“What the hell is happening to my White Tower?” Kristoph bellowed.
That was weird. I could hear Kristoph even though we were swirling light. Though at the same time I almost thought I could see the tower in that swirl. Like there were two realities and I was having one hell of a disconnect.
Was the tower crumbling under us? No, the world swirled around us and melted away. Right. That had to be one hell of a glitch to cause the game world to melt away like that.
I wondered if this had something to do with the shock we’d gotten from HOE kicking us out of that module. Maybe this was some sort of delayed damage they invented so it wasn’t as obvious they were at fault when someone’s brain melted because they weren’t jacked into a Horizon module?
Devious, if that was the case. I could only hope that if they were killing me with a delayed bomb dropped in my brain then I could come back as a ghost in the machine to haunt those bastards.
Not likely, but it was a pleasant thought in an otherwise terrifying moment.
The world continued melting around me, oblivious to the terror that melting swirl was causing, until it resolved into a starscape that started to turn. Sort of like the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, both the original and the multiple remakes Square shoveled out as they got more and more desperate in their later years before their various divisions were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Only this starscape was way more realistic than anything that’d ever been generated on the many pieces of Sony hardware that gave the various iterations of FFVII life.
The view shifted until I stared down at a world hovering in inky darkness. Inky darkness was better than the swirling bad trip I’d been on a moment ago. Distant double stars burned in the background, and several multicolored moons hovered like jewels over this strange new world.
I looked over to Kristoph who floated next to me looking giddy. Like a kid who’d just come down the stairs on Christmas morning to see a present that was wrapped in just the right shape to be what he’d been hoping for.
I opened my mouth to ask him what the hell was going on here, he’d clearly seen something on one of his news feeds before we were brought to wherever the hell this place was, but the stars started shifting around us again. I figured that meant we were moving again, for all that in real interstellar travel stars were so far apart that the kind of moving starscape that was so popular in so many science fiction properties wasn’t all that realistic.
Especially on a local level. I turned, and yup. We were definitely moving.
That strange new world and its moons moved closer. Or maybe we were the ones moving as it hung suspended. I had the sickening feeling that I was falling towards that world. I imagined this was what it felt like to be an astronaut floating in space who'd suddenly found themselves disengaged and floating closer to the nearest gravity well which meant they were very shortly going to get singed then pancaked if they survived the atmospheric barbecue.
It also brought to mind some of Horizon’s orbital skydiving modules that I’d tried out with my Lotus hardware. Back in better days when I’d been able to play those modules and enjoy them and then step out of the virtual world and have dinner with my sister and family. Though in those simulations I had orbital skydiving gear, and a glance down showed that I was just in the T-shirt and shorts that were part of my out-of-game avatar clothes set.
"Welcome to a whole new world of online entertainment. An experience unlike anything ever seen before!"
“Fuck yeah!” Kristoph said, pumping his fist the entire way and finally giving me an inkling of what was going on here.
He wasn’t terrified. He was ecstatic. He had a crazed manic look in his eyes that usually only happened right before he started laying into bad guys with his two-handed weapon of choice, and that manic look on his face now could only mean this was something good.
I couldn't be entirely sure, but I got the feeling the developers at Lotus, they were the only people who could pull us out of whatever we were doing in the simulation and put us here like this, were throwing some shade on their competitors at Horizon Online Entertainment. If they were throwing shade then they were doing it in a clever way, too. Getting in a dig without actually coming out and naming names.
I could understand why they wouldn't want to outright piss off a company that was probably paying them a crap ton of money in licensing fees to use their technology.
The falling sensation continued. The world kept rotating below us, and I started to really get a feel for how quickly it was spinning as we moved closer. Entire continents, oceans, seas, and mountains flew past. And I couldn't shake the feeling that we were going to slam right into that world and it was going to be very painful when we did.
I glanced over to Kristoph again. And blinked. He was staring at me, and he actually looked worried for all that he’d been pumping his fist a moment ago. Maybe our continued fall towards the planet without any braking had him double guessing why we were here.
“What did you see before we got pulled in here?” I asked.
