Ready Player Everyone

A mysterious man, an equally mysterious artifact from Before. Long forgotten tech is almost always dangerous, yet what kind of secrets could be held within?

Level: 1
Start: Errik Mclure, Government Center, Tau Station

Introduction

The government center on Tau Station is quite an extensive building with a number of twisting corridors and empty hallways. For a moment, you seem to have taken a wrong turn and find yourself in a fairly secluded area. Motes of dust drift serenely along the silent corridor bathed partly in the artificial light of historical holograms that line the walls. Before you turn to retrace your steps, you notice a man standing in the shadows at the far end, his eyes glazed and slightly reflective as he engages in conversation to someone on his coretechs. He seems to be focused on the call and has not realized anyone is close by. He speaks quietly in hushed tones.

He says: Yes. Arrangements have been made, you may continue about your activity unrestricted. Station security will not be watching the ruins for the next segment. Your target will be undefended for the duration and there shall be no inquiries should he go missing.

The call seems to end and the man rubs his eyes as he steps out of the shadows. He seems quite preoccupied and does not register your presence. As he hurries past you and away, you can just about make out something he seems to be addressing to someone else.

He mutters: Ah Mikel you old fool, what have you gone and gotten yourself into. He'll be scrapped this time for sure!

You have accepted the "Ready Player Everyone" mission.

Find and warn Mikel in the Red Zone on Tau Station

Next NPC: Mikel, Ruins, Tau Station

  • Search for Mikel.

(Intelligence check)

After a good search around the broken city beyond the Red Zone you locate a man that your CORETECHS ID's as Mikel.

You observe a hard looking man, dressed in dusty but durable looking leathers, thoughtfully examining a truly bizarre looking piece of tech. The apparatus looks like some sort of stylized helmet sitting on an electronic pedestal. Various wires seem to run out and into outlets on the wall behind it and a small antenna array suggests the ability to connect or communicate to a network. It's clear from the dust and detritus that he has carefully been moving aside the rubble to unearth it. He looks up and subjects you to a long and measuring stare, the apparatus over his left eye emitting soft whirring sounds as he studies you. After a long moment, he beckons you over.

  • "You're apparently in danger."
  • "What is that thing?"

You're in danger:

Me: You're apparently in danger.

Mikel grunts but is otherwise unaffected by your warning.

He says: So what else is new?

  • "What is that thing?"

Me: What is that thing?

The man, who your Coretechs identified as Mikel, glances at you before turning his scrutiny back to the strange tech. You note that he seems a fairly strong figure and wears what appears to be sturdy and well traveled clothing. His weapons and gear also seem to be of better than average quality. When he finally speaks, it is with a gruff but measured voice.

He says: What it is… is old, friend. Reckon from Before. That makes it valuable too, or at least, what it may give us is valuable. Invaluable even, if I can get her up and running that is.

He looks at you with a twinkle in his grey eye and flashes a warm and friendly smile.

  • "Perhaps I could help? Two heads are better than one they say."
  • "You say this is from Before?"
  • "Exactly how valuable are we talking about?"

From Before:

Me: You say this is from Before?

Mikel continues to wipe dust off the contraption and investigate the various cables and electronic interfaces. He grunts and smiles at your question.

He says: Indeed it is friend, and I think that has you as curious as it has me eh? I mean, our records from life before the Catastrophe are fairly scattered and unreliable as it is. If this is what I believe it is though, it could well provide us with some valuable insights.

Mikel stands up, stretching the small of his back and looking around.

He says: If this is what I believe it is, I may not be the only one interested in it either.

  • "Are you expecting trouble then?"

Me: Are you expecting trouble then?

Mikel runs a hand through his greying mane and raises a bushy eyebrow. He rolls his heavyset shoulders beneath the brown leather coat that covers his frame.

He says: Could be, could be. Perhaps it's fortuitous that you came upon me after all. See there's a tale here, been long in the making. Assuming you're interested in my little adventure and once we're done with this, perhaps I'll tell you over a pint of synthehol or seven. It's an eyeopener and no mistake, there's much about our way of life that swims far beneath the surface of what people believe or even accept.

Mikel walks to the machine and kneels down next to what appears to be a personal power generator.

He says: Right, business at hand. I've rigged my beauty here to conform to the archaic power conduits of the old tech. Once I power her up, I need you to strap this helmet looking thing onto your head and tell me what you see. I'll be right here and will stand guard. Should anyone look like trouble, I'll lead them on a merry chase and far away from you.

Mikel looks up at you, his hand hovering over the power generator and a merry twinkle in his eye.

He says: So what do you say my new friend? Up for seeing something amazing?

