You have been working for the company for the past few months, after the game was launched. There wasn't anything particular you were working on, people would call you a jack of all trades. That didn't mean you were useless, quite the opposite. When someone needed for you to cover their work while they were off "vacationing", you were the right person for the job. However it wasn't in your nature to do anything drastic, you were acting only based on the instructions you were given by the senior developers.
And that's how you found yourself sitting at your colleague's desk at 2 am, struggling to finish tweaking one of the many details that would end up on the newest map of the game. You were just ready to add the model to a pre-set background and render it, to see if there were any visible problems apart from the ones underneath the textures (you'd have to fix that some other time) when the amazing computer the company provided decided to freeze on exactly 46% of the loading bar. You squinted your eyes at the computer screen, mouthing, "Don't you dare..."
Of course, you forgot to save the model before rendering it. That was simply because you were in the euphoria of finally finishing work and going home, that you thought you lived in a world where the program had an auto-save feature. That wasn't the case and now you were stuck in your place, waiting for something to happen because you couldn't simply turn off the computer and call it a day, you'd lose all of your progress. Plus your supervisor wouldn't be too happy, given the fact you came late to work that day. The only choice you had left was to just sit back and pray to gods that the render would finish loading. Maybe a taking a short nap wouldn't be such a bad idea. Or maybe you should start learning how to shoot down all of your ideas involving sleep.
Your vision was blurred by the strong gusts blowing sand everywhere, you couldn't pinpoint your location, your head spinning faster than a record player. Stuck in a sandstorm, you could barely stand on your feet. In the distance, you could see running figures but couldn't make out any distinctive features. You tried to shield your eyes from the sand when you noticed one of the figures stop and look your direction.
You waved at them, hoping they would somehow help you. What you didn't expect was a bullet flying right past your head. Your eyes widened, you couldn't move from the shock. They suddenly started running towards you, that's when you noticed the strange nature of their march. No one you knew ran like that, with their arms stuck to their hips. You quickly regained your composure and looked around, finding an old shack where you could hide. You mustered up your strength, your shaky legs guiding you to q safe place. You burst through the door and quickly closed it behind yourself. You tried to block it with anything, but all you could find were crates with nothing particular in them, shelves too heavy, stocked with nothing but occasional ammo for unknown weapons. You skidded behind one of the crates, your heart threatening to beat its way out of your chest.
"This can't be happening.." you whispered to no one in particular, "what do I do?" The door flew open, unintelligible sounds coming from whatever was after you. You threw your hand over your mouth, quiet as a mouse. Their footsteps were coming closer and closer, at this point you felt doomed. You felt the barrel of a gun on your forehead, your breath hitching. This wasn't how you wanted to die, not by a long mile.
"Please don't..!" You tried to scream but your words were muffled by the sound of a gunshot. Whoever was pointing a gun at you was suddenly gone, the only trace of them left behind was the skip in your heartbeat and a cloak lying on the floor. "Kill confirmed," Someone said when you felt another gun pointed at your head, "should I add you to the list?"
You looked up, surprised, mortified and confused by who was standing in front of you, "Bangalore?" The woman seemed taken aback, she was sure she'd never seen you around before, so how did you know her name? "Who are you? Spill it!"
"I.. uh.. I'm.." you couldn't get the words out, your mind racing with how this could go wrong in any second.
"I don't wanna sound desperate but the ring is close, we should get a move on." You could hear someone else through Bangalore's comm. She sighed, pulling the gun away, "You ever shot out of a gun before?" You couldn't answer that, your memories fuzzy from the state of shock you were in. She pulled you up by your arm, leading you out of the shack, "Don't make me regret this, I hate when innocents die because of me."
You felt as though your whole world spun around on its head because as soon as you stepped outside there was no trace of a sandstorm ever hitting the area. And also because someone else was waiting for you. Well not exactly you, he was waiting for Bangalore.
"Finally, what took you so long?" It was Mirage, you knew it the moment you saw those curly locks and weird goggles on his forehead. For a second he seemed to be looking your way but as soon as you noticed, he looked away. "I was going for a kill but instead I found baggage. Here," she "threw" you by the arm in Mirage's direction, you stumbled before quickly recovering your balance, "Take care of 'em, I don't want to play babysitter today." The two of you looked at Bangalore as she ran off somewhere. You heard Mirage sigh beside you before he shouted her way "You better not bail on me and go solo!" He scratched his chin, noticing she didn't even acknowledge him. For a second, he seemed to be lost in thought when there was a loud voice heard from different sides, announcing: "One minute until ring's closing."
