100 Into the Sun

    Colonial disappeared around him and then everything went black.  The darkness lasted only a moment before he found himself in the white room he had originally created his character in. He felt panic welling up inside him but he pushed it down and willed himself to remain calm.  "I suppose my sins were too great to warrant anything good."

    He held his hands out in front of him.  He felt normal, no magic or fire aura.  This lasted only a few seconds before he felt a jarring impact and suddenly the white room vanished.

    Nick Phire coughed and pushed up against the capsule he was enclosed in.  It cracked open a few inches but then stopped.  Thick smoke rushed in and he heard the familiar sound of fire alarms.  He brought his knees up to push against the jammed lid and managed to widen the game another inch.  It was nowhere near enough to slide out.  "This must be the Gladis Corp Stasis capsule."  Through the gap he could see a large room with dozens of other capsules, all of them appeared to be open. The room was quite dark but something had engaged the emergency lighting. He used his hand to feel blindly for any control levers or handles that might open the capsule.

    The smoke began to thicken, the temptation to just lay back and accept his Karmic fate was nearly overwhelming but the thought of his friends and Colonial drove him to keep trying.

    "Nix?"  A female's voice called him from another section of the room.  "Are you in here Nix?"

    He recognized the voice immediately.  "Darsi?  I'm over here!"

    Within seconds she found him and a flashlight shone into his partially opened capsule.  "Nice jumpsuit.  Let's get you out of there."

    Nix continued coughing, after a moment the lid opened a bit more and he was able to slide out.  He tried to thank her but a coughing fit stopped him.

    "Get on the floor Nix, the air is better there."  Darsi was prying open one of the panels on his capsule. "We need to snatch the 'Character Card' or you can say goodbye to this account."

    In Deep-stay capsules, starting stats as well as log-in information was stored on a small chip called a Character Card.  Everything else was kept on the game server, you couldn't access it without the card.

    Nix nodded through his cough and lay down.  He covered his mouth with his sleeve, it seemed to help but the smoke stung his eyes making his vision blurry.  "We only have a few minutes before we are stuck."  If there one thing he was an expert in, it was fires.

    "Got it."  Darsi removed the data card and placed it in her backpack.  She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the exit.  She was wearing a hooded mask that covered her face.  "Don't let go of my hand, no matter what."

    Nix followed her as she made her way to an elevator.  Darsi had obviously studied the layout of the building.  He slipped several times on the smooth floor and managed to stub his toes on a few of the capsules they were forced to go around.  They were opened, but Darsi didn't bother with their cards. He could see a flashing light on the far side of the room.  "Where did everyone go?"

    "You see that flashing light?  That leads to an exit where Gladis Corp and local law enforcement are waiting to recover their contracted employees."  Darsi pulled him into a small elevator and a moment later they were shooting downward.

    "Why are we going down?"

    "There's an access tunnel on the bottom floor.  Its kept locked up, but thankfully I have the code."

    She glanced at him, "glad to see me?"

    Nick nodded.  He suspected she had some sort of breathing device behind her mask, she hadn't struggled at all in the rapidly thickening smoke.

    A few minutes later they were jogging down a dark tunnel, true to her word Darsi knew the code and had managed to open the door quickly.  Her flashlight was their only source of light.

    She was still holding his hand, "thought for sure you would have exited already.  I'm glad I checked!"

    "Checked?" Nick limped along beside her.

    When I accessed the system, I noticed that one capsule on this level remained closed, Capsule 1467-777."

    "Only mine stayed locked?" Nick breathed a sigh of relief when she slowed to a walk.

    Darsi nodded, "someone overrode the safety protocol right after we came in, it wasn't our side."

    "Guess my existence here would raise too many questions. A neat and tidy death wraps things up nicely. Thank you."  Nix cursed quietly, his bare feet were scraped and bleeding.  "You have more Character Cards in that bag?"

    She slowed to a walk and handed him a small bag that contained his card and a half dozen others. "Keep these Nix, I have to turn the others into my people."

    Nick lifted the bag in his hands and pulled one out. "Seems to be a lot of cards in here." He turned it over in his hand. It was bigger than he would have thought, about the size of a playing card. "You guys came in rather hard. Was there a need to torch the place?"

    "Gladis did that too, the records server and the capsule cards were all rigged with pyrotech."

    Nick cleared his throat, his lungs still burning from smoke inhalation. "If the capsules cards were rigged to blow, how did you salvage so many?"

    Darsi smiled and let go of his hand. "I'm good...I was in the system and blocking capsule access. Truthfully I was keeping an eye out for yours, the others that you are carrying belong to my friends from the hub."

    "What will happen to Dalton and the rest of them?" He had given a handful of the crafters from the hub their own shops on the Glory docks.

    "That part is up to the courts. I have enough cards to prove that Gladis manipulated player stats."

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    "They had to have help from someone in Colonial."

    Darsi nodded in agreement. " Probably, but that's outside my wheelhouse."

    A deep rumbling drowned out any further talking, a rush of air that carried the scent of smoke, fire, and dust blew passed them. Nick frowned down the dark passageway from which they came. "Looks like the building collapsed."

    "Exactly what Gladis wanted, the lower level capsules will never be recovered." Darsi stopped when they finally arrived at another coded gate, this one had a stairway behind it. "No questions, or talking for a bit."

    Nick nodded and she opened the gate.

    The air had the warmth of a mid-fall night. The stairway leading up led them to another gate that opened into a deeply wooded area.  He had no real idea where Gladis hub had their capsule facility, there wasn't enough light for Nick to make a guess.

    Darsi pointed her flashlight north and flicked it off and on three times. Instantly a pair of headlights blinked on and a vehicle moved toward them.  A dark cargo van pulled up, Darsi held the side door open for him before closing it and hopping in the front.

    A man dressed in dark colors and wearing a black stocking hat was the only occupant of the van, he put the van in gear before he spoke.  "How'd it go Darsi?"

    Darsi held her bag up for him to see.  "Seamless."

    "Nice job. I'll take you to the crossroad,  your transport will be waiting there."  The man spoke with a slight English accent. Nick couldn't see his face from the back seat.

    The warmth and steady sound of the van made Nick drowsy, he nodded off a few times over the next half hour before the van stopped again.

    Darsi opened the passenger door and handed the man her bag. "Thanks for the ride!"

    The driver nodded and waited until Nick exited the vehicle.  "Nice working with you again Dars, be safe."

    "Same here.  Cya around."  Darsi waited until the taillights pulled away before letting out a long breathe

    Nick understood she had been concerned that the man would silence her.  He glanced at the blonde, she was gutsy and loyal. "Now what?"

    They were out in the countryside somewhere, two wide dirt roads intersected next to a sugarbeet field.  A sleek black car was pulled off the road nearby.  She smiled at him and used her fob to unlock the car.  "Now we take another ride."
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