SF Weekend Post 1



[Argo] held back a cat like grin as she took a picture through the window of the incoming planetoid/space-ship/hourglass shaped castle.

It was the first time that she- or anyone else for that matter- had seen the future game world from the outside outside of the box-art. The [Exile Prester Station: AINCRAD], home to the dueling nations of [PROSPIT] and [DERSE], their war the main focus of the very game they were playing, which had been based on an old, but still popular, anime way back from 2003.
[Last Exile Online], or “LEO” as the development team like to call it before the official name had been announced, took place on one of those many Presters, the Exile stations where people were to live while [Earth that Was] recovered from some ecological disaster requiring the [Exiles] in the first place.

The Exiles were vast space-ships capable of carrying large amounts of people, although for the sake of the tutorial, the Exile all 10,000 players rode in right now was considerably larger than the one in the TV show. (Their exile, according to the schematics on the walls, was shaped like a crescent moon!)
Argo glanced at the count-down timer in the corner of her vision. Four hours to go until they touched down and the true game could begin. Sure, some players (Mostly the Speed Run Beta Testers) were upset that they had to wait five hours after launch to even actually get at the game play, but given that this was the world’s first TRUE Full Dive MMO, everyone else was glad for the Tutorial that was giving them time to adjust to the virtual sensations that mimicked reality so closely.
It also was considered an opportunity to allow every single one of the 10,000 players to log into the game and be in place to witness the game’s creator, Kayaba, Akihiko, deliver his [Game Launch Announcements], which would happen at the four-hour and thirty-minutes mark, according to schedule.

Still, the ever increasingly closer form of AINCRAD loomed in every forwards facing window, and the excitement was growing everywhere.

Argo looked around the large, central plaza chamber that many players were walking around and even logging into at this very moment. She smiled, and took a few more pictures with the in-game provided camera tool, not quite sure what she was going to do with her rapidly growing collection of pictures yet, but it seemed rather prudent to document EVERYTHING at this point.

This was a historic moment, and there was no telling if anyone would ever see the inside of this Exile ever again.

Argo started touring the rapidly crowding Exile, taking as many pictures as she could before spotting a guy with red hair asking a familiar looking beta tester about the game.

[Kirito]‘s Avatar was recognizable in a heartbeat to Argo. She’d ribbed him enough times about the Hollywood star style look enough times during the summer to know that face by heart. Attractive to a certain audience, yes, but rather generic compared to the red-head next to him. Argo squinted at his HP bar, curious. Almost instantly, the Name appeared. [Klein] hadn’t even learned about the anonymity filter yet, the poor noob.
Kirito likely had realized that as well, and was probably talking Klein through the motions, as the name suddenly fizzled out of existence a moment later. Kirito then spotted Argo, who flashed a grin at him, and he quickly told Klein to pass the info along to whatever guild mates were joining him in game before moving through the crowd towards Argo.

“Yo!” Kirito gave a wave at her. “I almost didn’t recognize you if it weren’t for those whiskers.”

“And yet you kept your appearance instead of re-creating from scratch!” Argo laughed, touching the face-paint lines on her cheek- Three on each side, forming a set of whiskers- before sending a friend request to one of the few people she actually cared about maintaining as a friend rather than just some info schmuck.

“I wanted to get in as fast as I could so nobody could claim my name,” Kirito rolled his eyes as he accepted the friend request.

“You shortened yours. Taken already?”

“No. But [Don’tWorry it’sArgo’s TestBuild] just didn’t have the right ring to it,” Argo rolled her eyes in return.

“Boo,” Kirito jokingly stuck his tongue out at her. Out of anyone from the Beta, Argo was proud to claim the title as the only one to ever get Kirito to actually perform such a childish gesture.

“Besides that, I wasn’t happy with my hair color choice last time,” Argo pinched at a strand of blond hair. “Brown just isn’t my color, either Exiled or Ayarel.” The brutal mispronunciation of the English letters “I.R.L.” made its way past her teeth once more, making Kirito laugh at their own little in-joke.

