Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Game Draft 1 Chapters 1-4.5

Chapter 1: Press Start

A young black man stepped on a subway, wearing a fedora, jeans, and a vest over a t-shirt. As he got on, he saw an old friend.

"Seamus, is that you?”

"Yep. I figured I’d see you off your first day. That and I take this line too.”

"What’s your first class?”

"Computer use. It will probably be a drag.”

"You might be surprised. Who’s your prof?”

"Some guy named Henri Jean.”

"I know him. Dude you're in for one wild semester.”

"What’s he like?”

"He’s… well…You’ll just have to meet the guy. I’ll tell you this though, he just graduated last semester, and he’s kind of a campus legend.”

"Why?”

"I’ll tell you later besides wasn’t that your stop Mal.”

Then Malcolm turned his head shouted, “Shit” then pulled the line.

Malcolm ran to the Gates building. Entering, he asked the first person he saw, who was talking on a payphone “Where is room 115?”

"It's right there ya noob. I can’t believe you’re wasting my time like this.”
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After entering the room, Mal saw a tall kid with broad shoulders reading a comic book with his feet on a chair. He was spread out along two other chairs.

"Howdy”

"Shhhhh not now. Doubleshot is trapped in a room with Aeros and he doesn’t have his crossbow.”

As the class began to fill up everyone stared at the comic reader.
A blond haired girl asked, "Where is the professor?"


"Yo,” The comic reader said as his arm rose and his head lowered into the book. “Let's give it another five more minutes. There are probably a few lost freshies and I really want to finish this thing.”

After a while the kid stood up. “Okay this is CSC 104 computer use. If that’s not where you’re so suppose to be geeeee-it out.” His thumb moved over his shoulder. And the class gave him weird looks “Tough crowd. Anyway, it’s required by the university. I had to take it. You guys have to take it. That said it's a cool class. That and I’m a cool guy. I don’t like checking papers, and that doesn’t really prove if you know how to use a seed anyway. If you do what I tell you, you’ll have fun and you’ll probably get an okay grade. That said you’re going to have to demonstrate you know some stuff.”

"Like what stuff,” said the blonde girl.

"Uh for the next few weeks I think we’ll stick to the basics. Avatars, constructs, but before we get to that stuff you guys need seeds. Seeing as a lot of you are probably freshies I’m guessing you don’t know where the school computer store is. I thought it would be a good idea to go there together.”

As the class walked the TA called to the blonde girl. “I didn’t have time to say but you remind me of someone. What’s your name?”

"Alexandria Katrina.”

"No way you’re Silver Cat’s sis?”

"Yeah. How do you know sis?”

"We go way back.”

"Yeah everyone knows Silver Cat.”

"She never mentioned me?”

"Now that you mention it you never told us your name.”

"Doh. Well it’s my first day on the job. Yo everyone could you stop for a sec. Alley Cat has just informed me I stupidly forgot to introduce myself. I’m Henri Maccabee Jean. Call me Hank. It looks like we are here. This is the union. Trust me you guys are going to spend a lot of time here. The store is in the basement. Come on.”

Walking through the automatic doors of the computer store, Mal saw his childhood friend Seamus."

"Seamus you work in the computer store,” Malcolm says.

"I've got to make bread somehow.”
Hank turns to them. “You guys know each other?”

"Since were babes,” Seamus replies.

"You know Seamus maybe he could join in the match Saturday”

"I’ll ask Silver but you know what she’s like.”

"Just a thought. Okay so since everyone here looks like they are under 25 I’m going to guess you guys have the id chips. Let me lay a little history on ya. Yes I know most of this stuff is common knowledge but I’ll tell you anyway. In 2020, to prevent ID theft the government started installing id chips into the brains of its citizens. I know it's creepy but you see those chips started to get more complicated. Now days, we do some pretty cool stuff with them. Mainly the chip can communicate with one of these.”

"Yo, Hammer they know all this stuff just let them buy some seeds,” Seamus said.

"Yes I know your job is to sell but mine is to teach these guys how to use these things. Anyway those id chips have been modified over the last few decades to allow these things to communicate with your head.”

Pulling out a Mj√∂llnir pendant from under his shirt Hank said, “This is my seed.”

"See ladies and gentlemen we have all sizes all shapes, all colors, hell if you give us a week we can make a custom one just like Henri’s over there. Yep we can customize both the looks and the specs.”

