Chapter 7:

Beta Begins

11 Kingdoms

Report: Beta begins

Accessing Company Logs:

Gaming News Blog Article: Lining up for Beta

Bertie Maydell – Gamer Inside Access

April 03, 2067

Thousands of people worldwide are lining up for the chance to be one of the eleven thousand chosen to play in the eleven Kingdoms beta this Friday. In just three days the doors will open and only a lucky seven thousand five hundred players worldwide, at each of the eleven towers in the world will get the chance to play. Each tower has already sold two hundred and fifty rooms out to the press, politicians, stars of stage and screen, and a few lucky contest winners. Now the remaining seven hundred and fifty rooms of each tower will house lucky gaming fans. Some of which have sat out in front of the tower since the announcement of the beta release two months ago at Massive Multi Games Expo, where the games icon and character Fawn Midin, announced that lucky fans would have a shot at gaining access to the towers before the public. To gain the chance to test the game's systems along with the staff in the beta release.

Security has been called in by the respected cities to handle the process of approving the fans lined up in taking part in what is becoming not only game history but in many ways world history.

It’s gotten so crazy that some fans have rushed the Onyx tower with hopes to meet Jamie Eve, the staff member and player of Fawn Midin, last week. Word is due to this issue, that access to the floors that Ms. Eve lives on is under the same security protection as the president of the United States, in the White House just a few miles from Onyx tower’s own location.

But with good reason, the security is not just for the mass of fans that won’t get in but also for the small gatherings of anti-Kingdom groups. Daily protests of the game’s beta launch bring in new numbers of people setting up camp. One such group in the Vegas tower last week caused an incident with some of the fans and police in riot gear had to be called in to calm the situation down as well as arrest many of the instigators of the incident.

In many ways, I would hate to be Jamie Eve right now. For now, she surely is feeling like a classic princess locked in a tower.

File Source End

Accessing personal data Log: Princess Fawn Midin

Alternative source: Personal Journal entry of Jamie Eve

“Would you calm down, Jamie you’re wearing a dent in the floor.” Moses boasts as the others sit at our team's meeting room table. Two guards stand outside the door of the room.

“I can’t help it. I’m stir crazy I haven’t been out of the tower in a month, and it's been two weeks since they let me go downstairs."

"Moses, go easy on her, the girl only can get fresh air by opening a window till this whole launch is behind us. Relax Sweetie, you’re only a few hours from getting out.” Melissa states calmly

"Like that's even possible for her." Gavin wheezes out, I almost have forgotten he sounded like this in real life, the way he acted in the game made it hard to note who he was. “Once it starts, we will be too busy.”

“I hate to admit it but the Beta will be just a small stepping stone, sure when it starts, we will be working around the clock looking at any errors that arise, few of us will have any breaks. Sadly, I think Fawn most of all as the office heads want her working on many press events, along with her in-game duties, that will keep her very busy in the coming days. Jamie may have gotten better at handling crowds but her celebrity status is about to be tried to its limits." Rick states with a bit of nerve showing shaking up his speech.

Over the last few months of working with Rick, I have come to see that much of the anxiety I had, is now being transferred to him as we work with the polished details of the game. I turn to look from the group and look on at the security guards outside the door. One is talking along to his communicator relaying the current events of the hours giving the all-clear. "I couldn't sleep much the last few nights. I keep hearing the radios of security talking in the hall.” I proclaim.

"Well, that should clear up when the crowds clear out after beta." Rick Replies

"Yeah, but I still need security to go everywhere. I go to a restaurant they are there. I want to see a movie, who sits right next to me. Why its two dark-suited security officers. I can't even imagine how this would be if I was dating someone. Hell, I haven't even been to a therapy session in weeks because of this mess." I start to hyperventilate while I start to crack up in my speech.

“Jamie, breathe. You knew when you agreed to go through with being the game's idol character you would be dealing with high-stress moments." Rick calms himself down noting that I'm panicking simply because I’m hearing panic arise in his voice as well. “Just sit down and we will go over the info the main office sent for us to follow on launch.”

I hesitantly take my seat and Rick lets out a sigh of relief while he picks up the tablet before him. “Okay the report is being sent to all staff in the building on playing in character, a given warning to staff to remember that when in-game to be in character. Of course, we all should know that by now."

I look at Gavin who has a smile crawl up his face, as to say I told you so to myself and Melissa, as we both have been the weakest in the group, in staying in character during the last few weeks.

