Note: This preview chapter has not gone to an editor yet, nor has it had any formatting done to it. I will format cards with tables and potential images at eventual release. Events in the final version may also change from the version below.

Emilia tightened the strap on her Vortex Industries personal VR helmet. When it felt both comfortable and secure, she laid flat on her bed and tapped the ‘on’ button located on its side. The headset whirred to life as its fans kicked on and initiating beeps rang out. Of course, she didn’t hear any of that. The headset was shaped like a motorcycle helmet, covering all but her mouth. As it got noisy, her ears filled with her pre-selected playlist of music. She closed her eyes and after only a few moments, she fell asleep and awoke in the virtual world.

All Vortex Industry headsets were the same in the fact that they brought you to your own personalized room once initialized. Emilia woke up in a sleek silver metal single bed. She sat up and looked around her virtual room. It was a small bedroom with the wall opposite her bed being circular. The circular wall was comprised almost entirely of a large window from floor to ceiling.

“Lights.” Her voice echoed slightly through the room as overhead florescent lights kicked on. Large spotlights outside her window also came on a few seconds later, revealing the deep depths of the ocean. Emilia loved nature, especially the sea and all of its unique creatures. So when Vortex Industries released an underwater theme for your personal room, she didn’t hesitate purchasing it on release day.

The company behind the VR headset made a killing selling aftermarket add-ons to their technology. They originally made their billions selling their hardware but after most of the world adapted it and made it part of everyday life, like attending virtual school, going to work remotely and even virtual voting, the governments of the world deemed it a necessity and put large regulations in place limiting how much they could sell it for. The company fought it of course but eventually gave in when the world’s governments not only compensated them nicely but lowered the regulations on the sale of aftermarket accessories and add-ons. The real cherry on the top, and why Vortex Industries stopped fighting, is when they had themselves declared as a government monopoly, thus eliminating any potential competitor from entering the market. Think of them as your local gas or water company. You likely don’t have a choice of who you can use, and the chances of a new company springing up are extremely unlikely because of the barriers of entry.

Stepping out of her virtual bed, Emilia walked to a long shelf on the wall. There were a variety of things on it like a potted plant, photos of her friends and family, and some stuffed animals, but it was mostly filled with books. Each spine had illuminated titles, making them easier to read. Placing a finger on one end of the shelf, she walked slowly down considering which book to open.

“Doom: Fatality… Beat that one already. Zelda: The search for Link… Wasn’t as good as the others. Endless Fantasy Online… Couldn’t get into it.” When she got to the end of the shelf, she frowned. “I’ve either beaten all these or gotten bored with them. I have three months to kill now that I’m back from college.”

Emilia raised her hands in front of her and a virtual keyboard appeared, floating in the space under her fingertips. She began composing a message to her father.


>>YOU: Hey, Dad. Do you mind if I buy a new game?

<<DAD: What’s wrong with the games you have?

>>YOU: I’ve beaten them all and they aren’t worth a replay.

<<DAD: Why don’t you join me in Space Wars? It’s free.

>>YOU: Dad, if I wanted to play with star ships I would have joined the military.

<<DAD: …ok, Emy. How much do you need?

>>YOU: Thanks, Daddy! Most games are a hundred credits.


<<DAD: You can have fifty. Buy something on sale or replay one of your old games. Better yet, why don’t you get a summer job?

>>YOU: Fifty credits is great. Thanks.


Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. She picked up a toy shopping cart off a desk inside her personal room. When the knickknack was in her hand, the window viewing out into the ocean warped and distorted. It quickly became clear and now displayed a virtual shop full of items to buy. Scrolling through the options, she moved past themes, add-ons, pets, objects and stopped when she got to games. Squeezing the shopping cart confirmed her choice, and dozens of game boxes flew out of the window to fill her space. There were so many that she couldn’t see past them.

“Show me the top ten best-selling in the multiplayer genre.” All but ten of the boxes floating around faded out of existence. “Filter out any games without ten million concurrent users.” Six of the remaining boxes vanished, leaving only three. She read her remaining choices. “Endless Fantasy Online. I should have filtered out games I already owned. Space Wars. No thanks, Dad. That leaves me with… Collectors Quest? Isn’t that a scam game?”

She clicked on Collector’s Quest to get more information. A new screen shimmered into view displaying stats on the game, reviews, patch notes, screen shots, videos, and news articles. She skimmed through the news articles until she found one from a few weeks ago that looked interesting.

Collector’s Quest remains undefeated after five years! After Vortex Industries revealed their revolutionary new title, Collector’s Quest, everyone and anyone flooded the game. Not surprising, since Vortex Industries put up a prize of one hundred billion credits to anyone who manages to beat the game.

How do you get your hands on this massive fortune? Simple, just collect a single copy of each of the game’s two-hundred and fifty unique registered cards. The first player to collect them all, wins! Sounds easy, right? Well, that’s what everyone thought, but even after five years, no one has completed the quest to collect. That hasn’t stopped most of the world to keep trying and doing everything they can to win.