"Yo, Forge could you shut up a sec.” Hank held out the pendant and light came from it. The light became larger and became the image of a man in armor holding a large war hammer.

"This is my avatar. This guy is how I look when I’m cyber trancing. Think of cytrancing as lucid dreaming. Alright, before I do what I am about do I got to warn you guys not to move.” The light engulfed the room and soon the room changed. It became a medieval hall. “This is my construct. Be careful it's only a hologram. You guys might bump into a shelf or something, but I thought you should see it. I can manipulate the trance but when I first enter it this is where I go. I can change the construct if I want, but I like it. It's kind of like a second home to me. Next class I’ll show you guys how to make one. The hologram faded and the room returned to normal.”

"Yeah. Yeah. You did enough now let them buy their seeds.”

"Okay here is the deal a certain amount of your first year tuition was devoted to the purchase of a seed. If you buy one that costs more than that you have to pay the difference. I think it's like 700 creds but Seamus here knows better than me.”

"Step on up ladies and gents. I got watch seeds, necklace seeds, bracelets seeds, laptop seeds, pda seeds, earring seeds. What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? Keep in mind they have different capabilities. If you get confused just ask me.”

Alex was looking at a necklace seed.

"I think that would look nice on you. Alley, right,” Mal said

"Yep. But I prefer Alex. So what’s going to be your choice?”

"I think I’ll go with the glasses. Kind of like Seamus.”

"Somebody call my name.”

"Yeah you said each shape had different capabilities.”

"Right, where to start? Well the cool thing about laptop and PDA seeds are the screens. Some people like ‘em but others think they’re clunky, which is why we have the others. Don’t get me wrong they have cool functions of their own but the main thing about them is that they can be worn or kept in a pocket and some are fashion statements. Like I said that pendent of Henri’s, it’s a custom deal. Anyway standard necklaces are pretty much no frills. I mean they can have as much computing power as you want, but they’re main attraction is that they are small and light. Also they look cool. Glasses on the other hand arguably have the most features. See the glasses act sort of like a worn screen. And the side peaces are close enough to the ears that they act like head phones. Now you can put sensors in pretty much any seed but in glasses those sensors without directly linking to a mind can transmit data through the speakers and glass. That said they can make you look like a nerd but... nerd power.”

Hank stepping back in front of the class, said, "Well it's about that time. Catch you later.”

Chapter 2: New Players

A brown ponytail dangled as a woman walked upside down along the bottom of a brick skyscrapers ledge. She was enjoying the cool breeze of night and eying her prey. She zeroed in on two thieves through the scope of her crossbow.

"Silver.”
The woman looked up to the moon. “Not now,” she said glancing at the moon just after releasing a bolt.
Before it could hit its target she fell from the ledge. Landing on her feet she ran to the dregs. Kicking up rain water, her foot made contact with the chin of one of her marks.

"I’m sorry Silvia but, Circe keeps bugging me.”

"Just give me five minutes,” the ponytailed woman says as she twirled two knives in her hands. One of the gangsters tries to shoot her. The bullet bounced off a metal crimson bracer she is wearing.

A face identical to the girl’s appeared in the moon. “Look I can’t get any peace until you talk to these guys.”

"Alright.” The muggers disappeared into blue pixels and man and two woman replaced them. “You know I was really having a great time.”

"Yeah”, a man with sunglasses said. “Artemis gave both me and Circe an earful.” He points to a woman who looks like the ponytailed girl except with her hair untied. “Uh anyway I got a friend and I was wondering if he can join our game on Saturday.”

"How much of a newb is he?”

"Okay. So he’s new. We let you bring in Alley.”


"Fine, fine. He can play but if we lose because of him Forge-.”

"I’ll take responsibility. Don’t worry I’ll tell him what he needs to know.”
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Water spouted from a large round concrete fountain. While drinking coffee, Alexandria sat on its rim while reading a book for her philosophy class.

"Hey.”

She looks up to see a fedora. “Hey Mal.”

"Studying for your next class? I have philosophy 120 too. I think we might be in the same section.”

"There you are,” an out of breath Seamus said has he ran to the fountain. “You might as well hear this too Alley. You know that TA you guys met. Well back when he was a student he formed a game club. Well, he left after he graduated but he occasionally plays with us still. This Saturday Silvia, Alley’s sister and some friends of ours are going to battle it out with the old bastard. Are you two in?”

