The Prelude started here – https://damienhansonbooks.com/2020/07/08/glitchworld-book-0-coming-fast-and-free-in-serial-format/
Ravindra Pradthala spread his perfectly manicured hands wide to show off the perfectly white game environment surrounding him, and smiled his perfectly whitened smile at the pair of cameras pointed at him. He had on a bone white haptic bodysuit, with thin streaks of light running down various parts of his body in eye-catching angles… and somehow all those angles led the eye directly to the man’s crotch. His vacuum-sucked haptic bodysuit-covered bulge. You could do a full shot of him, and it would be the only thing anyone could look at, or you could frame him from the waist up, and yet again somehow you’d be peering at the bottom of the screen to see exactly what all his clothing and body language pointed to.
Surrounding Ravindra was basically a field of snow white, stacked up around him in vaguely recognizable shapes: maybe a house or low, steep hill, maybe a tree over there, and past that, about fifty feet off, a sheer wall going straight up a good fifty or sixty feet, to a ceiling. Pure white. The whole thing surrounded them, to the extent of about half a city block square, maybe a hundred to two hundred feet of blinding white, with only the barest of lines where they were suctioned together.
His dark skin stood out in stark contrast, but even that didn’t last long. He gestured to the crew standing by, who handed him a helmet with a big old bubble shield, which schloomped down over his head and seemed to suck itself onto him.
“Everybody hear me okay?” he asked.
“We can hear you just fine.”
One was a NNN (National News Network) field correspondent, a man so perfectly sculpted it couldn’t have been real, while his counterpart at Gaming News International (GNI) was a female so stunning you would swear they only found those in heaven. Both were heavily tanned to the point of being unable to guess at their ethnicity, with teeth so white and hair so perfect it just boggled the mind. Not so the camera crew, but they weren’t on screen and therefore didn’t matter.
“Just say the word,” the CEO of Prestige gaming said, and continued to hold his hands out in a stiff welcoming gesture.
Several more moments passed, where NNN and GNI got everything in order. Shanaya Pradthala suppressed a groan watching her uncle do his PR nonsense.
She did not want to be here. She didn’t want to be on the same continent as this peacock parade.
They sent her to the ritziest private school America had to offer, bought her all the most expensive designer clothes, and next year they were going to buy her a whatever-car-she-asked-for. Which sounded great, except that she’d seen all the tabloids about her. She’d gotten in with a couple of people on social media and message boards, pretending she wasn’t the great Shanaya Pradthala, pride and joy of the Prestige Pradthalas.
People hated her. They had never seen a video of her, didn’t know what her voice sounded like, but they sure did hate her. They hated how much money her family had, all the billions, even though she had no idea what a billion dollars even looked like. They hated her family’s houses in LA and Miami and New York, and the getaway up in Nunavut with the private airstrip, the Gulfstream VII with the dedicated pilots and crew who were like family to her uncle. People hated the clothing lines, the VR products. It was a lot. They protested outside her boarding school. People lined up at the perimeter of the New Mexico Prestige complex.
They also avoided her at school, and whispered things about her.
Her downward spiral was interrupted when a crewmember took her gently by the elbow and apologized about a hundred times, but they were about to begin and they needed her off set. NNN and GNI launched into their gushing praise for Pradthala and his Prestige success, about becoming the biggest thing since sliced bread.
“Can you tell us what it’s all about before the demonstration?” NNN asked.
“Absolutely,” the CEO said. “Prestige itself is an acronym: Pradthala Resorts Exclusive Story-based Totally Immersive Gaming Experience. We’ve taken VR to the next level.” He turned in a slow circle, gesturing around to the white blocks. “Here you can see the physical environment without any of the skinning. It’s real. I can come up to this small pillar and touch it. Now, if we were to put helmets on your camera there, and engage one of the twelve original genreworlds, you’d see exactly what’s going on here.”
And Shanaya watched as they did exactly that: specially designed lenses were added to the cameras, and both news people got their own helmets. She reluctantly turned to her family, and they gave her the thumbs up. All seven of them seemed more than geeked to be here, but she couldn’t stand it. Why didn’t her family just own a chain of perfectly boring restaurants in the Pacific Northwest or something? Why’d they have to have the hottest thing in the civilized world?
“Could I bring my niece over here to make the first selection?” Uncle Ravindra asked.
“Of course!” GNI likewise gushed. The two news outlets were in a gushing contest.
Ravindra motioned, and she dutifully marched over to stand beside him. She remembered her mother’s stern warnings as well, and stuffed the resentment down, replacing it instead with an effusive smile. This was all a stunt of some kind, because she was fifteen and ‘bubbling with youthful energy’.
“My gorgeous niece Shanaya, everybody. Now Shanny, just pick one of the twelve genres and we’ll be off! A verbal cue will do.” Except Swords & Sorcerers. She was warned against that one.
“How about Swashbuckling Isles?” she asked.
