Before we start, let me say that PAX has been amazing. I had the honor of reading this chapter to quite a few Destructoid members that were in the story. I wonder if people I don't know, like Anthony and Jim even know about this! But yeah, they were at PAX and I finally got to tell a bunch of the Destructoid staff that I am a big fan of their work. Athough, technically Anthony isn't at Destructoid anymore - I was able to thank him for HAWP.
Not much has to be said though, I guess - other than: I love you guys. Thanks for reading my story. Now I'm off to pursue a personal project. I'll still have time for blogging, but my next big project is a video game project. It's about time to get serious about finishing something that you guys can actually play.
Anthony pulled out a pistol he got from Handsome Beast and aimed it at Kraid. Kraid didn’t move. He stood there focusing on Anthony, waiting for the end. Fame Designer crossed his arms and waited. They all heard Alice huddled up in the dirt sobbing. She looked as if she had given up, but turned her head up to Anthony and spoke.
“You can’t kill Fame Designer.” She said weeping. “Bullets won’t hurt him.”
“Woah, hold on.” Fame said. “We don’t really know that for sure.”
Kraid reached for a classy hat slowly while Anthony’s attention was away. He had saved a few hats for the battle, just in case classiness would change something. Kraid had nothing left to lose. He pulled one out, and Anthony noticed.
“Oh hell no.” Anthony said as he pulled the trigger twice sending two bullets into Kraid’s chest.
The hat flew miraculously towards Anthony’s skull. The hat suctioned itself to Anthony, making a hat and mask combo that looked quite awkward. Kraid felt the silence of death envelope him as blood and stomach acids mixed together inside him. The pain was excruciating and he dropped to the ground. His eyes fixed on Anthony. He tried to stay awake long enough to see the effects of what he had done, but he quickly went unconscious. The last thing he was able to see was Anthony ripping away the hat and mask trying to contain his sanity. Perhaps he had done some good.
Anthony experienced a flood of guilt and memories of his life, and became instantly burdened. Kraid’s classy attack made Anthony sweat thinking of all the thousands of people he had murdered to get the power that he had achieved. He knew in his mind that he was merely inside a game waiting to be beaten, but now his heart was full of regret. He thought of the life that he could have had with Ashley. He could have been friends with Beyamor and his sister instead of killing them to meet his ends. The world he lived in was so colorful, and he had taken it all for granted.
“My head!” Anthony screamed. “I’m sorry Ashley! It was my fault! My fault!”
He put a gun to his own head. This would stop the pain. He breathed hard, in and out, trying to build the nerve fast before he lost it. Fame Designer squinted and tried to puzzle out what was happening. Alice ducked away and raised her hands up between her and Anthony.
“Wait! Stop!” Fame Designer howled.
After pulling the trigger he felt the force of the gun blast away from his head, but there was no bullet. Maybe it was a miracle. Fame Designer’s head exploded with brain matter spraying in the opposite direction. Anthony felt a strange sensation because of seeing a mirror image of what he was doing to himself.
It actually didn’t look like Fame Designer suffered that much. Anthony shot himself in the head once again and the force of the bullet was partially dampened by his thick skin. His head stayed intact and the bullet lodged itself in his frontal lobe. He was wrong about not suffering. He felt unbelievable pain. Upon shooting himself successfully three more times, he finally keeled over. Anthony lay on the ground dead with his leg still twitching for a few moments more.
For a while Alice did nothing in particular. Her friends were all lying around her. She closed her eyes so she couldn’t see them, but the scene she imagined was much worse. So she opened her eyes back up to cry and look at the dirt and the few plants that were growing out of the dry dirt. She stayed there for a while, until she felt something other than sadness.
James crouched down to her taking her up into his arms. They embraced for a while thankful that they weren’t completely alone. For both of them the feeling was bittersweet. There was still a game that had to play out. Something had to happen. James suspected that out of all the people on the list they had, that they were the only ones left. James knew that something had to give.
“James, let’s go home.” Alice was strangely calm. “I can’t be here anymore.”
“Alice…” James suspected. “Do you get the feeling that this isn’t over?”
“Yes, but… I don’t want you to die. I don’t want anyone else to die.” Alice pleaded.
“We’re part of a game.” James said. “There could be a time limit right? It makes sense. From everything I’ve heard in this crazy place… I think I have to sacrifice myself to let you survive.”
The ground shook for a moment. They looked around to see if there was anything causing it around them. Another tremor under them put them off balance. The shaking became more violent until finally from far away they saw a creature pop its head out of the earth. The top of it looked as if it were a floppy white wizard hat. Alice and James started to run away from the creature but James looked back to see what it was periodically. The monster had tentacles pulling it from out of hell.
The giant squid emerged. It was so tall that it touched the clouds. It seemed to be looking around for them. Its eyes throbbed like water balloons. The enormous eyes had trouble shifting this way and that, but still were able to find the two survivors. Compared to the monster, James and Alice were merely ants to be stepped on.
