writing chapter 1.2

One by one, the testers moved to the edge of the cloud and followed after her. Like lemmings, like Icarus suicides they fell, the tiny little “Eee’s” of falling testers reaching the horrified ears of Josh and Anomia. The tiny splashes where too far away to be heard.

Josh slapped his forehead. “What idiots.”

The first testers simply pitched forward and fell, bungie jumpers without ropes. Seeing what happened to the guys in front of them, the ones further back tried using their flying skills, but ended up fluttering down like bricks in plastic bags. Eventually they had enough time to launch themselves, but descent and landing were advanced skills, and most of them ended up in the water. Which was too cold to support life without a wet suit, and they died.

Anomia and Josh looked at each other. “I guess we need to rethink this part, huh?” he said.

The kernel beefed up the tutorial. The testers tried it again. Eventually they landed at the entrance to Midway, just outside the giftshop. This is where they were supposed to familiarize themselves with Fairy’s inlaid floor map and run off to test their areas. But they headed for the foot court and gift shops instead.

Josh and Anomia found them milling about when they got down off the roof. Anomia accosted a tester and pointed him toward the map. “Don’t you know you’re supposed to find your area and go test it?” she asked.

The tester stopped and looked at her, as if thinking what to say. He stood there placidly regarding her, then followed behind her as she went to remind another tester.

Josh put a hand on her elbow after a minute. “I think you’re fucking with them,” he said.

“They obviously don’t know what to do.” She said, going up to tell another tester, who was stuffing cotton candy into his mouth.

“No, really,” he insisted. “They’re like zombies after you talk to them.”

Anomia had a gaggle of people walking in step behind her. She whispered, “Are their avatars asleep? Have I hijacked control?”

“Your energy drags them around. Maybe you short them out or something.”

“Is it the game?” They looked at each other. “Maybe it’s the gamegear slowing them down?”

“It’s creepy,” she said. looking at the inactive avatars pilling up behind her. “I don’t think we should be here.”

“Not if we want to interact with them, anyway.” So they left. Anomia had a lot of last minute tweaks still to do in Carneytown.

The first bug the testers reported was the cold.

Fukn frzin n here.

Anomia had the kernel refer them to the costume tutorial. A group of them decided they liked the cold, and stripped off. Frostbite was in for a minute.

Eventually the testers went out and found their assignments, and started testing their little bit of the game. The kernel worked with them all to find bugs, fix the bugs, test the fixes, and refine. In the process, the kernel studied the response of each tester and their little bit of the game, made slight adjustments to enhance their gameplay experience. Josh and Anomia were aware of it, of course, and decided it was okay to fit the game to the players as long as the quantum lessons got first priority.

Their first hint was the shallowness of the bug reports.

gr8 rydz. walls s/b blu. seat not comfy. music sux.

Then they noticed that the alpha testers were ignoring the quantum lessons, as if quantum was only a brand name.

The testers interacted with the kernel to change the game’s parameters and distort the teachings. They wanted more violence. They wanted to cheat. Better gameplay (more violence). Sex. They didn’t want to build a better roller coaster using classical physics, they wanted to set gravity at 25 g in the turns and squash people. They wanted real weapons. More features, more intricacy. And drugs. They wanted to get wasted in their avatars.

And the Midway became all sideshow glitz, naked booth babes in bodypaint. There was merchandise and clothing to buy, all with the big holographic Quantum Antartica logos. Acid bars and smoke shops. And bordelos. And casinos. Oddly, the casinos were the only places where the quantum lessons were being taken seriously. And the take was in Bitcoins. Physics at the service of realworld profits. Testers died.

They seemed to like dying. There was a small group that liked to jump off the clouds all day. Dying was no joke. It was not like other games where your avatar exploded or fell down or got stupid cartoon crosses in its eyes. Dying in the game fucking hurt. Like your nerves being twanged, the violent jolt of being unplugged.

Anomia and Josh shook their heads in wonder. “They’re like kamikazes,” she said disapprovingly.

