotgun to a short sword then back again to keep its attention as Angel peppers it with light machine gun fire from a distance. The dragon then gets mad and switches its attention to Angel.

I can’t aggro it to me, so I stab my swords into its fiery skin and climb on top of it, then yell out, “Watch out, Angel!”

The dragon then flies a short distance above the ground then charges towards Angel.

“Grab my hand!” I say with my hand out.

Angel grabs my hand as we go up into the sky with the dragon.

“You’re crazy!” she says as climbs on top of the dragon.

“And you’re even crazier for going with my plan. It’s also crazy that this dragon made of fire isn’t that hot to stand on.”

“We still can’t stay on it without taking a little damage. What’s your plan?”

“Put your rocket launcher in its mouth and blow it up. I think its weak point is somewhere in its chest.”

“Do you have a plan to get us back down?”

“Kind of. Just get on my back.”

Angel gets on my back as I use my swords to climb up to the dragon’s face as it flies around trying to get us off. Once we get to the mouth, I cut the dragon’s jaw so that its mouth is wide open.

“Do it, Angel!”

Angel puts her rocket launcher in the dragon’s mouth then says, “Eat this!”

She fires her rocket into the dragon, which causes its body to explode, but the neck and head are still intact.

“What now?!” Angel asks in a panic as we begin to plummet to the ground.

“Hold onto me!”

Angel holds onto me as I get us to the top of the dragon’s head with my swords. I try to keep the dragon’s head on the bottom as we fall, and I manage to do this as the dragon’s head digs into the ground then throws us off when the dragon’s head and neck turn into ash. I roll on the ground with Angel in my arms until we come to a complete stop. Man is she shaking after the ride.

“That was fun, wasn’t it,” I say to her with a smile.

“That was horrible.”

“It was amazing. I don’t know what you were worried about. Even if we couldn’t survive the fall, we would still have two more lives.”

“That’s not the point. Falling to my death is terrifying even if this is a game.”

“But don’t lie that you weren’t at least a little thrilled.”

“…okay, I was.”

“Want to do it again after this is over?”

“No!”

In the distance, I see that the group has finished off the small army of knights. The once activate volcano has calmed down and the lava is now cooled off. We search the volcano and find the letter, Y.

I say aloud, “T, O, A, T, and now Y…hmm. I still can’t make anything out of that.”

“How about toasty if we add an S?” Angel says.

“Toasty? That sounds like it could be it since it’s a reference. Let’s see if the bunker will accept that.”

We go to the bunker and fortunately enough, it accepts it. Our group cheers with cheers for Angel in particular.

As we descend into the bunker, I ask whoever can answer it, “Why toasty of all references? It sounds like something someone would’ve tried on the door.”

Everyone just shrugs while Angel says, “I don’t know, but I know that I was the one who got it after so many other people failed.”

“Ooooh, you’re so special.”

“You’re damn right about that.”

When we get to the bottom of the bunker, we find a bunch of monitors. All of them activate and form a picture of a cloaked face.

The person on the monitor says, “Congratulations on finally getting into the bunker. I’m sure you’re wondering why toasty was the password. Well, it wasn’t originally, and the password history suggests that dozens of people already tried it.”

I turn around to see Angel puff her face.

“The password was originally something easier to guess, but we changed it to toasty later. So the main reason why toasty is the password is because my friend and I were always bad at fighting games even though we loved playing them. We barely used two or three special moves from our favorite characters and just button mashed for most games, but for every match we played, we finished it with an uppercut.”

Ah, I get it now.

“You must be hearing this message after you were all trapped in this game, which must be slightly unfortunate for you. The truth is, if you figured out the password beforehand, you would’ve never been trapped here, and we would’ve never bothered you by doing it.”

What? Are they serious?

“We don’t even know why you would want to free yourselves since you must know that the world sucks. When you free yourselves, you’ll probably be back here again to make money and have fun. If you want to free yourselves, nevertheless, you must get to the PVP area of the game and find our developer building. Search it and you’ll find the key to your freedom. We really hope you’ve been enjoying our game and will continue to for however long you play it.”

The monitors then shut off. The group talks amongst itself while exiting the bunker while I stare at the monitor. Hmm. Nothing? No after secret message after what you said? There we go! It’s on.

The person on the monitor says, “No, there is no secret after credits message. You should know that we hate those.”

