The Next Level
“Did you get the connection fixed?”
“No the technician didn’t have the part he needed. It’s on order. From Mars.”
“From Mars. That’s ridiculous. I thought the only good thing for sale there are old Curiosity fridge magnets. The rest is just tat. Anyway doesn’t New Atlantis have all the parts we need for the mainframe connector?”
“Nah the water makes them rust.”
“So how are you going to get online tonight? I thought tonight was the big night. The next level beckons and all that.”
Picks up shirt and points to stomach. A long twisting metal cord is attached to his belly button.
“I’m going old school. Plugging in direct.”
“Oh my god. I didn’t know people could still do that. You know you’ll be sick afterwards right?”
“Not if I eat something called a pizza apparently. Going to the hospital later. They prescribe them now for direct plugins. Cheaper than the anti nausea medication they were having to dish out.”
A ringing shot is heard.
Both duck. There’s an explosion next to them.
“It came from over there … quick.”
They run in the direction of the shot. A dark figure suddenly appears. It is huge. It stumbles into the light. A three headed three tentacled monstrosity.
“Take a potion, quick”
“I had my flask thirty minutes ago – it’s still active”
“Ok well buff me then buff me”
“You’re buffed. For God’s sake calm down. It’s only trash. Look how slow it’s walking.”
Takes a deep breath. “You’re right. Don’t know what’s wrong with me. Bit hyper I guess.”
The monstrosity slowly stumbles towards them.
“Well shoot it then.”
“I thought I’d give you a chance to try that thing out.” Points to sword. ”Looks pretty cool.”
“Yes got it this morning. You’re right. I should give it a go.”
Slices sword through the air. In less than a second three tentacles and three heads lie twitching on the ground.
“Yes was farming for months for it. Parsnips, carrots, the lot. Took bloody ages.”
“I hate farming. The dirt gets in my nails.”
“Stop being so Belfie.”
“Belfie. What the hell is that? I’ve never understood it.”
“Don’t know actually now you come to say that. Just whenever I used to look in the mirror to brush my hair my gran used to tell me off for my Belfie ways.”
Silence. They both continue walking the desolate area.
After awhile, “It’s quiet today.”
“Yes all the action is up north so they say. The Terror King has emerged from the depths. He’s resurrected his army.”
“Another one. I’m so bored with the Terror King and his armies to be honest. Killed one, killed them all.”
“Well the city was stormed the other day by the Neopandas.”
Scoffs. “The Neopandas. My god. Why don’t they just get with the modern time. Most of them haven’t even got panda heritage. They’re just bears in black and white suits.”
“Not even suits these days. They just daub white patches on both eyes and chew plastic bamboo sticks.”
They carry on walking.
“Can’t wait for this evening.”
“Hope you get lucky.”
“Luck’s nothing to do with it mate. I’ve worked hard for this. Tonight’s the night.”
Evening. Jim returns home after his day patrolling. The metal cord attached to his belly button is itching but he ignores it. He’s had his pizza. Even washed it down with two beers just as the instructions on the box recommended. It all felt rather old school to Jim but worth a go. He had to get online tonight.
He sits before the wall. There is an old three pronged socket at floor level. He reaches down and knocks the cobwebs away. It’s never been used. He unwraps the cord from his waist. There’s about three meters of the stuff. It’s been heavy carrying it around all day but it will be worth it. He plugs it into the socket.
Immediately the blank wall changes. Shapes start to emerge but he can’t make anything out yet. The connection to his brain via the stomach has not yet been made. He waits. It takes longer when you plug in direct. There’s a lot of information to send down the line and up to the brain. The pizza and beer only help so much.
Finally he feels the energy kick in from stomach to brain. He looks up again at the wall. There is no wall. He is in.
He walks down the corridor but it’s too slow. He twitches his finger and starts to run. It’s ok to run when there’s no one around, but if there are others in game they don’t like it. They frown and tut and sometime you can lose levels. Not good.
He stops running when he reaches the door at the end of the corridor and toggles walk back on. He looks down at himself. His armor is suitable. It’s the right level. Right stats. He adjusts his tie and checks his cufflinks. All is well.
