Radical-9 is the first book in the Radical-9 Saga. It was originally published on September 27, 2012, with a revised 7th Anniversary Edition published on January 18, 2020.
The American government had collapsed, life became so much harder for people without someone to guide them. Some cities are completely destroyed. it isn't until a mysterious company named Adata Inc. partners with longstanding technological giant Technodome Inc. to create an escape for those still surviving--an escape from reality through virtual reality. This escape is known only as Elysium, an interactable online world where the wearer's imagination comes to life inside the world of Elysium, a medieval land recreated with ancient arts of swords and sorcery. In Aurora, Colorado, one of the better-off cities in America, high school senior, Andrew Cress begins his escape into the magical world of Elysium, but he soon finds out that his escape might not be much better than the reality he was trying to escape from as death threatens to take him in its loving grace.
High school senior Andrew Cress joins the world’s first virtual reality video game experience, Elysium in an attempt to escape from the stresses of the increasingly destabilizing world around him. Inside he finds another user locked inside the dungeon for griefing before the end of the beta tests, Klein. He frees Klein and the two move to find the starting zone of the game. They’re ambushed by robed figures which Klein reveals to be players part of the Python Guild.
They manage to defend themselves against the ambush and arrive in Novus Dandé where the pair learns that the game master, Jack Adata, has trapped everyone inside of the game unless someone is able to find him and defeat him.
Players whose health reaches zero in the game will have their Adatech helmets in the real world fire off microwaves that kill the brain of the wearer. Andrew comes to the realization that the Python players that he and Klein had defeated were now dead because of them. After coming to terms with their new situation, Andrew and Klein find that another beta tester, going by the username Eldon, is recruiting players to reach the second floor. The pair decide to split up to try and recruit players into their own party to join with the rest of the crew.
Andrew meets up with another player named Athena, who agrees to form together, but suggests he outfit his gear at the local armory. Andrew meets back up with Klein after the latter fails to find anybody and they head to get Andrew some new gear. Doing so, they meet up with Gregor and Beth McEntyr, two beta testers who were offered shop keep positions.
After getting new gear the two meet up with Athena in the town square, and she reveals that she’s Eldon’s younger sister, and the reason why she joined the game was to convince him to return.
She’s met with aggression as Eldon realizes that she’s in the game too, and Andrew jumps in the middle of their argument, causing Eldon to force a duel between the two. It’s revealed that Eldon is actually a floor boss for the game. Andrew narrowly manages to avoid death, but has to kill Eldon to escape.
Athena splits off from the group after this point, but harbors an inner desire to meet up with Andrew again. Andrew and Klein move up to the second floor and save a small boy named Sam from a mob of wolves, and then a Python ambush--led by an admin named Rose Elchen | Rose. The two manage to overcome her with the help of another beta tester named Luna. She picks off Pythons with her arrows of light.
With Sam rescued, Andrew and Klein restrain Rose--planning on questioning her on the whereabouts of Jack Adata until a loud roar erupts around them. Andrew and Luna go to find the source of the sound while Klein keeps an eye on Rose and Sam. In the clearing they find a gigantic beast that looks to be part lion, part snake, and part goat called the Ultimate Chimera. The two work together and find a certain chemistry in their styles as they manage to take down the beast and claim its Keystone.
They return to the battlefield to find Klein, Sam, and Rose all missing. After searching around they find nothing but a large wall blocking progress to the other half of the forest with a countdown on it--implying that the wall shall vanish in that time. Defeated, the pair decides to regroup in Novus Dandé. Here, they share a bit about their lives with each other, Andrew learns that Luna’s real name is Aria, and that she grew up in England as a hidden child--as her family was only known to have a son--her brother. Her identity was kept a secret, but unfortunately she was discovered and before scandal could ensue she had to be shipped overseas with one of her nannies.
The next morning, Andrew and Aria take to training to build a natural rhythm when fighting together, and after some time she starts to see improvement in his movement. After a tough day of training, Andrew dreams of the city being burnt to bits--as he gets a terrible feeling that the countdown wasn’t a timer until the wall came down--but a test to get past it. He drags Aria along to the second floor where they find a small group of players who discover the secret to the wall--a player needs to be on their last legs to make it across--as the wall removes the players’ inability to feel pain--everything from that point on would be as real as ever.
Andrew and Aria both join up with the small crew and cross the barrier, sending them off their feet and forced to crawl as they regain their strength.
