Simulated City

Ayuntamiento de Iniesta
Iniesta, Cuenca, Spain
October 9, 2014
9:47 AM CET

Rau’s three Powers were now waiting outside for a taxi to pick them up, seeing as the rented Lambos had been impounded. “I told you, the supercars were a bad idea, and now look at us. They call us Nobles and we’re sitting out here waiting for a ride because you just had to show off.” Gadgeteer grumbled.

“Well at least it can’t get any worse.” Alex said. Thunder was immediately heard, and a heavy downpour quickly began drenching them. “Okay, now it can’t get any worse.”

The sound of a phone ringing was suddenly heard in Gadgeteer’s ears. “Great, Apepi is phoning me.” he told them, not bothering to check his BOGGLES’ HUD. He retrieved the NeoGamePlayer from his pocket and put the call on speakerphone, expecting to hear Apepi through the game console’s speakers as it worked in Kidpunk.

While a voice did come through the speakers, it was not Apepi. “Gadgeteer, Pawn of Play, I presume?” the voice said. Somehow the three of them knew the person on the other end was bad news.

“Who is this?” Gadgeteer asked.

“Lord Entropy. I’m disappointed if you haven’t at least heard my name by now. Normally I wouldn’t bother with this trivial matter, but I’m impressed. You managed to break the Chestnut Law in under 72 hours, a new record.” the voice responded. “I would have you imprisoned to await the trial, but that infuriating Imperator you call Rau refuses to disclose your location. Your trial begins within 24 hours. You will be contacted and instructed to show up at the Locust Court on short notice. If you are late or a no-show, you will not get a trail, you will be executed, no matter how long it takes. Not that I think you have much chance of being found innocent. Being too far away or tied up with other obligations will not be considered valid reasons for pardon. There is no valid reason for pardon in the Locust Court. I will see you when you take the stand, boy.” a beep was then heard, followed by the dial tone.

“…at least it can’t-” Alex began to say meekly.

“NO! SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN!” Gadgeteer and Feeney yelled at him in unison.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (Departures)
Madrid, Spain
October 9, 2014
1:57 PM CET

Gadgeteer had been quiet all the way back to the Madrid airport. The taxi pulled up to the Departures area, and they quickly got out, went through the security checkpoint, got on Alex's private jet, and headed back to their chancel. Several hours later, they arrived at Sea City International Airport in Locus Apepi…

Sea City International Airport (Arrivals)
Locus Apepi
October 9, 2014
3:30 PM PST

Alex got out of the plane and stretched out his arms and legs. "I do love my jet, but it gets a bit cramped in there sometimes…maybe I should upgrade to one that isn't the size of a matchbox…or maybe remove the minibar…" he noted.

Gadgeteer still said nothing, looking at the ground the entire time as they stepped out of the airport.

Alex looked up at the mini metropolis and nodded in approval. "Very nice…" he said, looking around him in slight awe and great interest. The city was certainly impressive. Rau had chosen to form the city from buildings that had been designed but never built. Sea City International used the unused first design of the LAX saucer-shaped theme building, which was originally an entire terminal, and now served as SCX's terminal building instead. A dynamic skyscraper, the Al Burj and the Torre Bicentenario were among the buildings in the skyline, but above them all towered the Sky City 1000.

A marvel of imperial magic and mundane yet impressively experimental and hypothetical architecture, the building was no mere skyscraper, but an arcology. A kilometer tall and home to 100,000 people, it housed the majority of Sea City's inhabitants.

It was upon the roof of that massive self-contained city where the three Powers had first met each other and their Imperator, Rau, less than 48 hours ago. It seemed like a lifetime though, after what they had just been through in Spain.

Around them, the "people" of Sea City went about their business, operating the airport and tending to planes - belonging to fictional airlines - that never took off or landed. Said people had mostly been taken from the wildlife population of Sasquatch Island. Including the prison inmates, staff and the people from the small town around the ferry terminal, the number of actual humans had only numbered to less than 1000 people, so everything from spiders and insects to fish and frogs to birds and mammals had been granted human form and a cushy first-world middle class life that certainly beat fighting for survival in the woods.

