I appeared In a small metal room of some sort, my foot already halfway through the oval door in front of me. I stumbled, still unused to instantaneous transportation from one spot to another. Before I could regain my balance, a loud voice startled me.
“What’s the holdup? Some of us are trying to get through here.” The voice was terse, harsh, and right behind me.
“Sorry,“ I mumbled as I tried to stagger out the door while getting my bearings. I realized that what I thought was a door was actually the exterior hatch of a spaceship. Outside lay a massive hanger that dwarfed the three other spaceships I could see in front of me.
I ducked into the left side of the door and sank against the metal hull. Next to me, people continued to shuffle out of the ship, none of them even giving me a second glance. Why’d the System have to dump me in such an awkward position? I asked myself with a groan before giving up and surveying my surroundings.
The ship I’d arrived on was larger than the other three combined. Given the continuous stream of people coming out of it, I guessed it was some kind of passenger ship. A space bus if you would.
I really hope they aren’t all players, I sighed as I tried to rejoin the stream of people. It was difficult. Everyone was in a hurry and no one would wait to let me in. After several minutes, an older gentleman slowed the line enough that I could rejoin the flow down to the smooth metal floor.
The line extended to the edge of the room, where it split into lanes. I recognized the setup from the time I’d visited my grandparents in England. This was leading to a customs inspection. I hope I’ve got the right documentation for this, I thought as I started patting myself down.
The System had decked me out in a plain set of trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. It felt smooth and comfortable, though it wasn’t a material I recognized. Some kind of super space material, I guess, I mused as I began searching through pockets.
While I found nothing in the pockets, I noticed a large smartwatch on my wrist. Shaking my wrist resulted in a holographic screen appearing above it, showing the date and time in a calendar I had no reference for. I could only hope the societies in VSO had gone digital, as I had nothing else that could prove who I was.
I didn’t even have any luggage with me and while it was possible I would pick it up later, I thought it was more likely that I owned nothing but the clothes on my back. Given that the developers had promised all players starting credits, I doubted that I’d get starting equipment as well.
The line was moving fast and by the time I’d finished fumbling with my watch, it was time to enter a lane. I still hadn’t worked out how to get it to shift off calendar mode, so I hoped a custom agent would explain how it worked if they even had customs agents. If they had automated scanners, I would probably be left looking like an idiot.
In front of me were two people standing in front of a door leading out of the hangar bay. It only took three minutes for the line to move, timed on my handy holographic watch, before it was my turn to enter the room beyond.
I came into a much smaller room with four stations set up, each manned by an individual in a smart military-style uniform in royal blue. Thank god, people, I sighed as I moved towards the empty space at the third station from the door.
A glass screen protected the agent on my left while a shimmering field of energy blocked the way forwards, extending to a metal platform on my right. A circular indentation topped the platform with blinking lights set into it.
The name tag pinned to the uniform of the young man behind the screen identified him as Agent Darren. “Good morning,“ he said, turning a blinding smile on me as I approached. “This shouldn't take long. Please scan your Personal Computer here,“ he gestured to the indentation on the platform next to me.
I only had my watch on me, it had better be what he was after. Nodding as confidently as I could, I moved up and held my left wrist over the circle on top of the platform. After a second, it beeped cheerfully. I hoped that meant it had worked and wasn’t, say, an instruction to deploy automated turrets.
“That all looks to be in order.” Somehow, Agent Darren’s smile had grown even larger when I wasn’t looking. “I can see here that you’ve been pre-approved for full Althean citizenship. Before I put this through, I need to make you aware that this will revoke your PCUW citizenship. Are you sure you want to proceed?” He quirked an eyebrow at me as he finished.
Before I could respond, a blue screen appeared in front of my face. This one hadn’t come from my watch, It had to be the System.
Major Choice Detected
Warning this is a choice that will have an ongoing impact on your character.
Not much of a choice there, I mused as I read through the information. I don’t plan on leaving any time soon and I definitely don’t want trouble with the local authorities.
A polite cough pulled me from my thoughts. “I understand that this is a big decision,“ Darren addressed me, his smile noticeably dimmed. “We have a waiting area at the back of the room if you need more time.”
Fuck, I’ve gone and offended him. I'd better think of something fast before I get some kind of reputation penalty. Thinking quickly, I responded,“ Sorry, I was just caught up in the moment. I can barely believe I made it, you know. Of course I'll be taking the Althean citizenship, that’s why I came all the way out here”. I held my breath as I finished, waiting to see if that would be enough to fix my earlier faux pas.
“Hah, I like the enthusiasm,“ the agent’s smile was back in full force as he began tapping away at his own holographic screen. It looked like I’d fixed my earlier blunder. “I can understand the sentiment too, it's never been more dangerous to travel out here,“ he continued as he worked. “You're lucky you took such a large ship.”
“OK, that’s all gone through,“ he continued a moment later before I could question why it was so dangerous. “Now we just have the name left. While you're welcome to keep your current one, we find that many new arrivals want to choose a new one to celebrate the start of their new lives.”
Ah, there it is, I was wondering when I'd get to name my character. If nothing else, I was going to keep the same first name, with how real everything felt it would just be confusing otherwise. As for the surname, I thought for a moment, before going with the first thing that came to mind.
