iSync

Trapped in an online world called iSync, Issa meets a thousand other players from every corner of the world, who all go by their online ID names. Struggling to survive and fighting for a way out, he meets Flower, a mysteriously smart girl. How will a human mind survive in conditions evolution hasn't prepared it for?

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2. Chapter 2 - Queenstown

Chapter 2

 

At first it wasn’t so bad. No one panicked. Some were even glad that we didn’t have to leave this place. The constructions and pathways were all based on things one could find in the real world, but having a ‘dream’ so clearly and interacting with other people in such a way, it was addicting. Just the AirMenu was enough to want to stay in this world a little longer.

 

After about twenty minutes of waiting, Sven hit the Admin Intercom button in his own menu and talked in whispers for about half an hour.

 

During that time, none of the players got worried, everyone was too busy playing with the AirMenu. Summoning it with a five finger gesture in the air made you smile like an idiot, and wiping it away with the back of your hand was just as fun. Playing around with it, we discovered that it had all the standard social network features: friend lists, friend tracking, friend messaging (text, voice, video, thought...and emotion).

 

That was just barely scratching the surface. Clicking a few layers further into the menu, we discovered that we could equip various things that were not possible in the real world.  Various clothing items could be customized, and even medieval weapons could be selected. I touched the “Medium Length Sword” button, and a sword in its sheath automatically appeared hooked up to my belt around my waist.

 

Amazed, I drew it out.

 

Other players who saw me gathered around me and asked me how I did that. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments, again (quite a lot of those recently). I told the other players how to do it, and soon there were weapons of all sorts in everyone’s hands.

 

There were more medieval style ones like the one I had, other had fantasy designs, and others had modern and sleek designs.

 

It was at that point a thought dawned on me. I turned to Quaker, but it seemed he was too busy playing with his long sword. I turned around to Flower, Fefe and Faith.

 

“Don’t you guys find this a bit strange?” I asked them.

 

Fefe and Faith looked at me. “You mean the weapons?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Maybe it’s a last minute addition the developers made on top of the core technology they built,” Faith shrugged before turning back to her weapons menu.

 

Slightly nervous, I looked around myself as more people started playing with weapons. What was going on here?

 

Someone tapped my shoulder. It was Flower. She gestured for me to go with her. Without telling the other three, she and I went off to the side of the crowd so that we could talk in private.

 

“You find this strange too? This thing with the weapons?” asked Flower.

 

I nodded. “If the developers had spent so much time developing the core technology that didn’t even have the time to properly name it, then how come they had all this time to develop so many detailed weapons?”

 

“That’s what I thought too,” Flower said and turned to the crowd with worried eyes. “It makes even less sense if you think that this is supposed to be only a test that should last only two hours. Why did the developers give us the weapons that we could use to harm each other? It would be safer to just remove this option.”

 

I agreed. It didn’t make any sense. I looked at Sven. By now he was sitting down at the edge of the fountain and still talked in hushed whispers. No one payed him any mind.

 

Flower and I made eye contact after seeing Sven still talking. We were both thinking the same thing.

 

Without hesitation, she and I walked over to him.

 

Noticing us, Sven tried to smile, but it was a half hearted attempt.

 

“Something is wrong, isn’t there?” I asked in a quiet voice, not wanting the others to worry at this point.

 

Sven shook his head. “No, no. The developers are just making some last minute updates before logging us out. Everything is alright.”

 

I tried not to laugh. Flower seemed to be thinking the same thing. It would make more sense for the developers to update this world after logging us out.

 

...

 

Unless they could not log us out without the update.

 

My breathing got heavier.

 

Without another word, I pulled up the AirMenu and my hands wandered towards the log out button at the bottom.

 

“Don’t!” Sven hissed.

 

Without listening to him, I pressed it anyway. I should have listened to him.

 

It felt as if a small bomb went off between my finger and the log out button. Without having the time to scream, I was blasted away from the AirMenu.

 

All hundred-odd people at the fountain plaza went silent almost simultaneously.

 

It was a strange sensation. I was lying on the ground, with my entire right arm paralyzed. Breathing rapidly, I was trying to process of what just happened. I tried to press the log out button, but then was literally blasted away?

 

“Issa, are you alright?” Quaker asked.

 

Still trying to catch my breath, I didn’t answer him. I could still more or less feel my right arm, but it was incredibly numb.

 

“How did you do that?” the red headed girl asked.

 

“Dude, that was so cool.”

 

“Another special ability? Man, you know this system well.”

 

“This game has magic abilities too?”

 

Players surrounded me yet again, and Quaker helped me get up. Slowly, feeling was returning to my right arm.

 

“Sven!” I called out. “What was that?”

 

With a profound sigh, Sven stood up and walked towards me. “Is your arm alright?”

 

I nodded. “Tell me what’s going on.”

 

Sven sighed again.

 

“It seems as if the developers are having trouble logging us out.”

 

There was a stunned silence. All eyes were on Sven. Nearly everyone had some form of a weapon in their hand. If Sven didn’t handle this carefully, he would be the first to die.

 

Avoiding making eye contact, Sven calmly walked up the fountain, stood on the edge which acted as a sort of mini stage.

