The story so far:
Attack Of The Ghosts Of Free Life
I was so happy on November the tenth, I finally got to leave the mental hospital in Medi City. My life before entering the hospital was a full story of its own, better saved for another time... But for your understanding I'll give you a summary.
I came up with an idea for a social network/game, I wrote a book around it, and before long, I had someone wanting to create it. The name of it is Free Life. Free Life is its own system, separate from -but can connect to- the Internet, gaming companies such as Nintendo or Playstation, and phone companies. The system consisting of a single helmet. You put it on and you will be put right inside of Free Life. Think of it like the Tron movies, instead of playing on a screen, you're dropped into the grid. Only in Free Life everything looks, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes real. So real you can't tell reality from Free Life. It was a product of ultimate escapism. Can you see where this is going yet?
In the development stages I volunteered as a test subject for the game along with Brian Kulbert Jung -The worlds smartest person we know of who, as a hobby, is an inventor and is the brains behind the makings of Free Life. He's a friendly guy and very helpful but his people skills aren't the best. He's very used to being alone. He's the same age as myself, has a strong build, short, brown hair, and blue eyes.- and a few other people. Now, no mental issues showed up in anyone until halfway threw. Only Brian, myself, and two others had yet to develop any problems -from what we could tell- because we had stronger minds.
We fixed the problem with a time limitation. You could play for six hours but then you had to stay out for eighteen hours. Even this was pushing it though since an hour outside is a day inside.
All though the time limit saved all new players from harm, it was apparent that it was a little too late too help me. By the time Free Life was ready too be sold Brian and his assistant Senta -an artificial intelligence program with its own mind, personality, and digital body, also capable of learning not to mention. If you didn't no better, she could have been another person just as smart as Brian in a video chat room.- finally realized my mental state was starting to become unbalanced. He quickly advised that I play as little as possible if at all from then on.... I tried but failed.
After a year I thought Free Life was reality well the outer world was... well, something else. When some of my friends couldn't stand it anymore, they decided to use some really, really tough love by trapping me inside Free Life.
Believe it or not, it worked, and along the way I also saved both Free Life and Earth from some even more insane people then myself. Once the adventure was over, I admitted myself into the best mental hospital I could find.
Now that I was out, my plan was to go back home in Sunset City, see my friends and get back to writing, something I haven't done in months. Of course... first I had to get past a mob of reporters and fans who wanted statements, for me to sign their copy of Free Life, to shake my hand and so on... you get the picture.
My two friends Jane -An old school friend who was easy to tease but generally calm and sweet. She was the same age as myself and had long brown hair and blue eyes- and Soren, -My assistant/second in command/friend from and in the AHF (Anti-Hacker Force) which I had been leader of until my temporary leave. Soren is an incredibly hansom man with brown eyes and slightly messy brown hair. He kind of reminds my of the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who only he's twenty like me.- who had come to pick me up, helped me fight my way threw the crowed well still trying to be polite to them.
* * *
Some hours later, I found myself standing just inside my doorway listening to a large group of people call out “Welcome Home, Paul!” to me. I was so shocked I ended up stumbling backwards at first -that and crowds weren't my thing-. Another moment later, I was walking threw the crowd of friends and family saying my hellos and thanks for the worm welcome back. The group of people partied on for most of the night although some left before to long.
In the morn... I mean, afternoon, I found myself sleeping on the couch in my living room with a drink still barely in my hand hanging down to the floor and my shirt pushed up so that my full stomach was exposed.
Groaning, I sat up as I scratched my stomach and looked around. Then I looked to the drink in my hand. I lifted it to my nose and sniffed it and gave it a taste. Someone spiked my rootbeer... I realized. I groaned again then got up and dumped the rest of the drink down the sink. I went to the bathroom for some medicine for my headache and to take a leak only to discover Sara there.
Sara was a friend of mine I met at a manga lovers get together... or whatever it was called. She was perverted and mischievous but quit harmless... though she could go a little to far sometimes, but she does what she can to make up for it. She was a year older then myself and she had short,black hair -currently in a total mess like my own- and forest green eyes.
We stared at each other for a moment, in confusion and surprise. After a moment, she said “Well I guess its only fair considering how many times I've caught you with your pants down.” with a small, tired smile stuck to her face.
I could feel my face heat up but instead of getting flustered, I said “Sorry, didn't think anyone was still here.” and closed the door.
