Having carefully made his way back to his bunker, Doug threw the heavy backpack off of his shoulder and emptied the contents onto his countertop.
Damn it! More beans!
Doug shook his head in annoyance. All that effort for just a few measly cans of dark red kidney beans. He hated kidney beans! No matter what way he cooked them, they always caused him bloating and cramps. And the cramping was even worse when he’d tried in the past to eat them straight out of the can. It was one of the worst possible meals to eat prior to joining an in-game raid. After all, what else can you do when you’re trapped for weeks on end in a cramped underground bunker? Especially when the only TV broadcasts are all just a bunch of religious fanatics touting that it’s the end of the world.
He’d have to figure out a way to get his hands on a better variety of food from that stash in the park. But that’d have to wait until later. He was exhausted, and wanted nothing more than to dive back into the game. He knew he had one last can of corn in the pantry, so that’d have to be a sufficient meal for now.
As he opened the can, his thoughts returned to Brittany. He kicked himself constantly for not looking for her inside that police station when he had the chance to save her life. Never before had he felt such a connection with a woman, and now she was gone. No doubt she got incinerated by the blue bolts of lightning in that freak storm like all the thousands of other people who disappeared. If only he hadn’t been such a coward!
There was one thing for sure that seemed to coincide with all of the disappearances. For weeks he dug through the DarkForce gaming forums for answers. It seemed that the only gamers to survive the storm were the few who either were too paranoid to get the augmented reality surgical implants like Doug was, or were among those who were unable to afford the expensive surgery so they were limited to using old-school virtual reality (VR) methods to play. Either way, it seemed suspicious that not a single person who underwent the surgery survived the freak storm.
After wolfing down the can of corn, Doug plopped down on the sofa and strapped on his VR headset and pulled on his haptic gloves. The game loaded with the familiar chime with the CyberBolt Entertainment logo, followed by the DarkForce game logo hovering in mid-air with the opening music. His character sheet appeared on screen, and he did a double-take.
DarkForce: Player Stats
Name | @Andrex
Class | Warrior
Level | 1
Experience | 0
XP to next level | 50
HP | 100/100
Mana | 100/100
Strength |Total: 1 | Original: 1 | Level Ups: 0 | Bonuses: 0
Agility |Total: 1 | Original: 1 | Level Ups: 0 | Bonuses: 0
Stamina |Total: 1 | Original: 1 | Level Ups: 0 | Bonuses: 0
Intelligence |Total: 1 | Original: 1 | Level Ups: 0 | Bonuses: 0
Willpower |Total: 1 | Original: 1 | Level Ups: 0 | Bonuses: 0
What the hell?! Where are my stats?!
Doug stared incredulously at the screen, hoping it was a glitch of some sort that was delaying the response time of the server. But the beginner-level stats remained. He pulled the visor off of his eyes and held down the reset button on the side of the unit.
There. That should do it.
He strapped the headset back on and watched the unit reboot.
A string of coding sped across the screen. Moments later a familiar chime with the CyberBolt Entertainment logo appeared once again followed by the music-box like hymn of DarkForce with its accompanying logo. After a brief moment, the game’s logo disappeared and was replaced by a message:
MMO | PVP
He selected MMO and checked the “Save this setting” box below it. Once again he pulled up his character sheet. It was still showing him at a beginner level.
In frustration he swiped away the stats and took in the beautiful landscape of DarkForce. He sighed in dismay, and shrugged his shoulders. It really sucked to have to start all over again, considering he had attained Level 52 already. He’d have to file a complaint with CyberBolt customer service later.
I guess worse case, I get to see how quickly I can Level Up again.
The Level 1 player attire was obnoxious. Just a mere loincloth hanging around his waist, barely enough to cover his privates. And the primitive spear was hardly much of a weapon. He’d have to find some armor and better weaponry ASAP.
Doug clutched the spear’s shaft tight and looked around at the serene lay of the land. The realistic nature of DarkForce was so different from his current reality in the dimly lit bunker that the game made him feel as though he had entered a secret portal into a brilliant new world full of colors. The green mountains, the thick canopy of a large swathe of trees that stretched for leagues on one side and the grasslands sloping down the other, the muddy roads — everything reminded him of movies he had seen about alternate universes. Every time he logged in he felt enamored by the game’s beauty and detail. The euphoria was addictive.
Birds chirped in the hour of dusk, returning to their nests, trying their best to avoid the shadow of night. It seemed like they did not like the moon and the twinkling stars above, very much preferring the brightness of the sun and its warm rays shining down from the sky.
