Chapter twenty one


Jason sat on his bed and put his head in his hands.  He wanted to, needed to, think.  What Skylar had said made no sense.  No sense at all.  How can the game change people?  Then Jason thought of his mother.  Who always hated him, and just today told him that she loved him.  The twins were never around anymore, and he remembered hearing someone talking about their grades in the Schooling, and they had gotten into a fight a few days ago. Wings was the same as ever, but that made Jason question the fact of her back story of where she came from, how she had moved and such.

But families moving to other cities was almost unheard of.

And Megan Reye.  She was more tense, more antsy, more secretive.  And never at home.  Jason looked around and shivered.  No, it could not be true, it just was not possible.  The game itself was innocent.  Still, Jason looked over at his helmet, lying on the floor, and he left it there for now.  Tonight he would not play.

Jason changed and leaned back on his bed.  He closed his eyes to a silent sleep, his thoughts invading his dreams.

When Jason opened his eyes he noticed that it was quiet.  He was up earlier than usual, and grey light lit his room and made the air almost palpably thick.  Jason stretched his body, and winced as his pain pierced his chest where his ribs were.  Jason had his wounds checked out last night, and thankfully nothing was broken but they still hurt.

After Changing, Jason went into the kitchen and grabbed a bright green apple.  He decided not to make anything, since no one was up, and thought that he might as well go to the commoner’s meeting place.  Chores were still cancelled, but it had been a day or so since Jason had been there and he was curious about the news.

Jason finished his breakfast and disposed of the apple core in the food disintegrator, then headed outside.  He took the short way to the meeting square.  He figured that since it was early, it would just as safe as anywhere.  He was not surprised when he entered the clearing alone, but was kind of unnerved by the stillness of everything.

He walked up to one of the announcement screens and let it scan his iris before displaying the announcements.

“Date: July Seventeenth of the year two thousand fifty nine. Message: As of now all chores for the commoners have been permanently canceled.”  What?  That insanely confused Jason and he gasped in surprise. “Instead the new model type H Four Three S D humanoid will be performing all required work of the cities.  A general model H Six Nine R Q humanoid will be throughout the week issued to homes of the common man to assist on the estate.  The Schooling sessions have ended for a period of three weeks to celebrate the national holiday season of The Union.”

H43SD-humanoid? H69RQ-humanoid? Holiday Season?  This announcement was totally unexpected and completely confusing for Jason, and he had to press a hand against the wall to prevent himself from falling down.  It made no sense at all.  Jason looked around as the announcement monitor blinked off, and he made a quick sprint home.  The entire way he saw no one or heard nothing.

When Jason got home he rushed inside the door and strait to his room.  He didn’t notice what a racket he made, and he felt the silence of the people in his house like a gaping hole in his chest.  When he got to his room he left the door wide open and picked up his helmet.

He yanked it on and pressed the wireless transmission button, and let the game log him in.  He laid back on the bed as the helmet took his iris scan, and he waited impatiently for the rush of wind to announce his arrival in the game lands.

When it came, Jason woke up in Nox’s cabin.  He looked around, and didn’t immediately see anyone, but he heard voices talking in the room over.  Jason breathed in relief, and jumped as a little pinging noise buzzed in his ear.

A noise like that was only prominent when he had a private message, and he nearly never got those.  Most of his friends, or even Nox, would just leave him a handwritten note.  Jason pressed the message button on his receiver belt, and a blue translucent screen popped up in front of Jason.  He squinted his eyes to better read it against the firelight gloom.



{Error Message Number seventeen}

Due to a problem in the user interface, all game play has been locked…



            Right there the message seemed to end and begin abruptly, and it was clear the previous message had been overridden by something else.




{Error Message Number seventeen}

Due to a problem in the user interface, all game play has been locked… For now on, all users will not be allowed to log off.  All game rules have been changed.  Guilds can not exceed thirty seven members, Apprentices can depart their masters any time between levels six and ten.

The game is now under new management.  Good luck to all you poor souls playing.  Level thirty seven is the only way to change the game back. 

Catch me if you can,

the Hacker.




Jason gasped and he finally understood.  He was stuck.  In the Game.  And Skylar knew all along.  Jason closed the message and picked up his knapsack, weapons, and cloak.  He held them all in his arms and walked over to where he could hear the voices whispering, talking to one another.

Jason entered Nox’s private sitting room, and cleared his throat, so the three people talking would turn to look at him.

It was Nox, arguing angrily and red faced with Wings and Rapid. Wings smiled and nodded to Jason as he entered, and rapid avoided his gave all together and continued to argue with Nox, who briefly looked back at Jason.

