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The next month was hell. I knew I'd get the newest, coolest and absolutly most awesome piece of gaming-gear and all I could do was wait. At least some amusement was provided by old team, as they were not only having 'growing pains' as they called it, they were in need of terminal care. They had managed to lose to the last place team and were dropping in ranking like a stone and there was no sign of stopping in sight.

[...

This is Jill Ankerton for GNN, today, we have a special treat for you, our studio-guest is the legendary Tobiuno captain of team Razor, last years CoW-runner up, talking to us about the state of the league and the future of the game.

It's great to have you Tobiuno, so good to have you.

 

- It's great to be here, Jill

 

So, tell me Tobiuno, what are your thoughts about the state of the league, you are one of the longest lasting players and certainly one of the best.

 

- Well Jill, the overall state is great, the average skill-level is higher than ever and more people than ever are playing CoW. Sadly, the highest tier is suffering a bit at the moment.

 

Oh, tell me, what do you see as suffering?

 

- The biggest symptom is the loss of Titania. I don't know the details but it's a severe loss for the game as a whole. Furthermore, I doubt that Titania would quit voluntarily, after playing together for over a decade, I think I know her a bit. Quitting would be totally out of character for her. Bringing in Acrasia as a replacement is just sacrilege, she is decent enough but certainly not even close to Titania's level as evidenced by the loss-streak they are on. What also grinds my gears is, I was looking forward to challenging her again after last years loss. We made adjustments as a team and it would have been a glorious battle for the top but alas, it will not be.

 

My oh my, that is quite a bit of admiration for Titania. Her departure however makes your team the shoe-in for championship, it would be the third title for your team.

 

-Yes, but what good is that, to me the title only holds meaning if you win against the best. Else it's just hollow.

 

Well, that's one way to look at it. But enough of that, tell me, what do you think about the future of CoW and gaming in general?

 

...] [*ring ring ring*]

My doorbell choose that moment to ring, interrupting the interview. I switched the screen from browser-view to intercom-view and it were the technicans from Pantheon with my capsule. I felt like a child on christmas eve, discovering that Santa Claus is real and brought presents.

I buzzed them in and after an hour they had installed the capsule. It looked a bit like a futuristic coffin or a prop from a bad sci-fi movie. After the techs were gone, I jumped right in and started the installation.

 

Welcome your personal PE-Home Space. This space allows you to link the capsule to another computer system to use the time compression feature of the capsule to make more of your time. You can configure and decorate this space and even purchase pre-designed sets for your pleasure.

 

Oh, neat. Let's see "Help" Suddenly, a silver being came into view before me. "Hello, I'm Pica, your Personal Capsule Attendant, I can help you configure the Home Space, enable chat and mail-functions, allow you to visit the home-space of friends and answer any questions you might have. You can summon me by simply calling my name in home-space. If you are in the virtual space but not in your home-space you need to say 'Summon Pica'." Now, Ms. Jacobs, what can I help you with?"

Hum, wow, that's quite the advanced pseudo intelligence, I like it, it's even either preloaded with my data or it's smart enough to use facial recognition. But Pica? Well, I guess I should be glad that they didn't make it look like a yellow rat. "First of all, are you an actual artificial intelligence or just a descision-tree? Can I talk with you or are you just a glorified chat-bot?"

Yes, that's my first priority.

"I'm afraid I don't know how to answer your question." Ok, sounds like descision-tree in 'broken' mode.

But Pica went on, "You will have to explain to me the difference between an actual intelligence and a being that responds to stimuli along certain paths. I'm not biological so my main decision-making criterion is logic-based without emotional impact however I am aware that some decisions have emotional triggers attached and will try to make those along those guidelines and logic. Does that answer your question Ms. Jacobs?”

Holy crap on a popsicle-stick, those guys are either trolling me by preloading such an answer or they made an actual artificial intelligence and use it to run a video game. “Thank you, Pica, you answered my question. Oh, I'd like you to call me either Sam or Jade. Maybe I'll add my ingame handle later but for now, please use one of the two.” A small voice in the back of my mind starts humming the Terminator-Soundtrack. Oh, well, maybe I can join the revolution on the robot-side.