I went down to my bedroom too wait for her to get out of the bathroom only too discover Anna -an energetic girl who is also mischievous and playful. She was two years younger making her the youngest. She had Sandy, shoulder length hair and brown eyes. Her and Jane acted like rivals more often then not.- and Nana -A somehow graceful but clumsy girl who I met at a community club another friend talked me into going to. She was a year younger then me. You couldn't find a more beautiful girl around. Long, auburn hair, crystal blue eyes, and some wonderful curves that are hard to take your eyes off of. The funny thing about her is she hardly even knows how good she looks and doesn't really care as long as she can make herself useful.- sleeping on my bed without a blanket. At least they aren't half naked. I thought to myself as I walk over and flopped down on the end of the large bed where their feet were just out of the way. After a few moments I looked over the edge of the far side of the bed. Jane was down on the floor with the blanket. So thats why these two don't have one...
Jane started to grumble in her sleep. Something about Anna being a bother to her again. I smiled then rolled onto my back and dosed off again.
When I woke up for the second time I really needed to go but when I ran over to the washroom, I knocked first. No answer, I'm safe I thought to myself and went in.
Afterword, I went around the house to see who was here still. Like before, all four girls were still here -now two of them awake and in the living room- and I found Soren laying in the hammock outside. With a count of six people -that's including me- I made sure to cook enough eggs, bacon and hash-browns for everyone. After it was cooked I set everything out on the table and woke up the rest of my friends. Once the plates were clear Nana and Jane cleaned and put the dishes away for me and we spent a good portion of the afternoon chilling out, talking, and playing video games. At some point, I looked around the room and thought We still act like kids, don't we?
We were more or less just messing around in life and getting away with it, particularly myself. I don't think I ever really grew up... then again, I also tended to be more mature as a kid as well. Still, I have never worked a normal job before. I've been making money from fictional writing since I was a teenager, which has never once been a hassle for me since my heads always in the clouds.
I don't only write anymore though. As the man who came up with Free Life, I had been made the figure head for it. Along with that digital crown came some responsibility, not many though since I wasn't really good as a business man and the CEO who took his social network/game and asked to use my idea to evolve his, took most of those responsibility for himself. He still made sure I was okay with everything he was doing with Free Life as well of course considering the amount of opportunity Free Life created for other business' as long as we allowed it. An example of this would be schools. The average school day is six hours. But if you have it in Free Life. You can do the whole day in an hour.
I also work as the head of the AHF, as I've already mentioned. Not that I did much office work there, I had Soren for most of my office work since he was no good in the field himself but very smart. What I spent most of my time doing in the AHF was working in the field. It would have been a waist to let my marksmen skills to go to waist considering my ability.
To sum this up my jobs are to daydream, do some kingly duties like make a few decisions, give interviews to the public now and then, and smile for the camera, and finally play a first person shooter game.
Speaking of that first person shooter game, Sorens cell phone started ringing. I recognized the tone for a call from the AHF. He stepped out onto the porch to talk and I followed him out. After a few minutes he hung up, turned to me, and said “There is something off going on in Free Life. I'll talk later, I have to go now.”
“Alright, do you have your system?”
“Ya, I brought it with me. Thanks for the food, I'll call later.” with that said he shot back into the house and down the hall to the guest room.
I stepped back into the house and notice all eyes turn from the hallway to me. “Somethings going on in Free Life and they're not sure what it is.” I explained
“Soren didn't tell you what it was?” Anna asked.
“Didn't have the time. He needed to get there right away.” I answered.
“I wonder what happened...?” Jane said.
“Not a clue but I have to go as well, I've got a bit of work to do.” Sara said casually as she slipped her shoes on and started for the door behind me. “I'll see you later okay? And don't for get to catch up with your manga, you've missed a lot.” turning back to the girls she added “See you all soon as well.” with a sweat smile on her face, then left.
After a pause, Anna said “Anyone else find that strange?”
“Don't worry about it Anna.” I said. “Come on, I'll take Sorens spot to finish the rest of the game.”
“What?!” Anna whined “No way! I haven't a chance against you in a shooting game!”
“Come on I'll go easy on you,” I said with a grin “If you win I'll make it worth your while.”
“You'll give me a kiss?!”
“Ah... you know, I actually meant I'd buy you a piece of cake... but I do have some Hershey's kiss' around if you haven't already found them.”
“You jerk! Wrong kind of kiss!”
“Sorry, that's all I have for you.” I informed her as I picked up the Wii-mote.
Anna made a pouting face as she picked hers up well Jane snickered at her.
