Eva's eyes opened slowly as she woke. Although everything was a haze, something told her that things weren't quite right.
Her foggy haze dispersed as she realized that she wasn't in her own bed, or even in her own clothes. She was wearing some sort of skin-tight, pressurized medical suit that covered every inch of her from the neck down.
Alarmed, she instinctively jolted upright and BANG!
"What the f…"
She rubbed her head after having accidentally struck a spotless clear canopy. It felt incredibly solid. In fact, it seemed more like metal than glass.
It was curved and covered the top half of whatever bed she was on, while the bottom was a smooth and sturdy metallic shell, but colored white. The two met each other seamlessly, which kept her enclosed in a relatively small, but comfortable space.
The bed itself was about the size of a twin, and it was covered in sterile sheets that reminded her of the beddings found in a hospital. To each of her sides, just where the glass canopy met the bed's shell, were a couple of small touch displays with a handful of readouts.
Condition: Conscious, StableAfflictions: None DetectedA.Metabolics: 99%BPM: 63
Beneath the readouts was a button that read OPEN CANOPY, which she immediately pressed.
The readout quickly switched to displaying EQUALIZING. It pulsed at a rate that matched her breathing, or perhaps her breathing matched the pulses. Either way, she found it oddly soothing.
The whole pod hummed and hissed as oxygen from the outside mixed in with what was inside. She could even smell a hint of disinfectant in the air, which further reminded her of a hospital.
After a moment, the glass canopy above her split down the middle and quietly slid down the sides.
Once the canopy was completely withdrawn, she sat up and took a look around. It was a large, metallic, circular room also in pristine white. The walls met the floor and ceiling with smooth curves rather than hard edges, which she found strangely familiar.
The design was sleek and uninterrupted, as though the entire room was formed out of a single piece. She felt as though she somehow woke up hundreds of years into the future, in some sort of high-tech sci-fi hospital.
What surprised her the most wasn't how different everything looked, but rather that she felt she had been here before. A wave of déjà vu swept over her as she continued studying her environment.
There were a dozen pods around the room, including hers. They were ovular in shape and had touch panels on each side, exactly like the one she used on the inside of her own. The pods appeared as though they had sprouted seamlessly out of the floor, with stems that curved upwards smoothly and elegantly.
She noticed that save for hers and one other pod, all the rest had a variety of people hibernating in them.
Well, at least I'm not the only one, she thought to herself.
They were all arranged in a ring facing the center, which was some sort of sleek control station.
Though everything was incredibly familiar, like she had seen this clean, futuristic design many times, she just couldn't place it… Until her eyes came across large, clean lettering on the wall.
It read, "Welcome to Regeneration Center Theta."
A grin quickly formed on her face as she realized why everything was so damn familiar.
I should've known, she thought. I'm just dreaming about the game again, and I just respawned at the cloning center. This explains why I'm wearing a pressure suit…
She hopped out of her pod reluctantly, and expected to enter a dream fall. Whenever she dreamt about the game, she forced herself to wake up every time, then go play the game for a bit.
This time though instead of waking up, her feet simply hit the floor.
The sensation of landing on solid ground coursed up her legs and told her that this was, without a doubt, not a dream. Somewhat shocked, she absentmindedly slapped herself just to double-check. Sure enough, she felt an immediate sting, followed by a spreading warmth.
This was real.
Before she could collect her thoughts, the whole facility shook violently, which nearly threw her down on her knees. The lights turned low and red as klaxons blared around her.
A computerized, yet pleasant voice suddenly filled the room. It spoke in a calm, yet firm manner.
"Emergency," it said. "This facility is under heavy attack. Please head to the nearest emergency lifeboat chamber in a calm and orderly fashion. Thank you for using Tetragrammaton Technologies! Have a pleasant cycle."
Immediately afterwards, the pods around her decompressed and beeped loudly to rouse their occupants. No doubt it was part of the station's emergency protocols.
A door slid open along the circular wall, and revealed the way out towards the rest of the facility.
Meanwhile, the others woke up one after another, equally bewildered as she was. One of them started knocking on their canopy and pleaded for help, seemingly unable to open it.
The thought crossed her mind that it might've malfunctioned, or the guy just didn't understand how control panels worked.
"Not my problem," she said as she went out into the hallway.
Outside, the lights were also low and red, while orange running lights quickly traveled along the middle of the floor in a specific direction. She hopped into a light sprint and followed.
