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The Flames of Civil War
I like stories. I like stories so much that on occasion I get a bug to write some of my own. Yada yada and some more yada placeholder etc etc and then some more junk cuz thats the type of lame crud I do on a hot toaster with two bagel samwiches.
What if we fought the War on Terror a little differently?
There was no one back home to shed any tears for me. You might even say that a few people would probably be happy I was captured. I didn’t care. The only thing I felt was cool detachment, my death would undoubtedly be quite soon. There were still no feelings of regret.
Rough hands had simply grabbed me as I wandered the confused dirt streets of a backwater farmers' market. An assault rifle shoved into my kidney, they dragged me through a dozen witnesses to a battered car.
My only protest as they forced me into the back seat was met with a rifle butt to the face. Something gave in my nose and a gush of crimson covered my shirt. Fists slammed against my head, then darkness as a blindfold was roughly pulled over my face. The car already in motion, they wasted no time in tying my hands behind my back. I curled up fetal position as much as was possible. There was no way I could fight them all. I gave up and let them take me where they would, bouncing uncomfortably between two large men in the back of a tiny vehicle.
There was some gloating, but not as much as I expected. They didn’t know I could understand their language, and I wasn’t about to give away one of my few advantages at this point. They argued about where to take me, settling finally upon some sort of warehouse or storage facility. I kept quiet even as they joked about how their great and terrible enemy was nothing more than a soft cowering dog when met man to man.
Roughly dragged from the car, I was half marched, half shoved into a sweltering dusty room. There was a brief argument about what to do with me. Variations of the word execution kept being used. I, of course, kept quiet - better to hear their plans than to reveal I knew what they intended to do. Finally they decided to share the glory of my capture with their more infamous brothers in arms. I was to be made an example of, showing the world the consequences of meddling in the affairs of those who did not wish it. My certain death would be recorded.
This was the same fate that others had met. I would simply be another testament to their determination to continue the fight, even in the face of overwhelming numbers and superior technology. I'd known this would be the outcome the moment I was grabbed. I still felt nothing.
I spent a long cold night - bound and blindfolded, pondering my fate. Thinking up impossible scenarios where I could dispatch my captors and escape. Return home a hero. The probability that that might happen was negligible, though; there were just too many of them. Any premature action on my behalf would end with me being shot struggling to escape. I gave into the reality that tomorrow would be my very last day and waited patiently for what would come.
Nothing passed my notice, I recorded every sound, every smell. I had more purpose in my dying now than I had ever in living. Four voices eventually became eight, then twelve. New voices would come and inspect me, their footsteps coming near enough to get a good look and a laugh. I could make out each person by smell alone; their excited voices conveyed an anxiety matching my own. The blindfold turned out to be a good thing, since it covered my smashed nose, and eyes that hadn't blackened.
Then I heard his voice. A voice the world had heard dozens of times before. The Butcher. He had punctuated video taped political statements many times in the past with the blood of those whose only crime was a different culture. A culture that didn’t mesh with his own. Some were soldiers, some aid workers, some innocents altogether, and his was the voice that read the final verdict before his loyal fanatics carried out their grisly task. His voice the one that sent single-minded zealots on suicide missions to kill innocent civilians. An extreme version of cultural conflict the world could barely begin to comprehend in its horror.
It was also the one voice I had been waiting to hear all night.
The cloth bonds snapped as I tore my arms free. Reaching up, I yanked the blindfold away. The sudden flurry of movement drew everyone's attention. They all turned to face me, surprised that I had freed myself. I saw at least two guards raising their rifles to protect their leader. All I needed was one glance at his face, confirmation that he was indeed here.
And he was.
That infamous face wore a look of perturbed arrogance that was hard to describe. This man who had sent so many to their deaths, had ordered suicide bombings and brutal executions, was flummoxed that helpless prey should resist. He wasn’t accustomed to this behavior, people that knew death was imminent didn’t fight back. For a moment I thought his guards might open fire with their rifles.
Instead The Butcher laughed. The notion that a mere lemming like myself might raise his fist and fight against the tide of the inevitable struck him as something funny. They all laughed, twelve men with weapons cackling over a bound prisoner. It was a human emotion that might very well shock the rest of the world if they were to see it. And that was my job.
The moment the blindfold came off I’d started recording everything that happened. The satellite antenna built into my spine would transmit these images for the world to see. My eyes cameras, my ears microphones, I recorded everything. But there was more, I also had a message to deliver.
