Array - Chapter 2

In our second chapter, Jason wakes up in another world, and utilizes the survival knowledge he got from his late grandfather.



3/26/20248 min read

Jason sat bolt upright.

"Well, that was a lot smoother than I was expecting," he commented as he observed his surroundings. He was in some kind of forest, but, while similar to the fauna back home, he didn't recognize any of the plants around him. "No headache, or jetlag, or anything like that. I lost consciousness, and then a second later I woke up here."

"Bending space isn't all that difficult for us," a familiar voice spoke up. The redhead looked around, searching for a ball of light to go with it, but Rajan's physical form was nowhere to be found. "I'm communicating using the array," came the explanation. "Even I can't be two places at once... strictly speaking. Suffice it to say, I need to stay in my domain and manage some of the more technical details of this arrangement."

"You can still act as a guide, though, right?" he asked.

"I'm required to, actually," it told him matter-of-factly. "By the way, before we start... broadcasting, for lack of a better word, would you like anything specific as a starting advantage, or should I just randomly give you something?"

The young man pondered on that question for several seconds before glancing up at the sky.

"Can I see what stats and skills I have right now?"

"Sure, just think about opening your character page," Rajan replied.

The moment Jason did as the alien had instructed, a semi-transparent window popped up in front of him. Oddly, despite being able to see it, the thing didn't obstruct his view at all.

"I don't know what these all equate to," he murmured as he scanned over the plethora of information before him. "I'm assuming stats are representative of my current strength, agility, intelligence, and so on. Skills seem to correspond to what I was good at back home. Equipment is just what I'm wearing right now and doesn't seem all that special."

The obvious thing to ask for was an equipment package. Weapons, armor, enchanted jewelry... all that kind of stuff. However, Jason wasn't the impulsive type. He liked to consider what would be best for long-term survival and, just as importantly, advancement.

"Can I naturally communicate with the people on this planet?" he finally inquired after a good fifteen minutes of utter silence.

"Nope," came the way-too gleeful reply.

His best option of not being eaten by some predator was to cooperate with the locals. That meant being able to talk with them, which wouldn't be possible until he learned their language. Depending on how they spoke, doing so could take him months, years, or might not even be possible at all. At least, not without a special ability.

"Make it so that I can talk with anyone..." he paused, a grin creeping across his face. "No, with anything I come into contact with."

"Universal speech comprehension, huh?" Rajan murmured, sounding almost impressed. "Interesting. I'll allow it!"

Nothing really happened, but a new skill popped up in the relevant section of his information window, and Jason somehow knew he could now speak fluent... anything, really.

"How does that work, anyway? Do you, like, download knowledge into my brain?" The thought didn't sit well with him, but he wasn't going to decline something so invasive if it helped him survive another day.

"That would be unethical, so no," the disembodied voice told him reluctantly. "The array acts as a real-time translator for you. It interprets what's being said, then transmits it to your mind the same way I'm sending my thoughts to you. Then it takes what you say and does the same in reverse. Effectively, it appears to both parties as if the other is speaking their native language."

"Cool," Jason stated sincerely.

"With that taken care of, let's get this show going!" Suddenly, the redhead felt as if thousands of eyes were watching him from some hidden location he couldn't quite identify. It was incredibly creepy and sent a shiver down his spine. "We are live! Try to make things as entertaining as possible but take your time. Our perception of it is a tad different from yours."

"Gotcha," he said with a wave of his hand. "By the way, is the audience going to be watching me as I, uh... take care of private matters?"

"Not unless you want them to." There was some kind of insinuation there, one which Jason was not interested in agreeing to.

"Let's keep it child-friendly," he said as he started walking.

"...Fine," came a mildly disappointed response. "Try not to die right away, okay?"

"If this really is a safe area, that shouldn't be a problem."

Rajan didn't say anything back, so Jason just shrugged his shoulders and set off to do some exploring.

"If I remember right, I need water, shelter, fire, and food--in that order." A slight frown marred his face, something not feeling quite right. "Naw, shelter, then water, right?" He couldn't quite remember, but he figured having a place to hide from predators and the elements was probably more important than hydration at the moment.

After wandering around for a bit, he stumbled upon the burnt-out husk of a once-massive tree. Even just the remains were a solid twenty feet tall and almost a dozen feet in diameter.

"You must have been a monster in your prime," he mused while picking up a thick fallen branch. "Sorry to desecrate your corpse like this, but I need somewhere to stay for a while."

With a loud grunt of effort, he swung his makeshift bludgeon at the brittle black wood. Despite practically being charcoal, the attack only managed to carve out a small divot in the remains.

"That is going to take a while," Jason sighed out as he prepared himself for a monotonous couple of hours. "Oh well, at least its sturdy."

