I paused for a second, unsure I wanted to say what I really felt. But then I figured, if she didn’t like who I was or what I had to say, there wasn’t much use being around her.
So I said, “Artificial Intelligence.”
She shook her head. “You too?”
“Your argument was all about the reasons why people wouldn’t create an artificial intelligence that was indistinguishable from life.”
“Yeah,” Alex said.
“The reason is curiosity. People can’t help themselves. They see a closed box, they have to open it up.”
She steepled her hands. Smiled.
“That’s a good one,” she said. “I don’t know how to argue against it, but I will.”
I smiled, too. “Can’t wait.”
The rest of that night passed without too much incident. She showed me some of the coding she’d been working on. I didn’t understand a lick of it, of course. When I was tired I said goodbye, and when I got back to my room, my roommate bitched about Alex.
It didn’t matter. I knew I liked Alex.
I’d spaced out there for a couple minutes, but I remembered where I was, and how badly I wanted to get to properly playing Throne Quest.
I stared at the BACK button at the bottom of the menu. Was brought to the GAME INFO menu again. I stared at QUEST LOG.
Just one quest in there, “COMPLETE THE TUTORIAL.”
“Do I get XP for completing the tutorial?” I asked.
“Yes,” the tutorial helper said.
I stared at the only quest I had. Said, “Delete.” The quest faded away.
MAP wasn’t anything interesting. Apparently the tutorial level was called, “WEEPING PLAINS.” It consisted of little more than dead grass and a couple of Yones. Looked to me like WEEPING PLAINS was a bland, single-player halfway house between the physical world and Throne Quest‘s multiplayer world.
SKILL TREE was interesting, at least.
My attributes were all listed at the top of the menu: Charisma, Constitution, Wit, Agility, and Strength were all at 0, because you had to wait until after the tutorial to start putting points into anything.
Below the attributes were three skill trees, each of which were grayed-out, to show that I wasn’t eligible for any of them. First I would have to choose which type I belonged to: Thorn, Lightning, or Stone. I was familiar with the three types from the tutorial.
Stone players had an advantage over Lightning players, Lightning players had an advantage over Thorn players, and Thorn players had an advantage over Stone players. It was a simple rock-paper-scissor dynamic.
I knew I liked the Thorn powers the best. Thorn Punch was a powerful ability you could get from the very beginning, and the HP Regeneration option was basically a lifesaver.
Stone players had much better defense, and generally hit harder, but I found the playstyle boring.
Then there were the Lightning powers, which I liked, but not quite as much as I liked the Thorn powerset. There was one particular late-game ability I was jealous of — the ability to shoot lightning bolts out of your eyes.
Still, I’d figured out which powerset I wanted to draw from back during Beta, so I didn’t need to look at SKILL TREE any longer.
“I’d like to exit the tutorial now,” I said.
“Are you sure?” the helper asked. “The tutorial is a great place to learn the controls of the game. Outside, you risk death if you don’t fully understand the interface.”
“You can’t really die in a game,” I said. “Take me out of here.”
The tutorial helper nodded her head. Something in her smile made me doubt myself.
My view froze for a few moments, then faded to black.