Chris Tannhauser(HiveGod)United States
CaliforniaEver notice how you've never seen yourself—and the madman—in the same room together?
...I was able to send an innocent clone to the gas chamber AND build a motherfucking space elevator. TWICE. And crush a game of 40k and and and essentially win every game I played. So much so that now I'm afraid not to crank my CNS up until I feel like an exploded view of myself. This is other-coherence, this is taking a multi-hour volume of time, space and mind and pressing it flat into a 2-D schematic that even a toddler could grok. It's the 4-space spiderweb of God's Plan defaced with a single squiggly through-line in Sharpie from start to finish. It makes the unknowable laughingly obvious. I'm probably peeling years off the end of my life—a tree chipper coming for me from my future—but I don't care. Right now I'm winning, and winning hard.
The demands of work, general life-stress and old age have conspired to dull my gaming blade, especially when those games happen past nine o'clock, or, in fogey-parlance, bedtime. Green tea wasn't cutting it, and neither were massive infusions of coffee, The Blood of the Black God, to whom I owe my soul and coherence. And still, even the Black God had failed me. It was time to leave the ancient religion behind and start worshipping me some Science.
Fig. 1 — Smells like paint and looks like piss, but baby, after
you pickle your brain in it you can fold space with your mind.
Energy drinks. The phrase itself is powerful enough to give pre-teens a heart attack and the "beverages" are, by the legal admission of their manufacturers, not actually meant for human consumption. But which one? There were teeny-tiny bottles like a Victorian paedophile might implore you to quaff, as well as giant cans that were no doubt designed to feel like a porno-penis in your fist. In the end I was drawn to the one that was not only oversized, but had a cap like you might find on paint thinner or pipe-welding dope.
This was an industrial brain-boost, the kind a cyberpunk antihero would feel angst about drinking, constantly, as he-she slid inexorably downward into the gnashing maw of The System. No baby steps for me—I was desperate enough to go straight for The End.
I uncorked it in the car on my way to game night and had to pull over to double-check that I hadn't accidentally picked up drain cleaner and was about to unleash scrubbing bubbles on my liver. No, the label said you were supposed to "drink" it, just not frequently, nor all of it in one sitting and never if you were actually alive and blah blah blah all over the can like the asylum scrawl of a schizophrenic lawyer. I took a sip and instantly regretted it. The stuff was vile, like a junior-high chemistry class dare, and we all know how that ended up. Still, I thought, did Alice waver beyond the looking glass? Or all those brave rabbits I'll talk about later? They did not. They gutted it out and gulped to slake not thirst but ignorance; ignorance that would flop messily into dread realization, the kind that used to come only from snake-crazed women but is now available in a space-age can. I gulped it down like Adam must have, downloading all the other sex positions out of that apple and into his genetic code—ATM, DVDA, TGOC, etc., etc.
So I drank and the world exploded.
Fast forward, High Frontier.
High Frontier can be visualized as a game where we're all going for a majorette's baton, hurled high and spinning like that bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We scrap and claw and climb on each others' backs in a kinetic scrum to lay hands on it, catch it before it hits the ground and come up swinging to beat the others back. What you don't know—until it's too late—is that one end of the baton has been dipped in shit. Sometimes you grab it in glory only to find your fist slick with feces, power-squeezed from between your fingers, all your efforts congealed into a moment of awfulness that slips away as someone else seizes the clean end and sets to swinging. Usually, though, I just catch the shit-end in the face.
But this time I have left my body and inhabit the board, the pieces, the very moves of the other players. Their turns are the ticking of an analog clock, obvious when laid bare, each move dovetailing as it must with the next in sequence. Like the teeth of a cog I can see what's next, and what will follow after that, and so on until I'm bored like God must be. To alleviate my omniscient ennui, I build the space elevator. Everyone but me gasps, as it's never been done before.
I'm jacked and speaking in blurs. "Doyouwanttorideonthespaceelevator?"
"Wha-a-at?" somebody says way too slowly.
"Do. You. Want to ride on the space elevator?" I drawl.
One of my opponents makes a face. "No."
"But it's really cool."
"I'm sure it is, but I don't need it."
"I won't charge you anything—it's free—that's how cool it is."
"No, really, I'm good."
Then the sun goes nuts and a coronal mass ejection blows out two missions, one a robotic hulk drifting near Saturn, the other a terrified UN crew over Jupiter. For once, I'm not on the red-button-mashing end of the emergency. The UN begrudgingly uses the space elevator to launch a rescue mission—something I'm not ever going to let anyone forget.
"I built it, you used it, god I think I'm going to go piss liquified liver," I gush, exultant.
Fast forward, Android.
In Android you're like Han Solo in Blade Runner, except that you're too lazy, crazy, angry, drunk or stupid to care enough to handle a proper investigation, instead spending most of your time poking your major malfunction while making up shit to keep your boss and the legal system off your back. In the future, it's the results that matter, not how you got there. Android: The world didn't change, and so did crime.
Someone got themselves murdered, and though Occam would say it was autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong, we were, as a group of feckless sleuths, expected to deliver a patsy into the loving arms of endless death row appeals.
Who should it be? I personally like convicting sexbots or clones, since they aren't really people after all, and once the jury hands down the verdict you can just shoot the sexbot in the head with a big magnet or do clone-removal with a head-sized plastic bag and some duct tape. Justice is done before we're all finished giving each other high-fives and chest-bumps.
Speaking of clones, if there were a mushroom that dreamt it was a man you'd send it to work inside a nuclear reactor and then smother it with a pillow when it came out all peely with radiation burns and gripes about "human rights" and other dreaming-mushroom nonsense. And that's exactly what I did.
I doodled a conspiracy on the back of the cocktail napkin I kept seeing at the bar I apparently lived in, then leaked it to the press so it became the dominant narrative. And though the game lacks mechanisms for it, I imagine I also blew up a car and kidnapped at least one baby, since those are the kinds of things that would make me lie on the holo-stand. In the end I had an embarrassingly large score, big enough that I had time to partially disrobe and dance pantsless while adding it all up.
Fast forward, pretty much every game I've played as a Triple-Strength Rockstar.
I would like to boast that it was by my own indomitable will that I tore the scarlet L from my frock and cast it at the feet of my foes; but instead I must admit I owe it all to Swiss chemists who treasure cash over myocardial infarctions, and however many rabbits it took to work out the LD50 of this faith-hating, brain-blasting cocktail.
And now, like a rubber band on the wrist of a bombardier or a dented coin in a gunfighter's vest pocket I fear I cannot game without it; and though I can see through time in short bursts I also fear for an ultimate, enshrouded future where the price of such things must be paid, suddenly and in full. An end I fly toward even now, having convinced myself that falling is but a kind of flying, the trajectory of which I shall occupy while thoroughly cranked, unbeatable in games and filthy with weird molecules.