Revolve - Chapter 0




The darkness of unconsciousness dissipated.

However, it didn’t dissipate completely, because the man still didn’t open his eyes, even though he had already woken up. The darkness lost its depth. It became less dark, and now it was impossible to hide in it. It was impossible to hide in it from the chaotic madness.

The madness…

The man nailed to the table would give a lot... He would give everything to completely lose his mind. He would give everything so that all his thoughts would melt into coolness of the darkness. After all, the darkness was giving peace... was giving rest from…

The cold, sharp metal touched his stomach. But the cold immediately went away, giving way to the burning pain.

The man unwillingly opened his eyes. It was hard to breathe due to the barely contained scream. His whole body tensed and stretched as if it was a string ready to break, but the body couldn’t move at all.

Having passed the skin and reached the muscles, the sharp knife plunged deeper. The supple and gentle flesh was easily dispersing to the sides.

The quick and confident flourish of the torture instrument, and the man cried in agony. The scream was hysterical, high-pitched, and long. Filled with the inexpressible agony and hatred, the knife was freezing his veins and his heart.

However, the stretched hand, which was completely covered with bandages, didn’t do a single flitch. Hooked and too long for a human’s fingers, evenly put aside the already unnecessary instrument and dived inside the newly-formed incision.

The voice of the nailed man broke, and his scream turned to the squish.

However, his mind was still persisting. His mind was persisting already for so long...

And no one responded to his prays… not about freedom… and not about deliverance. He was only praying for his mind to also break after his voice.

He prayed that the darkness would never go away again.

The swarm in his belly became unbearable. From his mouth already there was not even a hissing coming, but a muffled wheezing.

But finally a world before his eyes started crushing. His mind clouded, and the darkness fell once again. So nice, but at the same time so short darkness...

The last thought of the man, who had fallen into unconsciousness, was saturated with hatred. The dark and thick hatred, it had no purpose. Break this hatred out and everything would drown in it… the creature torturing his body… his own mind… and even he himself… and this whole damned unreal world.

It seemed like only a moment passed.

But the darkness dissipated again.

Like dozens, hundreds of times before...

……

It was a very ordinary day, like any other day. The sun as if purposely was hiding, unwillingly to disperse even a little bit of this gloomy mood that covered the whole megapolis. Usually here, among a multiple high-raises, it was hard to enjoy the sunshine, but right now, it seemed almost impossible.

It was late morning, but the streets were already crowded. Among a gushing stream of hurrying people was walking one guy. At the first sight he was nothing special... and to be honest, at the second sight either. The same gray spot, who was seemingly around thirty five years old. And only if you look very closely, you could understand that this guy was only in his twenties. However, a painful pale face, a faded look, and a completely lifeless pace didn't make him any younger.

Right now, this poor guy was returning from a specialized pharmacy. Even though medicines, which were supposed to prolong his life a little, were working, they caused an extremely painful and strong migraines, so he wasn't happy at all that he hadn't died yet.

With a sullen expression he was silently walking ahead, resisting to a lively crowd of people, who, as it often the case, wasn't carried about some random guy.

'I can't stand it anymore...' such a thought had been repeating in this guy's head for the whole month already. Every day he was thinking about the same and couldn't stop. However, he was stubbornly enduring this trick of the fate by continuously taking medicines.

The incurable neurodegenerative disease was progressing extremely quickly and, at best, even though he was taking very expensive medicines, he didn’t have more than a month left. Despite the level of modern medicine, such diseases still couldn’t be cured, so the poor guy had no choice but to accept his fate.

And who cares, even if he wanted to live a little bit more...

While he was continuing slowly walking, he heard the sound of water and was surprised for a moment. The game advertising hologram had been here for a long time already. The guy raised his heavy head and looked at the shining three-dimensional optical projection. An old wooden ship was slowly rocking by the waves, cutting the azure sea. The board of the ship was filled with a few people dressed in strange clothes, stolen from the previous era. The ship continued sailing, while the camera gradually drifted away, showing the entire armada of the similar ships on water. Their destination was also well-known. Probably, there wasn’t any person on the whole planet, who still hadn’t heard about that.

