Willow’s heart was trying to get out of her chest as her eyes darted around her bedroom. What happened? Did it work? Had they fixed the ‘bug’?
She almost jumped as two calls in BASE came in, one from Sage and one from Soleil. She accepted them both at the same time, so glad that at least some people were still there and that her account hadn’t been blitzed.
“Willow!” Sage and Soleil said in unison.
“I’m here.” She stood up, her hand on her chest, trying to make her heart slow down. She needed to move her muscles, the high tension still in them. “Where are the others?”
She could hear Sage’s sigh, but Soleil answered instead, “They got blitzed. I’ve got people going to their locations as we speak. Just to make sure they’re safe and to give them all the help they may need.”
“And Dawn?” She had to know that he was safe too because they wouldn’t have made it without him.
“Got someone onto him too.” Soleil’s voice was much calmer than she felt.
“And now?” She eyed the headset she’d just taken off, not sure she wanted to dive back in immediately.
“My account is glitching. I’m not sure it’s safe for me to go back in now.” Sage sounded exhausted, and she felt exhausted too. Like she’d been awake for days instead of just over eight hours.
“How will we know that it worked?”
“We wait and see.” Soleil’s answer wasn’t what she wanted to hear. but before she could say anything else, there was knocking on her apartment door.
“Wait a moment.” She went over to her door, opening it carefully, not exactly sure what to expect.
In front of her stood Violet, out of breath, her eyes wild. She must have come over here as soon as she’d gotten blitzed, because there was no other way she could have gotten here so soon otherwise.
“You’re okay.” Violet’s face split into a grin, then she wrapped her arms around Willow, who wrapped her arms around Violet too.
On the call, Sage and Soleil must have been getting a little confused.
“I’m going to hang up, Violet is here. Let me know if you need me. You can reach my via chat.” Then Willow disconnected the call. Of course, she was glad that things seemed to have worked out for some of them, but right now, all she really wanted was to be close to someone she knew.
“Who were there at the end?” Violet eyed her, taking a step back, she seemed worried.
“Sage and I were the last ones left. Sage’s account is glitching, but not blitzed. Which, I guess, is a good thing.” Willow went over to her kitchen to grab herself a glass of water, not wanting to look at Violet too closely. The sight of how Violet had died still too fresh on her mind. She took a few gulps of the water, before she felt Violet closely behind her again. “I’m scared,” Willow whispered. Of all the things, now the adrenaline was gone, the fear was finally sinking in.
Violet’s arms surrounded her before she collapsed to the floor, all her energy gone, all the stress having eaten away at her and she couldn’t keep herself up anymore.
Things were okay, weren’t they? They were done now?
Violet guided her to the couch and then gave her the stuffed hippogriff, before crawling onto the couch with her. “You did it.” Violet’s voice was quiet. “You did it. Thank you.”
Willow shook her head.
She hadn’t done it alone, they had all done this together. Without her friends she wouldn’t have been able to get as far as she had. But her eyes were too heavy and she couldn’t stay awake anymore.
Her body was checking out, her brain too, and Willow disappeared into a dreamless slumber.
When she woke up, Violet was tapping away on a telephone screen, sending a message to someone.
“Morning.” Willow sat up, rubbing her eyes. “What’s the time?”
“You’ve slept for about an hour. It’s not been that long.” Violet smiled at her, then showed her the small screen. It was the chat she had running with Sage and Violet and the others. “Sage says, no mentions of blitzing yet on the forums. As far as we know.”
“Good.” Wilow nodded. But she also knew that there was one thing she had to do. There was one way to test if that was really true.
She had to log onto HF herself.
Wilow slowly stood up and could feel Violet’s eyes on her.
“You’re not going to test it yourself right now, are you? You’re too tired, BASE won’t let you in.” Violet also stood up, following her.
“I have to. And BASE won’t complain. I’ve got a shortcut for that.” She opened the chat with Soleil.
Willow: I need you to set my BASE status so it doesn’t kick me out of the game.
Rotnem: Are you sure?
Then Willow looked at Violet. “At what point were you blitzed when you went into HF? Did you get to the character creation?”
Violet shook her head. “Nah, I never got there. It happened almost instantly. I downloaded the game, went in, and suddenly I was kicked out, my account fried.”
Willow nodded. “Okay.” At least she knew what to look for.
Even with all the things that they had to sell in DoE to get Sage and Violet new accounts, she still had enough money over to buy a copy of Helheim Fallen Online. And no matter how many problems they’d had inside HF, ignoring some of the strangeness of its creator, the game was actually pretty good. Or maybe she’d gotten used to playing it.
She sat on the bed, putting the VR headset back on. Then, as she made herself comfortable, Violet took her hand, giving her courage.
Willow connected to the BASE platform, appearing in the platform game store. There, right in front of her, was a copy of HF she could buy.
She clicked on it, the money disappearing from her account, and the game downloading onto it instead. The version she’d been playing was a separate install, though she had no idea why. It was probably connected in some way to the fact that she’d gotten it through a fake beta code.
When the install was in her account, she opened it, and was dumped right into the opening video, with no way to skip it…
Willow had no idea what she’d expected, or what she’d hoped for. But when she finally opened her eyes, she was standing in the character creation screen again, her being a blank slate. Nothing there, nothing at all.
But the most important part was that she was here. She was in the game, she hadn’t gotten blitzed, and she was actually playing. Or about to anyway.
