In The Wire

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It's Just a Game

Razer and his friends rested for a moment, fallen Orcs lay on the ground, their loot slowly fading.

“Do you think we should get some of their gold or potions?” Neo asked.

Razer nodded, “Yeah you can run around and grab some if you want. One of the Orcs was carrying a map; I’m going to try and figure out where we are.”

He pulled out a roll of old parchment and stared at the map. A red beacon hovered over the map and displayed their current co-ordinates in the corner of Razer’s vision. There was a town located on the other side of the forest.

Razer turned to the others, “We’ll head through the Zoaguan Forest to the town of Ongor. There’ll probably be some NPC’s there that we can trade with.”

Neo and Xara both smiled as the three of them made their way into the forest. It wasn’t a pleasant place to be; thorny vines hung low and scratched them, old relics sat indiscreetly in the distance and strange animals circled slowly around them. They looked like lions but had huge bat-like wings and a scorpion tail. A green liquid dripped off the tip, landing on the ground with a hiss.

Neo gulped, “Raze, I don’t think we should risk getting stung by one of those things. It looked like acid.”

Razer nodded and brought up the Kingdoms of the Void Encyclopaedia. It was one of the game’s built in features that allowed them to look up the properties of anything in the game world. It identified them as Minor Manticores. The information panel showed that they prowled the forest in packs of three, sometimes a Lead Manticore would accompany them but that was very rare. They had a strength of 54 and defence of 33. They drop gold, health potions and sometimes a medium level weapon. Only found in the Zoaguan Forest.

The trio decided to avoid the Manticores for now, they still needed to level up more and get better gear before they tried to take on stronger foes. The Orcs must have been set to a lower strength to ensure that the three defeated them. They emerged into a clearing, Xara drew a deep breath, the smell of baked bread and wood burning ovens filled her with a peaceful feeling. They wandered the town, people sat and talked, merchants called out for people to buy their wares and children ran around laughing with delight.

Xara smiled, “This is a lovely place guys. I thought this game would be all violence and darkness but here it is beautiful.”

Razer nodded, “Yeah but don’t get too attached, these are only NPCs, they are just lines of code walking around the place.”

Neo shook his head, “Those two over there are definitely not NPCs. They have status bars and I can see their gamer profiles. One of them is called Hermon The Great and the other is Silverslinger.”
Razer’s eyes widened, “That’s impossible, the game wasn’t supposed to be released until tomorrow. We better go talk to them. We won’t have to worry about them trying to kill us, the town is a Peace Zone, meaning no PvP deaths.”

Neo looked at him, “How long did you say you were in here before you told us about it?”

Razer smiled, “A day or so, there were a lot of bugs that are fixed now, but a lot of it is about the same.”

The trio walked over to the two players, who turned and sized them up.

Razer smiled and scratched his hair nervously, “We don’t want any trouble with you guys, we just wanted to know how you got in the game? I thought it wasn’t supposed to be released until tomorrow.”

Hermon grunted, “Well it was a featured game when I bought my new Link-Gear. Silverslinger and I bought our 2nd Gen Link-Gear and joined Kingdoms of the Void to test it out. Did you guys buy Link-Gear too?”

Razer nodded, “We only have 1st Gen Link-Gear, we found this game by snooping around background datastreams. How many others in the game?”

Hermon shrugged, “We started in town square where the Emperor’s Guard were handing out starter packs to those who wanted them. We took them and sold most of useless stuff so we could buy ourselves half decent gear. There was probably about one hundred or so with us in town square but I was talking to some NPCs and they said that players start in the town square of all four towns and are evenly spread out over them. If that’s the case there’s close to four hundred players in the game at the moment.”

Neo let out a whistle, “Oh wow Razer, we thought we were the only ones here, boy were we wrong.”

Hermon cleared his throat, “There’s one more thing you should know, there’s no exit button…”

Tyron opened his eyes, the 2nd Gen Link-Gear still had a few software bugs and his made him feel nauseous whenever he entered a game. Unlike the 1st Gen Link-Gear, the 2nd Gen allowed the user to enter directly into the game, bypassing the Central Hub where players go to select their game. He took a quick glance over his character, because he worked in the company, they allowed each Game Dev to pre-make their characters, selecting maximum stats and high level equipment. He checked his map; he had been in such a hurry that he had set spawn point in the wrong town. He opened his pause menu to log out, but there was no exit button on the menu. He closed the menu, other players were walking around. That meant the 2nd Gen Link-Gear’s had been shipped out. The game was set to release exclusively for the 2nd Gens until enough were sold, then it’d be released open source.

