I WAS VERY LATE to Ivan Lozovsky's introductory lecture, but it wasn't my fault. Tyulenev sent me to see the supply officer, and it took me a long time to find him. And when I got to the huge warehouse, he'd plunked along at a turtle's pace to dig out a set of athletic clothes, a couple changes of underwear, shoes, and the rest of the standard kit for a newbie under the Dome.
So, at ten to eight, late by a whole fifty minutes, I quietly stole into the pitch-black room. Crouching down, I walked over to a free armchair near the door. The presenter, passionately speaking about a table on the big screen, didn't even seem to notice.
"Lozovsky told us about your little mishap last night," the girl next to me whispered unexpectedly. Much to my surprise, I'd sat down next to Anya from First Medical. "He said it was a perfect example of how not to play."
"What did he tell you?" I asked. I wasn't so surprised it came up but hearing it had been cast in a negative light caught me off guard.
Anya, not even trying to hide her mockery, told me the whole story. In it, a newbie had entered the game with no equipment or weapon, and no idea how to find our base. He then wandered around at random and almost got eaten by bugs, but a better player shot him first, just to spare him the torment... A strange retelling, to put it lightly. But I didn't dispute it. Let the newbies believe this tall tale. No skin off my nose, if it's for the good of the faction.
"Say, Kirill, show me your eyes?" Anya asked barely audibly. "They said you made them really crazy."
Why not? I removed my dark glasses. Anya didn't recoil but froze and stared at me with her pupils wide in astonishment. In them, I saw a reflection of a dark blue flame.
"Pretty spooky..." the girl admitted, "but I think it's nice and even cute. I could drown in those eyes. When I enter the game, I'll try to make mine just like that. If I don't like it, I'll just put it back before I start."
The other people around us started looking back and shushing. Our conversation was making it hard for them to hear. I put my glasses back on and concentrated on the speech by our faction diplomat. Ivan Lozovsky who was just finishing a section about, as far as I understood, the history of the Human-3 Faction's settlement in the game that bends reality.
Unfortunately, I missed most of it, but the very end was quite informative. The diplomat mentioned that recently, our faction had been recruiting too many soldiers and not enough scientists and inventors. It was making it hard for us to understand and reproduce the new equipment, weaponry and technology we got from our neighbors. And that, he said, was why our leadership had ordered approximately fifty students brought in from technical institutes. Character class in the game was, as a rule, related to what the person did in real life. And so, Ivan Lozovsky was confident that our faction would be gaining a few dozen sorely needed scientists, architects and technicians.
What could I say? Now I had a good explanation for yesterday's mass expulsion. Apparently, the alarming situation with aggressive neighbors in the game had caused the need for a large number of soldiers with real-world experience to defend our lands. But there were enough of those in our faction now, and the best our country had to offer were already under the Dome. But even if they did take the Construction, Chemistry or Physics skills, natural-born warriors would be about as much use in laboratories as tits on a teapot. They didn't have the base knowledge, neither the mathematical background, nor the higher Intelligence. Building such a workforce required a different foundation. So, the leaders of the Dome had decided to recruit students from the upper classes of bachelor's programs, graduate courses and science institutes.
I looked at the young specialists around me. All of them were listening attentively, hanging off every word. I could read sincere enthusiasm on their faces. They wanted to dive headfirst into their work. I was getting the impression that practically everyone else was a volunteer, who had signed up without any blackmail or police pressure. That made my small group of expelled gamers look even more surprising. They must have needed us for some reason, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
I got distracted, because the presenter brought up a new image on screen. Some kind of honeycomb pattern with differently colored hexagons. Ivan Lozovsky adjusted the microphone on his collar and continued his speech:
"So then, we've already got a handle on classes and skills. We discussed the motivation and rewards for your difficult work. We have studied the history of our faction and had a brief run-down of our neighbors. Now is the time to talk about geography."
He zoomed in on the honeycombs and I could see that the hexagons were overlaid on a topographic map of forests, rivers and swamps.
Ivan Lozovsky narrated:
"The Geckho told us that our entire planet in the game that bends reality is divided into perfect hexagons with edges of approximately six miles. These six-sided boxes are called different things: hexes, hexagons, cells, although recently the term 'node' has been catching on, taken from some computer game. Anyway, these nodes form a kind of mosaic that covers the whole surface of the planet. Any faction in the game controls at least one node by definition. Each node has a surface area of eighty square miles — that is easily enough to build a starting base and begin producing a colony's essential survival needs."
"So, can a faction control several of these nodes?" The nerd was back with another question.
