Nearing dusk, the skies of the Mipedim desert turned soft shades of violet and pink. The clouds darkened and seemed just slightly purple themselves. A welcomed breeze whistled through the air of Hunter's Perimeter, a terrain of rocky cliffs and structures in a derelict state, many of which having collapsed. Aged and weathered belongings of previous travelers and soldiers lay buried in sand. Even a couple bones jutted out from the ground.
Atop one particular tower, a human and Mipedian watched the sun fall. Standing behind the short wall preventing sightseers from falling, Sobtjek stared out at the sky. The slender lizard's rough, orange scales covered his body. His yellow, reptilian eyes narrowed. The purple robe he wore had its hood up, his silver horns and back spikes poking out of the fabric. In his right hand, he grasped a dream-catcher like craft, constructed from tan wood and engraved with thin, tribal designs. A thick, painted glass with minor fractures had been placed in the center of the item. Its many faint colors reflected colored light onto part of the structure.
Behind him, seated on a slab of stone, Peyton the human closed his green eyes with a smile. The chubby, light skinned, and puffy nosed teenager's shaggy brown hair slightly blew with the breeze. Adorning him was a yellow t-shirt beneath an open, grey and green striped shirt with a fixed collar, shorts of a darker grey, and black and blue sneakers with white laces. He took the time to relax and absorb the tame weather.
Turning around, Sobtjek noticed Peyton's chill mood. The creature enjoyed having company like Peyton around every now and then. Though he found many Chaotic players annoying, Peyton was the exception. When he crossed paths with him just before this trip, he happily invited him. He needed a substitute anyway as his close assistant Ario grew distasteful of trips like these following a past quest. After them, Peyton and his friends, and Vinta barely survived the wrath of a certain M'arillian general and his brainwashed (former) allies, and encountered a ghost warrior and his elite stone soldiers, the Mipedian wished to never return there.
"It will take a little longer for the sun to be in the correct position," Sobtjek informed Peyton while turning back to the sky. The artifact they'd found belonged to a small legend inscribed on walls in an ancient cavern. If the tale told the truth, the reflected light from the glass would project the memories of the previous holders of the item. Though many wouldn't find its abilities useful at all, desiring ones they could use as a weapon, this one had Sobjtek's interest. Being able to see what ancient Mipedians once saw may reveal something indeed useful.
"No probs, Sob," Peyton said, opening his eyes and glancing at the aged Mipedian. "I ain't got no matches tonight and my boys are busy with a scan quest."
"Were those the three Chaotic players from our hunt for Owayki?" Sobtjek asked, curious.
"You guessed it, bro. I've known them for a long time now," Peyton confirmed, reaching for his scanner which sat to his right. He began pressing buttons and scrolled through a few things. "Yep, we've had some good times. I remember meeting Sarah first. She was the lady friend. Then I met Tom and Kaz when Tom was a total newbie to Chaotic."
A past first meeting of his own coming up, Sobtjek turned to Peyton again. "That reminds me when I first found you."
Peyton scratched his head, trying to remember that day. So many Mipedian friends he'd made later, recalling when he first bumped into many grew harder. When it came to Sobtjek, Peyton sadly drew a blank. He hummed.
"Sorry, pal, my brain seems to have deleted that," Peyton apologized, looking at the Mipedian. "You remember it, though?"
"Yes," Sobtjek answered. "It was atop a tower much like this, only not as tall, or weathered. Me and Ario were searching for a lost messenger who was supposed to deliver a message to Crown Prince Iflar. We never found him, unfortunately, but we found you. You had those ear plug gadgets in. You noticed us and greeted us kindly, then asked if we knew a way out of the location. Ario didn't like the idea as he took time to warm up to humans, as you remember."
Peyton grinned and snapped his fingers on his right hand, his memory jogged. "Bingo, that's it! Yep, it's all coming back to me now." The Chaotic player arose and began stretching as if he'd just done something actually taxing. "You know, all these first time moments bring me back to my first day as a Chaotic player. Feels like it was only yesterday. Aw yeah."
Within his mind, Peyton relived that first day. He'd just returned from an epic rock concert, sporting the band's logo tee instead of his normal wear. He also made off with a couple leftover sodas while sticking around after the show. He and a couple friends intended on meeting the band as they left, but they were gone before they could even spot them. Though disappointed, Peyton still left the show in a very good mood.
Heading upstairs to his bedroom, after stashing the sodas in the fridge, he hooked up to the web. He searched for his laptop and found it a minute later, underneath a jacket on his messy bed. In fact, his entire room was messy and he knew it. He thanked his lucky stars his parents never had a reason to come in here. Sometimes he planned to at the very least straighten it up a bit, but he procrastinated until he totally forgot every time.
After needing to find the charger for his nearly dead laptop, he logged onto his favorite chatting site, Chaotic's website, and the band's page and forum board. He dropped a call request for one of his friends, then checked out his Chaotic deck until he answered. He marveled over his fine collection of Mipedian creatures which he'd spent years creating. Seconds later, the friend accepted the request and he heard the sounds of someone coughing from his speakers.
