"Okay, we've three more places... just three! Hands up."
James watched as the man stood on his makeshift podium and scanned the crowd of E-Classers. He was in the outskirts promoting an illegal slum-arcade for people to lose what little money they had.
"Oh, how could I say no to that face?"
The voice practically cooed as the ringleader waved up a young woman from the middle of the pack.
"Two more, and then we'll start accepting bets! Think this one is going to make you any money?"
He asked as he gestured to the woman who walked past him. Her face was resolute as she made her way towards one of the remaining virtual reality rigs.
James knew that expression very well, it was shared by most of the crowd. These illegal fights were their best chance of getting ahead.
"A strong looking one!"
The man laughed as he jovially gripped the second contender's arm.
"But strength means nothing in virtual reality..."
Some of the crowd laughed, but most were too intent on being noticed for the last remaining spot.
Raising his hand lazily into the air, James stared at the attendant and wondered how people didn't realise this was all a fix.
A flicker above his head caused him to glance up at the drones circling overhead. Each of them were projecting the contenders as well as their odds.
|Contestant 28: ThatFace|
|Contestant 29: LookingStrong|
"Ahh! And who said I'm not a charitable man?"
The loud voice carried across the crowd and James snapped his attention back to the man who was pointing directly at him.
"That's three! Come on up here, get into the rig and we can start the show!"
James ignored the glares from each of the people around him. Many of the crowd believed that if they waved their hands enough, they'd be picked to compete.
"Lucky son of a bitch..."
"He's not going to last two seconds, why the hell was he picked?"
"Think you're special?"
The last comment that he heard was from a familiar voice, and James braced himself for the impact that he knew was coming.
A heavyset man launched through the crowd and shoved James harshly from behind, causing him to collapse forward dramatically.
"Whoa there, Trippy!"
This comment was met with laughter from the crowd and James didn't even need to look up to know what happened.
|Contestant 30: Trippy|
Wincing in pain, James slowly got to his feet and limped past the announcer. The jeers from all around him made him grimace.
"What odds do you think we're going to get for poor ol' Trippy?"
The teasing voice carried on from behind him, and James knew it was a signal.
Gritting his teeth, the E-Classer pretended to trip on his walk. Him collapsing to the ground before he even got close to his rig influenced the odds drastically.
"Whoa, now that has to be an all time low vote of confidence... you should all be ashamed of yourselves!"
The laughing continued and James saw the hologram update in front of him.
|Contestant 26: Ponytail (25/1)|
|Contestant 27: RestingBitchFace (20/1)|
|Contestant 28: ThatFace (30/1)|
|Contestant 29: LookingStrong (5/1)|
|Contestant 30: Trippy (40/1)|
James fought the urge to smile at the odds, he couldn't react to them just yet otherwise it would spook the other competitors.
One of the contestants was still watching him closely, and he could have sworn there was a hint of recognition on his face.
Ignoring the jeering from the crowd and the suspicious glances from the contestant, James slowly got into the outdated rig in front of him.
Before he pulled the visor down over his head, he looked around to see what attachments were available.
"Son of a bitch."
James cursed when he saw that the contactless sensors had been ripped out of this rig.
He could feel the person's gaze on him without looking up.
True enough, when he turned around, a competitor was staring at him with a smirk on his face.
"What, you think I wouldn't recognise you?"
Was all the man said before he logged into the game.
James knew that leaving his rig to retrieve the equipment would blow his cover of being a helpless and clumsy contestant.
"Looks like we're doing this the old fashioned way."
Without wasting any more time, James rolled up his sleeves and pulled down his pants before retrieving a series of cables from the side of his seat.
A small part of him rejoiced when he saw a slight puff of steam emanate from the compartment.
"At least you've been cleaned..."
"Thirty seconds until we start!"
The announcer was getting louder and James knew he needed to hurry, otherwise he'd end up locked out of the game.
James lined each cable up to a scarred section of his skin. Since there were no contactless sensors, he needed to jack in manually.
"Fuck you, NerveGear."
He cursed the manufacturer that created the abominations as he plunged needle after needle into his arms and thighs.