In the chaos Alice and James dropped to the ground. They looked at each other thoughtfully for a moment. What James had suggested earlier seemed more relevant now. Time was of the essence. If, in fact, this was all just a game – then James knew what he had to do, and Alice knew as well. She stood up and balanced herself against the vibrations in the ground. The squid moved quickly towards them. Its squid arms destroyed whole towns that were in its way.
“I’ll do it!” Alice said confidently.
“Be quick.” James said. “I wish you luck.”
“Goodbye James.” Alice whispered.
Her blade cut deep through James and severed his head. It rolled down into the sand and his body went limp and fell forwards. This did not stop the beast from approaching. But instead of running, Alice stood her ground and decided to fight the monster – though it seemed to be an insurmountable task.
An explosion of fire blew off one of the arms of the squid. Alice covered her mouth in surprise and spun around to look for where it came from. A man emerged from a tank. His tank was one out of what seemed to be a thousand tank battalions. There were so many tanks around that it seemed absolutely ridiculous for them all to appear out of nowhere. Clearly the man in the tank was approaching her and saluting her at the same time. The tanks launched missiles, cannons, and machine gun rounds into the beast. It seemed to push the creature back, but it seemed to be able to take the firepower for quite a while.
“Miss Alice Dixon!” The man said. “Congratulations! You are our winner!”
“I won?” Alice asked.
“You are THE winner!” The man reinforced.
“What the hell is all this?!” Alice yelled. “Who are you?!”
“The name is Handy!” He said. “It’s time for you to come home Miss Alice Dixon!”
“Home?” Alice said.
“Miss Alice Dixon!” Handy grinned. “It looks like we’re having Qalamari for dinner!”
Handy saluted her once more, and threw his arm in the direction of the monster and pointed at it. He gave the command to fire at will. The exploding missiles and bombs lit up the morning sky like a fireworks display. Fire and smoke enveloped the creature. And as the creature toppled over Alice’s vision got cloudy. The whole scene felt like a dream now. She wondered if her whole life had been a dream. She thought of how grand it would be if she woke up to see her friends alive and well.
Kellen hopped into work. Earlier he received an automated message on his phone saying that the test game was complete and that there had emerged a winner. He took a seat and turned on his desktop machine. Three monitors instantly flashed on and he navigated to the results of testing. Alice had been the last survivor. Kellen was ecstatic. This meant big things for their company and he felt a swelling of happiness and pride in his chest. Never in his life was he so motivated to have the title of tech support. He felt responsible for the lives of his test subjects.
It was time to wake them all up. First, Fame Designer stepped out of his module and was informed of who ended up winning. Fame, in his excitement, woke everyone else up and gave everyone refreshments. Everyone was told to gather for a meeting in the break room. One by one they gathered. They all met, tired and drained from being in those awkward pods that they had to lay in while the game played out.
“This has been the first beta test of our technology and marks the first time we’ve entered friends and family.” Fame Designer said. “We will give you compensation and a complimentary dinner later on tonight for your hard work, and we would like you to fill out a survey. The survey is a bit long, but will bring quality to our products in the future.”
“I have a question.” Hugh said. “How come my powers were short circuited by your powers? I mean isn’t it kind of imbalanced in the gameplay if you have a power based on someone’s memory? Because it seemed like you retained yours.”
“Yes, of course, thank you Hugh.” Fame turned a shade of red. “How embarrassing, but yes, this is a known bug that I totally forgot to fix in this build of the software. Rest assured that it will be fixed for the home version.”
“But,” Hugh mentioned. “You had like three lives worth of information, not two – which would have made more sense.”
“Hmm…” Fame Designer said. “Um… I don’t know. That’s weird. I’ll have to look into that.”
“So who won?” Mr. Andy Dixon asked.
“Well… You aren’t going to believe this.” Fame said. “It was your daughter… Alice.”
The air in the room went out. All of them looked at each other. Andy’s wife entered the room with Miss Alice Dixon in her arms. Everyone had trouble believing what they were being told. A little baby had managed to survive every obstacle she was up against.
“Parts of your characters were randomized. Alice’s age ended up being much older than her true age. But we had code that tried to compensate for her inexperience.” Fame Designer explained. “We knew that there was a chance that your daughter would not take to the intelligence engine that we designed for taking care of different age groups. I mean… originally that code was written to give a boost to children that were around five to ten years old. It equalizes difficulty for everyone, and creates a balanced playing field.”
“So…” Mr. Andy Dixon said. “What does that mean?”
“It means that I believe much more in the human spirit than when I started this project.” Fame Designer said. “Our technology is built to effect ‘intelligence’ not wisdom. Just look into her eyes… She is thinking… She has a will. She has dreams. Her wisdom and her courage came from inside. It means, Andy, that your little girl is very special.”
Andy and his wife looked down at Alice in awe. The rest of the group followed suit. They took pictures of her with a stuffed toy crowbar and dressed with a salmon colored robe. They smiled and played with her before it was time to go. James extended a finger to her and she grabbed at it and shook it. Wolf held her for a moment and bounced her, making her laugh. Elsa stood up when she got a message from Mongoose telling her he was just about to park outside the building.
“Thank you, all of you.” Fame Designer said as they left. “It was a pleasure.”
Chapter 23 read