At the same time, Athena is back in Novus Dandé contemplating suicide over memories of her past that refuse to stay down. She’s stopped by a player named Rafael who Athena latches onto for comfort in hopes that it is Andrew--the boy she’s fallen for to save her. She resigns herself to the fact that he’ll probably get himself killed out there, and joins up hesitantly with Rafael, who takes advantage of her state in more ways than one. After physical abuse brings flashes of her father to the front of her mind she manages to escape from his clutches in the panic as the countdown reaches zero on the second floor. A wall of fire erupts in Novus Dandé and burns the remaining players alive--including Rafael. Athena just barely makes it to the second floor where she meets up with the wall, not yet knowing its secret. The fire catches up to her and she starts to burn, her arm outstretched--and that’s when she is able to pass through, although her right arm has burned completely. At the same time, in the world outside of the game, Andrew’s sister, Jen, reacts to the news that her older brother is stuck inside a game just like ten thousand other victims across the state. She’s left to tend to their depressed mother who has barely functioned as a parent since her husband’s suicide thirteen years prior--and not at all since the news of her only son’s comatose state inside Elysium. Jen, angry at her brother for leaving her alone to pick up the pieces, but wanting more than anything to bring him back comes up with a plan with her best friend and son of the chief of police, Jake Carroway, to find out where Elysium was made to find a way to save her brother.
The pair ends up in Denver, Colorado to find a wasteland of broken and abandoned buildings. The most structurally sound of all--the place that Jake managed to find by breaking into his father’s computer is the Republic Plaza. Unfortunately, the locked gate around the building is still standing, so only Jen is able to make it over with Jake’s help. Jen ventures inside to find anything that can help unlock the gate to bring Jake in, but a sound on the floor above her causes her to investigate immediately. She finds that she isn’t alone in the Republic Plaza, as a man named Jay Rein is make-shifting strange gadgets with a vial of strange rainbow liquid. She recognizes something that looks like the same helmet that Andrew is wearing back home.
He introduces himself and says that while he is not the man responsible for Elysium existing, he worked with the man who is, and by learning her name he reveals that he worked with a Cress on that very same team--David Cress, although Elysium was created after David’s suicide in 2008.
Jen hears sirens outside and turns to find a window where she can see the ground level--she sees the sheriff’s own car blazing down the broken streets. She’s relieved as she was worried it was someone else--but Jay doesn’t seem too relieved. Jen watches as Jake’s father pulls up, fires a round into his own son, and then pulls him into the car before driving away without a word.
Jay reveals that the police are in Jack’s pocket--that is how something like Elysium is allowed to exist--Jack has innumerable influence and isn’t so easy to refuse. He then shows that he’s been working on a way to stop the game from the outside using a modified helmet that removes the microwave functionality and risk of death--but allows the wearer to sync up with Jack’s subconscious like all the other players, although he admits he could use assistance in powering the generators back up on the third floor.
Jen, realizing she has no other choice, agrees, and in doing so he decides to trust her with information about a secret compound that caused Jack’s madness--Radical-9. When Jay was working with Jack inside the Republic Plaza--they were tasked with examining foreign material, and the incident that came about led to the discovery of strange...yet terrifying powers--and that decline was what set in motion Jack’s desire for eternity inside a world of his own making.
Jen offers to go into the game so Jay can do his work on the outside--and he helps her locate Andrew. Back with Andrew, he, Aria, and the rest of the players find their way to a strange altar after making their way through a dark cave. They find Klein unconscious and near-death and Rose has scaled the massive altar with Sam on top. A fight ensues, and all but Aria, Klein, and Andrew survive the fight. The group moves forward to the next town, Novus Callus, where they find respite at a nearby inn. However, it doesn’t last long as Klein reveals Sam to be nothing more than a program he can vanish in an instant--for he is the one behind the game--Jack Adata. He reveals that he’s been keeping an eye on Andrew since the very start of the game to confirm if he was who he thought he was, and then challenges Andrew to find his true self, and too, vanishes.
Andrew and Aria leave the inn, frustrated, to find a commotion in the town square--a player has gone rogue and started killing other players out of nowhere. They arrive on the scene to find Gregor from the blacksmith’s on the first floor. He, like Eldon, has his own Keystone and is slaughtering players with his gigantic hammer. Andrew and Aria team up to tackle the giant, and are looking to make good progress until Athena finds herself on the outskirts of the battle--and she notices Andrew. She calls out for him and in the second that he’s distracted--he allows a blow to come to Aria. She’s killed instantly as Gregor’s mallet crushes her skull. Andrew freaks out and rushes him, but gets stopped and held up--but then a bright light fills Andrew’s eyes as he’s dragged into Gregor’s subconscious--he experiences his memories from waking up in the game initially--Andrew learns that Gregor’s every action is dictated by a third party who sends him commands via text in his eye. Andrew is pulled out, but the event is too much for Gregor. He falls, and dies on the spot.