REVOLVE is a new game based on the virtual reality, the technology of which has been developing for more than 40 years. There were even rumors that the game has been planned since the inception of the most primitive devices complementing reality. Just to think, currently, it is difficult even to imagine a regular walk without such devices, but it wasn’t always like that. The developers were able to predict the development of the technology in the decades ahead.

In fact, a word “game” wasn’t even close enough to describe this scientific brainchild named REVOLVE. Discoveries, which were made in the process of its creation, have found application in almost all spheres of human activity: from medicine to mining. Even the main achievement was not considered the technology of creating a holistic virtual world, but the unique artificial intelligence that designed it.

At the very beginning, only the basic laws of the world were set; the process of its creation and settlement was fallen on the shoulders of the specialized and completely unique AI. And so, many years later, in the 2065-th year, the game was finally ready to go out to the light. The scale of the marketing campaign was so great that it wouldn’t be surprising, if it equaled the cost of developing the game. But in fact, the game completely had paid for itself even before official release! The principle of working with human nervous system had already found application for completely different purposes. Creation of the perfect AI, for example, brought countless profits to the developers and attracted the attention of the whole world to the game. And now, before the long-awaited launch, there were only two days left.

There was only one drawback in the game: in order to visit the new world, you had to pay an incredible amount of money for the average person. However, there were quite reasonable rumors that the price was fully worth it, and the company was preparing a big surprise for users. Maybe the developers themselves spread these “rumors”...

The gameplay of the game took place exclusively in offices of the company, where were special devices for connecting users to the virtual world. Such a limitation was due to some incompleteness of the technology of working with human neural networks. In order to ensure complete security when connecting to the game, constant supervision and strict following of the established rules were needed.

The gameplay itself was divided into sessions with equal duration for all people. That was the unprecedented early rule, but exactly  this rule lined up no less than a dozen theories about the surprise, that was waiting for everyone...

Also, for each session you had to pay. The announced price was so large that it would be enough even to buy a small house! But this didn’t discourage mighty gamers of the whole world from the occupation of the boundless lands at all. In the future those virtual lands promised to become so popular that they will completely replace the current planet. And such words weren’t an exaggeration. The company itself has confirmed such a possibility in the near future.

This was completely public available information, or it was made publicly available to increase the popularity of the game. And, it is worth noting that such a move brought an explosive popularity to the game, even despite countless complaints about the cost of diving.

And the person, who was looking at the hologram, that had already ended and everything started again, also knew all this.

He came to this decision easily and naturally. Recently, he was making almost every important decision in such manner. When you have one foot in the grave already, and the only thing you can lose is the remaining few months, or even weeks, it is simply silly to ponder something for a long time.

He turned back and headed in the same direction, from which he came. It seemed like even such a hated migraine retreated for a little, when he set the goal for himself.

……

A small reception room for each individual, who paid a large price, met its guest with light walls and a futuristic design, which was pretty fashionable nowadays. However, there was no time to look at the furniture.

In front of him was put the contract the size of a small book that the guy signed even without looking. Woman-consultant, who was standing in a step behind him, said nothing, having noticed such a carelessness. With a smooth movement, she took the signed document and placed it in the hole right in the wall nearby.

“Follow me, please,” with an angelic smile the woman said, pointing towards the door.

For almost already 5 minutes she was leading the client through the corridors, until they reached the room the size of around 100 square meters. There were ten devices for immersion in the game world. At this moment, they were all empty, probably, because of the guy’s hurry decision to sign all the documents immediately. Not everyone was ready to mindlessly sign a contract. This was just another example showing the despair of a man whose shoulder was already held by the bony hand of death.

In the room he was met by four doctors based on their white coats.

“How are you feeling?” one of them asked out of courtesy: the game device itself had body diagnostics.

“Everything is fine, apart from the feeling of anticipation,” the pre-prepared phrase sounded unexpectedly easy. Recently, he was quite taciturn, but apparently, the feeling of anticipation managed to break through his wall of apathy. He had only a little time left, but he had a chance to spend these days in a truly interesting way: the exploration of the unknown world...

‘New unexplored world,’ thought the guy, taking off his own clothes. He managed to learn quite a lot about REVOLVE during couple previous days.

Aria, that was the name of the main specialized AI, which independently brought the game world to the state of complete autonomy. Currently, the developers couldn’t directly influence the game world. They could only connect new people to the game, for which Aria immediately became responsible. Also, the game AI was responsible for generating players’ appearance, parameters, and everything else.

