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Zero sat on a thick tree branch about twenty meters off of the ground. From here he could see out into the open for a fairly good distance. Using his innate skill 'Hawk Eyes' he was observing a man and his puppy as they ate their dinner around a campfire. Even at a distance of nearly three kilometers, he could still easily make out the details on the man's clothing and armor as if he were standing right next to him. His 'Hawk Eyes' innate gave him the ability to magnify his vision and see extremely well at night, it made him an excellent scout. That's exactly what his position within his little four-man group was.

His full name was Black Zero and beneath the branch he was sitting on were his three friends, Black One, Black Two, and Black Three. These were not their actual character names of course, but rather code names they used to hide their identities. Even from each other. It was a form of security that worked exceptionally well inside of AoG where character names were not publically displayed over their heads. Even if there was some method in AoG to force a player to tell the truth they could only reveal the code names of the other three in the group.

As for why they were so interested in protecting their identities, well they were 'bad guys'. Almost every game with free-range PvP that they had ever played had a seedy underbelly that consisted of assassins, thieves, kidnappers, and more. All four of them preferred to play games in this way for various reasons.

Black Zero was an architect in the real world and used his knowledge of architecture to play as a burglar. He loved to scout buildings out and find the weaknesses to break inside and ransack them. Black One was a public prosecutor and enjoyed playing a 'bad guy' inside of VR games to gain a better understanding of the criminal mind to prosecute his cases better. Black Two was just a white-collar worker at some corporation and came into VR games to blow off steam and relieve stress. Black Three was a police officer and had motivations similar to Black One. All four of them were good people in the real world with two of them even making it their lives work to punish criminals.

Inside of VR games, however, they were the epitome of evil. If there was a dirty job that paid fairly well they would be more than happy to take it on. Tonight their job was to kill the man they were observing and attempt to steal his pet. There was a bounty on the man that paid regardless and if they succeeded in stealing the little white puppy they would get a large bonus.

This was their first job from the Dark Guild, the underbelly version of the Adventurer's Guild. Due to all four of them spawning in different cities it had taken them weeks to get together. Black Zero had spawned in Ulvstad, Black Three had spawned in another city on the same continent, but Black One and Black Two had spawned on the other continent. It took time and effort for them to earn money and book passage to all arrive in Ulvstad to meet up with Black Zero. It was annoying to them but they did so because they had all agreed to meet up wherever Black Zero spawned. This made Black Zero the strongest member of the group so the other three were relying on his strength until they could catch up some more.

Black One, Black Two, and Black Three all sat around the base of the tree resting while they waited to conduct their raid on the man they were targeting. Black Zero watched for a bit longer before calling down to his friends, "Alright, he's gone into the tent. We'll wait a couple of hours to make sure he's deep asleep and then we'll attack. He set out a warning system but I saw where he planted the rods so we can easily disable it."

The other three gave various grunts of acknowledgment and continued to rest. Frankly, they all felt that with the four of them they could easily overpower one man and take him out. However, it was Black Zero's turn to lead them so they all followed his commands. To keep the group together and happy they rotated who was in charge of each mission. Since this was their first mission in AoG it naturally fell to Black Zero to lead them.

Black Zero continued to sit on the branch and observe the campsite. Thanks to his second innate ability 'Grid' he could easily measure distances and mark locations. 'Grid' allowed him to overlay a grid of lines on anything he could see and freely change the size of the grid. It was a perfect ability for measuring anything. When they first spotted and followed their mark he'd used the ability to make sure that they never got within a hundred meters of the target by making each square in the grid one hundred by one hundred meters. While the target was planting the rods for his alarm he'd shrunk the grid to one meter by one meter and marked the locations to make them easy to find and remove. As an architect in the real world, this ability of his was unbelievably well suited to him.

When the four of them had met up they'd discussed their abilities in detail with each other. It was necessary to know the ins and outs of every tool at their disposal to plan how to go about their jobs. Most players would keep such details secret from people they were not exceedingly close to. In this way, they had all come to a conclusion. The AI that helped them make their characters lied to them!

All four of them had pre-ordered AoG and had gotten two innate abilities from it. Out of the eight innate abilities, six of them perfectly matched the players who had them. Of the two that didn't perfectly match them neither was completely useless. Though their data pool was small and it could all just be a coincidence, it led them to believe that the 'random' nature of the innate abilities wasn't very random at all. There was some variance but all four of them suspected that the pool of abilities that the players pulled from varied based on the player's desires or personality.

For Black Zero, though his 'Grid' ability was only C grade and his 'Hawk Eyes' was only B grade he felt that they were perfect for his role in their group. With the two abilities combined, he could scout from a long distance and give perfectly accurate measurements of anything he could see. He could do all sorts of things with these two abilities that made their future prospects look exciting!

As Zero contemplated their future time passed. After a few hours the campfire at their targets tent had burned out and there were no signs of any motion at all. It seemed that their target was deep asleep. Zero quickly climbed down from his perch and joined his friends, "The target should be sleeping deeply now. We'll sneak close and I will disable his alarm. Once it's disabled we'll surround the tent and cut it open. We have to make sure we only kill him and try not to harm the puppy. We'll only be able to get the bonus if it's alive and in our possession."

The other three nodded and without any further discussion began to proceed toward the tent. Even though their attributes had suffered from all of their traveling, they were all able to gain some experience and buff themselves up a bit so it took very little time to traverse the three kilometers to their target. As they approached the tent they split up and surrounded it on all four sides.

