In the year 2053, prosperity within first world countries was at a all time high. However, factors such as mental health and global happiness were at a all time low. Privacy was a barely a factor in today's modern society. It was hard to keep secrets. Clashes between the old and new ways were violent and often encouraged. Both were pawns in their own right. The young in their emotionally volatile states, the old in their stubborn unwillingness to accept that their ways may no longer be valid. It sometimes gave the appearance of hell on Earth or purgatory at certain points.
Politics had erupted into a almost circus like show of force and brute strength. No one cared about diplomacy, or perhaps no one ever did. And it was a lie to begin with. It had gotten so bad in some places, that countries like the US and Europe had become more militaristic with their police forces. Fear was a common factor for everyone, weather they had some form of power or not. It seemed to matter little at the end of the day who you were, how strong you were, or how much influence you had. The modern world seemed to want to destroy any chance of individuality or freedom. People had already begun to call this the "Orwellian Decade." And it had only been three years into it.
Personal freedom was a thing, however many reported to feel increasingly limited with security becoming a top concern among the nations governments. It seemed like with every passing decade, a new threat emerged within humanity. A terror group, corporations trying to exercise more power then they should, cutthroat politics, etc. Everything seemed out to get everybody. Thus, rules became stricter and harsher. Even the simplest of crimes could lead to a person getting their entire lively hoods destroyed, be it simple or big. All it took was info to be in the wrong hands, and everyone would hate you before they even took the time to see why you had this particular trait in the first place. This reality in turn, made families feel more inclined to appear like the perfect idyllic family often portrayed in sitcoms or other media. This had the end result of a lot of distant and broken families, that rarely had people even talk about what was wrong in the first place. Which also increased the likelihoods of mental illness, and so on.
The US had constantly tried to make itself appear as a Utopia. However in reality it had become rigid in approach over the years, with many rules contradicting itself while the country often boasted by it's immense personal freedoms and living standards. It was a materialistic nation that made itself appear like it had reached a ideal between religious and non religious people. It was not to be. Riots regarding policies that made lives harder, discrimination for petty problems or because "religion said so" or even due to personal hatreds. Very easy things that can be manipulated by politicians with less then desirable motives.
The internet had become a shitstorm of hatred and division in the wake of this. Anyone who wanted to be neutral was often overshadowed and seen as a coward. Those were the times people were living in. For young Tom Adison, it was a massive brain drain for him. The old downplaying the new, the new being too caught up in their own struggles to even talk about it, and mental illness being at a all time high. And yet, no one cared. They rather cared about keeping traditions or breaking them. And those in power took a great deal of advantage of people's petty differences. Though really, the only ones who truly suffered were the ones in the middle. Those that could care less and not want anything to do with it were usually the only people who got hurt at all. Because they could barely do anything due to lack of representation and a unwillingness of wanting to get involved, they were usually stepped by over represented counterparts or those that were nothing but mere slaves due to them being set in their ways.
People were only really impressive when they had a common enemy to face, when left alone they became no better then apes. Acting like they knew everything, what was best for everyone. A pathetic state of being really. It was something that seemingly every generation struggled to get over. Old, new, it didn't matter. The old downplayed the new, the new downplayed the old, at the end of the day they were still all caught up in their senseless struggles that bore no fruit or meaning.
Tom, was a young man from a local community college that still lived with his parents. He had scruffy brown hair, and blue eyes. White with light tan lines around his arms. And was slightly above average in height, but not by much. But due to his shut in behavior being intensified, this would quickly be irrelevant. Every time he came back to his little rural town he found himself being immersed within the VR- MMO Interplanetary Online. Not only could you be a space traveler that could discover new planets, but you could take bounties, hunt dangerous creatures, or even join a fleet! It seemed to be a much superior reality in many ways. One could argue it was the superior reality, given the fact the game went as far as one could to make it believable. One could even eat food in it. Which was crazy in it's own right. Being able to eat whatever you want without getting fat would be a wet dream for anybody suffering from anxiety.
As he laid in his bed and put the headset on his head, the link to the game seemed to so indistinguishable from the real world itself, it was no wonder why it was so successful. For many, this was their new world. No one else wanted to go back to their depressing, mentally draining, absolutely boring reality. To others and Tom included, it was this place or death. Perhaps that was not a healthy outlook on life. Unfortunately, he hardly cared enough to worry about it. His life was so lonesome and burdened with apathy that nothing appeared to have much point anymore. His mental attitude towards it was a pitiful one at best. Thus he had a extremely difficult time being happy.
