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Guest Specter

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Guest Specter
(OOC: I'll admit, I don't know overmuch about the DotHack series, so bear with me. I've researched as much as I know how online, but if anyone notices some error or contradiction to the series feel free to let me know as much as possible. [b]ALSO:[/b] I need two other people who can roleplay as [b]the other two beta testers[/b] (see first post for explaination). If you're interested in one of those two roles PM me with a brief character bio and tell me whether you want your AI to be Icelus or Morpheus.)

[i]My name is Kyle Yann. My father is one of the technology developers for CyberConnect Corporation, the company responsible for the development of The World. Unlike almost everyone I knew, I had never had an interest in The World... until one day when everything changed...[/i]

Unlike almost all my peers, I had never desired to play The World. Don't get me wrong; I had always been a big fan of RPGing and online gaming. There were even some times when I secretly wished I had a character just like everbody else. I had my reasons, though. Primarily, my father.

He works with CC Corp as a technology specialist. He's always been involved with things like programming experiments and virtual reality technology. And when his resume was accepted by CC Corp, he immediately became involved with The World. His job had always been his first priority, always taken up most of his time; that's why mom left him two years ago, when I was sixteen. But when he signed up with CC Corp's technology development division three years ago, it got worse. Much worse. I resent the fact that he's got no time to spend with me, ever. He says I should spend my free time in The World; he even said he could get me in as a beta tester. But after the way he's ignored mom and me, no way.

Why should I be part of his World when he won't be part of mine?

Yeah, I knew that not joining the game wasn't really going to effect him. It was a pretty lame way to give him the cold shoulder. But it wasn't like I was wasting the time away: I got top-notch grades and turned myself into a respectable athlete, even distinguished myself in martial arts. I guess I was hoping I'd impress him enough to get his attention... but it didn't happen that way. Mom thought I was destined for greatness, but dad barely knew I existed.

Then, one day, the oddest thing happened. Dad brought home a whole ton of computer equipment from work and spent the next three days clearing out his work room and setting it up. I had no idea what he was up to, and had no intention to ask, but he was so careful about locking up behind himself that it caught my interest. When he had the lock replaced with a voice recognition scanner and then put bulletproof glass on the windows, I knew he had to be protecting some big company secret. But in our house? I couldn't stop asking myself why...

Then, one morning he stopped me after breakfast...

"You seem to be interested in my little project, Kyle." He asked, sipping on a cup of coffee while waiting for the toast to pop up. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye with a knowing and cunning kind of glance. I could tell right then and there that he had some kind of a trick up his sleeve.

"No, not really." I tried to be as nonchalant as possible, but all I got for it was an 'oh really, you think I don't know' look from dad. "Besides, I've gotta get to school. You can brag about your new toy later." I added, slinging my bookbag over my shoulder and walking towards the door.

"Actually, I was hoping you'd stay home with me today and help test it..."

OK, now he had my attention. Not that I wanted to admit it. I stopped and stood there for a moment, then turned my head and asked "What makes you think I'd want to be your guinne pig?"

He closed his eyes and chuckled to himself as the toast finished. "You wouldn't be my guinne pig, Kyle. The technology may be new,... and not available to the public, but it's not untested. Well, in most senses anyways. That is to say: it hasn't been [i]consumer[/i] tested, yet."

"This has something to do with The World, doesn't it?" I surmised. "Dad, I told you before -"

"You can't honestly tell me you aren't interested." Dad returned, putting his toast on a plate and then looking at me. "You used to be just as into RPGs as I am. What changed?"

My eyes narrowed and I gave him a cold gaze. "You did, dad. You disappeared off into your own world and left mom and me behind like yesterday's news."

There was a long silence. Then dad closed his eyes and seemed to be thinking to himself for awhile. I was about to leave again when he interjected. "I know you blame me for the divorce Kyle, but is being angry going to change anything? I put in for this special assignment because I thought it would give us some common ground... a way to spend time together. Give me one more chance to be part of your life."

I stood there for what felt like a small eternity. One side of me begged to turn the fullness of my spite against him... the other side whispered hope and reconciliation. I knew I had to choose.

Hate or hope? Reality vs fantasy? Running my own life ... or ... my dad's second chance?