The effect began at her feet, and spread rapidly over the white blocks. Soon she was standing on a sandy beach with clumps of tall grass and a limitless expanse of jewel-blue water before her. The pillar thing behind her uncle transformed into a huge, bent palm tree waving in a breeze she could feel, and out on the bay sat a three-masted sailing ship with several longboats in the water, rowing toward them. And behind her, where the house-shaped object had been, was a fisherman’s hut, but it was just one of a dozen shanties and shacks on four foot stilts with thatched roofing.
She knew she also had a game skin on: something probably a little too alluring for her tastes, but it didn’t matter, because she could change her face at will. She had chosen to leave it, for now, but had already gone with a bandana over long dreadlocks, and cool tattoos peeking out from beneath a billowing linen shirt. Uncle Ravindra had taken a lot more liberties, and had huge gold earrings, tons of tattoos, and for some reason his new pirate clothes naturally pointed out the crotch bulge.
GNI and NNN lost their minds with praise. Uncle Ravindra let it go on for a minute before once again spreading his hands out.
“What you don’t think about is how the white blocks you saw earlier are following the code and programming, to place real objects you can interact with. This palm tree, for instance… you could climb it. Really climb it. Shanny, how about it?”
She couldn’t refuse. Great, now everyone in school was going to see her climb a stupid fake real tree. She tried to be nonchalant about it, and shrugged. “Sure.”
Ravindra Pradthala, CEO of the biggest corporation on the planet, laced his fingers together and made a saddle for her foot, which she stepped into, and with ease he boosted her up and onto the sloping palm tree. The game automatically rolled dice for her on the Heads Up Display. The HUD showed a 9 and a 10 on Athletics, a success without complication, because of course everything had to be absolutely perfect for the media.
She was able to get up onto the palm tree, despite maybe planting one foot on her uncle’s face for just a second. Accidentally, of course.
She found that her HUD, showing the pirate ship, the longboats, and then her own HUD, was projected onto the sky and the news cameras were focused on it. Only they no longer appeared to be news cameras, but bulky spy glasses on intricate tripods. Her character sheet stood up in the middle of the sky, five stories high with her name on it. She flared up with embarrassment.
“As you can see, the game rolls a ten-sided die for each of your dots in a certain skill, and over 6 is a success. Six to eight includes a complication, but nine and ten are unassailable successes.”
Her family, out of camera shot, were running down the beach toward another fisherman’s shack, and playing in the gentle surf. They scattered little crabs this way and that, laughing with one another. What she wouldn’t give to be out of the spotlight for a few minutes.
“Now, should we be in danger–”
Shanaya’s HUD flashed, and immediately rolled Resourcefulness, giving her a 6 and an 8. She saw the puffs of smoke from the pirate ship, and she immediately swung down out of the tree like a gymnast, flipped, and landed nimbly on her feet. One cannonball slammed into the tree and shook it like a hurricane had suddenly come along. The others slammed into the beach and exploded in great showers of sand.
An eight segment clock appeared in her HUD reading Unfriendly Fiends Flay Family along with one of the wedges filled in red.
“Uncle Ravindra?” she called. The media was, of course, eating this up.
“As you can see, the cinematics engine won’t simply kill off a PC without first raising the stakes,” Uncle Ravindra was saying. He instructed them to take the Augmented Reality lenses off the cameras for a quick peek at the now active game scenario without the game overlay. “In fact, we could even switch genres flawlessly without changing anything up. Let’s take the game over into Galaxies Unknown, shall we?”
The admin in charge of the CEO’s press junket leaned over one of the coders. “We knew this was coming,” she muttered. “All right, we’ll have landing craft, alien invaders, and they’re on a space station. Who’s on this?”
“On it,” one of the coders called. This had to be one of the Galaxies Unknown crew. With a series of deft taps, the beach reformed into the gleaming angular metallic structure with huge windows overlooking the vastness of space, with a shuttle craft rapidly approaching the nearest airlock.
“Let’s have some phaser fire, shall we?”
“You got it!” another of the Galaxies Unknown crew chimed in.
The glittering waves and setting sun were sucked into the pirate ship, which quickly transformed into a sleek battleship firing crimson laser beams at them while also pulling away. The station shot back with blue beams. Many of them splashed against the shields of the bird of prey, or the shuttles, and briefly caused bluish hexagons to appear and melt back to invisibility.
The leader, Tyriah Rodriguez, twisted one of her bangles on one wrist and expanded the size of the screen focused on Mr. Pradthala and tried to get a read on anything he might be hoping to have happen. She was normally down a level and organizing Dungeonworld transitions, during those crazy winner-takes-all matches that constantly shift from genre to genre and utilize all sorts of different skills to navigate. This was a whole different animal, honestly. It sure was hard not to zero right in on his package… weird that.
Tyriah backed away from the screen and paced back and forth across the Bureaucratic Administration Leadership Level Situation & Action Center, or BALLSAC, without taking her eyes off the screen. She noted the sprinting niece of the CEO and the carefree way the rest of the Pradthala family was now admiring their sleek space suits. Tyriah wandered back to her tea and dunked the tea bag several times while staring at the situation as it unfolded. She took a sip and set it next to the small tray of nuts.
Shanaya was undoubtedly the star of this show. Tyriah could plainly make out the strain on the young girl’s face, but Ravindra was right about one thing: if nothing else, she was photogenic enough for the task.
