I stumbled in to Café Oblivion in a terrible mood. I still felt lingering pains from that stunt with the high priest’s dagger, and I was pissed that my character had gotten nerfed. Fuming as I was over what had happened, I accidentally bumped into someone. “Sorry” I muttered, before flinching when I realized I had no idea who it was.
“It’s fine.” Was the curt response from the guy, as he moved around me and to a table with a teenage boy. Looking around, I could see about half of the tables were taken up with people, and it was almost always an older person or two with someone in the 8 to 14 year range. What the hell was going on?
I plopped down at our usual table and asked Jon, who tended to be the most outgoing of our group. “So, what’s up with all the new people?”
“Medical testing finally got underway.” Was his simple response.
Nodding, I went through the menu and decided it was a wings and beer kinda night. The best part of this virtual café was the instant service. You typed in your order, and it went through a transporter animation like those old shows with the Enterprise. I’m talking about the good ones, with trigger happy Kirk. I just could never get behind a captain that drank tea and permitted a whiny little brat on his bridge. Either way, I got my food and dug in. By the time I had polished off the first half of my wings I was starting to pick up on the melancholy mood floating around. “So, how did things go with you guys today?”
“Don’t mind Derrick, he’s just a little mad that he got nerfed today.” Phoebe tried to lighten his response a bit.
“Him too, huh? Did the bastards at least let you know before you went out of the city?” I asked.
“Yeah, if you can call what trolls have a city. I can’t bite people’s heads off anymore. Something about it being a traumatic experience or some shit. Sounds like you got the short end of the nerf stick as well?”
“Yeah. Left the city before I got the mail notification that I can’t use mana blades on living things anymore.”
“Oh no, sounds like there’s a story there.” Phoebe cut in.
“Heh. Yep. Was fighting two rock hounds at once, and watched my lovely blades shatter against their unarmored necks. Cue the panic.” The others winced in sympathy. “So I got it, Derrick got it, what about you two?”
“Jon was fine, I got the same as you on the mana infused claws and bite. Nothing living, it isn’t fair you can shear through a joint in one bite. Didn’t even count it as a bug, so we don’t get paid for it.”
“Seriously? I didn’t even catch that part. Fuck.”
“Oh relax ya bunch of Debbie Downers.” Jon practically hissed at us. “Every class gets nerfed at some point or other. Deal with it.”
“Are you. . . jealous you didn’t get nerfed Jon?” Derrick asked.
“Hell no, it’s hard enough being a goblin as it is. I’m just sick of you three moping around while we are surrounded by these depressed people.” Jon said as he leveled a glare at each of us in particular.
“Well what do you expect hun, these people probably got told they are in some terrible medical condition today and this is how they are stuck interacting with the world for a while.”
“I know Phoebe, I know. It’s just kinda infectious.” We all sat for a while after Jon’s latest observation. I was staring at the last few uneaten wings when Jon suddenly started in his seat and got a huge smile on his face. He pulled up his interface and started furiously typing, looking around the room as he did. Derrick looked at Phoebe and me, one eyebrow lifted in confusion as we all waited for Jon to finish whatever had possessed him.
“It might. . . just. . . work! Ok, guys I need some minions. Are you willing to be the bad guy muscle to my evil overlord for a bit?” We all uncertainly agreed, not sure just what Jon had for us. “Great, head over to that clearing by the lake, I’ll join you shortly.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
This idea was madness, but it might just be what all these depressed kids needed before their funk ruined my drinking spot. I sent the group off with some vague directions, and looked around for what I needed. Off to the side I saw her, an adorable 8 year old girl with golden curls. I walked over and kneeled down next to her at the table.
“Excuse me miss, but I was wondering if you would be willing to help me and my friends out.”
“Me? What can I do?” The poor little thing said, then looked down into her lap as she twiddled her thumbs.
“Well, see my friends and I want to get everyone to play with us, but they would probably be scared of us. See the three over there? We are so much older, we look a little mean too.”
“Yeah, the girl is pretty but the grumpy guy is scary.”
“He is, isn’t he? Shh, I won’t tell him you said it if you don’t, Kay?”
“Okay. So what are we going to play?”
“Well, if your parent here?” I said as I looked at her chaperone.
“Doctor then. If your doctor agrees, we want to play rescue the princess. Do you know how to play that?” At her shaking head I continued. “Well, see my friends and I would be the bad guys, and we would have Nerf guns. We are going to put up a little castle, and have you on a balcony inside the castle.”
“Me?” She couldn’t help but interrupt.
“Well, obviously you are the adorable princess we need. So you will need to be in a pink dress, with a glowing tiara.” I said, as I sent a picture of the outfit I had found to her doctor and her. When she saw the absurd amount of ruffles on the pink dress, her eyes got as big as saucers. “Then, after we have you in our fortress, we will challenge everyone else here to come rescue you with their own Nerf guns.”
“Oooooooo.” I guess that last part didn’t sink in, as she was still staring at that dress while her doctor had an amused grin growing.
“Well Doc, is it something you approve of?”
“I’m not sure. . .” He hedged.
At his voice, her head spun to lock him in her sights. “I. Want. To. Be. A. Princess.” She said, as if each word was its own sentence.