You would think the game would lose popularity after so much time passing, but just the opposite. Collector’s Quest has not only maintained its number one slot on the download list, but it, by far, has the most active players of any software available for the Vortex Industries VR platform.

Do you have what it takes to beat the Collector’s Quest? I don’t know about you, but I’m cutting this article short so I can collect some more cards. See you in CQ!

Emy continued to scroll through articles. There were some forum posts that claimed the game was a scam and impossible to complete, but for every article, post or fan screaming about it, there were a hundred more saying how legitimate the challenge was and how entertaining it was to play the game. Vortex Industries even held large conferences each year to talk about the current state of the game and how close people were too winning. The company’s official website even hosted a leader board that constantly updated to show the top ten players. Currently, a user by the name of ‘Red Knight’ was in the lead with one-hundred and sixty unique cards.

It looks like I could get at leas a few dozen hours of play out of this for minimal costs. The game’s free after all. That just means there are probably a ton of micro transactions. It’s easy to give away a hundred billion if you make two or three times that from everyone purchasing virtual cards. Emy laughed. At least it’s something new. She thought as she clicked on the purchase button.

Placing the shopping cart back on her desk returned her window returned to its watery view. Looking up, she noticed a new book materializing on her shelf. The spine read ‘Collector’s Quest’. The letters illuminating one at a time as it installed on her hardware. Most games nowadays, Collector’s Quest included, downloading in byte size pieces so players could get into the action faster. Because of this, the spine was fully lit in a matter of a few minutes.

She opened the book as she pulled it from the shelf. There was no text inside, only a spinning blue vortex. The trademark symbol of Vortex Industries. Placing a hand inside the swirling energy caused a box to appear in Emy’s view.

Would you like to play Collector’s Quest?

Yes / No

“Yes.” Upon hearing her selection, the slowly spinning vortex sped up and grew. It continued to grow until it was larger than Emy. It spun round and round in the shape of a large oval. Its black center faded to reveal a room with a woman sitting at a desk full of monitors. She was smiling and gesturing for Emy to enter, so she did.

“Welcome to Collector’s Quest, or CQ for short. I’m you environmental virtual assistance or Eva for short. I’m here to get you set up for your first steps into CQ.” Eva hit a few keys on the keyboard in-front of her and a large display shelf slid out of the ground next to Emy.

Emy took a moment to look at her surroundings. The portal to her room had vanished and left her in a small, spherical room with a tile floor. There was Eva, sitting behind a desk full of displays and now a display shelf full of handbags to her right.

“Are those handbags? Are they for storing my cards?” She questioned.

“No, and yes. Those are available storage books for you to choose from. Most are free, but there are some premium themed options available as well. I can see your confusion, however. All books come with a strap for easier carrying. Please select a book and I will explain more about its purpose.” Eva gestured toward the display shelf.

There were dozens of different styles to choose from. There were books bound with leather, wood, and metal to name a few. There were inlay options to have jewels, bones, and even leaves added in. Emy could even edit the primary and secondary color of each option. If you could dream up a design, regardless of material or practicality, it appeared to be available for purchase in CQ. That being said, anything beyond the first two choices had a dollar sign next to them. Most of the options and add-ons weren’t outrageously priced, mainly just set at five or ten credits, but without trying the game, Emy wasn’t ready to fork over her money. Or rather, her father’s money in this case.

“Can I edit my book later on if I don’t like the design?” She inquired.

“Yes. There are many shops in the world that will allow you to customize your book to any of the options you see here, as well as additional options reserved for the area the shop is located in.”

Emy thought it was a dumb question. Of course they would let her edit her book later. Why pass up on a chance to charge a fee after-all? She grabbed the first book off the shelf. It was very mundane looking with its simple one tone leather bound cover and cream pages. The only special thing about it was the thin square inlay on its cover. When she grabbed the book, a message asked her to choose a primary and secondary color and to confirm her choice. She went with black leather and a gold inlay. She thought it made the book look more elegant.

“Excellent choice. Would you like to like to learn about your book?” Emy nodded to Eva. “Everyone who enters the game is given a book. Your book will hold all of your cards you acquire during your travels. No one can place a card or take a card from your book but you. Now please take a look at the first page.”

Emy did as she was instructed. The backside of the cover had six empty rectangle slots outlined in gold. The first page had nine empty rectangles with a number in them. The numbers read ‘001’ to ‘009’.

“The first pages in your book are for completing your collection.” Eva continued. “You can only place a card in these slots if the card’s number corresponds with the one on the selected slot. These are referred to as your registered cards and what needs to be completed for you to win CQ. Please flip ahead a few pages.”

Emy flipped through the book. The pages had the appearance and feel of paper but were rigid and completely stiff as she turned them. She continued going through the book until she reached a page without numbers on its empty slots.

