Ice Dynasty Tower was located in Ambolt, a district of Downtown Dekoryn in the southwestern quadrant. Of course, saying that it was in Downtown Dekoryn was like saying that a country was located in the northern hemisphere; Dekoryn’s Downtown stretched on for nearly 20 miles. The entirety of Dekoryn was nearly 100 miles in diameter. 100 miles of concrete and steel, oil and money. 100 miles of corruption and greed, a hundred different types of drugs and enough alcohol to submerge the city. 100 miles of depression, of suffering and hopelessness. Putting it like that, Dekoryn sounded like a terrible place to live, and for the most part, it was. But for all of its filth, for all of the grime and slime, it was home, and Ian was determined to keep it that way.
As Ian approached the tower, he noticed a crowd gathered in front of the steps leading up to the revolving doors. People were yelling and cheering, shouting unintelligibly and throwing their arms up in a sort of circle. Ian pushed his way through the crowd to see what the ruckus was about.
In the center of the ring of people, two guys were throwing themselves at each other. One of the men, dressed in a bloody business suit that had the sleeve torn off, was desperately trying to block his face as the other guy, a larger man with a shaved head and a broken nose that was leaking down his lips, flung his fists wildly. Both men were breathing hard, obviously pushed to the point of exhaustion. The businessman took a step back, trying to keep his balance as the world spun around him. The attacker took advantage of the situation and tackled the businessman, straddling his waist and raining his fists down on the poor soul’s face. The fight was over; this was just a beatdown. Ian sighed and pushed his way out of the crowd. He felt for the businessman, but he just couldn’t afford to get involved in a fight and get injured. He pushed on the revolving door and stepped into the cool air conditioned entrance of the tower.
Ice Dynasty tower was much larger than Ian had ever anticipated. The center of the tower was hollow; great ice spires rose from special pedestals designed to keep the sculptures frozen. Lights were imbued in the spires, giving off a brilliant shine that magnified the awe of the entertainment center. A food court sat wedged between the spires, offering a selection of popular restaurant choices. The floors above were visible, and Ian was able to fully take in all that the tower offered. On the ground floor, the public relations center sat off to the right, housing ATM’s, Information Terminals, and even holographic conference booths for those office workers who needed to attend meetings while out on the town. On the second floor, a movie theater and arcade took up the entire space, attempting to drown out the voices of those chatting on the ground floor. The third floor through eighth floors were reserved for a very engaging laser tag arena. The sign flashed brightly in Ian’s eyes:
ICE DYNASTY LASER TAG
The ultimate Laser Tag experience!
Two teams of 32 enter; one team leaves victorious!
NOTE – THE ICE DYNASTY LASER TAG PRO LEAGUE
HAS BEEN POSTPONED ONE WEEK FOR SCHEDULED
MAINTENANCE OF THE COURSE. WE APOLOGIZE FOR
THE DELAY AND HOPE TO SEE ALL OF OUR PROS
COME OUT AND REPRESENT THEIR TEAMS!
The ninth floors and above featured a plethora of shops, ranging from male and female clothing stores to a pro sports shop, a biomechanical lab for acquiring advanced robotic body parts, four pet shops all offering exotic species, a plastic surgery office, and over a dozen art galleries. Ian couldn’t believe just how much had been squeezed into the building. The thing that amazed Ian the most though, was that Ice Dynasty Tower was only one of many entertainment supercenters scattered around Dekoryn. It seemed that the larger corporations were doing all they could to keep the general population entertained enough to ignore the glaring issues the city faced, enough to forget about their depressing lives and the trials they faced on a daily basis.
