I’m not happy. After being killed in Incrementum, again, I stepped out of my VR pod, set a thirty-minute alarm and started scanning my messages. I read the Board’s response first. I didn’t expect anything different, not really, but it’s still infuriating. I’ve known for the past week Helga’s demands were impossible and suspected so for the past month. I thought maybe I was onto something with the budget being misappropriated and perhaps passing information to the board would expose Helga as a crook; but nope, according to the board, it’s just me not doing my job, just like Helga always said.
Why didn’t she tell me about the influx of funds next month? I’d still ask for them sooner and she’d probably tell me no but come on, that’s information that could help me. Maybe she just doesn’t want me working there anymore and didn’t want to offer any hope? Doesn’t make any sense to me. I stomp around and kick my VR pod, immediately regretting my decision. My foot really hurts. I sit on the ground and put my face in my hands.
Finding a new job is going to be difficult, especially with the hit my Technician’s Ranking will take from being fired. Explaining the situation to Mom will be harder. There is a thin silver lining of not having to count down the days until I get fired or having to waste time tilting at windmills, I guess. I didn’t get my Technician’s certification and college degree years before anyone else ever does by wasting time.
Should I even bother going back to Incrementum? I’m going to have a lot of spare time during the job hunt but now that I know I’m hunting there is still quite a bit I can work on. Dan’s watery eyes from our conversation around the campfire flashes in my mind. I did make a deal, but would Dan really expect me to put playing the game over my career? Instead of debating more with myself I decide to give David a call.
“David! Check out the email I just sent you. It looks like my boss isn’t a crook, she’s just a mean tightwad. What a disaster. I knew my e-mail to the board was a risk but uuugh.”
David’s hologram scans the e-mail for a minute and then shakes its head.
“I’m sorry, Sam. You’ll do great at your next position and prove these people wrong. I know you and their budgeting and projections have to be wrong.”
“Right? Thanks, David.” I pause for a few seconds and take a deep breath. “Honestly, it’s a relief. The past month has been hell and the year before that was stressful too. I lost Robert. I can focus on getting him back and finding a new job now. The only jobs my Technician’s Rank qualify me for should be easier so I should have more free time for Robert, maybe, even more, games too, who knows. Mom’s going to be upset.“ I pause again. “I still don’t understand what the Board is thinking. They needed to authorize more money to keep their tenants in power, regardless of what happened with the existing budget and more money coming by next month. I barely kept the lights on this long. Without all the effort I put in they’d have partial outages for at least a few weeks if not a month or two before the scheduled influx of cash. It just doesn’t make sense.”
David raises his eyebrows, “Like I said, they must be wrong and too stubborn to admit it, or something. I’m ignoring that bit about Robert. He sucks, good riddance.” He keeps talking before I can get a word in to defend Robert.
“Oh! Thanks for talking to your Mom. She stopped harassing me which freed up enough time for me to hop in a VR pod. Where are you near Brighthollow? I made my way up there following some famous guy, Null Division. I have a few points of interest on my map, a cave, a homestead, the river and my current camp. Are you near any of those?”
“Stop being an ass David, or should I say...Kuruk.”
“Come on, you can admit it now, your name in Incrementum is Kuruk. You totally slipped up when you said that stuff about a caterpillar train and a bear.”
“Caterpillar trains are fascinating, I’ll give you that, but Kuruk? My name in Incrementum is Glacial Burn. Get it?”
“Ice so cold it burns? Slow burn? Not much there, David. Wait, Null Division? That guy is a total ass. He took a quest from Decrepit to murder everyone in the Homestead my friend’s boss started.”
“Woah, he already got a God Quest? Jeez, I know he’s over level 35 already but I haven’t heard of anyone else getting a God Quest. Can he share it?”
“Who cares, the quest is to burn down my friend’s town, I’m not sharing that. I agreed to help Dan defend the town from Null if he helped me incarnate a new God, Chronos.”
“Who’s Dan? And you got a God incarnation quest? Holy panda. Does that quest have experience rewards? Can you share it? How’d you even do all this in what, the two days you’ve been playing? Day and a half?”
“One, Dan’s my tutorial guide. He’s a nice guy, works for the lady that started Athens, the Homestead Null is trying to destroy. Two, the quest does have some experience rewards. Three, maybe I can share it, I haven’t tried to do that yet. Four, Incrementum runs at 4x speed you know that. Nice try on the question barrage but you know I’m too good to fall for that.” I rub my knuckles on my shirt in the universal sign of knowing you’re awesome.`
David smiles, “Can’t blame me for trying. So how do we meet up?”
“I’m not sure I’m going to play again, to be honest. I’ve got to find a new job now...”
“Oh, stop it already. All you do is work. Have fun for a few days before diving back into it. Even if your Technician’s Rank goes down a whole hundred points all you’ll have to do is post your unemployed job status and recruiters will be all over you. I just finished midterms, come play some games. You owe me, I’ve been listening to you complain about Robert for weeks.”
“Fine, fine. Ok, so do you actually like or trust anyone that’s with you right now in-game?”
“Perfect. Ditch them and then head for the cave on your map. By the time Incrementum lets me back in maybe you’ll be there.”
“Cool, see you then.”
David’s hologram disappears from my apartment. I start scanning the rest of the messages that have piled up while I was in Incrementum. I delete all the messages from Mom. Then, I delete all the messages from Helga, accept the one that came in today. Why is she messaging me today? She has to know the Board is firing me. It simply reads, “Call me. Please.” Please? That’s not a word I’ve ever heard out of her mouth. Maybe if she had helped me even once over the past month I’d do her the courtesy of calling her, but not now.
I tell my apartment, “Set my Microsoft Work Profile Status to ‘Seeking Employment.’” That should get me some interest before my Technician’s Ranking gets docked for being fired. Helga might have a change of heart and report my firing as not related to my competency but I doubt it. By reporting my work as incompetent or below average she can get priority from the Technician’s Guild when seeking a replacement. I can dispute it of course, but that will take time, more time than I have before seeking a new position. Unless I want to apply for a Universal Basic Income and stop working altogether of course but why would I do that? I like working on power systems.
I say, “Order a Super Value Meal, air delivery.” As I wait for the McDonald’s drone to come to my apartment’s window delivery port, I say “Compile information on Incrementum God Incarnation.”
My AI presents a long list of articles on the subject. I start reading through it and get a clearer picture of the benefits and requirements of bringing Chronos into Incrementum. According to what I’ve found, it normally takes at least one thousand players all declaring their intent to worship a new God in order to manifest a new God. Each player becomes the parent of that God. No player can ever become the parent of two Gods. When a player is the parent of a God, they can create and receive boons for a fraction of the normal Chosen God boon cost. I can’t find specific numbers but the makers of Incrementum seem to emphasize the low cost. There’s one catch. If the new God dies, through lack of faith or Decrepit’s decree, the God’s parents die too.
My quest to incarnate Chronos must be extremely rare. Skipping the thousand player requirement dramatically reduces the effort required to incarnate Chronos, on top of that, Chronos must have “grandfathered” faith from Decrepit’s old cabal. As long as I don’t lose faith in him, he shouldn’t die, making the risks of parenting a God significantly less.
I’m starting to get excited. I can think of a half-dozen ways a Physics boon could make my avoidance tanking strategy superior to that of a mitigation tank.
My apartment says, “Thirty-minute timer is up.”
I step back into my VR pod, lay down and briefly see black before I’m back in Incrementum.