He vanishes, almost instantly channeling me the server code for the game. I jack into his server, and the console spits data like poker chips, scrolling, compiling, loading... The game wakes up like a neon tube, jamming swords of clashing light into my vision receptors. Physics bust me out of my weightlessness and ambient noise hangs around me like a ghost. A slight breeze stirs me, though it does nothing to the wide, ugly pixels surrounding me, that give texture to a dismal world of crude polygons.
“Let’s get it over with,” I say, hefting a floating double barreled shotgun from where it spins in dizzy circles two feet above the ground. LaPierre is one for the classics, but seeing a dinosaur egg like this coded into metareality gives me a migraine.
I start forward. Never been any damn good at these things; they have more to do with how well you concentrate on what you want to do that how well you do it. Scapegeeks sometimes forget—you see them standing like apes in the middle of the street, thinking like hell that they want to cross it, and then bam, one less neuron junkie to clutter the Verse.
I catch onto the movement pretty quick—When I run it’s too fast, like an Olympic athlete jacked with a liter of steroids. The shotgun’s a shitty piece of work—two silver cylinders for the barrel, and a grip at the back that turns into brown fog if you try to look at it too close. My Phantom’s some kind of blocky military guy, face fixed into an eternal constipated snarl, fingers thick as bratwurst.
“Here I come, you French bastard.” I step around a corner.
I’m barely aware of my body toppling. Whoever remodeled this prehistoric piece of shit for VR wasted all his effort upgrading the model damage—I can see chunks of my head bouncing away across the floor. A scoreboard flashes for a moment.
“Damn,” I mutter, as I respawn. This time there’s no weapon around. I run down a gray corridor, see some kind of huge quadruple-barreled machine gun sitting on top of a block of stone with some Godawful red texturing that somebody once thought looked like blood. I clamber up on top, and grab the weapon.
This time it takes me a full ten seconds to realize what happened. Some kind of goddamn trap. The block flew up and smashed me all over the ceiling. The scoreboard flashes again.
This is pissing me off. I respawn, charge into a dark room and see a weapon bobbing at its center. Some kind of crude rocket launcher. As I start toward it, I see Aimé’s model—a French Revolution soldier in full regalia, come charging in the opposite direction.
“Oh hell no,” I grunt, and charge towards the rocket launcher. It’s impossible to tell who’s closer. We’re both running at full speed, but we’re capped out by the physics of the game, so all that it really comes down to is who was closer when the running started.
And apparently it’s him. He grabs the weapon and it’s instantly equipped, glaring in my face. With my pistol, I’ve got no chance. Aimé’s model, so crisp and out of place in this environment of grossly bloated pixels, smiles.
“What vas this about zee French? Looks like maybe I make you eat your words, mon ami.”
“Well, hell with you,” I say, and I activate my console.
Actioncode spins dizzily in front of me—I’ve got shit talent in coding, but it interprets my mental commands and does the hard part for me. Two seconds of scrolling code and my program’s done. It loads.
A battle tank drops into the level next to me. In an instant I’m inside. Aimé’s rocket launcher goes off, and an explosion of yellow and red pixels paints the front of my tank. I hit the gas. Aimé turns and tries to run, but the tank bears him down, treads mashing through him like a ripe tomato.
The scoreboard flashes.
Damn straight. But I’m getting sick of this, so I jack out, and find him waiting for me. The bastard doesn’t look the least perturbed—in fact he’s grinning.
“Your Actioncode is horrible!”
“So was your outfit.”
He lets out a long peal of laughter.
“Well, mon ami! It seems you have some skill after all—even if you must cheat now. If you vish I could train you for avhile, maybe we play some other games? It vill improve your MetaScape reflexes greatly—and trust me, you need it.”
Hell, I’d come this far. There was money in VR games, if you were any good. But I was in the middle of a case, and that message was waiting.
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Sorry, Aimé. You’re gonna have to find another ami for this one.”