It turns off again. That’s bullcrap! Oh! It’s back on!

“Okay, here’s a hint since you’re so patient. You’re probably not going to defeat the challenge after your next. Sorry, but that’s how it’s going to be.”

The monitors turn off again.

I shoot the monitors while saying to it, “Fuck you! We’re going to make sure you pay for everything that you’ve done!”

“What do you think they met by saying we’re probably not going to beat the last challenge?” Kerano asks as we leave the bunker.

“It’s probably BS to get us scared,” Angel says.

“You’re damn right about that.”

Once we’re out of the bunker, I state, “We’re going to free ourselves from this game and get back at those developers for what they did. Nothing can beat us when we fight together!”

We fist bump with a battle cry then head out to the PVP area. Just you asses wait. We’re going to free ourselves soon enough.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Freedom from Virtual Reality

The PVP zone is a mostly destroyed city that’s a lesser version of the cities of today. It’s from the 2000s so about a hundred years ago. Players face each other in this city for loot, equipment, and money. The better you do, the better stuff you get. You enter the PVP zone by being mid-rank or level fifty. If you bet money, you can earn real money, but if you don’t you only gain equipment and guns. To get more money, you do well in a game and then the amount of money you earn is based on the game, your number of kills/deaths, and if your team won or not.

I wish I was still playing the normal game now because everyone is shooting at each other for some reason. As far as I know, killing each other in the PVP zone is the easiest way to earn back lives. The people over here have found out that you can’t earn anymore lives over three and what lies in the developer’s building. Some people have given up and are trying to make other people give up as well. There are others that are earning back their lives and the lives of their friends to try to challenge again. Unfortunately, we’ll have to go through them in order to beat the game.

Despite how large the city is, there are few open sections. Most are close to medium engagements, so my shotguns and submachine guns are the best in this area. Angel covers us from longer distances while Kerano shoots the people I miss. The three of us work like a well-oiled SWAT time until we get to the area near the developer’s building. It’s completely surrounded by people who are protecting it. They aim their sights and fire on whoever approaches the building. This is going to be tricky, so we huddle together to make a plan.

“I could put turrets around the perimeter while you distract them,” Kerano suggests.

“That sounds decent, but what I just blow them all up? A few shots of my purple dragon should be able to clear most of them and the smoke screen it creates should be able to give us cover,” Angel says.

“That sounds like a good plan, but what about this…we shoot them all,” I say.

“I’m being serious!”

“I like his plan,” someone from behind us says.

I turn around to see my gunslinger bro Dante.

“Hey, Dante! I was wondering where you were,” I say to him.

“I was gathering people so we could secure it to investigate it. I think we can take the building if we use all three of your plans.”

“Well, my plan is a joke plan, but I like your idea. We’re one step away from freedom, are you guys ready?”

The crowd of people yell together.

“Shh! You don’t want them knowing we’re here yet.”

The crowd then does a silent yell before we start enacting our plan. Everyone gets into positions so that we attack in a pincer formation. Once we’re ready, I message Angel, and she shoots a rocket in the area with the most people in it. Kerano then begins to set up his turrets in key positions to give us cover as we attack. Our plan is executed so well that most of the players defending the building are dead within seconds.

Unfortunately, we have attracted the attention of neighboring players who are hunting for lives. Angel, Kerano, Dante, and I quickly run for the developers building under a hail of gunfire-Oh shit! Someone just sniped half of Dante’s head off!

“Don’t worry guys, I’m sure you can do it without me!” he says as he begins to disappear.

“Don’t talk with half your head off! It’s weird, and we got it. Just you wait,” I say before we head further into the building.

Most of the upstairs floors are just abandoned spaces with posters referencing the developers’ favorite video game, movie, anime, comics, manga, and TV shows. There are also pictures of the developers and their families along with testing rooms for their games. I’m a bit surprised they made more than this game and RHO. Since there isn’t anything really here, we check the basement and find an elevator that’s operational. I don’t remember this being operational and there are no other elevators in this building besides this one. When we look at the elevator’s controls, we see that the only button has a down arrow.

I look to Angel and Kerano and ask them, “Are you ready?”

“We are if you are, babe,” Angel says.

“I’ve been ready,” Kerano says.

“Let’s do this then.”