  • "Who exactly are you talking about?"
  • "Ok, let's do this!"
  • "I think you need to tell me a little more about what we're dealing with here"

Who exactly:

Me: Who exactly are you talking about?

Mikel smiles wryly and clucks his tongue as he performs some final calibrations on the dusty device. He scans the horizon with a pair of eyes that reflect a a lifetime's worth of collected wisdoms before replying.

Mikel: Like I said, the story's been long in the making. Stories have heroes, they have villains, they have a bunch of characters in between that switch from one side of the coin to the other at a moment's notice, just to keep you guessin'. This bunch of folks.. well, I haven't made up my mind what side they will end up flipping onto…for the moment though, they don't seem to want us to see what secrets this here beauty holds.

Mikel: So what do ya say? You up for this? Don't reckon there's that much time left now…

  • "I think you need to tell me a little more about what we're dealing with here"
  • "Ok, let's do this!"

Tell me more:

Me: I think you need to tell me a little more about what we're dealing with here

He says: The past my friend, and its implications towards our future. This is neither a prospect nor a piece of information that some would have the hoi poloi in the know of, if you salvage my driftage. The bottom line is, though, that I believe this machine here and others of its kind are repositories of forgotten lore. I'll keep you safe while you reclaim it. Whaddya say? We've not got oodles of time here.

  • "Ok, let's do this!"

Me: Ok, let's do this!

Mikel grins and indicates the strange looking helm.

He says: Simply look into the helmets "eyes" and your CORETECHS should do the rest. If it works, you should be able to access it's network. Your CORETECHS is designed to attune to any new systems it comes into contact with and, if they are deemed 'safe' provide you with access. Learn what you can, and we will speak once you're done! As I said, I'll keep you safe on this side.

Return to The Red Zones

  • Look into the strange helmet's eyes.

You step forward and Mikel lifts the strange looking helm off the device, offering it to you with both hands. You turn it over, studying it for a moment. It looks both sleek and stylized, angular chrome plates fitted over assorted electronics. As you turn its 'eyes' to yours, you notice various scans and readouts begin to work in the corner of your vision as the CORETECHS begins to analyze an unfamiliar system. Colors around you begin to fade and you see Mikel draw a weapon and sit on some nearby debris.

He says: Don't you worry none, I'll have your back out here. Nobody is gonna even know you're here. You just keep your eyes and ears open, learn all you can!

Suddenly Mikel's voice takes on a metallic quality, his words slur and blend together into a machine-like squawk and you feel like your senses have been wrenched to one side and dragged into a swirling vortex. A dizzying maelstrom of sight and sound swirls and screams around you until, with a final crescendo, you seem to land without ever having fallen.

  • Your mind races to catch up to your perception…

You reel as your mind races to catch up to your perception. You find yourself blinking rapidly as you struggle to make sense of your surroundings. You are no longer where you were, everything around you is foreign and strange. The environment is brightly colored and oddly angular. Before you can wonder what has happened, a shimmering phrase appears before you, written in a language both alien and yet strangely familiar.

The giant letters hang in mid-air before you, staying at the centre of your vision no matter which way you turn your head. You almost wonder if it is a communication via your CORETECHS but the letters glimmer and reflect the lighting and landscape around them. Slowly, and inexplicably, you begin to recognize letters within the phrase. The more you look, the more letters coalesce into understandable words before your eyes. Soon, you can make out the entire phrase.

It reads: LOGGING ON - PLEASE STAND BY

After some moments, the phrase disappears, apparently you have 'logged on', though it is not clear what, or where, you have logged on to. The words fade out and are replaced by a new shimmering phrase.

It reads: WELCOME TO THE OMNI REALITY ENGINE!

The new phrase hangs in the air for a moment before fading out in an aesthetically pleasant fashion.

  • Explore the room.

Looking around, you observe what appears to be a stylized waiting room. There are windows, a door, and some potted plants. The wall appears to be decorated.

  • Look at the window.
  • Inspect the wall.
  • Look at the potted plants.
  • Approach the door.

Plants:

As you approach the potted plants, a shimmering figure fades into view before you. The image is fairly translucent but you can just about make out the features of a young girl, possibly in her late teens. The name 'Nozick' hangs over her head.

She doesn't seem to be aware of your presence and begins to speak to the air as if she is merely an echo of a former occupant of this place. Her voice is soft though you detect a faintly exotic accent.

She says: I can't believe he did it. Robbie made the switch today, he's gone full sim now. I… I think it's my fault too.

She lets out shaky sigh, running what used to be her hands through what presumably, used to be her hair. When she begins speaking again her voice is tinged with a deep sorrow, small hiccups of emotion punctuating her words.