He opens the door and enters the room. There are three people facing him across a desk. Two women (or what passes for women in this world – oddly fully clothed) and one man. The man is very overweight and sweaty. Clearly high level.
“Have a seat Jim,” says one of the women.
He sits down. Immediately he feels his HP start to rise. He hadn’t realised how nervous he was. This was silly. Just a game after all. Why the hell should he care?
“Ok,” said the man, “So you’re currently an Administrative Officer. In purchasing and receipts?”
“And why do you think you’re Executive Officer material?”
Jeez he was good. Jim could feel his HP rapidly going down. Quick …quick… buff self, he thought, but his fingers were nervy and twitch. Finally he managed to move his index finger in the right direction. The Charisma buff hit him. Immediately all three interviewees smiled. Score.
He paused a second. The buff had put his best response on cooldown. He realised he couldn’t wait any longer so went for the standard filler instead.
“I am a good team worker but can also work well on my own.”
The two women nodded but the fat man looked unimpressed. Jim sighed. He had known that response wasn’t going to make much of a dent but what the hell was he meant to do?
“We’re looking for leadership qualities,” said the fat man.
Jim felt his Spirit drop.
“Excuse me a sec,” he said.
He reached into his briefcase and pulled out the purple potion. The three interviewees politely looked away as he drank it down. His Spirit perked up and his Stamina got 10 extra points. He smiled.
“I led my cub scouts squad when I was level 7. We were able to make a den and a campfire even though one of the squaddies had lost his teddy bear and was in tears. I don’t think you can expect more from a leader.”
All three nodded vigorously. Jeez that purple stuff was good.
And his big hitter was off cool down. He wiggled his wrist.
“I have delivered efficiency savings for government and improved customer service despite staff resource cuts. I have achieved this through increased automation and the implementation of Lean methodology.”
“Excellent,” said the fat man. He clearly couldn’t help himself. The two women were actually applauding. Oh it was worth talenting in Meaningless Management Speak. It really made you invincible in this sort of PvE scenario.
He was almost there. He felt it.
“Is there anything you’d like to ask us?” said one of the women.
Oh. He hadn’t expected that. Normally that phase didn’t kick in until later in the encounter when everyone was bored and had run out of questions. Was it bugged he wondered? But there wasn’t time for that. He had to answer. There were no buffs left. No potions. But he did have that one ability. It wasn’t even from his main spec. He dug through his body until he found the right button. It was the lips. He puckered them up then spoke.
“No nothing. The pre-interview literature was extremely comprehensive and your success of course speaks for itself.”
“Hooray you’ve got the job,” they all said in unison. The Arse Kisser finisher never failed although you did lose – irrevocably- 5 points from your Soul. Worth it though.
“You mean I’m in?”
“Yes level 20. Off you go to get your car. Very well done.”
He walked out of the room, shellshocked. He couldn’t believe he’d finally done it. He…
The office faded. He was sat in front of the blank wall.
He looked down – the connection had fallen out of his belly button.
“Bloody crap stupid….”
But he couldn’t be angry for long. He’d levelled up. What a great night.
He rang his friend.
“I did it!”
“Great stuff. Graz. Level 20. Car time then. Have you decided what you’re getting?”
“Well I’m exalted with Toyota so probably one of those.”
“And what’s next now?”
“Not sure. Got a lot of purchasing and receipts to clear.”
“Doing dailies then?”
“Yes 9-5 easily for the next 6 years.”
“Ah well it will be worth it.”
“Definitely. I just keep thinking of the pension at 85. They reckon that’s when the real game starts.”
“Yes so they say. Can’t ever imagine getting there myself. And if I do they’ll probably have nerfed it.”
“Anyway so what’s on for us tomorrow?”
“Oh the usual. Sylvanusatrus is on the rampage in the Dark Toppling Tower. She’s joined forces with Garotte Orchead. There’ll be 25 of us. We’ll have to get in, deal with the mechanics and hopefully bring them both down.”
“Yawn. Jeez that’s so boring. I hate my life.”
“I know. I know. But at least you’ll have Purchasing & Receipts in the evening.”
“Yes thank god for that.”
“Ok. Night night then.”
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