“So get this.” Sam said from his shaded spot under a tree. Dean barely turned to acknowledge him as he made another series of moves with his sword. “There are upwards of a thousand different monsters in the game and while most of them can be killed in the same way, there are some that are a lot more difficult. But then those are the ones that drop special bonus items.” He flipped through a few more pages of the book in his hands.
“And you can’t kill any of them, Sam, if you don’t practice your moves.” Dean made another slash in the air, watching as the blade left behind a faint purple slash in the air.
“Learning about the things we have to kill is just as important, Dean.” Sam frowned as he watched the other man weave the sword around his body.
“So learn about them in your own time outside the game.” Dean slid the weapon back into its cheap sheath attached to his belt. The first thing he would do with enough money would be to upgrade his weapons and wardrobe.
“What time would that be? The company has me pulling extra hours for the next few weeks until the acquisition goes through. And Jessica is already not happy with me for buying this game.” Sam waved his hand in the air and the book disappeared from his lap, stored once more.
“Oh Lisa was furious.” Dean said off handedly as he turned to look at Sam. “But sometimes a man just has to escape, you know?”
“Yeah, and when I explained it to Jessica, she backed off a little. But I had to promise not to be on all the time.” Sam stood and stretched his avatar’s body, arms extended overhead.
“So I guess we are calling it a night then.” Dean looked up at the darkening sky of the world they were in. The two men had only been logged on for maybe two hours, just getting used to things in the new game that had debuted that morning, but after a full day at the office, those few hours had cut into their nights.
“Yeah, I’ll see you at the office tomorrow and we can discuss a schedule for gaming.” Sam moved his hand in the air in front of him, pulling up a virtual screen where he clicked through the menu to the log out option. “What the hell?” He frowned down at something only he could see but spoke loud enough for the other man to hear.
“The log out feature is missing.”
“What?” Dean repeated as he stepped closer, his own hand activating his menu to try to find the button in question. “It should be right there at the bottom of the main menu.”
“I know where it should be, but it isn’t.” Sam shot back. “And there wasn’t an emergency log out in the manual either.”
“Son of a bitch.” Dean hissed, eyes glued to the faded gray of the log out icon indicating it wasn’t an option.”
“You’re telling me, Jess is going to freak if I am late to dinner.” Sam ran a hand through the short hair of his avatar, drawing Dean’s attention to the differences between the man's avatar and his real life appearance.
“I am sure the system admins are working on the glitch.” Dean shrugged and pursed his lips.
“Well yeah, but why haven’t they sent out some sort of announcement? Why can’t I get through to the game master? This is all sorts of messed up!” Sam threw his hands up in the air.
“Calm down, it’s the first day out of beta, there were bound to be bugs.”
“This is one hell of a bug. One that’s going to cause serious problems for the developers. They are going to be getting major flack for this.”
“Yeah.” Dean nodded. He seemed about to say something more when suddenly a large bell could be heard in the distance. After only a few rings both men were surrounded in blue light that dissipated to reveal the town square around them.
“What in the-” Sam spun in a circle as he took in the flashes of blue as other players filled the stone-paved circle that made up the center of the first floor.
“Someone forced a tele-port.” Dean looked around as well, taking in the multitude of people now gathered, the noise level rising with each new confused voice. Finally the bell stopped, only to be replaced with the slightly softer beeping of an alarm.
“Look up there.” Sam stepped closer to Dean and lifted a hand to point to the sky where a red alert graphic was blinking. As Dean looked up the image was joined by another, and another, multiplying until the entire sky was covered in the pulsing red lights making up a dome over the crowd. “Warning” and “System Alert” were very effective in capturing everyone’s attention quickly. As if the red tint to the atmosphere wasn’t disturbing enough, Dean watched with revulsion as some of the alerts seemed to begin to bleed from their borders. The red goo fell from the sky and converged at a center point, filling up the space like an invisible water balloon. Thankfully the liquid transformed into a giant robed, faceless entity.
“What the hell is that thing?” Sam’s voice was joined by others as everyone wondered at the figure.
“Is that the game master?”
“Why doesn’t it have a face?”
“Is this an event?”
“Don’t worry, it’s just part of the opening ceremony.
Dean glanced around at the other players only briefly before the booming voice of the figure filled the air and drew his attention in once more.
“Attention players.” Its arms raised as he spoke, encompassing all those gathered. “I welcome you to my world. My name is Nick Pellegrino and I am the creator of the game you are currently playing. And as of this moment I am in full control.” More protests and questions in gradually louder voices filled the space, but the figure ignored them all. “I am sure many of you have already noticed a very important feature missing from the main menu.” Giant arms moved through the air, summoning up a virtual menu for the crowd to see as a large drop down menu appeared without log out feature. “Let me assure you, this is not a defect in the game.” A pause. “I repeat, this is not a defect. This is how Supernatural was designed to be.” Numerous people gasped or cried out.
“He’s kidding, right?” Sam mumbled, glancing very briefly at his friend for reassurances he couldn’t give.
“You cannot logout of the game. Nor can anyone in the outside world shut down or remove the nerve gear from your head. If anyone attempts to do so a transmitter inside the nerve gear will discharge a microwave signal into your skull, destroying your brain and ending your life.” More cries of outrage could be heard.
Sam looked over to see a couple approaching the edge of the circle only to encounter a barrier. As one of them began pounding on the invisible wall, Dean spoke up beside him.
“He’s nuts, right. This is all a load of crap, isn’t it, Sam?” The slack jawed expression of horror on Sam’s face had Dean’s stomach clenching. “Right, Sam?”