"I think we should go, the ring's not far behind." Strangely, your body seemed less tense because of the incoming danger of "the ring" and more because of the close proximity of a certain legend. "I'm Mirage, by the way. Or Elliott, whichever you prefer."
"I know.," you mumbled to yourself as you both ran towards the nearest ring, wherever that was. "What?" He asked.
"Nothing, I'm (y/n)."
"Cute." He smiled your way for a quick second. You almost didn't catch it, too focused on trying to pinpoint your location from the little knowledge of the map you had. As the two of you ran forward, new shacks and houses came into view. You were at loss for words. Even in your wildest dreams, you wouldn't imagine being so close to a guy like Elliott. And him calling you cute? That hit the nail on the head. You wouldn't have thought this earlier but honestly, he was kind of attractive... Very attractive. If he wasn't a line of code, you would probably be head over heels for the guy. Of course, you had standards.
"Wait, that's it..." You stopped dead in your tracks.
"What are you doing? We have to keep moving."
"No, this isn't real. It's just a dream. You're not real, Bangalore isn't real, none of this is." You suddenly realised, Elliott looking at you as if you grew a second head, "Are you crazy?! There are enemies nearby, we have to go!"
"Not if I punch myself, I'll just wake up and go back to my normal life." You were so happy to finally wake up from this strange dream, you didn't consider the consequences of your actions.. especially the part where your hand collided with your face and you could feel every single thing you thought you wouldn't, "Ow, that hurt."
Elliott grabbed you by your wrist into a nearby house, quickly shutting the large door behind him. "Okay, I gotta admit that was pretty funny but you can't just do that in the middle of all this." He threw his hands into the air, annoyance obvious in his expression.
"Sorry, I thought that..." You tried to apologize, but he cut you short: "Don't... I know it's your first game and all, but you have to stay focused." He quickly pulled up his wrist, you couldn't exactly see what he was looking at, "There are only a few squads left and then you can say addio to everything here."
But could you? You had no idea how you'd gotten here and how to get back. You couldn't just stay in the Apex games, you were no fighter, nor killer. "I don't know if it's going to be that easy"
"Nothing's ever easy," Elliott mumbled. There was something familiar in his expression when he said that, you knew the feeling too deeply to dismiss it as nothing. However you didn't dare question the man, there just wasn't enough opportunity, nor time. The two of you left the building after that, no words needed to be exchanged except for the occasional "watch out" or "let's go this way". The round seemed to go faster than before, the ring getting smaller with each second. You would sometimes see someone in the distance running, hear a gunshot or two but they were too far away for you.. or Elliott, in this case, to do something. If you were being honest with yourself, you felt pretty useless. You thought about just bailing, run away in hopes of escaping this place, wherever you were, but your gut told you the chances of that were slim. And besides, you didn't even know where you would go. You barely played the game before, most of your knowledge of it was from the work you'd done or what your colleagues told you, so this was all very new to you. And if someone told you you'd be stuck in a battle for survival between hundreds of people, you'd laugh in their face, contemplate the idea, laugh again and probably hide in your bed for the rest of the day.
"What's wrong? You seem perpel-, pepre-, prepex-.. puzzled." You smiled at that, Elliott still struggling with the word inside his head, or at least he seemed so. "Don't worry about it." You simply said.
"Enemy near your location." Bangalore spoke through the comm, "We're spotted." Elliott sighed, calling out a decoy. You quickly covered behind a convenient crate, looking around for anyone that might be after you. You thought you saw someone, but it must've been your imagination or they literally disappeared in thin air. You heard Elliott beside you shoot, an SMG in hand. You looked over the crate, spotting someone quickly running behind cover. There was a shimmer in the distance and then a shot. A bullet whizzed just past the crate, thank god they missed. "A sniper."
"Good eye," Elliott remarked, exchanging his SMG with an assault rifle. With the gunshots near you being so loud, you could barely hear your own thoughts. But even in all the chaos, there was a voice in your head, maybe it was your conscience... Or maybe you were going crazy. "Behind you." It said.
You turned around, a woman aiming her shotgun your way, her finger already on the trigger. You were surrounded and there wasn't anything you could do.
Is this how it was supposed to end? With you being gunned down, shot to death? You turned your head towards Elliott, his eyes locking with yours. You could barely let out a word. You saw him get hit once.. twice.. in just a second. The voice inside your head screamed "No!". You could barely look around again, more bullets flying your way. They should've hit you... They should have.