I sighed and turned fully around to face him directly. Our eyes met: his eager and hopeful, mine cold and neutral. A line of poetry from Robert Frost popped into my mind: [i]and I took the path less traveled by, and it has made all the difference...[/i]

"...One condition." I stated, walking over to him and holding out my hand. "I'll play along if you'll try to patch things up between you and mom."

He sighed and looked away. "Kyle, I -"

"I never said you had to re-marry her. All I ask is that you try, sincerely try, to at least make amends and be friendly." While I may have said it, I hardly meant it. I wanted mom and dad back together more than anything in the world. But I couldn't overplay my hand on a gamble like this if I hoped for that to happen. I held my hand out a little further. "Are you game, or not? Eh?"

A couldn't help but smirk, just a little. I had him cornered, and he knew it. After a moment, he chuckled and shook my hand. "You drive a hard, but fair, bargain. C'mon, you can have a look at the equipment while I call the school."

Three minutes later, I got my first look at the technology that would change my life. Besides a corporate-quality PC, everything dad had been setting up looked like it came from the sci-fi channel. There was a large mass of technology with what looked like a hospital bed and a VR helmet plugged into the side of it and three thin arches of metal over the ends and middle of the bed. The arches were smooth on the outer edges but perfectly flat on the inner side, which had sequences of smooth black bubbles about the size of marbles cut in half scattered about.

"So,... what is it?" I asked.

Dad smirked at me. "What does it look like it might be?"

"... A new virtual reality hub?"

"Bingo, but with two variations you probably aren't expecting." Dad went on to explain. "One: this is a prototype upgrade to the consumer-model VR interface used for playing The World."

"Actually, that hardly comes as a surprise."

"Two: this isn't your usual Virtual Reality." Dad paused a minute and looked at the device proudly. "You're looking at the first home-based Neural Interception Virtual Interface. Simply put, you don't have to merely play The World through computer controls... you can actually [i]enter[/i] it. Total immersion. Utter, complete VR experience."

I was shocked. I had no idea technology like this had developed, much less that it had developed to near-marketability. "Whoa... you mean, it links the mind of whoever uses it into The World??"

Dad nodded as he started adjusting things on the device's primary control panel. "Exactly. You see, CyberConnect has had their research division studying brainwaves for a while now... much longer than the public would ever suspect. In fact, there's been several coding upgrades to The World in preparation for a total VR experience. This last year we ran the final tests to make sure that brainwave-interfacing was safe for humans. Under controlled circumstances there's no danger, even a few potential health benefits dependent on the software that's used. Needless to say, The World was one of the first software packages CC Corp tested. But those tests were just for safety and compatability." He glanced at me. "Which is where you come in, Kyle. When I found out that they were planning on doing some private consumer testing, to get feedback and ideas from people in your age group as well as to covertly spread rumors for advertising purposes, myself and two other employees offered to in-home test the N.I.V.I. for the Product Development division. It took awhile, but the top brass eventually gave us the green light. And you, pal, are about to become an official CC Corp beta tester."

Dad and I spent the next hour or so going over preliminaries and custom designing my character. Turns out that the N.I.V.I. had a built in AI named Phantasus, which acted as an in-game guide to the user as well as a security enforcer and bio-monitor. Dad explained that the original Phantasus of Greek myth had been one of three dream gods; each of the three consumer-model prototypes had an AI named after one of the three. In addition to a personal AI, myself and the other two N.I.V.I. testers were granted our own private realm: "Omega - Cold Plasma Eclipse". As dad explained it, this was our training ground and ours to build and manipulate as we each saw fit.

As we finished the preparations, I inquired as to the other two testers. Dad could only reply that we would meet each other at Omega Cold Plasma Eclipse eventually, although probably not right away. I decided not to press it further than that, but secretly wondered if the other two would turn out to be allies or rivals. Either way, I knew that things were going to get interesting.

A final keystroke submitted my character's design to The World's info server. I took a minute to look over all the details as I awaited a confirmation e-mail.