In the early days of the beta there had been a small quest town called “Ayarel” that had quickly become bugged due to some random feature of the game not working properly, and so the town had been disabled and had pretty much remained that way all through-out the beta testing during the summer. Privately, Argo had continually joked that as long as they were in LEO, “I.R.L.” would never exist.

“Well, it suits you nicely,” Kirito said with a small bow, and then promptly changed the subject. “So, what alliance did you get?”

“Hmm,” Argo opened her inventory with a swipe of her fingers through the air, bringing up her character sheet. “Looks like I ended up with… Prospit this time!”

Kirito smirked, “Looks like we’ll be in the same alliance again. I got Prospit too.”

“Alas, our beta knowledge will be useless in this war,” Argo lamented as she closed her sheet. “I think the devs shuffled us returnees around so we couldn’t exploit our knowledge.”

“Probably,” Kirito nodded, then cracked a smile, “Buuut…. That guy I was talking with ended up with Derse.”

“You told him some of the best stuff, didn’t you?” Argo asked.

“As much as I could in an hour, with a pinch of, ‘it might have changed since beta’,” Kirito answered. “But he took it all in stride. That guy’s going places here. He’s the guild master of the [Shadow’s Five Claws] guild back from old ESO.”

“Wow!” Argo’s eyes widened. So “Klein” was really the stealthy Khajiit known to Tamirel’s servers as [Rah’jiin], named after one of the ellusive trixter deities in that world. An appropriate name as well, given that the guy had lead multiple charges to victory in the Alliance Civil war on multiple servers nigh simultaneously, crowning himself emperor time and time again, and beating down every single challenger from what seemed to be a near defeat. (Some people suspected that Rah’jiin simply liked the challenge of fighting to the top and would let himself get nearly dethroned for the fun of it.)

Truely, he was the undisputed Emperor of the Elder Scrolls Online, and to see him here in Last Exile Online, a game that was touted as a “Chess Match in the Skies”, was both an encouraging sign as well as something of a shock and fear factor.

“…Crap, we’re Prospit and he’s Derse and you GAVE HIM INFO!?” Argo suddenly realized the situation of it all– only for Kirito to break out into laughter at her reaction, which made her realize something else… “You lied about stuff under the guise of things changing from beta, didn’t you?”

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” Kirito wriggled his eyebrows at her. “We’ll just have to see when the war reaches its conclusion… plus, he actually said he didn’t think he could manage a similar feat here in this world while maintaining his hold in ESO, so…” he shrugged. “What does it matter, one way or the other?”

“Well, if he was being honest about that, it’s probably why he went under a different name,” Argo then flashed a grin at Kirito. “You told him how to go anon so that way he could take a break, didn’t you?”

“Guilty as charged,” Kirito raised his hands in a mock-surrender.

The time passed quickly for the two reunited friends. The long wait time for the ‘tutorial’ was a blessing in disguise. Although they had traded contact info at the close of the beta, they both had not kept in contact much in the inbetween time, mainly due to the start of school soon after the close of summer. And so this reunion was a chance for both of them to synch back up and figure out where things were going to go from here.

Argo wouldn’t admit it aloud, but she did somewhat fancy the idea of them maybe becoming a battle couple under the game’s party rules. During the Beta Test Argo hadn’t done much of the actual adventuring, instead digging deep to the political story underpinning and promoting the game’s quests.

Kirito had been the opposite, digging deep into the combat system and diving ahead recklessly past things that should have been at his level. All so that he could find bugs in the combat system and repor them, much as Argo had done with the story side of things.

But now that the game was live, it was time to change gears into something different. It was time to have FUN.

That notion carried through even as the announcement buzzer sounded, signifying that Kayaba, Akihiko’s announcement was about to go live.

Excitement built among the crowd, and soon everyone was gathered around whatever video monitor was closest to them.

_”WELCOME, PLAYERS!”_ and then Kayaba’s voice echoed through the Exile as his face appeared on every monitor along with a loud, sweeping musical fanfare. _”Welcome to Last Exile Online!”_ a Cheer went up throughout the exile.