"Sure. I got nothing going Seamus.”

"Hey I love an opportunity to show up sis.”

"Wo there, Calamity Jane. Aim your guns the other way. You’re on our team. Okay I’ll give you guys the details on the game later but right now you need to learn how to use your seeds. Alley has a little experience but you Mal. You’re running in the dark ages. I loaded a tutorial on your seed to help you out. Custom made it myself. You’re welcome. By the way this is the only free software you’re getting out of me.

"Thanks but I should be headed for class now anyway,” Mal said.

"Oh by the way Silvia’s teaching that philosophy class you guys are headed for.”

"What!”

"Yeah it’s her major and her prof was so impressed with her that he gave her a chance to TA as a senior. Figured she probably wouldn’t tell you till you got there. I just didn’t want you to wig out.”

"Yeah. Thanks”

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Sixteen desks in a circle surrounded a brunette haired girl in a wool mesh trench coat.

"Alright let's get started. It’s the first day in an intro class so I won’t get to heavy on you. By the way I’m Silvia Katrina, and this is Phl120 Philosophy in a digital age. Okay so I don’t expect you guys to have a bunch of knowledge about stuff if you understood the world you wouldn’t need to be here, but this is mainly a discussion course. Say what you think, make good arguments, and write a couple of essays and you should be fine. You can grab the syllabus on the net. Nothing too unexpected on it. Throughout the semester you guys have to write 3 papers. I’ll tell you guys more about that later and the detail are on the syllabus anyway. If you have any questions just message me and I’ll get back to you. So I guess I’ll just put out a few questions. Why are you here? I don’t mean in that deep why do we exist sense. I just mean why you are taking the class.”

A red haired guy in the back row stands up and says, “Because the registrar says we have to?”

"Okaaaay.”

"Anyone else,” no one raises their hand “Okay zombies well here’s why I decided to TA it. We’re living in interesting times. The lines between illusion and reality are being blurred, where an intangible idea can become caporal. Its disorienting and I know I sometimes I can’t even make sense out of it all. I’m hoping what you guys say may shed some light on it. I want to hear what you guys think. Anyway here’s the gist of the class. Well, talk normally about some topic. I’m hoping that the conversations will naturally flow but if they don’t. I have a list of topics. Based on the previous class I’ll e-mail you guys reading material. I’ll try to do it no less than two hour after class. Okay, so let's get started. Most of you guys are only able to use seeds just now. Why?.”


"The law says we have to be seventeen before we can use them,” the redhead said.

"And why would that be the law,” Katrina said.

A girl with pink hair and a pink hoodie said, “because in order to use the seed you have to use the ID chip in your head and people don’t like the idea of kids brains doing the unnatural.”


"Mind if I ask you your name”

"Joanne but my friends call me Jo.”

"Cool. Well, this is a good time to cover some history, originally the chip was a voluntary identification system to aid in fighting identity theft. At first people weren’t crazy about the idea but it was voluntary so no body gave a fuck. Eventually 75 percent of the population had the chips. The government then decided that the cost of maintaining older identification systems and the chip were expensive and made it mandatory for everyone.

"At this point people were sort of freaked out that their brains could be hacked so a bunch of patchwork laws and government organizations were created to ensure the safety and security of people with chips which at this point was everyone. One of the goals of these organizations was to research the chips and make it harder for people to crack them. Well this lead to the development of the MUI, the mental user interface, that we use today. Anyway one of the mental safeguard laws is that you can’t use the MUI until age 17.

"It might not sound weird to you guys but there was a time when having government chip in your head would be considered the start of fascism. What do you guys feel about it?”

"Never really thought about it like that. I always knew the chip could identify me but I never had a problem with it. I never really noticed. By the way name’s, Malcolm my friends call me Mal.”

" Well, according, to the law the chip’s government identifier can only be used in government buildings such as the police station, and the Secretary of State's office, but after activating your seeds you can add other identifiers to the seed. I have. You guys will probably get one soon for the university. Up until now you guys probably just used a paper trail for all the docs you had to put in to get here. Well, when you start using seeds you’ll see things are a lot faster. Anyway, other than identification the only thing the chip can be used for is interfacing with your seeds. All the processing for the MUI is handled by the seed. Yeah Alley.”

