October 9, 2014
6:12 PM PST
“Here we are!” Alex told Ha-Qadosch Berakha. “A Chancel that's like a giant video game. Perfect for an Imperator who views the world as a playground.” Alex held out his hand to give the Imperator a SeaLink Transit card.
“Indeed.” Ha-Qadosch Berakha said. “The debt is paid.” He then hopped into a Maserati and sped off to play 'Grand Theft Auto: Sea City' in real life.
“I still don't like this.” Gadgeteer said. “What if he spies on us for Lord Entropy?”
“Relax. You wonder where I got the Master SilverGear 3Dual? Or what about that fictional game console you carry? Along with several other methods, they have the ability to put the whole Chancel on lockdown.” Alex assured him.
“What about the people who have to live here?” Gadgeteer said.
“You read the rules. Everything respawns. They'll be fine.” Alex said dismissively.
“What now then?” Gadgeteer asked. “Do we just wait?”
“I've been thinking about that.” Feeney said. “I think we should go on the offensive.”
“Why?” Gadgeteer asked.
“He's got a point.” Alex said. “There's a lot of video games where you will lose if you play defensively. I think the real life of a Noble falls under that as well.”
“Then what do we attack?” Gadgeteer pointed out.
“Well… I was browsing the internet on the SilverGear. There's this PC game called Star Citizen. There's also a device called the Oculus Rift, some sort of VR helmet for video games.” Alex explained. “Both of them were on the rise already until shortly before we came along. Without any intervention they're likely to stall and crash as projects. Star Citizen in particular desperately needs developers with experience in CryEngine. It's going to take a powerful miracle, but I'm going to retroactively make the studio they licensed the engine from go under. A lot of CryTek ex-employees means a lot of potential new employees for Cloud Imperium Games. And CryTek happens to be based out of the same city as one of CIG's studios. I'm about to turn this crowdfunded train-wreck-in-progress into the biggest success story in the history of gaming!”
“You're going to try using them as…?” Gadgeteer asked.
“Just a way to make Video Games and Play more important estates while bringing some Disruption into the normal going-ons of both.” Alex said with a smirk.
“Huh. Clever.” Gadgeteer complimented him. “You know, I've always wondered why you guys do this.”
“Do what?” Alex asked.
“Being a Noble. Siding with the Dark or Heaven? Fighting for some random aspect of Creation? Listening to Rau and doing her bidding?” Gadgeteer said, questioning their motives out of curiosity.
“For me, it was a perfect fit. I already wanted to be a great game developer, but that was probably a pipe dream until I became a Power.” Alex explained. “Now, I literally control the fates of everyone and everything involved with that industry. Being responsible for that much would faze a lot of people, but for me it's like being given the duty of protecting and supporting what I love most, and I want no less for video games than perfection. Heaven was what worked for me.”
“I just do it because I've known nothing else.” Feeney eleaborated. “I was a scarecrow. I was fated to sit in a field day in and day out, until I fell apart. Nobilization meant I had a greater calling. I figured beggars can't be choosers. I chose the Dark because it fit my Estate. Disruption is instability, the faltering of an orderly entity. What else would describe total Disruption than the failure of all mankind's creations? I don't wish them outright harm, but the odds are stacking against them the longer they last. They will fail eventually, and someone has to oversee that series of events. That would be me. The Dark isn't nice, and I don't particularly favor it, but it gets the job done.”
“What about you, Kid? What methods do you subscribe to?” Alex questioned back.
“That's why I asked. I didn't really choose any of those beliefs. I fight for fairness, to protect the innocent and give them justice. Heaven and their beauty, Hell and their acceptance, the Light and its immortality, the Dark and its assertiveness, the Wild and its freedom… I couldn't live with sacrificing fairness for any of those things. So I stand alone against the bullies and thieves of the world.”
“That's… an Independent Song.” Feeney said with surprise. “Aren't you worried about having nobody to back you up in your beliefs?”
“Of course, but I don't care. Someone has to stand up for what's fair, and I'd rather die fighting an unfair world than live supporting it.” Gadgeteer told them. “So what was that about boosting our estates?”
Unit 196-89, Floor 196, Sky City 1000
March 10, 2016
2:25 PM PST
A lot had happened over the past 18 months. Draconic Studios now more resembled an IP Holdings corporation than a game developer, and had funnelled millions into VR research while buying up stocks in various developers and publishers to secretly control the entire gaming industry. Meanwhile, through a deal with the power of Honesty, Star Citizen had ballooned from $56 million in crowdsourced funding to almost double that amount from the sheer amount of trust by its backers.