"The Judge and his assistants are asked to stay active in the game till the staff sends you to notice otherwise, this is to both combat the issues that may arise but also act as a steady issue of judgment on the tasks of players."

Moses groans. “Man, we better hit the bed after this Rick, we aren’t going to get much sleep after it goes live.”

“Yeah, it looks like it. I’m having some of the staff on floor thirty-two help out, but you and I will have to set up a rotating schedule to last as long as we have to.” Rick replies with a sleepy look. I can tell that I’m not, the only one not sleeping well, from the look of the last few days of work across the faces of all of my fellow teammates.

Rick Continues on the notice. “The Order players are to gather their active team members, and set up a planned timeline to have all vital areas covered to prevent player cheating. Melissa, I do not pity you."

Melissa lets out her sigh "Yeah, I kind of figured as much. So, I set up a run every five floors to have their order members working in the cities and towns of the kingdom. I figure twelve hours shifts of two should work for the time being."

“Lastly the Genesis members are to take part in creating a welcoming environment, and leading players through the game.” Rick looks somewhat comfortable in the choice the company has for me.

"Well, that shouldn't be that hard Gavin. I think we can deal with that." I note.

“Not you maybe, but I could in my sleep.” Boasting a wheezed sentence, I stand amazed at the confidence that he holds and, in many ways, even though I won’t tell him, I am jealous about it.

"There is more for you though." Rick proclaims looking at me, I responded with a quiet rolling of my eyes proclaiming my non-surprise to the orders. "Fawn Midin is to host a welcoming event for the new players and explain the events for the members of the press in the game. Also, she is to attend a gathering in the Nook of Alliance the third night after the launch date, along with the other grand heroes for a press event that has a joining of the nations to welcome the games players.”

“Looks like somebody can hang out with the twins and her lover.” Moses jokes. While the rest of the group joins in the laughing, I find myself rather melancholy on the planned events that have been set for me to take part in. Over the past months, I found my time playing had often been joined by the twin princesses of Arguo, as well as the hero of Azurphire Charlie Riex, who has sought to try to push some role-playing on me by declaring himself Fawn's lover. Because of this, the game has the two of us working together in press events. Even though the brainless dolt bores me when we have run a few practice dates of the characters, If Charlie's player is anything like he is in real life I hope never to date the man.

“Seems rather tame to me, so what’s wrong with them. I just have to lead the press around to see the world and how we virtually live. Big deal." I sigh out of calm praise.

“Um, actually it says here from now on the Game will follow you, and the other Hero’s as well. Reporting on your daily lives in the game, like a kind of virtual reality TV show.” Rick pauses to see my reaction which he knows is coming, and on queue, I follow through. I groan in pain and begin to hide my head under my arms in hopes it somehow creates an invisible barrier where I can live till, I die.

“You’re a TV Star now, Congrats!" Moses pats me on the back proving my invisible barrier isn't working well enough to hide me from the room let alone the world.

"Is there any way they can leave me in peace at some point in my life?" I cry out.

“It will only be central collecting points of your events each week. They plan to post them as promotional devices for the game as well as to get sponsors for the game.” Rick’s words make the imaginary knife in my back be hammered in further.

“Why not just stick cameras in my shower?” I groan from my invisible barrier.

"It would raise the number of male players." Moses snarks back at me with a chuckle at his work of genius in his mind.

"Welcome to the world of the famous, Jamie Eve." Rick replies in an equal joking remark like Moses.

Turning my head in my barrier. "Gee thanks, I will remember you, Peons, when the crowd outside starts ripping me limb from limb to gather the collectible body parts of Fawn Midin. Come get a piece of the game's icons player's body. Who wants to trade her spleen for her gallbladder?" Even I find myself giggling on that one, as the sleep deprivation is causing me to lose it.

“Right, I guess I have final orders for you all and that’s to get some rest. We have to be active in thirty-six hours as we go live in forty. Take time away from the game, Jamie, do some exercises in the hall or something. But I don't want any of you active on the game till go time. Got me.” The group is mostly unable to lift their heads nod in agreement and head off to gather what sleep we can.

I get supported in a standing position, and in turn support Melissa in the opposite, as we walk down the hall. Each of us depending on the other to keep our upright balance, from having to resort to a crawl to our rooms. I look on at a pile of trash I tossed out of my room for house cleaning, which has yet to get since the weekly lockdown of the floor, cleaning hasn’t been permitted to come and the stench is starting to bother me.