“No. The transmitters in the head gear work just like microwaves. If the safety were disabled they could fry your brain.”
“Can’t someone just cut the power to the units?”
“That won’t work either, the units have internal back ups.”
“Shit.” Dean was trying to remain calm but he was feeling his control slip. The figure above them began speaking once more.
“Despite my warnings, some of the families of those wearing the nerve gear have tried to remove it from players. As a result the game now has two hundred-thirteen less players. These people have been deleted both form Supernatural and the real world.”
“Two hundred-thirteen.” Dean hissed in disbelief.
“As you can see, international media outlets have round the clock coverage of everything, including the deaths.” The sky lit up with new screens of various news sources in different languages referring to the events the players were living. “At this point it is safe to assume the chances of the nerve gear being forcefully removed is minimal at best. I hope this brings you a little comfort as you try to clear the game. It is very important that you remember the following, from this point onward, there is no longer a way of reviving anyone. If your HP drops to zero you avatar will be deleted from the system forever. And the nerve gear will simultaneously destroy your brain.” The words sank in as everyone gathered realized the full impact of the statement. Dean couldn’t stop the flood of images his mind produced, all the ways in which he could be killed in this game. Hell, the whole premise of the game was set up to destroy the players. As a Hunter, Dean’s focus was on destroying the monsters of the game on every level. There were also players who had chosen to play as Demons and while they weren’t supposed to be destroyed, they would make the game harder on the Hunters. And to add balance Dean had heard of the Angels given other skills to build that would make killing monsters easier, but would still rely on other players to get through some quests. Now all three types would be forced to work together if there was any hope of clearing the game.
“There’s only one way for a player to escape. You must clear the game.” The figure voiced Dean’s thoughts. “Right now you are gathered on floor one, the lowest level of the Supernatural world. If you can get through the dungeon and defeat the boss, you will clear the floor. Defeat the boss on floor one hundred and you will clear the game.”
“That’s impossible.” Sam mumbled as his eyes grew wide. “Even the beta players didn’t make it that high in the months they could play the game.”
“Last but not least, I’ve placed a little present in the item storage of every player. Please, have a look.”
Dean quickly brought up his menu screen and began scrolling through the options until he had brought up his storage. “A mirror?” He mumbled in confusion as he clicked on the item. The object materialized in his hand. A regular, small mirror, showed him the reflection of his avatar for a moment before a blue flash to his side caught his eye. “Sam!” Suddenly the glow was all around him as other players were engulfed one at a time, and finally he was as well. When it finally disappeared Dean was left looking at the man he had come to know over the years working for Sandover, Sam Wesson.
“Dean?” Sam looked at his friend from head to toe, noting the changes to the avatar before him. “You look like you.”
“Yeah, you do too.” Dean frowned and pointed a finger at the other man’s hair. Sam quickly lifted his own hand and ran it through the long hair his friend had made him get rid of in the game. He offered Dean a smirk and shrug. Others around them adjusted to the changes in themselves and those they had thought were completely different. “Ok, I get the face, because of the high density scan in the head gear, but how did it manage to figure out you're a real life giant?”
“Remember the calibration at the start of the game? The gear had you touch your body all over.” Sam made a patting motion to his arms. “Jess made fun of me watching me do it, too.”
“Right. Yeah.” Dean nodded. “But what’s the point of all this?” Their attention was brought back to the figure in the air.
“Right now you are probably wondering, why? Why would Mark Pellegrino, creature of Supernatural and Nerve Gear, do this? Ultimately, my goal was a simple one. I created Supernatural so that I could control a world of my design.”
“Talk about a god complex.” Sam mumbled.
“As you can see, I have achieved my goal.” Dean’s hands clenched into fists as he glared up at the robed figure. “This marks the end of the tutorial and the start of Supernatural. Players, I wish you the best of luck.” Slowly the figure above them began to turn to smoke and disappear into the air it had been born from. There was complete silence left behind for a beat, two beats, before suddenly chaos descended upon those gathered. Suddenly everyone was crying, yelling, afraid, and furious. Dean could feel the panic setting in and knew he had to do get away before he and Sam were swallowed up by it.
“Sam. Let’s go.” Before his friend could react, Dean had grabbed his wrist and pulled him through the crowd. Quickly they made their way down a couple of streets, taking random turns, just trying to put space between them and the other players. Finally, Dean came to a stop.
“What’s up?” Sam asked as he rubbed at his wrist out of habit.
“The goal is to clear the floors. In an MMORPG, there is a limited amount of money and XP that can be divided among the players. Everyone is going to be picking clean this area right outside the town fast. We need to get further out to stand a chance of getting anywhere.”
“Ok, yeah.” Sam nodded. Dean was the gamer, the corporate executive in the corner office that escaped by slipping into virtual reality and playing at being someone else for hours. Sam had begun to play a little more at Dean’s request after the two had grown to become friends in the break room. Sam could survive, for the most part, in a world like Supernatural, but if anyone had a hope of beating the game it would be someone like Dean. “Lead the way.” With a nod, Dean took a moment to look down at his map before making a quick decision.
“Let’s go.” Dean moved quickly through the streets of the small central town, Sam tight on his heals. Once they had made it out into the open fields that would surround them until they made the next village, Dean picked up the pace and stayed in the lead. Supernatural was a big world, and if they had any hope of getting through it, they were going to have to move quick.
In the game’s first month - 2,000 died. Floor 1 has yet to be cleared.