These oughta lead me to the lifeboats, she thought to herself.
Out of nowhere, there was a muffled boom followed by a shock wave that violently shook the station. This time it was clear that something had struck it.
And now that she was out of the room and in this hallway, she was better able to hear what was going on. After a third immense impact shortly after, she was absolutely sure what they were - cannon shells.
Someone was bombarding the station.
She had heard that sound hundreds, if not thousands of times in the ridiculously popular space combat VRMMO Bellum Aeterna. She played it religiously, and often stayed in-game for multiple days straight, with only a few hours in between as breaks.
The longest stretch she had logged in was two whole months, when her desire to escape reality was the strongest.
The world failed her just as she failed it.
Her boyfriend was neglectful and narcissistic, she had so little money that she barely ate, her grandparents were getting more infirm, and their medical bills were skyrocketing.
All of her problems bore down on her harder and harder as the days went by, so she checked out from everything and fell into a massive depression. She needed to escape, and badly. When she found the game, she allowed herself to sink into it completely, and willingly let it take over her life.
She eventually found a way to make a modest income from it by live streaming the game, but it was only enough just to scrape by. Though she had a few loyal fans, she didn't want to spend the time to market her channel and get more.
That laziness hurt her more than she realized, and if she just put in extra effort, she could have been making thousands more than she did. Plenty enough to make rent, live modestly, and pay her grandparents' hospital bills.
As far as actually playing the game, she was great at it. She was a natural at flying and fighting in zero-g space, no matter what she was piloting. She built up her character from the ground up to be one of the richest and most powerful solo players in the game.
Her hideout was both cleverly hidden and highly defensible, which kept opposing players from discovering her base and breaking into her vault. Her hangar consisted of dozens of the rarest ship cores, with thousands of powerful parts from all over the galaxy. Most important was her infamy - she had a reputation as a thoroughly ruthless mercenary who spared no effort to get what she wanted.
Many pilots feared her from her rep alone.
Her in-game self was so much more powerful and capable than her real self, so she couldn't help but escape into it. It was something she wanted to be, but never could.
Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that she was actually living in the game she loved, that somehow she had been reborn into it.
For the first time in years, she smiled genuinely.
She shivered at the prospect of becoming the person she wanted to be, one where she had the ability to overcome all her hardships. A life filled with danger, adventure, wealth, happiness… everything!
She salivated at the thought of flying all her jets and piloting all her mechs, of squeezing the trigger and ripping her enemies to shreds, of rolling in piles and piles of credits, of having a bevy of dreamy hunks to...
Hold on, she thought as she skidded to a stop. In the game we all had infinite lives, but this feels way different. What if... I don't have infinite lives?
She quickly shook the thought away as she launched back into a sprint. Her raven-black hair swung and swished as she ran.
No way, she said inwardly. This is Bellum Aeterna. Dying here means I get to respawn. Otherwise a station like this wouldn't exist in the first place! And if I can respawn endlessly, that means I can do whatever the hell I want. Burn, build, harm, heal. Whatever I want. And they're all right outside - a whole universe worth of desire!
Her heart leapt at the limitless possibilities, and picked up the pace as another shell slammed into the station. There was a whole universe out there just waiting for her, and she wasn't going to waste her life a second longer.