“Look, Nox, you read the message, everyone has.  The kid is in our guild now, and he is on a high enough level to leave you as an apprentice.”

“Who give you the right, Rapid, to make decisions regarding my apprentice?  No one, that is right.  And besides, he still has to finish his fights at the arena, he can not leave just yet.”

“Um, excuse me.”  Jason cut in and walked over to the standing pair.  “I am right here, do not I have a say in this too?”  Jason saw wings snicker on the sofa and he looked from Nox to rapid repeatedly.  Rapid still acted as if Jason weren’t there, and it made him understandably upset.  Nox took one glance at Jason and continued talking.

“No, you do not.”

“Come on Nox, let the kid talk!”  Wings said and stood up over by the sofa.  Nox glanced at her indigently and grunted to signal for Jason to say whatever was on his mind.

Thank you Wings.  Now, I do not know everything you two are arguing about, but I agree with Rapid with the fact that I can, and should, leave you as my master and go find a base of my own.  As for the arena, I do not give a damn if I never have to go back to that cursed place again.”

Nox sighed and glared at Jason.  “You are so stupid.” Her snarled, but Rapid held up a hand to silence the two.

“Enough.  I think that settles the matter Nox.  Thief, do you have all your stuff?”  Rapid turned to Jason for the first time since he entered the room.  Jason noticed that the other player’s eyes were slightly blank, as if he were hiding something, but they looked deep and tired at the same time.

“Yeah, I’ve got it right here.”  He said and lifted his little bundle.  Rapid nodded again.

“Good.  Wings can help you chose a base, and then she can bring you over to the guild meeting place and we’ll get you introduced to the other members.”

“How many of us are there total?”  Jason asked.

“Including you… Thirty seven.”  Rapid replied and turned back to Nox, waving at Wings to come and help Jason.

Jason was frustrated with Rapid’s neutrality towards him, but he put the cloak on and stashed his weapons on his belt and shouldered the knapsack while Wings came over to him.   He handed her her long sword back and she smiled in thanks.  Jason opened his mouth to ask her something, and she brought a finger to her mouth to indicate that he should stay silent.  She jerked her head at the door, and Jason nodded, then followed her out of the room and eventually out of Nox’s base.

Outside, Wings sat down in a patch of clear snow.  Jason mimicked her and sat across from her.  She smiled widely.  “First off, congrats on reaching level six.”  Wings said.  “And second off, do not take Rapid’s attitude too personally, he is only acting like that because he is around Nox.”

“Wait,”  Jason cut in, “How do you know Rapid?”

“Oh!  I thought he told you!  I am in the guild also.  In fact, I was one of the first members.  Right now I am one of the highest level players, save for Rapid himself.”

“Have you leveled up recently?”  Jason asked and she laughed.

“Yes, I am on level eleven now.”

“That is wonderful!”  Jason exclaimed.  “So you finished that shark hunting quest, huh?”

“You would have known had you logged in last night.  In fact, none of this would be a surprise to you.”

“What do you mean?”  Jason asked when Wing’s voice suddenly became grave.

“The game was hacked last night.  That was when those private messages were sent out.  Rapid and I got worried about when we didn’t see you around anywhere, so we waited a bit then came over here to make sure Nox hadn’t locked you up or something.”

“Ah.  So where did you buy your base at?”  Jason said, changing the subject.

“In town.  Not as in town as my master’s was, but more so than this.  I didn’t have as much flechs saved up as I probably should have, but I had a fair amount and got a nice place.  Since you are on such a low level you probably won’t be able to buy a good place just yet.  Even the bargain huts, which are scarcely two rooms large, cost ten thousand flechs.”  Jason checked his meters and sighed.

“I have six thousand seven hundred fifty three flechs.”  Wings nodded.

“For now you can stay at me base.  I will see if I can find you a quest or two to complete, but you will earn a little bit of flechs after you complete the initiation for the guild.”

“The initiation?  What is that?”  Jason asked hesitantly.  The word didn’t sound two good.  Wings shrugged.

“A series of tests.  There are four consisting of agility, sword fighting, hand fighting, and a mind puzzle.  If you pass them all then you are officially apart of the guild.”

“Ah.”  Jason said with a little smirk.  “Somehow I knew it would not be so easy.”

Wings laughed and punched Jason lightly on the arm.  “You will do fine.”  She said with a wink.  “They are easy.  Just do not expect me to go easy on you.”

“Wait, what!?”

The End

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