A group of players stopped and stared at his gear.

A rouge Dark Elf walked over to him, “Hey man, how’d you get such good gear so quickly, I’ve been battling for the last two hours and all I have to show for it is a few spear tips and some health potions.”

Tyron smiled, “Want me to get you and your friends some good gear?”

The young rogue nodded eagerly, “I’ll join you up with our guild if you want. We have a leader but guild rules is that if you get beaten by the challenger, they get the leader position. You could easily beat Aaron.”

Tyron nodded, these people had picked up on how the game worked pretty quickly. If there a guilds already established, they’ll still be weak. “Alright, I’ll take your offer, then we’ll set off to the Hallowed Mountains, it’s the best place for Chaos type warriors to level up and find good equipment to suit each of your occupations.”

The group belonged to the Scarred Manticore, a guild that had to live up to the terrifying and murderous reputation that NPCs talked about. The manticore was their patron animal, meaning that it would not attack them. It also meant that they could choose from a manticore, scorpion or bat pet. Tyron had designed the guild himself. It was one of the largest guilds. Situated in one of the Old Provinces, it had walls running the perimeter with walkways and heavy bolt launchers atop them. It had barracks, a mess hall and a main building which housed the guild leader, armoury and the treasure vault. Tyron marvelled at the in-game beauty of it, the huge manticore statue was situated in a pond that had green water running through it.

“That’s healing elixir,” The young rouge explained, “They must have put it there in case of a siege or something.”

Tyron frowned; some things had changed since he’d altered the game. The pond, the way the guilds sorted out their leader and the NPCs were definitely more advanced, holding fluent conversations without looping over speech patterns. He tried accessing administrator commands but the system told him the command could not be found.

“Dammit!” he cursed aloud, “Why doesn’t anything work?”

The rouge looked at him puzzled, “Yeah buddy the exit button was old news, so what do you mean?”

Tyron didn’t respond, life was going to be a little more difficult without the admin commands, but his equipment and level was high enough at the moment. Most of the players he saw were around level 4 or 5. He was highest with a level of 23. His strength would possibly double the strength of this supposed “leader” of the guild. Guild Leaders had to be strong and Tyron doubted his opponent was.

Razer shook his head in frustration; they had been trying for the past hour to access the datastreams to exit the game but had no success.

Hermon frowned, “Are you guys part of a guild? You don’t look like it and carrying weak armour like that is going to make you an easy target for griefers. They’re player killers; there’s a few guild around the place that aim on griefing to get their loot and experience. It’s pretty bad, being killed in the game. You gotta level your character up all over again, get good gear and pretty much start from scratch. Not all parts of town are as nice as this, players in a guild can send out warnings if they’re being attacked and normally more guild members come to back them up. So what do you say, do you want to join?”

Razer looked at Neo and Xara, they both nodded. “Yeah sure Hermon, we’ll be happy to join your guild, even if it’s only for a while. What’s your guild title?”

He smirked, “The Bold Hydra, we’re a mercenary guild. We take on jobs from other guilds that can’t do it themselves or a too prissy to get their hands dirty. We have twenty-five members, Silverslinger and I included. Guilds hold about thirty-five players so we aren’t doing too badly.”

Razer smiled as he walked, he turned to Xara, “If we can’t log out of the game we might as well make a bunch of friends.”

Xara smiled faintly, “Yeah I guess so…” She said in a small voice, “But do you think they’ll fix it so we can get out?”

Razer put an arm around her, “Yeah of course we will. They’ll realise there’s a bug and release a patch, easy fix.”

Xara nodded but still looked uncertain, “Does this feel like a dream come true to you?”

Razer smirked, “Yeah, is that why you’re upset, do you think it’s a bad thing to like this world more than the one you were born into?”

Xara didn’t respond but put her head in her hands and started sobbing. Razer brushed his hand along her cheek, “Its ok you, to love this world more. I need to escape reality of school and stuff sometimes as well.”

Xara shook her head. “You have no idea what my real life is like. I live with my step-father, he’s a horrible man who likes watching people suffer. He openly beats my mother in front of me, he even makes me watch-“ Xara stopped and wiped her hand over her brown eyes, “Normally I don’t talk about my home situation with Wire friends…”

Razer pushed her playfully, “We’re gonna be fine Xara. Just try and have some fun ok?”

She smiled as they finally arrived at the guild’s entrance.

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