But everything went silent. In fact, the only thing you could hear was the sound of a loud buzzing in your ears. Before you knew it, everything around you was gone. It was dark, but that was probably because you had your eyes closed. When exactly have you managed to close them? You found yourself back in front of the computer, sitting in your chair with your back feeling.. crooked, if that made sense. Had you been sleeping in some weird position again? You creased your eyebrows in thought, "Was it all just a dream?"
Looking around, you noticed the sun creeping its light through the blinds. You glanced at the clock in the corner of the computer screen, 5.21 am. You noticed the loading bar disappeared and the render was finally finished. Without checking anything, you quickly saved whatever you were working on, too tired to even remember, and packed your stuff. You considered taking the day off after your... "experience". Or maybe it was the fast beat of your heart that made you feel sick as soon as you exited the building.
However, you didn't deny the fact that whatever the hell happened couldn't have been a dream, nightmare or a figment of your imagination. And maybe the memories of it would make you question your sanity for a few days, but it didn't change the fact that what you felt was real.
Even if your body craved for sleep and comfort, your eyes certainly wouldn't shut, your brain making it hard for you to stop thinking. If only you were a machine, able to turn on and off whenever you pleased, live in auto-pilot mode whenever it was convenient. You considered being a test subject for some crazy scientists when you were at the edge of dropping out of college, maybe they would've been the ones to turn you into a machine.
Or maybe they would've killed you during the first test, you'll never know.
Talking about murder, you couldn't get the image out of your head. The one where you watched Mirage-- Elliott.. die right in front of you. You could see the pain in his eyes, shock, even a hint of sadness. You didn't know how to cope with this. Was he dead? Was he alive? Was he even capable of living and dying? Was he even real? Was any of it real? What if all your life was a simulation and you were trapped in a constant state of chaos and confusion because there was a glitch in your character creation and god is taking their sweet time putting out a patch for a fix?
Nah, that couldn't have been it. You needed to rest, take it easy. After all, you've been so caught up in work lately, you haven't played, watched or done anything in so long. You decided to boot up your personal computer, entering the password without having to second guess. You were greeted with a mess of icons all over the desktop screen. Since you finally had some time for yourself, you decided to clean it up, starting by the top row. Eventually, you made your way through almost all of the icons, occasionally browsing through documents and other files. However, something caught your eye. You completely forgot you had Apex Legends installed on your computer, you thought you deleted it.
You decided to ignore the game for now, instead starting up a music software for some background noise while you continued going through your mess of a computer. You found some pictures of you and your old college friends, smiling to yourself when you remembered the good times you had, the bad ones as well. You were grateful for both, they prepared you for the worst in life. After a while, you moved on to do something else on the computer, checking the news or going through several spam emails just for shits and giggles. There wasn't anything in particular you had planned on doing, after all. However, in the back of your mind, you kind of.. really wanted to play the game.
But could you? After what happened. Would you even be able to think straight if you saw Bangalore.. or Elliott.. in the game? You felt your stomach flip the third time that day when you remembered, once again, how you died... or should've died.
Your mouse hovered over the icon, a groan started crawling its way from the back of your throat. You were frustrated, curious and a little bit annoyed at the same time. Was it even possible for a human being to feel all these emotions at the same time? Clearly, you didn't care, scratching your chin as you tried to decide on what to do. Your gut told you not to, you'd regret it in the long run... But really, you were bored, didn't have money for a Netflix subscription, there wasn't anything interesting playing on the TV and you really didn't want to bother your neighbors by being an uninvited, obnoxious guest. So you said, "Screw it," mostly to yourself, and started up the game.
You didn't know exactly what to expect, the game was quite different from the one at work, missing some key elements that were obviously not released yet. After "carefully" choosing your character, you jumped straight into the game (not literally this time).
To be fair, you weren't terrible at it.. you weren't too good either. You knew the basics, of course, like running and jumping and shooting but your aim was a bit clunky and your heart pumped so hard when you managed to get to the top 3 squads. Your hands were shaking from the adrenaline. The experience was quite different from the last time, the reason being that there was no real threat to you besides losing. You were about to jump into the game once again, deciding on choosing Lifeline this time, when you noticed one of your squad mates chose Pathfinder. At this point, you wouldn't have minded some change, most of the people either picked Wraith or.. well, Wraith. However, you noticed that you've played seven games already and hadn't seen Mirage not even once. You almost felt relief but there was some part of your brain that felt sad and worried.