“Go, dude,” Josh cheered.

“Why?” she asked.

He shrugged. “A guy thing, I don’t know.” In fact, the testers admitted that it hurt like fuck for a moment, but after a few thumps their balls started tingling, a low level buzz.

Anomia felt a growing anxiety, as the game moved quickly away from what she’d planned.

But Josh felt in charge. His quantum skills were sharp – they weren’t using the gamegear anymore. They were going around affecting things with their minds while the testers struggled. Josh felt like he owned the game. He’d spent a year of his life on it, he felt like it was made from his genes (not Kurt’s). He knew where everything was, where everything was hidden, understood all the lessons. Quantum power came so easily to him that he couldn’t understand how come the testers didn’t get it.

Anomia, on the other hand, was feeling pretty hopeless. It’d been compromise all the way, even at that point, and she was still constantly arguing for the quantum lessons, but by now everyone was sick of her carping. She was still madly tweaking quantum Carneytown, and she was running out of time.

The difference in their game styles was beginning to cause problems. She believed in discipline, he was willing to let them run wild. She was all upset by the violence in their world, how negligent they were about passing on the essence of the quantum shit the angel taught them, and he was all nonchalant about it.

Then they noticed that the alpha testers were ignoring the quantum lessons, as if quantum was only a brand name.

The testers interacted with the kernel to change the game’s parameters and distort the teachings. They wanted more violence. They wanted to cheat. Better gameplay (more violence). Sex. They didn’t want to build a better roller coaster using classical physics, they wanted to set gravity at 25 g in the turns and squash people. They wanted real weapons. More features, more intricacy. And drugs. They wanted to get wasted in their avatars.

And the Midway became all sideshow glitz, naked booth babes in bodypaint. There was merchandise and clothing to buy, all with the big holographic Quantum Antartica logos. Acid bars and smoke shops. And bordelos. And casinos. Oddly, the casinos were the only places where the quantum lessons were being taken seriously. And the take was in Bitcoins. Physics at the service of realworld profits. Testers died.

They seemed to like dying. There was a small group that liked to jump off the clouds all day. Dying was no joke. It was not like other games where your avatar exploded or fell down or got stupid cartoon crosses in its eyes. Dying in the game fucking hurt. Like your nerves being twanged, the violent jolt of being unplugged.

Anomia and Josh shook their heads in wonder. “They’re like kamikazes,” she said disapprovingly.

“Go, dude,” Josh cheered.

“Why?” she asked.

He shrugged. “A guy thing, I don’t know.” In fact, the testers admitted that it hurt like fuck for a moment, but after a few thumps their balls started tingling, a low level buzz.

Anomia felt a growing anxiety, as the game moved quickly away from what she’d planned.

But Josh felt in charge. His quantum skills were sharp – they weren’t using the gamegear anymore. They were going around affecting things with their minds while the testers struggled. Josh felt like he owned the game. He’d spent a year of his life on it, he felt like it was made from his genes (not Kurt’s). He knew where everything was, where everything was hidden, understood all the lessons. Quantum power came so easily to him that he couldn’t understand how come the testers didn’t get it.

Anomia, on the other hand, was feeling pretty hopeless. It’d been compromise all the way, even at that point, and she was still constantly arguing for the quantum lessons, but by now everyone was sick of her carping. She was still madly tweaking quantum Carneytown, and she was running out of time.

The difference in their game styles was beginning to cause problems. She believed in discipline, he was willing to let them run wild. She was all upset by the violence in their world, how negligent they were about passing on the essence of the quantum shit the angel taught them, and he was all nonchalant about it.

“But their behavior,” she complained. “Dying for the fun of it. They’re cheating at the games, and making the rides more dangerous. And they wans to buy souvenirs and junk.” Had she not noticed the betting halls and sex shops? Why, no, she hadn’t. She didn’t have time to look at things. She never noticed first the boys, then the testers trashing the carnival level. She never saw the school for criminals it was turning into. “Can’t we make them stop trying to kill each other?”