It was thirty minutes later, just as he was starting to open a respectably sized hole in the charred wood--which was a whopping two feet thick at the base--that a window popped up in front of him.

"Your strength has leveled up?" he read the message aloud. "I do feel a little stronger."

"That's what the strength stat does!" Jason started a bit as Rajan unexpectedly spoke up for the first time in a while. "Actually, it's responsible for a lot of things, but practically speaking that's its main purpose. As I mentioned before, I kept this system as simple as possible so that it doesn't drive you crazy!"

"Thanks, I guess," he said flippantly as he resumed his task.

It didn't take him much longer to forcefully beat down a big enough entryway for him to crawl into, which was precisely what he proceeded to do.

"Not bad," he commented while observing his temporary castle. "Needs a roof, but otherwise, it's perfect."

The young man took a few moments to admire the surprisingly large space, then exited it and glanced around. Spotting a nearby pile of deadfall, he lazily walked up to it and began pulling out anything useful.

"Freshly fallen branches can be used to form a makeshift roof, though I don't know if it'll be rainproof without some kind of sealant," he talked to himself as he worked. "Dry wood can be set aside for fueling a fire."

Soon enough, he had two neat stacks of green and dry wood, and, wiping the sweat from his brow, he immediately moved on to his next order of business.

Normally, scaling two stories laden down with a bunch of less-than-aerodynamic bundles of leafy brush would've proven exceptionally difficult. In this case, however, the peculiar structure of the trees in this area made it a breeze.

"It's like a built-in ramp," he mused as he dragged a collection of leafy branches behind him up the gentle slope spiraling all the way up to the top of the trunk--or what remained of it. The growth was a solid three feet wide and a couple feet thick, but due to being badly burned he still had to be careful not to step on the crumblier areas. "I wonder what purpose it serves?"

"Something akin to a water funnel." Again, the blasted alien broke the relative silence of the forest and nearly caused Jason to jump out of his skin. "There's another purpose, but you'll find out about that later."

"I'm sure I'll be just thrilled to learn what it is," he muttered doubtfully. Anything Rajan got excited about was likely to be dangerous to his health. "By the way, I don't suppose I've got some kind of map? I tried thinking about it, but nothing appeared."

"Such a thing exists, but you don't have it yet," the disembodied voice told him. "I'll give you a little hint: It's related to cartography."

"Gee, thanks. I never would've figured that out on my own," he spat out sarcastically.

"Maybe, but I doubt you'll be so confident when it comes to things like magic." He perked up at the mention of the mystical arts, and also felt a bad feeling form in the pit of his stomach. "I'd suggest being a bit nicer and more respectful towards me if you want to get any pointers in that area."

On the one hand, Jason was slightly concerned that he'd be left to his own devices regarding something really awesome and potentially lifesaving. On the other, he had his pride, and his rebellious ego didn't like submitting to others.

"Are you even allowed to do that?" the redhead wound up saying after much internal debate. Rajan was silent for a long time after that, and with each passing minute Jason's confidence grew. "You aren't, are you? I'll bet there's some rule saying that, as my overseer, you've got to do certain things or else you'll get in trouble."

A loud sigh sounded in his mind, prompting a victorious smirk to spread across his face.

"You know, I've only got to do the bare minimum." He'd been right in the middle of tossing a branch over the top of his new home, and that statement made him miss, resulting in said object falling into the interior of the burnt-out trunk. "If you keep being difficult, I'll withdraw any... voluntary support."

If not for the smugness in the alien's voice, he might've begrudgingly conceded the point to it. That wasn't happening now, though, so with a scowl he issued a loud snort and crossed his arms.

"I don't need your pity backing. I'll do just fine all on my own." It wasn't the wisest move, but boy did it feel good.

"Suit yourself." To his irritation, Rajan didn't seem especially bothered. Maybe being some sort of transintestinal energy-based lifeform that had lived for who-knew-how-many years contributed to that callousness. "If you change your mind, you know what you have to do." Or, maybe not, judging by the perverse expectation in the thing's voice.

"I hope you're not always like this," Jason grumbled more to himself than anyone, tossing some more cover over the tree trunk.

Rajan didn't contact him again, and by the time he'd finished making a roof, the moon was high enough in the sky to be seen between the treetops.

"I don't have a way to make a fire, but there's plenty of moss and leaves around here," he said while gathering said items into a nice comfy pile inside his temporary house. That done, he covered the entrance to his home with some of the leafy branches he hadn't used for his roof, then slid into his all-natural bed, noting how quickly he went from freezing cold to toasty warm. "Seems like plant life here makes great insulation."

Even though he was in a strange new world surrounding by potentially life-threatening creatures, had no food or water and was currently both hungry and thirsty, and was sleeping on the hard ground--which was absolutely killing his back--Jason fell asleep almost immediately and slept like a baby.