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The black faded and I found myself on a platform, reminding me of an old, stupid TV-Show. The Show made contestant do strange challenges in order to assault a castle at the end and the concept of the show was to make them fail as humorously as possible to entertain the viewers. Sadly, where the show had used a lot of foam-padding on everything, the developers didn't see a need to give the players such luxury. In front of my platform was a wide moat, filled with water and platforms stuck out of the moat varying in height and distance to each other. Some were smaller, some larger and from the poles holding them up, I'd guess their stability would differ as well, as those poles varied from massive to tiny. As if that wasn't enough to make it annoying, tree-stumps were swinging back and forth like pendulums in an old cartoon, waiting to smash the coyote into the next wall.

 

Welcome to the first test.
Your goal is to get to the other side.
Good luck.

 

 

Well, fuck you very much. That was about as helpful as snow to an Inuit. When I moved my body a bit, it felt rather heavy compared before, similar to the feeling I had in the training hall in my home space, I had configured it to match my real body as much as possible so I guess the test was truly built on my real body.

The obvious solution was to try and go over the platforms and I could see a way to do so, moving from platform to platform but that would require quite a bit waiting to dodge the pendulums so if time was a judging factor that would cost a lot of points. I could see other possible paths but those would force me to closely dodge those pendulums. Looking down, the water was flowing swiftly in my direction but I doubt I would be able to overcome the current even with the ladder on the other side. To the side were some vines one might be able to climb but not me.

 

Taking a deep breath, I started running toward the ledge, jumped on the first platform, moving with the shifting of the platform, then jumping off to the next, smaller and higher, platform, absorbing the shift by bending my knees and twisting to dodge the tree swinging in from the side. Then I pushed off from the tree to make a far jump and barely managed to get to the next platform. Suddenly a rock shot out from the side, I tried dodging it but still got hit in the shoulder, slowing me down so I had to take another path. I stumbled but just made it. Ok, so not only were there swinging trees, but also flying rocks.

Running, jumping and twisting, I made my way towards the target-platform but then I had to start batting away to rocks. Somehow, it felt like I wasn't making any headway and the way kept shifting. At that point, the original plan I had was completely out the window and I was flying by the seat of my pants. No idea how long that gauntlet was but it was definitely longer than the maybe twenty meters it had been at the start. I started tiring and it got harder to make each jump, harder to dodge the pendulums and more and more rocks were hitting me.

One of the rocks hit me in the leg, just when I wanted to jump and I stumbled and fell down, into the raging current. I tried to stay afloat but my body was not working like I wanted it to and I went down.

Suddenly, the water was gone and I was on dry ground again and a blue screen was waiting for me.

First test, finished.
Data recorded.

Please wait to be transported to the next testing stage.

Great, either I lost or it was a test to the point of failure because I was sure that the distance I crossed had been a lot more than the original distance.

With those thoughts, the world faded to black once more.

 

The first thing I noticed was music, coming from a small mansion a short distance away. A blue screen popped up telling me my mission in exhausting detail. Not!

Welcome to the Second Test.
A masquerade is taking place. Your objective is to get to the master-bedroom on the second floor of the mansion. Do not make a spectacle of yourself.
 Chose your garments.

 

In front of me hovered multiple different costumes, one was a pure black, ninja-style costume, the next a ball-gown complete with mask and the third was a servants dress.

Well, again there are multiple ways to skin this cat, waltz in from the front in the gown, bluffing everyone left, right and center, try to sneak in, avoiding the guards and play cat-burglar or play the servant. Sure that I'd be unable to pull of the socialite and doubting that I'd manage to sneak my way in, ninja style, I went with the servants dress. When touching the dress, they all vanished and I was suddenly garbed in the servants dress. By moving purposefully, using props and keeping my head down, I managed to scout out the ground-floor of the mansion and found something useful, the medicine cabinet. In it were a couple of interesting concoctions one was labelled "Laxative", another was labelled "Combat Boost" plus a couple of rather generic stuff, anti-inflammatory, hangover-cure, painkillers but nothing like the first two. The Combat Boost had the interesting side-effect of 'Greatly increases aggression in higher dosage'. This could be fun. Snooping around some more, I found a scalpel and hid it in the sleeve of my dress. Sadly, the only not guarded access to the higher levels was in the great ball room and I was unsure if the guards would recognize me as an intruder so I didn't want to try it. By now, my time-raiting was probably abysmal anyway but them's the breaks. To get up there, I'd need a distraction so I snuck into the kitchen and spiked some of bubbly pink concoctions with laxatives and the rest with the combat boost. Each spiked drink got a quintuple dose to make sure the effects would be, let's say, explosive.

