Previously: Six Guns, Two Swords
Themesong: Nowhere Man by The Beatles
I woke up in bed, head throbbing… but quiet. Blessedly quiet. I refused to leave my bed for 10 whole minutes before my bladder announced it was time to pee. I had a bladder! I looked under the sheets and squealed! I had bits again! It was awesome. I scampered to the bathroom and luxuriated in being human once more. I celebrated the return of actual human sensation by having excessive amounts of sex and simply obscene amounts of food. I hadn’t eaten anything but nutrient paste in a decade. A full week went by before I even bothered looking at the next jump.
I did ask what had happened to the borg body, only to find out that Victoria was using it. She too was, in her own not really alive way, glad to no longer be saddled with two almost completely insane emotional beings. It was only as I looked around for Joy that something dawned on me… I hadn’t seen any of the Snakes in the last 10 years. I wondered at that. Shouldn’t they have had a presence of some kind? And I hadn’t seen Venom… Fake Boss at all.
I found Venom and Joy playing chess in the apartment they were sharing… apparently they’d connected. It was strange finally meeting her. In a lot of ways I hated her, and I could tell the feeling was at least a little mutual… but she understood me on a level only Zane could match.
I was no longer a genetic copy for Joy. I was back in my own default female form. But we resembled each other in movement, mannerisms… warriness. Venom glowered at me. “That trick with the water… that wasn’t very nice.”
I shrugged. “I’d been there for fifty years, putting up with the lunacy and madness and conspiracies… and the unbridled masculinity. You boys… men… needed to lighten up. Also, 10 games and not a single female main character?” He grunted, but Joy laughed, “She has you there, Ahab.”
I wandered out again, not really interested in their debate and still craving silence. The jump’s drawbacks had left me profoundly shaken, even if the direct problems no longer plagued me. For the first time I was considering ending the chain, but there was just too much to look forward to, and so, after another week passed I got around to looking at the Vending Machines. They were like old friends, friends I hadn’t seen in 60 years. “Mother? What the fuck is Mother?”
Then a memory, a memory from 15 jumps and 190 years and more floated out of the darkness… a game for the SNES… Earthbound… also known as Mother 2?? Was that right? Was that what Mother was? I looked at the machine, studying the graphics. They certainly seemed like SNES graphics. I consulted Vivian and she concurred “Game Series. Super Nintendo Entertainment System.”
The title had a line under it “Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of MOTHER. It’s a pretty relaxing place, so kick back for ten years and enjoy the scenery” I relaxed, thinking “Oh good… I could use a vacation.” just before the words “Sorry, that was a little lie.” scrolled across the screen. I kicked the cabinet.
“Fine. But I absolutely refuse to take any drawbacks this time. None. You hear me?” The cabinet didn’t respond. “I’m going to take a vacation from the world saving. Just me and a bottle of Jack.” The cabinet didn’t respond. I growled and began running through the menus.
Location? I spin the wheel. Paying for this is normally ridiculous, but would be exactly meaningless in this situation. I assumed that the three towns were the starting points slash settings of the three games in the series… I think there are three. Mother 3… strikes a cord, but that’s all. I get Tazmily Village. Says it’s “The coziest town of all, and the only human settlement on the Nowhere Islands. Money doesn’t exist here, and everyone knows everyone. You could get used to this place, huh? At least, if not for the chimeras that seem to be showing up all over.” Chimeras? Well fuck. Sounds nice otherwise.
Origin? Roll dem bones… 1…. I’m… wait… how old? I’m 8 fucking years old? Oh fucking beautiful. I consider buying an upgrade… I didn’t have good memories from either of the two other times I’d been 8… but maybe this would be better. A chance to make up for it? And if not… I am not going to even think the rest of this sentence. Nerd is a type distinct from Village Kid? First, fuck you and second, le sigh, “two loving parents” nuclear family bullshit. I had two parents who hated each other in my original life and was cloned from a super spy and the raised by a crazed intel operative in my last life… and I turned out… bad example.
Fuck it, I’m not even looking at the tree first. I will be societally normal! Normal as fuck…. An 8 year old bisexual sniper swordsmaster with firepower, icepower, magic, and power armor… yeah, that’s essentially what Victoria is now, except she wanders around the house talking to the appliances and flirting with the butlerbots. Village Kid…. … NORMAL AS FUUUCK!
