Rise of the Crimson Order

The following is a except from Rise of the Crimson Order: A Crematoria Online LitRPG Novel, currently available on Amazon.

Chapter One
Crematoria Online

The coffin sat in my lounge room like a morbid promise. Once I entered it, my life would be over. Temporarily, at least.

I would be reborn in the world of Crematoria Online, the next quantum leap forward in video gaming.

Everdark Entertainment, the developers of Crematoria Online, didn’t call it virtual reality. They called it alternate reality. Although virtual reality had become much more sophisticated over the last few years, with haptic feedback suits, sense simulators and full immersion rigs, there were still limits. Crematoria Online was limitless.

The game worked by transferring the consciousness from the physical body of the player into Crematoria Online’s servers, which allowed you to experience their world as though you were really there. I understood the concept. Everything we experience in this reality is the result of our minds interpreting electrical signals delivered to us by an array of sensory organs. Science fiction always speculated that we would eventually be able to replicate that experience with manufactured sensory inputs, but Everdark Entertainment had decided to cut out the middle man.

Why deliver a simulated experience to one person at a time when you could deliver it to a group of people in a single unified experience?

I hadn’t slept much the night before the coffin-like Crematoria Chamber was due to arrive. I was like a kid waking up before the sun on Christmas morning, eager to see what Santa Claus had left under the tree.

I sipped my coffee as I looked at the coffin. The exterior was mahogany, but the interior was not what I had expected. I thought it would have been some kind of high-tech cyberpunk looking thing, but these days it was all about providing a positive consumer experience. Nobody liked unnecessary cords.

It was possibly the easiest piece of tech I’d had to set up in years. All I needed was a connection to mains power and a high-speed ethernet cable and it was ready to go. The inside of the coffin was lined with white silk. There was a face mask at the top end of the coffin, attached to the inside of the Crematoria Chamber with a thick wire, and a pair of quite undignified underwear with places for hoses to attach at the front and back.

I hadn’t thought about the practicalities of not shitting myself while in the game, but I was sure glad the developers had. I wasn’t looking forward to putting on a high-tech diaper, but I guess you have to do what you have to do if you want to be on the cutting edge.

With my coffee finished, I washed up the mug and the rest of the dishes in the sink. I should have done it the night before, but instead, I ended up wasting my night on Reddit. Crematoria Online was going live today, and I wanted to get as many hours of play time in as I could. This wasn’t my first video game launch day. I usually played long enough to get a good head start on other players, and this would be no different. I didn’t want to come out of the game and have to wash up.

Nobody really knew what to expect once we entered Crematoria Online. Everdark Entertainment had been very tight-lipped about exactly what would happen once we logged in. They hadn’t even released information about what kinds of classes or races we could play as, or whether those were even options. I had no idea about what kind of game world I was stepping into.

All they said was that it would be unlike playing any other game anyone had ever played before and that the choices we all made inside the game would change the game world forever.

Lots of video game companies said stuff like that.

They had to.

And yet, when I watched interviews with Everdark Entertainment’s CEO Theodore Griffin, he did not come across as a man who was given to hyperbole.

I had trawled the internet for information from beta testers and the developers – someone somewhere had to have tested the damned game, right?

I found nothing.

Either Everdark Entertainment did all their own in-house testing, or the non-disclosure agreements they forced their testers to sign were ironclad. I wanted to know everything about the game, but I couldn’t find jack shit.

People were skeptical, as people often were about brand-new cutting-edge technology. Lots of people didn’t think the tech would actually work, had philosophical arguments about the ethics of removing consciousness from a human body, or argued that it could be used to help the sick.

Everdark Entertainment was brand new to the game development scene.

This was their first game, and it promised to change the world. No, to give humanity a brand new world.

That’s why, when the opportunity to pre-order Crematoria Online, I put my money down. The cost was prohibitive for most people. $30,000 to secure a place, and for the delivery of the Crematoria Chamber necessary to enter the game world. On top of that, there were a limited number of spots available. The first wave of players into Crematoria Online was limited to 10,000. That was it. 10,000 people, each of whom needed to put down a $30,000 deposit to secure their spot.

I hated pay to win games. They were a scourge on the gaming industry. Little more than glorified poker machines.

I know, because I made some and I made a lot of money by exploiting human psychology.

Straight out of high school I watched what all my friends were spending their money on. They were downloading free apps and paying a buck here and a buck there for little cosmetic things like filters and effects for their cameras. Nobody even thought twice about spending a buck if it would make them laugh or make them feel better about themselves in this world that was on a collision course with the end, so I capitalized on it and made an absolute truckload of money.