"Well, the 45st through 64th amendments are often called the second bill of rights. They list the things the government can’t do in regards to digital and mental technologies. I always had faith that the government would follow its own rules.”

"But how do you know. There could be a secret database with all our thoughts recorded on it,” Silvia responded

"True I guess but if the government ever wanted to do anything with that information they would have to follow due process and a judge would never allow that info as evidence or even probable cause I mean hell that is one of our a oldest laws,” said Alex

"There are ways to bend the law even the law of those who make it. Anyway I didn’t want things to get that heavy on the first day so I’ll leave that conversation here until next class. By the way Alley, Mal could you guys stick around for a while.”

"Sure,” Mal said.

"You guys are in the game. At least that’s what Seamus says. It’s been a while since everyone played together so we’re having a meeting at the diner on Park Street and Babbage Ave on Friday afternoon be there at 3 got it.

"Yeah,” Alley said.

" I’ve got some stuff to take care of back at my apartment so I probably won’t see you guys ‘till then.
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Mal, was lying in bed watching Kiss Me Deadly on the ceiling screen. He had started the movie as a room hologram, but he eventually got tired and decided to watch the story while lying down. The sun had set hours ago, but with all of the light and sound he hadn’t realized. The only sign he had of the passing hours was the weariness of his muscles. He had thought of his new seed, but he hadn't tried it. Things just kept coming up that he would rather do. After class he spent half the day at the park. Although everyone called it a park it was more of a mall. To a newcomer like Mal it looked like a city. Hallways as wide as roads with railways and motorized walkways along their centers. Mal had grown up in a small town. He had never dreamed that places like that existed.

Mal had decided that before he went to sleep he wanted to try his seed, if only for a few minutes. He closed his eyes and then opened them. He was not where he was a moment ago. Miniscule moving blue numbers surrounded him. He realized two things immediately. The first was that while his mind was still half asleep his muscles were no longer fatigued. The second was that he was not alone.

"Hey it took you long enough”

"Seamus?”

"Sorry bro. I’m not Seamus I’m just a tutorial programmed by him.”

"But”

"Hey I’m well he’s a techno genius. Anyway while he doesn’t doubt Henri’s teaching ability we need you set in days not months so I’m going to help you get up to scruff.”

"Okay I guess but where is this place?”

"This is the default construct. You can change it however you want.

“How?”

“Just think of a place you would like to be. Most of the ones programmed that way are pretty simple though but simple might be best for now. Also you could always go back to the store and get the brilliant guy who programmed me to program you a more complex one.”

Mal thought of a black and white office with an old typewriter and black analogue rotary phone. He thought of bookcases that had been obsolete for a good century. Blue turned to gray and the numbers shifted forming a desk and a lamp.

"You thought up a gray box. A bit boring but at least you have the idea. Alright next thing and this is important. In this place your body is irrelevant. Do me a favor. Think about the old track at Adam’s Park.
The tiles on the floor shifted to gravel and the gray turned to green. Trees sprang from nowhere and a streaming river could be seen from iron guard rails. Orange leaves floated down the stream.

"No way.”

"Yeah shocking ain't it. Anyway run the track.”

"Come on man you know I was always the slowest guy in gym”

"Just run the damn track Mal.”

Mal ran the track while mentally ranting. He hated running track, especially with someone watching. Even if it was just a program Mal couldn’t help but confuse it with Seamus. Just as Seamus would, the program chided Mal about his speed.

" Four minutes for the quarter mile you are slow check this out”
Mal watched Seamus’ tutorial run the quarter mile in 9 seconds. “

"Now here is the question. Do you think my creator’s physical counterpart could do that back at the park?”

"No. You ... I mean Seamus was always faster than me but not by much, but then again you aren’t him.”

"Good point but for the time being let's assume that Seamus can do everything I can do and vice-versa. That’s not exactly the case but I’m trying to make a point. Here a body’s form and function is nearly completely based on its user’s or designer’s mental intention and projection.”

"In other words you’re fast because you want to be fast?”


"Exactly. That’s something simple, but let’s do something more complex. What’s your favorite animal?”


"Dude you should know this. I always liked wolves”

Seamus shimmered blue for a moment and where he was standing a wolf took his place. Then he returned to human form.

