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Lady_of_Chicken
30-04-2002, 00:32:34
The last thing he needed was another stowaway—what with him being one himself--the last thing Tryck needed was to look after some kid while he navigated his way through the bowels of a subterranean cruiser. Kremlenn didn’t take kindly to pirates and that was certainly how he’d be viewed if he were caught. Good luck avoiding detection with a whimpering little brute tagging along.

Tryck carefully extricated his leg from the small boy and shoved him quickly beneath a pipe and wedged himself in beside him. The thick rubber soled boots of a Kremlenn guard paused directly in his view and Tryck could just feel the guard reaching for him with his heightened sense of smell; he could visualize the guard’s mole-like nose fanning in the darkness, reading the stagnant atmosphere and undoubtedly discerning the foreign human scent.

Three short blasts from the alarm sounded, a signal that beckoned and sent the guard quickly on his way. Tryck sighed uneasily. That was too close of a call.

He was still working out the details from the night before and they came to him in hazy non-sequential fragments. Every time he went to the cantina he got himself into another situation, but he had to admit that this particular circumstance was proving to be more of an adventure than he would credit Karabb. There was no possible way that Karabb or any of Tryck’s other buddies could have smuggled him onto the vessel, and having witnessed them in their own state of inebriation, Tryck seriously doubted they could have even attempted such a dare without getting them all killed.

He slid carefully out onto the metal walk and motioned for his unwanted charge to follow, but the boy merely stared at him with luminous eyes from beneath the pipe and refused to move.

“Great….” Tryck reached in to grab the boy and felt teeth sink nicely into the flesh between his thumb and forefinger. He drew his hand back immediately and held it tightly under his arm. The brat had drawn blood and now growled at him like a frightened cat and Tryck backed carefully out of striking range. Okay things aren’t what they seem to be the boy is a cat is not a boy is a cat can’t be a cat is a cat bit me is a cat on sub not supposed to be on sub not supposed to be on sub not at all boy is a cat….

He was running down the metal plank and tripped through the open door having forgotten to lift his feet over the foot high metal partition—and found himself sliding in a sprawl, face first on the slick metal floor of the engine room.

“Aw, shit.” But the guards running toward him in the eerie green glow of the room were not concerned by his presence. The terror on their eyeless faces was plain as well as contagious. Tryck glanced back from where they had just entered, then quickly got to his feet and sprinted after them. The boy-cat slinked out from the hiding place and Tryck leaped over him, felt the swipe that nearly grazed him, heard the hiss like steam from an engine…or was it really the engine itself? Heard a frightened yowl as he rounded the corridor just in time to see the last guard duck through another door and watched in horror as that steel door was shut and the lock spun into place.

“No!” Tryck hurled himself at the door and banged on it futilely.

The boy-cat growled throatily behind him. Tryck turned and braced himself against the sealed door. The fearful countenance of a child returned in the creature staring at him from end of the corridor, then a glimmer in the eyes summoned one of the memory fragments Tryck had failed to decipher. She smiled at him from within that glimmer—a catalyst for the metamorphosis from boy to woman. Reena.

If you like salt and lime, you’ll like this, she’d said, teasing him with the unusual green stone pendant she held out, dangling it just inches from his eyes. The stone seemed to glow warmly and already he had felt lighter, freer….

Tryck blinked. She was gone. She’d slipped through the open door at the opposite end of the corridor revealing a new possible escape. Or sheer doom, Tryck calculated as he stalked cautiously toward it.

He heard only the retreating sound of footsteps on metal and when he peered around the door, he caught the last of her as she pulled her feet up through an opening to a higher deck. Tryck sprinted to the ladder. He had no idea if she were racing to save her own life or leading him into a trap; he had no choice but to follow.

Before he’d made it a third of the way up the ladder, the tremor had grown from fearful instinct, to a certain but distant noise, to an actual rumbling that overtook the deck of the vessel that Tryck occupied and shook the entire craft violently. He clung to the ladder, dangling, like a stone pendant…she held it over the glass and it had turned molten, falling in thick globs that ignited the alcohol and flames swooped out of the glass…fire belched out of the bottom level, engulfing the space he’d occupied only seconds before.

