Game Over: Prologue

Author’s Note: This is the first draft of the Game Over prologue. When I’m thinking about a new project, I’ll write down little snippets of dialogue, scenes, character sketches, worldbuilding, backstory, all kinds of things like that. It’s just part of the process of creating that I do: I think and think and think about the thing I’m writing until I can’t think anymore, and then I write. 

In any case, I wanted to share a little bit of it with you. I like the world of the story, and I’m getting excited to actually tell the story, instead of just thinking about it. And besides, a universe that has remote-controlled mechdrones, central nervous system implants that act like the computer/cell phone of your wet dreams, and red-haired pizza delivery-girl assassins? I really don’t see how you can go wrong with any of those things. 

Here’s the first draft of the prologue to Game Over. Enjoy. ~ Ian

San Francisco.  A tiny bead of light on the edge of North America, shining in the glow of ten million screens, the light of its streets spreading like a wire-frame model of the famous rambling hills, its skyscrapers stretching up into the yellow-purple of the starless light-polluted sky. People were attracted to it, like moths to a flame. They flew into it. And sometimes they got burnt.

The city was a monster, and people got consumed in it.

That was why Baneblade89 didn’t go out there.

He would look out of his window, from his midlevel apartment on the fifty-second floor of a high-rise on the corner of Franklin and Hayes, just north of Market Street. It had a view, or so the real estate agent said, but that view was really just of the ever-dancing adscreens on the building across from him, with a narrow section of bruised sky  just above that. The ever-changing procession of ads danced across the building, showing happy leet children eating curry-chili flavored potato chips, blitzing little animes advertising new headchip wares, and semi-pornographic shots of beautiful, plastic-surgery modified Korean teenage girls slutting it up in black bras with household appliances. Sometimes Baneblade89 would watch them, staring out at the flickering dreamworlds that were piped into his apartment from the other side of the street. And sometimes he’d look up, to the narrow section of sky that wasn’t obscured by building, watching the drones fly overhead. Sometimes, when the haze of heat and fumes was clear, he could see the new 189-story Munroe Entertainment Building, its four stool-like legs straddling Van Ness like a colossus, dominating the San Francisco skyline when you looked at it from the Marin headlands, or from Eastbay.

Or so Baneblade89 had heard.

He didn’t get out much anymore.

Right now, Baneblade89 was sprawling on his couch, his love-handles spilling over the edges. Normally he’d be gaming right now– he was on a pretty strict twelve-hour workday, which was wearing him down, but damn it, you had to keep those sponsors happy. Normally he got up at noon, had breakfast (didn’t bother to shower– you didn’t need to, when you never saw anyone in meatspace), maybe returned some calls, took a shit, that sort of thing, and gamed until one AM, when he would go back into his bedroom and collapse in bed until noon the next day. He didn’t even think of himself as part of the real world– whatever the real world was, these days. It didn’t have any meaning to him anymore, this one-bed-one-bath apartment in the pulsing heart of the Bay Area. He didn’t even think of himself as Kaleb Chu anymore. He was Baneblade89, level 871 ork antipaladin, ranked number eighteen in worldwide arena combat in Legends of Erendor.

If you told Baneblade89 that he was an isolated, antisocial shut-in, he wouldn’t have cared.

There was a riot going on outside. That wasn’t a surprise, really. Eastbayer gangs had been coming over the bridge every night for the last week, charging in a disorganized mob down Van Ness, smashing and looting from Fort Mason all the way down to Market Street. Shortly after that, the empees would deploy the mechs, and then there would be a giant bloodbath as the Eastbayers would attempt to destroy the mechs and the empees would clean up the chaos. By midnight, the main chaos would die down, spinning off small satellite riots that would careen all around downtown like a hurricane spitting out smaller storms as it dissipated. Right now one of those was going on half a block away, at the corner of Lily and Franklin.

Baneblade89 watched the madness somewhat disinterestedly. Fifty or so Eastsiders were standing off against three mechdrones, throwing bricks, bottles, whatever they could hold at the mechdrones, which were spraying pepper spray in fine yellow-orange jets. The Eastbayers were screaming in agony, the mechdrones were blasting out warnings out of their high-powered speakers, and it was all very loud and annoying. As Baneblade89 watched, a phalanx of about a dozen empee foot soldiers charged in from Market Street. A couple of camdrones dropped down from the sky, their rotors chopping away as they descended at sharp sixty-degree angles towards the fighting. It all looked so small and comical from up here. The rioters were like little ants fighing against three larger beetles. And right now, it looked like the beetles were winning. Comforting, really, to see it all so far away, down on the ground so far away. No wonder the leets liked to live above the seventieth floor. Everything seemed so tiny and insignificant from up high. Like you were a kid looking down on an anthill, getting ready to stomp.

Something inside Baneblade89’s head beeped. He saw the words CALL INCOMING BRANDYN superimposed on his vision. Brandyn. His agent.

Reaching out, Baneblade89 touched the green button, and immediately his apartment faded away, to be replaced with a high-class office with floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out onto a skyscraper-covered island across a narrow expanse of choppy blue water, all bathed in golden afternoon sunlight. Brandon Ngoc lived and worked in Hong Kong, which wasn’t a surprise considering that he talked often and loudly about his predeliction for Cantonese poontang.

Brandon sat at his desk, feet up on the elegant glass surface. “Bane!” he exclaimed. “My man! How you been?”

Baneblade89 nodded curtly. “Subzero,” he replied. “Tournament season’s getting started. Need to tone up for the Kepler Invitational. Gonna be a big one this year. Hear they’re giving away fifty mil and a penthouse apartment in the Munroe Building.”

“Hear you can see that thing all the time from where you live,” said Brandyn. “Must be an absolutely critical view.”

