27 January c. 706: 40mg Pomegranate Quaalude
Our man is locked in now at ~200 hp. Here we have him, on-monitor, in forest, observing the High-Def. butterflies. He can't believe it, is the consensus. In the tank, in his chair, with headset glowing over eyes and wired glove onhand reaching outward (which in turn registers on the room's massive display screen's first-person PoV as his own digitized hand reaching outward before him toward the winged things), he is engrossed. Here he is opening the satchel in-program onscreen and removing a golden revolver. This can be a little tricky. Designer Marty Pools is operating Distending Landscape on his own tiny monitor in the programming aisle closest to the room's massive display screen, where a group of entry-level virtual technicians is scrawling and cross-checking notes on the Subject’s physical vital signs’ correlation to his in-program vital signs, which thus far it seems there is none. Des. Ham Dickey and Des. Rudolf Pence confer privately via telephone with their hands cupped around the receivers from opposite sides of the room. Something to do with determining who’s responsible for putting a golden revolver in the satchel, apparently. This as onscreen the Subject begins aiming down-sights at various floating flapping butterflies. The room’s tone is weary. Several of the Designers from Des. Pool’s team are scrambling around over at Programming, trying to calculate the accurate amount of xp the act of shooting a butterfly affords the Subject after it’s been confirmed the butterflies’ Class-Ranking has not been allotted in the code. Someone says “damn” rather loudly as a loud flash issues onscreen at room’s fore and a small blue butterfly wilts downward in two separate pieces like glossy paper. The SPoV follows their descent into the grass. Des. Dickey slams the phone’s handset down and marches out of the room. Someone says “damn” again: the Subject is holding a magnifying glass from the satchel to observe the detail of the butterfly-specimen’s bullet bisection. Some of the operators typing stop typing and emit glazed stares at the screen at fore. The operators over at Subject Stability are glad-handing, passing around advertorial brown-paper-bags of Taco Bell™, extricating burritos and hard-shell tacos in advertorial wax-paper-wrapping and gorging themselves audibly: all vital-signs read NORMAL on the wellness monitor. Des. Pools wrings his hands as a white square begins strobing onscreen from the far-East quadrant. Every time the Subject’s radar reaches the square, the radar buzzes red for a moment. According to the Ref. Key on p. 148 of the Distending Landscape binder, the white square designates DANGER, and nothing more is said about it. Marty pulls his headset down to his neck and looks over to Des. Pence at the aisles’ rear, whose pink martini glass is now void of everything but two impaled green olives on a single toothpick. They make eye-contact. Marty drips facially. Pence belches loudly and walks down past Flora and Fauna to Distending Landscape, where the white square on red-blinking monitor inches closer and closer to the subject’s green-circle designation. “’S that?” / “You don’t know?” / “Shut—[hiccup]—the fuck up and tell me.” / “DANGER, is what the binder said.” Pence slides the olives off the toothpick with his teeth and chews and swallows all in one motion. “Probly just a bug. These sorts of radar glitches happen from time to time.” Then comes the rumbling. The SPoV turns from the butterfly, still in-mag.-glass, to look up at a magnified series of trees which quiver and tumble, indications of an approaching thing. Everyone goes silent. The subject does a 360° survey, inchair intank onscreen, stopping once more on the trees (which now it’s become apparent from their increasingly proximal tumbling the thing or what-have-you has gotten very close, such that while the Subject carefully replaces the mag. glass and pulls the revolver back out of the satchel and looks up, there it is: … the Clam Queen. A nacreous open clam-shell with four hirsute legs holds aloft on a pink bed a pearl-garlanded blond maiden whose floating stringlets of hair glint in the HD UV-rays of the program’s blinking Graphics-Processing-Units whose inbuilt fans hum tirelessly and echo white-noisomely at by the tank’s motherboard. A pencil falls audibly from the drooling lips of an eye-bulging open-jawed Des. Nathaniel Lanath, over in Fauna. “O shit,” someone says. Code Junkies M and S and now madly typing, attempting to locate a misplaced integer in the vast stream of stochastic