“Dangerous Guy” is free, “You’re a natural at using everyday items as weapons, like baseball bats and frying pans. Hardly anyone can smash like you. As a plus, you’re pretty good at sports and yo-yo tricks.” Oh yo-yos and frying pans. I have a HF elemental Goblin Sword. So… yay?
Rolling Counter is discounted for VKs… Vickies!… sorry… Rooooolllllling COUNTER! Wow, so good that I’m sane again, right? “Any time you get hurt, even if it would be fatal, you’ll have a few seconds before the damage takes effect. This can save you from death or being knocked out if you can heal in time.” Seriously? I regen. Christ… OP much with the right power combo? Well, not going to complain. That’s worth the . Let’s look at the capstone.
ULTIMATE PSI? Well, that’s not overselling it. “The Strongest Offensive PSI ability, named after your favorite thing?” What the hell does that mean? “It hits like a cannon and will only get stronger.” ah… it’s an attack. A psi cannon. huh. “You can only pull the Seven Needles hidden across the world if you have this.” Well… that could be good or bad… I guess. “On, and don’t worry if you can’t use PSI normally.” Well… damn… now I have to go see what PSI is.
PSI is is the free Alien perk. Well then… “You have the fantastic power power of PSI, the ability to affect the world with your mind. You can specialize in offensive or defensive PSI abilities and your powers will grow over time.” That sounds nice. I’ll specialize in Defense PSI , and get the Ultimate PSI … I’ve spent 700 out of a hard capped 1000, lets see if there are import options or cool gear.
Welp, there are no import options, but Improbable Allowance gives 10k USD a month? Gah… wait, my starting point has no money. How would that work? 10,000 dollars or DP… DP… maybe DP is the local not quite money of Nowhere Islands? Right… I should consider buying that… I suspect the only way to earn DP as an 8 year old that would be legal would be beating up monsters. Are there monsters? It’s a videogame… there are probably monsters.
“Swear Words” is a card you throw into the air that floats above you? Wow, that’s like the Dark Mark, but lamer… which is saying something. Wall Staples are an instant ladder… that’s cute… but I can fly. Ladders are so 4 jumps ago. Saturn Table is a riding table… without handholds… hey, you could stick some wall staples to it and use them… do Saturn Tables feel pain? A Flamethrower? No… I have that power. Legendary Bat that can smash in the front of a tank… huh… I have my sword, but Zane could use a melee weapon. Magic Doorknob can make a door in any surface? Seriously? That’s fucking awesome! Money or Doorknobs… Money and Bat or Doorknobs… tricky. No… not going to see if any of the drawbacks “aren’t quite so bad.” That was a firm no.
If I go with the Money and the Bat, that’s 150 of my remaining 300… that would mean finding one of the 100 point perks I want and doubling up on Allowance (or getting the table-steed). But the Doorknob is awesome. But the Bat is unbreakable… and it’s been signed by five major league stars! Eh, I’ve got enough resources, I’ll stick with the Doorknob.  “You can use this doorknob to make a lockable door in any surface and pass through most walls. You can’t hold on to it for long, but it’ll always turn up when you need it.
Venom and Joy can automatically import with any background up to 200 CP., and for that they have a pair of tablets with a stripped down version of the Jump-Tree. I tried to log into them, but apparently they have biometric locks… which means I have to let them pick their own… picks. And we’ll bring along Ziggy because he doesn’t get out enough. He doesn’t need an Import Option, he’s a ferret… or a leopard.
Joy went drop-in. Cool. A 9 year old Drop in… while Venom was 10 and a Nerd. Joy gets the supersized Improbable Allowance at 50,000 DP a month. Wooo. Rich kid! And Venom… Ahab apparently… gets Gearhead, the power of backyard engineering. With it he can create lethal weapons out of household objects. His talent for working with machines improves and people are less likely to question why he’s packing heat. Sounds like an adventuring party. 3 kids and a giant ferret.
I hit the confirm button, triggering the jump.
~WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?~ asks the disembodied voice.
“What?” I ask, like an idiot. “Who are you?”
~WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?~ it repeats.
“FUCK YOU IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD? IS THIS OKAY?”
I sighed. Great, literal minded machines.