Baneblade89 thought about the street-to-roof ads that covered the building opposite him, the rioting gangs, the strip of sky that didn’t have any stars. The polar opposite of his citadel in Erendor, how it gazed out over the Plains of Arshamar, towards the Copper Mountains far off in the distance, where at night you could see a whole galaxy.

“Yeah,” he said. “It is.”

“Well, that’s good. Give you a goal to watch when you’re in the arena, neh?”

“Brandyn,” Baneblade89 said, “there’s gotta be some reason why you called me at 2 AM Pacific time, and I’m guessing it ain’t social. What’s up?”

“You haven’t heard?” Brandyn said. His face got suddenly serious. “You mean to tell me… you don’t know?”

Baneblade89 frowned. “Haven’t heard anything.”

“When was the last time you checked the leaderboards?”

“Dunno. Like, an hour ago, I think.”

“Well, look at them.”

Baneblade89 pulled up a menu, went to his first bookmark: the Erendor PvP Arena Leaderboards. He was number 15.

“Oh, shit,” he said. “They got Alithiriel?” He liked her. Even talked face to face with her once, at MunroeCon ’78. Granted, she hadn’t been a tall statuesque Dae’danaan, and was instead a paraplegic fifty-year-old Guatemalan woman in a motor scooter. She barely even spoke English– Erendor’s universal translator and voice filters took care of the language barrier. Still, gaming was the international language, and they’d got along incredibly: the skeletal wheelchair-bound Latina and the morbidly obese Asian-American from the Silicon Valley.

“Yeah. Broke into her house and drowned her in her bath. Plus DethSkul and Morbidia.”

“Weren’t they dating?” It was the biggest story in the celebrity pages of the Erendor Herald: the number-ten and number-sixteen arena fighters in Erendor had moved in together in a little apartment in LA.

“Yeah. From what I hear, they got them in flagrante delicto.”

Baneblade89 winced. He could deal with being a demon-worshiping spine-ripping murderer in Erendor, but this was real death. This was painful.

“I haven’t got any bulletins yet,” he said.

“Their deaths haven’t been officially announced, so their accounts weren’t shut down. This is just what I’ve heard.”

“Great,” muttered Baneblade89.

“I suggest an immediate course of action,” said Brandyn, taking his feet off the table. That was how you knew that he was serious. “You’ve gotta get security, man. When you were ranked in the low thirties, I would have thought that you’d be safe, but now you’re closing up on the Top Ten. You’re in danger, Bane. You need to find some way to protect yourself.”

“Easy to say, but hard to do. Especially when there’s a riot going on just outside my living room window. The empees won’t help.”

“Really?” asked Brandyn. “Excitement of the big city aside, don’t you think that there might be some kind of securities firm in San Fran that could help you out? After all, it’s not like you’re strapped for cash.”

That was true. What with tourney winnings and sponsorship deals, Baneblade89 probably had about five mil stashed away in his savings account. And that didn’t include the roll of a hundred thousand-dollar bills that he kept in the back of his fridge…

“I’ll talk with someone in the morning,” said Baneblade89. “In the meantime, I’ve gotta sleep. My apartment has a decent security system. If someone breaks in, I’ll know. And I’ll get out.”

A pop-up flashed across Baneblade89’s vision. DOORBELL, it said.

“Shit,” said Baneblade89. “It’s the doorbell. Brandyn, I’ve gotta go get this.”

“No, hold it!” exclaimed Brandyn. “Dude– don’t hang up–”

But it was too late. Baneblade89 had pressed the red button, ending the call. His messy, smelly apartment faded back into existence.

The doorbell buzzed again. “All right, all right, I’m coming,” said Baneblade89, lumbering over to the door. “Hold on a second.”

He pressed the button on the intercom. “Yeah? Who is it?” he asked.

The viewscreen buzzed into life. It was a red-haired teenager in a red-and-yellow Pizza Barn uniform.

“Uh, hi?” she said. “I got your extra-large pizza here, half meatball-and-mushroom, half tandoori chicken.”

Baneblade89 sighed. “Look, kid, I didn’t order a pizza.”

“You sure?” said the delivery girl. “Cause it says Kaleb Chu right here on the receipt… that’s you, right?”

“I didn’t order a pizza,” Baneblade89 snapped. “Look. There must have been some kind of mixup.”

He pressed the door-open button, and his door whooshed open. This was followed by a sudden sharp pain in the throat, right on his larynx. Baneblade89 gasped in sudden pain. The girl followed this attack by jabbing him right in the gut. He keeled over.  “Really?” she asked. “Because I got a delivery for you…”

Two other guys rushed into the room: big, heavy guys. Probably had steroid treatment, partially genetically engineered, the works. They’d been hiding on either side of the door, out of sight of the door camera. Baneblade89 tried to get up, but couldn’t. The delivery girl had hit some kind of nerve cluster, leaving him paralyzed.

The two tanks picked up Baneblade89. “Shit, Katsu, this guy’s heavy!” one of them said. “You think he ever left this apartment?”

“Judging from the smell of it, probably not,” the girl– Katsu, they called her– said.

“Where you want him?”

“Oh, out the window’s fine,” said Katsu. “Just make sure that he leaves a nice splat as he hits.”

“No, wait–” gasped Baneblade89. “I didn’t order a pizza–”

But he didn’t have time to choke out anything more. The tanks swung him, once, twice, three times, and through the window he went.

A two hundred meter fall doesn’t leave much time for reflection. All that Baneblade89 could think as he dropped was that it was ironic that, despite all his time grinding in-game, he wasn’t able to fight off a skinny teenage girl.

The last thing that Baneblade89 saw as he hit was the gibbous moon, tinted yellow through the haze of pollution, in the strip of purple sky between two towering adscreens.



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