Once he spawned in at the planet he last landed at, with a ground space port and all. He let out a sigh of relief. In some ways this world was his drug. He didn't have to worry about all the petty real life stuff that came with it, he felt happy, content. If at least temporarily. The suit he wore was one that could be considered law enforcement issue. Given the lore surrounding it was of a local planetary defense pilot suit, one could only describe it as a police force in the real world. His in game avatar was not much different from himself in the real world. With just a few key differences. His build had to be fitter then who he was in the real world, so he may have weighed more due to increased muscle mass. His speed and endurance was far greater, and all in all he appeared to have a body of a seasoned infantrymen. Such was his build after all. Except with a higher focus on survivability then your average grunt. He was thinking of aiming for a build similar to the German Stormtroopers of the two Great Wars. But he was uncertain due to knowing that some people considered assault playstyles as braindead. Of course, he proved them wrong many times with it.
The stats within the game were similar to RPGs akin to the early 2000s and 2010s. Tom had turned his build to a adaptable assault trooper. With a emphasis on versatility due to being a lone player for the most part. His other friends didn't get up till after 12 in the afternoon usually. So he was forced to mainly take care of himself. Did he hate depending on others? Not completely. But he did have a tendency of fearing that he was a massive burden to every single person given how he acted. Sometimes he was happy, but recently he had been struggling exponentially. It wasn't like he didn't know suffering, but for some reason he was having a hard time trying to brush things off as of late. Of course he often did that cause he felt their was no choice. Letting things get to you in a household like his was a surefire way to get beat. His parents never had a tolerance for what they liked to call "emos", after all. But what could one do really? He knew life was unfair, just because someone was blood didn't mean they really cared for you just cause it was their job.
Either way, he was just happy he could escape all that mess through here. It was just him, a legion of worlds, his ship, equipment, and so on. It was all simple and easy to handle. He didn't have to worry about emotions stabbing him in his metaphorical sides, nor did he have to worry about feeling alone. As much anyways. Even then, their were no real guarantees. Not even in this universe. Nothing was guaranteed, nor free. His own happiness was just one of many things that wasn't.
"Where shall we head off to today dear friend?" He said as he got into his ship, the Crimson Bolt. It was a Fighter Class assault ship he had earned through hours worth of play. It wasn't uncommon for him to spend hours or even days at a time within this world. It was currently Summer, and since he did not have much to look forward to in it, he figured he'd do what he'd want. His relationship with his strict parents were nonexistent, the only ones he considered family were his friends who seemed to be light years away. Not in a literal sense of course, or perhaps given that was a measurement within this game for immersion purposes one could take it as literal. The developers and the studio were well aware of the state of the world. So inadvertently they had created one that was so much more fantastical looking and reminiscent of the original Star Wars film. While also making this game appear it was still set in a future Earth with Empires, monsters, and giant Space Battles as events for anyone to get into. They had done everything they could to make it appear superior in every way.
Of course, this did not mean this alternate reality was without flaw. Even if with it's near perfect methods of immersion. Every now and then their would be a glitch in the system. Every now and then their would be networking issues like any other massive online game. This was usually varied and depended on a person's connection for the most part rather then the servers. Of course, it wasn't like those were without flaw too. Luckily, the developers were usually generous enough to go ahead and solve the problems almost immediately. Which was more then what could be said for many these days. Recently, the US government had been recently picking up on how many of the populace had fled to these massive multiplayer virtual reality experiences. In response, some studios were forced to limit the times the player could stay on. In the most extreme cases, they would pull some cloak and dagger schemes to even have the studio shut down or have it disappear overnight. It was not if the leaders were pure evil, however they had a zero tolerance policy when it came to mass isolation. This zero tolerance policy was met with fierce opposition, only for the eventual riot it broke out too to turn into a full blown massacre.