Zero moved to the nearest rod for the alarm and easily tugged it out of the ground. The alarm was pretty effective if the enemy didn't know where the rods were planted or if they were even planted. If Zero hadn't been spying on the target then he would not have known about the alarm and could have easily activated it on accident. Once the rod was removed the alarm lost its effectiveness. With a signal from Zero, all four of them began to creep closer to the tent.

Thanks to the clear skies and bright moon they could all see relatively well in the darkness. They all remained silent and moved slowly making it take them longer to close the last hundred meters than the previous three kilometers. They didn't know much about their target so they had to be rather cautious. Their caution made them move slowly so that they didn't risk waking up their target. They also needed to worry about the senses of his puppy. Even as a puppy its sense of smell and hearing would likely be miles above their own.

As the four of them got closer they slowed down even more and carefully drew their weapons. Black Three stayed the furthest back as his weapons of choice was a bow. Black Zero drew a pair of matching daggers, Black One drew an odd looking shortsword with a pitch black fuller running down the center, and Black Two drew a pair of kukri's he'd purchased at a blacksmith shop in Ulvstad.

Black Zero moved closer to the tent than the other three since his Stealth skill was currently the highest. As he got closer his instincts started to trigger a warning. As his instincts triggered he heard a very soft metallic click. It sounded familiar but he couldn't figure out what it was immediately. With a sense of danger, he lifted his head up to look closer at the tent. Even through the fabric of the tent, he could see two soft blue lights inside the tent pointed in his direction. The first thought the had was that somehow their target had woken up and was preparing magic, the second thought he had was to shout a warning to his companions.

Before he could take action there was a crack followed by an explosive sound. Without time to react or fully comprehend what was going on Black Zero found the world around him turning gray as he lost control of his body completely. Only after he hit the ground with half of his head missing did he get the system message informing him of his death. He could no longer participate in whatever was happening, however, he finally realized how exactly he had died. If he could speak he would have shouted, "How is it fair that he's got a fucking gun?!"

With the sound of the gunshot there was also a flash of light. It all only lasted for the briefest of moments but it was enough to strike terror into the hearts of Black One, Black Two and Black Three. How could someone possibly have a gun?! This was supposed to be a medieval fantasy game! Guns didn't exist in games like this! Before they could get their galloping hearts under control and initiate their attacks there was a second gunshot.

Black Two felt like he'd been hit in the chest with a sledgehammer as his entire body was blown backward. Before he could even scream his body hit the ground. On his chest, there was a massive gaping wound that showed his shattered ribs and ripped organs. Black One and Black Three were completely terrified. Black Three even looked at his bow and felt like it was a pathetic piece of wood when compared with the gun that was mowing down his companions. Still, he knocked and arrow and aimed at the tent. At the first sign of their target, he was determined to gain revenge for his friends.

Black One gripped his weapon tightly and charged toward the tent. Keeping the puppy alive to steal it didn't matter anymore, he needed to kill the target to make their losses worthwhile and maybe, just maybe, he could loot the gun from the target's corpse! As he got closer to the tent he prepared to swing his sword as viciously as he could. Even if he missed hopefully it would throw off the targets aim. As he swung his weapon he felt something slam into his entire body and send him flying away. He hit the ground and rolled about a meter before coming to a stop. As he sat up multiple small lacerations on his body began to ooze bright red blood.

Black One screamed, "He can use magic!"

A gun and magic! How the fuck was this even remotely fair?! Black Zero was their main mage and he'd already been taken out! All the others had were supplementary spells that made life a little easier. Hearing the shout of Black One, Black Three launched an arrow at the tent. He couldn't see his target but the tent wasn't very large so odds were he would hit the target somewhere. After the first arrow was away he quickly drew a second arrow and prepared to fire it. Before he could he saw a flash of silver poke out of the ragged hole in the tent created by the spell and point in his direction. With his hands still drawing the bow back, there was a flash of light, a loud roar, and he was dead.

Black One looked around in a panic. This was supposed to be a simple job. The four of them weren't the strongest but they'd spent a fair amount of time in the dungeon at Ulvstad and had gained a lot of experience to increase their attributes. Even if their target was a combat junkie he still shouldn't have been much stronger than them. None of them could have ever imagined that their target had a gun and would easily shoot them to death.

As Black One watched, their target climbed out of the tent through the hole he'd blown in it. For the first time, Black One got a good look at the weapon in the hand of the target. It was a goddamn revolver! Where and how did this asshole get a goddamn revolver?! He started to panic when the target lifted the revolver in his direction and cocked the hammer with his thumb. With his mind whirling at high-speed Black One shouted out in desperation, "You should fight like a man instead of being a coward and using a gun!"

Black One let out a sigh as the target stopped moving and tilted his head a bit as if thinking. Then with a smile, the target uncocked the gun and it disappeared from sight to be replaced with a short sword. Seeing the target's smile sent a shiver down Black One's spine but the sight of the short sword made him smile. If it was a melee fight he was confident he could win, even with his injuries. He climbed to his feet and faced their target. This would be a fight to the death and he had to avenge his brothers!

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thomasdarkrose

  • Georgia, USA

Bio: Just your average self-employed American with some spare time that enjoys reading, and now writing.

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