There I stood, looking out over the town, wind rustling the tall grass beside me. The sounds of everyday life swirled and combined with the movement of the wind, bringing with it the smells of cooking fires and dust. My eyes caught flashes of movement from the glistening lake, next to the town, as fish jumped for their dinner. The smell of apples suddenly broke through the smells of the town, filling the air with sweetness and tang. Laughter and happy tones of children joined the medley, while the clattering sounds of horse hooves added dissonant undertones. From my perch on top of the cliff, the town seemed so perfect, so serene. The magic spell of the warm summer evening and the soft whisperings of a cool breeze beckoned for me to relax and maybe take a nap.
Yet, I could not. For this was not my world. Not my town.
I watched the scene below me with no more than a mild feeling of annoyance. “Where are you, you funcher?” My annoyance only grew at the censorship of the swear. “Really Abe? Funcher?”
A voice broke into the com in my ear, “Hey man, can’t have the Designer know you are here. Gotta put a lid on that mouth of yours somehow.”
“Duck it Abe, leave my translator alone.” Again annoyed by the change.
“Look, if you want to go spewing your profanity all over a level one realm go right ahead, don’t come crying to me when the Designer shows up to kick you out of their realm.”
“Shins.” I looked back down at the all too perfect peaceful town my annoyance growing to a dull rage. “Abe, have you tracked down where that funch…I mean, protovariant went?”
My eyes scanned the town for irregularities, but nothing seemed out of place. Everything seemed to be fine and dandy in the Synthetic World of Ur, but all of Abe and my scans showed that in fact, nothing was right.
“I am picking up a small sign of variance in the second house, next to the lake. Everything else looks normal, no other warnings are going off.” I heard a loud bang and then Abe continued, “Though with this piece of carp gear the Leadership gave us, I could be missing something. Looks to just be a level two, but I would be cautious, just in case.”
I sighed and looked down at the house, Abe mentioned. I switched on my retina-display and began to scan, which always gave me a mild headache. Code flashed before my eyes in patterns too quick for me to read or distinguish. Finally, the display flashed, “All simulations paused. You are clear to proceed Mr. Mayweather.”
“Finally,” I grumbled as I leaped off the cliff. I landed at the bottom with no injuries or ill effects. Why would there be any, when this whole world was now on pause, including its damage counter.
I headed towards the second house by the lake. My retina-display informed me that it was the house that belonged to the character Master Grim, an NPC in this world. Meaning, I was not going to need to deep sleep a PC. I followed the dirt road towards the lake, my shoes making no noise and kicking up no dust. The only noise now was the quiet hum coming from my com with Abe, and the soft whirr of my retina-display. Paused NPCs, posed in various positions, were scattered around the road. Some were entering houses, while others were waving to others. I always get an eerie feeling when I walk by paused NPCs. I am not sure why, maybe it is because of the lack of sound or life in their paused faces. Or maybe it is the fact that all of these are someone else’s playthings and I am viewing another human’s “perfect world.” A world where if the Designer knew I was wandering around in, would make for a very unpleasant interaction. People don’t like strangers wandering around in their perfect worlds, which is why it is my job to keep protovariants, or not invited people, out of these dreamlands.
I pulled the door open and my display gave me a quick overview of the room, along with a brief history of the owner of the house.
“It seems that Master Grim has been removed from this part of his world.” I looked over the dusty and unused furniture, “Or he had to run without packing anything.”
Abe could see what I could see through my retina-display and he responded, “This could be why the protovariant chose to hide there. Looks like the Designer has not looked over this house in a while.” I could hear keyboard keys clicking in my com. “It has been over a year since the Designer has even looked up or mentioned Master Grim.”
“Shin, sounds like a perfect hideout to me.” I ignored the translator change. I stepped into the dark and dusty room. At first, it seemed to just be another period piece house, full of world appropriate items and creations. Yet, as I worked my way into the back of the house warnings began to appear on my display.
“Abe, it looks like we have a Shifter,” I stated as I looked at all the items crammed into the back of the house. Shifters, were black market sellers who took items or ideas from one world and then sold or pawned them in another. Their influence could cause a drastic change or even cause the permanent closure of a Synthetic World.
“Do you see them?” Abe tried to hide the excitement in his voice. “Did they leave behind a realm portal?”
I glanced around the rest of the house which was normal. “No, just the items are left behind.”
“Ah, well, I guess collect them and then we can be done.” The disappointment was heavy in Abe’s voice. I knew why Abe wanted to go down in history as one of those great Leadership heroes and nabbing a Shifter was a good first step towards that goal.
I just wanted to be paid.
“Want to send in a box? I think I am going to need a big one for all of this shins…junk.” I sighed and switched off my retina-display. A box appeared in the living room of the house. I started moving the illegal items into it. Most were pretty normal, chairs made out of different types of metal, knives which were enchanted with curses, and some foreign food, most likely from a deep fantasy world.
“What the heel, would you look at that,” I exclaimed as a pulled a six-foot sword out from under a pile of pots and pans.
“You switched off your display, I can’t look at it,” Abe exclaimed
I turned my retina-display again so Abe could see the sword.
“Wow,” He whistled, “Now that’s a sword.”
I turned the sword over in my hands and looked at the inscription running down the blade. Men became like gods and destruction reigned, the world was twisted and recreated again. So was born the Shadows Bane. I switched my display off again and hefted the sword. The whole blade was almost longer than the house was tall.
“I wonder how much a custom item like that fetches on the black market,” Abe said in awe.