“Tryck!”

He choked on fumes and followed her voice. She—someone—couldn’t be her, could it?—grabbed him, nearly tearing the clothes from his torso, and propelled him up, into pure oxygen and he fell on his knees and coughed until he could breathe.

“Move!” She ordered jerking him to his feet. He ran, following, fearing he’d lose sight of her in the near total blackness, then caught the fleeting glimpse of her as she dove from the sub into the water. The searchlights honed in on him and Tryck shielded his eyes while the hovercraft descended.

Karabb looked both relieved and mortified to see him and Tryck soon understood why when two officers hauled him up by the shoulders and into the craft, then handcuffed him.

“You have the right to remain silent….”

“What are you talking about?”

An officer grabbed the chain from around Tryck’s neck and yanked it free. The green stone pendant hung dull and lifeless from his gloved fist. “Do you want to tell me how the Stone of Churon came to be in your possession or do you want to save it for an attorney?”

Darkstar
20-07-2002, 08:48:50
"I want to select door number three, Johnny", I replied.

"Error Number Five! Illegal Response! Error Handler specified, but not located in module!" blared like the second coming through Tryck's head. The world froze, became fuzzy.

Mike experienced a very rude Seqway back to reality. He had just been Tryck, a down on his luck, hard boiled private eye on a Mole Man's Subterreanean Cruiser Sub. Mike flipped up the visual blockers, rubbed his eyes, and carefully removed his Sensory Web. The woman setting across from him was looking nervous.

After gulping down a good half of his bottled water (immersion, especially in someone else's work, always gave him dry mouth), Mike cleared his threat and asked her, "So, just how long did it take you to create that.... game?" Mike had asked her before. He just wanted time to finish clearing his head.

"Oh, about 6 months, for some elements. The over structure...." she chattered on, but Mike tuned her out.

*I hate doing interviews.* he thought for the hundreth time that week. *Everyone are always setting their demo modules to maximum broadcast amplitude. I just hope this is the last one for the day.* Mike slowly looked about. The real world just looked so... unnatural. Washed out, after such a strong input. Sound always seemed... distorted. And he couldn't smell. She must have recorded that module over to discryl at just under washout.

Mike realized the noise in his office had quieted down, and looked at the young woman. "Yes. Well..." he started to say. He didn't have anything past that.

"Yes?"

Mike looked at her. She certainly was the prettiest person he'd interviewed that week. And the youngest. *Hell, she's the only person in the age range I specified. What the hell is HR doing? Trying to pass off their in-laws on me?*

Mike had been interviewing for the last 3 weeks. He was tired of it. He was particularly tired of looking through their portfolios, games, and adventures. Didn't anyone understand that making the safety equipment in the Web top out their input mean they are giving a bad ride?

*Humm... well, hell, I think I could teach her.*

"Ms. er.... " he glanced at his display wall. "ah... Long."

She looked crushed.

*OOPS. Damn, I hate interviews.*

"Look, you got a handle?" He asked her.

"A handle?"

"Yeah. What's your World Net nickname?"

"Why?" She asked, confused.

"Because I'm terrible with names, so I'm going to enter it into my Persie."

"Why?" she looked worried.

"So I can schedule you for your first team meeting, tomorrow. I'm giving you the job."

"Really? Fantastic! That's great!"

* * * * *

Mike sat back, reflecting how nice it was going to be, having someone new to the business working with them. *Hell, maybe she will figure out what's wrong with Orc's Shawl Quest.* he thought cheerfully. He keyed his Percie to queue him up to the Blue Wizard's Bedroom, slipped the Sensory Net onto his head with a practiced sweep that had long ago became muscle memory, laid back his chair, put on his vision blockers, closed his eyes (not really needed, as no light would ever penetrate his Rayban Visual Negators, but habit was habit), and hit the 'play' button... His consciousness gently slipped back into the his newest module of his work.