She says: He wanted to meet up, like, in real life. But I'm not me in real life! Everything is so much worse there, but here, here we were great.. I was great! And it was all for him! Now he won't even remember me. Everyone is doing it though… going full sim.

She pauses a moment, then begins to get excited.

She says: I bet I could find him though… it's just a simple slice-job. And then, I could insert myself into his sim! I could be his wife! I wouldn't remember… but we'd be together! Until the end, me and Robbie!

Her voice and form slowly fade from view.

  • Inspect the wall.
  • Look at the window.
  • Explore the room.

Wall:

Close inspection of the wall shows a large sword hanging off a hook and, shimmering beneath it, the letters FAQ.

  • Touch the FAQ.
  • Explore the room.

FAQ:

You reach out and touch the letters that say FAQ. As you touch them, they shimmer and split into a number of different questions.

  • Select "How do I get out of here?"
  • Select "What is the difference between VR and SR?"
  • Select "What is the Omni Reality Engine?"

Omni Reality Engine:

As you graze the question, the words bounce and a voice begins to speak.

It says: Omni Reality (formerly known as The Experience Machine) is the latest in human experiential entertainment. Users can log into a fully haptic virtual environment and, given sufficient funds, build any experience they desire. This reality can be either virtual or simulated, depending on each users' particular requirements.

  • Explore the room.
  • Select "What is the difference between VR and SR?"
  • Select "How do I get out of here?"

VR and SR:

As you graze the question, the words bounce and a voice begins to speak.

It says: Virtual Reality is an experience crafted by the user while the user remains aware that they are currently in a crafted reality. A simulated reality is one where the user is unaware of the nature of their experience and believe it to be the 'real' reality. Many users choose to simulate their reality if they no longer wish to return to non-digital format. It is important to note that one must make the necessary arrangements to keep their body cared for if they choose to immerse themselves in a simulated reality. Omni Reality Incorporated will not be held liable for any loss of life incurred due to over simulation.

  • Explore the room.
  • Select "What is the Omni Reality Engine?"
  • Select "How do I get out of here?"

Get out:

As you graze the question, the words bounce and a voice begins to speak.

It says: This is the synchronization area, simply proceed through the room and the system will create your profile depending on your choices. The door on the far end of the chamber serves as an exit from the system.

  • Explore the room.
  • Select "What is the difference between VR and SR?"
  • Select "What is the Omni Reality Engine?"

Explore:

Looking around, you observe what appears to be a stylized waiting room. There are windows, a door, and some potted plants. The wall appears to be decorated.

  • Look at the potted plants.
  • Inspect the wall.
  • Look at the window.
  • Approach the door.

Window:

As you approach the window, a hazy, swirling background coalesces into a digital interface with a menu. Waving your hand, you note that you can interact with the options, each one shimmering slightly when you pass over it and giving you the impression that you can 'push' it.

  • Select "Life and Culture."
  • Select "Locations."
  • Explore the room.
  • Select "Politics."

Life and Culture:

You 'push' the entry labeled 'Life and Culture' and the menu disappears into a row of lines in the top right corner. The swirling blackness outside the window coalesces into a scene of life from Before the Catastrophe. Hundreds of people take form in a living tableau before your eyes.

The image flows, almost as if it is telling a story. What you see in the various scenes that unfold before you tell the tale of a society that has advanced beyond petty burdens and everyday stresses. Hundreds of individuals with blissful smiles and vacant eyes are strapped into various types of machinery, some that look exactly like the helmet device you have worn. In other scenes, there are groups of overly obese men and women partaking in a perpetual feast of food, drink, and narcotics, or staring vacantly at immense vid-screens showcasing various kinds of hedonistic sports and entertainment.

The scenes shift, swim, and continue to depict a life of hedonism and decadence. With humanity having done away with wars, famine, and even, to a degree, social divide, there is little left to worry about except how to best enjoy life!

The three little lines at the top right glow, indicating you can change the scene if you wish.

  • Select "Locations."
  • Explore the room.
  • Select "Politics."

Locations:

You select the entry marked, 'Locations' and the view behind the windows transform to an ever-shifting slideshow of what appear to be fantastical places around the galaxy. At first glance, everything seems opulent and grandiose. A majestic city-scape with glittering buildings that pierce the clouds while flying cars create jeweled pathways throughout, a lush jungle with glass houses suspended under the trees, a sapphire coastline beneath a yellow sun.