"President Satlin sends you this greeting; rot in hell, you bastard."
Most of them would die in the blast. With my chest aimed directly at him I knew from countless test runs that the shrapnel from the explosive cone would kill him with absolute certainty. Everyone around him would also die. His guards on the periphery had a good chance of living, and that was part of what we wanted to accomplish. We would need someone alive to tell the others. Warn them that we had a new weapon in our arsenal, one borrowed from their own culture. One they thought too terrible for us to use, since we lacked the brutality to go to such lengths.
For the most part, that would probably be true. Our culture is dedicated to the preservation of life. Suicide is universally considered an abomination, even if the outcome of one death were to yield something so beneficial that the world would bless the martyr.
But then again, we had robots.
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Based on a nightmare about the War on Terror
Thursday July 17th
I’m starting a diary in hopes that one day this madness will make sense.
It doesn’t matter how the war started. We had won. At least that’s what we had once thought.
Cameras had shown our troops victorious. In their battle armor, looking more like insects than men, they shoved the mobs off the fallen leader. Even as the crowd hit him with their fists he maintained that look of arrogance that only a true zealot can. That look of religious indignation that the rest of the world had misunderstood. It was the gaze of petty annoyance that the entire globe had united to strip their country away.
Cameras recorded his last words. Once long ago I could remember them perfectly, something to the tune of, “If the world cannot see the great things we tried here, then it shall perish like dogs.” A burst of gunfire from the mob killed him. Everyone scattered as he slumped down in a pool of crimson. The armored troopers panicked and began firing in every direct over his body. His dead eyes looked up to the sky, as if still communing with an unseen spirit. It was a grisly picture for the entire world to share. We thought the war was over. It wasn’t though; just a few weeks time would change that.
I’m a soldier on the second front, a doctor trying to find the cure. In this new war there are few like me, who are immune. A dead regime had uncorked the biological genie. In their defeat they had judged the rest of the world unfit to continue as men. A new plague had been released. I work feverishly, sometimes twenty hours a day, trying to stop this manufactured virus. In just a month it has changed the world. I’ll write some more later.
Sat Jul 19
I couldn’t sleep last night. I sat up on the roof watching the moon. Lost in it. Wondering if I might very well be the only person left to enjoy its beauty. The lack of sleep making it hard for me to sift through the endless data on the computer. Tables and charts blurring one into another endlessly. Sometimes I stare at the screen for so long the letters become indecipherable gibberish. I keep trying to work however, afraid that we are rapidly approaching the point of no return. When there are so few people left in this world that humanity will not be able to recover. I stay here in this empty hospital pushing on. Someone has to find a cure.
The plague has been brutal. Very few were resistant to it. Its name an acronym that means almost nothing now. Just another series of capital letters that are impossible to pronounce. It started only a month ago but I watched it destroy everything. No one was left to run the TV stations, garbage trucks or shopping malls. Nations went silent. Cities emptied. Mankind was sliding into a new dark age and possible extinction.
My empty hospital has a backup generator. The city outside is dark and empty. The only light for miles burns bright all around me. It attracts the animals like moths to a flame. They run in the street below without a care in the word. I turn away saddened and go back to my charts. Technology is my alter, data crunching my prayer. Need sleep.
They run back and forth out in the street. Looking for food. Fighting. Trying to attract mates. A pack of them. Wild animals on the loose. They own the city now that mankind is gone. I want to run out and join them. My insomnia is worse. I can’t remember sleeping in days. Thank God I’m immune. I say that prayer less and less often now. My hope of a cure is fading. But thank God I’m immune.
Outside they run back and forth. Looking for food. Fighting. The disease has stripped them of thought. There is no past for them. No way to imagine the future. No beauty to enjoy. They live only for this single moment. Men turned into animals. Like dogs. They can’t read. Or remember who they are. Or to even wear clothing. They just run in packs. Animals.
Thank God I’m immune. I know I have to get back to my data. Get right back to work. I will too, once I remember where I left my damn glasses.
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The Druidess of the 13th Street Parking Lot|
Another Matrix story. Like the movies way too many fanfic pieces take themselves too seriously. The thing that would differentiate us from the machines would be frivolity.
A frown creased her otherwise over-jubilant face. "This will never do," she said aloud to herself. Straining to see through a crown of wild curls, the parking lot displeased her in every way.
