Saturday, May 1, 2021

Big Papa: Mods (Part X)

The escape hatch in Gilbert’s Purple Palace was designed to look like an actual hatch. In fact, it’s a perfect recreation of the one from the original Lost television series. Nerakali has already opened it when Pryce and I arrive. He jumps through to save himself, but I’m sure he’ll later claim it’s because he’s the only one who can push the button. Nerakali tries to get me through next, but I hold back. “We have to wait for Lowell and Gilbert.”
“Ellie, if even one of our enemies manages to get around that corner, we’re both dead. They might be able to manipulate time in here, we don’t know. We don’t know how powerful they are.”
“I’m not leaving without them.”
A figure appears, just as Nerakali said, but it’s not Pinocchio, or the goons. It’s Lowell. He’s running as fast as he can. “Go! Go now!”
Nerakali takes me by the waist, and forces me into the hole. She jumps through above me, followed by Lowell. I can hear them both yelling as we’re slipping down the slide. After several minutes, we catch up to Pryce. We’re still sliding, but it’s not so harrowing anymore. This is just our mode of transportation right now. Lowell can see the slide disappear into the void behind him. It would obviously be pretty worthless as an escape hatch if our pursuers could have just followed. Maybe an hour later, we’ve reached the bottom, where we land in a field of giant bounce house boobies. It’s a less disgusting version of the farting Buttworld in Rick and Morty, but still not something I would have chosen if I had created this simulation.
We walk between the boobs, some of us more distracted than others, and come to a door. This is where we find the armory. Ice picks, red axes, hock shanks, yellow hammers, green collars, plus keys, pink slips, a browncoat, and a big jar of gray smoke. There’s an unlit candle with a placard that reads Violet Flame: coming soon... and a place for the white staff. There is also a section for zero blades, but whether he ever had more than one, or only the one, it’s empty now. Gilbert already knew about all this stuff, and he was probably preparing for something like this war.
“Did he do this?” Lowell asks as he’s admiring the weapons and upgrade tools. Did someone get in here while we were gone, and replicate the stash to start the war?”
“This place is untouched,” Nerakali defends her friend. “He was probably collecting them, so this wouldn’t happen. He hates violence.”
“It didn’t look like it when I was fighting alongside him,” Lowell recounts.
“What happened?” I ask. “Where is he, and what happened to Pinocchio?”
It’s only then that I realize Lowell’s been keeping pressure on a stomach wound. “I tried to turn the tables with my fire poker, but I may have just made things worse. Pinocchio stabbed me. He stabbed me good. It gave me time to knock the weapon out of his hand, but he had already stolen the hammer from Boyce. O’course Boyce took that opportunity to grab the zeroblade, but before he could use it, Pinocchio got him with the hammer. I’m sure he’s fine, somewhere in a public space, and he’s in possession of the most powerful weapon in the simulation.”
As I’m trying to help Lowell onto the counter, where we find the med kit, Pryce shakes his head. “These weapons don’t just downgrade your IDCode. They feel like they would in the real world. As you can see, Lowell, the zero blade hurts, because swords hurt. If Gilbert was struck by the hammer, he’s probably bleeding out somewhere, and some rando has stolen the sword.”
“We don’t have time to worry about that,” I say. “Pinocchio is the one who’s coming after us. Tamerlane, if you really want to do the right thing, then we have to get you to the button.”
“I do want to do the right thing, I’m not lying.”
“Nerakali, what is in that cabinet right there?” I ask.
She opens it up. “Mods. Defensive, mostly, it looks like. Invincibility, lurking, pain patches, superspeed, savepoints. This vial is called Berserker Mode.”
“Be careful with that,” Pryce warns. “It’s as bad as it sounds.”
“Take ‘em all,” I order, “because I’m not taking any chances.”
“What about me?” Lowell asks as he’s running his finger under the staples I just put into his belly. “I don’t feel like I’m about to die, but how do zero blades work? Do they have to be fatal, or is any nick and cut necessarily fatal?”
“Any nick or cut is more likely to be fatal than a regular blade would be in the real world, but it is possible to heal,” Pryce explains. “Biological imperatives are built into your DNA, and that side of you will fight for its survival until your last simulated breath. Your source code is in maintenance mode right now, and should be attempting to repair any damage that the blade caused. Frankly, I’m surprised you’re still standing. Anyone else would have fallen into a coma to avoid wasting memory.”
Lowell puts his shirt back on, and hops off the counter. “I’ve felt pain before.”