code trickling down-monitor. A petite MGMT Des. with black-label lanyard keels over as the wellness monitor at Subject Stability goes black and then reads: SUBNORMAL (-35% SURVIVAL RATE). For a time the monitor’s indication doesn’t register—people with crumbs of beef and lettuce smeared around their lips attempting to hold the MGMT Des. up whilst an overtired beta-coder pours 96 °C coffee onto his groin and exclaims “FUCK!” and falls out of his wheely-chair onto an off-clock beta-coder’s small Lego™ township just as said BC is placing a plastic clapper into the final bell of an intricate miniature carillon operated by small steam-powered organ (in buttressed township’s church’s ornately decorated vestibule) and thin fishing wires and pulleys), delineating two loci of attention and urgency—until, after a shrieking pointing Program Operator indicates the fore screen, all eyes look to what manifests on the screen as a bubbly purple vignette and the Clam Queen’s singing onmic inclam and the Subject’s hand’s gun's slow 180° rotation inward, bullet-vector to skull. “What the fuck’s going on?!” Pence says. The off-clock BC grasps at the fragments of his little Lego™ world and heaves and bawls as a group of four or five medical attendees begins attending to the injured BC and then reordinancing themselves such that two of them are sent to deal with the keeled MGMT Des., who’s now been laid opine upon someone’s dismantled workstation in Flora; why it had to be Flora is what most of the Flora designers are so exercised about having answered. Some of them actually pull at their hair and make broad gestures with their arms in confused exclamation at the Subject Stability designers who’ve come over and laid her down, something along the lines of intercompany political bullshit and the albatross of the overworked Des. groups who have to pick up the slack of the lazier ostensibly less-competent ass-kissers of Subject Stability. This resolves as a brief fistfight broken up by a burly unarmed Security staffer who inadvertently slugs a whining Flora Des. amid all the bustling, which evokes cheer from the SSDs on their side of the split upper aisles, which in turn causes the incursion of several retaliatory blows from the FDs such that now it is an all-out brawl—Flora Des. peons at Security staffer; Security staffer at the FDs (à la Ali’s uppercut modality); SSDs at FDs; FDs at nearby SSDs; a small Mohican janitor at some of the more redolent SSDs in the SS quadrant for no apparent reason; etc.—all while the golden sun-sheening revolver onscreen continues to turn: 90°, 130°, 150°, 170°… BANG! Everyone is silent again. The screen’s bloodied background is overlaid with bulging 3D text which reads GAME OVER in neon pink. The wellness monitor is a flat-lining drone. The Subject in his tank is reclined angelically with a halo of blood pooling from his skull in drops down the chair’s cushioned midsection. The medical attendees freeze; two of them drop the unconscious MGMT Des. with a thud. Pence issues the word “fuck” at least twelve times in succession, with varying intonations. The audio is pulled and the Clam Queen’s dreamy song begins piping through the room’s wall’s inbuilt speakers: Lalala, lala / Lalalalalala, lala / LALALALALALA, lala, lala… This as CJ M begins explaining to Pence in personal-space-delimiting-proximity a line of code S located which apparently a coder involved in the beta-stage put there, which is headed CLAM QUEEN and which materializes a mythical monster—the one onscreen, still, singing—whose music causes the in-game listener’s PC to turn its attack on itself should it attempt to harm it. The room is evacuated and the Authorities are called and most everyone takes a cigarette break. Des. Pools can be seen with his head in his elbows outside by the FDs, who’ve formed a huddle concealing whispers of departmental strike and company treason. Some of them speak with visible conviction: fist-in-palm, deliberate, urgent. Most of the SSDs have gone on lunch-break to get company-paid drinks at a slimy bar uptown. Pence undergoes a verbal surfeit of expletive-suffused castigatory diatribe which manifests as wa-waa, wa-wa-waa-wa, wa-wa wa through his handset’s transmitter; he can no longer even hear the words. Then the lens begins rising, floating up, way up, above it all, such that the sirens and dense whispers and wa-waa wa-waa and D. Pool’s quiet void selfspeak and idle shattering pink martini glass onstreet all shrink into pale blue dots of sensation: smaller, smaller still, until finally: windsound: floating light.