Michael settled his new VR helmet on his head, relaxed into his gaming chair and logged into his desktop. He was an hour early for the release, but he had planned for this day for two weeks. Ever since he saw that pre-release trailer Iona was all he could think about.
He wasn’t the only one. All of the internet was abuzz with the rumors and gossip from the pre-release fans. Thankfully no one had recorded the pre-release and spoiled it for anyone else, especially considering it sounded like his wasn’t the only personalized experience.
He had heard about people being dropped into a battlefield, a feast night, a merchants caravan, and dozens of others. The only thing they had in common was the angel, asking them to be a hero. It wasn’t always a female angel either! Several of the girls and some of the guy players had found themselves being addressed by a male instead. Still the wings, and white robes, but a male angel, complete with rippling muscles apparently.
‘Buff angels. Cuz why not’ He thought to himself.
Closing his eyes and logging into his desktop he accessed the Frankenstein partition that had the Iona game installed on it. He went through the process of making sure that there were no other programs running or connected and then fired up the configuration screen, for the last time to make sure all his settings were correct.
Connection Speed: 510TBps UHD MultiMode fiber Tested Ok
Chasis: Harrington Custom “Frankenstein” Tested Ok
Central Processor: Harrington QuantX @ 95pflops Tested Ok
Memory: Harrington Embedded RAM 512TB Tested Ok
Storage: Telsa Crystalline Storage 998PB Tested Ok
Iona Connection Settings:
Full Immersion - On Tested Ok
Haptic Feedback - 100% Tested Ok
Pain Reception - 100% Tested Ok
Cycle Speeds - Off (May affect capable Time Dilation) Tested Ok
Time Sync Buffering - Off (Turn off Time Dilation to sync times. Reduces Lag) Tested Ok
Time Dilation - Max (1:365) Tested Ok
Emergency Contact - Registered Tested Ok
Gameplay Timer - 12 Hours Real Time
This is a time dilation game! Because of time difference your brain must recalibrate from game time back to real time. You will not be able to log out before the timer is complete. If you must Emergency Log Out, your emergency contact (on file) will be notified. Please see ReadMe for side effects of Emergency Log Out.
Gameplay timer set to max allowed time (12 hours). Please make sure that you’re in a safe place and your family knows what you’re doing. Iona recommends a minimum of 12 Real Hours between play sessions.
Time Dilation set to MAX (1:365)
Are You Sure?
Michael briefly glanced over the technical specs just to make sure nothing had fritzed out and then checked them again… and a third time. He was part way through his seventh review of the configuration when he got the five minute alert from his timer.
He quickly saved all the settings again and logged into the Iona program that the pre-release had installed. This time, instead of being greeted with a “Play Intro” button, he was greeted with a “Enter Iona” button. He quickly smashed it. If he had any physical strength here, he was sure he would have broken the thing with his enthusiasm.
The world went dark.
Michael tried to look around but found that he couldn’t move his head. It wasn’t that his head wasn’t responding, instead it felt like something was holding it. He tried to open his eyes. No luck there either.
Suddenly he realized that he couldn’t breathe. Something was wrong!
‘Oh shit. Im gonna die before I even get to play’ Very real panic swam in his brain as he struggled to draw a breath. He couldn’t move and now he couldn’t breathe. As he fought the rising tide of adrenaline that threatened to drown him.
He heard a scrabbling sound. Like rocks moving in a landslide, but from far away. He focused on that sound. He felt the pressure around him moving. The thing holding him still began to lessen as the noise grew louder, and he figured it out.
‘Oh dear sweet christ, I’m fucking buried alive!’ he screamed to himself. Michael had never been one that had many phobias, but this one suddenly shot to the top and promised to stay there forever.
‘Whatever is digging me out please hurry!’ Michael’s vision started to swim and his lungs burned from lack of air.
Suddenly light! More importantly, air. He hauled in a deep breath and received a mouthful of dirt for his trouble but didn’t mind. Oxygen. Blessed oxygen. Nothing in life has ever tasted so good.
A strong hand gripped his shoulder and heaved him out of the ground, hoisting him aloft like a rag doll. Michael coughed and spit dirt out of his mouth as he struggled to catch his breath. A hand patted him on the back as he slowly became able to function again.
“There we go now. You’re alright. Get it all up Michael.”
That voice! He recognized that voice from the pre-release. Blinking, trying to force his damn pupils to dilate, he stared at the source of the voice. Sure enough it was her in all her angelic glory.
She stood taller than him by a good head and shoulder, which meant she must have been a few inches taller than six foot. Her skin was a beautiful olive tan that was obviously melanin instead of skin damage. Her blond hair cascaded past her shoulders, held back only by a loose leather tie around her forehead. Her eyes were a piercing blue that almost seemed to glow with intensity.