“Thousands.” I answered, “Maybe tens of thousands. You know those fantasy clicks love overpowered items like this.”
“Huh, I think I am in the wrong job. I should have been a Shifter.” Abe bemoaned.
I laughed and slid the sword into the box. “Yeah, sometimes I feel that way too.”
I moved the rest of the items into the box. There was nothing of interest in the rest of the items, most were just furniture and house adorning items. Most would barely bring in a profit on the black market. It seemed that the sword was the only real thing of value in the whole pile. I took a quick look around the rest of the house and everything else seemed to be in order. Now when or if the Designer returned to this house there would be nothing but the dust and furniture that should be there.
“I am all done here Abe. Get me out of this heel hole.” Silence filled the com.
“Duck it Abe, what is the holdup?”
Nothing but static and silence filled my com.
“Abe? Now is not the time to be funching with me. I have a heel of a headache and I would like to leave now.”
“Um, I can’t bring you back,” Abe finally responded.
“What do you mean you can’t?” I practically screamed.
“Hold on man, the Leadership is sending me the reason now.” Abe disappeared again.
I waited, cursing in censored words, as I waited for Abe to return.
“So, you are not going to like this.” Abe’s voice practically whispered, “turn on your display again. They are telling me not to talk to you, but I don’t understand why. It has something to do with that sword. I can’t….I will get back…run!”
I switched on my retina-display, only to be blinded by a wall of text. “What the heel is this Abe?” My headache pounded as the words flew by my eyes. Finally, my eyes caught up with the moving text.
“What the funch, Abe. Why does it say I have a warrant out for my arrest? What did the Leadership say to you?”
Suddenly the world rumbled and shook. I grabbed onto a nearby chair to stop myself from falling over. “Abe?” I called out, but no answer came.
“Heel, Abe. Come on man. What is going on?” I called out, but no answer came on my com. The only noise I could hear was coming from outside the house. Yet, this world was paused. There should not be any noise at all, other than me and my… “No way,” I exclaimed. I went to one of the windows and looked out. Life had returned to normal as the NPCs began moving and talking again.
“No funnching way, Abe! Come on Abe! Get me out of here! This is not funny!” I blinked and my retina-display blinked out, taking with it the wall of text from the Leadership. “For the love of…come on! Drain it Abe, what is going on!”
My com crackled to life once more, “Get out of there! The Designer is coming…” Abe’s voice cut in and out. “Leadership….wants me to abandon….you have been set up!”
“What! Why?” I roared at the ceiling. I didn’t care if the NPCs heard me outside, I was furious.
“Sword must have…run Maverick…I…find you…hacking.” Abe’s voice went silent. My heart pounded in my head. This was wrong, very, very wrong. The Leadership didn’t just send out arrest warrants for no reason. Abe was right, I had been set up, but by who? And why? I glanced around the house, the box was still there, but for who knew how long. I reached back into it and pulled out the sword. Abe had mentioned the sword, which means it had to be connected to this situation.
I held the sword as the box disappeared in front of me. “Duck it!” I yelled at no one. “What the heel is going on! Why was I left in this Synthetic World?” I rubbed my temple trying to lessen the pounding headache. My shouting must have attracted attention outside because I heard a knock on the front door of the house.
“Shins, now I am really in trouble.” I placed the sword on my back and auto commanded, “Attach.” The sword formed a sheath and straps which attached themselves to my clothing. “Thank goodness for those fantasy clicks and their need for auto commands.” I tapped my on button for my retina-display, but nothing appeared.
Pounding began on the door to the house, and frantic voices began calling out “Fire! Fire!”
Flabbergasted, I watched as the house around me began to be engulfed in flames. Flames which spawned out of nowhere and had no smell of smoke or heat to them. I watched the flames move up and over the furniture of the house. I moved to the back of the house where a window looked out towards the lake. The bulk of the fire was at the front of the house, so most of the NPCs were there throwing buckets of water upon the flames. I climbed out of the window, careful not to catch the sword on anything. As I moved away from the house, the flames suddenly produced heat and I could smell the smoke.
“Abe you sly dog. You self-edited someone else’s world.” I exclaimed as the flames began to char and burn the house to the ground.
I headed towards the lake. I needed to find a place where I could stay out of the way of this world’s Designer, and where Abe could contact me again and tell me what was going on.
Bells and alarms rang out as the fire began to spread to the other houses, but I turned my back on the chaotic display and headed into the lake.
Synthetic Worlds have similar physics to the real world, unless they are switched off or changed. This adds to the creative possibilities for the Designers who owned the Synthetic World. The Designers have to pay more for these possibilities, but this world is only a level one realm, meaning that all physics were the same as real-world physics. So when I reached the water and stepped into it, I expected to feel the water around my boots. But, I had to quickly remove my feet from the water, the water was burning my boots right off my feet.
“Duck it!” I frantically kicked my boots off and watched them melt into small puddles. “Great, just great. This day is just getting better and better. Who the funch makes acid lakes? In a realm one world? And why is the censorship of my words still working, but not my com!?!” I raged.
After trying out some other choice words and having them censored too, I glanced down at the remains of my boots and sighed. “Duck, I really liked those boots.” I shifted my weight, my bare feet aching on the sharp lakeside rocks. I glanced back at the town, but smoke and haze obscured most of the buildings.
There was a forest on the far side of the lake, I couldn’t tell how far away it was without my display, but it looked close enough to walk to before night fell in this world. That is if night did fall here. After the lake water being acid, I was no longer sure this was a realm one world.