The whole area around the research building was designated as non-pvp.  

It was also an artificial non-mana zone.  It was likely that whomever had designed the security for this building had spent a rather hefty amount of money to prevent raid groups from getting easy access.  

Controlling mana and PVP zones didn’t come cheap.  Necro should know since these were his areas of specialty.  He knew how much he would charge, and he also knew that he hadn’t done the work.  To completely ward off an area as big as this research building and its surrounding lawn would take a phenomenal amount of skills or mucho dinero.  

Idly he wondered if it had been two practitioners or just one.  He could count the number of mana control specialists who could have done this job on one hand.  Limiting the nature of the PVP zone was a much more common skill, so as many a couple of hundred, maybe more, people on this server could have done that job.   

But in his heart of hearts Necro knew it was probably that corporate jackass tool LeeroyJenkins5563.  

LeeroyJenkins5563 was a neckbeard tightass who lived up in Boston and taught Mana Control and PVP Control Theory at this server's version of Harvard University.  Since there were over 1 Billion people and NPCs living on The Free North America Server, a job at Harvard was still about as prestigious as it had been back in the old days.  And LeroyJenkins5563 used that prestige to do consulting work on the side strengthening corporate and guild defense systems up and down the east coast.  

The rational side of Necrobump's irrational thought process knew that he disliked Leeroy simply because of the fact that the two of them were engaged in a quiet kind of mutual cold war of skills on each other.  

Every once in a while Leeroy would come up with a clever new way to make something just a little bit more secure.  A smart way to make it just a little harder to use Mana in a zone.  Something to make it just a little harder to change a zone from non-PVP to PVP.  That would force Necro to spend a couple of weeks trying to figure out ways to break or overpower that wanker LeeroyJenkins5563's changes. Techniques he would then share freely on Mana control and PVP hacking forums just to piss Jenkins off.

Every once in a while Necro would come up with ways to limit Jenkin’s access to areas Necro wanted to protect, these Necro would keep secret until that bastard Jenkins would figure out how to circumvent Necro’s own protections and then he would publish a paper sharing how to do it with the whole academic community.

It was infuriating.  

And the only thing that made it palatable was that he’d once gone to a seminar LeeroyFuckingJenkins5563 was holding and learned that Necro’s feelings of hatred and disgust at Jenkins was reciprocated towards him.  

Jenkins had literally been foaming at the mouth as he described the “destructive work of some unknown, nameless, magician in thwarting proper law enforcement.”  It had been fun to watch little drops of spittle fly from Jenkins as he said those words.  Literally Foaming.  Necro smiled at the memory.

"This has got to be Jenkins work.  Fuck, I hate that guy." Necro muttered to himself.  He was looking over the runes around the property that the cat had discovered which reinforced, amplified, and made permanent the mana and combat boundaries.  

After that Necro’d made a point of becoming friends with Leeroy.  

Necro’d had walked up to him at a conferences about a dozen years back and bought him a coffee.  Leeroy had assumed that Necrobump was only a moderately powerful fire mage and an exceptionally bad necromancer who, like millions of poser wannabes read Mana Manipulation journals as a hobby.  This was a belief Necrobump had gone to great lengths keep around his nemesis.

After that, whenever they met, be it at a conference, a symposium, or meeting, Necro had made it his duty to buy Leeroy a meal, ask his advice, share a multitude relatively clueless and oblivious insights into the field.   

There had been plenty of evenings shared with Leeroy over shots of single malt scotch lamenting the perverse uses of the noble arts of mana manipulation where Necro and Leeroy had cursed the nameless name of that mysterious criminal magician and wished infinite bad luck upon him.  It was fun, and LeeroyButtwadJenkins5563 was as clueless and oblivious as Necro’d always assumed him to be.  

Not that it mattered.  LeeroyJenkins5563 could kiss whoever’s ass he wanted to.  It wasn’t as if some ivory tower dweeb who couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an original alias could beat Necrobump.
Reviewing the scope of the defenses through the Mr. Sulla the cat's memory, Necro realized it had to be.  LeeroyJenkins5563’s work didn't come cheap, and begrudgingly Necro admitted to himself the guy did a good job.   

Like he’d thought when he’d originally surveyed the place.  If it hadn’t been Jenkins, he could have just overpowered and destroyed the whole set up.  He could still do that, but doing that would alert Jenkins that it was Necro himself who’d been here.  

Going in using stored mana like a “Battery” – the traditional name of users of his skill and their tools was called being a Battery – could be done by anyone.  Necro made good money selling gems on the Darknet which anybody use could store mana in just such a circumstance.

Storing mana allowed healers to cast healing spells even in null magic zones.  In fact this was the primary occupation that people who studied Mana Manipulation did.  They made fortunes setting up the runes on non-magic servers in hospitals so that special spell casting doctors could stabilize patients with magic before more traditional technological surgery.  They set up illusionist friendly zones so that graphic designers and movie makers could avail themselves of the special effects only magic could create.    

