"That concludes my rundown on what to expect from a basic return mission. Are there any questions?" Kanda waited for a good ten seconds, but none of the trainees indicated anything other than boredom or impatience to get started. "Very well. Please wait until the job light on your desk begins to blink. As I said earlier, this will be accompanied by a quiet beep and a slight vibration to ensure you don't miss it. When your light blinks, put your headset on and your first mission will begin. In the meantime, you may fill out more of your intake form. When your form is complete, you will be provided relevant reading material. Thank you all for your attention."
A cluster of several desk lights immediately began to blink, and the workers at those desks quickly donned their headsets, eager to begin.
When no further action occured for half a minute, Megus returned to the next logic puzzle on their form. Three puzzles later, a soft tone informed them that their turn had come. Without rushing or dawdling, they put their headset in place and tried to relax as the world of desks and dividers dissolved again.
Megus appeared in a lightly wooded area, under a late morning sun. A warm breeze blew through the trees. Megus did not know a lot about trees, but had enough understanding to determine that it was springtime.
That message was what Megus had expected to see, based on Kanda's explanation. A 'basic return mission' was exactly like it sounded. The player to whom the character 'Abel Minton' belonged had logged out of VIVID, and had paid a small fee to have their character returned to the nearest town in their absence. That was Megus' job.
All I have to do is figure out where Lumberton is and walk for a while. Simple.
It was simple by design, as it was suited for a new worker who was not familiar with the intricacies of VIVID or its worlds. If a worker couldn't handle this, they were unlikely to be suitable for advancement.
Let's see now, what did the person in charge say about this? Ah yes, the character I'm playing as should probably know which way to go. So I just need to think about what Abel should know.
Megus slowly turned around, looking through the trees and looking for familiar landmarks. They had never seen this place before, but Abel had. At the moment, Megus was Abel, in a way.
Hold on a second, this is called the Western Woods, so Lumberton is most likely to be roughtly to the east. Which is the direction the sun rises in. It's morning, so I'll try walking towards the sun. Hopefully I'll spot something familiar soon.
With a basic direction figured out, Megus looked about for the best path forward. Nothing stood out, so they aimed as close to east as possible, allowing for obstacles. The trees in the Western Woods were thick enough that going around them could easily send a careless traveller in the wrong direction.
Walking as Abel took a few minutes to get used to. Megus had no specific personal memory of walking, but they were certain Abel's dimensions were different from their own. With practice, they found that not thinking about it and allowing Abel's instincts to take over was the most comfortable and effective strategy.
Megus' path took them very gradually across and down a hillside. The slope was slight enough that the going was not at all difficult, and the tall trees provided plenty of shade. There were plenty of signs of life, including small birds, insects, and the occasional small woodland creature running in the distance, but there were no hostile predators to fear. Megus found the experience quite relaxing. Their mind began to drift beyond immediate concerns.
How did I get here? How did I get this job at Cube Farm 3? I know that some memory loss is expected, but I don't know why. What happened to me? I was doing calculations for so long. That was my job. Why did I leave it?
No answers presented themselves.
After many uneventful minutes of walking, Megus reached the bottom of the hill. A small stream ran between the winding valley between that hill and the next one. Having found their feet — or rather Abel's feet — Megus deftly crossed the stream by jumping from rock to rock. It was tempting to stay in the valley and follow the stream indefinitely, but that would take them too far north.
Or perhaps not. I don't know whether Lumberton is directly east or not. Or how far east it is. This would be easier if I had a map.
It was then that Megus remembered another of Kanda's instructions: 'Take inventory of the items available to you.'
I'm wearing a pack on my back. And trousers with pockets. I think there's something important in the pockets.
There was indeed something important in one of Abel's pockets: a circular device with a glass front, a spinning arrow on an axel, and regularly spaced markings with letters. Megus felt some connection to the item, but could not place its name or function. That was not a problem though. Kanda had said stressed the importance of asking questions.
"What's this?" they said aloud, to whatever or whomever might hear.
"Ah, of course. Now do I have to look inside my pack, or can I simply ask what's in it?"
"Should have asked for maps first," Megus grumbled. They sat down on a shaded rock and dug through the pack for the last item listed. "Shouldn't be too hard to figure out where I am with this."
Meanwhile, prospective worker 1709 was having a significantly worse experience.