My first real big windfall came as disasters kept on happening with increasing frequency. Between the fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks, the world was tearing itself apart. Like any good capitalist, I saw an opportunity and jumped on it, but I still maintain that even though money was one of the main factors of why I developed the app, I try to tell myself that I might have just changed the world for the better.

What’s the one thing everyone wants to know when shit goes down?

They want to know if the people they love are safe.

So, I developed an app that allowed people to check in and mark themselves as safe during inclement events, as well as connect to a database of emergency response and disaster services in their local areas. People could check in, provide real-time updates to emergency response teams, and connect with their community to help those in trouble whenever it was needed.

I sold the platform for millions of dollars and wrote a clause into the sale that guaranteed me a yearly payment from each agency using it, and now it was being used across the world.

I was literally rolling in cash, so to me, $30,000 was nothing.

The price for Crematoria Online was incredibly high, but how often did you get the chance to be the first to experience a world-shaking technology like this?

The servers wouldn’t be live for a couple of hours, but thankfully the character creation servers were already live.

I sighed.

It was time to strip off and put the vacuum diaper on. The instructions that came with the Crematoria Chamber called it a waste management system, but it was definitely just a vacuum diaper. The instructions also said to ensure that we wore clothes while inside. Comfortable, loose clothing. Nothing tight-fitting or constricting that might cause any blood flow issues as my body was immobile while playing the game.

I stripped, then grabbed the diaper and slipped it on. I put my boxer shorts and singlet back on, and I was ready to take the plunge.

For the longest time, I told my friends that I wouldn’t play the game. I had been obsessed with online role-playing games before, all the way back to the retro Playstation 5 that I had when I was a little kid.

I loved playing with other people, and for those moments I was gaming, I could pretend to be anyone other than the person I was.

I got addicted way too easily, and way too often. The kicker was that I didn’t play all that well with other people, and most of the time you needed to work with others to progress. I was never good at that.

I tried, I really did, but it just never went my way. I was always more successful when working alone.

That’s why I started making apps. I’m not averse to being a team player, it’s just that something always happens to break team synergy, and that thing usually ended up being me. It would be different in Crematoria Online. There would be 9,999 other players in the game world with me, and we would need to work together to overcome the challenges that awaited us.

I felt like a vampire as I got into the coffin-like Crematoria Chamber. Once inside, I looked for the hoses to connect the diaper, but I couldn’t find any. The instructions had just said to put the diaper on, get into the chamber, and put the Crown on.

The Crown.

Everything with this game had to sound fancy. I slipped the Crown over my head and the real world disappeared.

There was a screen inside, which displayed a single question.

Are you ready to enter Crematoria Online?

I thought in the affirmative and was a little shocked, but not surprised, that the game read my mind. A feminine voice with a proper English accent spoke, and it sounded as though the words were being spoken directly into my mind

“Hello, Lucas Hutchins. We have confirmed your identity, and your Crematoria Chamber has been calibrated to your biorhythm. You are the only person who can use your Crematoria Chamber. Any unauthorized person will be refused entry, and you will be notified. Please remain still while your life-support system engages.”

I became very still. I felt something snake up between my legs and attach itself to the front and back of my vacuum diaper. The waste hoses. Gross.

Then, I felt other things slither across my body from the sides of the chamber. Straps. They grew tight, holding me in place. Then I felt something moving inside the helmet, brushing against my lips. I kept them closed tight. I didn’t like how it felt at all.

The voice spoke once again.

“Please open your mouth.”

No. No, I don’t want to, I thought.

“In order to ensure that you are fed the correct nutrients and kept hydrated, the life support system must enter your body. Do you wish to continue?”

I felt sick. It was going to stick something down my throat!

If I didn’t agree, then I couldn’t play.

Damn it!

I opened my mouth.

The tube, which felt like a lubricated snake, forced its way between my teeth and undulated down my throat.

“You are now secured. Once you enter Crematoria Online, the life support system will keep your body alive while you play. It will simulate a sleep-like state, which will allow your body to repair itself just as though you were in a deep slumber.”

Wow. If playing Crematoria Online had the same effect as a night of deep sleep, then it was entirely possible that I could work on my apps during the day and live a second life in Crematoria by night.

As long as I was okay with deep-throating the life support system. Ugh.

The automated voice continued. “Everdark Entertainment highly recommends speaking to your doctor about extended uses of the Crematoria Chamber. If you experience any dissociative episodes or fugue states, please discontinue your use of Crematoria Online immediately and urgently contact Everdark Entertainment.”

That didn’t sound good.

But what new bleeding edge technology didn’t come with some kind of risk? Early adopters were often used to iron out problems that developers and testers couldn’t identify. There was no-one like an end user to properly break a piece of tech.

“Are you ready to enter Crematoria Online?” the voice asked. I thought in the affirmative and the screen in front of me went blank.