Athena realizes the weight of his loss and tries to help him out of his depression--feelings that must immediately be put aside as Jen appears beside them both--having found his location with Jay’s help. The three get acquainted and the tension can be cut with a knife. The group decides to regroup at the inn and get on the same page.
Once Jay and Athena share their sides of the story, Andrew is forced to reveal to Jen that they aren’t biological siblings--that their mom adopted her when she was just an infant after his father’s suicide--and Jay then further explains that Jack Adata had a young daughter that he attempted to rescue from the republic plaza during the chaos--but he didn’t know what had happened to her after he lost sight. After more discussion on Andrew’s father’s suicide, Jen revealing Jake’s fate, and Andrew’s plan to meet up with another beta tester in Novus Callus--the group decides it best to follow the plan.
They meet up with the user Aria knew named Oaken and outfit their gear for the coming troubles. Andrew receives a gunblade called Flintlocke, Jen is given a staff for ranged magic casting called Zarathustra, and Athena trades in her sword for something she can use with her left arm only--a retractable lance called the Lance of Longinus.
They search out the sparring hall and train for hours until each of them is exhausted. Jen moves to log off--with Jay on the outside confirming that he’ll keep an eye on her. With no other choice, Andrew has to accept. Athena motions to continue training--that she’s not satisfied yet. The two keep at it--with Andrew outpacing Athena due to her injury. She lashes out and accidentally strikes his leg with her lance. He wraps up the injury and the two come to an understanding of needing to balance each other’s weaknesses--and Andrew comes to terms with the fact that he’s not going to be able to so easily synchronize with someone like he did with Aria.
Jay drives Jen back home and she falls asleep in her own bed after a day that felt like a week. She dreams of a scene of herself as an infant--being rescued from the Republic Plaza by a man she previously thought was her and Andrew’s father, but is then revealed to be Gregory Daniels--before his act ends with his death.
Gregory planned with Jay to save her from the testing that was going on--but Jack had caught on to the plan too early and ends up crashing his own car into Gregory’s--coming out completely unharmed. Jen, crying, in the backseat is equally unharmed, but Gregory and his ex-wife, Lorraine Daniels were not so lucky. Gregory was coming to as the scene around him unfolded--his ex wife dead in the passenger seat. The last thing he sees is Jack pulling out a revolver outside of the car window and firing away.
The next morning Jen rejoins the group back in Elysium. They trained not much longer after Jen’s exit. Jay then finds it time to discuss the nature of Radical-9--as it pertains to them specifically. In 2008 the group of scientists that Jay was a part of was tasked with researching two foreign elements they discovered on Mars named Lantrate and Dicoberene. They seemed to have little reaction with most Earth elements, however, Jack was the unfortunate soul to discover that it had catastrophic results when combined with Radium, Calcium, and Lantrate. The ensuing compound was dubbed RaDiCaL-9 for its makeup, but its properties were unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The initial explosion nearly killed Jack--it had certainly sent him into a coma he was surely not to wake from...until he did. The building itself had to go under lockdown as all inside were considered at risk for exposure...this included the children the scientists tended to bring with them who stayed in the residential areas of the building.
Andrew then comes to the realization that he was exposed to the Radical-9--as his dad worked as a scientist--which Jay confirms as the same David Cress.
Radical-9 exposure is much different than other kinds of poisonings--it’s almost viral in nature--definitely able to spread through bloodborne contamination. It gives the contaminated abilities that are beyond belief--tending to trend towards specializations among different subjects, but there are a few common traits that as far as Jay has been able to document, run similarly. The bodies of those contaminated based on the amount of exposure degrade faster than that of a normal human, and in extreme cases can lead to extreme paranoia and suicidal tendencies. Andrew then comes to terms with the fact that it’s likely his father’s suicide was caused by these ideations brought on by the Radical-9 poisoning.
With these events in mind, the group heads to the fourth floor where they find a sprawling desert along with another floor boss waiting at the ambush. It is a hydra--specifically an eight headed-eight-tailed creature named Orochi. Andrew remembers that when he fought against Rose she had turned into a large monster--and then realizes that this must be the same kind of situation--he remembers the leader of the Python Guild being named Orochi.
After a heated fight they manage to overcome the dragon and Andrew has a similar vision to when he looked into Gregor’s memories. He sees Jack making the business deal for the development of Elysium with the Technodome Inc. CEO, Benjamin Gupta. The rushed deadline explains the game’s shallow nature.