We press the button and the elevator doors immediately shut and the elevator quickly descends to the bottom that makes us hit the ceiling then the floor of the elevator when it hits the bottom. What a way to give us one last scare. Once we exit the elevator, we see that we’re in a somewhat dark mass room with pillars everywhere, and three massive floating figures that are among the pillars as if they’re what’s keeping them together. Those must be the developers, the people who trapped us twice in a video game.

“Welcome, Kaylen, Kerano, and Angel. We knew you would make it here,” one of the developers say.

“You shitheads shot my son. Of course we were going to make it to you and end this game of yours.”

“Even though it was you who beat our first game, you won’t beat this one. I’m sure you’ve seen the others out there who have come here and left only to turn on you.”

“We’re not like them.”

“That’s what they said as well. Do you know that some of them came here first instead of the tower? They were clever enough to follow a hunch they had and come to the only place they may find us. There have been so many people that have lost all of their lives and others that are turning on their friends to get them to stop fighting against us. You may have a fair chance of beating us, but we will be the ones who decide when the game stops.”

“Oh really? We’ll see about that.”

“Not so fast. There’s a special condition for this fight since it’s the last one. You may not know it, but you only have one life left. We took the other ones you had in order to make this choice more difficult for you.”

Assholes. No wonder why those people outside are fighting for lives.

“Okay, what is our choice?”

“You have two choices. Your first choice is to fight us together, but you lose, you don’t have anyone to give you a second chance. Your second choice is to sacrifice two of the people in your group for the last person left to face us with a powerful weapon of their choice. If they lose, they can choose to leave and earn back all your lives.”

What a choice to make.

I look at Angel and Kerano who are nervous, so I say to them, “What do you think we should do?”

“Well…Our safest option is to have a singular person fight and if they lose, then at least someone can try again,” Kerano explains as he tries to keep it together.

“I guess that’s our only real choice because we don’t know how the boss fight with them will go,” Angel says, “But we also don’t know if a singular person will a special weapon can beat them. Who’s going to be that person anyway? If I pick the rarest heavy weapon, I could possibly take them out in minutes.”

Kerano says, “If I’m the one who fights, I could use the best turrets in the game to even the numbers and get a better shotgun to increase my chances of winning.”

“But if I’m the one who fights them, I could pick a weapon that I can dual wield for double the massive damage while also being aided by my critical hits and agility,” I say.

There’s silence for a couple minutes before Kerano says, “I think Kaylen should be the one to fight for us. His build is the best that can adapt to whatever they might throw at him.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Angel…”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen when we fight them. Besides, I trust that you’re going to kick their ass.” Angel hugs and kisses me.

Kerano and Angel then disintegrate as if they were killed.

I turn to the developers and say, “What the hell?!”

“They already decided their champion. Now, pick your weapon.”

A room opens near the elevator door. In the room is an armory of all the weapons in the game. I wonder if they have…oh boy they do! I pick it up and exit the room with the best gun for my build, Hell’s Shredder. It’s a minigun that can also shoot homing rockets that can turn into one big fuck-off buster sword when I put them together.

“You done fuck up now!” I scream at them with my sights on them.

They look surprised and they should be. This is a gun that only the max ranked gunslingers mixed with sword builds can have once they complete their hardest quest. No one has obtained it and there’s been teases of its existence, but now I have it, and now I’m going to shred them to pieces! They open fire on me with their homing lasers, but my homing rockets meet them in the air to destroy them. I then sprint around the room while firing everything the gun has at them. This gun basically makes me a one-man army. It’s no wonder why the only downside is that you have to wait until the next day for an ammo refill, but I have so much ammo that I’ll be able to beat these people.

The minigun cuts through the developers’ health while the rockets block and deflect their attacks. The attacks that do get through I dodge. Despite its size, I can still move fast while firing Hell’s Shredder. It’s one of the things that make it so overpowered. Once they’re down to critical levels of health, the three developers become one cloaked figure with a white mask with three faces and a crown on its head.

“Come at us with everything you got,” they say as they unsheathe their sword-like fingers and charge towards me head-on.

“Bring it!”

I continue to fire my minigun and rockets at them as I charge towards them.

Before they reach me, I switch my gun to a buster sword and hit them with buster sword. They block it with their sword fingers, but I struggle against them until I let out a yell, cut through their fingers, and cut off their head. There it is. It’s over.

The developers say, “Congratulations. We knew you would be the one to finish the game since you knew about the best weapon in the game.”