“You need some fresh air in this hall.” Melissa replied, knowing full well that the only option I have is the balcony of my apartment, though it has come to mind to follow Gail’s use of throwing her cigarettes over the rail as a possible solution to the trash problem of mine.

“I need some peace and quiet.” I sleepily reply

“Why not log in the game, find a quiet part of the world, and zone out from life. I mean we all know you’ve slept in the chair before.” Melissa suggests.

"It might be a solution but it's never comfortable, the Neuro-link always pulls, and last time I tried it in the open fields of the world. I was woken by several shocks as half my character's life, had been taken out by a wandering boss fight. I think I might just as well sleep in Fawn’s bed in the castle.” I respond pausing only a few seconds to let out a yawn.

“It’s a sure-fire way for Rick to find you. And after he told us to stay out of the game for thirty – six hours it wouldn’t be good to face punishment if you’re caught.”

“Yeah but her bed is a thousand times better than mine, I have clothes piled on mine. Recently I have just been sleeping in a chair or on my couch in front of the TV. At least you all can go out and have some fun." I reply with jealous disgust for Melissa's freedom out of the game.

“Hmm, Maybe I have a plan. Go get a change of clothes, and I will come by and pick you up.” Melissa seems more alert and sporting a sly smile.

“What are you planning?” I ask trying to understand the devious smile on her face.

“I am devising an escape plan. Just think of what you want to do when we bust out." Melissa dashes with newfound vigor to her door and goes inside as I fumble with the door to my room.

What did I want to do? I want to sleep. Maybe get some sun and exercise. While the idea of rest hits my mind. The dismay of my room makes my energy jump and a dig around for some clean clothes and a start to change as a knock is on my door, I finish putting the shirt on when I open it and find Melissa with a trash cart from downstairs.

“I wanted you to have a change of clothes, for after we got you downstairs.” She grabs a shirt and skirt and tosses them along with a bottle of body spray in a trash bag at the bottom of the cart. “Now get in, lay low and say nothing, don’t even make a noise.”

"Wait what about the Neuro-link?" A question I figured she had no answer for but her quick motion to pull out my link sending pain down the back of my neck hurt, she then brought in a pet cat she had been taking care of. Placing the neuro-link on its back, with tape to the feline’s collar, the cat showed he didn’t like it and started clawing away at the collar in a vain hope to remove it.

“This should fool the monitors long enough for us to head out, but I won’t lie we both can land in big trouble going through with this.” She states as she puts down a bowl of water and cat food for the pet.

I replied in a way only I felt I could, by hopping feet first into the garbage cart, my shoes instantly finding the stickiest sickening smelling goop to land in. I start to cry out but quickly muzzle my mouth as Melissa starts to pile the bags of trash from the hall on me to add camouflage to my escape.

I felt the cart rock down the hall and watched Melissa pile on more trash bags from the meeting room and other piles the gang had placed in the hall. The guards halted her briefly to simply add a pile of their own before we reached the elevator. Unable to see if we were alone, I remained silent throughout the descent. Eventually, the cart was up and moving again as I started to feel a cool liquid run down my back. Most public places are out now, I guess. I want desperately to cry out at the cool feeling when suddenly I feel the weight on my back lighten and hear Melissa speak up.

“Great, it worked.” I quickly climbed out of the trash cart with my bag of clothes to change into at hand as I looked around. We were in the employee parking lot under the tower. Melissa chooses the dumpster here as the place to empty the trash. While I am glad to see the trash removed, I am frightened at the chance that this escape may have been caught and that security is just toying with me. Waiting to drag me back just as we flee. Melissa pushes me low to a near crawl as we rush to a nearby spot where her car was parked. Opening the trunk, she gestured for me to get in. "Get in once we get a few blocks away, I will get you out and we can head off where ever for the day we want to go.” As I was squeezing in the trunk, I remembered I failed to grab my DAS for our journey. Digging in the bag in the dark I find the jacket Melissa pulled and search the pockets, I mistakenly release the video ad programmed for the day to play on the clothing. I watch as a silly commercial plays out about some cleaning product but my bundling of the jacket to use as a headrest hushes the noise it makes. The ride is far bumpier than I would like though as I bonk my head from the car heading over the bump to the garage entrance.