All of these and more shift behind the window, each almost more dazzling that the one before. Then, as you continue to watch, your eyes begin to adjust to the thin veneer of beauty. You begin to notice small details that seem to tell a story in themselves. The city-scape lies beneath the colorful clouds of pollution, the jungle is made up of synthetic flora which in turn hide layers of forgotten garbage beneath their leaves. The beach is packed to the brim with people, crammed and sweltering under the sun. Each image shows humanity overflowing like an inexorable spillage of dirty oil from one location to the next, leaving garbage and pollution in its wake.

  • Select "Politics."
  • Select "Life and Culture."
  • Explore the room.

Politics:

You 'push' the entry labeled 'Politics' and the menu disappears into a row of lines in the top right corner. The swirling blackness outside the window coalesces into a galactic scene from Before the Catastrophe. What appears to be a living map of the solar system begins to take shape behind the window.

A colorful depiction of the solar system shows how humanity spread outward from Earth, colonizing planets and building space stations throughout. A blue tinge spreads from station to station and a key appears in the corner of the image denoting blue to represent 'The Consortium.' A rapidly increasing number beneath seems to depict the era of the events you see unfolding before your eyes. Various historic happenings appear on the star map and you make out words like, 'Post Scarcity War - 297' or 'Illiteracy at 87% - 292' and 'First Wormhole - 264.'

As the dates continue to count down, images from various important political events seem to superimpose themselves momentarily over the map. Each one, as they fade in and out again, seems to be gradually more corrupt than the next, ranging from scandals and bribery all the way to downright assassination!

The map of the system begins to gradually zoom out as humanity spreads to the Alpha Centauri system. The blue color denoting the Consortium follows humanity as it spreads and is soon joined by a new color, Red.

As a Red overlay begins to spread and color in various territories, a word appears in the key denoting the faction it represents as 'Gaule'. The two colors continue to grow and spread across the galaxy, with little orange bursts denoting clashes where they sometimes intersect.

The timer continues to countdown, when it reaches zero, the map goes inexplicably dark. Bit by bit, cluster by cluster, all the little lights that represented human life begin to wink out until you're left staring at a black image beyond the 'window.' A foreboding and ominous shadow darkens the galactic map as what must be portraying the effects of the Catastrophe settle over the system like a dark veil making all things dimly beautiful…

  • Select "Life and Culture."
  • Explore the room.
  • Select "Locations."

Explore:

Looking around, you observe what appears to be a stylized waiting room. There are windows, a door, and some potted plants. The wall appears to be decorated.

  • Look at the potted plants.
  • Inspect the wall.
  • Look at the window.
  • Approach the door.

Door:

As you approach the door, a large bestial being shimmers into view before you. It has angular skin that looks like it could be stone and digitized flames burn in its eyes. Above its head hangs the phrase, 'Terrible Troll.'

The so called Terrible Troll towers over you and blocks your path to the door. It seems you have to find a way to get past it.

  • Use Sword on Troll.
  • Dodge around the Terrible Troll.
  • Explore the room.

Sword:

You retrieve the sword from the wall behind you. Holding it is an odd sensation as your mind tells you it is there and adds the appropriate feeling of heft and weight. The sword itself, however, is highly pixelated and seems highly unreal. You swing it at the 'Terrible Troll' and it explodes in a shower of pixels and a comical roar of digitized sound. As the door before you opens, the world around you melts away.

As everything fades to blackness, shimmering letters once again appear in mid-air.

They read: RESONANCE COMPLETED: PROFILE READY.

Then: ERROR: LOCAL AREA NETWORK OFFLINE. PLEASE ACCESS A DIFFERENT NODE TO CONTINUE.

  • Exit the Experience Machine.

After stepping through the doorway, you find yourself blinking at the familiar landscape of the ruins before you. There doesn't seem to be any sign of Mikel but there seems to be the sounds of gunfire in the distance. Suddenly, a message comes into your CORETECHS. It's from Mikel.

He says: Hi there my new friend! As I thought, we had some company, and they were mighty interested in finding that artifact! I'm currently leading them on quite the merry chase so don't you worry! You'd best get out of there though, sticking around is not conducive to a long and healthy life I reckon.

The sound of gunfire and something ricocheting close by can be heard through the message.

He says: Whoops! That one's a feisty one! Don't worry about me now, you just get out of there. I left you a pouch of credits for your trouble by the way. You can use it to buy us a round when I catch up to you! Stay safe friend, and I would keep quiet about anything you saw for the time being!

The message ends and you pick your way carefully through the rubble. You find the pouch that Mikel mentioned. For the time being, it seems that nobody is near, but that could change at any moment!

You have received 12.50 credits.

You have completed the "Ready Player Everyone" mission.

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