After spiking the next round drinks, I hid in the shadows within a side-alcove of the great hall and waited for my plan to come together. I didn't have to wait too long, soon another servant entered and served drinks. I guess that the used medicine was some kind of ingame item, it took effect far to quick to be normal stuff, within 5 minutes the first lady felt the explosive effect of the laxative and recoloured her dress in an interesting shade of brown. The laughter set off her paramour who started a fight with another. Within moments, the whole affair shifted from "happy, high-society shindig" into "shitty brawl" if you pardon the pun. I snuck up the stairs and after a quick scan saw the way to the second floor, hitting a snag in my plans. Two guards were, well, guarding, the staircase up. I went up to them, wringing my hands, telling them about trouble downstairs and combined with the commotion we could hear from the ground floor, one guard took off. Time to take a chance. In a smooth motion, I jammed the scalpel into his throat, taking out his voice box, making a nice hole in his windpipe and nicking the arteries. Well, doing so will kill someone, but sadly it is not instant like in the movies, first the guard smacked me, sending me flying and probably breaking a rib or two, damn that hurt, then he started trashing, making a racket. Luckily, the racket was not really noticeable with the commotion I'd caused downstairs. I picked myself up and ascended the stairs as quick as I could with my bruised side. Up here, I saw only two guards patrolling and with quite a bit of shadow-skulking I made my way to the master bedroom. When I got in there, I was greeted with a blue screen.

Second test, finished.
Data recorded.

Please wait to be transported to the next testing stage.

 

And back to black...

This time, I was in a ruin, maybe underground. A blue screen told me my mission.

 

Welcome to the Third Test.
Your objective is to get behind the door on the other side of the main-chamber.
Good luck. 

 

'Yes, those tests give me so much information, I might shut down from information overload. Oh, well, let's investigate.'

I started along the corridor I was in, as it was the only way. I noticed chicken scratches on the wall, nothing recognisable but interesting. Then I got the main-chamber and I was overwhelmed. The chamber was alight with a eerie rainbow glow, coming from hundreds, if not thousands, of coloured symbol groups, floating in the air. The symbols were the same I had seen on the walls so there might be a riddle there. The strange forms fascinated me and I became totally engrossed with looking, watching, cataloguing, the forms and trying to make sense of them. The signs on the walls were, I'd say, regressed, less polished, versions of the floating versions. On the door were more of the regressed runes, making little sense but I had the strange feeling that it was some kind of riddle. On the walls were progressions, lots of them, some made sense to me, others made me feel a little queasy in their form and logic. I tried to understand them all and it became easier for those that made sense, I was feeling like the meaning of those runes was on the tip of my tongue, like something you knew all your life but was slipping your mind in that moment. The kind of feeling that makes you facepalm when you are told what it actually was, embarrassed that you forgot something that obvious. I searched for the polished, floating versions of the runes that tried to make sense to me and became aware that most of them were shedding cold, silvery-blue light like a full-moon reflected in an icy river, some were not shedding light at all being black like the darkest night, around them, it was a bit darker, as if they were absorbing light. The last one or two, they were the only ones of their colour, were glowing in a slightly pulsing, crimson light. The runes that made me queasy were mostly orange, glowing, some with a clear yellow light, others were shedding warm, green, light.

I honestly have no idea how long I was thinking about those runes and slowly the progressions on the door started to make, well, not sense, but I was able to make out patterns and with the simplified versions on the walls and the floating runes I felt like I was able to find the rune-pattern that I would fit door to complete the riddle. It wasn't one of of the truly shiny patterns, it was a dull grey, not shiny metallic, just grey, like an old, worn key, maybe that's why I thought it right. It was just feeling correct. I focused on the floating pattern and there was a feeling of connection and when I touched the door in the place the answer should go, the door started to glow and slowly opened with grinding sounds, as if it was closed for an eternity and I was disturbing it's rest.

I went through the door, with my mind on the runes I had just witnessed, wondering about them and the strange feelings they had given me. A blue screen told me that this test was over as well.

 

Third test, finished.
Data recorded.

Please wait to be transported to the evaluation stage.

 

So three tests? Let's see how well I did.

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Tsaimath

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