They were led down the long hallway and eventually stopped at a set of doorways set opposite each other across the hallway. The pair of people who led them turned to face the group, the man on the left and the woman on the right.
The woman’s Shell encased her right eye, and she spoke. “Today, you will participate in the first round of Phase 1 of The Prism. Due to limited space in the simulation, we had to cut the round into two halves. This group is the first half. Your teams were randomly generated, just as they will be in the next four rounds so that each simulation is a different experience. Each half will be further split into two smaller groups. Each of those will then enter one of these simulation rooms, where they will battle against the group in the opposite room.” She scanned the hall. When she spoke again, it didn’t seem like she was reading from her Shell. “Please note that although you will be a part of a team, that doesn’t mean anyone is your friend. Look out for your roommates first. They are the ones that matter. Wins and losses don’t mean as much here in The Prism, but your skill does. Further instructions will be given when you get into your appropriate room.”
When she finished speaking, the man separated them into their groups. Eventually Quin, Blair, Jordan and Timothy were called to enter room number two. They walked past the woman on the right and passed through the door, following the people from the room that was called before them.
They passed through the doorway and into a control room that was similar to the simulation in the HUE, only much larger and way more complex. A large team of people sat around computers typing and monitoring things on the screens. They paid no attention to the large group funneling in. Surrounding them were windows that looked into the simulation room itself. It was empty and white, just like in the HUE. They were welcomed by a short, stocky man. His skin had an olive tone, and there was an earring in his left ear. He gave everyone a genuine smile, showing off his perfect white teeth. Once everyone was packed into the control room, he guided them to a door to the left of where they entered.
“Let’s go in here before I explain what you should expect. We should give them space to work.” He pointed to the people at the computers. His Spanish accent was thick but comprehensible. They gathered into the bright white room and waited for him to speak again. “Now…” He paused. He placed his finger to his ear and whispered, but the echo was so loud that his quiet voice echoed for everyone to hear. “Can you please reduce this echo?” he asked. Within seconds, the walls and floor surrounding them shifted and moved to create a smaller room. It was shaped in such a way that when he spoke again there was no echo, and his voice sounded much closer. “Much better.” He smiled. “Hello, everyone. My name is Javier Rodriguez. I am one of the supervisors in the control room, and I’ll be explaining a bit about what you can expect here. There are 132 of you here in this room and 132 in the other simulation room. You will be competing against them with the goal of eliminating each other. There is no friendly fire. Your weapons will not work against people in your own simulation room, only the artificial simulations that represent your opponents in the other room. Both rooms will have the exact same terrain that will be influenced in real time by activity made in either room, which means that if you pick up something in this simulation and throw it at someone in the other room, it will hit them. With that being said,” his joyful smile was replaced with a stern look, “anyone caught sabotaging or using blunt or sharp objects on teammates will be automatically pulled out of the system and disqualified from this round and quite possibly the entire phase.” After a few seconds of silence, he returned to his cheerful attitude. “I’m sure you have many questions. I think most of them will be answered in this next part. Natasha will soon be out here to explain further.” He walked past everyone and entered the control room.
Moments later, a woman came out holding a large white sphere. Instead of walking around the group to where Javier had stood, she remained close to the door. She was a large woman with short brown hair and brown eyes to match. Her fingernails were long and painted bright pink. “My name is Natasha Frey. I am one of the lead experts on the Sphere.” She held up the large white ball in her hand with feigned enthusiasm. “This device is how you will survive in The Prism. This will be your weapons, materials, and everything else you need in the simulation. The idea behind it is simple. For one, we thought it would be more realistic if your in-game weapons and materials were actually real, at least in terms of aesthetics. They don’t actually shoot real bullets. The other idea was that, in real life, you can only hold so much stuff. This contraption limits you to its volume, as it turns into whatever items you want to use. The Sphere has enough volume to become anything you will need in the simulation, but if it is too big, like this …” She looked at the Sphere, and it morphed into a large sniper rifle. “Then that will be the only thing you can carry.” She held the sniper out horizontally in both hands. It changed into two pistols, one in either hand. A small white orb grew off of her right hip. “If you prefer something smaller, you can utilize something like these dual pistols and still have some material left over for a grenade if you wanted. Any leftover material that you aren’t using can be attached to your utility belt that you will be given before we begin. If you do throw a grenade, that volume will then regenerate out of the Sphere holder on your belt. This is the same material as the walls and floor around you. The generator on your belt pulls the material directly from there.” She grabbed the small orb on her belt, and it turned into a small grenade. “Speaking of grenades, although there is no friendly fire in The Prism, grenades can still damage the thrower, so be careful. Don’t throw them too close.” She smirked.
“Now for the money part,” she continued. “Everyone starts out with 1,000 credits to spend, and everyone will be given one pistol with two clips and one grenade to start. Everything else will cost credits to purchase. Once something is purchased, it is yours to switch to and from for free anytime you want while in Phase 1. However, there is a catch. Don’t think that if you’re camping in the back, sniping people, that you can instantly whip out a pistol if someone comes up on your tail. There is a time delay of thirty seconds for switching guns and materials. There is also a countdown timer on reload speed. This time varies with each weapon and will be displayed on the screen of your Shell. Lastly, ammo is not free!” she yelled. “Every time you reload your weapon, it will cost you. The cost depends on what kind of weapon you have and what kind of ammunition it takes. Some of it can be expensive. Don’t waste your ammo.” Her weapons formed back into the large white sphere, which she stuck to the side of her belt. It looked big and awkward, though Quin figured he would always have a weapon in his hand and so the Sphere would never be full size on his belt. “Now, let’s get everyone a belt and a Sphere. We will pull you all in ten at a time to get one. Line up.” Everyone got into somewhat of a line. Quin and his group were in the middle.
