Darkness. Then… something. Hazy memories. Words written by some other being. Words spoken that I was not around to hear.
A name. MY name. Sort of. A memory, where I had rejected a name given by tyrants and taken on the codeword 'Gadgeteer'. Cheering by allies at my action of defiance.
Then nothing. A lot of nothing. I just… sit there. I know what I should look like, but I don't look like that. I don't even have a body. I just see grey, a light flickering between black and white so fast I can't make sense of the pattern. There is nothing else except the static.
Suddenly, after what seems like an eternity, the grey turns to white. I can feel myself rushing outward, taking form. My brown newsboy cap, goggles, red hoodie, backpack, jeans, socks and sneakers assemble to cover my now solid body.
Information rushes into my head. From a state of simply observing but not conceiving, I can instead see the most basic units of information like an atom, swirling electrons constantly. From there I can think like a bacterium, searching for food, running from viruses. Then a jellyfish, stinging threats. An insect following the clues left by other bees in the hive. A mouse seeking unknown cracks to get through a wall. A dog. An ape. A child.
A child. I feel a sort of belonging here. But soon I surpass that too.
I see the world with its flaws, like a teenager. I realize how to avoid those flaws, the way a grown human does. I feel the fear of death wash away, as if I am expecting and accepting it. Except I don't.
That doesn't make sense. I can still feel the scared child I realize I am. I don't want death. I don't accept it.
Then comes the real shock. I feel something incredible, like I'm playing the best game ever made. I can feel countless events. The kids in their rooms playing with toys. The roleplayers on their forums and at their dining tables. The fields and stadiums full of cheering sports fans and determined athletes. The servers and internet connections and software supporting MMORPGs. The gamblers at their slot machines and card tables. Even, for some weird reason, the stages where actors put on live shows for captivated audiences.
I realise my eyes were closed. I open them, to find myself standing on a machine of some sort. My memories tell me this is 'AdulTech', devices that kids can't build, but that perception feels off. I look around, seeing I am standing in a large room in a building. The word MetroSys have been printed on the walls and AdulTech 'servers' in this room.
I can feel things about this place… dormant. Things meant to be played. This room is a server farm, connected to the fibre optic cables running to the North American mainland. The system is meant to make the local area into a 'Smart City'. Among the many things running on the servers, some of them are multiplayer video games, with titles like 'World of Warcraft', 'League of Legends' and 'Ingress'. But there is also a wiki called 'Kidpunk' that described a tabletop roleplaing game based off a cartoon. The world I remember. I think back, and come to the conclusion that those memories aren't real. They're too vague, too clunky. Created. Written.
I concentrate and look closer. There's a digital hole, a place where a character would have been described but the data had been torn right out of the wiki page. The character is mentioned by name on other pages…. 'Gadgeteer' was nothing more than a character in a game.
If that was true, what am I? Why can I know the sensation of every instance of play, no matter where it is?
I use this sixth sense to look through the eyes of 'play', glimpsing this world. It's much more complex. And there are layers. The 'mortals' have no idea what lies just beyond their mundane world of science and technology. There are others like me, ripped from their boring lives among humanity or their former role as an animal or transformed from a machine or ripped from a book or a patch of ground, to become Nobles, the immortal Powers entrusted with aspects of reality while the Imperators who truly embody those aspects fight off a threat that could destroy reality itself.
Reality? They call it Creation. I don't know what to call it. If the world I knew is just a game, then this one has no meaning to me. Why should I care if it is destroyed or not? "Because there are innocent kids here too" I realize. That's when a feeling hits me, the songs that ask for my allegiance.
Heaven calls with its pledge to beauty at any cost. To me, beauty is no excuse for unfairness.
Hell gives its offer to never leave me, to be my only reliable friend in a cold world, even when I am myself cold and uncaring, or worse. I refuse, I can't support those who don't deserve it.
The Light offers me immortality, but I can tell it doesn't care about my goals. It would trade childhood and fairness in a heartbeat if it meant immortality for just one person. I won't be immortal in an unfair world.
The Dark comes to me strong, as if something gave it an extra push in my direction. It offers to remove all limits, but it too is unfair.
The Wild tells me "If you want to make your own justice, if you want to have freedom, be wild!" but it is too selfish to be fair. The wild cares only about how things relate to it.