These were depressing times indeed. Yet no one seemed to care enough to wanna do anything about it. Rather they hide from it rather then do anything. But could one blame them entirely? People had become so uncivil despite the massive advances in technology and science. No one enjoyed being questioned anymore, or enjoyed questioning things anymore. Everyone was scared of being judged, yet was quick to cast judgement on others if it made them feel better. A pathetic state, yet one the end result of insecurity and fear within a supposedly secure society. The fact simply was, human beings were not meant to be ordered around. They had a knack for wanting to control things rather then being controlled. Or some enjoyed being controlled due to being so used to it that they actually learned to get a kick out of it.
The real modern society was twisted and janky. And those who desired freedom, learned to thrive in chaos. What else was their to do? When the whole world seemed to be loosing it's mind?
At the end of the day, their was no absolute answer. No perfect outcome. This was something young Tom Adison knew well. He learned to not whine too much about unfairness, at least openly given how quickly people would shoot you down for it. And yet, it was strange how some were able to go ahead and complain about it with seemingly no consequence, while others would have to risk swift and harsh punishment.
The boy simply turned on his fighter class starship. He and his friends that he hung out with online planned on getting one that all of them could use. So that all could hang out in one place while still traveling to other systems. Something similar to the Millennium Falcon that his father kept going on about. The game had often payed omage to famous Sci-fi universes quite a great deal. Perhaps many people were beginning to see those days as the Golden Era of free expression. Given you had to be very careful these days.
Tom then entered his lift off sequence. The ship's gears lifted up and it pointed it's nose slightly towards the sky, and soon he made his way out of this planet's atmosphere. It was one that acted as a simple rest stop for most ships on their way to another system. Lima Outpost it was called. A military refueling station that also served as a checkpoint for players for when they needed to leave the game for the day or otherwise.
However a lot more players were beginning to stay on this game and others like it for hours on end these days. People were beginning to give up on modern society, give up on life as a whole. And while this may have been good for the publishers to have their player-base remain consistent, it also underlined the problem that was mass isolation. Tom knew this, however he had a hard time caring these days about anything anymore. All he desired was to be with his close friends and nothing more.
He felt nothing towards his family, people who served as mere strict authority figures in his life that promised to reward him so long as he obeyed. And treated him as a outsider if he dared did wrong by them. It was all the same really. Uncivilized people acting civil. A act that could be seen through clear as day. And he had no intention of carrying on the mantle. Years worth of family drama had him grown numb to their struggles, he no longer cared for them. His friends were his family now. And according to life, probably would have to be given everyone dies. Not that he was complaining, he had seen the errors within his own family for a while now. And experienced the animosity they held when you called out their flaws. He knew now that these weren't people you trusted. He knew they were only meant to be used and discarded. What else was their to do, when the whole world was going mad?
As he made preparations to jump to hyperspace, pressing a few buttons that looked complicated but were actually very accessible by all due to the nature of the game, a notification popped up on his pilot visor. All he had to do in order to access it was look to the upper right corner and a message with info of a certain event would pop up. This one was one of the In-Game factions being attacked by pirates. Apparently it was a merchant vessel that had it's military escort overwhelmed by a massive Pirate fleet. Knowing he would not have been the only player who received that message, he disengaged his hyperdrive before heading to the coordinates given to him. Another interesting factor of the game he played, rather their being a arrow to follow when you selected a mission, you had to use coordinates to get to a specific location. This was done for many reasons, the big one being that most people didn't like having a arrow in their visor telling them where to go though.
To Tom, this was nothing new. He had a general purpose fighter meant to take on any threat at anytime. That and it was not like death had real world consequences. Most the game would do was put you in a spectator state as you respawned at a local refueling station. So their was no reason to be afraid. This game was more of a second more forgiving life when compared to the one that he had to deal with when he left. Funny how things make you feel bad without you having the worst of it.
He thought this would be easy but ha! Oh was he going to be wrong.
When he got their he realized the message was not lying. The Pirate Fleet was absolutely massive. And they were no dinky vessels either. These were raiders dedicated to raiding. Every ship had been built to overwhelm, move fast, and hit hard. From the largest Dreadnought, to the smallest fighter. It was a good thing Tom had a good deal of hours put in behind the cockpit then. Because he could already tell this would be a nasty fight. Least he wasn't alone.
"Well then, here's hoping I'm skilled enough to not die right off the bat. Let's go!" He said energetically as he lunged forward to the closest fighter. This would be a drawn out fight. But he had no problem, he was in no rush to leave anyways.
Thank you for reading!