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Willow stared at the quest log, a little overwhelmed by everything on it. She had to kill 15 of some bird or something, then gather 20 clusters of lingonberries, but the most daunting one was the new quest that the main captain, at least he seemed to be the main one, the draugr captain, had given her.

[Quest: Explore the North]

[There are rumours that some of our allies have gone missing north of this encampment and we can’t seem to get in contact with them. Explore the north and find out what happened to them.]

North. She’d looked that way as she went back to the encampment after the wolf quests and she’d seem some new mobs there and it hadn’t looked that welcoming. But, of course, it made sense that she would be sent there next. Game mechanics and all.

She looked down at Iris. “Are you ready?”

Then a message appeared in her view.

[Time to eat!]

It was a BASE platform message, and considering how long she had been playing, it was probably time for dinner.

“Okay. Too bad. Going to have to wait, then.” She knelt down, running her bony hands over Iris’ scales. It was interesting how she could feel the warmth of Iris, even though the flesh of her hands was mostly gone. Game logic. The BASE implant would still send signals that she should feel certain things, but the character she was playing would probably not even experience them. Game logic or just lazy coding, either worked. “I’ll be back soon.”

Iris let out a couple of squeaks and Willow threw her a piece of ‘leftover meat’, which Iris downed easily.

“I’ll be right back, stay here.” Not that Iris could really go anywhere. Unlike Mira, who was part of the general game environment and was more like any other NPC, Iris was connected to just her, it was her specific pet, so when Willow wasn’t in the game, neither was Iris.

Willow swiped at the menu.

*You are now logged out of Helheim Fallen Online.*

Then she opened her eyes and sat up, taking off the VR headset.

She’d been in VR ever since she came back from meeting Soleil at noon. It helped to not be locked in this apartment, because in HF she at least felt like she was doing something, like there was progress, even when in reality, she was mostly just waiting around for news.

Willow went over to her delivery box and found a box of food in it. It was still hot, which was normal, considering that the BASE message usually appeared the same moment as the food arrived. She’d ignored the previous messages about it being dinner time ‘soon’, those were just there to remind people to find a place to log out and that they should probably try to finish the dungeon or whatever thing they were in so that they could go eat.

As she picked up the food, she checked the rest of the delivery box to see if she maybe had gotten a message from Violet too, but there wasn’t anything she could find. Bummer.

Somewhere, Willow still had hope that maybe it wasn’t Violet they found and that Violet would come out here again and leave her a message to let her know this. Anything would be fine now, really. Some part of her even hoped that the news about the woman the police had found was fake and that there wasn’t anyone. But she was realistic enough to know that that wasn’t true.

She opened the box at the table, sitting down as she stared at it. It was a pretty standard meal; pasta with some red sauce and a salad, all packed into their own little containers. None of the food was ‘touching’ other food.

This was another one of those ‘autism things’ that experts insisted on. Apparently it was common for autistics to hate it when ‘food touched’, aka when food wasn’t divided in specific little areas all on their own. But instead of listening to the needs of individual people, organisations just applied these rules to all autistics.

She’d fought her parents on this thing a couple of times. They’d insisted that her mixing her foods was ‘just another way to try and be normal’, while she really just hated plain pasta or rice and wanted all the flavours and textures together, not separate.

It might have been true for some autistics that they hated the ‘food touching’ thing, but since she didn’t know many, if any, autistics, it wasn’t something she could ask the opinion of others on it. And to ask Soleil about this would just be odd. Right?

Willow stood up and went over to one of the cupboards, taking one of the two plates in there and then sat down at the table again. She grabbed the container with pasta and dumped it on her plate. Then she poured the sauce all over it, spreading it out as well as she could. Finally, she hunted down the small packet of cheese and sprinkled it all on top, hoping that everything was still hot enough to make it melt. Then she grabbed a fork and started mixing everything together.

She didn’t hate it when food touched, she hated it when the sauce wasn’t properly mixed into all the pieces of pasta, when things weren’t mixed evenly. Maybe that was a bit of the problem in her brain, just manifesting the other way around... No food touching at all or all the food touching all over and evenly distributed. Hmm.

