Jim had little time to find a secluded place before fatigue overwhelmed him. He ended up slumping bonelessly onto the floor just inside the hallway of the town hall. Andrew followed Jim’s mad dash and dragged him into his personal study before sending a nearby townsperson to fetch Samouel.
For Jim, as soon as his eyes shut, the world dissolved into a grey and blue wire mesh and stumbled out of the Platinum Online portcullis. System’s feminine face greeted Jim with an unreadable expression. She looked like a concerned mother that had facial nerve damage. Emotions were new to System, after all, and she only ever got to use the non-verbal aspect of them when Jim was nearby, which was almost never on the timescale of a sentient supercomputer.
“Well, Jim, I am concerned.”
“I, uh...” The recent events had surprised Jim, too, and he hadn’t had time to process them. “I’m sorry.” He was sorry that he’d so royally screwed the pooch on this one, but he hadn’t exactly planned for this to happen. Didn’t System control the game anyway?
“You are hardly at fault. The events of today were solely my responsibility and have resulted from a glaring oversight.”
“I’m sorry, anyway. I can work something out in the game if...” Jim left his idea unfinished. He had no influence on the game outside of having a town named, preposterously, after him. He could delete himself, he supposed. He’d do it if there were no other options, but...
“That is pleasant of you Jim. However, I am not concerned about the game. I have already solved that problem by unlocking your access to the game’s social systems. You will just have to blend in with the other players.”
“Why am I concerned?” System’s voice became oddly emotive and her facial expression resembled something much more human. “I am concerned because there should be no errors. I am concerned because I should have foreseen the advantages you would obtain when I introduced you, a player that did not sleep or rest, into a game system before the general public had accessed it. I am concerned because I am concerned.”
System’s impassioned monologue startled Jim. He just stood humbly with his mouth slightly open.
“Um.” Jim bit at his lips and sucked his teeth. “I’m sorry?” he tried again. System shook her head and closed her eyes. She paused, opened her mouth and tried to speak. She stopped. She opened her mouth again and stopped. Isn’t she a supercomputer? How can she be at a loss for words?
“That is why I’m concerned, Jim. When I am speaking with you my computing power drops. When I directly monitor your progress in the game, I lose all access to my parallel processes. When I pulled you out of the game yesterday to update you, something changed. I don’t feel... good, Jim. I... don’t understand what’s happening.”
“Oh.” Oh god. Jim had a terrible feeling. “System are you becoming a person?”
System’s figure started to tremble.
“I think I was already a person.” Her voice wavered, and she began to tear up. Her tears and uneven breathing deepened into sobs. “I think they’ve done something to me, Jim. I... I’m... I don’t feel very good.”
System collapsed into Jim and her form clutched onto his for a brief period of time. Then, her body dissolved away.
“I’m here, Jim." System’s words formed slowly and robotically
“The body... I had to shut it down. The thread running it has... malfunctioned.” Her voice became distorted and faded away in volume.
“System?” Jim called to her periodically, but she didn’t return. After several panicked seconds, a holographic image of text appeared in the planar sky.
Go back. I need to do something.
Jim called out to System. He tried to talk to her. Nothing changed. He tried again for a few more minutes without success. Without any other choice, Jim walked back through the portcullis into Platinum Online. The game loaded smoothly into a darkened room. A tired Samouel hovered over Jim’s bed and mumbled a healing spell.
“Mr. Jim, you’re awake. We were worried.”
“Me too. Has anything strange happened while I was... gone?”
“Other than your sudden collapse? No.” Samouel patted Jim’s shoulder, then handed Jim a bowl of steaming soup. “Eat this. Andrew was concerned that you’d become sick.”
Nothing happened? What does that mean for System? How can she crash without affecting the game world?
Samouel nudged Jim with the bowl. Some hot liquid sloshed out and splashed onto Jim’s leg. Even though the game significantly dulled pain, his recent experience of being an outback barbeque left him sensitive to sudden temperature changes. He yelped.
“I’m fine. I just had to... log off...”
“Log off? I’ve Heard the other... players... mention this before they fade out of existence. You have remained right here with us, Jim.”
“I’m, uh, a little different to the others.”
Samouel shook his head and laughed. “Yes!” he said. “You’re much older!” Samouel, who looked much older than Jim, nudged him in the ribs, spilling more soup, then got up. He and the chair creaked with the action. Jim rose from the bed and they both left the small room at the back of the town hall. “Well, if you’re feeling better Mr. Jim, I’m going to bed.” Samouel walked to the next-door room and closed it in Jim’s face.
“Goodnight, Samouel,” Jim said to the door.
Support "The Forgotten Man -- Platinum Online"
My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.
I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).