“No. My Favorite Food is Steak.” It’s not actually true, my favorite food is my mother’s stuffed grapeleaves, but since there were lots and lots of stuffed grapeleaves I didn’t like, and almost anyone’s steak was yummy… it was more accurately my favorite food in general. Of course, I could also have said Sushi, Nachos, Mac-n-cheese, Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Meatloaf, Fried Rice, Stew, Chili, Mocha Ice Cream, Lemon Sorbet, Bacon, Waffles, Hard Boiled Eggs, Egg Salad… the list goes on and on. I like food. Also veggies. Huge fan of veggies. And Tuna Salad.
“What did you say?”
~WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING?~ it repeated.
I considered saying Ferrets, which I love, but my first love has always been “Games.” I said. I love ferrets for their playful nature, but Games are my absolute passion. Ferrets are just fun to have around. Like friends. Or Pizza.
“GAMES ARE YOU FAVORITE THING?
No sooner had I agreed than I found myself in a pleasant little house in a pleasant little village on a pleasant little island. I was in bed, wearing pyjamas and mom was calling me to breakfast. It was all very prosaic.
After breakfast, I met up with Joy and Ahab… after changing out of my pj’s…. Mom was very insistent… and the four of us explored the village. It wasn’t huge, about 10,000 people. That number resonated with me for some reason, but I couldn’t quite make the connection. It could have been a small town, but it was pretty spread out, very agrarian, and bucolic. Also there wasn’t any money. There was a feeling of artificialness to it all, something I initially pegged as being characteristic of being a videogame, though the people looked like people and the world was not rendered in pixels… or at least not ones discernible to me and my gear.
We had about a week of this, exploring the environment, getting to know everyone, from the very strange Wess & Duster to the incredibly tall Leder… who was strangely silent… and had an aura of… difference about him. But I didn’t pry, not then. I should have… but there was a lot to explore, just between the Village and the Sunshine Forest (which has a really cool tree arch). There are also talking frogs that seem obsessed with you telling them your life’s story. I don’t know why, and we’re not sure we trust them.
I also felt like I might have made the wrong choice of people to bring on a vacation… though it turned out to be exactly what was needed. But I’m getting ahead of the narrative. Remember, I didn’t set out to save this world. I didn’t know it needed saving.
We explored the woods, encountered Mighty Bitey Snakes, had a little laugh at Ahab’s expense threatening to call him MB Snake. It was all deceptively goofy and almost saccharine… until someone set the woods on fire. And I do mean someone. Someone was using high tech explosives. Someone was using powerful electrical machinery. But first, there was a house in the forest with a kid trapped inside.
The house belonged to a father and son named Lighter and Fuel. I didn’t think, I just suited up in Victoria (no she didn’t shrink down to my new size, she just wrapped little me in her full size) and flew across the burning forest, icing as much as I could to slow the fire and to clear some of the smoke from my path. Landed right in the upstairs bedroom and smashed a flying rodent away from the kid, Fuel.
Got him back to the adults who didn’t know what to make of me but they didn’t know it was little SJ from the Village, did they? I flew off to find Joy and Ahab, who’d been beating up Bats and “Baked Yam Monsters”. I landed, shifting Victoria and the power suit back to the Warehouse for the time being, and was about to ask for a sitrep when the peeling of the town bell hit me. And I do mean it hit me. There was a subliminal mind control effect built into that bell. I could not have not noticed it if I’d tried. It bounced off my occlumency and psychic shielding like a mallet off a gong.
I staggered, slapping my hands over my ears, and then filling them completely with nanobot earbuds set to filter the sound and I solidified my shields. “What’s up?” I asked, ignoring the looks of concern. We were all experts in the field of espionage and counter-terrorism, but, as insane as it sounds, I actually had more time in the field than either of these two exceptional people. Between my 50 years as Joyous and my decade as an Asari Specter, I’d fought a gangwar in LA for half a decade, served in Starfleet for a ten year stretch, fought in the 2nd Wizarding War and survived Hogwarts, and been a world class detective… and a Slayer. So yeah, they deferred to me and not just because I was the Jumper. I was their Six, and for good reason.
“Flint’s wife and kids aren’t back yet,” Ahab reported. “Everyone’s looking for them.”