Ignoring the pain, a sigh of relief hits me as for the first time in months I am free to be me and my first action in my freedom was dozing off to a nap in the uncomfortable trunk.

I woke several minutes later being shaken awake by Melissa. The city was nowhere to be seen.

"It's about time you returned to the world of the living girl. Guess you haven't slept much. I tried to wake you up back in DC but you just kept sleeping so I drove us on out-of-town figuring it would be good to avoid the guys looking for us now.”

“They know we are gone?” I ask looking at the fading daylight for the first time from ground level in weeks.

“Yeah, they found out about an hour ago when they brought you some supper. The cat came running out and they found your Link. Rick called and chewed me a new one.”

"You're in trouble, I'm so sorry Melissa," I reply with a great disappointment about landing her in trouble.

“We both are in trouble, but Rick understands you need some time away from the tower. So I made sure to tell him we headed north to Annapolis, and will be back tomorrow afternoon.” Once again, I see the evil grin of Melissa hit her face.

“So, we are headed to Annapolis?” I look puzzled but willing to go ahead with the escape.

"No, we are instead going to the Shenandoah Mountains. I Figure we send the suit guys in the wrong direction we could at least get a night of peace. Anyway here.” Melissa tosses a ball cap and sunglasses at me. “Your look makes you stick out too much sweetie, so I suggest you cover that hair of yours. Hurry up now and get changed and we can head off for a day in the mountains.”

I never saw the mountains outside of pictures and films. It wasn’t I never had a chance it was always never having time to do it. Many in my classes made weekend trips there. Here I was headed with Melissa in the mountains at a time most visitors ignored. My classmates would make the trips to see the mountains in the winter for skiing and fall for the views and to escape the temperatures of the cities in the summer, but the spring was a time many ignored the mountains and looked to places like DC for the Cherry blossoms.

I stepped out of the car to look about while we had stopped at a Hydro fuel station. Guess the sudden change in plans got Melissa the idea to have to fuel up for the month, on the Hydrogen fuel needed to run her car. I look at the road ahead and see a classic car nearby fueling up on Petrol and the driver is inspecting his tires from the neglect of road maintenance. Over the past few years since most vehicles have switched to hover technology to avoid the building accident pool caused by tire blowouts, few cars needed the rubber tires and even fewer still ran on gasoline. Now a day’s only classic car lovers risk the roads but they do so with tires that are designed to be stronger to the poor road qualities. The roads for most cars these days don't need to be smooth just flat. And with computer control, the driver only has to drive when they feel like being adventurous or want to explore the open road. Melissa presses her DAS against the machine to charge her accounts with the cost of two hundred for our ten gallons. We get in the car as I quickly change into the clothes Melissa gave me. Throwing on the baseball cap which plays an advertisement for the ball team’s tickets on sale and explaining how I can order now with my DAS. I ignore it and continue to cover my hair completely before we head off to our chosen destination.

The two of us stopped at a small diner when the view of the mountains first came into view to grab a bite to eat. The black circles around Melissa’s eyes showed in the fluorescent haze of the diner. I had slept for about two hours in the trunk while she drove us away from the whole mess, now the long hours for her took a great toll. She tried to resolve it with a cup of black coffee but she was dozing off before the cup even hit the table. I woke her to take a drink of her mental fuel and it brought her back to a mode I could carry on a conversation with.

"Well, where should we go?" I ask.

Melissa took a big sip of coffee before answering me. "I figure we can find a motel in the mountains than in the morning head and check out a park, a bit of quiet privacy for you just like you asked for.”

“How much trouble do you think we are in?” I ask, knowing full well it won’t be pleasant returning home.

“Not sure, but I would guess I will be suspended for a while after the beta, they may just dock your pay as they don't have a choice suspending you." She finishes off her cup and gestures for the waitress to replenish the now empty cup.

"Looks like the lack of sleep isn't just hitting me, can you make it to a Motel?" I ask since we don't have a destination. We are stuck with her taking over the driving from the in-car computer controls.

I watch as the waitress walks up with the pot and Melissa instantly begins to drink from the cup without letting so much as steam escape the ceramic confines. “It won’t take more than an hour to get to a motel. I should be fine until then. Even though I may have not slept much, my end has simply been because of the work schedule and stress of the game's success. You, on the other hand, have far more in it to lose." Melissa gets interrupted in her speech as the waitress brings us our food. I feel a tense knot in my stomach and the BLT I ordered suddenly looks less appetizing than I felt it would be. A glob of Mayo that drips on the side of the sandwich causes my throat to gag a bit. Melissa looks on and gets stern with me. “Eat, you haven’t had a bite almost all day and you will need the energy.”