It took a lot of experience, research, knowledge, and grinding to make Mana Manipulation useful.  Most wannabes and posers picked up a few skill levels. Enough to store a bit of mana a couple extra Thaums in low mana zones.  A little something-something to empower a spell or two with a bit more oomph.  

It was just so much more fun and immediate to throw fireballs, summon demons, divine data, heal wounds, raise the undead, grow plants, create illusions, design interiors, create enchantments, write wards or runes or whatever.  

There were thousands of different branches of magic to follow.  Some, like his own branch, were quite rare.  Others, the more useful ones or flashy ones, were a dime a dozen.  

Magic had come, already programmed into the servers, part of the core programming of the AIs which built these worlds. Inseparable, and there to fill the gaps that technology could not quite fill.  

Savanah started up the van everyone grabbed a hold of something so they wouldn’t crash into one another.  Necro formed a party. Inviting everyone, and quickly, one by one, the health and mana scores of the group, as well as a tiny icon indicating their status, and debuffs appeared in his sightline.  

Then he drew on some of his preciously stored mana and buffed himself.  An aura of PVP formed around him and surrounded him out to 25’.  Lastly he opened up his mana storage to the spell casters in the guild.  He could have limited access, but Necro chose not to. There were times that the team had to act independently of the order he tried to impose upon them. They were professional enough not to abuse that freedom.

The other people in the van were checking their guns, ammo, grenades and quick cast spells were ready.  They double checked that their knives and swords could be accessed quickly.  That bullet proof vests and flak jackets were on tightly.  

Once they were past the security guard NPC who was sitting at the front entrance petting Mr. Sulla the Cat oblivious the world around him, including the fact that the barrier in front of the gate was raised, Savannah flipped on the iced cream truck music.  

Guns ready, team ready for action, they blazed into the back loading dock to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel on a van with the words “Free Candy” written on the sides.

The first out the door and into the loading dock was Jesus Wept.  Jesus wasted no time. Without waiting, Jesus shot some poor NPC standing out by the dumpster having a cigarette.  The next out was Shrike who secured the other side of the van and loading dock.  

Lauren yelled.  “Get me past that door so I can uplink.”

Dwight ran up to the back door, ignoring the rolling style steel garage door for the normal steel door beside it.  He checked, it was locked.  “It’s locked.” He yelled.

Necrobump stepped out of the back of the van.  “Jesus grab the guy you shot.  See if he has a pass or some kind of key.  Hurry we don’t have all day.”

Shrike had started putting explosives from her inventory around the rolling steel garage door.  “Good idea,” Necrobump told her.  “But wait on Jesus Wept first.  If we can find a key leave the explosives there, but add a remote detonator.  We might need a quick way to get out.”  

Jesus Wept ran up with a little card that he’d found hanging around the NPC’s neck.  He waved it in front of the magnetic reader next to the door and click, it unlocked.  Then Jesus Wept pulled out a flash bang grenade.

Dwight said “On three” as he grabbed the door knob.



“Three” and he pulled the door open.  Jesus Wept tossed the flash bang into the hallway beyond the door, and Dwight quickly closed the entrance backup.

BOOM!  The flash bang sound was muffled by the steel entrance way.  

Jesus Wept swept the card again, and Dwight pulled the door open, more this time.  The hallway was filled with smoke.  Jesus Wept swept his minigun across the hallway, aiming low, just in case people had fallen or taken shelter from the grenade.  

There were cries of pain and screams of anger from the warehouse part of the complex.  Jesus Wept continued to shoot.  His minigun ran out of ammo, and so he stepped aside to reload from his inventory.  Everybody in the party’s kill count rose by 3.  And each person got a very tiny amount of experience points.

Shrike stepped into the warehouse.  Her Kalashnikov ready if there was anybody left standing.  The smoke had cleared and the bodies of three NPCs lay on the ground.  Jesus Wept followed her, and Dwight was the third person in.   One of the NPCs was moaning. Bullets had destroyed his legs. Dwight pulled out his hand gun and silenced him.

Necro quickly followed, not because he was all that great with the violence but simply to allow the people who were good at sudden bouts of killing to be able to do their job.  He ran and took cover against a far wall behind a stack of machinery.  His aura of PVP extending out 25 feet in every direction from where he stood.

Dwight who had been quickly checking behind machinery and in corners yelled “Clear!” and Lauren stepped into the room.  She ran over to a computer terminal, but it had been damaged too much by the bullet fire.  So she crawled under a desk looking for an Ethernet port.

Necrobump looked over at Lauren and said “Status.”

“Once I’ve gotten past their security I will be able to remote access.” She yelled out to Necrobump from under the table.  “Give me a minute.”

“Time’s a ticking.” Necro said.  Then he turned to Shrike and Jesus Wept.  “Secure what’s beyond that door.  Remember 25 feet past me and bullets don’t work.”