* * *

Tanya Hertz slipped into the passenger seat of the four door, Mitsubishi-Volkswagon Beetle Sedan Type LX. She buckled herself up. She could tell that the other occupant of the car, John Portridge, was bursting to ask her how it went. But he held his questions, and pointed at the glove box. She reached into it, pulled out a small pen radio, and ran it over herself. No changes to it's simple tone. Safe enough then.

"Well?" he said. He changed their registered destination, twice, and watched to see if any other cars changed along with them.

"I got the job. Of course." *As if there'd been any doubt.* she thought to herself.

"Good. Now, remember your mission."

He noticed a blimp, advertising "Blue Ectasy" above them. He changed their destination again.

*Like I could forget.* she thought to herself.

"He like you?"

"Seemed to."

"Good. Now, remember the mission."

She sighed. She would love to be able to slip a new tape into his head. He'd been saying that for too much.

"When are you expected?"

"9 am tomorrow. Just like everyone else."

"Good. Now, remember the mission."

The rest of the drive back to their motel room went like that. Tanya thought about how odd Mike was though. He wasn't anything like what she'd expected. Mike Yeager, heir to the greatest czar family of death, misery, injustice, creator of the 4 greatest "Virtual Reality" and "Alternate Life" universes, and the second richest man on the planet (his paternal grandfather being the actual richest man on the planet, but he wasn't completely 'alive' like the common people). He really wasn't like what she expected. *But then, Satan never is...* she remembered.

Lady_of_Chicken
11-08-2002, 01:32:51
For the first time in his life he did not become one with his work. The interview had left him more unsettled than he had initially cared to admit. The visual had been phenomenal and the experience had certainly seemed real, successfully fooling his body and coaxing adrenaline induced responses at all the appropriate intervals.

Yet it had traversed a boundary few people in reality ever accessed; his emotional memory.

Those files were strictly protected and yet, this woman's seemingly inocuous game, had easily decoded his internal password and exported memories he'd sooner have deleted rather than shared.

The last time he'd seen Reena was at the cantina five years ago, the night of the accident. How the game managed to incorporate his memory into the game itself, expertly and seamlessly patching personal absolute recall with a standard game format creating a unique user experience was probably something he could work out himself, given his expertise. It wasn't impossible or even uncommon. For the ordinary user, that was. Mike considered himself an master of self-control, but, now his emotions were overiding his intellect and all hell was on the verge of breaking loose.

He swept the Sensory Net from his head and left the room.

The stairwell was warmer than the rest of the building and already he could feel the late summer heat building, enfolding him in and energy draining embrace as soon as he burst through the first floor doors and out into natural light.

He drove and the hum of the Saab's engine soothed him. He navigated the Santa Monica Freeway with the ease of second sight, having travelled the route from his office to his highrise penthouse so many times in the last four years that it wasn't necessary to concentrate on driving; his mind was free to pursue, or resist, a multitude of other thoughts.

But she broke through his defenses, as she always had, even as she had when she was alive and he knew he had to resist her seduction into a relationship where he enabled her to destroy herself.

She'd slipped something in his drink that night. She'd tried to keep him from leaving her that weekend and attending the convention. It had worked.

But not the way either could have forseen.

The papers said it was a freak accident, something to do with the gas main and an unaware staff member lighting up in the break room.

*Cigarettes really do kill* Mike thought with grim humor.

The blast had killed everyone on the premises, everyone except Mike, who had just left Reena, left her with his broken promise to stand by her no matter what , left her to face her demons alone with the new partner she'd chosen, cocaine.

He didn't go to the convention that weekend. His life turned off the road and headed down a backroad of desperate remorse and guilt and mocking self-destruction until he successfully manned the wheel of his destiny again, but only through careful and exacting self-control.

And now some damn game undid all that.

*Live by the sword, die by the sword* mike thought. Games had saved him, games, it seemed would be his undoing.

That was...unless he regained control again and hiring Tanya Hertz was exactly what it required. More than phenomenal game creation, he recognized in her a talent to transform the human psyche. Perhaps it was time to branch out and tap into the world of therapuetic counseling. If she could create a product that unleashed demons, perhaps there was also a way to seal those demons up forever.