Brown grinned and laughed. “That’s right, fuck you. Fuck all of you. You profit-killing, reputation-destroying, selfish pieces of human garbage.”
Quill was so shocked that he stood up. What the hell was going on? Surely this wasn’t the world’s sickest joke?
Duarte spread his hands wide, a greasy smile spreading over his lips. “This is our revenge, motherfuckers! Years in the making, and oh, it feels sweet. We’ve gathered so many of the former employees who accused us of baseless crimes, and who led unionization efforts. We’ve gathered the politicians and lawyers who fucked us. We gathered the big-name streamers and influencers who enticed hundreds of thousands, even millions of players to leave. And we just locked all of you into this game — permanently.”
Quill felt a surge of panic. He waved his hand, bringing up the player menu. Scrolling through options, he searched for the logout button. But he couldn’t see it. He glanced around and saw worry appearing on the faces of others around him.
“I can’t find the quit or logout button.”
“It has to be here somewhere. Where is it?”
“This can’t be happening.”
Brown threw back his head and howled. “That’s right: yer fucked now!”
Ah, so that hadn’t been a typo in the intro after all.
“Don’t worry,” Duarte assured them all, “all of your devices have connective ports to easily allow you to be put on life support. And we just published a so-called ‘bug report’ to the media explaining the fact that nobody is able to disconnect. So someone should come along at some point to plug you all in and keep you alive. And we’ve warned them not to try to disconnect you lest they give you brain damage and turn you into a vegetable, or give you a heart attack. After all, we wouldn’t want you to just up and die on us right away. You have a game to play, right?” He gave them an evil grin.
A ripple of fear tore through the crowd. Surely this was just some fucked-up joke. But if not, could these two really be holding a million people hostage?
Quill felt a shiver roll up his spine. Something told him this was exactly what it appeared to be. It was too messed up to be anything but real. He silently cursed the corporate bastards and their heinous plot.
“Now,” Brown told them, “all is not lost. To get out of here and survive to live again in the real world is simple. You just have to clear the game.” He fought a smile, as if he were in on a secret they didn’t know. Which he probably was.
“Not that we’ll be around to see it,” Duarte pointed out. “We’ve got a nice little agreement with a certain non-extradition country that we’re already jetting off to even as we speak. We’ve decided to give up this bullshit of constantly trying to cater to selfish and demanding players.”
“And frankly,” Brown snorted, “fuck the MeToo stuff. We like our frat boy culture just fine. Instead, we’re just gonna swim in luxury and naked women who actually appreciate us and gorge on gourmet food for the rest of our lives.”
“We’re leaving the AI in charge. It’s designed to provide you with a real game experience. All you have to do is defeat the lass boss and it’ll let you out.”
“But, we’d just like to point out a few things.”
Duarte raised a finger. It was the middle one. “First, PvP killing isn’t allowed in safe zones. Except for these people.” Duarte waved a hand. “See all these people with a red diamond over their heads? These are all the hackers from various countries around the world who thought it would be fun to try and crash our systems on the first day. We’ve got groups from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Nigeria, the USA, Brazil, Turkey and more. You can kill these criminals anywhere. And we’ve made it so they feel twice the pain. Because fuck hackers. You guys cost us so many manhours and millions trying to combat your shit. I swear, I am so sick of dealing with the headaches you give us.”
Brown nodded. “Which brings us to the second point.” He flipped up two fingers in the British style that did not mean victory or peace. “You’ll feel real pain here. That’s not something anyone expereinced in the beta, huh?” He chuckled. “When you die, you will be resurrected. But you’ll lose XP and gold. None of that easy play that’s so common nowadays where there’s no cost to dying. There are now going to be real consequences.”
Duarte mockingly raised his hands in an ‘oh no’ gesture. “Don’t expect much policing. There are no human mods, just the AI, so you’re pretty much on your own. So, while you can’t bring someone’s HP all the way down to zero in safe zones, there’s technically nothing in the game to prevent any other kind of behaviour, no matter how bad.”
“Yeah,” Brown elaborated. “That’s for all of you MeToo motherfuckers and supporters on a power trip dragging our asses through the courts and ruining our subscription numbers. Maybe you should have tried a dialogue with us first and trying to work together, instead of lashing out and trying to have everything your way only. Well, we’ve made it so that sex is completely realistic in the game. So if someone rapes you in here, tough luck. Better hope you’re a higher level and can fight them off because the system won’t be coming to your rescue.”
Duarte winked at the players. “For those of you thinking, I’ll just sit in town where it’s safe and not play until someone on the outside comes to rescue us, here’s some things to think about. What if rescue from outside isn’t possible because it would kill everyone inside the game. What if only a certain number of people can safely clear the game and return to the real world unharmed? And when that limit is reached, anyone still in the game dies anyway?”
Brown laughed and slapped his partner on the shoudler. “Wouldn’t that be terrible? You don’t think anyone would be so evil as to put a feature like that in the game, do you?”
Duarte shrugged again. “Dunno. But it’s possible…” He winked again.
Quill scowled. Sick, twisted bastards.
Brown turned back to the crowd. “Ah, another thing. You know how you used to log in and we’d give you this amazing avatar that was handsome or beautiful, with ultra sexy or buff bodies or whatever aesthetic you liked? Not anymore!” He snapped his fingers.
A puff of rainbow smoke appeared in front of Quill’s face, obscuring his vision. Then a breeze sucked it away. He looked at himself again. He was in his real body.
“Don’t worry,” Brown said with a wave. “it won’t affect your stats at all. I mean, we’re not cruel.”
“Well, maybe it’s ok to be a little bit cruel at this point,” Duarte added with a gleam in his eyes. He snapped his fingers.
The ragged clothing worn by all the players vanished into threads that fell to the ground, leaving everyone completely naked.
Players screamed and gasped and tried to cover themselves with their hands.
Duarte burst out laughing. “That’s our way of saying you don’t get any starter gear. Unless you buy it in one of the in-game shops with real money. Which, yes, you can still do, don’t worry. We’re always going to look out for all of our whale friends out there first.”
Brown nodded and looked around somewhat absently, as if in thought. “So…yeah. I think that about covers everything. Just wanted to say good luck and thanks for spending so much money on all those brand new, highly overpriced full-dive units. All that sudden income, along with the positive things you all were saying about the beta, really skyrocketed our stock price and we secretly sold all of our shares for a mint.”
Brown and Duarte raised their sceptors and toasted each other with a metallic ding. Gold coins rained down from the sky all around them, though they vanished before hitting the ground. The pair sang, “We two kings be stealing your gold…”
And with a final laugh, they, too, turned into gold coins and and melted away.
Thousands of players flew into panic and rage and confusion, all trying to talk over one another.
Quill fell heavily back into his seat. His mind had gone nearly blank. He sighed. “What the fuck?”