Chapter 1 - Welcome to the Cruel System
The electricity disappeared during the night. The lamp in the small room went out. The monitor screen clicked and faded. The computer stopped working with the rustle of a fan stopping.
"You bastards! You're going to break my computer!" Dan Raven muttered a curse through his teeth, but further events stopped his trivial anger.
Outside the window on the side of the avenue there was an explosion and a rumble. Crash!
Dan didn't have time to jump up to the window. Before his eyes an inscription appeared in total darkness.
The letters glowed in bright, clear script.
[Welcome to the Game! Please read the user agreement]
And then Dan did the thing that changed his life forever.
He didn't think much about it. What is it? How is that? It's kind of fantastic, isn't it? The System? He had read novels about the System. What happened was surprising, but completely understandable.
Dan Raven was not a gamer. He didn't spend dozens of hours playing games, but he played enough.
He never cared about the opening titles with user agreements! He didn't read the text of the opening documents. Dan always quickly dipped down to the bottom of the text and marked his acceptance of the next company's requirements. He wasn't amused by the opening titles of the game companies. Raven saw the initial intro to a new game as a boring procedure. The video at the start of the game had to be endured and given the opportunity to start a new play.
At that moment, the text in front of his eyes ran upward, and Raven saw the [I Agree] icon already activated, glowing.
Bells rang in the darkness and the text in front of his eyes changed.
[Confirm consent. Do you, indeed, accept the terms of the user agreement?]
"Listen to me freaks! I AGREE to play your games!" snorted Dan.
A new message appeared before his eyes, and the cheerful sound of a triumphant melody rang out in the room.
[Congratulations! You are one of the first ten users of the Game. Choose your reward. Have a good time!]
At that moment Raven finally began to act like an adequate human being in an inadequate situation.
In his head ran vague worries and suspicions and thoughts that all this was the beginning of complete bullshit and nightmarish creepiness.
Dan Raven liked to read e-books. He liked the genres of Fantasy and System fiction. He wasn't surprised by the familiar and monotonous strains and plots.
The student's train of thought was quick, but quite logical.
The electricity had been cut off. If it's all over the city - and even, quite possibly, all over the world - then this is the very real Apocalypse!
Dan's thoughts rushed with the speed of a bullet.
He has to run, and while it's nighttime outside, sneak into the store! Soon the food and all sorts of weapons will become unreally valuable.
They cut off our electricity! Without electricity, all humans are dead. We can't do anything without our electronic gadgets.
Dan took a closer look at the new text in front of his face.
[Thank you for participating in the project. As a reward, the user can choose one bonus skill at the start of the Game. Choose wisely!
We wish you a pleasant Game!]
"It's just like in the books! I got a super skill at the start of the Game! I got lucky and I'm awesome! I have to choose carefully, I'm the lucky one, I can' t screw up that kind of luck," smiled Raven.
It was easy, simple, and convenient to use the new Game and figure out the specifics of the state and help.
After a few minutes Dan even thought that the creators of this System keep people as stupid savages. All the explanations were written in accessible, and even simple language. Any child could understand this toy!
The Power skill increased the Strength score by 1% per skill level.
The reward was great. But the skill itself wasn't unique. It turned out that the skill would become available to any player at level 50.
But Raven immediately figured out his advantage. 100 levels of the skill gives 100% to the amount of Strength. And Strength is physical damage! And if it's an apocalypse, a zombie apocalypse is possible. Who cares! If this is the Game, then there will be mobs. So you have to pump up the level you have to pump up the strength to successfully beat the mobs. The first levels of skill is a pitiful gain of 1%. But in the long term it is already at level 50 will be one and a half times more powerful than the other players who only get the right to use this skill.
The Mind skill gave a boost to Intelligence, which was responsible for mana, Magic, magical damage, and other familiar things of the Mage's way. Raven didn't like playing a mage; he had never been attracted to this type of character in its pure form.
The skill Vitality gave a boost to the Body. Yes, simple and elementary. In this game the Body trait was familiar to any gamer. Elemental Endurance, which was responsible for the health reserve, resistance to physical damage and the ability to carry the weight of items in the inventory.
The Speed attribute, on the other hand, was surprising. It was a kind of extended understanding of the usual in-game Dexterity. But in this game, Speed was responsible for the speed of any activity! The Speed attribute was responsible for body reaction speed, thinking speed, neatness, and dexterity in crafting. Dan got a little angry when he read the same thing in multiple sentences. The lines of reference avoided any scientificity or serious terminology. But some amusing thoughts visited him and amused him. Raven had heard something about a super-human with increased speed. His name was Flash. The Tempo skill increased Speed and was a cool ability.
