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Chapter 002 - Chains of Authority


‘GET UP TRAITORS.’ commanded Officer Eastwood, in a full set of black knight armor adorned with gold trims. The platinum blond officer swiftly pointed his sword at the hundreds of players rounded up in front of him. His deep voice echoed through the chamber of the dungeon.


The middle-aged officer looks at Ivan and others with a cold, stern expression. "Listen up, maggots," he barked. "You will do exactly as I say, when I say it. Do I make myself clear?"


Even dripping, chained and beaten, Ivan Duyne had composed himself, brave like a heroic champion.


The snobbishness of these liberal degenerates, thought Officer Eastwood.


Despite being shackled to prevent any movement, Ivan could still feel the oppressive atmosphere around him as he languished deep in the hold of Officer Eastwood's underground dungeon.


Down here, the dungeon stronghold was like a prison cell far worse than any built on Earth. The low ceiling pressed down on the 6 feet tall Ivan like a weight. The absence of windows made it impossible to tell the time of day. However, the flickering light of flames cast ominous shadows on the rough stone walls.


Ivan's world had turned upside down two hours ago when the patrolling officers snatched him away, blindfolded and helpless. Every moment since then had felt like eternity, and his fear only grew as he contemplated the possibility of being trapped here indefinitely. Shuddering in terror, he prayed for a way out. However, deep down he knew that his fate was out of his hands.


Ivan blinked, his wet lashes framing his dark eyes, as strands of dripping hair fell into his face. His attire consisted of a sleek, tight-fitting wetsuit-like black uniform bearing a striking red geometric emblem resembling a devil. From a distance, it gave him an air of rebellion and criminality. But Ivan knew the truth: this upside-down red triangle on the plain and unremarkable uniform was a color-coded mean of identifying him as a prisoner.


Officer Eastwood savored the horror that filled Ivan's eyes and relished the fear and desperation that oozed from his every breath. Ivan knew what was coming; he had known the moment he laid eyes on the officer.


"I have to admit, Senator Zurc was right about the Anti-fascists," Officer Eastwood remarked casually as he strolled through the dungeon chamber. His footsteps caused a sudden stir among the hundreds of captive men, many of whom were recent college graduates, and a few were boys just barely past their teenage years.


Startled by the disturbance, some of the older men looked up at Officer Eastwood with a mixture of fear and resignation. "What do you mean?" one of them asked.


Eastwood shrugged. "Just a bunch of entitled little snowflakes getting what they deserved," he replied dismissively before continuing on his way.


"Spare them." Ivan croaked, his voice ragged with emotion. "Officer, please, if you ever felt anything, they’re innocent people who have nothing to do with this." Officer Eastwood dismissed the pleas, preferring to savor this moment of pure, unadulterated power.


The dungeon chamber was eerily quiet, with only the occasional sound of dripping water breaking the silence. It was clear that he wielded absolute authority, allowing only what he deemed necessary to break the unsettling stillness.


Ivan was helpless, his hands chained behind his back, his body awkwardly contorted as he struggled to find his balance. Officer Eastwood looked at the heavy iron chains binding the soyboy prisoners to the dungeon floor and felt a sick sense of pleasure.


Ivan shook his head. "You can’t take away our rights."


"What rights? You ungrateful scum." Eastwood said, pausing, his voice dripping with disdain. He leaned back against an intimidating looking iron chair. "You forget just how lucky you are compared to the rest of the world."


"Fuck. You." Ivan sneered, his eyes flashing.


“If you ever felt for the millions of --” Ivan began, but Eastwood cut him off with a harsh laugh.

"You liberals always seem to be complaining about something," Eastwood said, his voice rising. "You have all these rights and freedoms, but you're never satisfied. You should be grateful for what you have instead of constantly whining about what you don't."


"Please, listen to me. I beg you," Ivan said, his voice choked with emotion. “These people are innocent. These people are good folks who love their country, and they do not deserve to be called traitors.”


Ivan explained, “They want everyone to be treated the same and have a good life. Everyone should have healthcare and education that doesn't cost too much money. We should protect nature for we are stewards of the earth, and we have a responsibility to care for it.”


While Officer Eastwood observed the scene before him, an overwhelming feeling of disgust churned in his gut. The unabashed self-righteousness of these lowly individuals was simply nauseating. They clung to the misguided notion that there was some remnant of benevolence left in this world, as if their pitiful appeals to his morality could save them from their inevitable fate. But Eastwood knew better than to place any faith in the words of these worthless beings.


"Beg me, then," Eastwood taunted, his voice laced with contempt. "Beg me on your knees to let them live. Do it."


To his surprise, Ivan obeyed, dropping to his knees and begging for mercy. Eastwood watched with a sense of twisted pleasure, knowing that he had the power of life and death over this man.


"You think I felt something for you?" Eastwood said, his voice cold and precise. "You've forgotten who I am."


Ivan looked up at him with fury in his eyes, but before the officer could say anything, Ivan pulled against the chains with all his might. For a moment, Eastwood felt a flash of fear--what if the traitor managed to break free? But then, with a sudden, jarring movement, the iron clamped down even harder on Ivan's wrist. The prisoner let out a gut-wrenching scream as the unforgiving metal dug deeper into his flesh, causing him to collapse in agony. Eastwood watched, his heart pounding, as Ivan writhed in pain, his anguished cries filling the dank, oppressive air.


Officer Eastwood laughed in relief, enjoying the sense of power that came from knowing that resistance was futile and there was no escape from this virtual prison.


"You have crossed the line, maggot. Your treacherous ideologies threaten to undermine the future of our great empire. Such defiance will not be tolerated."