“I suppose it would be ok then.” The doctor said with a smile.
“Excellent! Come on over, let’s set everything up, ok?” I stood up and was slightly shocked to find a little hand gripping my fingertips. Looking down I saw the girl practically vibrating in excitement. So we headed off to the others, but the doctor stayed behind at the edge of the tables.
“So what is your name, princess?” I asked her.
“Rosalie.” She said.
“What a beautiful name, Princess Rosalie.” We finally arrived and I introduced everyone to our new princess, then hit execute on a small diagram I had built earlier. Four half walls appeared, with a slightly higher tower in the middle. There was a staircase winding up the side of the small tower, and I pointed it out to Rosalie. “Ok Rosalie, before you head up there, I need you to hit accept on that outfit, okay?” Nodding, she did and a golden light rose from her feet to her head, changing her outfit as it went. When she had ascended to her “prison,” I sent the others their outfits. “Trust me guys, this’ll be fun.”
Instead of golden light, a deep purple changed my friends into three black knights in plate mail. They each had a hand cannon sized nerf gun in each hand, with bandoliers of ammunition crossing their chests. For myself, I had similar armor although mine had a few spikes and each plate was edged in red. I activated a bullhorn feature, and issued our challenge.
“Greetings! I am Emperor Cao Cao! As you can see, I have kidnapped your Princess Rosalie and there’s nothing you can do about it! MUAHAHAHAHA!” I did my best impression of a villainous speech, and was saved by Rosalie.
“Please, isn’t there someone who can save me from this fiend?” She cried, adorable atop her tower.
“There are no heroes here, princess. Nobody would dare accept my challenge!” I cried, and sent everyone still here a quick challenge. It was simple, do you wish to take up arms and save the princess? Still, everyone must have been shocked from the absurdity of it all until her doctor stepped forward and pressed a button.
Green light enveloped him, and he cut a regal figure in his helmless armor. “FOR THE PRINCESS!” He screamed, holding his Nerf gun in the air before he charged. That opened the floodgates, as flashes of light started appearing all through the café as everyone agreed to go save the princess.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I was kinda shocked when Jon laid down his challenge, but then someone stepped forward and accepted. Then the fury of a bunch of child heroes proceeded to swarm over our pathetic army. I was firing as fast as I could, but got hit within seconds and my armor and weapons shattered into light, and I was transferred off to the side of the slaughter. Derrick, Phoebe, and Emperor Cao Cao soon joined me as a small army of children celebrated the freedom of their princess.
“Not bad, Jon, not bad.” Phoebe said while bumping his shoulder with hers. “I didn’t know you had such a way with the little ones.” Jon just stood there with a melancholic smile on his face, and nobody wanted to press him any more.
We had only stood by for a minute before a pink streak slammed into Jon’s chest, squealing in happiness. “That was SO MUCH FUN! LET’S DO ANOTHER GAME!” Jon had reflexively caught Rosalie in a hug, and was now grinning from ear to ear.
“Ok, I think I have an idea for another game, just give Uncle Jon a few minutes to set it up, ok?”
“YAY!” She yelled, bouncing in excitement as Jon started furiously typing. A few minutes later, and he was ready to go.
“Excuse me everyone! EXCUSE ME!” Jon yelled with his megaphone. “Let’s get ready for the next game, the Royal Rumble! Every man and woman for themselves! Hit accept if you dare, and move so that the green ring around you doesn’t have anybody in it!”
Chaos ensued as kids spread out, checking all around them. Even a few of the doctors and parents had joined in the game, and as Jon gave the countdown, madness descended as Nerf darts were flying around in all directions. The rest of the group and I just sat back and watched as Jon and Rosalie were running around, having the time of their lives.
“I gotta go guys, catch you tomorrow.” I said to nods from Phoebe and Derrick. Jon was in the middle of the chaos he had unleashed, so I figured he wouldn’t mind.
I walked in to my digital apartment, and got a notification ding for an email. Seeing that I was from the company, I figured it would be fairly important. I went ahead and opened it.
To all beta testers:
We want to congratulate you so far on your exemplary conduct. Your hard work and dedication has led to several bugs being fixed and unforeseen game imbalances being corrected before being released to the general public. As of right now, we believe that there is enough data from everyone’s gameplay to determine a standard baseline of vitals and psychological soundness. Our next step in the testing progress is to determine what effects, if any, will occur should someone decide to spend an extended amount of time logged in to the game. To that end, we are asking that you refrain from logging out for the next seven days at minimum. If you feel comfortable staying in the game longer, feel free to send your manager an email stating your intentions.
We realize that this is uncharted territory, but feel that it is something that must be looked at considering the capabilities of the pods. We want you to know that we are prioritizing your health, and for the next several days will be performing twice the number of health checks. Should we find anything amiss, rest assured that we will perform an emergency logout. If at any point you feel uncomfortable during this extended session, feel free to send your concerns to your game manager and logout as well. Should it be needed, we have several staff psychiatrists available for counseling.
Well, I guess that I won’t get any more of my relaxing days at Café Oblivion after logging off for the night for a while. I headed to bed for one last night before my weeklong marathon gaming session.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.