“Let’s give her a little Gear,” she said. “What do we think? Droid pushing a crate of weapons? She could pass a room full of blasters maybe?”
“The space station security could maybe drop some nice stuff when the aliens blow them up?” one of the coders asked.
“Yeah. Do we have friendly security drone NPCs on standby?” she asked.
“We sure do.”
“Let’s go with that. Rapid response team, once the aliens hit the airlock, do your thing.”
“How do we feel about… powered armor?” the one coder asked.
Shanaya watched the shuttle craft glide closer and closer without getting destroyed. Another two segments of the clock had filled in when she failed an Athletics check to get there fast enough, and the central computer of the space station announced an unauthorized airlock breach. The hall filled with red klaxons advising all personnel to get to safety, and to send security right away.
The airlock hit a T-junction where her oblivious family stood around cooing at one another. Two of her cousins were now looking about in confusion and a little alarm. This was going to be the worst trip in history if none of them started playing the game instead of just soaking up the ambiance.
Two floaty robots appeared just a moment before the aliens burst through the hatch with blasters blasting. They were little more than gigantic cola can-shaped things bristling with guns and a bluish lit sensor disc for a head, like a tiny flying saucer had been stuck there.
However, in that moment before the aliens surged onto the scene, duffel-sized metal canisters shot off the droid’s side and slid across the floor at her family, and one at her. It slid to a perfect stop directly between her feet. A screen on it read ‘DON’T PANIC!’ before it exploded into action, and transformed into a huge bubble containment cell.
“Don’t panic? Sure thing!” she yelled.
A sing-song robotic voice chimed in. “Congratulations! You’ve been sealed in a Containment Unit for Neutralizing Trauma.”
“So… a CUNT? I’m in… a CUNT?” Who came up with this?”
“Help is on the way! You are now in a virtually indestructible safety containment unit. If you would like to aid in neutralizing the threat, tap here. Otherwise, if you would like your safety to be assured, tap here. Help is on the way!” Above her two options, a screen displayed the brutal efficiency the aliens were using in destroying the two security soda cans. The first one was zapped with some electromagnetic attack that brought it out of hovering position. The second got several shots off before a mine of some sort clamped onto it near the sensor array and exploded, leaving the thing headless and charred black.
Two pictures appeared before her, one with a wicked looking humanoid robot with Shanaya, the other a beach ball with lasers bouncing off it. Yeah, that seemed really safe. She tapped at the first thing.
Immediately the ball changed in shape again: a seat appeared beneath her, the walls shrunk around her, and she watched through a cockpit canopy window as several clumps of metal were sucked right out of the walls and ceiling to give her former beach ball a whole bunch more girth. Blocky arms were fixed on next to her, and several control joysticks appeared, along with red buttons. The kinds of red buttons that made sci-fi death appear.
The new armor stood up on its hind legs when she gripped the joysticks, and immediately juked to the right when she pulled in that direction. A targeting reticle danced and jigged wildly until she found that her thumbs would swing it this way and that on a pivoting disc. She centered the crosshairs on the mass of aliens assaulting her and pressed one of the red buttons.
In the powered armor’s HUD, two dice rolled up, giving her a 1 and a 6. Apparently that was enough for a Success with Complication! Two more segments of the clock filled in, leaving three. She didn’t resist this new complication.
A panel opened in the robot’s shoulder, and half a dozen pencil-sized rockets exploded out into the fray. Several of them had on personal shields just like the blue hexagon thing she’d seen before, but one of them was just vaporized.
“Yeah! Eat my CUNT!”
Would you like to spend two Stress Points for an extra die on your next attempt? flashed in front of her. She said, “Yes.” Her Stress dropped from 10 to 8.
Her next attack was a Hunt with three dice this time, a pair of 10’s and a 2. Critical success, the HUD announced, before the powered armor’s claws opened up and blasted several more aliens with greenish laser beams. They fell dead and smoking to the floor. The clock was replaced with a green one, indicating the CUNT’s armor (6 segments) and its power level (8 segments). One of the power level segments flashed red.
Now several began to shoot back, but the CUNT pranced forward with huge movements and kept the two remaining alien pirates pinned down. She pressed forward and barreled into one of them, seized the other with a claw, and swung it like a baseball bat.
“It looks like you’re attempting to Skirmish,” the powered armor’s HUD said.
“You’re damn right I am. Watch me beat you to death with my CUNT.”
The dice rolled, two again, and this time she watched the dice come up 6 and 9. This game, she thought, and winced as the one leathery skinned moth-looking alien with the face tentacles slammed into the six armed mantis alien with the overabundance of eyelashes. Arms came off; glowing blood spattered all up the hallway and on the nearest cocooned relative.
Congratulations! the HUD told her. You have completed the objective ‘resist tyranny throughout the galaxy.’ You have been awarded with 1 experience point.
She settled the claws of her powered armor on its boxy hips and stood just a little taller.
Updates incoming. Also you can find the next Glitchworld book here! https://www.amazon.com/Glitchworld-Damien-Hanson-ebook/dp/B088QFGZRP