A cab pulled up to the curb of the Arrivals area, having been called by Alex just after landing. "You three?!" the cab driver said as they got into the vehicle, "You're the demi-gods that run this place, aren't you?"

"Sure are," Feeney announced. "It's good to be home. Well, you know what I mean."

"You realize this city's been on the edge of collapse, right? I'm the only REAL human I've met all day! You think a dog or a Canadian goose knows how to operate a computer or subway train?! Who the hell do you three think you are to just disappear an entire island from reality and turn it into a city not on any map?!" the cabbie angrily said.

Gadgeteer suddenly snapped. "I bet you think it's so easy being a so-called demi-god, don't you? Ever heard of the Council of Four who made love illegal for Powers? How about the Excrucians, and how we're the only thing standing between them and the destruction of the entire universe?!"

The cabbie seemed a bit stunned. "Wait, really? You did this because it's you three versus…"

"Oh, there's others, but the crud that goes on between Powers is no better! We had to travel to Europe, fight off some jerks that were trying to drain our Estates for their personal profit, and fly back, without a second of sleep! And at the end of it all I'm probably going to be executed for an honest mistake! I wish I'd never found out what a Nobilis even is, let alone become one!" Gadgeteer finished, fuming.

"Alright, chill. I get it." the cabbie said. "But you really need to do something about this. It's about to break into chaos!"

"Well, it'd probably be a safer bet to ask our boss, but she's a scary, scary lady, so I wouldn't advise it." Feeney explained.

"Fair enough. Right about now I'd be asking where you want to go, but I don't think a single person in this city, present company included, can do anything but go straight to city hall if they don't want this whole place to fall apart." the driver said, and pulled away from the curb.

Soon they arrived at a building resembling an office building but with more classical styling. Outside, a crowd of people was waiting as the Mayor of Sea City - formerly the Mayor of Port Sasquatch where the ferry terminal had been - tried in vain to keep everyone calm.

As the taxi pulled up, the citizens - expecting their 'true rulers' to show up in a helicopter or limo or something equally ostentatious - were surprised that gods had at least been humble enough to take a cab after their mysterious trip to Europe.

Chaser exited the cab, muttering at himself in annoyance as he was supposed to meet with management from Oculus within an hour. He looked up and around at the people who stared at one of their three 'gods'. Alex’s motion was soon followed by Feeney sitting up as well. Feeney's first instinct, and first action, was to shut up the angry crowd by firing his gun into the air. One can disrupt many things in many ways. "Oi! What the hell, scarecrow?!" Alexander said in a startled and annoyed mood. He sighed as he snapped his fingers and began to float in midair. He sat down in midair on a sort of "gap" very similar to Yukari Yakumo's yet without the bows at either side. He just sat there in annoyance, glaring down at the scarecrow who had to cause such a…well…disruption.

Everyone just stared at the two of them like they had any more clue what was going on than anyone else. Chaser looked back into the taxi and signalled Gadgeteer to come on out and reveal himself. Gadgeteer slowly opened the door and climbed out as if he was being led to the hangman's noose.

"So which of you two is really in charge here?" the Mayor asked.

Alex looked over at the Mayor and then back at the Gadgeteer and Feeney. "Actually, there really isn't anyone in charge as none of us really possess any sort of significant leadership abilities…we work as a team, nothing more, nothing less."

"Then welcome to the city council, because lord knows we'll need some guidance. I gather that that… thing… who calls herself Rau is responsible for this city, but in her absence we'll need you three to figure out how to fix this mess."

"Mess? What seems to be the problem?" the young CEO asked, his eyes planted on the Mayor.