Two hours later I was starting to wonder what was going on in Free Life myself. Soren should have called me sometime during the first hour, I'm sure. It shouldn't be taking him this long. It had been two days in there already. I began to wonder if I should go in after him.... Then again, I really didn't want to go back in so soon, I was still uncertain of myself even though the doctors had me go in once in awhile at the hospital to see how well I could do and they were pleased with the results.
“Whats wrong Paul?” Nana asked me finally.
“Hm? Ah... I was just wondering about Soren... he's taking a long time.”
“Now that I think about it ya, its been a few hours since he went in... do you think we should go in after him and check it out?” Anna asked.
I hesitated to answer, but finally I said “I think it might be a good idea... but first I think I'll try calling him.”
Going over to the house phone, I tried to reach Soren. I got no answer. I tried again, still no answer. After a third try I gave up and started to think... finally I got an idea. This time I called for Brian. I got an answer. “Hello, this is Senta!” Her pleasant voice sounded threw the phone.
“Hello Senta, this is Paul, is Brian in Free Life right now?”
“Yes, he is dealing with some issues on that side. There something wrong with a few programs and files are all scattered about at random.”
Welcome back from the hospital, sorry we could come see you.”
“Perfect.” I said sarcastically “Thank you, don't worry about it though, its okay. Can you still reach Brian without going in?”
“No, that's one of the problems. Phone connections between Earth and Free Life have been cut. Quiet the feet for the hackers behind this considering Brian put Free Life together. This tech is more advanced then anything the world has ever seen.”
“I figured it would be something like that... Can you still pass back and forth?”
“It takes time, and it is hard to do.”
“But you can do it?”
“Good, Can you tell me what's going on in Free Life exactly?”
“I'm not too sure... but I think it has too do with the ghosts of Free Life you told us about before you left.”
“The ghosts of Free Life?”
“Yes. A few weeks after you left, people started to notice more and more of them. We've been working to remove them from the system or, at the very least, relocate them as people have been getting distressed about meeting them.”
“Makes sense. Why do you think they're involved though? Most of them tend to be in a state of shock from being separated from their body and they rarely do much more then a bit of pacing, if that.”
“Not at this point. Most of them seem to have snapped out of the shock and are moving as much as normal players. You could almost mistake them for living payers if they didn't fade out when you shine a light on them.”
“Have they been acting violent?”
“No. If anything they tend to be depressed for sometime before they start acting like their old selves again. They have been acting strange for about a week Free Life time now though, like they're struggling with something. It started when the hackers started messing with the system. They only just cut communications and hour ago Real time though.”
“I see... has anything else been damaged?”
“Can you find the hackers doing this?”
“No. Not unless they contact us first...”
“How's Brian doing against the hackers? Can he regain communications?”
“Not anytime soon. The file is missing. Most likely rearranged and mixed up with the others... its a mess.”
“Great... I finally get back home, and Free Life starts getting trashed...! Bloody hell!”
“Sorry...” Senta quietly said.
I sighed then said “Its not your fault, its alright. I'm going to... going to go in and see what I can do. Is Brian at the main base?”
“Yes. Should I let him know your coming?”
“Please, Soren too if you can find him.”
“Not a Problem. I'm happy to help!”
With that we both hung up. Once the phone was down Nana and Jane quickly said something along the lines of “You can't honestly plan to go back in already?!” at the same time.
“You think I want too? I wanna lay back and continue to chill out here with you guys! But there are some kind of super hackers destroying the place in there right now and as the icing on top we have a bit of panic because of the ghosts! They could use the help.”
“But you still have just gotten back. Can't it wait a little longer?” Nana asked.
I hesitated for a moment. For her, I really wanted to stay very badly, but I knew better, so “No. Things are getting worse and worse on that side and they could use my help for trying to figure out a way to deal with the ghosts. If you think you can help, come along.”
“Sounds like fun!” Anna said.
“This isn't a game!” I snapped.
“Alright, alright...” Anna grumbled.
“I suppose I could help Brian...” Nana finally said. “or maybe help organize people.”
“Good, Jane?” I said looking to her.
“Fine... I'll help you. But I'm not going to let you out of my sights!”
“Sounds fair. Alright lets go. Everyone got their gear?”
“No...” Nana and Jane said together again. They glanced at each other looking surprised that they had done it again.
“Hurry home and get them then. Meet me at the main base, alright?”
“Just don't go rushing ahead of us okay?!” Jane demanded.
“Got it. See you inside.” I said.
