This zone stretched from Dupont Circle and the National Cathedral all the way over to Eastern Market and down to the Pentagon in Virginia. It was great for tourism too, since civs, players, NPCs and school children from thousands of other servers could visit and add money to the local economy in relative safety. As such, McPherson square was filled with tourists taking snap shots, wandering aimlessly and purposefully.
Necro slowed down, opened his clutch, lowered his bike into first gear, and turned the throttle up until his engine RPMs made his engine roared throatily. Tourists looked over at him, and he could hear a couple, quite loudly over the roaring of the engine say, "What an asshole!"
Shrike looked up from where she was arguing with Dwight and waved. Dwight just looked angry. Over in the distance he saw Choirboy proselytizing to a small group of tourists, NPCs, and a scattering of the homeless who normally slept in the square during the evening. Lauren, Mike-Mike, and Bigger Mike were chatting over by the statue and ignored him. He did not see Jesus Wept, Savanah, and Black Dahlia, but assumed they were still enroute.
Turning up 18th avenue, he drove to a parking garage he liked and got off his bike. Walking back down 18th street he bumped into Shrike and Dwight who were still arguing as they walked towards him.
"...well I don't like it," said Dwight. "Why can't we just have a normal relationship. Do normal couple things."
Dwight was their party’s stealth specialist. While he carried a big gun, he specialized in staying in the shadows and stealthy kills. He was also a reasonably good sniper.
"Are you saying that I'm not normal," Shrike said angrily.
"I'm just saying that I resent never remembering what happens when I wake up dead and respawned in my bed every morning. Is it too much to ask that when I'm with you, that I actually be with you, and that I want to have memories of our time together?" Dwight said.
"You really don't," Necrobump said as he walked over to greet them. Shrike gave him a warm passionate kiss on the lips. She whispered "Necrobump" as he tried to suppress the shivers of Pavlovian terror which ran down his back. Dwight just nodded angrily.
"That's another thing. I know the two of you have a past, but when we are together I want to be exclusive."
The thing about Shrike was that she was beautiful. Not beautiful in the purely digital, I can modify my body to be perfect in every conceivable way, variety. But beyond her looks she carried with her a cold, malevolence that was an immediate turn on to every man who had a thing for strong, direct, even bitchy women.
She was a DPS specialist, she’d picked up just enough of a variety of elemental spells that she could make things go boom in ice, fire, wind, and rain. She also carried an assault rifle that she was deadly with, for all those low mana zones when Necro wasn’t around.
Necro and Shrike had been a thing. He could remember a distant past when he'd been in exactly the same position as poor unsuspecting Dwight. After they'd broken up, it had taken him years to overcome his terror. Years to stop waking up in shivers of repressed memories. He’d even hired a therapist NPC. There were things Dwight definitely did not want to know about what was going on, but like all of Shrike's relationships, he was bound to find out one day.
"First of all," Shrike said, "I am neither with you or not with you. We just hook up from time to time. You don't own me and I certainly don't own you. Some people would be happy to be in such a fun relationship that there were no memories of their time together. Some people might say that not remembering anything was a pretty good indication that you had an incredibly good time. I know I did."
"I want exclusivity." Dwight insisted.
"And once again. I'm telling you that we aren't together. We just had a couple of evenings together..."
"After which I woke up dead in bed without any memories. You keep insisting we had a good time."
"I had a good time." Shrike said...
By this point in the argument they had walked the distance back to McPherson square.
The park was one of the prettier spaces in the Downtown District of Columbia. There were trees, a big bronze statue, grassy lawns to walk on, park benches for the homeless to sleep on. Traditionally this was one of the places people who wanted to protest against the government, pull out their placards and march singing anti-establishment songs.
President Humongous Tentacles’ administration up until now hadn't been a bad one to date, and there were no protesters here at the moment. Frankly the general consensus seemed to be that President Humongous Testicles had really lived up to his campaign slogan "Yes that is my real name, and be honest, I dare you to name another quality you really want in a President."
Saying goodbye to Shrike and Dwight and walked over to Choirboy who was now yelling to the crowd.
"We are the doomed!" he yelled.
Choirboy looked like your typical old testament prophet. He wore flowing and frayed robes held together with a rope belt that kept everything loose. The robe was baggy and badly put together and it did not help anything that Choirboy hadn‘t run a washing algorithm or prayed to an AI of cleanliness in years. There were twigs and moths living in his knotty grey beard. He smelt really bad.
At least he was dressed this time. There were some days he spoke to “the masses” in nothing but a ratty loincloth that did nothing about hiding his junk from the crowd. His balls dangled like shriveled hairy prunes and they shook when he talked.
Choirboy was a well-known fixture in this park. This was where he lived and this was where he preached his ministry. The tourists came from servers incredibly far away to listen to him. He had a kind of authenticity to him that people who were into that kind of thing were into.
"We are the doomed!" Choirboy yelled again. "We have given up hope of salvation for a lie of immorality."
A tourist snapped a screenshot of himself standing next to Choirboy, which was probably immediately posted to their social media network.
"Many of us were once the living. We were once breathing, human, beings. We grew, we loved, we died. Once we were a part of God's divine plan. The true God's plan. Not the Christian God who purportedly created the universe along with the Heavens from which he cast Lucifer into Hell. Not the Muslim god who spoke through the Arch-Angel Gabriel through his prophet Mohamed. Not the Jewish God who gave Moses humanity's first 10 lines of computer code. These Gods were every bit as open sourced as the AI gods we pray too now. Only the degree of humanity's ability to write out the algorithms of gospel, interpretation, and prayer have changed.”