Its smooth unrippled surface was something only machines could produce. Flat and as lifeless as the surrounding towering monoliths to commerce themselves. Dark like the skyscrapers around it, as if trying to bleed any life out of the city by sucking all color away. A city built by machines with no other design than to worship purpose.
"Nope, this won’t do at all," she hummed to herself while digging around in an oversized bag. Once long ago she’d had a smart sensible purse of tiny size. Exactly the type the trendy fashion magazine said a businesswoman on the go should accessorize with. Her purse now rivaled a duffle bag although garny red and battered from years of overuse.
The parking lot waited for her. Its black asphalt just beginning to soak up the sun’s early morning rays. Dirty yellow lines and numbers crisscrossed the surface making even the simple rock like sheet a grid of over-complexity. There were no cars yet to break up the simple plane. It was a listless whole in the corner of a block of black glassed buildings that reached up to touch the slate grey sky. A billboard at one end sold trinkets to any who cared to look up at its bland committee-designed layout. In the center stood a pale booth, not yet manned by an attendant who would spend the day wishing for any sort of life more colorful than his own.
"Ahhh, here we go." She smiled, withdrawing a crumpled wad of paper napkins from her bottomless shoulder bag. Looking up at the sky, the sun failed to warm her. She tapped her foot impatiently, another frown snaking across her face. Still holding the wad she crossed her arms. At this rate it would take all day for the sun to share its warmth. She’d have to take matters into her own hands.
"And She said, ‘Let there be music’..." Her hands clapped together like a shot of thunder.
A car horn honked in the distance and the wisps of a Latin techno jazz drifted in on frail wind. Cocking her head she strained to catch the rhythm. With her eyes closed to keep at bay all sights that might distract from the fragile tune she listened intently. Her foot tapping with a life of its own as the music growing stronger with each beat flowed through her. On their own her hips began to sway. The tune became louder and more confident it could now easily be heard. Her whole body moved in tune to the samba, she began swaying through the parking lot. Beaming a smile intense enough to blind mere mortals she started a foxtrot across the pavement.
Reaching into the napkins she produced a handful of bright colored seeds. She lifted them as an offering to the feeble sun, then flung them in a torrent about her. Tangoing as the music grew stronger still she began flinging seeds with reckless abandon. The beat having now become a loud pounding rhythm whose notes touched the very core of her being. Far away a pipe burst sending a thick spray of water through the city air. It sounded distant and far off smothered by the music. The song was a message from the otherworld. It controlled her hips and legs, making her dance with wild abandon across the stone cold pavement. The fluttering staccato of music like the pulses of a warbling modem she has fled from long ago. A language of sleep and soul forgotten by the dead city. Music in the city had been replaced with screeching amps and sullen strangers on a club stage. A collection of cold beats that passed through wires and machines amplified to a deafening loudness that vibrated bone. She could hear the instruments of her music. The pluck of guitar, the beat of skin on wood, the warmth of something close and personal. Seeds scattered across the ground as her bare feet danced on, the music growing louder and quicker in tempo until all sounds of the city were washed away by it. Twirling, throwing handful after handful of seeds, she imagined a warm country meadow bathed in sunlight. The music grew so loud that she forgot where she was, all that mattered was the pure joy of a beat within her and warm sun on skin.
And with a crash of drum, a final flourish of strings, the music stopped.
And so did her dance. She turned opening her eyes to see her work.
Behind her the parking lot bloomed. Emerald green grass danced in the wind to its own song. Scattered here and there cherry tree saplings touched by spring opened pink blossoms as golden sunlight streamed through branches. The silver spray of a waterfall covered the forgotten advertising as cool blue waters pooled underneath it. What had once been lifeless rock bloomed vibrantly in the heart of the city.
Her work done, the druidess smiled letting absolute bliss spill from her soul. She then padded off on bare feet to collect aluminum cans, disappearing once more into the anonymous crowds of the city.
A lack of adequate parking spots was the system’s first warning sign. It was followed with individual reports of panic. Todd Johnson, an IT tech, worried that the stress of his job might be getting to him saw a unicorn emerge from a rainbow shrouded mist at the center of the new park while on his way to work. Ilene Keller, an HR representative, kept hearing music of an ethnicity that vaguely bothered her, whose source could not be determined. It made performance throughout the day difficult. Jennifer Plaster, an ineffectual middle management suck up, had the sudden desire to quit her job and move out to the country. When a strong gust of wind blew, all the blades of grass moving at once were too much for the system to bear. It caused a stuttering effect that some citizens found disconcerting. Agents were dispatched immediately.
