• Before me stood a column of random numbers and letters, a seemingly solid representation of computer programming. The only thing between it and me was a divide, a massive expanse of darkness. Something within me said to go to the column. It was as if my destiny depended on it. I took a step over the darkness and a platform of binary appeared below me. The platform created a bridge between me and the column.
    The platform won’t last long, the voice in my head whispered, hurry, you must get to the column.
    “The column…” I mused aloud. It was a thing of bizarre beauty, the coding glowing with an odd green light. I approached it at a near run. As I reached the column the platform began to crumble behind me.
    Enter quickly. You must not fall. The voice had taken on a new urgency.
    “Why…” I stopped mid sentence as the platform fell from beneath my feet. I reached out with my right hand and touched the column; it began to suck me in. Instinctually, I began to resist. My blood chilled as fear flowed through my veins.
    I mean no harm, only to offer you my help. Please do not fear me, the voice spoke.
    “Who are you? Why do I need your help?” I asked.
    I know what will happen soon and know you can turn the tide of the battle.
    “Who or what, are you? And what battle are you talking about?” The voice or rather, the column’s voice, was getting on my nerves.
    I was once human, but now I am a complex code in the likeness of a human mind. You may call me Data. As for the battle, I know that only you can stop them. Let me help. Trust me.
    “I accept your offer. I guess I have no choice.” I resigned myself to whatever would happen next. It was getting harder to resist the pull of the column and Data certainly aware of that as well. The code pulled me into the center of the column. It was blank inside, a white space with no floor and ceiling, just an infinity of nothingness.
    A loop of code appeared and began to take a human shape. A few seconds later, a woman wearing a white dress was formed. I could not help but notice the stark contrast of her violet hair and unsettling red eyes against her white dress.
    “Am I to assume you’re Data?” I asked.
    “You assume correctly. Does my form surprise you?” replied Data in a soft, echoing voice.
    “Well, a toneless voice in my head did not exactly leave the impression that the column of coding is a woman,” My patience was wearing thin, making my voice drip sarcasm.
    “Sorry, but I had to contact you somehow. You are the only hope for the world as it is known. I thought to offer my help, for our enemy is the same,” Data’s voice did not waiver once. It seemed almost emotionless.
    “What enemy? Are they what turned you into coding in the first place?” I asked feeling confused.
    “Very perceptive, they are the ones who did this to me. The enemy is a group known as the Dark Corporation.” She replied with a tinge of sadness and pain in her voice. I decided not to inquire further.
    “How do you intend to help me?” I inquired.
    “I will give you the power you need to fight,” she said, looking around nervously, “Sorry, but we have run out of time. I will give you the power, but you will have to figure out how to use the power on your own.”
    Before I could reply, she thrust her hand at the spot right above my heart. The hand went through my chest. I felt an odd surge of energy and blacked out.
    I awoke in my room in a cold sweat. It must have been a dream. I looked around the room, trying to see whether it was night or if morning had broke. I looked at the clock on my cell phone. It was about a minute to midnight.
    The phone rang. I checked the number, but its display read PRIVATE. I answered the call, assuming it was somebody with a wrong number.
    “Hello?” I politely inquired.
    “Hello, Samuel. I called to inform you that it is thirty seconds until the game begins. We did not want you unprepared,” the voice was obviously being distorted by some sort of device.
    “Who are you? How do you know my name?” The voice on the other end of the line ignored me. The phone was quiet for thirty seconds. I tried to hang up the phone, but the button did not do anything.
    “Let the game begin!” The voice declared. I dropped the phone. My body stiffened, paralyzed by an unseen force. I felt the darkness of a blackout approach me. I tried to resist, but it was futile. Unconsciousness swept over me.
    I awoke to a space similar to the place in my dream. It was all a blank whiteness. The only difference between Data’s space and this one was that this one had a solid floor. I felt a little dizzy and almost fell down as I tried to stand.
    A sign appeared, floating above the ground. It read “Choose your clothing.” As I read it, shelves of clothing appeared.
    The clothing ranged from modern to ancient in appearance and all of the articles were made of some sort of high tech counter part to the original fabric. I reached for a pair of black jeans, and they disappeared and then reappeared in place of the pajamas I was wearing. The same thing happened when I found a white shirt that I liked. The process repeated for shoes, a pair of black combat boots, and for a dark green cloak.
    I walked over to a mirror placed rather randomly in the center of the aisles of clothing. I examined myself in the new clothing; I looked like a hero from a fantasy novel or a Manga. I wondered how my hair would look if it were spiky and blue. Suddenly, my hair appeared exactly as I had imagined it. I jumped back and threw a belt on the shelf behind me at the mirror. It shattered, sending glass everywhere; the shards froze in mid air never hitting the floor. Somehow, they reformed into a full mirror.
    Normally, this kind of stuff would have really freaked me out, but I was now convinced this was another dream. I went back to the mirror and returned my appearance to normal. My hair returned to its normal black color and its slightly shaggy appearance. I looked at myself to check if anything else had changed. I was still about 5’11 and my eyes were still blue. Assured everything was the same, I walked away from the mirror.