"You're just a worm" Ivan spat. "You're just a fascist worm. A pawn for the greedy corporate overlords. How many innocent people have you tortured? How many hard-working citizens will continue to die because of people like you?"


"Everyone, including you." Officer Eastwood said, relishing the fear that flashed across Ivan's face.


The officer's eyes narrowed as he spoke, his lips curling into a cruel smirk. "Do you really think you can make it out alive?" he said, his voice dripping with malice. "You're going to dig, and you're going to dig hard. If you don't, you'll be fed to the scorpions. They'll tear you apart limb by limb, and there won't be a damn thing you can do about it.”


Inwardly, the officer was thinking, “You'll be lucky to survive the first week. And then, when you're weak and exhausted, we'll feed you to the scorpions."


As Eastwood turned to leave, Ivan's voice rang out behind him.


"You think you can get away with this? You're wrong," Ivan snarled, his voice shaking with rage and fear. "The truth will come out, no matter how hard you try to cover it up. And when it does, you'll be held accountable for what you've done."


Officer Eastwood froze, his heart pounding in his chest. He forced himself not to turn, not to take the bait. Every fiber of his being urged him to respond in disciplinary action, to put Ivan in his place, but he forced himself to remain calm.


"That's the trouble with you entitled bastards," he said calmly as he walked away. "You always think there's hope."


As Ivan cautiously peered outside, his heart sank at the sight of the barbed wire that encircled the desert compound. A large sign read "Emerald Lake Internment Village", a chilling reminder of his captivity. The towering walls were fortified with magic, and cannons were poised inward, leaving Ivan with the stark realization that escape was impossible.



Two hours later…


Edward was feeling somewhat dazed as the guard unlocked his restraints, but he managed to gather his wits as he followed the line of fellow prisoners out of the dungeon chamber. It was hard for him to believe that within less than ten hours of starting the game, all the players were gathered from the beautiful tutorial village and transported to an internment camp.


"Be careful," an auntie Non-Player Character (NPC) whispered to him as Edward stepped out of the dungeon. Edward wasn't sure if the woman meant for him to be careful going down the steps, or if she was telling him to be careful at Emerald Lake Internment Village.


"Thanks for your kind words," he wanted to say. His mouth was still dry and his throat hurt. But he was gagged after a dissident named Ivan couldn’t keep his mouth shut. They gagged the men who looked fit and strong.


Stepping onto the dry, unforgiving ground, Edward felt a wave of discomfort wash over him. Beads of sweat dripped from the bottom of his chin as the elastic band of the wetsuit uniform suctioned around his thick, muscular neckline.


He was still adjusting to his new body. Rather than his previous stature, which fell slightly below the average height for an all-American man, he decided to go all-in and increase his height to the maximum of six feet. After all, in a wish-fulfillment game, who wouldn't opt for the ideal masculine figure?


The sandy field was covered with a multitude of small, rough stones known as pea gravel. Despite the name, these stones were not ideal for comfortable walking, and the surface was particularly painful for those who attempted to traverse it without shoes.


A woman and a man strode into the field of bumpy pebbles. Watching them warily, Edward indistinctly recognized the first as a female security agent. The second was a sharp-dressing stranger: a dark-haired, clean-shaven man wearing a great suit, silver watch, and a pair of shiny leather shoes.


The man’s eyes widened.


Bound and under heavy iron cuffs was a male prisoner unlike any he had ever seen.


He possessed a formidable, muscular physique that commanded attention, and unlike the other prisoners in the camp who wore flimsy low carbon steel chains, he was bound with real restraints. Thick cords secured his legs and torso while his wrists were lashed behind his back. Even though he wore a tight wetsuit uniform, the raw power of his body appeared barely contained. His intense, dark eyes blazed with fury above the gag.


‘This is the slave that is being presented to the Captain?’ whispered the tall suited man, the voice too faint over the harsh wind of the desert.


The agent beside him nodded.


‘You say he’s dangerous. What was he in real life? A criminal? A genius tech hacker? ’


The agent indicated Edward's floating name-tag and instructed, "Ensure he remains restrained. FS-404 is a high-priority on the watch list. A total of ten guards were needed to corner him and subdue him at the tutorial village."


"I understand," the man responded, his expression turning scrutinizing. "Ensure he remains gagged and shorten his chain for the physical inspection. Additionally, appoint a suitable commander to oversee him. If he causes any problems, take whatever measures necessary to keep him in check." He spoke indifferently, treating Edward as if he were inconsequential.


It was dawning on Edward that his captors did not care for the identity of their prisoners. They were just nameless prisoners of war. The Empire has a knack for cooking up wars every ten years or so to serve their imperialist agenda. It's just a scheme they use to justify their shameful track record of committing war crimes around the world.


He let out a measured breath, determined to keep a low profile and avoid drawing any attention to himself. The Empire viewed every incarcerated individual throughout its history as nothing more than insignificant slaves whose sole purpose was to generate revenue for the prison system. Speaking out could spell certain doom for him, leaving him unable to survive even one night. To be deemed a valuable asset and to stand a chance at survival, Edward knew he had to be viewed as fit and able-bodied.


His limbs were restrained and his neck chain was shortened, forcing him to bow his head and limiting his view. The guards positioned themselves beside him.


Moments later, the air crackled with energy as an obelisk structure hummed to life. A burst of magic erupted from its surface, coalescing into a swirling and pulsing mass of light that formed a portal. Edward sensed the tense silence that hung heavy in the chamber, and he felt his own heart race with anticipation.


There was a commotion as voices and footsteps signaled the start of the inspection.



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