She looked through the game forums as she ate her dinner. She hadn’t seen any new messages about people getting blitzed or going missing on the DoE or HF forums today, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t happening. If Soleil was right, then the messages about people going missing in HF were probably getting deleted or changed pretty quickly after getting posted onto the forums... She couldn’t trust the forums anymore, that had become very clear in the last days.

Willow pulled up a document in front of her and the AR keyboard appeared next to her plate. She let her fingers of her right hand hover over the keys as she thought about what she wanted to write down.

Everything was getting messed up in her head, she couldn’t put her finger on exactly where she was having to focus her attention right now. So, a list would have to do.

Who are blitzing the accounts?

- Creators of HF?

- People working for HF?

Those were the most obvious options. There could be more, but currently HF seemed to be involved somewhere on the chain.

Why are they blitzing accounts?

-

She had no idea, there didn’t seem to be any reason as to why Violet’s account would be blitzed. And since she had no clue where any of the other victims lived, or who they were, she didn’t know if it could potentially even be geographically linked.

Where are they finding the accounts?

- HF beta list (according to Soleil)

- Forums?

- Some other list?

 

What do they need to blitz accounts?

- Personal ID, not BASE ID

So whoever did it had to have pretty detailed insider knowledge of how the BASE IDs were linked to people’s real personal IDs, because companies weren’t supposed to have that information.

When are the accounts blitzed?

- Early on in the game in HF?

- - Day 1 of playing?

- - ??

It did appear to be very early on, from what she’d seen on the forums and everything, almost instant from the moment someone logged on for the first time.

- In other games?

- - ??

The blitzes in other games seemed to be random and not really based on any time or moment, they happened when they happened.

The worst part of it was that it was all so random. Some people went missing as they logged onto HF, and the number of people this happened to went up over time, but probably because more beta keys were being handed out each week. But in the other games, it never seemed to make any sense.

Why was the account from the person in DoE blitzed when it was mining some ore? It wasn’t even doing something interesting or odd, the player was just doing their thing.

Why did it happen?

That was the most important question for her. Why?

Why were people blitzing accounts and what were they getting out of it? Because that was very hard to understand right now. It made no sense, and that made trying to make any sense of it even harder.

She looked at the time, it was ten in the evening. She could play HF for a while longer, but she wasn’t exactly sure she should. She’d done enough gross things in HF for one day and the next quests she had to do were all big quests that took a lot of time.

Maybe she should try to get some sleep first, get back to all of this with a clear head tomorrow. If that was even possible...

How could she come up with a plan when she knew that her best friend was missing and she was potentially no longer alive? It made everything so much more complicated.

***

Name: Meadow

Race: Draugr

Class: Seidhr

Level: 5

Willow appeared in the middle of the encampment, the captains were all still standing around waiting for new players to talk to them. At her side, Iris came into being with a soft ‘pop’ and she let out a happy squeak as Willow reached out and patted her head.

“Yep, I’m back. Are you ready for another day of levelling?” She looked at the little dragon. Was it just her imagination, or had Iris grown since she appeared to her at the start of the game?

Willow checked her inventory, making sure she had all the items with her that she needed, and then walked to the area with the merchants. Not that there were many there, apart from of course the butcher and the other ones she had to do quests for before, there were also a general supplies seller and a gear and weapon seller.

“Hi.” She waved at the general supplies seller.

“Welcome. Do you need potions, food or anything else for your dangerous travels? I’m the man you’ll need. Take a look at my wares and let me know what you’re in need of.” The game really didn’t seem to be able to keep everything to text-only, but she guessed she was going to have to get used to the audio thing at some point. Most people playing would have their voice chat open, and she didn’t have any of her friends here who all knew how much she hated doing voice chat, especially in a game.

“I’m in need of supplies, and would like to barter for my own wares.” Hey, she had to stay in-character a little, this game liked that. It seemed that it had pretty specific keywords that it responded to.