They finally got to the front and entered back into the control room. They were quickly handed a belt and a Sphere and told to go to the other side of the room to put it on. When Quin was handed his Sphere, he was surprised at how lightweight it was. The belt attached with a clip in the front, but there were also magnets that attached to the ones around his waist for extra security. He couldn’t tell if they were attaching to the magnets in the suit or his body.
Once everyone was geared up, the short man, Javier, came back to speak to them. “Now that we’re all ready to go, it’s time for one last thing.” He turned around and looked out the window at the simulation room. “Ladies and gentlemen, behold,” he said as he held his hands out. The whole room came alive. The floors rose, and the walls moved to form a large building. It took a few minutes for it to finish, and the whole group was in awe during the entire process, even Quin. The technology was impressive, to say the least. It was the most amazing thing that he had ever witnessed. “The terrain you will be fighting in,” Javier said while turning around with a huge smile on his face, “is a large, thirty story building. Each floor is unique and different from the last. You will be placed on a random floor, twelve people to a floor. The other group will be placed on different floors. That leaves eight floors unoccupied at the start, and you never know where the opponent may be. This gives you time to figure out your Spheres and your Shells in simulation. But don’t take too long; the simulation ends after three hours.” He looked at his watch and quickly looked back up. “We need to get going. It’s almost time to start. One final note: There are elevators on every floor. They will take you to your starting floor, but after that, they cannot be accessed, and you must use the stairwells. Once you are eliminated from the simulation, they will become available to use again so you can return back here. If you cannot get yourself to safety after elimination, just call for help, and we will come evacuate you. We are watching every floor at all times. We will see you, and we can track you. We will know if you need help, do not worry. Now, let’s go,” he said with another big smile as he clapped his hands and rubbed them quickly together.
He walked them back out to the simulation room, where they entered the first floor of the building. Javier walked them to a set of four elevators and started calling three teams at a time and their floor number. Quin, Blair, Jordan, and Timothy, along with two other teams of four, were called to go to floor 17. Quin noticed that the small pale girl and her male partner who fought at the dining hall were on the same floor as them. Hopefully they didn’t fight each other the whole time. They arrived on their floor. Everything was still stark white. There was no color in sight. This floor seemed to be laid out like a typical office building with desks and cubicles scattered about.
“Are you all ready?” the pale girl asked. “I’m Alice. I expect you all to keep up. The point is to survive. Don’t go and do something stupid, because I won’t risk my life to save you.” She glared at the man that she yelled at in the HUE. He rolled his eyes and looked the other way. She continued. “I’m not your boss, and I’m not going to pretend to be. But I do say that if we want to survive, we should stick together, have a solid plan, and that includes having some sort of leader. Doesn’t have to be me, but if no one else steps up, I gladly will.” She paused, waiting for a response. After no one questioned her, she said, “Good. Like I said, you don’t have to follow me, but if you do, then I expect you to listen.”
Quin wasn’t buying her tough act, but everyone else seemed to be. He assumed she had been underestimated her entire life for her size and fragile appearance, and he could understand why she put on a hard exterior. He did agree with her though, there had to be order. If she wanted to play captain, then he would let her, at least until she suggested something too risky.
Javier’s voice came over an intercom. “Now that everyone is in position, we can begin. Your Shells will be activated in 3, 2 , 1…” Everyone’s Shells instantly encased their eyes.
Quin looked around, and his white surroundings were now fully colored. Everything looked as real as if he were actually in an office building. He looked at the people around him and found that they no longer wore the tight grey suits. Instead, they were wearing blue battle gear: ballistic vests, helmets, cargo pants, the works. Everyone’s names floated above their head in blue lettering except for Blair, Timothy, and Jordan, whose names appeared in green lettering.
“Everybody, get ready,” Javier’s voice said. “The battle will begin… NOW!” Everything went silent. The twelve of them stood breathless, waiting for something to happen. After nothing did, everyone scrambled for their Sphere to get a weapon. Quin held up his Sphere. Pictures of guns and materials appeared all over it as he rotated it. Above the Sphere, “1,000” floated in white lettering. He saw the free pistol, which he took and put in the holster on his side. As the Sphere shrunk, so did the options available on it. It only displayed materials that the sphere had enough material to produce. Quin bought a small automatic assault rifle for 400 credits. The number on top of his sphere blinked red and changed to 600.
When Quin finished, he looked around at everyone else. A couple of them were still struggling to figure out how to use the Sphere. Alice was waiting with a semi-automatic rifle in her arms and a grenade on her belt. Blair held a pistol and had a shotgun strapped to her back. Timothy held dual pistols, and Jordan carried the same assault rifle as Quin. Two grenades sat on her hip.
“Let’s move out,” Alice said. Before she had a chance to turn around, the door across the room burst open with a loud crash.
Three men in red rushed in and took a shot, hitting Alice in the back. She fell to the floor, screaming.
“Holy Shhhh… AGHHHH! It hurts so bad. AHHH! I think my back is broken!” Blood curdling screams poured out of her as she tried to crawl away towards the elevators. Her battle gear disappeared, exposing her grey suit. She was no longer part of the simulation.
The rest of the group jumped behind tables and a desk for cover. Quin grabbed Blair and pulled her down just as a bullet flew past where she’d been standing a moment before. This was real, Quin thought. This wasn’t a game.