“These are your unregistered slots. You can place any card you wish into these slots, regardless of its number. The previously numbered slots are referred to as your registered slots and are numbered from one to two-hundred and fifty. You also have fifty available free slots for a total of three hundred available slots in total. As I stated previously, to beat CQ and claim the wondrous prize, you must completely fill all two-hundred and fifty registered card slots. Any questions so far?”

“So all I have to do is collect two-hundred and fifty cards to win? One of each?”

“Yes. More precisely, you need one of each register slot card.”

“Ok.” Emy flipped her her book back to the front cover. “What are these six slots for?”

“Allow me to explain the acquisition of cards first. You see, when you obtain an item in CQ it will automatically turn into a card. You will sixty seconds to place that card into an available slot or it will forever revert back into an item. If you want to slot that item later, you will need to acquire a new copy of it. On the back of your book,” she gestured to Emy to turn her book over. There was a single slot in the center of the back cover. Eva continued her explanation, “is where you can use your cards. Removing any card from your book and placing it here will allow you to use it or get the item it relates to. For example, placing a sword card here will allow you to get a sword. Remember, however, any card not in your book will automatically convert into its item form after sixty seconds, and any card that is converted or used can not become a card again. Since removing a card and placing it on the back of your book can become tedious, the six slots on the inside cover are refereed to as your quick access slots or your ‘kit’ as many players call it. Only spell cards can be placed there, but can be used multiple times and with vocal command alone. A word of caution, however. Any spell card placed in a quick access slot can not be removed but can be overwritten with a new spell if you wish to change your kit. The old spell will simply be destroyed and you will need to obtain it again if you wish to use it.”

“Ok… I think I get it. Items become cards, I have limited time to put those cards into my book or they become items forever and I can use spell cards with my voice if they are in the front of my book. Wait. Spell cards? Are there different types of cards?” Emy questioned, a little flustered.

“Yes. There are three types. Item, spell and other. Now that you have your book and have heard the basic rules of CQ, allow me to award you with your first card.” Eva typed on her keyboard and one of the monitors in-front of her spun to face Emy. “Please choose from the available list.”

Emy stepped closed and reviewed her limited options. There were only five cards to choose from and they were all spells. This was her first chance to look at one of the cards however and she had some questions. “I get the general layout of cards, but why are there letters and numbers on it?” She pointed to the top card as an example.

Each card was broken down into sections. There were three boxes on the top. Two square ones flanking a longer rectangle. The middle of the card contained a photo of the item or spell in question, and the bottom larger box was an explanation of its effect.

Eva pointed to each box as she explained what they did. “The top left number corresponds with the slot registration number, the middle box is the card’s name and type, and the top right box shows the card’s rarity and registered-limit. The photo and description boxes are self-explanatory. Note, any card with a number higher than two hundred and forty-nine can only be placed in an unregistered slot.”

“Ok, you dropped a lot of information on me there. What are the card rarity levels and whats a registered-limit?”

“The rarity of a card speaks to how hard it is to obtain. Rarity ranges alphabetically from F to A and then S and SS. The registered-limit is the number of times a card can be placed into any player’s book’s registered slots before it can’t be placed in another book.”

Emy scratched her head. “What?”

Eva chuckled. “Allow me to give you an example. The S card Excalibur has a registered-limit of five. That means only the first five players to place it into their book’s registered slots may do so. Every other play from that point on who obtains Excalibur may only convert the card into an item or place it in their unregistered slots for later us. Note, your quick access slots are not affected by the card registered-limit either.”

“But then how can someone win if someone else is hogging the card they need? Is this how you rig the system?” Emy spat with a bit too much of her annoyance bleeding through.

“We have many systems in place to prevent this. If a player dies inside CQ, for example, they will drop a percentage of their total cards. If those cards are collected within sixty seconds, they can be slotted into a book. If they are not collected, they will vanish. Another way to prevent card hoarding, is our out-of-game checking system. If a player doesn’t actively participate in the world of CQ for two weeks, they automatically forfeit their collection. This may sound harsh, but these systems, along with others, are in place to ensure a fair competition. Did you have any additional questions before making your choice?”

Emy shook her head and reviewed her five available options.

132 – Produce Flame / Spell – D / Unlimited

Produce a small flame which can be thrown. If thrown, the fire does 1-3 damage.

Cooldown: 15 seconds.

215 – Produce Water / Spell – D / Unlimited

Produce a small amount of drinkable water.

Cooldown: 10 seconds.

70 – Steal / Spell – D / Unlimited

Steal a random card from a target’s unregistered slots.

Cooldown: 1 Hour.

176 – Weak Defensive Wall / Spell -D / Unlimited

Protects you from one targeted spell card.

Cooldown: 1 Hour.

178 – Find Food / Spell – D / Unlimited

Know the location of nearby food available for forage.

Cooldown: 1 Hour.

Emy already had her mind made up. All the spells had their ups and downs but she loved playing the stealthy rogue which made the decision simple. “I choose Steal!”

“Perfect. Allow me to grant you this card and show you how to use it before you enter the world of CQ.”