"Called earlier than expected," a male, teenage voice said. "So, uh, hey. How was the show?"
"It was off the hook, my bro! Randy was on fire with his solo for Submerged. Best performance ever!" Peyton exclaimed, playing an air guitar while hopping off the bed.
"Sounds cool, but you know what I wanted to call you for," the caller hinted. Peyton remembered his friend asking him about keeping an eye out for something during the concert, but whatever it was, he couldn't remember.
"Just give me and my brain a second," Peyton asked, placing his hand over his chin. He spoke to himself, sifting through the events of the past couple days. He knew the caller and him discussed it the other day. But other than heading out to a pizzeria and spamming Chaotic matches with random online players, he drew a blank on that day already.
"Um, I could just tell you?" the caller suggested. "I wanted you to keep an eye out for that stalker dude in the Vendetta mask. Well, he may not be a stalker, but either way it's pretty freaky."
"Haha, that's it! Thanks, Jayce!" Peyton gratified the caller, Jayce, as he flopped back onto his bed. Some of the trash littering the sheets fell off the side.
"No problem. Anyway, did you see him by any chance? People have been saying he's been easy to spot out since nobody really wears masks at concerts like that," Jayce explained.
"Sorry, bro. Got too caught up in the concert to pay attention. I'll ask my other friends if they saw him," Peyton apologized, smiling.
"That's okay. So -" before Jayce could continue, the familiar chime of an email on the Chaotic site played. Peyton's eyes widened as he heard his friends gasp and seemingly fall from his chair. Did that really startle him?
"Whoa, my man! You okay?" Peyton asked, worried for his welfare.
"Sweet Jesus in Heaven, that actually scared me. Wow, um," Jayce answered, embarrassed. His voice had faded after the sound of the falling chair, but it began growing louder. He probably got back up. "What was that?"
"Chaotic messaging system. Looks like I got me some mail!" Peyton answered, clicking on the second tab and seeing his account page. Just as expected, the inbox icon had a small red number one next to it, symbolizing a new message. "Let's see what we got here. Hmm..."
Peyton didn't bother reading the sender's identity or even the subject, he just clicked the open option. The message displayed on the screen, and immediately Peyton realized this was no ordinary message. Instead of an actual message, a few random letters and numbers appeared on screen, in a size much larger than any other message. They all used the same size. Baffled, he blankly stared at his computer screen.
"What do we have here?" he asked himself.
"What is it?" Jayce asked Peyton.
"Just got this freaky message. It's nothing but a bunch of huge letters and numbers. It's like some kind of -"
"Code?' Jayce broke in.
"Yeah, something like that," Peyton confirmed. "You know something about this, J?"
"Maybe. Did the message come with a sender name or subject?" Jayce asked. Peyton scrolled up with the trackpad. In the spots where said information would be, nothing was there.
"Nope, totally blank," he answered, making his buddy's suspicions true.
There was a pause between the two, in which Peyton was about to break, until Jayce resumed talking.
"Well damn, Peyton," Jayce began, sounding like Peyton had just won something awesome. "You're not going to believe this."
Peyton could sense the surprise in Jayce's and grew excited, leaning forward and speaking right into his microphone. "Tell me! What'd you find, J?"
"First let me say I know what I'm talking about here. The code you got, it's from the Chaotic staff. Put it into your scanner and you can play the game for real," Jayce instructed. "Yes, I just said that. I swear I'm not lying."
Peyton became shocked, confused, and excited all at once. He truly couldn't believe what he'd just heard. Play the game for real? He wondered if Jayce was implying something huge and hidden?
"Whoa, like," were the only two words he could utter to his friend.
"I'm telling you, this isn't a joke. Chaotic is real, Peyton. I'm aware this may be quite a lot to cram into a couple sentences, but I'm not the best -" Jayce paused as he heard Peyton hop off his bed. The boy began searching for his scanner as he practically tore through the piles of trash and clothing around him. He muttered where it was, wishing he'd kept track of it. "You're trying to find your scanner, aren't you?"
"Precisely, bro. You can fill me in as soon as I -" Peyton stopped talking with a gasp and widened, glistening eyes. Having lifted an empty shoe box from the top of his overflowing laundry basket beside his door (much of it wasn't even clothing), he found it. His yellow scanner stuck out from the pocket of a stained sweatshirt. He removed it and ran back over to his bed, standing before it as he hit the power button.
"Found it?" Jayce asked.
"Yeah, found it in a hoodie pocket. You were saying, J?" Peyton answered while virtually pounding buttons on his scanner.
"Um, sure?" Jayce said. "Like I was saying, Chaotic's a very real thing. Some of our friends actually go there themselves, but the Codemasters, the sort of head honchos, prefer their players' mouths shut over it. You can guess why. That's why you've probably never heard of it."
"Whoa, that's totally awesome, dude!" Peyton gushed, laughing from his blown away state. "You head there, too?"