Without wasting any more time, James pushed himself back into the seat and pulled the visor down over his head and turned it on.
|Please enter a use-|
|Welcome Trippy, your odds can be found-|
James interrupted all of the prompts that appeared in front of his eyes.
|Excellent, we nee-|
"Account name is James Sylvester."
|We require a pass-|
"Victim of Circumstance."
|Password has been accepted. How much would-|
|You are about to bet $462. Is this correct?|
|Bet confirmed. You're now being logged in! Good luck, Trippy.|
The menu screens washed away and James felt like he was falling from a great height. The sensation of weightlessness was then replaced by a jarring shock, as though he had just been woken from a dream.
Opening his eyes, James immediately willed for the settings menu to appear in front of his eyes. He amped up dialogue and movement sounds, but reduced explosions and gunshots. Moving his body around, he adjusted the sensitivity until everything felt perfect.
All around him was an endless sea of white. It was the basic lobby area, and James knew from seeing it that they were likely going to be playing a very vintage game type.
There would be nothing special. No stats, no health bars, no hidden bonuses, no magic or anything remotely interesting. It was just going to be a basic sandbox where all thirty contestants had to kill each other.
Over the years, gamers dubbed that game-mode: 3BR.
Basic-Bitch Battle Royale.
All Contestants have been successfully logged in.
Game is about to start.
Please Stand By.
James moved into a crouched position. When the game started, seconds were valuable and having a decreased target area made him less likely to be one-shotted immediately. The only elements of chance in the game was what starting weapon each person received and their starting location. By default, everyone started with a knife. Some started with an additional weapon. As for locations, the game usually spawned the groups closely so that it would create some immediate entertainment.
The sea of white disappeared and was replaced by a campsite in the woods. Directly in front of him was a player who started in a standing position.
James burst forward into a sprint, launching himself at his target who merely blinked in shock.
Movement out of the corner of his right eye showed him that another player was reaching behind his back for a weapon.
As he closed the distance, James threw his hands up and grabbed each side of the surprised player's head before jumping and turning mid-air.
The sound of the player's neck snapping carried throughout the campsite which caused James' second opponent to flinch. In his hands was a bow with an arrow nocked.
James grabbed the corpse and held in front of him until he heard the dull thud of the arrow impacting into the body.
A stream of curses erupted from the player as he fumbled with his quiver.
Letting the body fall to the ground, James unsheathed his knife and threw it at the archer. The aim wasn't perfect, but managed to take the player in the shoulder.
James knelt by the corpse at his feet and took the dead player's knife before rushing in on the injured archer.
The desperate man swung an arrow with his good arm, but went far too wide.
James didn't say a word as his knife plunged directly into the injured archer's neck.
|Contestants Remaining: 24|
|Time Elapsed: 41 seconds|
James pushed the notifications to one side with his subconscious as he equipped the bow and his two knives. Usually around a third of players would be defeated within the first minute of gameplay. James was grateful for the fact that he had started with only two others. There had been occasions in the past where he started a game in a small room with five others. That fight had been absolutely hellish by comparison.
Keeping low to the ground, James crept forward while staying alert to his surroundings. After a few moments of moving stealthily between the trees, he came across what looked like an abandoned shack.
While the map was unfamiliar to him, human nature wasn't.
Lifting one of his knives, James took aim and threw it at the side of the window. The blade thankfully embedded into the wood.
"Crap! I missed!"
James cursed loudly as he quietly drew an arrow and aimed.
A hand appeared from within the shack and started to reach for the knife.
James loosed his arrow and smiled grimly as it pierced into the exposed hand.
Drawing another arrow, James watched as the player instinctively tried to free the hand by pulling out the knife.
The second arrow slammed into the second hand and James just shook his head as a despairing wail echoed throughout the forest.
|Contestants Remaining: 18|
|Time Elapsed: 4 minutes, 13 seconds|
James didn't immediately rush forward to kill the trapped player, he instead waited from the trees as the man continued to spout curses.
It didn't take long for another player to notice the shouts, and James watched casually as a woman slowly crept along the roof of the shack.
Something must have tipped the man off as he went very quiet before frantically tugging at his hands to free them.
The woman didn't particularly care as she leaned over the side of the roof and threw an object through the window.