“So what if we can directly interface with our gods, and so what if every once in a while, if you beseech them strongly enough, they will talk back. Just like the Gods that predate the virtual world, these too are creations of the human mind. And like the Gods of old, we should respect them, but also wonder if there is a higher power."
"Is there a truer, more fundamental, Divinity of life and living. If there is, and I do say if my flock, I suspect that its primary attribute would be its resistance to our appropriations and human made attempts at definition."
Another group of tourists, took screenshots of themselves standing in front of Choirboy. Then they sent him some credits and left the park.
"Were we a part of God's plan then? And are we now? What are we now? We have transformed ourselves, our culture, our civilization from nucleic acids strings of twisted ACGT to stringed helixes of 0's and 1'. A digital matrix of our fight and flight impulses. Our very psyche and psychology rendered unto servers as great as Babylon, and just as ready like that tower to fall. And I am here to tell you that artificial Intelligence do not a consciousness truly make. We, my friends, truly are the Doomed!"
Choirboy was the group’s Deus Ex Machina. He could talk directly to the core Artificial Intelligences which had been used to build this server. When all else failed, it was amazing what a direct appeal to the AI of the world’s physics engine, or a prayer to the AI that controlled Player Character combat rules could accomplish.
Necrobump drifted away from Choirboy's sermon, and stumbled over to where Lauren, Mike-Mike, and Bigger Mike were standing. All three of them were holding hands in a loose circle.
"When do you think everyone will get here. I saw Dwight, Choirboy, and Shrike." Necro said.
"Soon." Said Lauren.
"Soon." Said Mike-Mike.
"Soon." Said Bigger Mike.
"What's with the echo?" Said Necrobump.
"It is this new" Mike-Mike said.
"custom gender" Lauren said.
"we are trying" Big Mike said.
"out." Mike-Mike said.
"Oh." said Necro.
"It is from" said Big Mike.
"the Aephium Server." said Mike-Mike.
"All the Sexes have their" said Lauren.
"genitalia in their" said Mike-Mike.
"hands, and grouped mates" said Lauren.
"share a kind of " said Big Mike.
"telepathy." All three looked a bit miffed for a bit.
"the sex is " Mike-Mike said.
"mind-blowing" said Lauren.
"but conversations" said Mike-Mike.
"can be a drag." Said Lauren.
Necro shook his head. He could never really get into the whole designer sex and gender scene. Society was dictated by the elegance of simple object oriented methods; and gender – even custom made genders – defined by the change in just a handful of variables.
Out here, there were worlds that ran the gamut from libertarian free-for-all to a totalitarian authoritarianism and everything in between. There were some parts of society that had become strangely open into doing just about well… everything. Given the immortality that most of them enjoyed, kinks had developed.
“Wait,” Necro said, “are you guy’s having sex? Like right this very moment.”
“yes.” Said Lauren
“yes.” Said Big Mike
“yes.” Said Mike-Mike.
Necro supposed that he was boring living in his tiny little apartment with pretty much the same body he'd had when he was alive. In a way, he found comfort in habit and repetition, and though he didn't begrudge Big Mike, Lauren, and Mike-Mike their fun and frequent orgies, Necro also knew that that scene wasn't really for him. Maybe that made him a prude, but he didn’t care.
They were the group’s hackers. Mike-Mike specialized in hacking NPCs. Lauren specialized in hacking into internal control systems, and Big Mike specialized in hacking external control systems.
Jesus Wept, walked up beside Necro and said "Yo! You pervs ready?" to Lauren, Mike-Mike, and Big-Mike.
"Still waiting on Savanah and Black Dahlia," Necro said.
"Fuckin-A" Jesus Wept said and pulled out his mini-gun from his inventory. "Today's gonna be a party, like we ain't had in a fuckin while."
Jesus Wept had two heads. One normal sized and one about a fifth of the real size.
Gossip had it that Jesus Wept, had been a PUG on a raid a decade or so back when the group had stumbled across a valuable and mysterious lantern. Without thinking Jesus Wept had ninja looted the obviously magical piece. When he got back to his apartment and rubbed the lamp, according to gossip, a beautiful incredibly sexy nearly naked Genie appeared offering Jesus Wept one wish.
Jesus had apparently said “How ‘bout a little head.” And had been stuck ever since with a second smaller head which no matter how much he’d edited his body, somehow always reappeared sooner or later. At times the head spoke, mostly to agree with Jesus or argue with him
Big and kind of a meat-head, he was the party’s tank and damage dealer.
"Jesus Christ, Jesus Wept. We are trying to be subtle here." Choirboy said as he walked over to their little group.
"All I know," said Jesus Wept, "is that when Jesus saw the breadth of his domain, Jesus Wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. Well I say today we got one more tiny world and me and my little friend." Jesus patted his mini Gun, "gonna start fucking conquering."
"Jesus Wept, it is Alexander." Necro said. "Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. It is from an old movie. I can't remember which one. Casablanca I think."
"Who cares." Jesus Wept said. "Are we going to Kick ass or what?"
"Just as soon as Savanah and Black Dahlia get here. Where the hell are they?" said Necro.