Dwight was hanging back over by the loading dock door they’d come through.  Choirboy, Mike-Mike and Savanah had just stepped inside.  

Mike-Mike turned towards where both Shrike and Jesus Wept were standing and yelled, “could you try not to kill an NPC.  I might be able to interface with them and get access to all the facilities based NPCs in the building.”

“Check,” said Shrike.  Who opened the door leading out of the warehouse and into the main building and lobbed a flash bang down that hallway.

BOOM! Went that flash-bang.  Shrike opened the door again, and a freshly loaded Jesus Wept poured depleted uranium shelled bullets from his minigun into the hallway.

“I fucking love my job,” yelled Jesus Wept, who quickly went through another belt of bullets, and stepped away from the door.  

The kill count in everyone’s memory went up by another 12.  Shrike stepped out into the hallway AK-47 at the ready.   “Jesus Christ, Jesus Wept!  Your gun shot right through the walls and into half the offices around here.  Save some for the rest of us.”

“Fuckin-A” said Jesus Wept.

“Do you see any who are only wounded and haven’t been blown to smithereens by Jesus?” asked Mike-Mike.

“Maybe in one of the offices?” said Shrike reluctantly.

“Let me.”  Said Dwight who pulled out one of his knives and activated his stealth skill.  Right in front of everyone’s eyes he became hard to see and then disappeared from view.  

“How goes getting into the building’s interface Lauren?”  Necro said.

“Almost in, one more minute.” Lauren said.

“Okay.  Let me know the second you are in.”

Shrike and Jesus Wept stood to either side of the open door.  Jesus was fully loaded again.  The nice thing about computerized gaming inventories was that they have very little to do with the real physics of carrying hundreds of belts of high caliber minigun bullets.

“I see motion in the hallway,” yelled Shrike.

“it’s me,” said Dwight suddenly appearing dragging an NPC behind him.  The NPC had been hit with bullets fired from Jesus’s gun, but had miraculously survived, though he looked dazed and unhealthy.

“Choirboy and Mike-Mike, Dwight’s bringing in someone.  Choirboy, he’s hurt can you patch him up long enough for Mike-Mike to work on him?”

Choirboy, looked at the NPC Dwight had just dragged in.  “The AI’s which control our lives demand that I ask you this, can you spare the mana for me to use a spell?  This poor AI is in dire shape.  Without mana, his spirit respawn within the next couple minutes.  The best I can do with my meager medical training is stabilize him for a few minutes longer.”

Necro looked over at Mike-Mike, who said “A few minutes is all I need.”

“Done.  I’m in.”  yelled Lauren.  “I’m patching all the security feeds into everyone’s mapping system and updating our maps with the latest information.” On everyone’s map, little icons appeared where the security camera, and areas that Mr. Sulla the cat hadn’t gotten into were now properly rendered.

“Lauren, make sure to cut off the video to this room and the hallway.  I want to see them, but I don't want them seeing us.  Big-Mike, what’s your ETA on outside help?” Necrobump sent through the party chat interface.

“I’ve blocked all the phone calls out of the building, so 911 isn’t coming to help anyone in there with you.” Said Big-Mike over the Party Chat. “And I’ve been monitoring the local response and emergency channels and nobody seems to have caught on to anything yet.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own private communication system set up.  You mentioned that they have an Intra Server Gate on the premises, my guess is that if any back up comes it will come through there.”

“Thanks.  Be ready, and let me know if anything changes.”

“Will do boss.” Said Big Mike.

“I’m in too.” Said Mike-Mike. “I can take minimal control of the non-security NPC’s. All the security guards are behind a better firewall. I can’t get at them without them being in line of sight, and even then it might be slow going.”

Choirboy said, “This one of the God’s AI’s is going into shock.  If I don’t heal him now he will surely die.”

Necro said, “Mike-Mike how quick can you program random NPCs around the building to say ‘they’re coming to kill us all, I’m getting out of here’ and then activate some sort of escape sequence, preferably running out the Inter Server Gate.”

“Working on it now.” Yelled Mike Mike.

“This one of God’s beloved is in shock.” Said Choirboy.  “His spirit does not have much longer in this body.”

Shrike yelled out “I hear movement.”

Lauren said, “Six security NPCs are coming down the hallway.  Necro, we’ve only dealt with easy low level office admin, and warehouse worker NPCs so far.”

“Got it,” yelled Mike-Mike.  “They are saying what you wanted to them to say and then making a run to the Intra Server Gate.”

“Shrike, Dwight, Jesus Wept.  Ready to take on some people with actual firepower?  They are almost here.”

“This poor soul has gone to respawn.” Said Choirboy.  

“Ready.” Said Shrike and Dwight together.

“I’m ready to Rock and Roll” said Jesus Wept and his second head said “Fuckin-A”

About the author


  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • The enima of my enemy is my friend


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