"Okay that was just to show off. The point is that in your construct you control pretty much everything, your environment and yourself. The problem is that the game isn’t happening in a construct or any personal cyber space. That world will have rules. Seamus will tell you those rules later. My job is to get you used to the weirdness of having a body other than your physical one. In the game your body is going to be limited to your usual physical form, or at least an avatar similar to your usual physical form, but your strength, speed, and agility can be augmented by your mental state. Before the game starts Seamus wants you to have an avatar and a handle that you’re comfortable with. You can have more than one and you can change them but at least for this game your avatar has to be recognizable as human. Two arms two legs, one head walking upright Between 4 and 7.5 feet tall and weighing 95 to 300 pounds. In short you can’t be anything ridicules. “

“So my avatar can totally compensate for my normal scrawniness. I can be a 200 pound football player”

"Sure but keep in mind that how your body interacts with the world will be based on its form. Let’s say you want to hide behind a rock, for cover. What’s better, that 200 pound 7 football guy or something smaller.” On the other hand though your physical capabilities can be augmented by your mind, the physics engine of the game is based on the physics of our world. So that 200 pound guy will be able to punch a lot harder than a smaller person. Another thing is familiarity of the avatar. For stuff that’s highly physical like the games most people use avatars that are close to their physical selves. Seamus knows how to control his body fairly well, but if you add or take away too much weight or height things get weird. You probably haven’t really thought about it.”

"Nope”

"Okay you and Seamus used to play baseball right.”

"All the time.”

"You more or less know how to throw the ball to get it to go where you want.

"I’ve got a curve you wouldn’t believe.”

"But what happens when your arm is heavier, or faster, or stronger than you’re expecting.”

"I guess the ball would move differently.”

"Exactly. Well that’s all I can say unprompted if you have any questions just ask.”

"What avatar are... is Seamus using for the game.”

"He guessed you would ask that.”
The hologram shimmered and a short man who appeared not to fit into his own skin walked into him. Long blond hair was tied behind a leather jacket with one sleeve cut off.

"And I told him err programmed it to IM me when you did.”

"Look at you, all road warrior like.”

"I prefer to think of it as more of a terminator look. Anyway this is how I roll not exactly original but it has a certain appeal in the games. By the way I only use this AV in the games. But I’ll leave that other stuff to Henri.



Chapter 3 Character Select
Morning hit Mal like a train. He wished he had it in him to sleep more, but he could never figure out how to shut the blinds completely. He thought he should probably start this routine on his seed. He didn’t know how so he did it the old way. He moved to the terminal he brought from home and checked his schedule. It was Friday and he didn’t have any classes but there were still things to do. He was in a new town and the sun was out. He wasn’t sure if he should buy paper books or not. His professors had put course packs on the net and had told him it would be easier to print them as needed.

Other than the mall the place everyone kept talking about was Babbage Avenue. The union was on that street but it also had a bunch of stores and restaurants. There was also a huge diagonal public square right between the union and the library on the street. This early in the semester there was bound to be some concert or faire there.

Walking around Mal wondered what everyone was doing right now. He thought they were probably doing the same thing as he was walking around. Walking down the street, Mal passed an Arcade. He had never been in one before so he didn’t know what to expect as he walked in.

There were old school terminal arcade games but there were also plenty of seeders. In the middle of two small arenas there were holograms of people playing the games.

Alley Cat and Silver Cat were playing a game of basketball. On the screen there were five copies of each girl. Katrina was winning. Each copy of her seemed to move almost as an individual, while some of Alex’s copies wouldn’t move as she focuses her attention on controlling the ones closest to the ball. Just then Mal saw Henri.

"Hey. What’s up Henri” How you doing Mal. Seamus normally hangs out here. I guess when we find him us and the girls can head to the diner.”

"Alex really needs some practice”

"Yeah so which one is the real one”

"They all are I guess. A skilled person can use each one of those players almost like a limbs, but from the looks of it Alley isn’t used to it yet. Oh well.”
There were two minutes left on the clock. Katrina was ahead by 15 points, but Alley had no intention of giving up. Suddenly one of her player’s stole the ball and passed to the other end of the court to a copy of herself that was in the air. The copy in the air without landing then slammed the ball into the basket.

"Wow. I thought that Alley would be too short to pull off a move like that.”

"In real life maybe but she’s in one of the games, still though I wouldn’t have expected her to be able to pull off that move”

A buzzer rang. Alley and Silvia opened their eyes in a corner of the arcade where they were sitting.

