As Brittany Parker shoved her way through the fleeing crowd, she heard a loud gunshot. She stopped in her tracks and zeroed-in on the sound. A lanky man wearing goggles and shooting-range styled ear protection stood nearby aiming at the incoming hoard of zombie-like creatures emerging from the ocean. He fired the heavy assault-styled Saiga-12 shotgun again, but missed. Clearly he was wasn’t using buckshot, but slugs.
Instinctively she reached for her police-issued sidearm, but her belt was missing. A brief flash of memory reminded her that she had left it on a tray inside the Decommissioning Room.
I’ve got to get my hands on that shotgun.
She rushed up on him from behind and kicked him behind the knees. He crumpled to the ground and she locked her arm around his neck.
“Drop the weapon!” she bellowed in his ear,
Instead of cooperating as she had hoped, he swung the barrel towards her face. Instinct took over. Twisting hard, she snapped his neck and he crumpled to the ground.
That felt way too real…
The game’s development was so real that she had a difficult time dispelling the thought that somehow this was Real Life (RL). She also thought it was strange that her stomach was growling in hunger. Normally when she immersed herself in the game her surgical implant would send signals to her brain to suppress her metabolism, but she suspected that her implant must have malfunctioned during her botched decommissioning.
She shrugged off the disturbing thoughts and did a quick pat down of the man’s body. He didn’t have any more magazines for the shotgun, however a 45mm caliber Colt 1911 was also strapped to his side. She armed herself with the two weapons and fled from the incoming horde. Checking the rounds while on the run, she made a mental note that there were 8 remaining slugs for the Saiga and a full magazine of 7 rounds for the 1911 with another hollow point in the chamber.
Having broken free from the chaotic crowds near the strange tower, she had found refuge on the shoreline to the north. Brittany couldn’t believe her eyes when the message appeared in her augmented vision.
CyberBolt Entertainment servers are back online.
Do you wish to log into DarkForce?
For the DarkForce servers to malfunction when then did was very unprofessional, and she fully intended to have a long rant with a manager at CyberBolt Entertainment once her new geeky friend Doug Carlton repaired her inability to log out.
Pressing firmly on her right temple, she felt disoriented for a moment as static filled her view. The static then dissipated to reveal a murky darkness surrounding her on all sides. A few minutes later a large blinking cursor appeared, and Brittany rolled her eyes in annoyance.
This is ridiculous! I still can’t log out.
Her HUD was malfunctioning the same way it was several hours earlier before the servers temporarily went offline. She hoped that somehow Doug had caused the reset in order to make repairs, but now she was doubtful.
A string of coding sped past her field of vision, followed by the familiar music-box like hymn of DarkForce. After a brief moment, the game’s logo disappeared and was replaced by a message:
MMO | PvP
She wasn’t sure how to get back to Doug’s virtual cabin, but she remembered that they had originally met each other the other day while playing in Player vs. Player (PvP) mode.
Now that the servers are back online, maybe he’ll be playing PvP again?
It was a strange thought, but definitely worth investigating. After selecting PvP, a chime sounded and the wisps of darkness swirled around her. Now clad in metal armor, an invisible force field protected her exposed neckline.
Now that’s more like it!
To her disappointment however, no opponent stood to challenge her. A new screen then popped up.
Our system detects that there are no challengers available at this time. Do you wish to fight an NPC?
Yes | No
Brittany shrugged and selected “Yes”. A toggle screen appeared with pictures of Non-Player Characters and their listed skills. As she scrolled through the potential candidates, she was confused by the fact that all of the opponents that supposedly best matched her own skills were Level 1 characters. A disturbing thought crossed her mind, and she toggled the screen to her own player stats.
“What?!” she screamed in outrage, “Level 1?! Zero XP?!”
She was fuming. It had taken her over 1,000 hours of play time to achieve the minimum 14,000 XP to achieve Level 18. The last time she had checked her character sheet, she was just over 500 XP away from meeting the 17,000 XP threshold required to reach Level 19.
While she scrolled through the NPC options, she did a double-take when she recognized Doug’s avatar.
She clicked on the profile for @Andrex, and confirmed her suspicions. It was him. But he somehow seemed to have lost a significant amount of his XP, and he was at a lower level than the last time she had seen his character sheet. Brittney shook her head in disbelief.
Doug is just an NPC? He can’t be!
She was really starting to gain an attraction for him. This was a new blow for Brittney’s self-esteem. Had she really fallen for a computer program? There was only one way to find out for sure.
Do you wish to choose this opponent?
Yes | No
Brittney chose “Yes”.
Across the clearing a gust of wind swirled and in a brilliant flash Doug’s avatar appeared. Unlike their last encounter however, he was brandishing a spiked club. His armor wasn’t quite as impressive either.
There was no answer, and then a new system message appeared.
Please choose a weapon from your inventory
She quickly toggled to her inventory screen, and her jaw dropped. It was empty.
What?! Where’s my flaming broadsword? My mace? My potions? My battleax?
Brittany was fuming. Clearly, someone had hacked into her avatar while she was offline and stolen her entire inventory. A disturbing thought then crossed her mind. There was only one person she knew who had the capability to pull off such a feat.
Her eyes narrowed at her opponent, “You!”
Doug’s avatar stood at the ready with mischievous look on his face.
“Where are my weapons?!” she demanded, “And my gear?! What’d you do with it?”
A new system message popped up.
Would you like to browse the DarkForce eStore for suitable weaponry?
Yes | No
Brittany rolled her eyes. It always frustrated her to no end when she had to spend RL money inside the game, but she was left with little choice. Begrudgingly she selected “Yes”.
The eStore loaded, and only two weapons were available to select. One of her eyebrows raised in confusion as she read the stats.
45 Colt 1911, 7 rounds with 1 hollow point in the chamber
Assault-styled Saiga-12 shotgun, 2 rounds expended, 8 rounds available in the magazine
Since when did DarkForce become a First-Person-Shooter game?
It didn’t make any sense. DarkForce was a game in a fantasy setting. Standard weaponry choices were usually swords or battle axes infused with magical properties. What was even more confusing was the fact that the weapons were the exact same calibers that she had recovered from the man’s body on the beach. Instinctively, her hand went to her waist where she could feel the sidearm resting in its holster. Likewise, she could feel the strap of the Saiga resting on her shoulder. It was a strange sensation when she looked down, for she couldn’t see them while logged into the DarkForce server.
With a shrug, Brittany chose to purchase both since they were free.
DarkForce servers detect an unfair advantage in your choices of weaponry. Your PvP Match has been forfeited, and you will receive a penalty of -20 XP.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she screamed aloud in frustration and gritted her teeth, “You’ll pay for this Doug!”
You do not have sufficient XP to receive a penalty. You will hereby forfeit your next 20 XP earned.
She wished more than anything that she could wipe that childish smirk off his smug face. His refusal to respond was quite telling. With a heavy sigh of annoyance, she switched to MMO mode and watched Doug’s avatar disappear in a wisp of darkness.
Warfare (DarkForce: A GameLit Saga)
Copyright © 2021 R. M. Mulder
All rights reserved. Except for the use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, no known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This edition published by arrangement with the publisher.