The world in front of Dent simply. . . disappeared. One moment he was watching the Cube activate, and the next he found himself on a chair in an entirely whitewashed room with a marble floor and low ceiling. In front of him stood a delicately carved wooden desk. If Dent had taken a few seconds to look at it, he would have seen the many details edged into the piece of furniture. He would have understood how this single piece of art was a culmination of a lifelong love of woodwork. Whoever made it had undergone hard years of study and failure, ultimately leading to this one item of perfection. Its delicate curves and fine carvings were a marvel to behold. Truly a masterpiece.
But 42 didn’t see that. His eyes had fallen on the chicken on top of it, which, shocked by the sudden arrival of Dent, had laid an egg. Currently, the egg was rolling towards him, bobbing slightly because of its shape.
“What the. . .” He uttered, shocked. His surprise doubled when the chicken squawked at him and began to beat its wings in agitation. Instinctively, Dent understood that it wanted him to catch the egg. Just don’t ask why.
However, he couldn’t move: his square body refused. What was he supposed to do anyway? Catch it? Without arms? This whole situation was too absurd, his mind had trouble adjusting to it all. He watched as the egg reached the edge of the desk and tumbled over, plummeting towards a future as a floor-omelet.
Dent could do nothing more than stare, his eyes following the falling object, tracking its progress towards certain doom. While lowering his gaze, he noticed his hands laying on the armrests of the chair he sat on.
“What in the name of. . .” he stuttered, hearing his voice aloud and feeling the air flow from his lungs and out of his mouth.
There was a single instant of bewilderment, a moment in which he recognized that he had the form of a Human now, complete with fleshy bits and pieces, arms and legs. He realized that he somehow knew exactly how this body worked. He noticed the warmth it produced, how its skin perspired. The itch on his left butt cheek. To Dent, it felt as if he had always known what it meant to be Human. With this realization came the ability to move. Instantly he dove forward, throwing himself to the ground, arms outstretched, hands cupped in order to catch the egg.
The egg hit the ground with a sound resembling a bowling ball pounding onto the lane, that is, if it was hurled by a twelve-foot giant who worked out too much. When the deadly object bounced back up, it left an indentation on the now-cracked floor. Dent quickly shot his hands to his sides, shoving himself backward. He was not going to touch that. If anything, somebody needed to protect the floor from it. Not the other way around.
A voice from his right said, “Ah, I see you’ve met Gertie. You better be careful with her, she’s very precious to me. More so than you are.”
Dent followed the sound of the words spoken to him and met the eyes of a stunningly beautiful woman. At least, his current body seemed to think so. Its heart instantly started to beat a little faster. “Ehm, what?” He stammered.
“Oh, so you’re stupid as well?” She said, walking into the room in high heels, dress catching on wind that wasn’t there. She left the previously invisible entry door wide open into a corridor, “Lucky for you BLANK can’t see in here or They would have had to edit your datasheet and subtract a few points in intelligence.” Her sass instantly shook Dent out of his revelry. Who in BLANK’s name was she to talk to him like this? He opened his mouth to ask that same question, but she cut him off with a gesture, “No matter. Take a seat. The show is about to start.”
But Dent had been pushed around enough. This wasn’t going to fly. He felt the blood rise to his face as he stood up slowly, “No.” He simply stated. His voice came out soft and low with no emotion whatsoever, although he trembled with fright and fury, “Not without a good reason. I refuse to continue this ridiculous charade. Who are you, and what is this?”
“Yes, yes, I see. Very well then, have it your way.” The woman simply said, not taken aback in the slightest, “I am Bitty, The Overseer. And this here is Gertie, my chicken. Currently, you are being tested for your responses to judge the best fitting Faction for you.”
Dent hadn’t expected a straight answer. The straightforward cooperation from the Overseer calmed some of the anger inside him.
“Factions?” he asked, his mind already racing about the implications her words had. If there were going to be Factions, then the Initializers would be divided, opening up more opportunities for competition.
“Factions.” Bitty repeated, clearly not prepared to give any further information, adding, “Hey, can you close that door for me, please? Thank you.”
