writing chapter 17.1
And thick and fast they came at last, and more and more and more. This line kept occurring to Anomia as she watched an endless parade of players come ashore.
Those less injured helped those more injured, those now able to fly went out beyond the breakers to pluck (drag) drowning players out of the drink. Some smart person figured out how to use the size function to enlarge the driftwood and seaweed and shells to big huge enormous, and built rafts and shell coracles with which to rescue others. The cloud of falling players continued to rain, but no longer were most of them dying on impact as their superpower training kicked in. But this presented a bigger problem. Now that they weren’t all dying, what to do with them?
Beyond the cloud of players, more clouds were looming. Storm clouds. The wind picked up. It got really cold. And there was no shelter, no food. They’d lived thru the fall only to risk dying of exposure. Anomia went around and urged the heated arctic gear on everyone, deputizing each to go tell others, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Great masses of players thronged the shore like a vast colony of seals. But they weren’t sunning themselves, they were cold and hungry, and there was nothing to give them but hot cups of tea and energy bars from their own virtual bags.
Somewhere in the middle of this exodus from the sea, the leprechaun npc disappeared, and was apparently replaced by penguins speaking gibberish. This annoyed Anomia, who saw no point in npcs that couldn’t make themselves understood. How were they supposed to answer questions? But she put several of them to work rescuing those players stuck offshore. The penguins clapped their little flippers together and squawked some sort of answer and waddled down to the shoreline to swim out and catch players.
She suspected something was wildly wrong with the penguins when they started bringing back fish instead of players. “People, people,” she screamed at them. “Not fish.”
But Josh saw the answer to their immediate problem, and tried to collect the fish they’d brought back. The penguins didn’t like this, and set up a big racket, attacking Josh with his armload of fish and running back in to the water with them. They brought back a good few survivors, but more often than not they’d be halfway back with their rescued players and would then let go of them to chase a fish.
Anomia was wild. “Where did they come from? Why aren’t they helping? What’s wrong with them?” But nobody could answer her. The onscreen help files were finally available, but had nothing about the demented penguin npcs. She didn’t have time to figure it out. There were thousands of players on shore now, and they needed her help.
It was an epic scene, featuring enormous ice carved mountains as the backdrop, and twisted, meandering glacial rivers scouring the valley, cascading with unbelievable power thru the ever-deepening gorge.
People trying to get to this fresh water were continually being swept away by the forceful flow. Anomia used her returning powers to materialize danger signs along the banks.
Perhaps inadvisably, because requests began pouring in from the players. “We’re cold, we’re hungry, we’re hurt. Help us.” They surrounded her, waiting for her to save them.
“This isn’t how it works,” she tried to explain. “You need to do it yourselves.”
But this only made them more insistent. “We can’t,” they wailed, pushing closer, reaching out to touch her.
But the touches turned grasping, and soon players were tugging at her, pulling at her. At the point where she was being stretched between them by her arms and legs, she decided she’d had enough. She flung herself into the air, initially lifting the closest players with her, still attached to her limbs. She spun in midair until they dropped off. She felt panicky, looking down into a sea of faces. Most of them looked beseechingly at her, patient, expectant. Some were clearly angry. She didn’t know why. It wasn’t as if their situation was her fault.
She called again to the kernel for help , but there was no response. She called on xKurt, and felt a wave of amusement, but then it vanished, leaving her alone to deal with the thousands of hungry, cold players who looked at her as if she was their mom. She decided the best thing to do would be to treat it like a Dragoncon seminar. Locating an isolated stack of rocks a little way up the valley, she drifted over to stand on top of it. The players followed like a flock of sheep.
Then she spotted Fairy and waved her over to join her on the stack. “I’ve never been so glad to see anyone,” she said as Fairy landed next to her, giving her a big hug.
“I just flew in,” Fairy said, “and boy are my arms…” She stopped, taking in the crowd massing around them. “What do they want?” Fairy asked in a low voice.
“There’s no food or shelter and most of them don’t seem to have any powers.”