Standing at one corner, they surveyed the aberration trying to fathom its meaning.
"The rebels at work again?" said one.
"Obviously," stated his partner.
"But what purpose could this serve?" the third asked.
"It’s futile to attempt understanding these vermin," the first one replied as a bulldozer arrived. "The best we can do is rebuild and monitor for future outbreaks."
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New Years Eve|
December 31st, 2001
A Matrix story. Wouldn't it be easier for the machines to just play Groundhog's Day endlessly?
The clock blinked, 11:59, December 31, 1999.
The text document that would become this years journal was open and at the ready. Ryan watched the clock closely. It was a ritual he performed every New Years Eve for the last ten years. Watching for the exact moment when one year became the next. Dropping balls of lights and fireworks held no fascination for him. Nor did parties with alcohol and strangers. Instead he preferred being at home and alone as he watched the numbers on a computer screen herald the coming of a new year.
It had started back when he was thirteen. His first journal as a matter of fact. Sitting there 10 years ago waiting for the exact same thing to happen. And he remembered with vivid certainty as he wrote in his first journal words that would haunt him from then on.
"Hello, it’s a new year. Welcome to my first post from 1999."
His memory must have been wrong. It simply couldn’t have happened. His first journal had been written ten years ago. And tonight was the ending of 1999. In less than a minute it would become the year 2000. Even the journal entries confirmed that it had been imagined. The time stamped date in them was 1989, the date placed there automatically by the computer as he typed.
But the memory lingered. So vivid that it was at times impossible to push out of his head. Somewhere deep deep down he knew for a fact that he had typed 1999. He believed it so strongly that on occasion he was certain there was some great conspiracy changing dates on the New Year. What better time than when everyone was drunk and watching the sky for fireworks to play this elaborate trick? And so this year, like the last nine before it, was spent chasing a dragon. Trying to prove that he had indeed typed something other than what was now shown in the diary entries. That this year the mist would part and prove once and for all that something odd, something not quite normal had happened and possibly was still happening.
And he had a sudden compelling feeling that this scene had played itself out too many times before. A lurching sickness in his head that everything was as it had been again. Blinking away the disorienting feeling he struggled to watch the flickering numbers of the clock.
The moment passed and it was a new year.
Sitting back in his chair Ryan felt foolish. Once again while everyone was out enjoying themselves, lost in cheer, he had spent the passing of the torch locked away in a quiet room. Watching a clock and hoping some cosmic mistake would play itself out. Yep, foolish was exactly how he felt.
Leaning forward he completed the final step of his New Years tradition and wrote in his diary.
"Hello, it’s a new year. Welcome to my first post from 1999."
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Broken Wings |
Yet another Matrix story. Just wondered why humans might willingly join the machines.
The anti-gravity pod failed suddenly. Without it’s starboard stabilizer the nurse tripped in midair. The other repulsors squealed loudly trying to pick up the slack of the malfunctioning unit, but it was too late. The droid slammed into the farm shattering pods and spraying embryonic fluids like burst water balloons. Metal screeched as the nurse tore itself free of the twisted broken framework. Engineers and aid workers leapt into the sky rushing to save what they could of the farm, the crops weren’t completely lost. A little time dilation, a little re-programming, and the situation could be salvaged. It was only through this accident that unique discoveries were made.
Flash forward twenty years. An edit so smooth it might as well be on the silver screen. A penthouse suite, mostly empty. Timothy took a long drag on his cigarette. Waiting was the worst part.
The briefing said they would strike as part of a coordinated assault. The sky-rise home a very likely target. Something in the safe they wanted. It didn’t matter to Timothy, the Agency said guard this place and that was what he planned to do. To the death if need be.
The radio chatter had been picking up for several hours. Typical tactic. Multiple strikes throughout the city to obfuscate their real targets. Agents and SWAT teams were dispatched as needed. There might be fighting out there somewhere in the city, but Timothy had a feeling he would see it soon as well. All a part of their ridiculous game. They had no idea what true freedom was. Another long drag on his cigarette.
One wall of the penthouse shattered. A sheet of glass so large it would have cost Timothy several dozen paychecks. It burst apart in a chatter of gunfire.