But Dan immediately understood the main principle of the first four bonus skills. They gave him a numerical advantage! It was a matter of numbers, a matter of quantity. And it was important.
Size matters! But a couple of other skills dealt with the quality of the Game, and Raven immediately realized that.
Cloaking was a skill available from level 50. The skill increased the percentage of the game's familiar Stealth. Dan respectfully shook his head as he immediately realized that this cloak completely hid the player from other people's attention. The player can't be seen, can't be heard, can't smell. Even if the player smells, you can't smell him, and even his body heat won't register any sensors.
A great skill for stealth and assassin players and the rest of the outlaw style players. Assassin is cool, it's interesting and not trivial. It completely changes the very meaning of life!
Anonymity and non-punishability. Quick sneaky stabs in the back from ambush. It was a suggestion to choose precisely the quality of the new game existence.
Cloaking gave 1% to stealth per skill level. And 2% if the player was immobile! Dan froze. It turns out to be a huge advantage. When all the normal players at level 50 just start camouflage and hiding, he will already be completely invisible if he does not move. This is a real bonus! It's a cheat! That's super!
Phantom was an equally interesting skill. As Dan read the help explanation, the thought of Naruto's shadow clones immediately came to his mind.
The player could magically create a copy of himself. It was a helper in the game that possessed all of the player's skills. When this phantom clone dissipated, it passed on the experience to its master. It was simple and clear. 1% experience was transferred for each skill level. At first Dan snorted with disdain. But then the student remembered that large levels always required millions of experience points. That would be cool, because he got to swing the Phantom skill from the first level of the Game! Like the skill Cloaking this skill would become available to all players at level 50.
Raven frowned. If this was serious, if this was the apocalypse, his old life was over. He'd read a lot of novels on the subject of the end of the world. People always start acting like animals. In the case of a cataclysm everything would escalate and the usual mess would become a complete chaos, everything as usual.
He thought that at the very beginning of the game he might get a faithful helper. The phantom would not betray or stab him in the back. Won't steal trophies or stress his mind with his behavior. A phantom is very solid and useful.
Dan sat in the dark. He was biting his lip and didn't know which skill to choose at the start.
Outside the window a dog howled. No more noise could be heard from the side of the roads. It was quiet outside the window. No one was screaming in panic or firing a g*n. No one was outraged or panicked.
The letters of skill names flickered before the guy's eyes.
He was hesitant, as a normal person should be, to make a final decision.
Then he snorted decisively: "Damn it all to hell!"
Raven chose the reward.
He chose the Phantom skill.
This choice didn't give him any visible advantage at the start, didn't make him a novice super. Raven could start the game like other normal people and not stand out from the rest of the players.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was Main.
"Main," the guy said softly and clearly.
Before his eyes the player's Attribute Panel appeared.
A familiar sight to any player. Ordinary text. But behind those few lines was the entire life of any player, all his achievements.
[Character: 7F3%6h*f8g (Human)
(a one-time initial change of the Player's Name is possible)
Affiliated Location: Earth
Level: 1. Experience: 50/500
Attributes: Strength 1, Speed 1, Intelligence 1, Body 1.
Free Attribute Points: 0
Weapon Mastery & Skill: Phantom Level 1.
Free Skill Points: 0
Profession Talent: None]
Raven immediately replaced the stupid character set in the Name column. He didn't get original and just wanted his name to be Dan.
The ones points in the characteristics amused him. It's a shame this game doesn't start with a dozen. All attributes equal to one is kind of humiliating.
He also didn't like the fact of some sort of unification. Dan Raven was now the most common primitive, unremarkable, incubator-like, with no advantages.
Dan had never thought of himself as anything special. Orphan. Always counted on hard work and strength of character. A normal student.
He felt confused and uncomfortable with feeling like a completely standard newbie, with starting ones in his characteristics. Dan couldn't figure out what the trick was. After all, all people are different. People have different levels of physical development and different levels of education. Everyone's character and thinking is different. People are unique and each person is a special and unique individual!
And in this disgusting Game, everyone is monotonous and primitive like robots! Unfair! Stupid!
The boy got up from the table. I need to get some coffee.