Other happenings had changed the face of the Prosaic World. The power of Terrorism continued to cooperate with Alex's old foe, the power of Zealotry 'Mohamed', in causing chaos in the Middle East. Recently, with assistance from the powers of Corruption and Bigotry, they had begun eating away at the democracies of Europe and North America, with a scary amount of efficiency at corroding the American political system. They were twisting the hearts and souls of a nation in horrific ways, with various powers trying but failing to fight back.
In general, the world had never been in more impending danger since the late 1930s. As scientists stumbled upon traces of a fruit of Yggdrasil which was closer than the mythology of the Ordinary World cared to admit, the theory of “Planet X” was revived and it became a possibility that a gas giant could fill the void Pluto left as the new ninth planet of the solar system. Meanwhile, scans of more distant space had detected the existence of Dionyl on a far-off branch of the world tree, where the local laws of physics prevent lightning from being tamed, leading to Earth theorising incorrectly it had been encased in a Dyson sphere by an advanced alien race.
Looking inward was not much better. String theory was becoming the straw that was breaking the Prosaic camel's back, causing those who understood the system to begin seeing glimpses of the truth, that the Ordinary World is an illusion.
Even among the higher society of the Nobilis there were problems. Romulus Nightshade was never found, but DNA tests proved Gadgeteer's innocence, leading many to theorize about a conspiracy in which Lord Entropy had something to do with Romulus' disappearance, which was much more plausible than the test being tampered with because people who vocally believed in Lord Entropy's involvement tended to disappear mysteriously during the night.
Without Romulus, Sadism had conspicuously disappeared from the world. BDSM fetishes were disappearing, rates of psychopathy were dropping, and the Excrucian Strategist of lost empathy, Malakai Mesmer, had perished in battle shortly after Romulus' disappearance.
The political spheres of Rau's own powers were not free of trouble themselves. Feeney was riding high as Disruption surged thanks to the Ordinary World, but more and more he was finding that the more powerful his estate became, the more he had to "lend" power to others to maintain that strength. He was constantly receiving phone calls, letters and emails (despite his insistence not to be contacted by email) asking for his blessing of a random political campaign manoeuver, military action, natural disaster or, most irritatingly to Alex and disgustingly to Gadgeteer and Feeney, terrorist strike.
As VR grew into existence, an Imperator had begun the process of creating a power of Virtual Reality. The last Noble with that title had not been a nice person to deal with, to say the least, and it was of the opinion of many that her downfall in the early 90's was more than fair. While VR wasn't quite strong enough to be an estate worth Nobilizing for after the fiasco of the 90's, it's presence was undeniable, with prototypes already in wide use and consumer versions set to enter the retail market in mere weeks.
While Alex had scheduled a video call with the Imperator in control of the estate of Virtual Reality, to negotiate to keep the new Noble from stripping Video Games of the strength it had accumulated, Gadgeteer had the opposite problem. Video Games were something to play, for sure, but so was chess, and hockey, and poker. Today Gadgeteer and Alex were hosting a meeting in the Sky City 1000 with the powers of Teddybears, Toys, Dolls, Gambling, Fighting Games, Fantasy, Music and Imagination to discuss what was to be done about the decreasing importance of all their estates. Video Games were now sapping the life out of all these things, including Play itself, and that meant a solution had to be found or there would soon be a collapse in all estates involved. Alex was only hosting the meeting in his condo in Locus Ayten because he held the most cards in the situation, and for some reason he was late.
The table had some powerful, and troublesome, faces. Theodore “Ted” Wainsmith, Saint of Teddybears, took up a good section of the table in Gadgeteer's dining room, giving a nasty look to Rufus Illborn, Pawn of Dolls. Normally Theodore was pretty nice, but there was some bad blood between those two.
Next to Theodore was his familia member Vivian Manifold, Saint of Imagination and self-proclaimed artist; a lazy, entitled brat in an expensive suit and douchey ponytail with more talent than skill.
On one end of the table was the most politically powerful member of the gathering, who Gadgeteer still owed a debt to after more than a year, Elizabeth River. Her estate barely counted as something that is played, but with her control of the Cammora and her favor during the Locust Court ordeal hanging over Gadgeteer's head, he didn't have much of a choice.