“Right,” I said, “You see if you can help on the ground, I’m going airborne for a sweep.” I leapt into the air, summoning Victoria again. I did a scan of the forest, looking for lifesigns and found a trio outside of the normal bounds. One looked to be in serious trouble, the others were kids… And in the river. I cursed, then remembered I was part of a team. “Petra, Francy, two kids in the river, snatch and grab, pronto.” And I zoomed towards the adult.
It was a villager I hadn’t met, Hinawa… wife of Flint, mother of the twins Claus and Lucas… which is clever enough to be cute and not a dumb thing to name your kids. Thematics, not rhyme schemes. As I arrived, Hinawa was staggering back from a cyborged-up Draco, one of these almost adorably harmless miniature T-Rexes, a great bloody fang stuck through her chest, her lifesigns crashing. I threw up a wall of ice between the monster and the… not maiden… scooped her up and, dropping through a portal, slammed her into a medpod with seconds to spare.
If I’d left things to the automated systems, the process never would have worked. Her heart was trashed. But I hadn’t worked my ass off mastering the medical knowledge the Chain had given me for a lark. I buckled down, repairing the tissue damage micron by micron as the system kept the woman alive. I barely registered a report from Vivian saying that Petra and Francy had managed to pull the kids out safely and another from Joy and Ahab that they’d just encountered a pair of lunatics in pigshaped helmets doing horrible things to a deer.
The microsurgery took me 11 hours, and I had to leave her in the pod to stabilize. But I cleaned myself up and headed back out into the outside world. Joy and Ahab had managed to capture the pig men and their UFO-like flying ship and had… questioned them… extensively.
Apparently, they worked for the Pork King and had been ordered to make life difficult for everyone… but they didn’t know why. They also couldn’t explain where they’d come from. I stashed the UFO for later, then took my shuttle out to scan for more of the flying menaces.
I caught three of them, but didn’t fire, biding my time and tracking their flight plan as they flew off over the ocean. Out of curiosity, I flew up even higher, to get a look at the world and was chagrined to see that it was essentially water world. The Nowhere Islands were a speck on an otherwise almost empty globe… and what little land there was was apparently desolate. Where was everything? Where did these Porktroopers come from? Then I found the only other cluster of life on the planet, a singular city thousands of miles from the Nowhere Islands. A much more technologically advanced city. This was weird. Why would a technologically advanced army attack a rural farm community?
I scanned the Nowhere Islands for lifesigns. There was the village, then a couple of smaller outlying houses… two clusters of less than 10 human signals considerably further out from the village… lots of flora and fauna, including a number of megafauna which were probably more Dracos… and then I gaped as the scans picked up a freaking huge signal… it was deep under the islands… and pretty much the same size and shape… a single massive form. I couldn’t get a good reading on it, just that it was huge, and not moving.
I landed my shuttle back in the warehouse, then checked my patient. She still needed more recovery time, but she could recover back in town. She was mostly stabilized. I suited back up and stepped out of the mountainside I’d used as a portal surface. A quick flight back to town and I dropped Hinawa off just outside of town then sent the suit back into the warehouse.
As planned, Ahab and Joy brought Flint running, relief flooding his visage as the realization that his wife was alive hit him. I figured that was that, family saved, job done. But then, a couple of days later, Claus apparently ran off to get revenge on the MechaDrago that had attacked his mother, leaving her scarred and bedridden for the time being. Knowing a bad idea when I heard it, I mounted another rescue mission, arriving just in time to see Flint beating the MechaDrago with his bare fists.
I left the man alone, scanning the area for Claus. I found the kid at the base of a nearby cliff, broken, barely clinging to life. For the second time in three days, I found myself patching up a member of their family, blood covering my pre-pubescent fingers as I worked the micromanipulators. He was in a bad way and this time I didn’t let him out of the medpod until i’d completely stabilized him.
I had to partly cyborg him. There just wasn’t any way around it… but I made the tech as low maintenance and low tech as possible. I was constantly having to step away from my patient to do stuff with my mother and father. They were perfectly nice people, and I felt some affection for them, but it was a vague memory of affection, and not a reality. Still, I felt compelled (by my own logic and basic sentimentality) to play along with their family vision.