Gotta get some cold water in the bathroom! No electricity means no water! No water means nothing to flush the toilet! And nothing to drink!
Dan cautiously stepped out into the hallway of the small apartment. At the door to the bathroom and toilet, he flicked the switch a couple of times. Useless. There was no electricity.
He went into the bathroom, turned the faucet from the sink to the tub, and fumbled for the cold water valve. Dan turned the valve. Something in the faucet grunted, snorted, and the faucet began to shake with some kind of water problem.
There was no water! There was a terrible stink!
An unbearable, vile, ghastly stink hit Dan's nose. He recoiled and felt sick to his stomach. The smell was disgusting. With a distinct hint of chlorine and something else chemical.
Dan quickly turned on the valve and jumped out into the hallway. Closed the door tightly and started to come to his senses.
"Those bitches cut off people's water! s**t!" Dan Raven hissed curses to an unknown person. "This is the end of everything! We'll be shitting in dumpsters now, and then spewing s**t out the windows like in the ancient cities! I have to run to the store. I hope the night guards and salesmen don't have time to take out all the products before morning!"
He went back into the room. Took out a tea cup from the corner shelf. He went over to the table, took a can of coffee and carefully poured two spoonfuls of instant coffee into the cup. Then the student took a thermos of boiling water to make his own coffee.
It was another fiasco.
When the hot water hit the cup and began to dissolve the powder, a nasty smell spread around the room!
Raven almost dropped the thermos, but managed to put it back. The smell was disgusting. There was a distinct "coffee" note of miasma in the smell.
Dan cautiously picked up the cup and spilled the stuff into the wastebasket. It was another player's mistake! The room began to stink stronger. The guy wrinkled his nose. Suddenly he realized an important point! He was tormented by vague doubts and feelings of trouble when he opened the door of the little refrigerator.
His suspicions had not deceived him.
Raven sharply slammed the door and cramped his stomach. He was sick to his stomach, but he didn't throw up, though there was a good reason for it.
All the food had gone bad.
Dan suddenly realized a terrible truth!
"Those bastards killed our chemistry!" Raven whispered his brilliant guess. He continued the chain of creepy musings. "The kitchen smells like a chemistry lab where the stupid bastards did failed experiments. If there's no chemistry in the world... All the food is dead... How's that? What are we gonna eat? I gotta run to the store. What freaking store? There's a garbage dump on the shelves! And it smells like a garbage can!"
The next thought made him crouch on the floor.
If all the chemicals had turned to crap, then all the plastics, all the fabrics, and almost all the materials in the world had lost their quality!
"They want us dead. This isn't the zombie apocalypse anymore, this is real g******e. There was a game called Fallout. Not my style, I wish I'd played it. What am I supposed to do now?"
Dan's eyes stopped at the new features of his vision. He saw new symbols in his field of vision! He had become like a cyborg! Like the Terminator! Now he was a participant in a computer game in reality with its interface.
Dan closely examined the symbols that were more familiar to any player.
In the upper left corner, he noticed three bars. The red bar indicated his number of life points. The blue bar indicated the number of mana points. A small section of the third bar was filled with yellow light. Dan looked closely and saw that it indicated the amount of experience as a percentage. A 100% filling of the bar would indicate a new level. Right now the experience was 10%.
Dan didn't understand when he had time to gain experience. This was not a reward for his lucky registration. Never mind!
The player continued to look around. The top right corner was occupied by a mini-map. The entire map was now obscured by the black fog of war.
The lower field of view was more laden with information.
On the left was the chat window. There were no chat messages. Dan smiled and thought that the new world offered an advanced ability to communicate and that was a good thing.
In the center of the bottom field, there were noticeable gray cells. Dan called up the help and found out that it was the Quick Access Panel for learned skills. Now Raven had no skills and so the panel was blank.
The bottom right corner of the interface presented important discoveries.
Five symbols glowed and called to check out what was behind them.
The first was an image of a tied sack. Inventory. Dan mentally wanted to activate his inventory and the familiar picture of storage boxes appeared in front of him. Above the cells was the silhouette of a human body. The player knew at once that it was for outfitting with items.
The strange non-harmonious and slanted feature of this inventory caught his eye. In all games, the number of cells is even and so the inventory has equal sides and looks accurate. In the new inventory, there were 11 cells so there were 6 empty cells at the top and 5 empty cells joined at the bottom. The lack of one extreme cell was annoying. The negativity did not go away after clearing up the issue with help. He got 10 cells for 1 point of Endurance and 1 cell added from 1 point in the Strength attribute.