The death in the game had some punishment: loss of all collected items and one of specializations. This was done in order to maximize realism of the gameplay. Without the slightest doubt the world itself could also be called real: all occurring phenomena in it were strictly connected to the original laws of the world, which were directing its development together with Aria.

Of course, the developers worked out the main points that would make staying in the game more enjoyable; they also took into account mistakes, which were already made in the real world.

For example, there was no garbage in REVOLVE, all dropped objects disappeared after some time.

Even though the player could get sick, but organisms smaller than a certain size simply didn’t exist, which excluded most of diseases caused by viruses and parasites. Surprisingly, there weren’t even the majority of small insects.

The feelings of the players, pain, thirst, and everything, were also blunted; they simply couldn’t exceed a certain threshold. This topic caused a lot of argues, because the developers originally wanted to remove the discomfort, but some experiments confirmed that it could cause some harm to a mental human health. Forgetting what the pain is, players could harm themselves after returning in the real world...

Also, despite the fact that in the game people had to eat, their bodies didn’t produce waste, and only outer layer of skin could become dirty. This was done mainly because the world in the game was close to early middle ages and, for the sake of a person accustomed to household amenities, developers decided to simplify personal hygiene as much as possible.

Moreover, characters of players didn’t grow old. When characters were generated, originally all their bodies were of similar build, which gradually could change, depending on direction of player’s future development. It was impossible to choose a set of characters; a player couldn’t even name his character. All parameters, ranging from hair length and ending with innate characteristics of a race, were formed by Aria.

It should also be noted that organisms inhabiting the virtual world could be called alive, because each of them was managing by its own AI of the appropriate level of complexity. In the game, you could even have children who were in no way inferior to a real person.

The list of such differences was quite extensive, however not all of them were disclosed. Players had to experience all charm of the game in a hard way.

Sighing, the guy finally completely undressed, having finished remembering what he had read on the project website. Following the instructions, he lay down in the rather overall device, similar to a metal sarcophagus.

His body immediately fell into something thick and slightly warm. This feeling didn’t cause any dislike, quite the opposite. The feeling was easy and good, as if he was lying on flowing water. Only the pain from the migraine was continuing reminding about itself. Something cold touched the back of his head, and then the same happened to the upper part of his spine.

“Close your eyes and relax,” one of the men in medical coats said monotonously. The guy wasn’t worried at all about the tone of the doctor’s voice; right now he had already managed to close his eyes, and after a few moments fell asleep.

The young man didn’t see how the small indicator on the sarcophagus was slowly filling up, indicating the progress of its synchronization with the user's nervous system. The indicator successfully filled the entire scale, but after a moment, an error message appeared on the holographic display. The device stopped syncing and slowly opened. It was visible that the body of the guy was shuddering from electric shocks. One, two, three times, but the doctor just continued to quietly monitor vital signs in the retina of his eyes. The dive device was steadily following the protocol: all substances that should be used during resuscitation entered the user's body. But the heart didn’t beat. Four minutes passed, and the doctor with the same emotionless voice said, “The first case of death was recorded. The device is fully functional.”

Sharing observations with his colleagues standing nearby, he gave instructions to pick up the body and left the room.

……

Ten hours later, a head of the department responsible for connecting new players to REVOLVE finished submitting a general report to a general director of the company.

“...Thus, during the session of connections that have ended today, more than 290 thousand people were introduced into the game, which, in fact, only slightly exceeded the initial calculations. Also, was discovered an error that wasn’t taken into account during the development process. People with the certain types of diseases of nervous system cannot be connected to the current models of dive devices. There was one case of a lethal outcome, due to overloading of a neural system during synchronization. According to the protocol, Aria immediately began to check the state of the nervous system of each plug-in before starting synchronization.”

“Was it someone important?”

“No, sir. A young man, 23 years old, no family, has sold all his property before the connection. I guess he just wanted to spend his last days in the game.”

“Well. Then keep working.”

On the faces of both people didn’t flash a single emotion, while they were discussing the death of another person. The head of the department slightly bowed his head, turned and left an office. Only the main session of connections was completed, and he still had a whole sea of ​​work.