"Actually, I don't," Jayce replied, surprising Peyton. "I've never received a code, well, not yet at least. I'm guessing they only select professionals since the guys who got one are way better at this game than I am. You know me, I only got into Chaotic for the lore."
Peyton didn't understand. If these chosen players swore to seal their lips on all this, how did Jayce even know about this? Like he said, he'd never received a code, nor would he have a reason to get one in his inbox if his theory was correct. Not once had Peyton witnessed Jayce lying.
"Wait, then how do you know all this in the first place?" he asked him, pointing towards his laptop screen.
"Being a nosy rat has its perks," Jayce answered. "Doubled with being in the right place at the right time? Yeah." Peyton heard the sound of scratching skin. "Um, yeah, I'm just going to let you go now as you seem anxious to go there. You can figure it out on your own, the basics are really -"
Peyton clicked the button, awaiting his teleportation to Chaotic. When he put the code in, he shut his eyes, ready for a journey through a wormhole or something of the like. Peyton, still in his bedroom, grew confused and disappointed.
"Oh, don't worry. You're already there. Well, a new you is," Jayce vaguely explained.
At the moment he entered the port code, Peyton's Chaotic half materialized, his scanner still in his grasp. Finding himself in the portal tunnel he expected, he screamed in a mixture of fright and excitement. He made out smaller details of the blue pipe he flew through - digits made it up. There was also a noise of computing and beeping, as if from a computer, in which he picked up. In a daze, the boy took it all in, with only one word he could get out to describe it.
The tunnel became white, and he realized something bright was coming up. Turn around, he found the light at the end of the tunnel, just not the one he knew he'd see when his time came. His eyes widened as he entered the light, ready to find out what lied on the other side.
Peyton's eyes were now closed. He felt himself standing atop a hard surface. No longer did he hear the electronic sounds, but instead the voices of chatting teenagers, battle noises like those blaring from the speakers during an action game, and a noise reminding him of alien ships in the movies. His eyes opened, and observing his surroundings, he knew he'd made it. He found himself inside a futuristic building painted silver. The floors were the same color. While looking down, he found himself standing upon a platform that reminded him of that Russian Roulette game show. Circular tables and stool-like chairs were placed all around the floor, and a second one he spotted, requiring access from a staircase. Kids like him sat at them, chatting and eating (the scent of food grabbed his attention). Several others walked around, some alone, some in groups. Above them hung massive screens he'd only seen this big at conventions. He found creatures battling each other, many of which he recognized. Floating robots, making the weird noise, catered to them with trays in hand.
Peyton was amazed. He hadn't seen anything as awesome as Chaotic since he went to his first band concert all those years ago. In all his wildest dreams, he never imagined anything fantastical like this. Though he didn't exactly know how he'd play the game for real as Jayce put it, he didn't wish to waste any time finding out how. Stepping off the platform, he cheered with his arms raised high, head reared at the ceiling. He heard some players cease their conversations, probably from his outburst.
"No way, is it really you?" he heard a voice say. Looking forward, he found a teenage boy, with long brown hair and adorned in skater-like clothing, standing before him with a smile. Peyton immediately remembered him as an online friend of his from Chaotic's site. "Peyton!"
Before he could respond, he heard other voices calling his name. Looking around, he realized he knew many of these kids from the game. He wondered if he'd always been this well loved and popular in the community? Some of them arose from their seats to greet him as well, ranging from "glad to see you" to "you finally got your code." A small crowd circled him.
"Take it easy, bros and gals," Peyton asked of them, his arms waving in motions representing his request. His arms went to his hips. "Yep, looks like I did make it. Only a matter of time, though."
A sudden rumble from his stomach caught his and everyone's attention. His face went blank as he glanced at his gut before looking back up, grinning. "So, uh, what's on the menu?" He figured eating first wouldn't be very time consuming.
Peyton continued reliving his memories with his eyes still closed. He let out a sigh of joy.
Nearby, Sobtjek rose the dream-catcher item with both arms. The sun had finally reached the needed spot in the sky. The beams of light shined through the glass, making a slight hissing sound that snapped Peyton from his remembering.
"Is it time?" he asked, quickly getting up and rushing over to Sobtjek.
"Indeed it is," the Mipedian answered.
A few moments passed before the light inexplicably began being reflected off the glass. The colored pillars created a circular mass of light in the open air before them. Sobtjek stared at it, hoping this was what he sought. Peyton watched in awe.
They watched the light as it morphed and displayed a series of images. With each few seconds a new one took shape, and they grew more and more surprised by what they witnessed. Their eyes were as wide as could be and their jaws gaped. Peyton's scanner slipped from his hands and landed on the screen side.
"I don't believe it. Could we have actually stumbled across it?" Sobtjek thought out loud, struck in wonder.
"Is that... what I think it is?" Peyton asked, hoping for confirmation of his beliefs.
Sobtjek's expression grew more serious. "It seems like it, old friend."