I grab a chip and nibble at it. While Melissa digs into a chicken sandwich. The door of the diner chimes and neither of us lookup. Three men in suits with dark glasses walk up to our table and cough. Melissa doesn’t even look over at them when she responds. “Guess the trip is over. What kept you guys?”

The smallest suit stood as someone that could only go toe to toe with only one gorilla on his own, speaks up for the others. “We were stationed outside of the tower, when they found out you two left, we used our sources to lock on your DAS’s signal to find you.”

Melissa takes a big bite of her sandwich but continues speaking with the food in her mouth. "The days where someone can live under the radar are gone, huh.” I remain silent and just go on nibbling a chip and taking note that all eyes of the diner have locked on Melissa and I. “Look guys, the girl just needs some time away from the tower, some fresh air. For God's sake at least let her eat a meal out of the prison you all put her in." I take notice that many of the groups with children have started to shelter their children from what I can only gather is an assumption that we are felons on the run.

"It's okay Melissa, thanks for trying to give me some away time but I see now that my life isn't my own anymore." I turn to the waitress ignoring the security guards. "We need our bill and to-go bags please." I decide in frustration to remove the ball cap hiding my hair and hear a cry from a teenage boy.

“It’s that girl from the eleven kingdom’s game.” Another fills in “Princess Fawn.” The cries cause me to lay my head on the table and two of the three men to stand in positions to block people from moving in to talk with us. The sense of tension flees the diner patrons and moves on to focus slowly on me. Before I can even turn to face the building crowd of fans, I am lifted and run out the door. I watch the diner sway in a blur as the hulking security guard tosses me into the backseat of Melissa’s car. I lift my head and see a second guard along with Melissa run towards the direction of the car, while the one that threw me in the car is already pushing back the crowd. I hear a sudden click of the driver’s seat move back as the last guard I never saw adjusts the car's seat, it’s obvious now who will be driving the rest of the way, and that any hopes of seeing the mountains in the light of the next day fade, as Melissa hops into the front passenger seat.

"Hey, pal, easy on the car.” She screams at the man now in charge of both our lives along with the life for Melissa’s vehicle. I’m sure he ignored her cries as the car's motion began the moment Melissa had both feet in the car. We would be at least three hundred feet from the diner before the passenger door would finally be completely shut. When Melissa was able to calm down, she handed me the hat that I left behind. I take it and see that she took the time to shove the food in napkins and was offering me the chance to finish my meal. "Not the best last meal, but here you need it more than I do.” I look down at the pile of food now collected in this hat, the chips I had earlier found as the only thing I was capable to eat. Now looked on as the most luxurious dish I would ever get to see again for days. Sure, I had chips even ones similar to the kind I had here and now, but these chips I was able to gain on my own, where my taste of freedom all be it a short-lived one.

I remember little talking went on in the ride, sleep hit Melissa rather suddenly, to a way that I cared to guess the waitress was likely sneaking in decaf on her. For someone who was in their car, as a stranger drove you and your friend in the middle of the night to the very place you were running away from, she looked to find peace. I, on the other hand, laid my head up watching the street lights and overhead signs pass in the night. The radio that Melissa had played had been cut off. It was replaced with the quiet sound of the engine and chatter over the security guard com-link. Part of me wanted to play an old trick I did when I was younger on my mom, fogging up the window and writing Help me. I laugh at the memory of my mother being pulled over and having to explain the situation to the cop that I was playing a very stupid joke. As we drove the long path from some friend's home in South Carolina to ours in Miami. Grandmother would carry a very stern look when mom looked on, but when she turned away, I saw the grin and heard a chuckle from her position upfront. How I wished this was the case but as we drove in closer to the outer limits of the Northern Virginia Border, I saw that the flashing of police lights. This meant the only thing that would get them to pull us over as if the car was under heavy attack.

The police lights made looking out the rear windowless fun as their blue and red flashes caused the other lights to dim. The more we came into DC the night sky would fade and be replaced by a disgusting yellowish-brown sky filled with flashes of lights from passing vehicles and city lights. I gave up and turned to lower my head, praying for it all to be over and eventually I dozed off. The bump of the parking garage entrance startled and Melissa awake.