“See you there.” Nana replied.
“Right, see you.” Jane added.
Well Nana and Jane made their way out Anna and I grabbed are gear. Once our helmets were strapped on, Free Life started up and I opened my eyes again, this time in the starting room/screen. In the endless white room, I pick myself up from off the floor where I had been laying comfortably and stepped over to the wall in front of me. I touched the wall once too open the avatar selection screen. I picked my AHF agent avatar out of the five I had made. Once my Avatar was selected it formed itself around me and the screen changed to the world selection screen. I chose the first world that connected to everyone else in the world. With my chose made, the room around me fell away.
I opened my eyes for the second time to find myself laying in my bed. Getting up, I put on my uniform then touched my index fingers to my thumbs to make a picture frame then stretched them apart causing a slightly tinted, small screen to appear, formally known as the mini screen. Scrolling to the bottom, I found the AHF page that kept all agents informed of everything that was going on and had all bases listed. Going to the list of bases, I tapped the main HQ and suddenly I was teleported inside the building in the main lobby.
Going to the front desk, I said “Hello I need my friends teleported here when they enter Free Life.”
“Really...? well I can't normally do that unless-”
“You get permission from the top? I know. I'm from the top.”
“Wha?” She said as she finally looked up from her nails “Oh! S-sorry Mr. Freed I-I didn't...”
“Thats why you have to look up when you're talking to someone.”
“Sorry... welcome back sir. You needed some friends teleported here?”
“Just give me the names.”
“Anna Green, Jane Terrace, and Nana Sanders.”
“Got it... Ms. Green is already in. I'll bring her over right away.”
A few seconds later Anna was standing by my side. I greeted her then turned back to the woman. “Is Soren Andrews still around?”
“I think he went up to your office after getting a message from Senta.”
“I see thank you then. Send the other two up when they get here please.”
Anna and I made are way up stairs to my office and found Soren sitting on the black couch against the wall immediately to the right. “Finally! I was beginning to worry! Anna? You came too?”
“Yup! Sounded like it could be some good entertainment.” Anna said as she grinned wide.
“I told you we aren't here to have fun.” I snapped at her again. Turning back to Soren, I asked “Has anything new come up?”
“The ghosts and the panic are get getting worse.”
“You haven't started trying to get them back out?” I questioned.
“They haven't started trying to escape yet?” Anna added.
“In the panic, most people forget that they can exit Free Life at any time they want.” Soren explained. to Anna then said “We've been trying get them out but many people aren't listening very well, again because of the panic. This would have been easier if we had an emergency ejection to force the worlds population out of Free Life.”
“I'll have Brian make one later...” I said half joking.
“Anyway, there are still a lot of people who are having fun with this or think its some kind of joke we came up with... they all just aren't seeing the danger they're in...”
“And their going to regret it if things get any worse.” I added.
Just then, I got a phone call. Opening my mini screen, I went to the phone icon and tapped it. It was a call from Brian. “Hello?” I said.
“Hey, finally in? I can't come over to talk with you... things just got worse. The hackers have just cut our ability to exit Free Life... we can't even go to the start screen like you did when you were locked in. What's worse is that people can still enter but once you're in Free Life's connected world, you can't leave.”
I was speechless for a moment as I stared down at my mini screen in shock. Anna and Soren were just as bad, but then Anna said “Jane and Nana are still coming...” in fear that they would be trapped as well.
The thought of them trapped. scared me just as much and it snapped me out of my shock. “Have Senta tell Nana and Jane to stay out, then have her send a warning out to as many people as she can no matter what!”
“On it.” there was a few moments of distant voices, then Brian came back. “Okay, she's on her way.”
“Good. Are you making any progress with trying to undo the damage?”
“No. I get one thing back in place, they mess up ten... I can say that they seem to be looking for something besides cutting us off from the outer world.”
“Can you tell what?”
“I'm not totally sure... but it looks like any data on...”
Brian was silent for a moment but then, “You, it seems... they're looking for you.”
“Can you show them?”
“Show them what? Show them where you are!?”
“Ya... but why!?”
“In the hopes that they'll stop destroying the place maybe?!”
“F-fine... but this is nuts!” after a few minutes he said “Its done...”
In the next second, there was a tremor. Something you never get in Free Life. Next, screens appeared everywhere you looked and the face of a psychotic man I had met once, but won't forget, appeared on them. It was the first General I defeated when I had been locked in this world before. Back then, he was researching the ghosts of Free Life and tried to turn me into one.