I drive them all away, and a terrible thought settles in my mind… "I am alone." I push it aside, but it won't go away.
Then I remember something. 'Kidpunk' may be fictional, but so was I. If I'm here, complete with what I wore in the character description, do I have my equipment? I'm wearing the B.O.G.G.L.E.S. for starters, a computer assistance system with an HUD display. It comes on as soon as I think of them. They show me a map of the city I'm in, directing me towards a door. I navigate the hallways until I end up in a parking lot behind the building. I then focus on my B.A.K.P.A.K. and at my will I use it easily take off, the blowdryer propulsion of the jetpack working despite, or maybe because of, the physics of this universe. Soaring upward, I can see a city taking up the entire land area of an island. The ocean goes on as far as the eye can see. A huge tower stands in the center of the city, taller than some mountains, and I head towards it, drawn by some invisible force.
Along the way I decide I might as well enjoy the ride. The thrill of flight, despite the fact I remember doing this all the time in my fictional home, feels enhanced. I zip around buildings and through 'valleys' between skyscrapers created by the gaps left for wide avenues. When I land on the tower about a half-hour later, a few figures stand waiting for me.
"Took you long enough!" one of them says, a teenager in a t-shirt bearing the logo for something called 'Draconic Studios'.
"I… What… Who are you?" I ask.
"…good question." says a scarecrow who had apparently been made a Noble. "I never had a name. I suppose you can call me Feeney."
"I'm Alex Chaser. And right now I've got a company to get back to running." says the teenager.
The last figure was quick to reprimand him. A tall, skinny woman in high heel boots, a sweater and a touque. In her left hand was, of all things, a box of Chinese takeout. "Do I need to remind you again? Your Noble responsibilities are far more important than a mere corporation." she said, then turned to me. "I'm Rau, your Imperator. I hope you were smart enough to find out what that means before you got here."
"It means you're my new Area 80. I know the drill, you come up with orders, I execute them." I say. "I'm Gadgeteer. Please don't make this harder than it has to be."
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Rau says, offended. She casually took a pair of sunglasses out of her pocket and put them on as she said this.
"It means if I'm going to follow orders, I don't want to be harassed!" I snap.
"I don't think you quite understand this relationship. In your mind, you think we're in agreement about what needs to be done." Rau begins, "Well I have news for you. This is not the K.I.D. and your agenda to help children worldwide means nothing. Whatever new goals you come up with in the future also mean nothing.” Rau then gave them all a short lecture. ”You have two duties, do not disobey me, and fight for the preservation of Creation, in that order! Your own needs and wants come after that. And so help me, if a command outright goes against your moral principles, then you just have to live with it and do what you've been told! And that goes for the rest of you as well!"
I wasn't going to put up with this. "Then you might as well send me back where I came from!" I say.
Irritatingly, Rau opens the takeout box, summons a pair of chopsticks from nowhere and begins eating. "That's not possible. You were a dormant file on a wiki website. Now you are a thinking being of immortal status, yet the wiki is the same. It's like trying to shove an elephant into a carbon nanotube." Rau explains between mouthfuls of not-really-Chinese fast food. "I should take back the estate of Play for that comment, but I actually have an important use for you. So I'll make you a deal. When Lord Entropy is dead, I'll never give you another order."
"Lord Entropy?" I ask.
"You'll see." she says ominously. The box of takeout and chopsticks disappear in a puff of smoke.
"Alright, I'll take the deal." I answer, hoping I'm not making a huge mistake. “I want to know something though. What are we?”
"You are Powers of Creation. Nobilis, created from a mortal soul and infused with the essence of your Estate. You, Gadgeteer, feel imprisoned because Play must be by choice, something which I won't usually give you. Alex, the Power of Video Games, is annoyed because his absence from his company is getting in the way of the creation of Video Games, however slight. Feeney is content for now because he is the Power of Disruption and this meeting is disrupting everyone's schedules, life or free time." Rau stated.
“I know that.” Gadgeteer told her. “I mean, what are we REALLY here for?”
Rau ignored the question. "I'll give you a bit of time to get acquainted with how you now relate to the world. Make sure you're ready."
- From the Thought-Record of Gadgeteer, Power of Play
8th of October, 2014