“Hope,“ I replied with a smile,“ Jared Hope.” This was, after all, my last hope, so it felt right to acknowledge that somehow.
“I love it,“ Agent Darren replied, actually flashing me thumbs up, of all things. “And I hope you do well in your new life,“ he continued with a wink before gesturing me through as the force field disappeared in front of me. “There is a monorail station on your left as you come out if you wish to remain in the Planetary Capital. Our Psi Gate Interchange will be on your right if instead, you wish to move to one of our Regional Capitals.”
Blinking in surprise, I thanked him before moving through. It had felt more like an actual conversation than I’d expected. That had been a contextual joke like he’d actually understood our conversation. Did they have some kind of chatbot linked up to them? In the end, I just shrugged and moved on, I could hardly complain about them making the NPC interactions too good after all.
Now I had to plan my destination. I didn’t want to stay in the capital. The room beyond the checkpoint was filled with confused people wandering around. I’d guess that most of them were players, more of them than I wanted to be around. That meant I’d have to check out this Psi Gate interchange and hope it wasn’t too expensive.
Besides, what kind of Psionic Aspirant would I be if I didn’t check out an obvious lead for my class? While it was possible, these gates had nothing to do with the psionic system, I was willing to bet they were given how highly this planet rated on Unexplained Phenomena. Nodding to myself, I began striding towards the door on the far right.
A few hundred feet later, I’d come to another line, this one in front of a pair of double doors leading into a deeper space beyond. There were at least two dozen gawking people in front of me, a clear sign they were players. To be fair, I wasn’t any better, nothing I’d read had prepared me for the experience of standing in an actual spaceport.
Again, the line moved fast and only a few minutes later, I was through the doors and taking in the new room. Immediately, a series of glowing purple squares drew my attention to the far wall. While they differed in shape from most portals I’d seen in fiction, they were pretty similar otherwise, being a field of glowing energy inside a metal support structure.
Guarding the way forwards were more rope lanes leading to a series of five counters. These individuals wore red outfits cut to look like business attire, as opposed to the more military style that Agent Darren had been dressed in. The lane on the far right was the shortest, so I moved forward to join it.
I kept a watch on the front of the line as I waited, keeping track as they were each asked for their intended destination before being directed to pay with their watch. At least I knew what to do this time, even if I didn’t know my destination. A few minutes later, it was my turn to move up to the counter.
The woman behind the counter, whose name tag identified her as Katie, addressed me with a professional smile as soon as I stepped up. “Welcome to the Altheias Primary Psigate Interchange. Where can I direct you to today?”
The wait had given me time to think up a reply that I hoped wouldn’t paint me as a complete fool. “I’m afraid I wasn’t able to do a great deal of research before I arrived.” I started, affecting an apologetic tone. “I’m looking for a quiet city to live in, could you recommend one?”
“Of course,“ she replied her smile not even wavering. “Elendes is our newest Regional Capitol, only settled around seventy years ago. You will find it to be the quietest of the cities on our network.”
That sounded like what I was after. My entire plan hinged on me being able to find profitable locations before anyone else, so I was going to need proximity to the wilderness. The newest region should be the closest to the frontier, making it the ideal choice. “That sounds excellent,“ I replied,“ If you could organize that I would be grateful.”
Katie nodded, before typing something on the screen floating in front of her. “That will be three hundred credits please,“ she gestured to a spot on the desk that I recognized as another scanner.
I tried to avoid a wince at the price. Three hundred credits were worth thirty dollars, after all, not an insignificant price to pay straight after entering the game. Still, I didn’t have a great deal of choice, so I waved my wrist over the scanner, praying internally that it would work.
Part of the advertising for the game had promised that we would have the two hundred dollar purchase price refunded to us in credit form once the game launched. As the scanner beeped cheerfully, a small screen appeared above the watch as I pulled my hand back.
-300 credits deducted
“Thank you for choosing Altheias Primary Interchange,“ Katie said in a formal tone, waving me through as another shimmering field disappeared in front of me. “You're looking for the sixth gate on your right, it will activate as you approach.
I thanked her before moving through the gate with a grin. It was time to get my first look at psionics and the city that I hoped would become my new home in-game.
I could barely wait.
“Good morning," “he said, turning a blinding smile on me as I approached.
Please scan your Personal Computer here," “he gestured to the indentation on the platform next to me.
Of course iI'll be taking the Althean citizenship, that’s why I came all the way out here”.
“Hah, I like the enthusiasm," “the agent’s smile was back in full force as he began tapping away at his own holographic screen.
“I can understand the sentiment too, it's never been more dangerous to travel out here," “he continued as he worked.
“OK, that’s all gone through," “he continued a moment later before I could question why it was so dangerous.
“I love it," “Agent Darren replied, actually flashing me thumbs up, of all things.
“And I hope you do well in your new life," “he continued with a wink before gesturing me through as the force field disappeared in front of me. “There is a monorail station on your left as you come out if you wish to remain in the Planetary Capital.
darkocean (J. L. Salmonson) ago
Fellow readers, remember to follow so you'll know when L. S. Easton updates! It also makes us writers happy if you follow.
Thanks for another great chapter