“Lotus Online!” he said. “Rumors of an announcement were flooding the place and…”
I grinned. So my inkling had been right. Though there was still the problem of that planet rushing up to meet us awfully fast.
Oddly enough I could hear Kristoph's voice just fine even though we were flying through the air with wind whipping around us.
Though the more I thought about it, the more odd it seemed that we’d hear anything at all since we hadn't entered the planet's atmosphere yet. In space no one could hear wind. I figured it was the devs taking some dramatic license with their game intro that, to be fair, was totally kicking ass so far.
"A world unlike anything you've ever seen," the booming voice continued, oblivious to the minor panic this situation was causing among the gamers who were supposed to be enjoying it.
We entered the atmosphere, though thankfully the only indication that we were in that atmosphere was a slight uptick in wind noise. I was really glad the realism in this announcement didn’t extend to having us catch fire as we hit the atmosphere.
We swept over mountains and seas. Over lava fields and volcanoes that erupted, looking for all the world like pictures I’d seen of Io from some of the manned expeditions to Jupiter's moon when I was a kid. Though there hadn’t been lava creatures and dragons moving around in those pictures from the distant parts of the solar system, and those elemental monsters were definitely in abundance on the Lotuscape below.
I wasn't sure if we were getting a highlight reel from a world that was sparsely populated, something that wasn't entirely unheard of in the gaming industry when they were trying to entice gamers with bullshit previews, or if the world Lotus had created truly was this vast and this relentlessly interesting and filled with cool shit to see.
I looked around and blinked in surprise. There were other streaks moving through the sky. So many that they almost formed solid bars streaking over the landscape. So many that the sky was alive with streaks of light swirling and dancing in amazing patterns.
Kristoph was also looking at the streaks. They filled the air around us with a web of bright light, and I figured every one of those streaks was getting the same introduction we were. Presumably that meant there were just as many interesting things where those people were flying as there were on the path we were taking. It’s not like Lotus would take those players on a tour of nothing while we were getting the grand tour.
If that was the case, and this wasn’t so much bullshot, then this game was going to be fucking amazing. My mind boggled to think of the sheer size of this strange new world.
“I can’t believe this!” I shouted. “It’s finally here! It’s finally fucking here!”
The enormity of what we were seeing boggled my mind. Lotus must’ve pulled everybody who was logged into their hardware into this new world.
Forget spending money on press releases. Those clever bastards merely let their hardware get popular and then stole everyone's attention while they were playing games made by other devs who gave the platform content to make it popular in the first place.
I shook my head and let out a triumphant laugh. I threw my head back as I looked to Kristoph who stared at me as though I was going crazy.
"What are you laughing about?" Kristoph asked.
"If this is what Lotus has come up with then Horizon is going out of business!"
I couldn't help but let out another laugh even as I felt just a little guilty for that laugh.
On the one hand I probably shouldn't have been happy at the thought of Horizon going out of business. After all, if they went out of business then there’d be no money for families with loved ones who'd been killed. Insolvency would mean a bunch of other creditors lined up ahead of those families.
At the same time the hatred and loathing I felt for the bastards at Horizon was so great that I couldn't help but be overjoyed at the thought that their company might not be long for this world.
I looked up. We were hurtling towards a shining wall made of a shimmering material. And as I stared it formed into words hovering over the virgin world beneath us.
A shiver of anticipation ran through me. This would be the first major MMO that had been created within my lifetime. Most of the market had been dominated by players who'd been in control of that market for decades, not counting the MMOs that rose and fell regularly without being much remarked over in the Asian markets, but I could already tell this was going to be a game changer that put all those dinosaurs out of business with all the force of a miles-wide asteroid slamming into the Yucatan.
The massive sparkling letters finally coalesced.
“WELCOME TO LOTUS ONLINE.”
I slammed into those letters and a bright sparkling buzz surrounded me. Engulfed me. Covered every inch of my body with a strange and not entirely unpleasant tingling sensation that was sort of like when my arms fell asleep, but not as annoying.
The world went black. I grinned even though I’d become a disembodied consciousness floating in a black void.
Horizon Online Entertainment was in so much fucking trouble. The masters were back on the scene, ready to reclaim their throne.
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!