“That’s not all. It’s because of my wife and best friend that I’m here.”

“Of course. You seem to have grown up since you last played. We don’t see you joke around as much as you used to.”

“Being a father does that. I’ve grown in spirituality, been more responsible, and I’m more goal-oriented for the betterment of my family. The father is the head of the family after all.”

“We’re sending you our address so we can have a talk. Come whenever you want. We’ll be expecting you.”

They’re not really going to-oh, they did. This address is only a few hours away from where I am.

“I’ll be seeing you soon then.”

All three faces on their mask smile at me before disappearing. Keep smiling jacks. You won’t be soon enough. As soon as I log out of the game, I make sure Angel, Kerano, and Allen are okay, and sure enough, they are. Kerano and his wife hug and kiss, but I have to cut their reunion short with what I tell them. They understand and get ready to meet the developers. After making some preparations, we go to the address I was given.

It’s a small inconspicuous house in a nice looking neighborhood. We knock on the door and a woman answers the door.

She says, “We’re so glad to finally meet you. Welcome to our home.”

“Sure,” I say as I go into the house.

There are seven people sitting around a TV playing video games on a console with snacks and sugary drinks on a large table near them. These people look like the average people that you would see on the streets. They’re dressed casually as if they were having a sleepover. The woman who answered the door sits on the couch near them. A man pauses the game and stands up as the seven people look at me.

“Welcome to our home, Kaylen and friends,” he says with a smile.

I really want to punch them all, but I can’t.

“You told me to come here because you wanted to have a talk. What is it that you wanted to talk about?”

“As you can see, we’re just normal gamers like you even though we still play on consoles. I hope it doesn’t make us look like try-hard old school gamers.”

“No, it doesn’t. Millions of people still play on PC and consoles. VR is just for professionals and people who want to make a living playing games.”

“And that’s what we were aiming for. It’s been the dream of millions of gamers to make a living doing what they love, and we’ve made that a reality. You can’t deny that we’ve helped millions of people by giving them the opportunity to make a living without having to break their backs.”

“I guess I can’t.”

“Right. Think about the job market right now. The jobs once meant for the middle class are now filled automated with robots and AI. The rest of the jobs are low paying and will soon be replaced as well. Going to college for a job you probably don’t want is the only option and you know how shit modern academia is right now. Our game has not only given people jobs they want to work, but it has also brought them together, so we work together like we used to so many centuries ago. Hunting, gathering, adventuring, fighting together, and such, but with the added bonus of no one getting hurt. People have even grown more spiritual and religious because of it. We’ve seen you at the Catholic churches in the game. This was the point of our game. It was shown in the game’s story, its world, and the everyday occurrences.”

“You’re right, and I’m thankful for what you’ve done, but what you’ve done to prove your point was wrong. You can’t force people to see your point by trapping them in a game twice, and you sure as hell can’t shoot someone’s son to egg them on even if you didn’t cause any real harm. You have to pay for what you’ve done.”

I take out a collar and put it around the man’s neck. The other developers get up in shock. A SWAT team enters the building to make sure they don’t move.

I continue saying, “You should know what this collar does. The police use it to get the truth out of people, so lying to them will cause you to have more than some minor burns on your neck.”

“We knew this would eventually happen. Part of us always knew that some of what we did was wrong.”

“Then I hope you change for your sake.”

“Don’t worry, we already have.”

I leave the house with my family as the police arrest the developers. At their trial, they are charged with kidnapping and the endangerment of children, but because they caused no actual harm and the law hasn’t evolved for this kind of crime, they only get thirty years in jail instead of the life in jail that I thought they would get. Because they’re prestigious members of society, they get their own special room with gaming systems to play with. I hear that they invite other people to play with them and that they’re upstanding members of the jail. I hope this is true.

As for us, we’re still playing video games to make a living and have fun. Video games bring joy and fun to people. They can teach lessons while also bringing people together for a shared goal, but we still put them down now and then to enjoy real life. Today, I am going out with my family to the beach. I hear that it’s crowded at this time of year.

The End

Author: Albert GimJuie Oon

A Catholic self-published author that writes to entertain and teach. Writes mostly horror, fantasy, and short story fiction. Amazon (paid kindle and paperbacks) - https://amzn.to/2NOBQ8S Blog - https://albertoonbts.blogspot.com/ Smashwords (free eBooks) - https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Gimjuie

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