    I glanced at the sign. It now told me to select weapons. First, I chose a black katana and a belt full of kunai and shuriken. I then chose a bow made of what seemed to be an odd alloy metal and arrows. The arrows had a shaft made of some sort of super-light metal with an incredibly sharp tip. Unfortunately, I found out how sharp they were first hand, but somehow the scratch healed instantly.
    When I was finished choosing weapons, the sign changed to say “walk to your left one hundred meters.
    “Great, my dream is European,” I said to no one in particular. I followed the directions, wondering how I would know when I had walked a hundred meters. I did not have to guess. There was a desk at the end of the journey. The receptionist looked incredibly cheerful.
    “Hello, Sam,” the lady said, “I am supposed to register you. What would you like your name to be in the game?” This reminded me of the phone call, and I became a bit suspicious.
    “…um, how about Shade Wolf? Is that taken? I inquired.
    “That is not taken; do you wish to use it?” she replied
    “Yes, thank you. I have a question though, how did you know without checking a database of some sort?” I was almost afraid to hear the answer.
    “I am part of the database,” She replied with a cheery smile plastered on her face. I was the only human in this blank space.
    “Let me explain some rules, and then you may enter the game. Rule one: you can do anything, as long as you follow the law of the regional rulers, known as the Six Kings. Rule two: Fighting is allowed, but only with players who consent to duel. Those are the only two currently,” She said this quickly and without stopping for breath.
    “What about editing the program, you know, hacking? How do I report a hacker?” I asked, “How do I log out?”
    “Hacking is impossible, as is logging out,” The cheery smile was getting very creepy. She walked over to me and attached some sort of techno-wristband. Its display showed I was a level one player.
    “Have fun in the game,” She said that she as faded away. Where she had been standing a door appeared.
    “What the heck is going on? I don’t know who is in control here, but I am not playing your game! Forget it!” I shouted at the sky, screaming curses and swearing I would not pass though the door and play their game.
    The door opened on its own. I felt a vacuum like pull come from it. It pulled me in and I wound up in an area that looks like I was under water. The space around me shimmered and sparkled. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It took me a minute to realize I was holding my breath. My lungs started to hurt, and I exhaled quickly. I breathed in, thinking I might drown. I was surprised to feel my lungs filling with air not water.
    The area around me disappeared, unwinding into computer codes. The codes reconfigured into a clearing in a forest around me. I felt gravity take hold. I landed gracefully on my rear end with a thud. I stood up, feeling dizzy and looked around. A sign on the nearest tree said “Welcome to Land of Danarth.”
    “…Crap. I don’t think this is a dream,” said feminine voice behind me. I turned around. The girl looked my age, 17. She had long blond hair and greenish eyes. Her skin was white like porcelain. Her user name Kitfox, floated above her head.
    “Why do you say that?” I asked. She looked up, startled at my presence, she became red in the face. Regaining composure, she stood up.
    “Well, usually my butt does not ache when I fall on it in my dreams,” She replied.
    “Good enough reason as any, I guess. So, you get the phone call?” I queried.
    “Yeah, some creep distorting his voice. He knew my name, how weird is that?” She visibly shivered. I was not sure if I should ask if she had met a woman named Data. Data kept saying I was the only one that could save the world, but I was unconvinced. Maybe she contacted someone else. I decided against it. Instead, I introduced myself.
    “My name is Sa…Shade Wolf. What’s your name?” I politely inquired. She looked at me incredulously.
    “It is floating above my head. Why are you asking?”
    “I am trying to be polite. You might need to work on that yourself,” I replied tersely. Her face grew flushed. She started stammering.
    “Sorry, I…I did not mean to be rude, but this game and basically being kidnapped and everything, it is all too much,” She looked flustered and embarrassed. I was looking for the right words to comfort her, when a gigantic creature made of rock exploded from the trees. I reached into the belt and threw shuriken, but they did nothing to the beast.
    It crossed the clearing in three great strides and lifted its foot to crush Kitfox. She was too stunned to move. Without thinking, I raised my right hand and pointed at the thing. The same feeling of power from when Data presented the power to me surged up my arm. The thing suddenly started to shrink into a living pile of mud. I took my sword and sliced it in half. The wristband buzzed and the display read level two.
    From the bushes, a high pitched, whiny voice said, “Excellent!” A short pudgy man stepped out into the clearing. “I did not even have to look very far and already Data’s Hacker has been revealed. What a fortuitous occurrence, for me at least. I cannot say the same for you. I am afraid I will have to delete you and the girl.”
    “Leave her out of this; I just met her so you don’t need to hurt her,” I stepped between the man and Kitfox.
    “No, she is a witness. Besides, what is the point of being a ruler of a new world if you cannot kill a worthless player for fun?” He replied.
    “I will not let you do that. I will kill you if I must,” I drew my sword, ready to fight. I ran at the man full sprint and swung my sword. The sword turned to dust before it hit him.