“I’m happy to trade.” A screen popped up and showed her all the items she could buy from the seller. First, she sold off a couple of pieces of the meat that she couldn’t identify anyway, and then some items that didn’t seem to have much use. She didn’t tend to throw out ‘useless’ items, since most games gave some money for them, but the different types of rocks, sticks and other bits and pieces she got from mobs were just taking up space in her inventory. Time to exchange them.

Then she bought a few more health potions, those could come in handy, and looked through the rest of the items on offer. But she didn’t think she needed ‘cooking ingredients’ right now, not when she was going to kill mobs and apparently try and find some lost heroes or explorers or whatever later, training her cooking skill wasn’t on her list of things to do.

“Thank you.” Then she looked at the gear and weapon seller. “Hi, I’d like to browse your wares.”

“I have the finest wares, take a look.” A new screen popped up.

She skimmed through most of the top list of the items, those were for classes who needed some actual protection, like leather and chain-mail gear. Her gear was further down the list. She was still wearing the same gear as she did when she first spawned. None of the mobs had dropped anything and she hadn’t gotten anything from quests yet. But it seemed like the right time to get herself a little geared up now.

Initiate’s Robe

It looks like someone left a cheat sheet on the inside of the sleeve.

Armour: 2

Intelligence: 2

Wisdom: 1

Right. Willow smiled. Cheat sheet sounded fun, even when it probably wasn’t something she could actually use. What could the game come up with to make something like that useful?

Soft Boots

At least your feet won’t hurt as much walking over those rocks and stones anymore.

Armour: 2

Endurance: 1

Well, she had been walking around barefoot for now, though, looking down, it didn’t seem to hurt her character too much. But gear was useful anyway.

Initiate’s Slacks

Less windy this way.

Armour: 1

Intelligence: 1

Okay, the makers of HF at least had some humour. Now, what else could she get?

Initiate’s Staff

Not for hitting people on the head, this is a magical item, not a club.

Intelligence: 2

Wisdom: 1

She had no idea why she had to use a staff when her magic came from within herself. Until now, she mostly had the original staff she’d picked up just on her belt so it was equipped, since even the starter staff had an extra point for intelligence. But maybe most people did actually use them?

She equipped her new gear and her health and mana points both went up. Good, she was in desperate need of more mana to fight those mobs. Now she had it.

Then she looked through the rest of the items to see if there was any gear for Iris too, but couldn’t find anything.

Hmmm.

She opened her inventory and took out her old robe and the skinning knife. Then she cut out a large square and held it next to Iris.

“Yeah, that will do.” She used the knife to make the ends at the front pointier and easier to tie. Then she sat down next to Iris and motioned for her to come over. “I can’t be the only one with upgraded gear.”

Willow put the cloth over Iris’ back and tied it at the front.

“Now you have a cape. You’re a superhero.”

Iris ran a little off and then came back, letting out little happy squeaks as the cape fluttered after her and Willow smiled. For a game with such lazy programming in some places, it seemed pretty advanced in what it could handle in other places. It was cool to see that HF did allow at least some modifications that weren’t built into the game itself. Some personalisation of things was always good.

Now, if she could only find a place where she could get cooler gear, that would definitely make her time here a lot better. The Initiate’s clothes set were all a dull grey-brown that she really didn’t enjoy. But she probably needed to get to the first real town or city to get to someone who could do that for her, and for that, she had to get a move on with her quests.

Right, time to go.

Time to face the rest of the game.

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A note from EEngberts

You can now pre-order BASE Status: Online in ebook (print coming too)!

Release date: 31st of Oct!

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HGCTSFR/

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I hope I didn't leave too many errors in here. I was doing so well last week and then got felled by the flu... I'm finally recovering, but editing while still fuzzy isn't my favourite thing to do...

How do you feel about flavour text on gear and items? Do you read them? Do you like them?

I know that there are some really funny and punny ones in FFXIV, so I always tend to check, how about you?

 

You can read chapters a week ahead of schedule by supporting my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/easilydistractedmedia


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EEngberts

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