Wendy had almost run to her room after classes. She resented that her parents still actually made her physically go to school, especially when it was not a liberal affectation for a lot of the other kids. They had no choice but Dad did something for Plastic Thinking, one of the big media corporations which meant they had access to global online learning programmes that she could do from home. Free subscriptions for her games, too.
Her parents saw right through it, told her that she would spend all damned day in that stupid game.
They had to say it was stupid even though Wendy had caught her parents playing 2-D beat em ups on a console emulator streamed through to the plasma. She would watch her Dad let his wife win, even though he had an adolescence feeding coins into machines for long, skilled sessions at Street Fighter and Soul Calibur.
Wendy had earned the money for her rig from working summers at a franchise coffee shop and built it herself, learning how to put it all together.
She forced herself through an hour of homework before grabbing a can of protein shake from the fridge and getting herself set up.
Eternal War was a MMORPG that used Biblical imagery and characters. It was this way because a very rich consortium of mega churches wanted to get in on the action and the developer knew that once the players got in, they would spend massive amounts of time tearing the place apart and rebuilding it in their own images.
Wendy had subscribed to it after London At Night started to crack down on the PVP servers, which was where she always liked to hang out when she was playing. She had tried Stone Gods, but that was just a pit for trolls who kept asking her how big her tits were. She would whip out her Scorpion Whip and atomise them before moving to another server before their death animation had even finished.
Eternal War was not her first choice, but she had come to realise that the game was fantastic.
You chose between three forces, Seraphim, Demonic Choir and Human. Each had different abilities and weaknesses, started off in different territories and developed along specialist paths.
Then you started playing and did whatever you wanted.
Wendy had started as a Seraphim, a Cherub because their base healing rate was the best starting attribute to go in with and she soon worked out how to be herself here. She was a caregiver, and her gaming reflected that.
It also meant that she could go into any group and be welcome. Like being the popular kid in school, which was something that she wasn’t sure she wanted in real life. Georgia Keene was popular and all it had done to her was sent her off to a clinic in Santa Cruz last summer and come back to start at a different school.
Mr Sumner had not come back after the summer break either. He had been Wendy and Georgia’s tutor for English. Wendy had liked him, he had been a gamer in his time, more Morrowind and Monkey Island than the faster, harder pace of gaming that had become the norm.
Wendy put the thought aside as she logged in and started the treadmill. It was round and moved in all directions, which was what she did for cardio. On the sports field, she was awkward and self-conscious, but as soon as she strapped on her wings, she became a power athlete.
Heaven rushed to embrace her with open arms.
She had her own base of operations, a cloud palace that allowed her to have a mobile save point and she awoke, watching the heads up display slide into being, showing her health statistics, available powers and equipment. A small map in the lower left corner of her eyeline showed a small swarm of red dots surrounding a green dot.
The red dots were not necessarily other players. The servers all housed a variety of inventively nasty flora and fauna, all pitched to the kind of aggression that it normally took ingesting bath salts to achieve. She felt for the green dot, shrugged her perfect, broad shoulders and leapt into the air.
Cherubs were not great in the air, but Wendy had farmed for a Harness of Virtue that boosted her to Principality levels of velocity. She had figured out from all her other games that it was better to offer something that a party lacked, rather than more of what they already had.
She saw it as falling with style as she swept over the hills and forest of Eternity, drawing her Blessing Blade, looking for whoever the green dot was.
She pulled up, hovering as she looked down into the ravine.
He was eight feet tall, with diamond skin, a bear’s head sat on a physique that verged on parody, swinging a two handed war hammer on the head of a Bone Ape, who had appeared as part of the latest expansion pack, which introduced new enemies and character classes. There were twenty or more of them surrounding the diamond bear.
Diamond Bear, she chuckled. She had been practical about her gaming; it was how she drew the most enjoyment from her time, but she enjoyed the variety of expression that was on offer.
She was learning that courage for herself.