The deletion of the code seemed to be working. The deletion of the code had stopped the blitzing and the corruption of the accounts.
They did it. They’d done it. They’d made sure that the code wouldn’t hurt anyone else anymore.
She quickly created her character, exactly the same way as last time. She actually enjoyed playing a draugr seidhr, and even with a new installation, she wasn’t going to change that.
Now, she just had to come up with a new name for this character.
She reached out to the door, which asked her about her name.
She smiled as the door opened and she was transported into the frozen world, surrounded by other players. Surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of new players, all playing HF for the first time. She was surrounded by noise and by voices, people talking all over the place, people joking around and interacting.
She couldn’t help her own smile at seeing this. She hated big crowds, and really didn’t enjoy being in them, but this crowd was good. This crowd meant that the game was still working, and that people were able to play.
Around her, she could hear all sorts of people complaining about the linearity of the game that they were playing. Well, she did hope that the owners of HF would make a couple of changes in an upcoming patch to that, if just to take these things out, really… It had never been a good design idea.
She accepted the starter quests, and as she was about to log out, she got a private message from someone.
Sigrun: You’re already in?
She though that they would have had to wait for a while longer to do that. That they didn’t think that it wold be safe with their odd account just yet.
Sage: I’m not the only one.
Willow got a party invite, which she accepted. Then, at the side of her screen, the names of her friends all showed up.
Sage: Soleil made a good deal for us.
Sage: Oh, wait a moment.
Then a seventh name showed up in their group.
They were all in the game now. They were all in HF, and they were all safe.
Rotnem: Would you like your old character swapped over to this account, Sigrun?
Willow grinned. As much as she’d be interested to try and play this game again from the start, it wasn’t for her. She really hadn’t been looking forward to getting through those starter quests again.
Sigrun: Yes, please.
Rotnem: One moment.
Willow’s view went black a couple of seconds, before everything brightened again and she was back to her normal player self. Her normal draugr seidhr self. All the skills on her bar worked again and she could even summon Iris.
Rotnem: The information you gave us got us a lot of leverage, and I was able to get a few people to look the other way about you know, character creation and accounts and such.
But if this was possible, and Violet had been at her side since she got back out of HF. What?
Meadow: Violet, you knew?
Meadow: When you let me get back into the game, you already knew?
Violet: Not exactly, but we had set this up in case you wouldn’t get blitzed immediately.
In case she wouldn’t get blitzed immediately? They were waiting until she tested the game?
Meadow: Even Dawn?
Dawn: Your friends are inventive, and a little scary.
Meadow: That’s why they’re my friends.
Dawn: I guessed as much.
Well, that was the same thing as he’d said to her before, that her friends were a little scary. But she guessed that by now he’d actually had more experience with how ‘scary’ her friends really were.
Now she no longer was a low level character, she walked out of the encampment.
Meadow: Where is everyone?
Violet: Just up the road. Waiting for Rotnem to finish her starter quests.
Willow smiled, yeah, of all of them, Soleil was now far behind them in level. Although, she suspected that that wouldn’t stay like that for very long. Soleil always seemed like someone who would make things happen, no mater what she wanted.
Like she’d been sure that Willow would be the one to be able to save this game, and she had…
After hanging out with her friends for a couple of hours, too relieved that everyone was okay, she’d finally gone to sleep.
Willow in her own bed, while Violet had crashed on the couch in the living room. It had been close to sunrise, but she really needed her sleep.
There was just so much that had happened in the last day that she was totally exhausted and she had no idea what the world would look like when she woke up again. When she would no longer have this looming thing over her head of her friends going missing or being missing, or anything like that.
When the world would be back to ‘normal’ in some way. It sounded strange, but that was actually what it would be.
Whatever that meant.
When Willow finally woke up again, Voilet was sitting on the couch, playing a game on her VR headset, totally unaware that Willow had woken up and come into the living room. And, with a smile, Willow sent her a message through the BASE chat system.
Violet: Morning. I’ll be right there.
Violet’s body didn’t move in all of that, constantly still while Violet was in the VR.
Willow went over to the delivery box to pick up the breakfast container there. Hopefully there would be something good in it because she was starving. She’d kind of forgotten to eat while everything was going on. And that was a bad thing…
She put the box on the table and opened it, finding nothing special. Just normal sandwiches today, with a pretty good range of condiments for on it.
She wasn’t sure if she should be disappointed that there was no special breakfast for her to celebrate having saved thousands of people from a horrible fate, or glad that everything seemed back to normal…
Then she opened the notifications from the Helheim Fallen Online searches that she’d been using for months. The notifications she’d already seen blinking when she woke up. She’d just ignored them because she didn’t want to deal with any drama before she’d been awake enough.
*Helheim Fallen Online: biggest game release this year, maybe this decade*
*Daryl, creator of Helheim Fallen Online, questioned by police in connection to woman who died after her account was blitzed*
*Daryl, Helheim Fallen Online’s creator, taken into custody by police over large scale account blitzing scheme*
*Helheim Fallen Online, the record highs and lows of the first day of release*
*Helheim Fallen Online, out for eight hours and already famous and infamous in equal measures*
Willow looked at the headlines, smiling a little, her heart starting to feel lighter.
Things were going to be okay.
Things were going to be fine.
This nightmare was now behind them.
They’d done it.
They’d saved the game, they’d saved the players, and now things would stop being so overwhelming anymore.