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Niemad huffed as he half-dragged Danielle alongside him. Her face was contorted, she squealed, whined and complained incessantly. Nino shook her head and mouthed the words, “Leave her?” Gavin saw and shook his head.
They headed down a narrow path that suddenly split off left or right, but Nino held them up. She took a rock and threw it at the floor of the T-juncture, which immediately collapsed into a deep pit, filled with dozens of dildo-tipped stakes maybe twelve feet below, all of them different sizes and colors. Several wiggled affably at Gavin as he stared down. He got a whiff of gas coming up from below, then immediately followed Nino, who hopped over the corner of the trap. Danielle nearly overbalanced her savior, and for a mad moment Gavin thought the old man was going to be dragged to his death. It ended with Danielle shrieking at them, legs dangling over the edge and clutching onto Niemad. Gavin helped get her out of the trap, then helped Niemad to his feet.
“I can take her– she’s my responsibility more than either of yours.”
Niemad practically threw her off of him into Gavin’s outstretched arms.
“Doll,” Niemad said. Danielle went ramrod straight and glared at him, her face a rictus of rage. He shrugged. “Or lady or whoever you think you are. I bet outside you were some glamorous wonderful tootsie-pop of a person, best grades, best money, best friends, best life, best fucks, but here everything is real. You whining and dragging your feet is going to get you killed, and the three of us with you. This isn’t that fake rich people are the best at everything life that you’ve been spoon fed above. Here you gotta work hard to live. And even that’ll only last you so long. So hop to it. Or lay down here and die. Give us all a leg up on catching up. Be bait for the monsters.”
Danielle stomped her foot. “We’re guests!” she cry-shouted. “Let us ou–”
“Not anymore you aren’t,” Nino said, sharing a look with Niemad and jogging off in the direction of the goal. Niemad shrugged and joined her. Gavin started to, but was stopped by Danielle’s wail.
“It isn’t fair, Gavin. We should be on the cliffs, naked, sticky and sweaty. We haven’t done anything wrong! We aren’t like this scum around here– we studied and worked hard and never broke the rules.”
Gavin nodded, then stopped. There was a lot to think about here, but now was not the time.
“Danielle, come on. Those two are good people and they saved our lives. We need to keep going or else we’re going to die.”
Danielle sat down and scoffed. “Fake news. We’re guests, Gavin! They just want us with them to keep themselves safe. Prestige Gaming would never hurt us like that. They are the good guys, not dumb little criminals like your friends.”
“I think– I think Prestige Gaming is having some problems right now, Danielle.”
“If they were they’d tell us. Where is the evacuation, Gavin? Where are the transports? What, is this some sort of Corporate Conspiracy? In your dreams,” Danielle scoffed.
The music had stopped. Something was wrong. Gavin tried the ‘zip your lips’ gesture, but she didn’t even seem to see him. She was lost, deep in her own fury. So lost, in fact, that she didn’t even turn when some horrid barbarian slunk out of the shadows bearing a dildo on a stick like a spear, complete with bits of grimy bloodstained feathers and what he took to be beads. They were finger bones.
“Maaro maaro sooar ko, chamdi nocho pee lo khoon,” said the savage-looking NPC wearing a skull mask and covered in burns, scars, and war paint.
“Oh shit!” Gavin screamed. The skull-wearing man descended upon Danielle, who was now complaining about the lazy criminality of poor people in general, and punched a hole in her chest. It snapped so loudly that it echoed amidst the topiary of the maze.
“NAMAH OM SHIVAYA!” the intercom blared. “ONE POINT TO THE HEART-TAKING SHAMAN FOLK!”
He stared at Danielle a moment, and saw the light leave her eyes. The shaman looked at him and licked his lips.
Though his body felt loose, he clamped down on himself and sprinted away down the mown grass track of Dungeonworld’s LABIA. He wouldn’t pee himself. He wouldn’t pee himself.
“I just watched someone die!” he screamed. “This place is totally–”
Dice rolled in his HUD (a 3 and a 7), and the game produced reddish rectangles to point out a pair of horizontal notches cut into the walls at waist and chest height. He couldn’t have stopped if he’d tried, and he didn’t know to. He heard neither the click of the trap he’d stepped on, nor the scything blades that sprung out of the walls with twin sounds like the world’s largest knife sharpener. He was thrown off his feet, and felt the pain of his spine hitting the floor before the slices across his sculpted chest and abs.
“THAT’S A SHAME, FOLKS! WE HATE TO SEE THEM FALL SO EARLY!” the announcer shouted.