“Guy knows how to make an entrance,” Argo observed.

“Oh, definitely,” Kirito nodded.

_”As of a few minutes ago, all TEN THOUSAND players have logged in…”_ Kayaba paused, _”Including myself, actually. This message is entirely prerecorded.”_

People laughed at that, but Kirito frowned. Argo took notice as his stance shifted. “Something up?”

_”So yes, welcome to LEO… A World of battling Royalty and Consorts and Denizens…and a Guild to oversee everything. I’m sure you all know the story,”_ Kayaba continued on.

“He said originally that it’d be a live message,” Kirito answered. “What changed?”

“Well…” Argo went on to comment when Kayaba asked that exact same thing.

_”So, what’s changed from Beta? Quite a lot of things… just things that the testers won’t be seeing. We’ve made sure, for one thing, that everyone who was assigned to one side in beta has been assigned to the other in live. We want you all to be surprised by everything.”_ Kayaba smirked, _”And speaking of surprises…. Surprise number one, coming right at you now.”_

Suddenly, the Exile’s insides glowed with a blinding blue light and the sound of a teleportation effect, followed by shattering glass.

When the light faded and everyone could see again- the landscape of appearance had changed drastically…

Kirito blinked as he realized that he was now very much closer to Argo’s height than he had been before… in that he was now a head taller, where as before they had been about the same height, and also decidedly in the adult age group…. now?

“Holy crap, Kirito, you shrunK!” Argo cried out in surprise, and then blinked at her own, slightly higher pitched voice. “WaiT… WhaT!?” Not only higher pitched, but her own unique nasal inflection to her words surfaced for the first time in the virutal world.

“You shrunk too!” Kirito pointed at her in surprise. “We’re both young again!”

_”Inside your inventories are now hand-mirrors. Please use them to confirm that everything transitioned properly. Your physical appearances in-game should now exactly match what they were when you first donned the Nerve Gear.”_

Silence for a moment as people did just that… And then some girl shrieked out in terror- “I’M ME!”

The surprise flowed through the entire room in an instant, overpowering even Kayaba’s narration that continued on. Kirito and Argo forced themselves to listen in through the outrage of the crowd.

_”The reason for this is simple… your lives are now permanently entrapped within this world. You will live here, and die here. Repeatedly. Last Exile Online is the most appropriate title of all… The moment this transmission began, the Nerve Gears started to emit a specific frequency and shifted into what I like to call [Acceleration Mode].”_ Kayaba sounded proud even as people continued to yell over him. _”What that means is…. well, time here in LEO is moving much faster than it does in the real world. Days will equal seconds, weeks minutes, months hours, so on and so forth at a pace that the authorities will never realize is happening until it is much too late.”_

“WhaT…?” Argo blinked. “Is that even possiblE?”

“I think…” Kirito gulped. “It is.”

_”As for why I did this? Well, the reason is simple… People enjoy games much more when they’re emotionally invested in them.”_ Kayaba smirked on screen. _”What better way to force an investment of emotions into a game than literally making it the players’ new reality? A reality that you cannot leave until the [game clear] flag is met.”_ He paused, and then laughed. _”Oh, what is that, you ask?”_ Nobody was asking that aloud at all. Nobody was even listening to him except for a certain few. _”You’re going to have to figure that one out on your own, I’m afraid. I had the Cardinal create her own ending. Even I am unaware of who, what, or even where the end of the game will take place, so even if you find me here in LEO…. You’re never going to be able to get me to tell you what it is.”_

“Wh…What a complete and utter TROLL!” Argo cried out in anger.

_”This concludes the tutorial for Last Exile Online…The Exile will now be docking in five….four….three….two….”_

And then the world went white once again.

A.N.: Here’s a sneak peak of a side project I’ve started working on. :33 there’ll be another part to this sneak peak later in the weekend, So keep your eyes open! Keep in mind, though, this is a BETA post. When I post the final version of this particular story, there’ll probably be some changes. Namely formatting. 😛 Maybe some name stuff too… Haha. We’ll seeeeeee….


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