"At least you’re getting better, but you still need tons of practice,” Silvia said.

"Yeah” Alley said bitterly. “Anyway Mal and Hammer are here.”
Mal and hammer went over to sit with the girls.

"So what do you guys think we should do? We still have a while before we said we would officially meet and we can’t do much until we catch up with Forge and Mr. Universe.”

"Who’s Mr. Universe?” said Alley

"A disgusting pig” Silvia replied.

" Eh, I’ll admit he can be a bit crude but he’s alright. And if you have a sense of humor, which sorry Silvia you don’t he’s a barrel of laughs,” said Henri.

"Anyway," Alley interrupted, "He'll probably be at the dinner. We should head over there. See you later Henri."

"See you guys letter"

The party decided to wait outside the dinner for Mr. Universe, who arrived 15 minutes late.

"Good evening ladies and Gentlemen. The lord master of everything has arrived. Let's get this party started. Eh who are these people?"

"Meet Mal, a friend of mine and Alley, Silvia's little sister"

"Hey I met you before. Yeah on the first day of classes you were talking on a phone."

"I have no clue what you're talking about. Anyway let's eat."

"So what will it be?" a waitress asked the group.

"Flapjacks for me," says Seamus

"It's almost four. I never get how you can eat breakfast at dinner, by the way a fish sandwich for me", Silvia said

"Simple this place serves the best pancakes I'll have the flapjacks too", Alex said
Everyone else ordered a grilled cheese

"So what's the plan Silver" Mr. Universe said

"The first thing is that we need to brief the newbie's. Forge"

"I'm on it. Okay so over the summer Henri and I designed this game together this is kind of a beta test. It's your standard FPS with a few exceptions. The map will be chosen randomly but I was the guy who designed that part of the game so it gives us a bit of an advantage. The way it works is one team defends and the other attacks. The defending team will have 30 minutes to set up their traps, vehicles and starting position. Both teams get to choose their weapons using points but the defending team gets to choose the location of their vehicles, ammo, and guns. The other team has to carry theirs from a random spawn point Henri and I programmed.

"Doesn't that put the attacker at a disadvantage", Alex said.

"That brings me to my next point to be fair I told Henri we would be the attackers for the first round because I know so much about the maps. That said this will be a two out of three match. And whoever wins each round earns the right to be the defender. Also everything you do in the game earns points, kills, stunts, you get the picture . We can use those points in the second and third games to get more firepower. Even though Henri's team is the defender if they get lazy and just dig in it will eventually give us enough points to overcome their position through firepower, but in the spirit of fairness if the gap between the two teams points gets to high the game resets them both to 200.

"So any ideas on how to attack this." Alley said.

"It's your standard fps so I say we all just do not motherfucking die." Silvia said.

"Speaking of which what happens if we die," Mal said.

"You're out for 5 minutes or when the round ends which ever happens first. The round ends when all the players on one side are dead at the same time. While you're out of the game you get to hang at this nifty player lounge we created. The AIs can't get into the game proper but if they want they can hang back at the lounge and watch. I figured Circe, Artemis, and Thor would get a kick out of that. It's rare they get to hang out together these days. Each team also gets a war lounge. You could spend your time in the common lounge or the war lounge." Forge said

"Wait there's five us isn't that unfair to Henri." Alley said

"No prob. It's been a while, and I hate to say it but he has a new crew running with him. I've met a few of them. They're alright guys but they don't stand a chance." Universe said. "Oh by the way one of them is his girlfriend. I saw them snogging. Another is a cousin of his. "

"That would be Zach." Seamus said. "It's his freshmen year too. He's a spitfire. Seen him play a few games with the ole hammer. Dude is all heart and no brains. He doesn't know when to hold and when to fold."

"He fights when he ought to run huh." Mal said.
Seamus nodded

"So in the second round how are we choosing to use our points?" Silver asked.

"I don't know. For now I say we split the points into sevenths. Each of us gets one seventh and then they remaining two can go towards common things like vehicles. It seems fair but if we want to change up we always can in the war lounge. By the way I say we meet up there a half hour before the game field can be seen from the lounge and looking down will give us a better idea of a plan."

"Deal." Universe said. "So are you two ready to get your battle cherries busted?"

"Don't worry they're game." Seamus said.

"I don't know what'll happen but it's only a game right," Mal said. Silvia raised her left eyebrow and glared at Seamus.