Eva's heart thumped steadily in her chest as she ran towards the nearest lifeboat chamber. Once she got there, she instinctively stopped off to the side to catch her breath. Although her breathing was a bit labored, she realized that she was barely tired.In fact, she had pretty much caught her breath already.That's weird, she thought. I could've sworn I just ran a mile, but I'm not even sweating… What the hell's going on with me?Before she could think much more about what was going on with her, there was a sudden uproar which took her attention.It looked like a couple of people were fighting over a lifeboat. Their argument almost got into blows before on
"Hey you, with the moves," shouted a crewmember. "Get yer flippy ass in a boat, will ya?"Eva nodded before she dashed over and headed inside one. She swiftly made her way past rows of anxious passengers and secured herself in the only remaining seat up front.Next to her was a teenaged Asian girl, probably no older than thirteen or fourteen. She was small and slender, with long, straight black hair and pale skin. The girl was also wearing the same pressure suit, which indicated that she was also possibly a player."Excuse me," she asked the girl, "do you play Bellum Aeterna?"The girl's eyes widened, then nodded quickly. When she replied, there was a light accent in her voice."I started last month," the girl said. "I enjoye
Eva shook herself out of her reverie and got back to reality. She switched the live feed to show what was happening back at the station, and what she saw was a grand spectacle. She quickly decided to analyze the situation and study the battle in greater detail. It oughta be useful to watch how things play out, she thought. I'll probably be in these sorta situations plenty of times down the road. This really could be useful later. The station was surrounded by a handful of cruisers, each accompanied by a few dozen fighters. It didn't look good from any angle. The station looked almost exactly like the game counterpart: a huge rotating disc-like hospital-hab with a doc
Eva grit her teeth as she took command of the lifeboat's control deck. With a few deft movements, she deactivated the autopilot and glanced over its flight capabilities. She quickly tested the maneuvering thrusters with some light movements, but quickly shook her head in disappointment. "Not fast enough," she exclaimed loudly. "The launch thruster already expended all its fuel, and the main thrusters on this thing are garbage! It's like flying a sausage." Instead of sitting idly, she quickly turned the boat away from the cruisers and maxed out the main thrusters. Since only capital ships had jump drives installed on them, they had no choice but to run as fast as they could, the old fashioned way. The lifeboat surged forward, but the acceleration was incredibly short-lived. The thing shuddered slightly, as though
Eva remained undeterred despite the setback she now faced. She simply took a deep breath, collected herself, and refocused on the task at hand - survival. It didn't matter if she was getting chased by nine or nine hundred, she wasn't going to let anyone get the better of her. Not in this life. She yelled out, "Gimme everything you got!" Inspired by Eva's tenacity, Miko also doubled down on her part. Her hands danced across her display as she tweaked the ship's systems and squeezed out every bit of power possible. Now that the pirates were shooting to kill, she reduced the energy shielding to a minimum and reactivated the life support systems. She gave it just enough power to maintain cabin pressure and cycle oxygen. The five aggressive pirate cruisers were steadily advancing on the warship Diomedes' portside flank, their intentions quite clear. They were no doubt preparing to attack the battleship, even though they were technically outgunned. "Time to space some Feds," snarled the lead pirate captain as he rose from his chair. His officers looked at the MFDs before them and reviewed the battlefield that lay right ahead. Various readouts revealed critical information as they scanned for weaknesses to exploit. They all looked like they were itching for a fight, and some were even visibly trembling from the anticipation. "Aye, sir," replied one of the officers. "The railcannon's primed for a full power shot." A sly grin curled up from the captain's lips.
Ravens of Eternity Boat Incoming!
The five aggressive pirate cruisers were steadily advancing on the warship Diomedes' portside flank, their intentions quite clear. They were no doubt preparing to attack the battleship, even though they were technically outgunned. "Time to space some Feds," snarled the lead pirate captain as he rose from his chair. His officers looked at the MFDs before them and reviewed the battlefield that lay right ahead. Various readouts revealed critical information as they scanned for weaknesses to exploit. They all looked like they were itching for a fight, and some were even visibly trembling from the anticipation. "Aye, sir," replied one of the officers. "The railcannon's primed for a full power shot." A sly grin curled up from the captain's lips.
A devastating explosion tore a pirate cruiser in half. Even though it was already beaten, the Diomedes didn’t stop its Diomedes' unrelenting bombardment. Both halves of the cruiser drifted from each other, as smaller fires and explosions continued within them. To add insult to injury, the Diomedes' continued cannonade tore into the burning wreckage with savage intensity. It was as though their erasure was necessary. Nearby, dozens of pirate fighters were deeply entangled with the Federation fighters, and were losing terribly. Though the pirates had the upper hand in the early stages of the sortie, the Federation fighters had quickly adjusted to their tactics and turned things around. The chaotic sleight-of-hand strategy they were designed for was of littl
After the Diomedes rescued the evacuees and captured the neutralized pirate cruiser, it jumped straight to the heart of the Sol Federation - the Earth's solar system. Although in this universe, Earth was instead more appropriately named Gaea. Interestingly enough, it was exactly like the Earth Eva was from, instead of some fictional human homeworld. It was even a version that existed far in its own future, and things had definitely changed. The biggest difference was that the planet was now home to over forty billion people, and that was an ecological nightmare. Hell, it was a nightmare back in Eva's old life. In that universe, the Earth only had the ability to support two billion people maximum. And yet it had surpassed eight billion.