My heart sank. The log out button had appeared in my vision and I now dismissed it. I squatted down on the floor. It wasn’t easy to quit after all. What had I signed up for? I was so glad now that Dev’s wife had been upset when he said he wanted to play the game. I wished now I had married and had a caring wife, who would have prevented me from entering the game world.
I grabbed my hair.
“So no logging out?” I said.
“No logging out,” Mastermind repeated. I nodded.
“So what do I do now? I don’t want to be a contributing factor in getting people deleted from the game world. I don’t want to give any Karma to Death13.”
“Keep playing,” Mastermind said. “Do things normally. Just as you were doing them before you knew about all this. This is ultimately a problem of my creation and I will fix it.”
“Oh boy,” I said as I suddenly remembered. “There had been a malfunction with my capsule and they repaired it. I used a spell on Death13. Do you think they might have checked my records while fixing my capsule?”
“They might have,” Mastermind said, “and it’s unlikely that they will be very happy to know that you tried to use a spell on Death13. However, since they have allowed you to play instead of putting a bullet into your head, I thinking you shouldn’t be too worried. They are a powerful gang but they will try to avoid murder and unnecessary attention whenever possible. But at the same time, it is another reason why you shouldn’t immediately log out.”
“So it’s ‘the end’ for perma players like me, isn’t it?” Grimguy said. He looked quite grim, like a patient of an incurable disease who had been told he had only a week to live.
“I have a feeling it’s not so,” Grimguy said, and there was a small smile of hope playing on his lips. “But a feeling it is, not something I can be too sure about.”
“You know any way Death13 can be removed from the system, and could the Kartoshi gang can be stopped?” I asked.
“I am not saying I exactly know but there is a small ray of hope. You see, all the quests that you come across are generated by the AI of the game world. The AI can no longer be manipulated by the game developers as far as creating quests is concerned. It will create any quest it wants to. And perhaps, just perhaps, it will come up with a quest to destroy Death13 once it sees how powerful Death13 has become by absorbing all the Karma. And the reward for that quest will be very big. Perhaps such a quest exists already, and we just have to find it.”
“But won’t such a big quest be out in the daily newspaper?” Grimguy asked, his grimness partly gone with Mastermind’s hopeful words.
Mastermind dismissed the question with a flick of his hand.
“The newspaper quests are listed by lazy NPC journalists. On the rare occasion that such a journalist happens upon Death13, Death13 would probably delete the NPC. There is a reason you never see the really big quests in the newspaper. The players happen to be harder working than NPCs, so they find the quests anyway.”
“Does Death13 go about meeting all the members of the Kartoshi gang, sending them friend requests?” I asked.
Mastermind nodded with some sorrow.
“He does unfortunately. I designed the junk code to be so myself. Whenever he meets a member he will send them a friend request. You see Death13’s attracted to the tattoo on our backs. It is important to keep the members of the Kartoshi gang safe after all. Death13 is a ‘friend’ of mine as well. But one thing I must say is that once a member of the Kartoshi gang goes perma, the tattoo disappears. After that, Death13 won’t regard them as a friend anymore.”
“Are there other members of the Kartoshi gang with you who want to stop Death13?”
“Unfortunately none that I know of,” Mastermind said. “There is a small possibility that one of the main members of the gang is against Death13 because his twin was killed in a family quarrel of the Kartoshis. But I do not know what his game world avatar is.
"Anyway, I was just hoping that you and I could team up. You don’t want to support Death13 do you? I first suspected you were a member of the gang when I saw you the other day. Death13 wasn’t doing anything to harm you, and when the other guy grabbed Death13’s neck you used your spell, and all three of you disappeared.”
“I am never supporting Death13,” I said. After all that I had heard of the Kartoshi gang and Death13, I would do my best to not support them.
“Then would you like to help me?” Mastermind asked.
“I don’t know about him,” Grimguy broke in, “but I sure would. I don’t want to be forever deleted from Prithvi.”
Mastermind looked at Grimguy.
“Any encounter with Death13 will be much more dangerous to you than to us, which is one of the reasons why I never tried to group together with a bunch of perma players to stop Death13 since it would be dangerous for them, even though they would be more motivated for the cause than the non-perma players. But a helping hand is always useful.”
“I am in too,” I said.
“Great,” Mastermind said with a small clap of his hands.
“So what do we do now?” Grimguy asked.
“For now, you can keep playing as before. I must go now in search of the theoretical quest for bringing Death13’s downfall. In the scenario that I actually find such a quest, I shall contact you.”
Mastermind picked up his bag from the bed. He smiled at us.
“Thanks for joining me. It’ll be wiser to not tell about what you have learnt today to others, least someone who is a core member of the Kartoshi gang comes to know. Goodbye.”
And just like that he disappeared.
Grimguy and I remained staring for a while at the vacant space where Mastermind had been only a moment back.
“Is it possible to do that?” I asked, pointing at the empty space in amazement.
“Well, he just did it,” Grimguy said matter-of-factly, “must be some really cool spell. I wish I had that. It would be easier to flee from Death13 if I came face to face with him.”
“Do you think there is any chance Mastermind is lying?” I asked Grimguy. It was a small doubt. Though I was more or less convinced because ultimately what Mastermind had said made sense.
“I don’t care even if he is lying,” Grimguy said, “I’ll better be with him in his fight against Death13. He seems like a wise guy filled with knowledge. Daddy1’s birthstone is mere dust now. I don’t want the same to happen to my stone.”