She was curvy too. An ample bosom and lovely derriere that brought thoughts to his mind that are best reserved for the dead of night, instead of introductions to an angel.
She watched him study her and smiled. “Yes Michael, I’m real. You can close your mouth. You look like a carp” she snickered.
“How do you know my name?” He asked her. There had been no character creation screen, or any sort of introduction.
“You asked me the same question the first time I saw you two weeks ago. You’ve been foretold Michael. Iona desperately needs a hero like you. I’m so glad that you came. I have to admit I was lonely here without you.”
“Wait, hang on. You mean to tell me that the pre-release introduction wasn’t just a cut scene? That was actually the game?” Michael looked around. Sure enough, he was right back on that hilltop. The village of grass huts down below, had replaced the town he had seen. The puddle nearby seemed to have dried up and the breeze was gone, but it was the same spot. He didn’t remember seeing the forest off in the distance, or the lazy river behind him, but the pre-release must have been a small rendered copy.
“God damn thats some next level programming.” he murmured to himself.
“Thank you! Built it all myself. Glad to know you like it. It means a lot coming from you.”
He stared at the angel. Her response was too human. “Are you one of the programmers for Iona?”
“You could say that. My name is Sara and I built this world for you. I’m the local goddess! I’m in charge of everything you see.”
‘Oh, clever. She’s an AI and she’s responding in character. Neat!’ Michael considered his next words then realized the AI had just worked around the word “programmer”, and said screw it.
“So Sara, what and where am I?”
Sara reached behind her back and pulled out a hand mirror. “Have a look for yourself. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. As for where you are, you’re in the world of Iona, on the continent Dren, and that village over there is just called “village.”
Michael looked at his face in the mirror. He was human, and pretty much had the exact same face. But now his beard was perfectly manicured and sexy, his hair was perfectly quaffed and he had obviously spent some major time in the gym. Very Abercrombie. Also he was stark naked.
He was still very pale, but considering he was stark naked that would probably change soon. He nodded to Sara and gave her back the mirror which she promptly hid back in the folds of her robes. He couldn’t help but notice that Sara seemed to be eyeing him while he inspected himself. She seemed to enjoy the view and her eyes lingered on his manhood a second longer than a simple glance.
“Do I get a set of starting clothes or equipment?”
Sara smiled at him, her face brightening and making him want to smile along. “Sadly no. I was unable to bring any of your items with you from your other world. I’m sorry. But I’m sure you’ll find those villagers friendly and they’ll help you out. Remember, even though they aren’t from your world, they are still people. A little kindness goes a long way here in Iona.”
You have a new quest!
The Goddess Sara has asked you to talk to the local village. Perhaps you should ask around and see what kinds of things you can learn about your new world.
Michael blinked at the quest notification and waved it away quickly as soon as he read it. “What about my stats or class? How do I find those out?”
Sara’s smile grew even bigger. “Thats the big surprise. Here in Iona there are no classes. All your “stats”, she said in air quotes, “are available to you. Just think about them and they’ll appear.”
Michael did, and abruptly an opaque window popped up with his stats on it.
Soul Power: 0
“I’ve given you the ability to master magic. It is a rare gift, so use it wisely.” She told him gesturing to the display. “As you practice and learn this world, you’ll see those stats increase with you. Later you should spend some time learning your stats. You’ll find that practice is the best way to increase them, but you can artificially boost them with soul power.”
He closed out the window, and noticed a new icon on the top of his view. His health was displayed as a red bar on the top left, and below it was an empty bar called SP. Soul power he guessed.
As if she could read his mind Sara continued her explanation. “Everything in Iona has a soul. A fact you should remember. Your magic allows you to collect their souls energy and use it yourself. Be wary of straying into darkness. In this world you can be killed. If you are kind and gentle with my people, I can resurrect you. If not, then I may not, and your soul will be left adrift until some other god finds you.”
‘So be good, get resurrected by good goddess. Be evil and get resurrected by evil goddess. Got it.’ Michael mused.
Sara’s smile began to fade as she stared at him. She cocked her head as if listening to something he couldn’t hear. “Sadly my time here with you has ended. Be brave, be kind, be good my hero. Help this world as I know only you can.” Sara began to glow, a white light radiating from her halo and wings.
Michael turned his head away so he wouldn’t be blinded. Suddenly the light was gone and the space where the beautiful goddess had once stood was now empty. He sighed to himself and turned back to the village.
“Might as well get a start on it. Pretty fucking vague right now. Hopefully the villagers will have some answers.”