With Claus safely returned to his family and the “MYSTERIOUS MACHINE” having explained about the replacement arm and leg, I figured the only thing was to figure out what to do about these Porkers. We were planning a recon trip to far off Pig City or whatever it was called, when this dillweed Fassad shows up, pet monkey in tow, trying to introduce the folks of the village to the concept of money.
Doesn’t take a great detective to read that this guy’s no good. Doesn’t take a telepath either… but I scan him anyway… and bounce. He’s got PSI shields, but didn’t seem to detect my probe. Still, he’s up to no good, probably working with these pig faced goons, and a tricorder scan reveals he’s keeping the monkey controlled with a shock collar as he regales a village of perfectly nice people with a sales pitch so slimy it would sicken slugs. Look, I’m not opposed to a little capitalism, but this guy made robber barons look savory.
I stealth up and follow him, listening to him talk to the monkey about some girlfriend he’s keeping hostage and watching him Peter Gabriel the poor animal and talking about Happy Boxes. As soon as he sent the monkey out to deliver the boxes, I transformed into my Infernape form and, sending a quick subvocal command to the others to follow the Monkey, revealed myself to Fassad.
“We should talk, you sick fucker.” Our fight would have leveled the inn had my first punch not hammered him through a wall and out into the forest… a blast he seemed only marginally annoyed by. He hit me with Psi-blasts the likes of which I’d never imagined, only my considerable training and multiply layered defenses keeping me standing. Finally I was forced to resort to my untested and super secret Ultimate Psi… PK Games. A pair of massive dice smashed into him, crushing him to the ground.
Gasping for breath, he tried to pull a banana up to his lips but I snapped “Expelliarmus!” and the banana flipped through the air. I caught it and ate it. It was luxurious and I felt almost instantly better. I drew Soul of Ice and pressed it to his throat, locking my eyes on his, then pulled him inside my mind.
“Talk and I’ll let you go. Lie and I’ll know it. Refuse and you will know pain.”
“W… what are you?” he gasped “You’re like no chimera I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m the protector of these Islands, you sick little worm.”
We had… a talk… a long… long talk. I learned… many things from him. I learned of someone named King Pork (the big bad), a place called New Pork City (lotus eater land), the Dark Dragon (the massive sleeping lifeform), the Magypsies (psychic transvestites), and the nature of both Happy Boxes (brainwashing tvs) and the Seven Needles (macguffins). By the end of the talk Fassad… or rather Locria the Magypsy… was begging to tell me things, as everything the odious worm told me only served to make me want to hurt him more.
I finally brought him out of my mind, returning to the moment in time we’d left from, and (after dispatching Joyhab to free Salsa the Monkey’s mate) I took Locria to the Magypsies. They were instantly horrified, seeing their fellow beaten, bleeding, and battered. “Hear me out, before you attack.” I said, laying everything out for them, their heavily madeup faces darkening with rage as their focus shifted from me to him.
“So my question is this… what happens if these Seven Needles are pulled? Locria says I can do it… says King Pork is planning on doing it. What happens if they’re pulled? Does the Dragon grant the puller a wish or something?”
No… as it turns out, the Dark Dragon is not Dragon Kai. He does not grant wishes… at least not in that sense. The Magypsies had bound the Dark Dragon because the last survivors of the human race could not live in peace with the dragon. What he does seems to be tied to the secret desires of the one who pulled the most of the needles. And since the Magypsies had tied their lifeforce into the creation of the Needles, they’d vanish if their respective Needle was removed.
I asked the obvious questions. “Is there a way to stop King Pork besides pulling the needles?”, “Did they want the Needles pulled?”, and “Could they actually die without their needle being pulled? They didn’t know to each of those. They also claimed not to know collectively where the needles were, only the one tied specifically to their own lifeforce (Though Locria had apparently forgotten her own.) “Can anyone besides me pull these Needles?” I asked after consideration. “Anyone with PK Games.” was the answer. “Who else can use it? Can you?”
They could not, but it was possible some other humans could. They’d know if they met one. “Teach me to find those people.” I half asked. We negotiated. An agreement was made. They’d show me how to find other PSI users, I’d find those others, but I’d bring them to Magypsies to be judged. I don’t think they trusted me not to simply kill anyone with the potential. They also promised to keep Locria… contained.