The Bone Apes were smarter than most of the random enemies on offer. They worked together to overpower lone players or picked at raiding parties who would be occupied with a raid boss. She had been hoping they would not start appearing in Eternity, but people wanted the challenge.
The Diamond Bear, on his own, would probably last another two rounds before they took him down. Death was not permanent, more an irritation, which struck Wendy as being pretty zen. No, it meant that you lost whatever you last picked up and had to start back at your last save.
She pointed her blessing blade and spoke an Enochian healing spell, sending a bolt of white lightning into him. He threw his arms back and roared as his diamond fur, composed of perfect shards of crystal, stood on end and she watched hearts rise into the air as his hit points rose.
THANK YOU 🙂
The message came through on the public channel.
She had shut down her chat channel after a few too many insults and come ons. She had considered changing to a male avatar or even one of the neuter options, but she liked her avatar. Her achievements and powers had all been earned through hours of play, reflected her passion
NP she replied.
WANT TO TEAM UP? THERE’S A NIHIL NEARBY, I’M FARMING FOR SPECTRAL BONES.
He gave her a thumbs up as he roared and charged towards the rest of the apes. One of them leapt at him, its fangs glistening with black saliva as it threw fast, savage blows at him and he stepped to one side and drove the hammer up into its gut, breaking its back as it fell to the grass, twitching and gasping.
Wendy kept firing spells at him, keeping his hit points up and buffering his attributes so he did more damage with each blow and resisted their attacks on him. He moved faster, delivering strikes of such velocity that the last few apes exploded into grisly blossoms of fur and meat before his fury.
She took out five with a spell that drew their health and allowed it to heal herself, but she had not taken a single blow since coming to his aid.
The last ape exploded and the diamond bear looked over his shoulder.
NOT A TALKER, HUH?
LET’S FIND THE NIHIL.
She spent all day listening to people, other kids, moving between fear and sympathy for other people. Here, she wanted it to be all about the action.
He ran and she flew over him. She spotted another pack of Bone Apes and they made short work of them using Prayers of Smiting, the game’s equivalent of hand grenades before they found the Nihil.
Nihils were rifts in the territories across the game. They served as entrances to a plane of existence dominated by the forces of Entropy, which served as the new ongoing faction in the game. There was a lot of good gear to be found down there. I gathered by his gear that he was actually a human, using the Smithing skill to make his own weapons and armour.
I went to type but it would take too long so I rolled my eyes and activated the chat channel.
‘So, what character class are you? You don’t have any icon information.’
I heard him breathe.
‘I’m playing a human this time around. Tried Demonic Choir at first, which was pretty cool, but the higher level perks suck when you’re playing with other people.’
‘I would have stuck with Stone Gods if I wanted that sort of character.’
He chuckled, a rich sound that made me aware that only part of me was here.
‘God yes, shame though as that had a brilliant background. Elemental parliaments, and the combat mechanism was brilliant. I played it a lot last summer when I was ill.’
The sky above them turned an infected purple and jagged bolts of lightning struck the ground.
‘What happened?’ Wendy said.
They leapt into the Nihil together.
A thousand eyes glowed baleful in the fog before them.
‘Had a bit of a bad time, bit of a breakdown.’
Diamond Bear drew his war-hammer and roared his defiance into the depths of the cave.
‘Yes, I’ve been there too.’
Wendy cast a Principality Blessing on him, and he glowed from within as he charged forward.
‘The apathy demon sent its tentacles ahead of it as it drew a pair of curved blades, its mouth too full with razor sharp teeth. Diamond Bear threw his war hammer in an upwards curve and brought the hammer into its jaw, making the skull burst like a balloon before he caught and redirected it to take a Fear Servant in the face before it could activate the poison sacs underneath its arms.
He turned around and looked at her.
‘Are you better now?’
She wondered what he looked like, beneath the armour and the strength.
‘Yeah, I think so. I’m Wendy.’
‘Hi Wendy, I’m Brian.’
They kept fighting. They always would, and after the plane tickets and the breathless conversations in the early hours, they knew what it was they were fighting for.