writing chapter 10.3
Gradually they brought the game to a more finished state. It had a new look, new features, and a new attitude. Of course word got out, and they had to write a press release. Snake took care of it, and a slicker piece of advertising was never seen, full of glib promises and a gee whiz tone. The Antarctica level was mentioned only as a planned future upgrade, and the whole things was played as an anything goes adventure RPG.
He gave it to Anomia to proofread, at her insistence, and she was shocked to see the angel’s lessons, distilled into her own words, as if casually tossed into Snake’s otherwise carefully crafted release. But he was only making buzz words out of them.
“I’m not really sure the boys give a damn about the quantum lessons,” she complained to Fairy as they trudged thru the snow in designer boots. They were taking a shortcut from Rollurkosterland to Arkaydland. The snow crunched beneath their boots, their cheeks were chapped. Inside their parkas they were beginning to sweat with the exertion.
“I don’t know about boys,” Fairy said. “Testosterone interferes with your brain synapses. Maybe they’re naturally resistant to learning quantum skills.”
“Maybe that’s why they have to get all Jedi master to learn it.”
They stopped at the ridge and looked out over their frozen amusement park, with smaller scale Antarctica underneath. They could see shadowy forms in the depths. Mountains and valleys, the courses of frozen rivers, the barren sites of large cities to come.
“It’s all too beautiful,” Anomia sighed.
“But so remote,’ Fairy said, kicking the 1/100,000 scale nunatak with her boot.
Anomia’s normal anxiety was a lot less in the game’s environment. In the realworld she felt a cloud of doom hanging over her head. Here she just felt like she as being watched.
“Do you think Kurt is in here somewhere?” she asked Fairy. “I feel like someone’s following along behind me.”
Fairy preened. “Honey, I always feel like I’m the center of everybody’s attention.”
“But who’s here to watch? If not Kurt, is the kernel watching?”
Fairy thought about it. “Probably. It’s gotten so good at anticipating what we want that it might as well be sitting out our shoulders.”
“I’m scared. We don’t even know what the kernel really is. I’m not sure Kurt knew either. And now that he’s gone, what if it breaks?”
“Well,” Fairy said, “If it’s alive, it’ can fix itself, and if the fairies wrote it – like Kurt insisted – they they’ll fix it.”
“Maybe it’s truly quantum and it’s in our brains – maybe we’re the kernel.” They started down the hill toward the main building. And maybe Kurt’s in here every bit as much as we are. After all, he made it.”
“It’s just a computer program,” Fairy reminded her.
“No it’s not, it’s alive. I can feel it.”
“Me too. Are we entangled then?”
“With the kernel, with each other, just by being in here. Just by using the game gear. Just by running the kernel on our tablets.”
“It is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
Kurt died inside the kernel. There were very few boundaries where Kurt was now. He couldn’t manifest on the physical at this moment because he was dead, but he could do anything else, and that encompassed the universe.
Now that Kurt didn’t inhabit a body, his consciousness was right where it had always been, in the etheric cloud around all of creation, the electromagnetic cloud where consciousness resides and memories are stored. In life it tends to cluster around your head, but upon death it detaches and joins all the other data in the cloud.
Kurt was still there, but he was everywhere, not a single mind or an exclusive set of thoughts and memories, but a universe-wide maelstrom of awareness, full of emotions, fantasies and thoughts, inspired by the flow and resistance of energy that makes up the consciousness of the self-aware universe. Kurt was a momentary flicker of emotion.
“I’m having a really hard time finding places to put the quantum lessons.”
Fairy said, “I know.” Everybody knew. Anomia never stopped complaining about it.
“They never seem relevant to the carnival level games, and I don’t know how to repattern Carneytown to fit them. How do you teach quantum behavior using amusement park duties? It’s too abstract.”
“Too zen,” Fairy agreed.
“Josh was right there with me in our real game with the angel. And when we’re in here doing stuff he doesn’t have any trouble using the quantum skills. He really did develop them, he really did change. But I don’t know. Sometimes he falls away. Maybe if I was more…”
Fairy frowned, and felt a wave of compassion for her. “It’s not you,” she said, resetting their environment to the therapy room she’d installed in an intimate cavernette off the hub, not far from the food court. It was warmer, and their costumes changed to apres ski. Drinks appearing in their hands, they sat by the fireplace.
Rum hot chocolate. Anomia sipped hers gratefully.
“Of course he doesn’t love you enough, no matter what you do. He’s an emotional cripple.” She stroked Anomia’s arm. “It’s true, I read his aura. All green and red
“Actually, I blame snake. He’s turning Josh into an utter slacker.” Fairy stood up to rub Anomia’s shoulders from behind. “But Josh isn’t the problem,” she soothed. “You’re too hard on yourself, you give too much, and get nothing back, you have to embody love in order to be loved. The words didn’t matter (it was the kernel skipping again). It was the droning of magical, uplifting words and newage wisdom, the kind of all purpose advice she gave in her Dragoncon lecture. As Fairy wrapped her in a bearhug and plastered a kiss on her forehead, Anomia wondered if she was being hit on.