"Greedy bastards! No sense of symmetry or harmony," muttered Raven and mentally closed his inventory.
He was angry at the unknown guilty parties of the apocalypse. Right now he had no positive feelings about participating in the Game.
The second symbol was a miniature face of a person. It turned out to be a panel with the character's attributes. The sight of his miserable stats made him shut that panel down right away.
The third symbol represented a star with several rays. It was a panel with Quests and other Missions. Dan saw that a line with a new quest was lit up! He immediately wanted to know what this quest was for the newcomer.
[Warning. You have received the Mandatory Daily Quest! Stay Alive. Stay alive for 24 hours. Reward: 50 experience points. Enjoy the game!]
Dan thought the unknown Game Masters were too brazen to point out the danger. Staying alive! How do you survive if there is no water? All the food has gone bad! Are they mocking him?
"Bastards! Nasty jerks. Space aliens freaks from a galaxy far, far away!" Dan Raven hissed curses at the alien invaders. Only enemies from outer space could cause such global trouble for humanity!
His irritated gaze fell upon four symbols. The image of a small coin glowed gold and called for Open Me.
Store! The student froze at his strange sensations. He had no game values but he had access to the store. He was being bullied! But he was curious to satiate his curiosity. Dan began to examine the merchandise.
Weapons! The variety of weapons was confusing in its peculiarity. It was a Sword and Magic type of game. No guns or machine guns. No tanks or airplanes! Bows and Crossbows represented long-range weapons.
The young man immediately wanted to look at swords. The line with the name of the item he wanted to be unfolded and Dan saw a huge list with a selection of swords. He chose the topmost item with a one-handed simple beginner's sword.
Damage: 2-7 (4.5)
Requirement: Level 1
Cost: 33 Experience Points]
Dan was immediately hooked on the item cost information. In this game, you can pay for shopping with experience? But he has 50 experience points! Stop! He saw the Food product name line!
Dan gave up his desire to look at the image of the short simple sword. And the view of the store changed. He saw several large lines of product names again.
Raven studied the prices and didn't understand the scam. He immediately noted the important items. One liter of water costs 10 experience points. A loaf of bread costs 20 experience points. A piece of meat or a piece of fish was worth 20 experience points. A clay jug of beer with a volume of 1 liter was worth 70 experience points.
Dan Raven didn't understand what was going on. It was a strange game. You can sit in an apartment and wait for 24 hours to pass. Food is available in the store! If you eat bread and water you can accumulate experience and get a new level in 25 days of careful behavior. There was something strange and threatening about this show of care on the part of the Game Masters.
"Bastards! You take away my p**n sites and want to buy my freedom for a piece of bread? Assholes!" Dan Raven made his position clear.
The young man closed the store and focused on the last fifth character. It was a small image of an open book.
The Skills and Mastery tree was unpleasantly staggered by the player's level requirement. Dan could only see the first positions in all the pages of the book. Until he got new levels he couldn't see what new skills were available to him. It was tough.
The player immediately thought that now no one would know about his secret skill! As long as everyone else lives to level 50 he can safely play with the phantom skill. Of course, there are a few other lucky ones who were able to get the skill at the start. But now there is no internet in the world! No one will not tell their secret information. If someone blabbers, the information will be known to a small circle of players.
In this game, it's hard to make a development plan! You don't know what skills are ahead of you. It's hard and difficult to live in a world of the apocalypse when an evil System has fallen on your head.
Dan looked at the basic skills and saw that they all give small increases in damage with different types of weapons. Mages in this game had to go the hard way to the top. Spells cost from 3 points of mana and did a modest 5 points of damage. Mana regeneration was a pitiful 1 mana point per minute. Restoration of life was also simple and meant 1 point of health restored in 1 minute.
Dan closed the windows with information about the new features. He liked that he could Hide or Display any panel in the interface. You can hide the interface at all and look at the new world with the usual eyes of a former person without too much trouble.
He saw that it had become lighter outside the window. He stood up and walked to the window.
Dan Raven froze when he saw the miracle. He blinked several times and shook his head. The strange unknown sight did not disappear.
The man saw a portal to another world. Dan knew at once that it was a portal! The structure was low and was marked by a bright purple light. Rays of purple intertwined and formed an archway that led to a world of mobs and dungeons.
Next to the purple portal stood three zombies and one skeleton.