"Problems. More than one. You've got no experience in this kind of thing, do you?” the Mayor explained. “You can't just summon a first-world city out of thin air, staff it with people who can't even read, and expect it to function like any other city! Even I'm just a small town politician, I can't run a major center alone! You want to keep this place intact? Then we need to educate these animals-turned-people fast, and then get them into jobs they can handle before the whole city starves!"

"How long?" Gadgeteer asked.

"Excuse me?" the Mayor said.

"How long until we run out of food?" Gadgeteer repeated.

"According to our inventory? A week, give or take a few days depending on rationing." the Mayor explained.

“If only we knew the properties of this chancel of ours…” Feeney wondered. “There might be a reason this whole situation is so… unstable.”

"Hold on a second then…" Gadgeteer said. "This goes against everything I've learned in my short time as a Power, but it's gotta be done." He extended his pinkie and thumb and placed it up to his ear like a phone. “Hello?”

“Oh. It's you.” Stone-Cold Eeyore sighed. "You know, there's a reason that most people have to find and use the right payphone to get in contact with me. Just because your imagination-powered smartglasses have to dial direct to me in the absence of that helpful fictional AI, doesn't mean I'm your personal operator."

"I know, I'm sorry.” Gadgeteer apologized. “Can I please get the number for Rau?”

“You… want to phone your Imperator? Are you sure that's wise?” Stone-Cold Eeyore warned him.

“I'm a Kid, not a grandparent. We aren't exactly known for our wisdom.” Gadgeteer pointed out.

“They expect you to know how to solve problems on your own.” she reminded him.

“We will. I just need some information first.” Gadgeteer said.

“Your funeral.” she responded. A ringing noise was then heard.

“Gadgeteer, I'll have you know I'm a very busy Imperator.” Rau answered the phone coldly.

“Then I'll be quick. What are the, um… properties… of the chancel?” Gadgeteer asked.

“They're inscribed on a plaque of a memorial in front of City Hall.” Rau told him. “…I have to go.” she said, and the call ended.

Sure enough, outside among the crowd of people was a memorial to 100 names which nobody seemed to recognize. The quote on the plate also had a short Haiku-like poem.

//The Laws of Sea City:

Everything respawns
Cutscene Power to the Max
Fun comes before fate//

“What does this even mean?” the Mayor asked. “It's just a bunch of words posing as legal bindings!”

“No… no it isn't!” Alex realized. “It's the physical laws of this pocket reality!”

“Physics?” the Mayor said, surprised. “I'm a politician, not a scientist! How do you expect me to enforce modern civilization using this?”

“We don't. Respawns? Cutscenes? Fun before fate? This is no longer part of the Earth you knew, Mister…” Alex began to explain, but trailed off to let the Mayor make his overdue introduction.

“Traveller. Phil Traveller.” the Mayor responded.

“Well, Mayor Traveller, you've just been put in charge of a real life version of Grand Theft Auto Online.” Alex told him. “Welcome to life in a video game.”

“That's not a solution to machines breaking down and resources running out!” Mayor Traveller pointed out.

“Not directly. You know how the Matrix was just a simulation?” Alex explained. “Its sort of like that. You won't run out of food. The cars and computers and utilities won't fail. Because in this city, only what needs to exist to allow NPCs to go about their daily lives happens, and that doesn't include blackouts or subway breakdowns. If you weren't here, cars would sit parked on the side of the road and the traffic lights would alternate, forever, even though nobody was around to take advantage of it.”

“How can you be so sure from just a few lines on a plaque?” the Mayor said, skeptical.

“Reading Between the Lines, Noble Style. Write down a hint about a secret that nobody else present knows about.” Alexander asked him. The Mayor typed out a text message on his phone and showed it to Alex without sending it.

“Hmm… 'i skipped class once in 11th grade' …because you wanted to write an anonymous letter to your high school crush.” Alex said.

“A lucky guess.” Mayor Traveller dismissed.