“You didn’t wreck my car, did you?” A very grouchy Melissa sleepily spoke out, trying to find some way to punish the guard for ruining our planned vacation.

I went to sit up and found much of the food in my hat now had a more secure place, on my jacket. I let out a disgusting groan wiping the residue of a chicken sandwich from my jacket. I ignored the car coming to a stop until the hands would reach in and grab me. While I wasn't lifted away this time, I was instead dragged like an unwilling five-year-old going to the doctor's office when a shot was called for. Unable to fight the strength of the guard I was turned around and saw Rick standing there. He looked far worse than he did earlier that day.

“Your back!” He simply noted and turned away with a steady grimace on his face. He started to walk away but halted at the noise of a car door slam and Melissa adding in her view of the matter.

“What’s the big deal boss, Jamie needed some fresh air. So, you bring out the goon squad down upon us for trying to let the girl live.”

Without turning to face either of us a very tired yet angry voice of Rick shouts back. “It wasn’t my call. You two acted recklessly and the company had to take action. Right now, they see Jamie as company property and you Melissa, as a thief. I spent the last six hours fighting to let you keep your job. Now both of you will go to bed and be confined to the floor only. We will discuss further actions with the corporate heads in the morning. Vacation is over." I look on as the very tired man I held with high praise stumbled in front of us, I noticed his wife was walking alongside with their child in her arms. Who herself was sleepy, but now awake from the booming fury of her father’s words? I decided not to act worse than this poor kid and move along back to the place, I began to feel was my prison cell. I stumbled along and found my way to bed. Sleep hit me so quickly I failed to think about changing out of my jacket that now bore my freedom meal all about it.

That night I dreamed a very vivid dream, where Melissa, myself, and Fawn all had a wondrous time up in the mountains. Melissa eventually left to go back to the city while Fawn and I started to build a home out of rocks trees and leaves. Days passed and the home took more and more shape. Then one day as I worked on the interior, I heard a metal clink and watched as bars surrounded the doors and windows of the home. I looked out and watched as Fawn played in the sun, tromping the grass and splashing in a nearby brook while I stayed in my prison rotting away. I looked on as my body began to fade and the cheerful laughter of Fawn got louder and louder. I go to scream out but make no noise, then suddenly it all goes black and a growing loud beep in my head wakes me from my sleep. Somehow, I forgot in my haste yesterday to turn off the damn alarm, I reach to slam my hand on the button to prevent further annoyance to me. I make my way to the kitchen reaching for the bottle of OJ I had placed in the fridge and plop it down in front of a small notebook and pen. My dream journal. Since the death of grandma, my therapist was insistent I keep this, He felt with the loss of the person I felt like my closest friend, it is good to know what I was feeling by looking into my dreams. Up until now, I rarely have written more than some really weird ones. But it didn't take a doctrine to tell me what last night's dream was about. I was losing myself and Fawn was becoming the one everyone noticed. The night before in the diner proved that the moment my hat flew off it wasn’t Jamie Eve, they were calling or saying was there. It was Fawn, a fictional character of a fictional world that I created and played. I had far more confidence as Fawn. I felt freer as her as well. In her world, I could venture anywhere and have peace and freedom. As Jamie Eve, I was barely able to see the sun so long as it passed the windows of the apartment or office, or even on the rare chance of me going out to do an interview away from the tower.

I look up and see the sky was just breaking from the yellowish-brown to a purple-blue with hints of yellow mixed about. I feel tempted to open the windows and let in the air, but my mind wanders on trying to figure out what day of the week is trash day, a day that brings the stench of the city down upon us, more so with the heat of the summer outside. Just thinking of the smell makes me gag even before the OJ touches my lips, I find my mind working so hard on discovering the smell, which I suddenly begin to smell the stench. Or maybe it’s something else. I look down and finally notice I’m still wearing the jacket from last night which in turn is still partially wearing dinner on it. Now the stink I thought was my imagination hits me as nearly 12 hours of un-refrigerated mayo and bacon, lettuce and tomato, mixed with whatever was on Melissa's Chicken sandwich have seeped in both my clothes, likely my bed and from the smell my skin now carried. What only a few hours ago I saw at the greatest Luxury for me. Now smells like a rotting dung heap I’m used to having my life fall into.