Nerakali stays in charge of the injections, making sure each of us gets what we need. There’s a loophole to the lurker potion, which will allow us to still be able to see each other. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones which such things, and it’s entirely possible that someone out there will see us, and try to stop us, even if they don’t know what it is we’re doing. Pryce takes a green collar from the wall, and tries to wrap it around Lowell’s neck, but a force field prevents him from getting close enough. In turn, Lowell tries to stab Pryce with a hock shank, but it can’t get within a few centimeters of his body. The defenses are working.
“I notice you’re not demanding I tell you where the button is,” Pryce points out. “Curious.”
“Oh, no, no, no. I don’t want you having any reason to back out of your promise to fall on your literal sword. You’ll take us all the way, and you won’t say a word about its location until we’re upon it. Is that understood?”
He nods.
I remove one of the vials from the cabinet that Nerakali didn’t pick up. “This is called mutemouth. I assume it keeps you from being able to speak.” I stick it into my tactical vest. “Don’t make me use it on you.”
Lowell laughs. “Maybe we should use it on him preemptively.” He’s smiling wide with an open mouth. He looks up and to the left, like he’s trying to remember what he was going to say next. Faceless past birds?”
“What?” I question, confused.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Lowell agrees, still confusingly. “Drop it into the river.” And with that, he drops, but not into a river, the floor.
I kneel down, and place two fingers on his neck. “Do we have pulses in here?” I ask, urgently nervous. “I’ve never thought to check. Do we have pulses!”
“Yes,” Pryce answers. “If you feel a pulse, his code is alive, though that doesn’t tell you his general condition. He looks like he’s in a coma.”
“He looks like he is, or he is?” I’m getting angry.
“He is, he is!” Pryce shouts, worried I might kill him. “His code is trying to repair itself.”
“What do we do?” Nerakali asks. “We can’t just leave him here.”
“This is probably the safest place for him,” Pryce determines. “We can’t take him with us, though.”
“What happens when you press the button?” I start to feel Lowell’s body for other signs of life, and for symptoms, still not sure if I should be looking for the same things I would in base reality. “If someone who’s hurt like this is put on ice, what happens to them? Is it like stasis?”
Pryce hesitates to answer, but does before I can complain. “No, it’s not like that. His code will be saved in its damaged form, and when he comes back, he’ll either be a damaged version of himself, or he’ll finally die. That’s why you don’t just unplug a computer while it’s running. There’s a proper way to shut it down, and you can’t do it while you’re in the middle of a process, and expect that process to restart once the computer does.”
I scoff and growl. “Will it help to de-rez him?”
Since he’s just a visitor, and not a fully-integrated resident, yes. But he’ll revert to his mindstate from before he last entered the simulation. He won’t remember any of this, but he will be alive. The problem is we can’t do that from here, not while he’s in a coma, and can’t exit himself. Resurrection happens in a very specific place in the main world.” He looks over at the spot on Gilbert’s wall that’s missing the last item. “If we had the white staff...”
“You can unplug someone from the outside,” Nerakali reminds him. “I’ll go out and do it.”
“Pinocchio knows we’re here now,” I say. “He’ll know removing ourselves from the simulation completely might be our best option, so he’ll be waiting for us to return, in case we do. I doubt Gilbert built these tunnels in a way that allows anyone to reinstantiate directly inside. God, we should have thought of that. We should have had him unplug himself as soon as he got hurt. That was stupid.”
“It’s okay,” Nerakali says, hand on my shoulder. “I can still unplug, and I can unplug him. I’ll explain what happened, and we’ll just stay on the outside. Someone should be in communication with the Glisnians anyway.”
“They might shut us down to avoid infection,” Pryce says. “We designed it as a closed-system, but they might not want to take that risk. If they think things have gotten bad enough...”
Nerakali opens her mouth, and sticks out her tongue, which she has modded to look silver. “If they try anything, I’ll stop them. It’s what I do.” She mimics removing headgear from her face—which is not necessary to take herself out of the sim—and makes a really obscure not-so-pop culture reference. “Exitis.”
“And then there were two,” Pryce says, characteristically psychopathically.
“Four,” Gilbert’s voice says from the door to the boobroom. He steps in, followed by someone I never expected to see again. His name is Dalton Hawk, and he’s a salmon who hasn’t really made any waves amongst the time travelers. He’s not unimportant, but he’s not famous. Either way, he’s a good guy, so I know I don’t have to worry about learning to trust him.
“All right, then,” I say. “Gilbert, I’m glad to see that you’re still with us. Let’s get you two fitted with some mods.”

No comments :

Post a Comment