 

“The developers have told me that out of the 106 players who are in Queenstown, only  ninety have returned to the fountain plaza,” he explained. “To make a safe log out, all 106 people have to be gathered here at the plaza, much like the safe removal of a USB stick. To forcefully log out while not all 106 people are gathered here could be dangerous to everyone. That is why the developers have temporarily disabled the log out button.”

 

A wave of whispers and murmuring spread across the plaza.

 

“I REPEAT! Only temporarily!” Sven said.

 

“Why not simply remove the other 16 so that we can log out safely?” asked someone in the crowd.

 

“All minds are interlinked through the server computer. To forcefully eject one player could potentially endanger all of us.” Sven answered.

 

“If it’s unsafe for us to log out ourselves, then why have the log out button there in the first place?” another person asked.

 

“It was designed to be only used if someone wanted to log out instantly, however a prerequisite would be that everyone is gathered at the plaza.”

 

Before another question could be asked, Sven continued. “For now we should simply wait it out. It should NOT take more than a few hours to solve this problem.”

 

Suddenly, Flower pulled me aside with the other three. I could see it in her eyes: fear. Fear and panic.

 

“Sven said that our minds are all interlinked through the server computer right?” Flower said.

 

Everyone nodded.

 

“So essentially, we are all united in one body. You could see that the main computer is the brain, and we are the different body parts and organs.”

 

It was then that it dawned on me what Flower was trying to say. The gravity of her theory sunk in. It made me sick.

 

“If we are all like one body, and some body parts don’t want to leave, then to forcefully eject someone would be like ripping out an organ out of a body, or ripping off an arm or leg. The main body could live, but only for reduced amount of time, but the ripped out organ or limb would bleed out for sure,” said Flower.

 

After a lengthy silence, Faith spoke first. “Are you sure?”

 

Flower shook her head. “It’s only a theory, but considering that the developers are unwilling to forcefully log out us while the other sixteen players are gone, it seems likely.”

 

“So what blew Issa away was the developers’ block to prevent the manual log out button?” asked Quaker.

 

“Probably,” said Flower. “I’m a not developer, I can only guess...”

 

“Maybe I should try it too, see if it works...” Quaker wondered out loud.

 

“Don’t!” I scowled at his stupidity. “Trust me, you don’t want to have a bomb go off at your fingertips.”

 

Quaker pulled his hand away and waved away the menu.

 

"Then what should we do?" he asked.

 

I thought for a moment, then answered. "We do what Sven says. We wait for the developers to find a way to log us out."

 

"Let's try talking to the developers," suggested Fefe and pressed the Admin Intercom button.

 

When she pressed it, another window opened up which read:

 

Error 000 - Please refer to your in-game moderator.

 

"Issa, who is our in-game moderator?" asked Fefe.

 

"That would be Sven," I answered. "Even though he looks like a regular player, he is actually a moderator. He knows more about all of this than we do, so for now, we should listen to him. He probably still has communication with the administrators."

 

 And so, we continued to wait.

 

*  *  *

 

After about four hours, players began to grow impatient.

 

"How long are you going to keep us in here?" some screamed either at Sven or the blue sky.

 

A blue sky. I wanted to laugh. This world is so realistic that we don't even notice the jaw dropping details all of this has. No wonder Sven warned us to use our ID names, it would be easy to forget that this isn't the real world, but a simulation.

 

"Let us out!" somebody demanded.

 

"Hey, Sven! Do something!"

 

"I'm gonna kill you developers when we get out!"

 

Gradually, the atmosphere at the fountain plaza grew darker and darker.

 

"Issa...the players are becoming more..." said Flower quietly.

 

I nodded. Even though I was becoming annoyed myself by how long we have been stuck in here, watching the mob of ninety people becoming agitated was quite frightening. I especially felt sorry for Sven, some of the anger was directed at him since he wasn't seen as a regular player by others, even though he was just as stuck as we were.

 

"Forget it!" the red-headed girl shouted. "Let's move out and find the sixteen people who aren't here and drag 'em back!"

 

Many players nodded, summoned a weapon from the AirMenu and stood by her side.

 

"Don't move out of the fountain plaza!" Sven said angrily. "I was only part of the team that developed Queenstown, I don't know what's beyond here!"

 

Ignoring him, the red-headed girl, and her group of around ten players moved out of the fountain plaza and into the alleyways. Most likely they were going to have a look around Queenstown and then move out of it.

 

"Stop!" Sven yelled, but no one listened.

 

Soon, the group was out of sight.

 

Furious, Sven paced around fountain plaza. He kept shaking his head and mumbling to himself.

 

"Issa, should we go talk to him?" Quaker pointed at him.

 

I nodded. It seemed like a good idea. Sven was just as trapped as we were, plus, like he said, he worked to develop Queenstown. Making friends with him is the best thing to do.

 

I walked over along with Quaker and Flower. Fefe and Faith decided to stay where they were, further away from the larger group of people that was closer to the fountain.

 

"Hey Sven, is everything alright?" I asked. A stupid question really, but I couldn't think of anything else.

 

Sven turned to me, and before he could answer, a sharp scream echoed through Queenstown. Then immediately, a second voice cried out.

 

All of the sudden, I felt a sharp pain in my chest. Breathing hard, I fell to my knees. Next to me, Sven, Quaker, Flower and everyone else also fell to the ground clutching their chest.

 

It was probably at this moment the name iSync came to our minds.

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