I only go as far as getting my jacket off before I am interrupted from going further in a quest for a shower when a knock is made at the door. Reluctantly I go to open the door fully expecting men in suits to drag me to the meeting to discuss my and Melissa's future with the company. But as the door opens, I am surprised to find Rick's wife standing at the door with a bag of doughnuts. "Look I'm sorry to be here so early, I wanted to talk to you for a minute." I look at the sleep-deprived woman whose clothing is almost as stained as mine with spills from her daughter.

“He feels sorry that you two couldn’t flee.” I look at the woman shocked.

“What do you mean, he didn’t want us caught?” I ask.

The lack of sleep breaks her voice as she continues. “Rick sees a lot of himself in you. When I first met him in college, he was the shyest boy there, but his skill thrust him in the limelight and in a place, he wasn’t comfortable with.”

“But he had a way out. The company won’t even let me go downstairs to see the nurse.” I speak this from some experience, as a few weeks ago I had caught a virus and the company brought a doctor in to visit me in my home refusing to let me downstairs to the company nursing station on the first floor.

“You are a precious gem in their eyes, in the eyes of both the company and all those lives outside the building and throughout the world. A jewel so precious that it must only be seen behind secure glass, less one of the people who wish to, should take it from the world.” I shuddered at the thought of being an object of desire like how this woman explained about me. “Rick is worried you’re taking a risk that will bring you harm, he is merely trying to protect you. It’s why he fought so hard yesterday to make sure both you and Melissa kept your place in the company. He may not be old enough to be your father but he treats you much the way he does our daughter. He just wants you to be safe, we all do.” The room is uncomfortably quiet after her words the only sound breaking the silence is the bag rustling and she places two doughnuts down. “One is for your friend Melissa. I will leave you to go back to your resting." The woman walks out of the room closing the door behind her and for a few minutes, I sit there quietly in my newly discovered stink. Thinking over her words of comfort to me.

A few hours pass and a shower made most of the stench fade from the skin. I threw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt before being escorted to the conference room on the top floor. Melissa was already sitting there with a sad look on her face. I place both doughnuts in front of her. “One is from Rick and his wife, the other is from me, thanks for the vacation.” I gave her an uneasy smile as I took my seat. I could see through the glass doors that Gail was here. Smoking her cigarettes and shouting at someone not there. I can only guess it’s a call with the higher-ups in the company. The Elevator dings with a yawning Rick, and an unusually well-dressed and groomed Bart stepping off the elevator together. They say nothing and take their seats. Rick looks over and sees the doughnuts in front of Melissa and nods. Thru the window, Gail throws the remains of her cigarette over the rail and walks in with her face almost completely purple despite the thick layer of makeup to cover the browning skin from her cigarette habit. When suddenly a screen drops down from the ceiling and turns on, the image of three people in different boxes on the screen appears all dressed in suits. I take my time and recognize Carlos Geilo, the head of Black clover gaming, and Mitchell Vin's, the man who very much is not only the company president but many claims that he is the hidden finance god of both the real and virtual worlds. Seeing his face on the scene causes my stomach to ache in fear for not only myself but also for Melissa. The third is a woman I fail to recognize. Gail walks sternly before us and starts the punishment meeting.

“We all know why we are here, due to the actions yesterday of Ms. Brough and Ms. Eve, to escape the tower for some relaxation. They caused a major security breach and risked the life of Ms. Eve, who is the company’s currently most valued asset. Now luckily their actions created little more than a small commotion at a roadside diner in Page County. But we must punish them for their actions that caused potential risks to this company and to the very life of Ms. Eve.” I watch as the one woman on the screen flips through papers.

“As I read the reports of both the security staff and Mr. Mathers from last night neither suggest the threat to be all that high in the direction they headed. All reports state their plan to merely head to the mountains for a day of relaxation. Is this what they report correct, Ms. Jeirade.” The woman looks on at Gail standing in the spot stern in her form.

“That is for the two on judgment to say.” A cold look is thrown by Gail as she turns to me and then to Melissa.

I go to speak but find Melissa speaking up first. “I made the decision, to both help her leave and where to go. Jamie had no call she just went along for the ride. The fault is wholly on me not her. She should not face any punishment. I ask you all the fault should lay on me.”

Carlos Speaks now from his box. “I concur the actions clearly show Ms. Brough, acted like the one in charge. With that, I once again ask for her termination from the staff. Her reckless actions are what caused this mess and she should face the complete blame." I couldn't take more and scream out at the very man signing my paychecks.