What? Gavin couldn’t quite process what the hell the intercom was talking about. Maybe somebody further on in the maze–
He finally registered the wounds and the skull-masked shaman overtop him at the same time, bent over him and jabbing a pink silicone dildo at him. Yes, something was very wrong with Prestige Gaming. Something very, very wrong. And not just the constant dildo motif.
Tyriah knew, when the intercom clicked on and the laughter started, that they were in deeper shit than she’d first imagined. The nanite idea had only worked to an extent; dungeonworlders had access to shovels and were just tunneling through it like dirt. There were too many for them to stop– at least now with system resources on overload, the effects of EMP mucking up a bunch of functionality, and with AI NPCs kicking into independent character types, following programmed desires but thinking well outside what their safety protocols would normally allow. The scene between the whalers and Shanaya had been scary– the whalers should never had had such intellectual autonomy. And the fact that the Dungeonworld AI had queued its own course and broadcast was troubling to say the least. They had guests trapped in there and they needed to get them out fast.
“Ma’am!” drawled a Missouri accent. “One of the guests is in a heap of trouble.”
Tyriah took in the scene before her– Danielle was on the ground, refusing to move, in absolute denial about how gone to shit the whole park had become. Tyriah sighed. Useful idiots stopped being useful at the moment that they became liabilities.
“Patch me through. Let me use the PA box to tell her to get her ass in gear and that help is on the way.”
“Is help on the way?” the man asked. He looked doubtful.
“Just patch me through.”
The intercom laughed harder. Then it spoke to them.
“THE NUMBER YOU HAVE DIALED IS NO LONGER IN SERVICE,” it growled. Her eyes darted back to Danielle. A shaman stood over her. Tyriah groaned– this particular model of monster had been one of hers, inspired by the old Wisconsin Smith adventurer films. She forced herself not to turn away though, and to keep her voice steady and calm.
“Whoever this is, if you have the power at your command, do not kill that woman! She is a park guest and is not worthy of punishment.”
“THIS GUEST IS GUILTY OF ARROGANCE AND SIN. SHE WILL BE EXPUNGED.”
On screen the shaman punched through the woman’s chest, ending her life. Gavin freaked out and ran, never noticing the trap tiles that Niemad and Nino had so carefully jogged around.
“And him? What is he guilty of?” Tyriah asked, her heart caught in her throat as she clenched her fist and tried to will Gavin through safely. Moments later scythes slashed him through, and the shaman began prodding him with a rubbery phallus.
“Found a kill switch, ma’am,” the southerner drawled.
“Use it,” she commanded at once.
“YOU ARE ALL GUILTY OF SOMETHING AND JUDGEMENT SHALL BE RENDERED. YOU WILL KNOW THE NAME GRU–” The voice powered down before it had a chance to finish.
“John Wayne, Zeus, you’re scanning the course. Is it powered down?”
“Still up and running!”
“Ma’am,” the southerner interrupted. “It weren’t the announcer AI that I put down just now. It was a copy of an AI. An AI that keeps copying its sentient self throughout the system. Something I don’t have classification to see a lot about. A new, fancy, resource-intensive boss monster.”
“OOH, CLOSE ONE,” the intercom said, the announcer AI apparently in charge once again. On screen the two dungeonworlders who had helped out Gavin and Danielle, Niemad and Nino, were struggling to stay ahead of the timer, the ground collapsing and falling into a three-hundred foot drop behind them. She found herself praying for their survival. If– no, WHEN they got this under control she’d see to it personally that those two got their sentences commuted fully and found their way out of that hellhole. They deserved better than that even, but it was all she could hope to give them.
“We’re going with a full reboot,” she announced.
Heads snapped up and mouths dropped open. A hush fell over the command room. It lasted approximately three seconds before another round of laughter came over the intercom, and a pair of security officers trotted in.
“We’re recommending an evacuation!” the security officer announced.
The laughter ratcheted up on the intercom. “OH, HONEY… YOU’VE LOST CONTROL HERE, HAVEN’T YOU?”
“Shut that thing up!” she shouted, then turned to the man and woman in their Prestige security uniforms. “What are you talking about?”
“We’re looking at a siege situation one level down, and we’re hearing reports of dungeonworlders breaking through. We’re going on general lockdown, ma’am. All non-essential personnel are confined to quarters, which are locked from the inside.”
All those VIP personnel not currently on assignment, regular guest services, all the financiers and human resources workers, the hundreds of physical level maintenance workers, the nanotech specialists. Hundreds of people were now trapped in their dorm rooms, away from the ducts.
“Shut it down!” she shouted.
