Chapter 1:

Boot-up Sequence

Kingdom Come Veritas


“Welcome, welcome, pleeeeease be welcome to the kingdom of Atlantis! I am Aegis the Fourth, and I’m absoluuuuuutely delighted to have you all here today for this Game of mine!”

Who… was talking?

Where was it coming from?

Where… was I?

I looked around. It was pitch-black… but just feeling around with my hand on the wall behind me, I found a switch. I pressed it. The lights turned on, blinding me for an instant.

“What the…?!”

I was in a square room, walls and ceiling completely made out of glass. Outside was—water, as far as my sight would reach. I was… under the sea? How in hell had I ended up here?

Maybe looking upwards would give me an idea of how deep I was…

And there, in the exact center of the ceiling, I saw it.

A bomb, and a… timer attached to it?!

“Heeeeeello, dear… uh… whatever your name is! This message has been recorded only for you! Feeling privileged yet? Anyway, as a way to thank you for participating in my Game, I have prepared a warm-up exercise for you to crack open in an instant with your wonderful abilities! You only have to escape this room before the timer on the bomb taped to the ceiling runs out… If you don’t, the whole room will go boom and you will die! Isn’t it fun? Nothing better than some high-stakes action to get your brain and muscles going!”

Oh, for fuck’s sake!

The voice was the same as before—high-pitched, irritating and kiddish—and it was coming from a speaker in the corner of the room. I hadn't seen it before in the dark, but there was no doubt—it was the same voice as before, and coming from the same place.

In any other situation, I would have broken the speaker into pieces. This was such a bad joke, I refused to believe any of it… But I didn't have time for that.

The timer on the bomb was incessantly going down. Five minutes, ten seconds—or in other words, not an instant to lose.

Still, looking around this room a little more…

The ceiling was fully made out of crystal, but the walls were only transparent from wait height up. Below was a handrail and the lower part of the wall, a dull grey metal just like the floor.

But the room itself was almost fully empty.

Except for a computer screen and keyboard on the middle, all I could find were seven pieces of paper with incoherent words in them.

I picked them all up but didn't spend too much time trying to make sense of them. The timer already said I had little more than three minutes. The computer screen didn't give me a clear answer to anything, either.

Introduce your TRUTH to unlock the FUTURE.

Fun way of saying I would die if I didn't.

I could only enter one word… but what word should I enter? There were no clues anywhere, the words on the pieces of paper didn't work…!

Two minutes left.

I still had nothing.

I tried basic words and even simple math equations that everyone would agree are true. But as I feared, none of it worked.

One minute left.

I was really starting to panic now, the computer didn't react to anything I gave it!

Thirty seconds left.

And then a clue appeared on the monitor.

TRUTH is only for YOU. Find yourself in the TRUTH and be FREE.

A truth to find myself in… What the fuck did that even mean?!

Twenty seconds… Ten seconds…

Oh!

A truth to find myself in—my name!

But what… was my name?

I couldn't… remember…

I mashed the first thing I could think of into the keyboard and pressed Enter…

CHECKING… PLEASE WAIT.

Five…

Four…

Three…

Two…

Your TRUTH has been accepted. Exit open.

The timer stopped.

A big, round hatch opened in the floor. It was hidden so well that it would have been next to impossible to guess its presence with the naked eye.

Good job, Shin! Almost didn't make it, did you… It would be suuuuuch a pity if you died so soon though, so please get out of that place and come meet the rest of us! The game is about to start!”

I had made it.

I couldn’t believe it had accepted Shin as my name, but since it clearly had and the bomb hadn’t blown me up into pieces, I didn’t exactly feel like complaining.

Looking into the hatch that had just opened, a ladder going down into a pitch-black hole was all I could see—no, that’s a lie. If I squinted hard enough, a minuscule light dot seemed to indicate an exit to the tube.

Of course, I had no choice but to go down and follow along what that voice had been saying to me over the speakers.

……

The ladder really did seem endless.

I went to check my trusty old wristwatch so I could at least have some awareness of the passage of time, but—it wasn’t there.

Actually, not only that, but I also had glasses on, even though I’d never once worn any before.

I thought of checking my clothes as well, but in this darkness and hanging from a ladder that might as well not have an end whatsoever, it probably wasn’t the best idea I could have had.

……

………

“Ouch!”

That had been me—at some point I had turned my brain off and just kept going down, but when I reached the point where I only kept moving thanks to muscle memory, I reached the floor and tripped.

My butt hitting the floor didn’t hurt too much, though.

I quickly got up and started feeling around the wall, and it didn't take me long to find a doorknob—below it, through the gap between the door and the floor, a tiny amount of light came through. It barely seemed any brighter or more noticeable than it had from up above… which made me think it had been kind of a miracle to be able to spot it before going down.

I pulled on the doorknob, half expecting it to be locked, but it opened easily.

The light blinded me for a few seconds.

When I could finally open my eyes again, I was met with something defying all that I'd assumed true since I woke up here.

I wasn't in some underwater facility like I'd thought.

One of the walls in the big hall I found myself in was transparent. And, instead of fish and sea life, what I saw was… clouds.

We were now high up in the sky.

“What the…”

How could this be? I was sure what I saw in the other room wasn't false, I could see all the fish moving and even colliding with the glass sometimes… but now that felt like a dream far away.

Were we in a moving vehicle…? I had no clue how much time I'd spent going down those stairs, so it wasn't impossible.

Still, I didn't have time to wonder that. I needed to know where I was and how to get out of this place before some psycho I hadn't even seen the face of blew me up with another bomb—wait, I stopped myself. Who's that next to the transparent wall…?

Whoever it might be, it would be for the best to go look at their face and talk to them, to at least assess if they were a friend or a foe.

“Hey,” I touched them in the shoulder. They were wearing a hoodie so I couldn't even tell their gender from behind.

“Hey!”

They didn't reply. They didn't even seem to notice my hand on their shoulders. Not the slightest movement.

And then—they crumbled to the floor.

A young woman… or rather, her corpse.

WALKER
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Kingdom Come Veritas


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