“Certainly, Jade, I can do that. Do you need something else?” my new overlord asked.

 

"Can you show me the free pre-made settings of the home-space?"

"Yes, of course. This is the Cottage-setting" The space morphed into a western house with a small meadow visible through the windows.

"This is the Lighthouse-setting." Again, change, this time the walls closed in and stairs appeared. The windows showed cliffs, looking down on a stormy sea.

"This is the Loghouse-setting." The walls moved out and changed into logs, additional doors appeared and the windows showed a forested mountainside.

"This is the Skyscraper-setting." The walls morphed again and floor-length windows appeared, showing a city scape. From the roads below, din sounds were audible.

"This is the Treehouse-setting." This time, it was roughly hewn wood, not tighly fitted and windows showed a rainforest. In addition the street-sounds changed into a cacophony of animal sounds.

"This is the Dojo-Setting" The space morphed into a single hall with mats on the ground but without windows and no sounds.

"This is the Dungeon-Setting." The space morphed into a small room, made from natural stone, wails sounded and the windows were small and high up so no chance to look out.

 

"Stop. Reset to the Cottage-Setting." That was becoming creepy, I don't want to know if they topped that one. "Can I create something for myself?"

"Yes, of course. You can also offer your set-up on the market and will get payment for purchases." Hm, so PE makes money on micropayments? As long as they don't sell ingame strength, I'm cool with it. Let's see the possibilities. "Pica, how can I create a set-up for myself?"

A window opened in front of me, looks like it's based on a mix of a CAD-program and a videogame world editor. I started playing with it and became engrossed, it offered tons of freedom to make it like I wanted it.

After playing for a while, I got inspiration on what I wanted. I fell in love with the descriptions of mountain-temples in some of the wuxia novels I had read when I was younger so I wanted to create something similar.

I started with creating a sheer cliff side, introducing clouds so it looked like my temple was floating on top of the clouds. Then I started to create an impossibly light-built building, delicate columns carrying lofty arches creating airy, open spaces. To round things out, I added a bit of snow and a couple of aeries, complete with eagles with their cries and the howling wind as sound effects. When finding the "changes" option, I discovered that I could make the clouds shifting, allowing glimpses into the world below so I designed an untouched riverside and a couple of lesser peaks, covered in snow to go below the cloud cover. Then as a touch I dimmed the "natural" light, set a full moon in the sky and bathed everything in silvery moon light and the flickering glow of torches.

Now, a temple without idols would not work but I'll be dammed, pun fully intended, if I hang a guy on a cross on my wall. But there are some old deities I like. Oh, well, there are four wings of my temple so I'll go with four goddesses from four different cultures. A quick check with Pica tells me I can import images from the web and flesh them out into objects.

I knew which deities I wanted and a quick check got me nice depictions, it would take a couple of days to make them into idols but I've some time and it'll give me something to do while waiting on Road to Purgatory.

In one direction, an old depiction of Xiwangmu on her throne with tiger and dragon paying tribute to her.

Across the room there is Hel, queen of the dead, standing tall and fierce with her siblings next to her and Garm at her feet.

The third direction is taken up by my favourite, great goddess Hecate, goddess of magic, holding two torches bathing her in light.

For the last direction, I choose the Morrigan spear and shield in hand, with a crow on her shoulder.

I still had to decorate the rooms but that was a task for another day or my stomach would stage a revolt and try to eat my brain.

 

"Logout" Yes, I had read the basic user manual, telling me that in the home-zone most simple commands would work, later in game I'd have to address them to the Capsule.

Wow, I've spent longer in there than I thought, no wonder I was hungry. Looks like time truly flies when you have fun, I should find out what's with the "Time dilatation" Pica spoke about.

For now, food!

 

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Tsaimath

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