They were ready for testing. Everything was shiny and bright. The loose ends had been tied up and all known glitches had been fixed. Now they needed testers. They were standing around one some ride glacier or other, doing something mechanical with the rides, and Anomia was obsessing about inserting quantum principles into the variations in gravity in the ride. She was being a bitch about it, too, all “Do it my way or bad things will happen.” The rest of them were rolling their eyes and ignoring her, trying to get the job done.
Suddenly a bunch of noise startled them. A bunch of testers came thru, shooting at each other. Some went down, and those that shot them robbed the bodies and moved on.
Anomia spun around and watched them go. “Who was that?” she asked. “We haven’t started testing yet. Snake, do you know anything about this?”
Snake seemed as surprised as everyone else. He frowned. “Why do you think I had anything to do with it?” he demanded.
Fairy frowned back. “Because you’ve been going around dumbing down the concepts and changing the parameters, and so why wouldn’t you slip unauthorized testers in? Maybe they paid you for it.”
He threw up his hands. “No, man. I blame Kurt. He was the most half-assed, sloppy programmer I’ve ever had the misfortune to clean up after. And this nonsense about encrypting everything. It makes cross platform development impossible. I can’t find out what’s wrong if I can’t look at the kernel.”
Anomia looked at him. “What’s wrong? What have you done?”
Snake had been busy breaking things. He’d been putting in traps and backdoors, removing safeties, subverting NPCs. And the kernel was growing tired of it. The running of the murderous testers was evidence of its disturbance.
“It must be the kernel,” Snake persisted. “It’s gotten hyper responsive lately, way out of balance, and Kurt sealed it off so I can’t fix it. It’s practically granting wishes.” He glared at Anomia. “Maybe somebody’s wishing bad things will happen. You’re always predicting bad things, maybe you’re causing it.”
“Everything’s whack because you’ve disabled the lessons, and removed the safeties,” she retorted. “Nothing works right because you’re using bad physics.”
“Then wish it better,” he snapped. “What’s wrong if if everybody gets their wish?”
“If everybody gets their wish, then the wishes will all conflict with each other, and the conflicts will increase everybody’s karma, and the game will move backwards.” She was practically screaming.
“It’s all your fault,” Snake said quietly. They stared at him. “It’s not your fault,” he repeated. “When you take the penalties away from a sandbox game, you get chaos.” He moved smoothly into a lecture on real games, professional games, and how disappointed potential sponsors were.
“Sponsors?” Anomia was aghast. The others already knew and mostly approved.
“Yes, sponsors. And they’re very dubious that we don’t have a design document prepared. It makes them nervous that we made it without product specs, a plan, a schedule, a budget.”
“But the kernel tracks it all of it for us.”
“And that worries them. What happens if it breaks, how do you update it? It doesn’t fill anybody with confidence, now that fucking Kurt has offed himself and left us holding the bag.”
“Fuck you, Snake, Kurt didn’t kill himself to spite you.”
“I think he did,” Snake said. Kurt probably killed himself to make Snake look bad when he had to hold together Kurt’s piece of shit software. And now the game was skipping, and everybody was blaming him.
“Relaxing the rules made everything fall apart, it was too complex to mess with.”
You broke the game. You’re not good enough, Snake heard.
And here the game skipped.
They all glared at Snake. “You did this,” Fairy said. “You broke the game.”
Snake’s face did a rapid dance from surprise and guilt to violent hatred, and settled into a sly composure. “You can’t prove I broke it. It’s not broken, I’ve been fixing it. I was installing important updates. How was I to know Kurt boobytrapped it? I’m just trying to make a thrilling game by doing something a little bit outside the rules, a little edgy, and everybody gets bent out of shape.” The excuses came out thick and fast, as if multiple takes were being spliced together. “Kurt broke the game because he was high on drugs. Does that mean I’m incompetent? We all know people who never break anything, nobody’s criticizing them and they don’t produce shit. Some people believe competence is shown by the amount and quality of the work done, and nobody’s worked as hard as I have on this stupid game. Because the real question isn’t my competence, it’s what I’ve been able to do for the game. Isn’t it important to focus on my accomplishments rather than obsessing about a few lines of garbled code? In time you’ll realize that I’ve done more for this game than anybody else. I wish you’d let me know how much you despise my help before this, I could have saved my energy. Real game companies want to add real muscle to this game, and bring it up to speed, I’m trying my damnedest to save it. I thought you all were committed to making the best game possible.”
They didn’t call him on it , or say he was full of shit, or get mad at him for shifting the blame onto everyone but himself. Their mouths were hanging open. There were too many excuses to work thru. His words said it wasn’t him, but his body language was aggressive and threatening. Without moving he loomed and lunged, he wavered, his avatar stuttered in and out like a scratched DVD.