In the twilight, the hour between light and dark, the world around looked so beautiful that he didn’t want to log out of the game, ever. It was calm and relaxing, whereas real life on the outside since the storm had become downright unbearable and borderline apocalyptic. He desperately needed a way to escape reality, and he wasn’t alone. There were many other gamers like himself that needed the escape into DarkForce, an addictive game unlike any other.
Of course, his former police partner back before he was kicked off of the force many years ago was also to blame for his addiction. Officer Jake Price had often tried to get him more into gaming, but he hadn’t given his advice much thought until a particularly difficult case had made him want to run far away. And now here he was again, having escaped to another world inside DarkForce during these perilous times, and felt thankful for it. Ironically Jake quit the force about a year ago after the Commissioner threatened to put him on probation. Jake never let on the reason for the threatened disciplinary action, but Doug had his suspicions.
He looked around. His friend was nowhere in sight, and a sigh escaped his mouth. No shocker, though. Jake was always late.
Perhaps he hasn’t logged in yet?
Just as he thought this, a ruffling in some nearby shrubbery put him on alert. He turned, pointing his spear in the direction, wondering whether he could remember how to handle the weapon when it actually came to it. He took a bending stance, looking almost like a primate on a hunt. Breathing hard, he moved forward, slowly.
Stick and point.
He was sure that was the rule, just like it was with all close-range weapons. How could a spear be any different?
Suddenly a squeak erupted and a four-legged creature covered in fur lunged forward with its claws.
Threat Detected: Level 1 Rabbid
HP| 100/100Strengths: These small rabbit-like creatures are rabid and can inflict an Instant Kill to lower-level players by biting them.Weaknesses: Unknown
He staggered, taken aback by the sudden attack, but raised his spear just in time. Even a delayed reaction of a mere second would have been enough for the creature to have mauled him. Instead, now its skewered corpse rested on the shaft of his spear, the bloodied point having gone through its entire body.
Instant Kill[+5 HP]
Skill Unlocked: Impale
Delivers an Instant Kill when in close range. Chances of longer range accuracy are 25%. Greater chances for Instant Kill increase with higher levels. Requirements: Level > 1, Agility > 1, Stamina > 1, Intelligence > 1
Repulsed, he shook the corpse off of his weapon and wiped off the blood in the mud that was aplenty on the ground.
“Well, I call that a start!” a familiar voice said, coming up from behind.
He turned and saw his friend’s avatar approach, also wearing a mere loincloth. At first he didn’t recognize him, but then he looked at his handle to confirm his identity.
“You’re finally here, and no help,” Doug said, “Looks like your avatar reset back to beginner level too.”
“Yeah.” He shrugged, “It’s all over the forums. Rumor has it there was some kind of server crash, so all players have been relegated back to beginner level.”
“Wow.” Doug shook his head incredulously, “Are they going to be able to fix it?”
“I doubt it.” Jake sighed, “From what I’ve read on the comms, CyberBolt came forward with an official statement about an hour ago and lot of players are pissed.”
“What did the statement say?”
“It should be in the alerts section on your HUD.” Jake shrugged.
Doug toggled through the HUD settings and saw a red indicator with an alert message. He clicked on it, and his screen filled with the official statement.
A message from CyberBolt Entertainment Inc.:
We apologize for any inconvenience this server disruption may have caused you. Our programmers will be working around the clock to determine the cause of this loss of data. We cannot commit to a timeline for restoration of lost player data at this time. In the meantime, please enjoy 1,000 credits for use at your own discretion within the CyberBolt Virtual Store. Thank you for your patience.
“That doesn’t sound very promising.” Doug scoffed.
“No, it doesn’t.” Jake agreed and taunted him, “But I bet you I can Level Up again faster than you can, and that’s a bet you don’t want to have with me.”
Doug raised his hands in surrender. “Not betting against you, man!”
His friend laughed. “Coward!”
Doug’s eyes flared, but he kept quiet. He didn’t like anyone calling him a coward. But it was Jake, so he didn’t respond.
“Well, let’s go kill some monsters, shall we?” Jake pumped his fists in the air.
Oh, the irony. No matter the picturesque surroundings and the feeling of calm permeating the air, vicious danger was everywhere.
“Let’s do this!” Doug cheered.
Warfare (DarkForce: A GameLit Saga)
Copyright © 2021 R. M. Mulder
All rights reserved. Except for the use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, no known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This edition published by arrangement with the publisher.