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?


5. Chapter 5

Chapter 5


“Hey! Are you listening to me?” Safire demanded.


Wordless, Sven stared at the AirMenu. He blinked several times, wiped the menu away and then summoned it again. He repeated this action a few times, every time pressing the Admin Intercom button that only appeared on his AirMenu now.


“Do you think he lost communication with the admins?” I whispered to Flower.


Flower watched as Sven silently repeated the motion again and again while ignoring Safire’s desperate demands. The rest of the crowd was becoming nervous, seeing as Sven -  the closest person they had to a leader in this world - desperately repeating the same actions without results.


“I can’t say for sure, but he always tries to press the Admin Intercom button, meaning might have lost its function.”


“You mean...”


Flower nodded. “The developers might have removed all function from the Admin Intercom, or it might be an unexpected consequence of the forced update.”


Quaker, who had been standing next to us and listening, grabbed my shoulder from behind. “Should we tell Sven to calm down? Everyone is watching him, seeing him uneasy is making everyone else nervous.”


I scanned the crowd. I agreed. If panic broke out, more people might get hurt, some might even get trampled to death in all the confusion.


We walked past Safire and approached Sven.


“Sven...” I began, but I couldn’t get out one more word after seeing his face. I had never before seen so much desperation in someone’s eyes. This was bad, if Sven broke down now, who is going to take leadership?


To my surprise, Sven actually looked up. “Issa...”


“We are having a talk with the developers!” Quaker announced to the crowd.


Surprised, Flower and I looked at him.


“So in the meantime, you can wander around Queenstown, but please do not get lost or go outside!”


Quaker glanced back at us. “Quick,” he whispered. “This will give you guys sometime to sort things out.”


Seeing how Quaker had a broad frame, larger hands, and was a small giant in some ways, no one dared to disagree with him. Reluctantly, but steadily, people began to disperse in larger groups. Everyone was more careful this time. No one wanted to be alone.


Flower, Quaker and I pulled Sven aside so that we could find a quiet place to talk. In an alleyway, we found a small tavern. Above, there was a sign. “The Jolly Tavern” it read. The door opened, and inside, a fat, jolly, non-player character greeted us.


We sat down at a table. It was time for Sven to spill the secrets. What were the details of the ZERO WORLD update? What happened to Ireland and Thirteen? What was with the monster outside of Queenstown? Why did I receive the Eagle Coat and Eagle Crossbow? Why did his Admin Intercom button not work?


What was happening to our real bodies?


*  *  *



“The ZERO update was an emergency update patch written by the development team,” Sven began to explain after nursing his virtual cup of tea for a while. “Originally, it was a little side project made by some members of the team after work, it would use the core technology, and the imagination and dreaming capabilities of the human brain to allow the player to experience the most realistic and incredible video game of all time...”


Sven let out a profound breath and sipped his tea. Even virtual hot tea was comforting. He continued. “It was nothing but a little side project, but as the core technology came closer to completion, the higher ups took interest in our hobby and officially assigned some developers to work on it full-time. Weapons, towns, monsters, non-player characters, maps, forests were created, stats were issued to monsters and weapons, a character level system was designed, and eventually even quests and dungeons were created. The ZERO WORLD development team had one hell of a time putting this world together.”


Sven stopped for a moment and looked around himself. “I was part of that team. I designed Queenstown, but I never thought I was designing my own prison.”


“Why did they issue this update?” I asked.


“We can’t be forcefully logged out without risking significant harm to our minds and bodies,” Sven repeated. “The only way for us to safely log out is to get the other sixteen players back into Queenstown. I don’t understand their reason entirely, but I’d say they simply wanted to make it easier for us to catch the escaped sixteen.


“What exactly happened Ireland and Thirteen?” asked Flower.


Sven shook his head. “Their physical bodies are alive, no doubt about that, or else their avatars wouldn’t be here anymore. Their hearts are beating. But from what I can tell, their minds are not here.”


“You mean...” I began.


Sven nodded. “You can say that they have literally lost their minds. The body lives on, but the mind has died. They are most likely brain dead.”


“Why was there a monster outside Queenstown in the first place?” Quaker asked.


Sven laughed slightly. “That thing was originally designed to prevent players from exiting Queenstown. It shouldn’t have been hostile.”


“Then why did it attack us?” I asked.


“When Safire and her group encountered it, all I can guess is that they have already started seeding and forcing the ZERO update into the server,” Sven said. “It was simply bad timing. That is why you also received the Eagle Coat and Crossbow, it’s part of the game I helped build. Whoever inflicts the final hit onto the monster receives a bonus item.”


We all nodded. None of us said a single thing, it all had to sink in.


“So that why is you were so shocked when you saw me with the coat and crossbow?” I asked.


Sven nodded. “That was the first piece of evidence that ZERO was being forced through.”


There was only one final question remaining.


“Sven, does your intercom button still work?”


He looked at me and answered very simply, very straightforward. “No. It seems as part of the update, all communication with the developers has been broken. I don’t know if they will try to fix it or not. For now, we are on our own.”


*  *  *


It has been twelve hours ever since I entered iSync. I am sitting here, in a room in the Jolly Tavern, writing down everything that had happened so far, and telling this tale to you, my dear friend. It is absolutely incredible just how much can happen in twelve hours. I met Flower, Quaker, Fefe, Faith, Sven, Safire...discovered the AirMenu, fought a lizard/human/horse monster  - and actually won -, experienced the pain of two people dying, and now I am stranded inside this online world.


Removing my hands from the virtual keyboard, I lay down on the bed. By now, everyone should have already gathered at the fountain plaza. Sven should be preparing his explanation to the crowd. I hoped that Safire wouldn’t get too angry at him. After all, this wasn’t his fault.


Someone knocked on the door. “Issa?”


It was Flower. “Come in, come in.”


She sat down on the bed I was lying on.


“What do you think will happen?” she asked.


“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “I just hope that no one has to die anymore like Ireland and Thirteen.”


We stayed in silence for a while. It was a comfortable silence. We both needed some rest, some alone time, yet we were afraid to leave each others’ side in this strange, wonderful prison.


“iSync is really something wonderful, isn’t it?” I said absentmindedly.


“iSync?” asked Flower.


“That’s the name I just thought of. What do you think?”


Flower smiled. 

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