Then they strolled in.
Leather and vinyl, gelled hair, cocky attitudes and sunglasses at night. A man and a woman, straight from some trendy fashion magazine, smoking guns in hand, they showed absolutely no fear. Timothy’s drab suit, discount walking shoes and regulation haircut were perfect opposites. A consuming rage flared through him.
There was nothing he could do as he helplessly watched two of his agents rush forward in an attempt to apprehend. The man waited practically checking his watch as the woman took both of them down. Her body was a blur. Bonecrunching fractions of a second later only Timothy and the two intruders remained standing.
There was one fleeting moment of fear in her eyes. When she first noticed him, saw the earpiece. Her fear faded in an instant. She could tell he wasn’t a true agent. The condescending smile that replaced her worried look made Timothy’s hatred flare violently.
Eight years old. The sky so bright it’s blue threatened to crush the world. A beautiful day. A day to skip along side loving parents. A day for a parade. Timmy hopped through the crowds alongside his parents. So many colors, so many people, all washed together in a sea of blue sky so bright it dimmed the world beneath it.
Then the flash. Then the noise. Screams. Blood. The world turned on itself in an instant. The bomb shattered the world around him, lifted cars in the air. Timmy was thrown from his parents. Crushing weight came down. Screams. Dust filled the air turning the blue sky the color of blood. Wails and screams. Timmy cried out choking against a great finger crammed down his throat. Through a haze of pain and tears a demonic face appeared. Its metal arachnid frame blocking out the charred landscape of twisted ruined buildings and crimson sky. A roaring tsunami swallowed him in a crushing blanket of noise. The world faded away into a white sea.
Then hospitals. And the looks. The sickly sweet smiles and “What a brave little trooper.” And sitting at windows watching as the other kids ran. As they played without a care in the world. As they climbed. Grew up. All from his wheelchair. Timmy’s legs had been ruined, gone now.
He let the cigarette fall from his mouth. Her smile vanished. The moment was coming, waiting for it was the worst part.
Her eyes scrunched. That was her give away. Timothy knew he’d never see what was coming next, so he learned to anticipate it to a fault. With cat grace she transformed from person into blur leaping suddenly into the air.
Timothy threw himself sideways yanking the handgun from its holster. His motion violent and exaggerated. Anything less would allow her to compensate for his dodge. Time slowed to crawl for her; she was a ripple in air to him. She watched as he bucked out from under her kick. Twisting mid air she tried to set up a second attack. Timothy hit the ground hard firing rapidly. She watched as the bullets clawed their way toward her. The slugs slammed into her slowly but with the same force and lethality a speeding bullet. She plummeted to the ground, a bird in flight cut down.
Timothy rolled throwing himself behind a granite planter. The stone foundation shook as bullets from the intruder impacted against it. Wasting no time Timothy threw the spent magazine aside and slapped a fresh clip in his gun. This next fight would be more difficult. Much more difficult.
Another edit. Time lashed backwards again. It was nothing someone raised on a lifetime of movies and television couldn’t handle. A simple trick that kept continuity together. Timmy a young teen. Bitter disappoint made his young face seem many years older than he was. He still watched out windows from his motor driven chair. Children still played on the same playgrounds without a moments thought to the gifts the owned. They chased each other and climbed the monkey bars, running under a slate grey sky.
The man standing at the window with him waited for an answer. “We have a procedure. That can make you whole again. Undo what was done. All we ask in return. Is your undying. Co,operation.” His mirrorshades reflected an image of Timmy still bound to the chair. Timmy looked one last time at the children.
Leaping from behind cover Timothy showered the room in a rain of shells. He could barely hear the shots they came so fast. The intruder’s guns blazed as well. There was only one chance to pull this off. Keeping as far away as the room would allow Timothy emptied the gun knowing that chances were slim he’d score a hit. Across the room a set of staccato flashes as the intruder returned the fire. Both chasing each other slowly around the edge of the vast living room.
Gun empty now Timothy desperately needed another distraction. He paused long enough to kick the coffee table across the room. The solid rock slab flipped through the air smashing down into chairs and tables, breaking apart into smaller fragments and sailing noisily through the gaping window out into the night. The intruder dodged the debris rolling under and away from it firing the whole time. The duel clicks were as loud as any gunshots; the intruder was empty now too.