Instead of complying, Dent just stood where he was, crossing both his arms in front of his chest. He wasn’t planning on backing down. As if he hadn’t heard her speak, he tried again, “So you mean to divide us? And what about this testing? What will I need to do?”
“Actually, we’re already almost finished with that. There’s just one more thing,” The Overseer said while finally sitting down at her desk, crossing her legs. She started petting her chicken, Gertie. “It’s easy. Make a choice.”
With that, she picked up Gertie and waved one hand over her desk. Five objects instantly appeared in front of Dent. They were all spherical and so dense with energy that the air around them condensed, forming small pools of water on the perfectly level desk.
“What are they?” Dent asked. Finally, here was a thing that looked like a test. A choice, at least.
“These are called Macros, and they provide you with an update to your code which will give you certain benefits whenever you are in my domain. Touch them, and you will know what they do.” Overseer Bitty interrupted her petting of Gertie for a moment to wave over the items again, indicating that Dent should go ahead already.
42 really wanted to protest, to not choose, and thereby show her that he wasn’t to be bossed around, but these things were just so interesting. He couldn’t help himself and reached to touch one finger to the first sphere.
Dent found himself on a battlefield, his HUD telling him that there was a group of defenders nearby.
He called up his Macro-Nav and scrolled through countless locked options, passing over grey text and moving images until his eyes spotted a highlighted one entitled “BOOM.” As he contemplated, explosions shook the ground around him. His fellow Faction members fell by the scores. Dent knew that they didn’t actually die, that his friends would just wake up in the Hub. They’d be a little shaken and lacking HP, but alive. Despite this fact, the sight was still terrible to see.
He activated his skill, moving his arm behind his back and opening his hand. A bright ball of fire formed just above his palm, its flickering light casting shadows despite the sun glaring down onto the arena. He twisted his hips and with a powerful motion used his body to create momentum, throwing the fireball with all his might.
It flew in a high arch, falling down among the defenders and igniting on impact. As the sound of destruction reached his ears, the defenders’ colorful blips on his HUD blinked out.
Dent moved his hand and was back inside the room, his heart racing with adrenaline. “Do. . . are they all like this?” He asked Bitty without turning, feeling her gaze.
“Not all of them. Go on,” she said with a slight smile on her lips.
Dent only hesitated for a moment before reaching for another Macro. He was suddenly transported to a place where many individuals gathered. It was painfully obvious to Dent that the people in front of him were trying to convince the crowd of something. Again he flicked through the Macro-Nav, finally landing on “Sneak Peek.” This skill called up the logs of any Initializer he indicated, showing him everything the Individual experienced and said within the last 3 mega clock cycles. Interesting.
This time when Dent came back, he immediately continued to the next Macro. Once he had touched all three that remained, he finally sat down in the chair and leaned back. “And?” Bitty asked, leaning forwards slightly.
“I am thinking.” He responded, his mind going over the possibilities. The Macros from left to right were: BOOM, Sneak Peek, Superintelligence, Overclock, and Transmission. Each of them seemed like they could be instrumental given the right situation, but to Dent, there was only one real choice.
“I choose Sneak Peek,” He said reaching out to grab it, but before he could, the Overseer snapped her fingers and the Macros disappeared.
“Not now,” She said, “But there will be time for that. Thanks for visiting, Dent. Goodbye.”
“What? I was supposed to be tested here for-” He stopped talking as he suddenly found himself back on his platform in the Hub, the white room gone. Dent wanted to take a deep breath but found that this body couldn’t. Not here. He scanned the area around him and noticed that many Initializers were staring at him incredulously.
“What?” He asked, confused again, “What are you all looking at?”
“They are not looking at you,” said the voice of the platform, which Dent now realized was Overseer Bitty’s, “They are looking at the thing above you.”
“Above me?” Dent repeated, activating his gyroscope and revolving backwards.
Directly over his platform, one of the massive emblems spun lazily, showing a black trident against a red background. Before he was able to turn back, the penetrating voice of BLANK blasted throughout the Hub.
FACTION LEADER 42, REPORT TO RESISTOR HQ ON THE SECOND REVOLUTION OF THE FUN PLACE.