James drew his arrow back and aimed carefully at the woman. Just as he was about to loose the arrow, an explosion erupted from inside the shack, killing the player instantly.
The shock of the blast caused James' hand to falter slightly, resulting in the released arrow slamming into the girl's thigh.
Without any hesitation, the girl looked at the direction the arrow came from and threw a grenade.
James cursed as he flung himself to one side before it detonated. The resulting blast didn't injure him, but it did allow the grenadier to escape.
Knowing it was foolish to stay in one place for too long, James set out to explore a different part of the map. He left his knife and arrow where they were, it would be suicide to try and loot at the site of an explosion.
Gunshots echoed out from different locations, and explosions sounded out from others. Some were closer than others, and James navigated as carefully as he could around them.
One of his best traits was patience. Too many people failed in these games because they were reckless and acted rashly.
In Battle Royale, it didn't matter if you killed 29 people or you killed 1 person. All that mattered was being the last person standing.
|Contestants Remaining: 7|
|Time Elapsed: 9 minutes, 28 seconds|
A surprised yell carried across the forest and James couldn't help but wonder if it was a tactic.
Since there was no pain in the game, there was no reason for people to cry out or yell. The only reason people did it was to either attract people to their location, scare people from their location or alternatively... because they were idiots.
James defaulted most people to the third category, but still remained wary as he moved closer to the sound.
When he reached a clearing in the forest, James paused with a smile on his face.
In front of him was a corpse, and beside it was an assault rifle.
James moved into the shadow of the tree and watched to see what would happen.
After a few moments, a player slowly made their way towards the assault rifle while keeping low to the ground.
"When something seems too good to be true..."
James whispered to himself as the elated player grasped the assault rifle.
He almost felt sorry for the player when the sniper's bullet tore through him.
"It's usually a trap."
James finished before setting off in the direction of the sniper. He knew the general area that the shot came from, but instead of walking straight into the clearing, he kept himself crouched low within the dense undergrowth.
A series of shots echoed out from ahead. They didn't sound like a gun fight. James thought they sounded like a single gun firing in succession, one after another.
|Contestants Remaining: 4|
|Time Elapsed: 13 minutes, 23 seconds|
"Thank you, Mr. Sniper."
James laughed to himself as he continued making his way towards the shooter.
The sound of a branch snapping made James leap to the right. His intuition saved his life.
A hulking man rushed forward, completely unarmed and tackled the area that James had been standing in. Without wasting time, the man pivoted on his foot and rushed again at James' location.
With no time to react, James received a flurry of jabs and punches from the player.
Since it was blunt damage and not very effective, the first few hits only managed to daze him.
He knew that if he didn't react quickly, those punches would eventually become fatal.
James whipped out his last knife and held it in a reverse grip. Jutting his hand forward in a threatening manner, he managed to make the player back off a bit.
Without the element of surprise, James wasn't confident in his hand to hand combat.
Taking note of his surroundings, he suddenly had an idea.
James circled around the player while keeping an equal distance between them. As he predicted, his opponent mirrored his movements.
The hulking man was grinning widely as he sized up James in front of him. No matter what way you looked at it, he was the better fighter.
James roared at the top of his lungs.
His opponent flinched at the sudden yell before realisation crossed his face. Before he could turn around, the bullet pierced through his skull and killed him instantly.
James knew he only had a moment before the sniper reloaded, so he made the most of it and leapt for cover behind the nearest tree.
Circling with the player until he was directly in front of the sniper was the best idea James could come up with. The main downside was that he had just given away his own location too.
James faced the tree in front of him. He knew that if he went left or right, there was a high chance he'd get shot immediately, so he decided to go up instead. It was very likely that the sniper was in the trees and picking off any players that were foolish enough to enter his sights.
The only method he could think of for dealing with him would be to get higher than him and remove his terrain advantage.
|Contestants Remaining: 3|
|Time Elapsed: 15 minutes, 03 seconds|
Climbing quietly and carefully was slow, but that didn't bother James. There was another contestant out there, and that person was the variable between him and the sniper. If he was lucky, one of them would take care of the other and then he'd be left with a 50:50 chance of winning.