I shouldn’t have trusted them. But I had no choice. I searched the island, they interrogated Locria. I found the other Psi users… they talked to Locria. I revealed the other Psi users to them for training… they listened to Locria. I began training with Claus and Lucas, the first two I’d found, trying to maximize my own power by training them to be able to defend the village. We added Kumatora, foster daughter of the Magypsy Iona and Princess of Osohe Castle. The Magypsies… let Locria go…
I didn’t learn of this until Fassad returned with an entire army of Porkers and Chimera. They took Flint and Hinawa hostage and my allies folded. They were ten years old. Of course they did. That made it a race. I no longer had any options. I could have tried to save the twins’ parents, but they were deep inside King Pork’s city-citadel and I had little hope. Still, I sent Joy, Ahab, and Zane to New Pork City, tasking them with scouting and infiltration as I found the six needles I didn’t already know the location of.
Finding six of them was relatively easy, as three of them were in open air areas and the other three were located in Shrines or the courtyard of the Castle. I got to that one first, yanking it out of the ground while channelling the power of PK Games. The task was like moving heaven and earth and left me absolutely drained. I barely escaped before the Pork Troops arrived, too drained to fight. In the three days it took me to recover, the Porkers located another and pulled it, relying on the power of the Twins to break the seal but actually having Fassad / Locria pull the thing.
I cursed, rushing to the third, pulling it and fleeing again, letting Petra and AJ hold off the army long enough for me to get away. There were too many of them to fight, and I simply had to get four before Fassad and his boss could. I sensed a fail state looming.
I didn’t rest, I couldn’t. I’d felt the ripples of the fourth Needle being pulled even as I flew from Snowcap Mountain. I landed on the other mountain, Fire Mountain, blasting my way through the guards and throwing up a barrier of ice behind me as I faced the fifth needle, putting everything into it and staggering under the drain as I ripped it free of the earth. I apparated out of the sealed cave, arching for the last remaining Needle inside Chupichupyoi Temple, hoping I was ahead at last.
The lightning blast knocked me from the sky, scrambling a third of Victoria’s systems and dazing me. I was forced to abandon her, leaving her to regenerate as I headed, half dead, towards the temple… but I was too late. Even as I crested the rise, I felt the shudder as the sixth Needle was pulled. Locria was still standing… that meant his needle was last. If he’d lied to me, everything was lost.
My only hope now was to find the Twins’ parents. But I needed… a boost. For the first time since I’d left Harry Potter world, I broke out the Felix Felicis. 4 doses of it. Then I took a nap in the medbay. 4 hours… that’s all I could spare, and I was operating on every energy potion I could throw together. Better living through Alchemy.
I joined Zane, Ahab, and Joy in New Pork City. They’d met with the spirit of the city and had barely escaped with their skin intact. It was, they said, a vile, demented, and sadistic thing. I looked around the city and had to agree. It was like a porcine pink nazi germany. I handed out the potions and we went to work.
We found the Pork King… after smashing half a dozen Porky versions of a Doombot and freeing Flint and Hinawa… deep in a mine under the city… in the chamber that contained the final needle… an ancient cripple in a spider assault bed. He claimed to be immortal, that he wanted the world destroyed so that only he remained. Claimed we couldn’t defeat him. He was wrong. Our luck held as his bed almost immediately malfunctioned, then he retreated to something called “The Absolute Safety Pod”… which not only could we not damage him in, he apparently couldn’t escape from.
I looked at the horrible little man, so consumed with hate. I looked at Locria. I could have, at that moment, turned and walked away. The last needle remained unpulled and the twins certainly weren’t going to let Locria pull this one…. But it was his needle. Chances were he’d find someway to pull it eventually. I couldn’t let that happen. I wasn’t sure my heart was good enough, but Locria’s certainly wasn’t. I’d let the dice settle it.
With a scream, I wrenched the final needle out of the ground… and the world went black.
I woke in bed, as I had been a year earlier. In my pj’s. Mom called for me to get up and come eat breakfast. With a profound sense of deja vu, I did. Was this a time loop? Was this New Game Plus? I distractedly picked at breakfast, then tried to head outside… forgetting to change out of my pj’s. Mom insisted… so I changed… then dashed outside and did a quick head count. My posse remembered what had happened. But no one else did.
