Before you could ask any more questions, you were turned around and marched out the door and off to a destination unknown.
The sun outside was blindingly bright and you squinted as you exited the building, blinking rapidly and focusing ahead as you were towards, what appeared to be, the ocean… to where a ship was waiting.
Keeping your wits about you, you could see the ship was being loaded with a tonne of boxes but no human cargo. There were a number of guards aboard and you easily counted 20 just at the back end of the ship.
“Keep your head down,” the guard on your left barked, grabbing the back of your head roughly and shoving it forward which made you stumble a bit.
You could hear people talking and calling for things as you were walked up the plank onto the ship and directed into a wooden cage.
“Now sit quietly,” the guard, who had handled you roughly said in a dark voice, producing a hot branding iron, “or you’ll end up with some pretty black lines on your arms and back.”
You just looked at him in disbelief.
“You can’t be serious,” you commented, “you do realize this is a game, right? And I can just log out as I please.”
His top lip pulled back into a sneer and he gestured to you with the iron in hand.
“Go on then… log out…”
Your stomach dropped with dread and you swiped your menu open and looked for the log out button.
It wasn’t there…
“What?!” you said in shock, looking back up at him.
“Told ya,” he snickered evilly.
“How?!” you demanded, closing your menu.
“Big boss sees all and controls all,” he replied, turning away now that he had had enough of you.
The panic started to settle in a little now and you wondered what was going to become of you, the warning of what had happened in the game ‘Sword Art Online’ coming to mind.
Before the stress completely consumed you, you felt a presence and looked to your left.
Moving in a little was the unmistakable figure of your man- Tamajiki- who pushed a finger to his lips to indicate for you to remain silent.
Sweet relief washed over you the second you saw him… everything was going to be ok now.
Looking around, you tried to find something to distract the guards with but just then everything must have been loaded and some voices in the near distance called to push off.
You glanced at Tamajiki and he looked torn- wanting to rush to get you out but also wanting to retreat so that he didn’t look suspicious and could wait for a better time to get you free.
“It’s ok,” you whispered to him, barely above a whisper.
He looked at you, looked at the guards, then looked at you again and nodded- stepping back and pretending that he was adjusting boxes before looking back to where Praetorian was.
The ship slowly started to move forwards and you pushed yourself back to the far end of the cage so that the guards couldn’t reach you… and then just waited.
Occasionally, they would glance back at you but they must have felt like you were well and truly trapped in there as their backwards glances at you started to lessen.
Tamajiki stayed close, well… as close as he could, and you just sat there, waiting to see what would happen.
Once the ship was well and truly out on the ocean the guards moved away from your cage to do something else and Tamajiki moved in.
“What happened?” he asked in a soft voice, looking away so that it didn’t look like he was talking to you.
“I got caught snooping and the one piece of evidence that I managed to steal, they took off me,” you whispered back, “but get this, right? I can’t log out?? I tried to and the log out button is gone!”
“What?” Tamajiki asked softly with surprise.
He swiped his menu open and found the log out button there, so closed his menu down and indicated for you to open yours.
You did so and the log out button still wasn’t there.
“Why?” you whispered to him, “why isn’t it there??”
“I… I don’t know but I think this goes beyond anyone in game… this is now programming.”
You looked up at him.
“Wait? It’s not…”
“Anarchy_Lord.” Tamajiki’s face darkened.
“Surely not!” you whispered again, “I swear to god, if it’s him I’m going to beat his ass.”
Tamajiki was now deep in thought, placing all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
“No one knows who is at the top of this organization. People’s freedoms in game are being controlled… it’s all adding up,” Tamajiki replied with a nod.
“Well what now? How do we stop him? Is he even in game or is he working outside the game?” you asked, shifting around so you could uncramp your legs.
“I… I don’t know the answers to those questions,” Tamajiki replied sadly.
“Hey! Guard… Tamajiki… move away from the prisoner,” one of the guards from earlier called when he saw that Tamajiki was standing a little too close for his liking.
You looked over at the guard as he wielded the still glowing iron, in hand, and turned around to walked over to your man.
“Move away,” he said darkly again, jerking his head for Tamajiki to step away, but your man didn’t move.
“Do you not understand?” the guards barked again, “move!”
Still Tamajiki didn’t move.
Another guard, overhearing the yelling, also walked over to see what was going on.
There was a bit of a standoff between the three, then the guard with the hot iron stepped forward and held it out as if to hit Tamajiki with it.
That was the wrong thing to do, because as quick as a flash Tamajiki had grabbed a sheet nearby and was now using it as a weapon, shielding himself from the approaching iron rod before wrapping the sheet around the end of the iron and yanking it from the guard’s hand.
“Are we not supposed to be working together?” Tamajiki asked the guard who had tried to attack him, “yet you raise your hand against me.”
“Don’t try and act like we’re on the same level, you’re nothing but a slave to a guard who has also made you a guard,” the guy growled, stepping forward to try and fight bare handed.
Tamajiki swiftly stepped out of his way and chopped his hand into the side of the guard’s neck as he stumbled past.