Ian decided to hit up the arcade. Walking through the sliding glass doors, he entered a very chilly room full of loud, vibrantly-flashing machines. People were crowding around viewscreens showing two players racing in a simulation, slipping money to each other as they bet on the winner. In the center of the large room lay a ring of five pods, oddly reminiscent of cocoons, or coffins. A couple had just gotten out of two of the pods; the boy was holding the girl’s hand as she stepped out over the lip of the device. Ian curiously walked over and nonchalantly investigated the pods. There was a soft mesh cap attached to the inside of the machine where the user’s head would be, but other than that, only a keypad was visible. Where were the other controls? Ian shrugged, deciding that the only way to figure it out would be to try it. He slipped one foot over the lip of the pod, feeling the plastic beneath him as he stepped inside. He slid his legs into the encapsulated portion of the pod and laid down, attaching the mesh cap to his head. As he fitted the cap into place, he felt a small tingle, like a tiny bolt of electricity striking the back of his neck. Ian grabbed the lid of the pod and pulled it shut. All light and sound disappeared in an instant, blocked out by the capsule’s walls. Slowly, Ian felt himself fading, and before he knew it, the entire world drifted away.
Ian woke up to a bright, colorful world. He was laying in a meadow, the sweet-smelling Spring breeze washing over him, bathing him in a pleasant feeling that relieved every bit of apprehension he may have had due to waking up in an unknown environment. Suddenly, he saw a person riding a horse up the grassy hill to his location, waving his hand.
“Hey!” The man on the horse called out. Ian stood up and brushed himself off. His clothes were different; a weird robe of a faded blue hue.
“Why’re you just standing there? Get on, we gotta hurry to the others,” the man told him.
“I don’t understand,” Ian replied.
“Shit, are you new to this game?” The man asked in shock.
“That’s right. Where are we?” Ian asked. He looked around at this new world and, realizing he had stopped breathing, he drew in a long breath.
“Uhh. Demonica? Y’know, the game?” The man on the horse, dressed in full armor, gave him a withering look.
“Oh, right. Of course. Sorry,” Ian feigned an apology. There weren’t any signs as to what game he was playing outside, so how was he supposed to know? The man sighed and turned his horse, waving behind him for Ian to follow. Ian trudged along behind the horse, doing his best to keep up. Despite running at a rapid pace, Ian didn’t feel even the slightest bit tired; it was as if he had been born to run. The wind rushed through his hair, the sweet-smelling air filled his lungs and the springy turf below him moved ever so slightly with each step, bouncing back as he ran, propelling him forward. This was one of the most incredible moments Ian had ever experienced. He felt completely reborn, as if the worries of his past life had just melted away and he was finally free.
After he had ran for roughly 15 minutes, they came to the edge of a lush green forest, alive with the spirits of woodland creatures and ancient trees. The horseman came to a walk, then stopped.
“Wait here,” the man instructed bluntly. He hopped off his horse and trudged through the knee-high grass to the edge of the forest, then let out a sharp whistle. From out of the canopy, a man and two women plopped on the ground in front of the knight. The man and one of the women were smiling, clasping hands and patting each other on the shoulders. The other woman looked past the knight and stared directly at Ian, her eyes displaying a scarcely-veiled contempt for everything that encompassed Ian’s being. Ian’s gaze dropped off to the side, wanting to shy away from those hateful eyes. Why was she glaring at him like that? What did he do?
After what seemed like an hour of uncomfortable standing (but was only five minutes), the knight called Ian over and introduced the group.
“Alright newbie, listen up. I’m Corbin, and this is Matthew. As far as classes go, I’m a knight, and he’s a thief. Leaning against the tree with the large axe is Casey; she’s our berserker. And finally we have Marie, the archer who seems to want you dead. What’s up with you, Marie? You could at least pretend to like our new guy.” Marie turned and walked away, seemingly deafened to the questions of the knight.
“Well that was weird. She’s usually pretty friendly. Did you do something to her?”
“What? Absolutely not!” Ian replied defensively.
“Whatever you say, newbie,” The knight shrugged, “We should start getting ready to move out. We need to get back to town and turn this quest in. Naturally, since you didn’t help us with the quest, you won’t get any money newbie.”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” Ian agreed.
As they began to walk deeper into the forest, the warmth of the Spring wind suddenly dropped away, and the entire world was cast into a pitch black nothingness.