On the other end of the table was Adrian Elsey, Power of Toys, and probably the most famous Noble at the gathering. He had taken the form of an Etch-A-Sketch for the meeting, seeing as most other options would be viewed as crossing the line into someone else's turf.
Nick Seelie, the Power of Music, sat on a nearby end table, casually playing a fiddle. Gadgeteer wasn't happy that he'd shown up, but he was in charge of something that was played, and had a central role in the Valde Bellum due to Music's equally central role in Creation.
Nick Rojo, the power of Fighting Games, had been invited out of courtesy, something he appreciated due to his displeasure that his estate had become subordinate to Video Games as a whole.
Finally there was Katya Medvev. Apparently the Power of Fantasy, she had a dream-like aura around her and was hard to pay attention to. Getting too close to her proximity, looking at her for more than a few seconds, or trying to talk to her always produced results that didn't make sense once you were outside the field of effect. Of course, this was reportedly on purpose, something she maintained to be mysterious and fantastical. She mostly just sat there drinking a mug of coffee and brooding so powerfully that it began to rain outside.
“Okay, since Alex is AWOL, I'll host this in his absence. I'm going to be first to admit I have no idea how to host a diplomatic conference…” Gadgeteer said, unable to reach Alex using the BOGGLES, “…but I'll be darned if I don't try.”
“Well it would certainly be easier if that idiot familia member of yours showed up on time.” Vivian said. “Some people have no sense of responsibility!” At that comment, Theodore couldn't help but stifle a laugh at how ironic it was to hear Vivian, infamous for being flighty, vain and self-centered enough to create a planet with life on it on a whim and leave it to die a slow death, call someone else irresponsible.
Alex ran into the room, holding his SilverGear 3Dual as his eyes were on it. It was clear he did NOT want to be here and was too concentrated playing his remake of Oriental Blades on his handheld.
"Well. Look who finally showed up." Rufus said in his trademark creepy monotone.
"Mmhmm…yeah yeah, give me a second, need to assassinate two high level targets with a kusarigama to get my hidden achievement." Alex said. Normally he wasn't this disrespectful towards ANYONE, this only made it blatantly obvious he didn't want to be here. Well that was more than Gadgeteer could take. He jumped up and swiped the game console out of Alex's hands, then placed it in his BAKPAK. "Hey! I was just about done!" Alex complained, looking around at everyone before sighing.
"Do that again and I'll use a miracle to make your company's next major release into a grindfest." Gadgeteer threatened.
“You wouldn't dare.” Alex glared.
They took their seats and the meeting began. "Okay, what do we need to discuss." Gadgeteer asked.
"Alex has been intruding on my Estate like its nothing. I demand repercussions." Nick Rojo complained.
Adrian's Etch-A-Sketch form drew the words "What's the big idea, trying to replace toys with VR equivalents?"
"You've been ignoring my phone calls. Music and Play are dependent on each other for a reason." Nick Seelie pointed out.
"Video Games and Play are dependent on my Estate for nourishment. I think it's about time you paid me tribute." Vivian said, casually summoning up a glass of wine to drink.
"I'll be reasonable." Theodore said. "Teddybears have been getting less and less important thanks to video games. You're the Power of Play and in the same familia as Video Games. Get him to ease off a little, will you?"
"I'm just here to see how I can get Gadgeteer to return the favor he owes me." Elizabeth pointed out. "Don't worry about me yet, darling." she said, taking a puff from her cigarette holder.
Katya took a sip of her coffee and then set it down. "I'd like Alex to get Bethesda to make another Elder Scrolls game, and to ensure World of Warcraft will not die off due to VR. I also want to make sure MOBAs will continue to exist for the forseeable future."
"Anything else?" Gadgeteer asked.
"Dungeons and Dragons seems to be losing popularity. I need your help to make it pick up steam again." Katya pointed out.