Sometimes at night, when he was just on that edge of sleep, that nebulous region where dreams and wake almost met, Timothy could feel them. The stumps of his legs. He floated unable to breath or see but he knew for certain they were not there. There had never been any procedure. He was still a cripple. With a scream he’d throw the sheets off back now in his room. Alone in the middle of the night. Whole. He’d push the half dream away, but it nagged always just under the surface.
The two faced each other across the ruined room, both breathing heavily. A hairbreadth of time sizing each other up then furry. Casting their hollow weapons aside both rushed at each other. Timothy slowing only to kick himself off a shattered chair up into the air, a vicious roundhouse kick that could kill with the force of its impact. Whir of leather jacket dodged away, falling and regaining his feet with machine precision. Without a pause Timothy began blocking a series of deadly knife-hand blows. Fists lashed out, punches and kicks were blocked and exchanged. The two danced back and forth at arms length trying to find weakness in the other. Caught off guard Timothy was able to grab the intruder’s arm and throw him into a wall.
Black jacket crusted with dust the intruder used the wall as a counterbalance to flip Timothy through the air. Ribs cracked on landing and the other grabbed his tie in a choking grip. Timothy leapt to his feet smashing his head into his opponent’s face, a knee groin as the finishing touch. The intruder grunted yanking Timothy even closer as the two grappled for control. They smashed each other against walls and furniture, grunting and losing strength with every moment of struggle. His moment was near, waiting was the worst part.
Fighting for air Timothy could feel unconsciousness coming on like a freight train bearing down. Only moments were left now. Thrusting his hand in his suit jacket he grabbed the handle of a punch knife. The blade came out as the intruder struggled to keep Timothy from using it. Timothy growled, a savage animal full of fury.
Through bloodstained teeth the rebel asked, “You’re one of us. Why? Why do you fight so hard for them?” Straining to keep the knife away.
Timothy’s fury reached a peak. All he could see were bloodred clouds and a twisting charred skyline.
“Because in this world, I can run.” He hissed and with all his remaining strength punched the blade forward.
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“You’ll pay for your insolence in blood!” Death shouted. The crowd hushed, some moving back away from the three figures in the center. “Next time we meet my sweet, I shall savor the sight of your corpse!”
Dusty nervously watched Death. If he tried to come closer she planned on running. She didn’t know where she could go to get away from him, but she had managed to stay a step ahead so far. At least the rules about town were holding. Death hadn’t tried to kill her yet.
Between the two stood MythRender. He was their intermediary. The unusually quiet crowd watched as he approached Death.
“Someone picked up Death’s gun.” Randall said.
“How did that happen?” Chip asked.
“Well, one of the players, a girl named Dusty, killed him and looted the gun.”
“What? Now how is that possible?”
“Vince was the last one to play Death. He forgot to use his wand to heal back up to full health. When we logged on this morning we were in the middle of several players. Dusty took a shot and killed Death. She grabbed the gun and ran.”
Chip sat thinking for a moment. This wasn’t good news. Death was supposed to be invincible. He was a random additional challenge for players braving the Dungeon of Death to contend with. Meeting Death was supposed to be final, you died, lost everything in your pockets, and started back at home. Making it through the dungeon might yield a thousand tokens, or maybe a teleportation wand. Killing Death wasn’t supposed to happen. Ever.
One of the players now had the single most destructive device in the entire game. The potential for abuse was too great. It had to be taken away.
MythRender stood before Death. “Money.” He said.
“You’ll wither and die before my final days for helping her you cur!” Death spat. “I curse whoever touches these tokens. You’ll rot slowly and painfully at my feet.” Death’s tirade continued as he gave a sack with ten thousand tokens to MythRender.
“Death is paying up!” Someone in the crowd shouted. “He can’t do anything here!”
The players had long ago voted that Populopolis, the only town in Habitat, should be a violence free zone. Guns would not work within its limits. Death was impotent here, no better than any other player.
Chip had sent Dusty a message. Posing as Death he had demanded the return of his gun. Failure to give it back, he had taunted, would result in her being hunted down like an animal. Dusty’s reply had been swift. “Fine. I’ll just stay in town.”
Randall had done a search of the game logs to see if anything like this had happened previously. Unfortunately it had. Once before a system administrator, Vince, had let the exact same thing happen.