"No, you fire Melissa for helping then fire me too. I have given my all for this company, not only my hard work and time but my life for this company. And the one time I'm given a moment of freedom you attack her for giving that freedom. I'm not an object. I am a human being, so quit treating me like I'm less of a person. Punish both of us or neither of us, but if you fire her and not me then I quit."

The group stands quiet as one person coughs. Yet my focus is solely on the screen and Ms. Jeirade, so I miss seeing Rick stand up. The woman on the screen speaks up again. "Well, there you have it, Mr. Geilo, as stated in the report of Mr. Mathers you fire Ms. Brough then you face having to rehire the staff of Onyx 47." I look shocked at the words she said not only myself but Moses, Rick, and Gavin all threaten to quit if they fired Melissa. "Given Ms. Eve is under contract, her quitting would result in a lawsuit but if we had to replace the full staff including the face of the game, we would suffer a great loss in our sales."

I see Bart stand up with Rick. “Count me in as well, you’re stating on punishing the girl for merely helping a friend. Someone who needed the pressure that these past days have placed on her for us lifted away from her. If we fired people for helping out their coworkers, then I think the sales would be the last of our problems.”

I began to see Carlos speak up when his screen was cut off and the President of the company began to speak up. "Sorry Carlos, I'm cutting you off here, people we have a little coup in our ranks and that must be dealt with. You have us in a standoff here Ms. Eve. I feel that Ms. Brough's actions whereas it has been said. Been done merely in concern for Ms. Eve’s benefit of relaxation and with this, I recommend that they both will face punishment equally. Therefore, you will both be placed on leave for a month after the game launches for two weeks. At a company retreat, any further punishment would be pointless and merely hurt us far worse than others, but I cannot stress the need for you to play it safe Ms. Eve. I have been informed by the staff that the Mailroom has received several threats to your life, more so from this group of protestors about the game. We have had to send inquiries and even ask the FBI to take part in protecting you. So, slipping out in the middle of the night for some rest is not a thing you can do without letting sources know. Places need to get vented first. Do you understand?”

"Yes, sir." A smile hit my face as the pressure on us is removed.

“Very well then, I suggest you all do your last preparations as we start this ball running with Beta in 8 hours. Good luck Black Team” The screen goes dark and Gail turns and looks at me. Her face remains as red as before. She then turns to Melissa.

“You’re damn lucky Miss, Both of you.” She storms out and returns to smoking on the balcony. When I stand, I feel a pat on my shoulder from Rick.

“You know I sent one of those to you, so you would eat something.” I look at the one remaining doughnut in front of Melissa as she is sliding it to me.

“A reward for my valiant knight in battle.” Melissa says placing it in turn back in front of me. I took the doughnut and smiled back at her.

"It was my pleasure, my lady." I gratefully accept as I get an out-of-place grumble in my stomach.

The two of us begin to laugh, but our laughter is broken by Rick. "Well, you two we have to head down a get ready to go live soon. No more escape attempts, okay? He walks off with Bart in tow to the elevator. Leaving the two criminals to enjoy the fruits of their hard work.

“Hey Melissa, thanks for the wonderful vacation it’s certainly one I won’t forget.”

“Nor will I, princess!"

Time passes and I toss the jacket in the trash as I set myself in the chair. Leaning back, I hear a light click as the newly replaced link magnetically locks in the plug of the chair. I lower the helmet and the screen brings the game menu up. I move to the sign on-screen and am taken back by what I see. Fawn stands there like normal doing basic waiting motions before I click to start, all looks normal, all but the level. The day before Fawn’s level was sixty-seven now, I see her at level eighty-four. The glitch raised my level again? Only this time I had not even played to gain the level. What is going on here? Not much I can do about it, nor why bother complaining. I mean, who would hate to have their character more powerful, right. I click on the login and watch the images and sounds of the world fade into view. I find myself standing in Fawn's bedroom where I last left her. After adjusting the newfound points, I have with the glitch levels I step out of the room and proceed past the NPC guards and out the castle walls watching as players appear into view from the beta launch. I watch as they all turn to face the figure towering above them as I stand on the terrace. Taking a deep breath and swallowing it I move forward and speak up loudly as my voice is broadcasted not only within the game but screens around the world. Speaking the line writers wrote for me. "Welcome to the new world, Welcome to 11 Kingdoms."

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