“Well, that’s wrong,” Fairy responded. “Let’s fix that, shall we?” and flew off to circle around the rock stack above the players, telling them to sit on the ground and make sure they were touching the people around them. Wave up on wave of players sat, until there were several acres of seated players all crammed together. Then she flew back to join Anomia, who felt a wave of relief. She felt rescued.
A little less panicked now, she led the players in a round of quantum exercises, thinking happy thoughts, visualizing their goals, concentrating on their intentions. Nothing happened until she got down off the rock and touched the closest players. Then it became like a mosh pit, the players closest to her raising her over their heads with their arms, and she was passed one to the next until she was deep in the crowd, thousands of hands holding her up and moving her around. She felt the frustrations and longing of the players turning into something more loving and accepting. Less rapacious. More generous. Sharing.
As she was passed from hand to hand, her face to the sky, beginning to trust, to let go, to relax, she could feel the power flowing thru her into the players. A vibration began in the crowd and quickly spread thruout the seated players, extending to the edge of the circle and beyond. It built up, making her body tingle like a low voltage short. She could hear – feel – a hum. She could feel the crowd begin to rise off the ground and float alongside her, their quantum power reactivated at last.
Then the air grew brighter and more intense, the sun hotter and more searing. Then the air popped, like a bubble bursting, and everybody dropped to the ground. Anomia lost consciousness, falling deeply asleep, where she dreamed she was walking up the valley with xKurt, who was giving her advice about what to do next.
While she slumbered, Fairy instructed the crowd. “You’re all fully charged,” she told them, standing on the stack and amplifying her voice to reach them all. “Here’s what you need to do.” She split them up into teams and addressed them by turns. “You folks find something that’ll float – a piece of driftwood, a shell, something. Enlarge it until you’ve got boats and go out and rescue the players who are still falling. You guys over here find something that’ll burn – driftwood, seaweed, and multiply it until you’ve got enough to make a strand of bonfires along the shore. You people over there start building shelters with the rocks around you. And you all over here take some of the fish from those nasty little penguins and increase them and start cooking them up. If you’re having trouble, remember there’s strength in numbers. Oh yeah. You people over in this section are now deputized to spread the quantum powers. Go out among the players and share your abilities with them. Let’s turn this place into a proper settlement.”
They sat there looking at her as if she was speaking another language.
“What’s wrong with you?” she screamed, pointing to a bank of storm clouds coming over the mountain and streaming down toward them. “Do you want to be caught out in that?”
The wind picked up. Hail began to fall. The players rushed to their feet and streamed off in approximate groups, and began to get organized.
Anomia woke up. She and Fairy had the ability to grow the shells large enough for boats, and start waterlogged timbers burning, and pile up rocks to make stone huts. But the players could only summon the strength when they worked together, and this was fine with the girls.
There was a little trouble when small groups of players stood around each work group, criticizing and deriding, but they couldn’t withstand Fairy’s wrath, and slunk away whenever she approached.
The penguins were worse than useless. They were now hoarding the fish and misdirecting players who came to them for help. And where was Josh? Anomia didn’t recall the last time she’d seen him. And Fairy hadn’t noticed him at all.
There were still injured players being pulled out of the water, and Anomia went around trying to help them. She wasn’t exactly obeying her own rules on doing things themselves, but the injured didn’t seem to have any quantum powers, so she went around touching them, lending them some of her power. This resulted in more than just a few miraculous healings, with players going around telling everybody how she’d pulled them back from death’s door.
She confided her concerns to Fairy, who took the pragmatic approach. “Heal them or let them die, do what you want.”
Soon the area was covered with clouds as a fog bank rolled in off the ocean, and Anomia felt less conspicuous going around laying hands on people, so she continued, nonchalantly walking thru the triage area by the shore.
Fairy, meanwhile, had taken a small group of players down to the water’s edge where they were busy trying to call the fish out of the ocean and get them to offer themselves as food. It met with early success, but then the penguin npcs came along took the self-sacrificed fish for themselves.