"Hey all of our pride is on the line. I say we kick ass harder than it's ever been kicked. Show them exactly who the hell we are!" Silvia said.

Chapter 4 Fight
After a long night of writing down ideas for his class, Henri was cyber trancing with his girlfriend. He was lying down on a couch face up with his head in her lap, in their mental apartment. The apartment was not unlike their real ones. It was small with plain walls and a hard wood floor. When the day was over and all that needed to be said and done was said and done, they liked to just sit, not talking but just being.

"So Han, what's the plan for tomorrow?"

"Huh"

"The game, Elizabeth said, while lightly punching his arm"

"Oh that, well you and the guys already know the rules, so I thought we'd improvise"

"We need a plan"

"Don't worry about it we'll have time to come up with one in the war room, and the terrain is randomized so any plan we came up with we would have to adapt on the spot."

"Fair enough, but you should probably at least get some sleep," Elizabeth said, kissing Henri's forehead.

"You're probably right, but I do my some of best work on caffeine, a few more minutes won't cost us the game."

"Still if I believe your stories of the old days we are in for one hell of a fight."
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The first to arrive to the mutual war room were Henri and Seamus.

"Sup" Henri said.

"That's all you can say"

"Hey, it's too early to be verbose"

"Heard that brother, while kicking your ass I'm going to have to listen to battle track number 9."

"'Symphony of Destruction'? I'm going with 'Battle without honor or 'Humanity myself.' I know your girl and your cousin. So who else you get to roll in your crew?

"I let my cousin handle it?"

"Man you do live on the edge."

"Heads up we have incoming."
The two turned their heads to see Alexandria and Silvia materializing into the war room.

"Universe is on his way I'm sad to say." Silvia said.
At nearly the same time Zach arrived with two others, a boy and a girl.

"I know you." said the girl.

"You two are students of mine, Jo and Mr. I have too."

"Call me Mike."

"Got it."

"Alright let's generate that map," Hank said.
The walls of the common war room began to shift into what appeared like glass windows. Outside there was an endless craggy desert landscape. The war room was positioned a great height above the ground.

"We already decided you guys would be the defenders go do what you need to do," Silvia said.

With that Hammer's team shifted away. They were still in the room but they could neither perceive, nor be perceived by Silver's team.
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"That point," said hammer pointing to a mesa in the distance," I think that is where we should set up. It's not as high as the war room but it's higher than most everything else. Heck it's even high enough that their mortars might not be able to reach us."

"That's wishful thinking, and heck what's to say they don't grab a chopper with their points" Liz said," I say we dig, tunnel under the sand create a system of ropes that can use the tension to determine where they are and strike like a trap-door spider, quick and clean."

Jo and Mike looked at each other scared.

"I don't know if we have the time for that."

"We do if we all get started, then two will be spotters keeping an eye on the ropes, two of us will mobilize and whoever is left can man a sniper rifle on the that mesa you seem so determined to climb." Liz said.

"Standard Rook - Vet team up." Hank said

"Why not. Jo you're with me. We'll ride out on a jeep. I'm driving you're shooting."

"Zach you and Mike are our spotters. You'll be on the mesa with me but all you're doing is telling us where you see movement. Jo and me are doing the shooting," Said Hank.

"Ah come on I wanna make stuff go boom," said Zach.

"You heard 'em. But that gives me an idea. Instead of ropes we put in small mines. Zack you know how to calculate distance based on how tall the blasts appear to you."

"I don't want small explosions! I want a fourth of July extravaganza!."

"Zach!" Both Liz and Hank said simultaneously.

"Alright I'll mine the northwest quadrant, Zach you take the Southwest, the rooks will handle the Northeast and Hammer here will take the Southeast."

"Did I mention how much I love you when you talk tactics."

"No and don't this isn't the time Han."

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"So any ideas," Silvia said. "Forge did you and Hammer program some sort of radar map into one."

"Yeah, we kind of thought it would be more interesting if we had to guess, but the map is so small that we'll meet one another eventually. All can say is keep your eyes open and pick up your visual scanning."

"There are too few us that I think it would be a good idea to screen the place alone. We should stick together," Universe said.

"Agreed, but we're the attacking team so we can't afford to wait for them to show up. If we pull our points we might be able to afford a tank. "Forge said

"And then what about individual guns. Nope I need my rocket launcher" Silvia said.