He rolled his eyes. “We’ve got a system in place to prevent antisocial behavior,” he said patiently. “You insisted on it, remember?” The boys had backed her into a corner about it. She wanted common sense play nice rules. But no. “Allow all behaviors,” they argued. “No social rules. There are so many cultures, who are we to be fundamentalists? Let karma points determine if they rise or fall.”

“But allowing all behaviors will only create conflicts, and consequences, and chain reactions. That just adds to player karma,” she argued.

“What do we know? They’ll probably want to play forever.”

She was beginning to feel the same depression she felt after Kurt died, like it wasn’t worth it. The only reason she stopped being depressed was because of little miracles that started once she quit her corporate day job and became a temp. While she was rebuilding the game she was living with daily miracles. Walking off the cliff and moving one step at a time, just never looking down, ever. Trusting the miracle. And it had gotten her this far. But now she was beginning to doubt the miracle, diving into worry and anxiety, dissatisfaction and anger. And the stream of miracles was shutting off.

Most of the team was feeling the strain. Snake had disappeared again, after Radhu noticed the effects of the changes Snake told him to make, which led to the real lessons being ignored, while quantum-brand cheats became widely available. Synthetic quantum.

So he told Fairy. Fairy’s estimation of Radhu went up a bit. She wondered what he looked like naked. Fairy contacted Anomia and Josh about Snake’s actions, and gave explicit (tho flawed) instructions to the kernel, trying to undo the damage. There’s always undo in a videogame right? But the testers loved the shift toward playability, so Anomia demanded that the games be made unplayable, and Josh insisted on going with what they had.

Snake rubbed his hands gleefully when he heard about it. Then got back to work. He was off on one of his side projects. This group of black hat hackers he infiltrated (practically started) was ripe for a critical phase, and it was time for him to go blow it up for the media. But because he finished the game himself, he felt like it was his game, and liked to keep up on his little experiments, nurturing Radhu as a weapon against Fairy, and sabotaging the game at the same time.

He felt as if he were the game’s only defender. He didn’t care about the quantum lessons, he just wanted this game to be a winner – even the money and power took a back seat to winning. To that end he installed backdoors and bombs and viruses all over the place, just in case someone tried to challenge his supremacy. Snake was a political kind of guy. He understood and studied how power worked and what gears were affected by which levers and how to pull the right one at the right time to get the result he wanted. And now was the time to slither away and do things in secret, in the dark. Wait until they missed him (whenever one of his gags went off) and then he’d walk in and save the day.

Fairy was also missing in action during Alpha testing. She was totally uninterested in reporting bugs and managing testers. Iit was beneath her talents. She turned to something where she could express her true gifts.

Issuing bug reports was way beyond Caroline’s talents, and she sucked as an alpha tester. She never opened her emails, she never got all the way thru a test, she kept having computer problems (user errors), her reports were sloppy and vague. Curly, reading her reports, suggested she should become an NSA programmer. She may have sucked as a videogame tester, but she was ex law enforcement and on a secret mission, so she figured she was doing a great job. She thought it ironic how she was undercover in her day job, and how she was undercover in her retirement.

She picked up on the criminal gameplay right away, of course, even if it was all she could to to walk in the gameworld. Wearing the avatar of a little girl, she could stand around and look stupid, licking a big lollypop, and take in all the conniving and scheming around her. She reported the presence of gangs in the game (even tho it was way too early for that). The boys in the basement ignored her reports – just another illustration of how glitchy the alpha stage was. (What did the kernel do? She was making bug reports as well. Neither recipient paid much attention, mainly because her reports made no sense. Maybe it was the pain pills.) She reported it when she materialized in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis while she was testing the Whack-A-Mole. Other testers reported similar transfer effects. The testers figured it was a side effect of the hyper-real gameplay, or a Dragoncon salute, reported it and went on.

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About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on November 24, 2013, in Dailies, fiction, Nanowrimo. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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