The Dungeon of Death was a relatively new area to Habitat. It had been created as a new diversion to spice up the video game. Players entered the dungeon, navigating it’s series of dead-ends, traps, other players, and Death himself, for a chance of finding a chest with a thousand tokens or a teleportation wand. Dying meant a quick trip back to your home and losing any treasures you might have collected so far. The new area had proven to be quite popular.
Death was played by one of the game makers. Having thought up the idea and built the game area himself, Vince took on the duties of playing the world’s primary villain. Death would wander his dungeon killing anyone he came across. Armed with a special gun that could kill in a single shot, he had a huge advantage over the other players who had to whittle their opponents down with a series of twelve shots. Cornered players knowing they would soon die, would turn and fight frantically. They would fire at Death in hopes of killing him. Groups of players had even been formed to go into the dungeon and confront him. They had all failed. Death also carried a wand that healed all his wounds instantly. As long as no one scored that twelfth shot Death was invincible.
Except that Vince had forgotten to heal himself. Twice.
Dusty watch cautiously as MythRender approached. She wanted to back out. She knew she was supposed to give the gun to MythRender, but there was no telling what would happen after that. MythRender could run off with both the gun and the money. In town the crowd would be unable to stop him. All she had right now was MythRender’s word that he would give her the money once she handed over the gun. He could easily be working for the other side. Maybe Death had offered him some money to take the gun and not give her anything back. Once she handed over the weapon she would have no bargaining chips left at all. MythRender’s reputation was the only thing that made her consider going through with the deal.
MythRender was the sheriff of Populopolis. He had been elected by popular vote. His election had been paid for with the currency of trust. The majority of players in the game trusted him enough to be the only person whose gun worked within town. He had been asked by Dusty and Death to serve as intermediary. He would take the cash from Death, and the gun from Dusty. At that point he would own both. He was supposed to then give the sack of tokens to Dusty then the gun to Death. His reputation was riding on this event. It was however, just a game.
On one late night, a few days earlier, Vince had corned some hapless player and was about to deliver the deathblow. Instead the player turned and fired a single shot killing Death instantly. Death had forgotten to use his healing wand. He had been down to a single health point and the lucky shot had killed him.
As per the rules of the game the player grabbed the item that had been in Death’s hand. On dying the powerful insta-death gun had fallen to the ground. The lucky player grabbed it.
Vince freaked out. He knew that the gun would cause problems in the hands of a player. The entire game had been designed around specific rules. Having to hit another player twelve times gave others a chance to flee, to avoid fights if they chose. Now a player could kill others indiscriminately and nearly instantly. Vince had to get the gun back. He began sending private messages to the new owner of the gun.
Death: “Ok, give me my gun back.”
Binary: “Huh? No way! I won it legally.”
Death: “You’re not supposed to have that. So you need to give it back.”
Binary: “That’s not fair. Like I said, I killed you and you dropped it. It’s mine now.”
Death: “Listen players aren’t supposed to have that gun. If you don’t give it back now I am going to kick you out of the game and cancel your account.”
Binary: “But I won this fairly.”
Death: “Doesn’t matter you’re not supposed to have it. Bring it back to the entrance of the dungeon where I’ll be waiting.”
Binary: “This is @&ing bull%$@&”
The gun was returned reluctantly, by an upset player who felt he had won it within the legitimate confines of the game. He quit paying his subscription fees and stopped playing the game soon afterward, along with a number of friends he had made in game.
“I have Death’s gun.” MythRender said. The crowd was atypically quiet again. There was a long pause then he handed over the sack with ten thousand tokens. Dusty gratefully accepted.
Walking back over to Death, MythRender handed the gun to him.
Brandishing his newly returned weapon Death shouted, “Fools! Insolent whelps! I’ll kill you all!” Several watchers in the crowd ran off.
MythRender stood his ground. “There’ll be none of that in my town.”
Defeated again Death stuffed the pistol into a pocket and slunk off hissing. The crowd went wild. Cheering throngs mobbed Dusty, congratulating her on beating Death. The story would become legend and repeated by old timers to every newcomer joining the game. A new mythology had been born.
Skip read the write up in The Rant, Populopolis’s player run newspaper. Things had gone better than he could have hoped. The player responsible got a reward, the game developers got their weapon back, and everyone else got a story to talk about.
Lucasfilm published the game Habitat in 1986. In this game subscribers paid a subscription fee for the opportunity to log onto a virtual world. Players could enter this persistent world anytime time they wished and meet and interact with other players in the game space.
Research: The Lessons of Habitat
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