    “Hmmm, her power seems to protect you from an automatic deletion. Guess I will have to fight with a weapon,” he chuckled and pulled out a large axe. He began to grow until he was seven feet tall and very strong looking. “I believe you might want to know your opponent’s name before you die. My name is Daruin the Crusher, ruler of the northern Kingdom. I am one of the Six Kings.”
    “Are they all as long winded as you? Death seems to be preferable to listening to you gloat,” I taunted him as a new confidence flooded me. I did not know where it came from, but knowledge of my power flooded into my head. I focused on the image of a long, black katana. A line of code appeared and formed the sword.
    “You cannot win. She will die, and then I will kill you,” He growled.
    “I’ve always been a gentleman, you know, ladies first and all of that, but I must insist you ignore her for now. I will protect her,” I replied.
    He roared and rushed me. The axe rose up and swung down with great force. I dodged, and then stuck my sword into his shoulder. I withdrew the blade and sheathed it. I grabbed the bow off my back and drew an arrow. I focused on making the arrow unable to be modified by Daruin.
    Once more, he rushed at me. I pulled the bowstring back and aimed at him. He reached me and swung level with my neck. I ducked the axe blow and released the arrow into is shoulder. It pierced through him and he cried out. The wound began to heal.
    “You cannot defeat us, boy. We kings rule this world we created. Even with our cursed hacking, you stand no chance. Since you saw fit to waste my time as you have, I will give you and the girl slow, painful deaths. Ladies first, of course, so you’ll need to wait. HARI DOKU!” Purple needles flew from his hand. “That is a demonstration of the spells in this game. Those were poison needle, but do not worry, all it will do is paralyze you. I would not want you to miss the show.”
    My knees began to tremble, and gave out under me. I fell face first in the dirt. Daruin grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the edge of the clearing. He propped me against a tree.
    Looks like you are in an unpleasant situation.
    “Data! Help me, please.” I hoped she could hear my thoughts.
    Sorry, but I am not Data, my name is Alice. So she got to you already? Good, it will make my job easier. You know who the Dark Corporation is, right?
    “Yes, one of the most cliché evil organizations in the world, but that is not the point. I need to save the girl right there, can you see her? Never mind, can you help me?” I thought. I was being forced to watch Daruin attack Kitfox and wound her, killing her slowly.
    I can, but why? I could easily save you myself, a lot easier than saving you both. Alice was getting on my nerves. I was missing Data’s vagueness compared to Alice’s personality.
    “For whatever reason, you need me. Help me or else.” I threatened
    Or else what? Our goal is the same as yours, return to the human world. You have to kill the Dark Corporation’s leaders, the Six Kings, which will free me and allow you to log out. You’re in no position to bargain.
    “You’re wrong. I have a physical form here as I do in the real world. I can very well live here. You, on the other hand, are most likely a column of coding like Data. I am in a good position to bargain.” It was risky, because Alice could easily leave me to die, but I had to protect the girl.
    Fine. Here is a hint: The poison is a computer code like everything else. Edit it, delete it, whatever. By the way, If you noticed the sudden appearance of a how to guide to you power in your head, your welcome.
    “That was you?”
    Yeah, but it seems like a bad time for a casual conversation here. You have business to deal with.
    I focused on the poison. I found the loop of code and was about to delete it. Instead, I edited the code to turn it into an antidote. The poison trick will not work twice.
    I stood up and dusted off my clothes. Daruin had his axe raised, ready to finish Kitfox. I manipulated the code around Kitfox and created a wall of stone. The axe hit the stone wall and dug in. Before it could be pulled out, thorny vines covered the axe, and then erupted in roses; the axe was stuck.
    Daruin turned around and ran at me, roaring with fury. He raised his fists and studded gauntlets appeared. I made a mental note not to let him land any blows. As he reached me, a lance appeared in my hands. I sidestepped his first punch and tripped him with the lances shaft. I smacked him with the flat of the blade. His hand shot out from under his bulk and grabbed my leg. He stood up, flipping me upside down.
    I stuck the blade of the lance in the ground and twisted my leg. With a sickening sound, my body turned to face him. A knife appeared in my hand and I thrust it down into his ankle. He screamed in pain and dropped me. I tried to stand up, but my ankle hurt too much to stand on. He rose above me, his wound healing. I prepared myself for his fist to fall, but it never did.
    He fell to his knees, bleeding from the back. A knife protruded from his the spot where his heart was. Behind Daruin stood Kitfox, holding a twin to the knife in him and panting.
    “…just…die…jerk!” she said between breaths. Daruin collapsed in a heap. His eyes glazed over. Kitfox ran over to me.
    “Thank you,” I muttered as I passed out.
    When I awoke, she was propped against a tree, asleep. I examined my ankle. It was swollen and red. I focused on it, remembering how Daruin could heal himself, and saw where the code was fractured. I restored it to normal and stood up. I walked over to Kitfox. I crouched down and whispered,
    “Thank you,” Then, I walked into the forest, leaving her behind.