A tall silver haired maid came in, bringing in a silver plate which held a glass of water for Alex. She wore french clothes and had a dagger sheath strapped around her leg, it was clear that this wasn't your usual servant. He took a sip of his water as he looked at Theodore and Adrian. "Teddy…Adrian…that is very much fixable in a way that will benefit all three of us, and Katya listen up. A remake of all Arkoth's Gems games is going to come up really soon, how will this one game benefit us you ask? First off, merchandise and toys will be produced off of the game, promoting not only my game, but also plushies, action figures, and costumes. Katya, you know I love my fantasy games, so this game will surely fit your fancy. As to keep D&D from dying off, Draconic Studios has thought of a game called Monsters and Magicks. A pen and paper game with automated systems all on your PC, with full customization as well. It will reference Aragonian lore and will push for Wizards of the Coast to get their game back up. And another Elder Scrolls game? Done deal, I love that series. Now then, about World of Warcraft, I'll have an employee or two talk with one of the writers and game designers up top to get their creative juices flowing for…let's say six expansion packs? Blizzard is the only big company who rather doesn't mind us much, asides from Bethesda as the deals we've made with them have benefited us both."
He took another sip of his water as the silver haired maid offered around drinks and snacks to the Powers.
Adrian's Etch-A-Sketch form drew the words "You're still ignoring the elephant in the room. VR will kill it all in the long term."
"Merchandise is valued by many, Adrian, I wouldn't count on it." Alex said, gulping up his water.
The etch-a-sketch drew the words "They're collector's items! Nobody plays with those!"
"According to demographics, a LOT of kids cuddle their plushies and play with their figures if they're connected to something like Aragonia, but perhaps we could work something else out."
"Demographics? Get me the research papers. If you're right, then we'll talk." the etch-a-sketch wrote.
"Look, the point is, why are we fighting each other over this?" Alex said. "With this plan, everyone in the room can benefit. I've even got a virtual pachinko game in the works so Ms. River is involved."
"If you wanted an alliance, why didn't you just ask?" Theodore said. "Provided the rest of you are smart enough to see where this could lead."
"All in favor?" Gadgeteer said, raising his hand. Everyone else, surprisingly, also raised their hand. "I guess that means we've got ourselves a little club. Do you think it should stay secret?"
The silver haired maid served Alex a cocktail, placing it next to his folder. He nodded at Sakuya which made her satisfied enough to leave for now. He took the fruity liquor and began to sip from it. "Mmm…the papers you say? I'll have them for you in a bit."
"Pshh. Papers? Any Noble worth his salt can fake a scientific study." Vivian pointed out.
"Honestly, you're gonna call me a liar out of hundreds of other less trustworthy nobles out there?" Alex said, raising an eyebrow at Vivian.
"The papers are redundant anyway. We just managed to forge a secret alliance!" Gadgeteer reminded them. "I know the value of secrecy and teamwork in a world without enough trust. If we can make this work, it'll bring huge benefits to all of us."
"Do any of you even play video games?!" Nick Rojo said. "Nobody actually cares about Drake Studios' games, Alexander. Your company may secretly control the entire industry, but the average gamer thinks they're a tiny indie games developer and complete wannabes. Arkoth's Gems and Monsters & Magicks are nothing compared to their 'inspirations', and that monstrosity you call Duels of Honor is the work of hacks."
"Actually, we've been making deals here and there and our games are rising to the top at a moderate speed. People are actually noticing us and in a few years, we'll be as big as Bethesda if not bigger."
Nick Rojo crossed his arms and said "Hmmph."
Out of spite, a certain Spanish ninja stood behind Alex, as if he was his bodyguard of sorts. Gadgeteer glared at Vega with a look that said he had recognized a rather disturbing link. "Mmmm… I'll look into making another Duels of Honor game to empower both of our estates, ok?" Alex told Nick Rojo.
Theodore clapped a couple of times, and everyone pretty much joined in after that. "Well then! I guess we can call this a success." Gadgeteer pointed out.
"Oh, were you serious about the alliance?" Ms. River pointed out. "I admit it would be extremely beneficial."
"Does it look like I was kidding?" Gadgeteer said. "Besides, it was Theodore's idea."
"I have a suggestion!" Katya said suddenly. "Let's cause a VR convention!"
Alex smirked, "Perfect idea! Now you're speaking my language!"
"Where though?" Gadgeteer asked. "They've got them happening in Paris, Los Angeles, Las Vegas…"
"Hm…what about Atlanta?" Alex suggested.
"Over my dead body!" Nick Rojo complained.
"Vancouver?" Gadgeteer pointed out. "It's close to this chancel, and they never do anything cool in that city."
"Could work…could work…I'd prefer Atlanta though, but that's just me." Alex said, taking another sip of his cocktail.
Gadgeteer began looking up conventions in Vancouver with his BOGGLES. "There's a convention center in Vancouver. They've got a spot open on May 14. Are we really gonna do this?"
Alex shrugged, "Let's do it."