As he got higher and higher, James decided to take the risk of looking around the tree trunk. There was a branch to his right that covered the majority of his face, and it provided him protection in case the sniper had been waiting for him to show his face. Thankfully no shots occured, and James ventured a little more and got a much clearer view of his target.
It was a woman that was perched on a tree branch, aiming at the base of his tree. James continued to stare at her, and was pleased to see that she moved to another branch... and then another, and another.
James would have done the same thing himself. Not stay in the same position too long, move around to see if you can get a better target and create a killzone so nobody can sneak up on you from below.
"But what about from above?"
He muttered quietly to himself as he looked around at the surrounding branches. The forest was dense and all the branches overlapped with each other. Each of them could easily support his body weight, and James decided to put his plan in motion.
Since there were so many leaves and branches obstructing his view, the bow and arrow would be ineffective. If he fired it at her, he knew it would only reveal his location. His confidence in the bow had been knocked back a little by his encounter with the grenadier earlier.
Looking at the sniper, he made his decision. He needed to kill her with one shot.
Taking out his knife, James started to move amongst the trees. He was grateful for the natural rustling of the leaves above that masked his movement somewhat.
When he wasn't sure if she was on alert, he hid and waited. If it came down to a test of patience, he knew he'd win.
|Contestants Remaining: 3|
|Time Elapsed: 32 minutes, 18 seconds|
After what felt like an eternity, James was above her and in position. He had been watching her intently and knew her movement pattern. There was one branch she needed more balance for, so she held the sniper rifle with one hand as she moved across it. That's when James made his move.
The sudden noise from above alerted the sniper and she realised in a split second what had happened.
The moment her foot touched the awaiting branch, her arms whipped up and took aim, but it was too late.
James' blade sliced into the space between her neck and collarbone. The look of rage on her face was terrifying, but she couldn't prevent it.
Her body collapsed backward as she fell from the trees.
James lost his grip of the knife and attempted to grasp the rifle from her hand. It slipped from his fingers and fell alongside her to the ground.
As he furiously tried to maintain his grip on the branch, James heard a surprised yelp from the ground far below.
Looking over the edge, he couldn't believe it.
The sniper's corpse had fallen on top of the third remaining player. By the looks of it, he had known she was above him and couldn't move out from his location for fear of being shot.
Just like the punches, the impact from a falling body wouldn't kill a player.
After getting to his feet on the branch, James pulled out his bow and readied an arrow. After the fight with the sniper, it seemed incredibly unfair to end the game like this.
James didn't care.
The arrow darted down into the player's back, killing him instantly.
|Congratulations, Trippy! You have won the Battle Royale!|
|Prize for First Place: $5,000.00|
|Bet Winnings: $18,480.00 ($462.00 at 40/1)|
"Whoa now, settle down... settle down! You all take part, fair and square! What sort of businessman would I be if I let you lynch poor ol' Trippy here?"
The familiar announcer voice was the first thing James heard as the rig logged him out of the game. The jolting sensation of being kicked out of virtual reality, coupled with the physical pain of the needles in his body made James shudder as he finally awoke.
"Guess, I should be calling him Rich Trippy now? Just goes to show you, ALL of you, that ANYONE can win in my arcadium!"
A crowd of disgruntled players were gathered around James' rig, their faces showed that there were moments away from causing a riot.
"Looks like we won't be able to run another game, folks! The losers here don't think you fine people deserve a chance at victory!"
Turning towards the crowd, he gestured at all of them with a forlorn expression on his face. The reaction he wanted was immediate.
Every player was heckled and threatened to get the fuck out of the arcade. The disgruntled players had to choose between roughing up James, or getting roughed up by a mob of expectant players.
As they finally left James' rig, the announcer turned to James with a serious expression on his face.
"Over thirty fucking minutes? I'm taking 25% for that, as well as for saving your ass just now!"
James pulled the cables out of his arm but felt incredibly weak. A strong grip on his arm made him look back at the announcer's face.
"Remember Vesty, I want 25%... now get the fuck out of that rig. I've money to be making."
Nodding his head, James found the strength to get out of the rig.
Before he could walk towards the crowd, the announcer stopped him.
"Use the back. I don't want a dead E-Classer on my conscience."
James smiled weakly at that comment before taking his leave.
"Conscience? How much did that cost?"