Font size: - +
Book #1: Class-A Threat
Copyright © Dan Sugralinov 2019
Cover Art © Vladimir Manyukhin 2019
English translation copyright © Andrew Schmitt 2019
Published by Magic Dome Books, 2019
All Rights Reserved
FOR MY BIRTHDAY, my parents got me an Infinitum 8. Not a very expensive model of immersion pod, but one of the best in its class. It was the present I wanted most for my fourteenth birthday because that is the age you can finally start playing the coolest and most popular game on the planet – Disgardium.
As soon as the birthday party was over and the guests had left, dad smiled:
"Can't wait to test it out?"
I nodded. How could I!? An immersion pod is not some steam-powered VR-helmet with sensor gloves!
"Go on then, Alex," mom said and laughed, embracing dad.
"Don't go in too long your first time!" he shouted after me. "Alex?"
I answered, almost running to my room where the new pod awaited me. Just think, it was already installed, calibrated and ready to use! I hurriedly got undressed and went inside. It was vertical, but could change orientation to better reflect the virtual world. Gravity is a heartless little bitch and it’s difficult to convince someone that they’re standing when their real body is horizontal.
I grabbed the metal handles and waited. A few seconds passed, but nothing happened. Was this thing defective? I was about to run down and call the manufacturer when a stern voice rang out in the pod:
"Alex, your heartbeat is too rapid for your first immersion experience! Access denied."
"Oh come on!" I shouted.
"Apologies for the inconvenience, but characters can only be generated in baseline physical state..." the voice muttered, probably quoting the user's manual. Then it followed up with some helpful advice: "Alex, please do your best to calm down and try again. Thank you."
With a sigh, I climbed out of the pod and walked out onto the little balcony off my room. There were all kinds of silvery delivery drones flitting about on the backdrop of the starry sky, landing and taking off from the windows of our huge residential complex.
Higher up, a procession of public flying cars darkened the sky. As of today, I was legally allowed to pilot them without computer control. I couldn’t wait to try it out. Of course, I would have to pass the license test first, but I had no doubts about that.
A cloud of condensation burst out of my mouth. The cold damp wind made me shiver even though, earlier today, it was pretty clearly turning to spring.
A few minutes later, I was calm and back in the pod. This time I saw no warnings, and the immersion process was able to initiate.
Intragel flooded the pod, going over my head, but it was perfectly alright to breathe. Finally, I closed my eyes.
And when I opened them again, I was in outer space. The sensation of weightlessness took my breath away, and I could barely resist waving my arms and legs. Not that there was much reason to: the pod assumed control over my muscles, keeping them static while the intragel kept my body suspended and out of harm’s way. That way, if something went wrong and it lost control of my body, the gel would protect me from injury.
Good evening, Alex!
Please select your preferred immersion environment.
The text was immediately read out by a breathy female voice. In terms of environments, there wasn’t much choice. I had the moon-sized test world Infinitum, made to demonstrate the pod's capabilities, or the huge Disgardium, which came factory-preinstalled on all pods.
And that was what I chose. Some system logs ran before my eyes:
Biological age confirmed.
Access to Disgardium permitted.
Notifying Department of Education... Complete... Status confirmed.
Initiating first immersion experience!
Scanning body... Complete... Character appearance generated.
Approved world type: Sandbox.
Recommended location: Tristad.
Unfortunately, I would be relegated to a sandbox until I reached sixteen. They were private locations where only underage players were allowed. Adults from the full version were not permitted, and all content was strictly age-appropriate...
All around me, I saw a flurry of majestic cities and abandoned villages; epic battles and ghastly monsters; the six not yet entirely explored continents; heavenly gardens and fiery wastelands; a billion active players and just as many non-player characters, which was to say nothing of noncitizen workers; seaside resorts and city blocks, teeming with forbidden pleasures...