Living Arcade Machine Discovered in Redmond
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Living Arcade Machine Discovered in Redmond
Lex Cortez, 2080-11-17
The Redmond Riot
What's up, chumps? Did you hear about the '30s-style arcade that just opened up in the barrens? 'Cause I sure did. Been the talk of the 'trix for a couple days, some moldy old joint in the middle of fragging nowhereville. Even been a clown driving around in one of those political campaign trucks with the speakers, advertising for it like a carnival barker. Well, word on the street has it you can play these VR games there, even if you don't have your own sim mod and trodes. You just pay a little fee, and bam! Like being on a BTL, almost, but it won't get you hooked as easy, and you don't need to drill a hole in your head. That's neat, 'cause I know this guy in the Red Hot Nukes who had a street doc give him a used datajack, and it ended up giving him encephalitis.
So I did a couple lines of novacoke and made my way there, right? Gotta stay sharp if I wanna beat these games, see. The place has this sign set up, made out of neon letters stolen from different storefronts around town. They look like a patchwork quilt if you sewed it out of glowing string. It says, "Electronic Illusions." Fancy-ass name, I know. People back in the '30s were all over VR 'cause it was so new to them. We live VR every day now, but most people back then had to get out of their house and go to a place like this if they wanted to see it. So the place played into that expectation, right? Electronic Illusions. I could see it used to be sleek and shine, but the walls are dusty and stained with mildew now. Chunks fallen out of the ceiling, swept aside by some gangers doing their best to clean the place up. I saw it all as I walked in, the way it caught the warm, blue glow of the screens.
In the middle of the room was the big rig, a server farm that (can you believe it) was *running a host.* Like, not even virtual. Hardware. It had all these chairs with trode net caps you put on, and then it would put you into the game with a team. The thing was called, "Polybius 2." From what I read, it was named after an old legend about an arcade cabinet in Portland from 100 years ago that the US government used to mind control kids. Whoever made this must've built on the hype. I saw this screen with the FBI seal, and it said, "WINNERS DON'T USE DRUGS." It was around then I'd realized the novacoke had kicked in. Also on the screen was a piece of paper with a brain in a bowl hastily drawn on it along with the words, "CHEATERS WILL BE SUBJECT TO BRAIN SOUP SYNDROME!" I think that loud clown said something like that too. Maybe he wrote this.
Anyway, I slotted my credstick and played the game. It was fraggin' tough, and it felt like I was actually there. Way more real than any BTL I've ever done. I was on a team with these two gangers and some twitchy fragger who kept giggling. The first level was this battlefield where we had to get our way to a flag on the other side. I was pretty good at it, and the rush of novacoke helped. The gangers sprayed and prayed, which was pretty effective since we had infinite ammo in there. The twitchy kid had this sniper rifle and kept getting headshots. Little creep. Well, the next level was this obstacle course, and none of us knew how to dance around the swinging axes and ropes over acid pits to make it to the other side. That's when the twitchy kid did... something. He like, pulled up this file and tried to smash the lock off, but he couldn't do it. That's when I saw him: Cabinet Man. An angry wire-frame god came down from the sky and struck the kid with a bolt of lightning, knocking him out of the game. He spoke in this loud, echoing voice, Cabinet Man. He said, "This is what happens to cheaters. Let this be a lesson." Then he floated back up in the sky like it was nothing. We finished a few more levels without him, but eventually we got overwhelmed by the AI.
I was pretty sore coming out of the machine. Gangers looked a bit stiff too. The kid, though - he wasn't looking so good. There was blood dripping from his nose, his eyes were rolled back into his head, and there was a drekton of blood coming out of his mouth. His teeth were stained red. There was a puddle on the floor at his feet, where I saw a chunk of something. I leaned down to give it a poke, and it was soft and bumpy. That's when I figured out it was a chunk of his tongue. One of the gangers wanted to go, but his friend started yelling at the machine about how it was just a game. It spoke back to him, saying, "This machine is my body. Wouldn't you shoot back at someone who tried to poke around in your brain?" That shut him up, and they left. A janitor came to get the body and mop up the blood. I told him to watch the tongue.
Found out later there was a cobbled-together cyberdeck in that kid's jacket. He was cheating, and his brain got sauteed like the sign said. I guess that's fair warning. It's about right for Redmond. I think this arcade might've found life again, just like Cabinet Man. I thought about asking to see his body behind the screen, hooked up to all those decades-old monitors and life support machines, but after seeing what he did to that kid and hearing that he had a small army of machine gun drones ready to pop out at the first sign of trouble, I thought better. I could feel myself coming down from the novacoke anyway, so I figured I'd go home while I still had the energy. I dunno if there's a lesson to be learned from all this. I guess it's "don't frag with Cabinet Man." You should go play some of the games though, they're pretty retro.