[b]USERNAME: Specter
CLASS: ~customized~
HEIGHT: 5 Feet + 7 Inches
HAIR: Dark Blue / Straight / 4 Inches Long / To The Sides / Widows Peak
EYES: Dark Purple
BUILD: Moderate
SKIN TONE: Semi-Pale
APPAREL: Long Black Loose Pants / Dark Gray Sleeveless Shirt / Navy Blue Neck-Wrap Cape /
Black Gloves / Black Boots
ALIGNMENT: Neutral[/b]

It was how I had always envisioned my ideal RPG character: a foreboding rogue born of darkness. Actually, the design was an echo of a character from a very old RPG I'd played in my spare time; the outfit style and hair color were all a tribute to Magus from the game Chrono Trigger. With my dad's programming help I'd even managed to customize the typical Wavemaster class design to better fit my ideals: lessening the inherent physical weakness and exchanging the staff for a long thin-bladed scythe. Once dad caught onto the character reference, (he and I actually had a good time talking about how he'd played Chrono Trigger when he was a kid,) designing Specter became something we'd mutually enjoyed.

ALTIMIT alerted me to the arrival of my confirmation e-mail moments later. Dad and I exchanged an eager glance, first at each other and then towards the N.I.V.I.

The time had come.

"The important part is the headset." Dad explained as he plugged the bulkier-than-normal VR headset into a slot at the head of the bed. I slid in between the metallic arches and maneuvered into position so that dad could put the headset on. "Since brainwaves only travel a very short distance from the source, all the sending and receiving gear is built into it. The arches function to create an electrostatic 'bubble' in which brainwave conditions are ideal. And here," He added, strapping a high-tech armband onto my wrist and plugging it into the hardware. "That's to monitor your bio signs, just in case of an emergency. Ready?"

"As ready as I'm getting." I stated, already feeling jittery. "What can I expect?"

"It'll be almost no different from falling asleep. The headset gear begins by picking up your natural brainwave algorithms and translating them into a language the computer can understand, while simultaneously sending a flow of artificial brainwaves that trick your senses into experiencing what's going on in The World. But first the computer begins by lulling your body into a restful state so there's no chaos when the action starts."

And he was right. The next thing I knew, I felt my arms and legs and eyelids get heavy. But even as they did, prisms of light began to materialize in front of my vision, the virtual slowly replacing the real. The air around me became more still than I'd ever known... time seemed to slow down...

And suddenly I realized I was looking up at stars I had never seen before.

Sparkling pinpoints of distant light made their presence amid a dark sky, filtered by a faint and somewhat cloudy Aurora Borealis. I slowly came to the realization that I was lying on my back looking up, and whatever I was lying on felt perfectly flat. I tilted my head slightly to look around, discovering that the ground was sleek, endless, polished gray crystal from horizon to horizon. Nothing interrupted the smooth gemscape, no hills or buildings, no signs of civilization at all. I suddenly felt very alone, but in a breaktaking Alice-in-Wonderland kind of way. That is, until someone materialized right in next to me; a ghost-like transparent figure in an all-concealing black robe took shape to my right side and then reached down a black-gloved hand to me.

"I am Phantasus." The phantom stated in an ominous multi-echoing voice. "Welcome to The World, master."

The initial shock quickly wearing off, I took his hand and stood up to my feet. I couldn't help but stare at him for a few seconds: any hint of face or form was lost beneath the shadow of that heavy cloak, and if he'd had a scythe he would have looked exactly like a version of the Grim Reaper. Then the impact of Phantasus's words hit home. I was in The World. The World was in my senses. My brain was linked to an MMORPG...

I looked down at my clothes. They were identical to my character design. My skin was somewhat paler than normal. And I noticed, next to where I had been laying down was the scythe dad and I had designed. I blinked in stunned surprise... but my eyes didn't close. I looked at Phantasus.

"I can't blink?"

"Some bodily functions are not mirrored in the interface, young master. Among them are blinking, eating and drinking, as well as all but minor levels of pain or discomfort. These functions are nulled in order to simplify programming, as well as protect the user." My ghostly guide explained. He may sound like a dark wraith, but Phantasus is very much a computer once you get to know him.

I picked up my scythe, liking the feel of a weapon in my grasp. "So, is this the realm that my dad told me about?"

"This area's key words are 'Omega - Cold Plasma Eclipse'."

I nodded to myself and looked around. No sign of the other beta testers yet. Maybe they had already been here, and left to go out on their own; or simply hadn't entered The World yet. Either way, I knew immediately that it was time for my journey to begin...
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