However, today the diplomat was not so annoyed and answered eagerly:
"Yes, of course. If they have the forces to capture and hold the territory, why not? All nodes have different climates, landscapes and resources. No one territory contains every necessary resource, but most things can be found within a relatively small area. So, a faction must expand to continue to grow. Our Human-3 Faction currently controls five hexagons. We captured the fifth just four days ago, and that was what allowed us to bring more people into the game that bends reality. Those people are all of you."
Everyone started chattering and looking around. Then the nerd asked another question:
"So, is there a strict formula of how many people a faction can have depending on the number of these 'nodes?'"
Ivan Lozovsky again reacted fairly positively to the question and answered in great detail:
"Yes, of course. We only figured it out recently. But the number of nodes is less important than their development level. A level-one node allows eighty-seven players. A level-two node allows two-hundred sixty-one. A level-three, then, gives seven-hundred-eighty-three players. We do not yet have a development-level-four node, although such a well-developed hexagon would allow us to bring a whole two thousand three hundred forty-nine people into the game. Right now, we have just one level-three node — our Capital. When you first enter the game, you'll appear right at its center, which is approximately half a mile west of our main base. Beyond our highly developed and fortified Capital, we have another three nodes to the south. Two level-two: Yellow Mountains, and Jungles, and one level-one, the farthest away: Antique Beach. Finally, our most recent addition, the Eastern Swamp, which is to the east of our Capital. We've just finished conquering it from the forest spirits. We are actively building roads and fortifications there now. And so, the Human-3 Faction can have a total of one thousand four hundred seventy-nine players."
Well, well... I didn't understand what he meant by forest spirits, but no one sitting in the hall was surprised, so he must have talked about them earlier. But my attention caught on something else. I was number 1470, and there were just 1479 people in our faction. That meant we had already used practically our entire limit! And until we captured new territories or built up the nodes we already had, there could be no reinforcements. So that's what the diplomat meant yesterday when he said we would not be needing a sixteenth Corncob any time soon!
The lecture continued. From there, though, it covered only narrow and specific topics such as what resources are necessary to construct certain buildings, how many people can work in one laboratory, and what bonuses a good leader can give to science or production teams. It was of little importance to my Prospector and, to be honest, I got a bit bored and barely made it to the end. What was more, I was fearfully hungry. It was scary to think, but I hadn't eaten for a whole day, since right before the final match of the online tournament!
* * *
Over breakfast, our group of six sat at a separate table. And though Anya and Masha were trying to memorize the maze, Denis was trying to get under my skin with jibes about my change in appearance. I refused to give the girls any advice, not wanting to spoil their chances of getting a higher stat-point bonus. The gopnik, though, I just ignored, which got him more and more worked up.
We had already finished breakfast, when the same First Legion girl we'd met last night came to our table. For a second, she just looked over all six of us, then confidently alighted her gaze on me:
"Gnat, you're already in the game, so you're on the schedule. You'll be going with Kisly's group to Antique Beach at ten o'clock for a standard four-hour shift of border patrol."
To say I was surprised would be saying nothing. How could my level-4 Prospector make any kind of border guard, when he couldn't even deal with a swarm of flying bugs?! As if reading my thoughts, she added:
"The border is usually patrolled by the First and Second Legions, but we were working all night, so today we'll rest. That means other people have to take that duty. Antique Beach is calm, prime territory for a newbie to get his bearings. What's more, the leader of the group, Kisly, is a level-40 Machine-Gunner, so he can explain stuff and protect you if anything happens."
The girl with number 343 on her shirt turned around and left. I got the feeling my relationship with my new acquaintances had changed. I now sensed a certain respect and even some envy. They hadn't yet seen their virt-pods, but I was already a fully-fledged player. I was on the schedule and the faction was counting on me. Breakfast soon came to an end, I said goodbye and headed for my Corncob.
"Kirill, tonight, you have to tell us what centaurs are like, alright?" Masha asked. With a confident voice, I promised I would, trying not to reveal my confusion.
What was this about centaurs? Although the name of the place I was going, Antique Beach, did seem to imply centaurs, minotaurs and various other creatures from Greek mythology. Could they really exist? Was I going to see them today with my own eyes?!
Please switch to the pop-up to complete the payment.
Complete the daily and EXP missions, as well as every week’s reading missions to obtain EXP and SS as rewards.Learn more about the rules 1. You can obtain the corresponding EXP and Bonus SS as rewards by completing daily missions and EXP missions, as well as weekly reading missions. 2. The obtained EXP can raise your user level. 3. Bonus SS can be used to unlock chapters, gift authors, etc. They are effective for 30 days. 4. Daily Tasks and corresponding rewards renew daily at 00:00 UTC+8. Don't forget to claim your rewards in time. 5. Weekly Reading Missions refer to the time you spend reading novels and comics on Webnovel every week. 6. The weekly reading time is calculated while your device is connected to the Internet. This might result in a delay of several minutes.