I took the shuttle up, up, up… the world had changed. All the old landmasses had been restored. It was Earth, verdant, green and blue, primordial. New Pork City was gone, scrubbed from the universe, its people spread across the island in a dozen little villages… the technology it had embraced still evident in wind towers and solar panels and a thousand little ways, but all clean, all in harmony with nature as best as it could be.
I scanned the entire world, but couldn’t find the dragon. Until I turned to look at my copilot’s seat. A shadow sat there. “Well? What do you think?”
“I don’t know. It can’t last. Peace isn’t in humanity’s genome. Tranquility is bad for growth. It’s like… a fairytale, the idea that there can be Peace & Harmony. Conflict is the nature of existence. We need it to grow, to make us more than we were. Without it… we’ll die out, eventually.”
“But all those living there will have happy lives. Isn’t that enough?”
“I don’t know. In theory, yes… but what about the next generation, and the one after that. Happiness is a great thing, but it’s not everything. Sadness makes Happiness greater, makes us appreciate things more. Happiness without Sadness is… Pie for every meal. It grows old. Fades… grows wearisome. Variety is the spice of life.”
“But you’ll be gone in 9 years. Shouldn’t they be happy that long?”
“Yes. They should. And maybe this world is a simulation that will be saved to memory and shut down for good the moment I leave it. But I can’t think like that. Those are, to all my senses, living people. I can’t leave them stuck in stasis. Or at least I can’t imagine a fate worse than them stuck in stasis forever. In my heart, in my mind, their world continues. There is always a next. Nothing ever comes to an absolute end. I don’t believe in Universal Entropy.”
“But you wanted a place of calm, a vacation.”
“I wanted to step away from strife, from endless wars. I lived that for decades. I wanted a place of calm. What I got was a child’s parable of loss and sacrifice and the insidiousness of capitalism and fascism. I got The Village played out on a global scale, the last 10,000 people on earth… a breeding pool… I knew I knew that number! They were a breeding pool, just large enough for a genetic spread! But they chickened out. They replaced their memories with pastoral nonsense, erasing the past instead of trying to learn from it.”
“Aren’t simple ways best?”
“Yeah? But physical laws still apply. A disease will come along… a lifeform will mutate into something dangerous, a comet, a rogue wave. This is all that’s left of humanity, less than 100,000 people, all in one relatively small ecosystem… they grow in population… they’ll compete over resources. They’ll fragment. Those fragments will grow. Once grown, they’ll compete again. The cycle will continue until they develop weapons capable of ending the world again. A mature society isn’t one that can’t destroy the world. It’s one that doesn’t. I… even back on my world of origin, could have destroyed my home any time I wanted to. I didn’t because it was mine, I lived there. I also didn’t destroy my neighbors homes because… ethically… it would have been wrong… even if there had been something in it for me. These people have forgotten all that. But they or their descendants will learn it again.
“You’re playing God.”
“I think I already did, didn’t I? Your power reset the world… but it was my power that shaped it, wasn’t it. What was the original name of PK Games. It wasn’t Games. That’s my favorite thing. It was… Love… wasn’t it. It’s always Love… or Hope… Or Spirit. Boils down to the same thing. What kind of Crappy Power is Heart? That that’s the trope. PK Love. Pure Love. It was the twins in the original, wasn’t it? One good, one bad?”
“One full of hope, the other full of despair… but close enough.”
“But not to me. To me… Games… chance, competition, cooperation, adventure, growth, learning from adversity, and overcoming obstacles… that’s what makes life great. Especially when you can share it with your friends. Where you can spend hours battling each other fiercely, then share a pizza and a coke and chuckle about it at the end of the day… then do it all over again the next. That’s life at its most pure to me.”
“So you want a world full of games?”
“I want a Universe full of friendly competition. Ideally, I want a world where no one holds a grudge for any longer than the few hours a single game takes, and those grudges are always resolved within the rules. I want cooperation for resources. I want a system where people instinctively understand gametheory, where they understand that working together, that aiming for a common goal, is always going to be more productive than looking out for oneself. Pair that with a world where individualism is still praised… ah, that’s the dream. The Utopia.”
“This is Nowhere.” the shadow pointed out.
“Aha… It is. Well played. Very well, since this is Utopia and this is my Game, let it be so.”
And it was. And I beheld it was good.
Next: World 16 – Fashion Forward