“We… we can’t, ma’am.”
“Then hard reboot!”
“OH, PLEASE. DON’T GET YOUR PANTIES IN A TWIST, CHICA.”
“You keep out of this!” she told GRU or whoever the fuck he was. She pointed to the security guys, Mr. Missouri, and the hunky guy from Hitler Channel. His name was, and she didn’t believe this at first, Stacey. She gathered them silently around her, grabbed up her tablet, thought better of it, and produced an actual paper notebook. She also fished a pencil out of her cargo shorts and scribbled down. ‘Hard reboot. How?’
One of the security guys opened his mouth to speak, but she held up a finger to shut him up, and handed him the notebook.
‘Room a level below us: main power grid. No good tho. DWers everywhere.’
dungeonworlders. Ugh. Why did they have security in the first goddamn place if they couldn’t keep things secure?
“THE SILENT TREATMENT, I SEE. SORRY IF I UPSET YOUR WIDDLE FEEWINGS.”
“You be quiet!” she told it, while looking about at them. With nobody else willing to write ideas, she grabbed the notebook and wrote: ‘we’re going. Now. faster = better.’ Plenty of pained hissing and embarrassed floor staring followed. Then, seeing the horrible torture she was putting all these whiny babies through, she wrote. ‘Anyone want out can stay. And get fired.’
“LET ME IN ON THE GAME,” GRU said, childlike. “I WANNA PLAY. THIS IS NO FAIR.”
“Yeah yeah, we’ll be right there in a minute.”
Two minutes later the security guys had sketched out the route (down a hall, turn right, stairwell down one floor, probably encounter DWers, kick their asses, down another hall to the main power grid) and made notes on what they’d need to do once they reached the power grid. It mainly involved shutting off all the power (easy) and then priming something to get the generator to spool everything up again.
She charged back over to the coms. “Mr. Pradthala?”
“I’m here! Having rather a jolly time of it, if I do say so.” On screen, Mr. Pradthala was in the midst of completing a swing around the main mast of his skyship, with a flying dinosaur hot on his tail. On their screens, the CEO of Prestige Gaming looped around the yardarm in a move that defied physics. It ended with him on the back of the dinosaur, where he impaled it with his cutlass.
“Sir, we think we’ve isolated the core subroutine that malfunctioned,” she lied.
“DON’T LIE TO THE MAN,” GRU chided. Quietly. In her ear. Like a complete creeper.
“Smashing!” he yelled, though he needn’t have done. “Go on, then.”
On screen, the glitching, feathered monstrosity crashed down onto the big privateer’s poop deck, where the other Pradthala family members and NPC pirate crew scrambled away, so as not to be crushed by the dead feathered pteranodon. He laughed the whole way down, and hopped off the dinosaur corpse when it had slid to a halt.
“Sir, it means rebooting the whole system.”
Mr. Pradthala’s trademark laughter died in his throat. “All the game blocks surrounding us… I don’t suppose they’ll hold firm, will they?”
The coders and techs shared a great deal of silent, terrified glances. Who would be the one to tell him? One flipped the game skin off the simulation, and got a look through several of the mobile hidden cams at the volume of magnetized white blocks overhead. Every one of them served the purpose of making the Prestige Gaming experience flawless. Under normal circumstances anyhow.
Now the construct was slowly adapting its shape from a thousand foot skyscraper to much lower geometric shape.
Mr. Pradthala cleared his throat. “You wouldn’t happen to have any other options you neglected to mention, eh Ms. Rodriguez?”
One of them leaned forward. “We think that if you climb up as high as you can, there’s a lower chance you’ll be buried.” And crushed.
Silence. More shared glances.
“You’re aware Mrs. Pradthala’s afraid of heights, yes?”
More silence. “Ah… yessir. There’s no–”
“Give me five minutes.”
Thank you everyone for having read this story. My coauthor Nolan Locke and I absolutely appreciate it. We have a crazy and terrifyingly ambitious idea with this series and I hope you’ll stick around to hear it because we’re gonna need your support to finish it.
GlitchWorld is the start of a ten story LitRPG saga that seeks to utilize the pyramid story-telling system. There will be four origin stories as the events of the park’s failing forge both heroes and villains from the gamers within. From there their paths will cross and stakes will rise as the new heroes and villains clash against each other within and sometimes against the increasingly dangerous and failing nano amusement park. The story narrows to two books, winnowing out and eliminating some of the characters and setting up the remaining and most powerful for book 10, the final battle. I really hope you will all join us in our epic campaign – we’ll keep them coming fast and powerful for as long as we can afford to.
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