“…who was going out with the captain of the football team…” Alex continued. “…until she dumped him and you made love in the back of her dad's station wagon on prom night. You then broke up with her because you caught the jock's Herpes from her, which you regret now because she didn't know.”

“Okay, okay! I believe you. Don't go spreading it around. It's bad enough she did.” the Mayor said, embarrassed. “You'd better be right about this or you three will be left with a very empty city.”

The Flea Market
Locus Apepi
October 9, 2014
4:19 PM PST

One cab ride later, they arrived at Feeney's shop. Gadgeteer couldn't take much more of this. “This is not fair! I didn't MEAN to kill Remus! Why do I have to be punished for it?!”

“Look, let's just get your mind off of it.” Alex said. “Are there any games in this shop?” he asked Feeney.

"That depends on what you mean by 'games'." Feeney pointed out.

“I don't know, are there any video games in here?” Alex said, opening the cover of a book to take a casual glance before closing it again.

“I think there's a Pong cabinet in the back somewhere.” Feeney answered.

“Pong. Riiiiiiiight.” Alex said. “ Come on, cheer up! You're the demigod of Play! Shouldn't you be having fun?”

“Fun…” Gadgeteer grumbled. “Do you even hear yourself? We're in over our heads and all you can think about is escapism!”

“That's what escapism is for!” Alex said. “Where did you even come from, that escapism isn't a thing?” Alex asked.

Gadgeteer took the Neo GamePlayer out of his BAKPAK and started doing something with it. The startup noise for MetroSys, Sea City’s Smart City infrastructure based on Watch_dogs’ ctOS, was played by the device’s speakers, letting Alex and Feeney know there was a point to what he had started doing. A half a minute later, he held it out in front of Alex. “This is the official wiki of Kidpunk, a homebrew tabletop RPG. I was the personal player character of the game’s creator, so he could play the game at some point, but no one he knew wanted to actually try the game. He abandoned the project when he realized nobody else would ever play it, but left the wiki up because he had come up with a lot of world-building, the setting was fun for a freeform roleplay or a game using the Risus system, he couldn’t sell it because the basic premise was based heavily on a cartoon he was a fan of, and he liked it too much to trash it. Before he disappeared, he posted me on the wiki as an example player character. Everything that I was and everything and everyone I ever knew was just words on that wiki, which was mirrored on the server farm I ended up in when I was ennobled.”

Alex looked at the game console, which was powered by being one of Gadgeteer's anchors. It was protected by Gadgeteer's auctoritas, but Alex had a trick up his Noble sleeve. Combining his gift of reading between the lines with his extensive control over the Estate of Video Games, he peered inside the handheld's circuits, gleaming the written words out of the files on it. “Wow, those are some awesome adventures. It would make a good video game.” he pointed out, a light turning on in his head. “That's why! It's not that you didn't escape from real life, it's that your life itself wasn't real. You lived escapism. Now that you're seeing reality for the first time, you don't like it!”

“So? What about it?” Gadgeteer said, crossing his arms.

We are going to make you have some fun in real life at least once before this cluster-F-bomb of a legal system gets its claws into you.” Alex assured him. “Just point out something you've always wanted to do, and we'll-” he was suddenly interrupted by the smartphone in his hand ringing. “Should I pick up this call?” Alex asked.

“It's not my phone.” Gadgeteer shrugged.

“Hello?” Alex answered.

“Hi, it's Stone-Cold Eeyore.” she responded. “I've been called in to testify, and Gadgeteer's trial is starting in 15 minutes. As annoying as you guys have been, Rau and Lord Entropy will each owe me a favor if I make sure you get here. You three might want to get to the Locust Court. Now.”

“How?!” Alex said.

“Get out of your chancel, find a phonebook and look for a yellow pages listing between two business related to dogs. Go to the address of the listing.” she explained. “No, it's not in alphabetical order, and no, I don't do addresses.”

“Oh… kay.” Alex said. “We'll be there.”

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