Alex grabbed my arm; her hand felt cold.
“Chris.” Her voice was weak. “I knew you’d come for me.”
She smelled like old age and machine oil. Her skin had wrinkled just a little bit.
“I wish you could’ve seen the things that I saw,” she said. “I… You were at the Beta, weren’t you? I think I remember you.”
“The things I saw, Chris. I… Everything. I was playing almost all of the NPCs in the game. I was everyone, all at once. And game time moved so much quicker than real-world time. Hundreds of years… I was Panopticon. I was The Rose Sage, and The Thorn Sage, and all the rest… It was… It was magical.”
“We were looking for you,” I said. “We were worried about you.”
“I’m fine.” She coughed. “I just… I’m so proud of everything that happened. AI was never the way forward. But amplifying human brains artificially was. Having proved that this technology works… There’s so much potential, so much ability to teach other people.”
“Your game is… something.” How else could I describe it?
“You like the hacks I put in it?” she asked. “For you, because I knew you’d save me.”
A long silence filled the room. Despite everything, it was just so nice to be in her physical presence. I didn’t care about how she looked or how she smelled. We had a history together, and I didn’t want to let it go. I shouldn’t have to let it go.
Finally, she said, “I need you to save me, one last time.”
“Anything.” I’d proven my love before. Why not prove it again?
“There’s a table… should be on your left.”
I reached my hand out and felt the wood table.
“Yeah.” My hands explored the table’s surface.
“I did so much work for AI Corps. I really thought we were going to change the world with virtual reality and augmented reality…”
My hand felt something cold, glass. A glass phone screen. I grabbed the cellphone.
“But they betrayed me. They haven’t given me the money they owed… Trying to force me out. Guess that’s why I thought I should… should try to live in Throne Quest. I wanted escape, you know? Do you see?”
My hand had landed on another object — cold metal. Made my pulse pound. It was a gun. Felt small. Probably a pocket pistol.
“Without the money… The money they owe me, Chris…”
The words had trouble coming out. Somehow, they made it. “What’s the gun for?”
“For your protection. The phone will explain. I just need you to complete the quest, Alex. Complete the quest and… and… We’ll finally be together.”
I sat there for long moments, not saying anything. The rat wheel spun and my eyes still hadn’t gotten used to the dimness of the room, which was only ameliorated by the not-so-helpful red light.
“I…” I’d felt a hole in my chest for so many years. I’d felt it when I told my mother I was trans, and she’d disowned me. I felt it whenever I walked somewhere and saw the way people stared at me.
So many people were against me. But when I was with Alex, things felt… right. I needed something to believe in, so I believed in her.
She needed money to finance her goals, to finance her creations of the future? She’d been wronged, and she needed me to right those wrongs?
I grabbed the gun. “I’ll complete the quest. I’ll… it’ll all be over soon.”
Back at the parking lot, I looked at the phone and saw that an app was already open. Blood Reign: Mobile Apocalypse was the title, as I saw in the upper left hand corner. It had a GPS Map.
I made my way to the car, going through the usual struggle to get in. Without a second’s hesitation, the car’s GPS picked up the app’s GPS map. The car door closed, I buckled in, and the car began to move.
Whereas before the drive had seemed incredibly slow, here it flashed by in almost an instant. I felt like I should have questions, and my emotions did feel jumbled. But ultimately, I knew the truth: All you have to do is finish the mission.
On the bottom of the phone screen, the small text box said: Follow the line. That’s just what my car did.
It dropped me off at the front of a huge skyscraper in the middle of downtown. I got out, phone in one hand cane in the other. The gun felt heavy in my pocket.
As soon as I walked through the door, the phone said, “Downloading Currency…”
Currency at 15%
I held my breath. Was that all it took? Was that all I needed to do in order to complete the mission?
“Hey, you!” the guard at the front desk yelled. There was no one else in the lobby. “What are you doing here?”
My phone buzzed. A text screen popped up, saying: Kill the Troll.
I raised the phone so that it’s camera pointed at the guard. The image on the phone looked almost exactly like the area I’d been looking at. But instead of showing a guard seated at the front desk, it showed a troll: an ugly green brute, with his lower jaw sticking out too much, exposing his ugly teeth.
I took the gun out of my pocket. On the phone screen, it looked like the tip of arrow.
I shot the gun; the arrow flew towards the guard.
The arrow pierced through his neck. I put the phone down, and saw that he was dead.
Currency at 30%
My heart was racing, but I told myself that I was calm. All you have to do is complete the mission.
I smiled. That made things simple.
Another text box opened up.
Get into the elevator.
I walked towards the elevator and pressed the button. I got in.
Go the top floor.
I pressed the button to the 50th floor. The elevator closed. It began ascending.
Currency at 45%
My mind felt empty.
We hit the 50th floor, and the elevator door opened. I got out.
Currency at 60%
Another text box opened up, Walk down the hallway and open the last door on the left.
I walked down the hallway. Most of the offices were empty, and it was only then that I realized it was night outside.
One of the offices wasn’t empty though. I could see inside before I got to the door, because of the glass window that looked out into the hall. None of them noticed me.
I opened the door.
The text box said: Kill The Kings.
Five kings sat at the boardroom. I made sure to look at them through the screen of my phone and only through the screen of my phone. It was easier that way.
I raised my gun/arrow and shot.
“Wh–” an arrow ripped through one of the king’s skulls, knocking his crown off.
Currency at 75%
I let loose more arrows, each releasing with a loud bang.
The kings didn’t have much time to do anything. One of them began standing up before I shot two arrows in his chest.
The third king got an arrow in his neck.
The fourth king got two in the back.
The fifth king, though… I couldn’t find him.
Currency at 90%
I looked away from my phone. The scene looked much bloodier than it had through the screen of my phone. I turned my gaze back towards the screen.
I heard a whimper from underneath the board room table. I looked down and saw the last king, his crown barely still set on his head.
I shot my last arrow.
All Kings Killed.
I held my breath, waiting for the phone to say it. The elevator opened up; cops, I’m assuming.
Currency at 100%
Boots stomped down the hallway.
You completed the mission, Chris! You’re my hero. ❤
Cops were pointing their guns at me, and I smiled. I’d completed the mission.
The cops were yelling at me, but that didn’t matter.
I was Alex’s hero.