"Alright how about just an armored Jeep," Forge said

"Fine"

"Hey guys we're new to this whole thing, so what guns should we choose

"Speak for yourself shotgun, pistol and sniper rifle combo for me. I kind of know how I fight for you so I can choose those three, but for a guy like you I would say an assault riffle is your best bet. Ally said.

"And knives all around" Silver Cat said.

"Though I strongly suggest against getting in close enough to use one Mal," Forge said while eying a mortar launcher.
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From the mesa, hank so a quickly rising tower of sand and what appeared to be a flipped jeep.

"Got ya", Hank said while pulling the trigger on his sniper riffle."Liz, they're about a half a mile northwest of our position."
After hearing a loud bang and realizing Mal was down Silver took cover behind the flipped jeep.

"God Damn it."
Forge took out the mortar and began to set it up. Firing it at the mesa where he guessed the fire had come from.

"Oh shit. Everybody get back!" Hank said.
Although the mortar fire had fallen short of Hank's position it had destabilized the mesa. The area where Hanks team had set up had crumbled and they were falling to the sand.

"Well, the battle plan never survives contact with the enemy. Screw it." Hank said.

"So what do we do now." said Mike

"Hope the others have our back and get down and dirty, but if we're doing it we're doing it right. So shut up and follow my lead.
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Mal didn't know what had happened. One moment he was riding across the desert, next he was in what looked like an upscale nightclub. There were others looking at a screen.

"I got 20 bucks that Hank doesn't even get knocked out by the end of it." A woman who looked like Silvia said.

"I'll take that bet said .
A girl looking to be in her mid 20's turned from the screen to Mal.

"Welcome to the lounge. I'm Circe, Seamus' AI. He designed the game so that when you die you'll stick around here for about 5 minutes before being transported to a spawn point.

"AI?"

"Artificial Intelligence. People often use the seeds to create us but anyway I think right now it's more important for you to focus on the game. I bet that you guys would win.
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"Well he didn't last long," said Silver Cat pointing at Mal's corpse.

"Wasn't his fault. Damn wasn't expecting that." said Forge Kicking the jeep. "We're traveling on foot."

"I hate this," universe said," In a landscape like this there aren't many places to hide."

"I still think we should stick together," said Forge.

"Agreed, we'll walk in single file to hide our numbers. Mal should respawn about 700 meters to the east, but I think he'll be able to handle himself while we go after the Hammer."

"No you don't you just don't want to deal with him."

"Okay, I don't. Happy. First shot last got."

"As much as I hate to admit it Forge we are on a clock and they're ahead." Ally Cat, said.

"Fine."
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Climbing out of the rubble Hammer said, "Okay let's think. What weapons do we have? How should we fight? Where should we fight?"

"Mostly long range weapons. From a distance. Far from the other guys."

"So you learn. I can use the scope as a sort of binoculars to help us pen down where both we and everybody else is, the question is what do we do when we spot them? At this point all the plans we had are moot."

"What about Liz, Zach and Jo."

"They're out there somewhere, but at least for the time being we're on our own.
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About a half mile away from the over turned jeep Liz, Jo, and Zach were watching Forge's team from a fox hole.

"I can't tell how many there are from this far away. Should we attack" Jo said.

"My head say's it's a stupid thing to do, but my heart says, what's a party without a few explosions," replied a smiling Liz as she finished attaching the barrel on her tripod mounted machine gun.

"Finally, I was starting to get bored said Zach."

"I'll stick here and provide cover fire with the guns. Use the reflection off one of your knives to signal me when I should start shooting so I don't give them too much advanced warning.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Forge, Silver Cat , Ally Cat and Mr. Universe were traveling in single file when they saw a bright light from a sand dune. Moments later machine gun fire tore through Universe's leg and left arm.

"Bummer. Avenge me. Avenge me," he said right before his body went limp.

"Yeah sure", said Silvia as she unholstered a Berretta M9 pistol from her suspenders rolling her eyes at Jo's colt 1845.

With both hands griping the pistol, legs spread and eying the sight Silvia quickly emptied her clip into Jo, immediately afterwards eying Universe's corpse and yelling, "Satisfied."

In that moment Zach knifed her right shoulder blade.

"Motherfucker," Silvia said as she fell to the sand.

At that moment Alley Cat put a hole through Zach with her shotgun.
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