After Andrew returns to himself, they discover a temple on the other side of the desert. Inside they find a gooey monster called the Protoplasmic Wraith. Using clever strategy they manage to take it down after their initial attempts fail. As they continue on through the temple they find the exit toward the fifth floor and it’s town, Novus Semper. Calling it a town is a bit of a misnomer, as it looked to be vast farmland with a single farmhouse for what seemed like miles. The group decides that it is a good place to set up in and rest for the night.
Andrew and Athena share a room, where he accidentally is sucked into her memories and sees flashes of her traumatic past. He apologizes profusely, but she chooses to trust in him to tell him the context. Her father was physically and sexually abusive to her, and the last time that her brother found out was when they ran away. They went as far as their feet could let them, they hid out in an abandoned apartment complex where rent wouldn’t be an issue. They needed money to survive, still, and she was still in high school and Aaron was still in college. However, things proceeded to get worse when Aaron got into the Elysium beta test--he started flunking his classes--so Athena needed to do something to help snap him out of it--so she stole an Adatech from the Technodome closest to them--just barely getting away with it. The two bond over shared experiences, but reveal that even though they could see each other growing feelings for one another--they both are in no way, shape, or form ready for a relationship with anyone currently. They both have to work on loving themselves more before they can give that to someone else.
Before they fall asleep, Athena reveals her full name to Andrew, being Lindsey Berrant. Andrew is awoken in the night by large rumbling of the earth. The roof of the farmhouse is blown away as a gigantic airship hangs overhead--sucking them in like a gigantic vacuum. Andrew wakes up next to Lindsey in a ballroom of a fancy-looking ship staring face to face with a creature that could only be described as an abomination--a gigantic centipede made of a black goo with a decrepit human corpse attached at the back controlling the monstrosity. Jay chimes in and says he’s managed to break through some of the inner code of the system--he’s summoned the ship from pieces of Jack’s memory. They should be able to trigger a response if they dig around the ship and uncover memories he doesn’t want them finding.
The creature charges Andrew and grabs a hold of him before he can do anything else. He’s sent inside his own mind--his darkest fears of finding his mother dead just like his father--leaving him utterly alone. He’s able to bring himself out of the terror and works with Lindsey to kill the beast. They explore some of the ship until they find the captain’s quarters which has some busted computer terminals--one of them still working. On it, they find a log of those contaminated with Radical-9--namely a list of the children as well as parents.
Just then, Jack appears--as Klein--and almost offers a joking hand to the pair. THe both of them refuse his joking advances and say they want nothing but to end this game. Banter is exchanged and Jack shifts into his true self--older and his hair grayed to a point. He mentally inputs commands to paralyze Lindsey’s character, but Jay is able to log her out in time, saying he needs more time to get to the rest of them. Jack attempts to shut him out, and then says it’ll just be between the both of them, then.
Jack transports the both of them to a single platform overlooking the universe and offers a single method that ensures Andrew’s survival--he allow Jack to enter his mind and control his body--that way he doesn’t have to worry about dying. Andrew denies the obviously awful offer, and the two begin to fight. Andrew is quickly overtaken as his weapons are deleted by Jack--saying it is foolish to fight him with weapons of his own creation. Jay is able to interject again, reminding him that Radical-9 flows in his bloodstream--that makes Jack inherently afraid of him as it challenges his own power. He then gets a look through Jay’s eyes and sees Jen, safe, and it gives him the power needed to overpower Jack. He taunts him, inciting deep held hatred for the others who were contaminated--which gives Jay enough time to restore the global log out, which Andrew takes advantage of and rescues the remaining survivors from the game.
Andrew wakes up in the hospital with Jen and Jay arriving just in time to see him. The two help him into the car as they head home--where Andrew realizes that his worst nightmare had come true--their mother had hung herself in his room.
Jen had assumed their mother was out when she had come back and hadn’t gone into his room--the both of them are traumatized at the event, but on the same hand it solidifies that they need to stop this from growing into a much larger problem. Once the necessaries are taken care of, Jen and Andrew accompany Jay to meet a friend of Jay’s--but before they set out proper--Andrew posits for a detour--and on the way they pick up Lindsey--who is happy and sad to wake up to similar circumstances. The group--broken--but alive, travels into the distance to meet the companion.
- Jack Adata
- Samuel Adata
- Jake Carroway
- Andrew Cress
- Jennifer Cress
- David Cress
- Gregory Daniels
- Jay Rein
- Benjamin Gupta
- Beth McEntyr
- Elena Cress
- Radical-9's title comes from multiple sources. The first being the virus from the Zero Escape franchise, Radical-6, which similarly induces suicidal and homicidal tendencies. Second is from the Kangxi radicals composed of two strokes that means "human". Finally, it comes from the chemical composition of elements inside the compound itself--two of which are fictional creations.