It had been some time since the game started, your squad eventually moved closer to the ring while looking for better loot or defending yourself from attackers. Thankfully none of your teammates were greedy enough to deliberately look for someone to pick a fight with. With a few squads left, you decided to stick with hiding in a building for the time being, healing yourself from previous attacks using the health drone. You were too focused to hear an incoming grenade being thrown right at you. With a jump, you managed to avoid getting hit but it seemed as though lady luck was not on your side that day. You were surrounded from all sides. With your amazing aiming, you managed to down one enemy, but were soon under fire when another squad joined the fight. One of your teammates, who picked Octane, was downed soon after. Maybe the reason they left so quickly afterwards was that they didn't believe in you. What a shame.
You were glad the one using Pathfinder managed to slip away undetected. They brought you back to your feet, both of you running away.
"That was close, I hate being unprepared for close combat." They said through the mic as soon as you were far enough from any threat. You sighed, your heartbeat calming down. "Tell me about it." You said, mostly to yourself. Just as you were about to round the corner, your screen turned blue. You jumped up from your chair, shouting profanities at the computer. You only bought it a few months ago, so why did it just blue screen you out of nowhere? Was it a sign? Was someone warning you that you don't have enough skill for an amazing game such as Apex Legends?
Maybe, who knows. Not you. Certainly not you.
Thankfully the warranty was the still valid and you could just take the computer to the nearest [enter generic electronics shop name here] and get it over with. Or at least you hoped so. It took you about half an hour to unplug everything from the computer and put it in a box, you really wished they could manage to save it, you had so many things from both personal and professional life saved on it. Hopping into the car, you drove off towards the town centre.
It was not, in fact, an eventful car ride to the shop. Even the whole ordeal in the store was boring. You had to wait in line for more than an hour before even getting to the information counter, having to hear a guy yelling at the shop assistants about this or that. You rolled your eyes at some of his rude remarks, instead looking over towards the video game section of the shop. There were several video games and consoles displayed over the counters, the current advertisement playing on one of the TVs was for Monster Hunter World.
However, you couldn't have groaned more, even if you tried, when you watched the next one. It felt as though someone was playing a gigantic prank on you, laughing their asses off at your misfortune. Of course, the next advertisement was for none other than the most perfect game ever created by man, Apex Legends. You didn't mean that seriously. At this point you were seriously fed up with it. Firstly, you had a job, working at the game in a day-to-day basis. Secondly, the weird dream/experience you had earlier gave you the creeps. And thirdly, the game itself broke your computer. Or at least that's what the shop assistant told you. A new graphics card then, though you doubted it was only that. You decided to leave the computer at the store, you weren't enough of a computer geek to know how to replace the parts.
With a half empty wallet, you made your way out of the building and into the parking lot, which was filled with quite a lot of cars, despite its size. As you were walking towards your car, you tried to look for the keys in your pocket, putting your wallet loosely under your armpit. You were getting more annoyed each time you took out something else besides the car keys. Just as you thought you finally had them, you realized you suddenly didn't feel your wallet anywhere near your arm. You looked around yourself, on the ground, in the sky, it was gone. On the other hand, you did notice someone very suspicious running across the parking lot, back towards the store. And they were holding something in their hand, which looked very much just like your wallet.
"Hey! Wait a minute!" You yelled after them, running as fast as you could. Yet you could not catch up to them, it was like they ran faster than a regular human.
You caught a glimpse of them turning a corner into an alleyway. You cautiously followed, only to find them nowhere to be seen and your wallet lying on the ground. You quickly snatched the wallet and looked inside. Nothing in particular was missing, maybe a small amount of money but you didn't care enough to notice. One thing that caught your eye was a folded note that certainly hasn't been there before. The note only contained four words. "Do not trust them."
Do not trust whom? Conspiracy theorists? The police? A secret organization stealing people's wallets? Your own parents?
Yeah right, as if you were interesting enough to be a main character in some dramatic story.... Or maybe you were.
Just as you turned around, you were surrounded by some mean looking men.
"Uh, can I help you?" You asked them, unsure of their intentions. They stayed silent, their faces emotionless. What was with everything being weird today? You already had enough, you just wanted to go home, go to bed and sleep off all the negative energy.
What you didn't have in plan was to take a nap right then and there. Maybe your observation skills needed some work, maybe you were just blind, but you certainly did not notice a syringe stuck in your arm as you fell onto the ground. But last time you checked, the ground wasn't soft.