8 Bit Terror Pt 1

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    It was a dark and stormy Tuesday. Rain fell upon the darkened streets. Sounds of water splashing echoed as a lone figure ran.
    "It has been three days since Gamer Xam fell into what doctors are calling a virtual coma. Xam was discovered by his eSports coach still hooked into his VirtPod," said the news anchor.
    The figure took a moment to lean against the brick building. The soft glow of the TV set seemed to put his mind at ease. For some reason he felt that this small bit of light could banish the nightmares that chased him.
    He listened for the sounds of his pursuers but heard only the falling rain.
    "According to police reports," the anchor continued, "Xam's avatar within the digital realm vanished thus making it so his mind could not return to his body. His body is currently on life support at Saint Kodi's Hospital. Police still have no leads as to the whereabouts of the missing Gamers."
    The young man knew he was next. First Player R then Xam...now it was his turn. Someone was targeting Gamers.
    "You cannot escape your fate." The voice sent a chill down the young man's spine. He glanced up and down the street looking for the source. "You must pay for your crimes, Al Rock. You must pay for what you've done to all of us!!"
    The street got quieter, if that was even possible. It seemed as if even the sounds of rain had stopped. Al panted hard; each breath echoing down the long road. No help was coming. The place was completely deserted; it was as if Al was the last person on Earth.
    A hand slowly gripped Al's shoulder. He turned and let loose a bone-shattering screech.
***
"Thanks for coming,"said the police officer.
"You can thank my boss,"said Sally, "he seems to think there is more to these disappearances." She pressed a button on the sleeve cuff of her jacket. The jacket began releasing warm air to dry her after coming in from the rain. Within seconds even her shoulder length, silky blonde hair shined in its dryness. Her soft and combed locks cascaded down as she lowered the hood. The sunshine hair flowed out as if some gust of wind had chosen that moment to run its fingers through her hair.
"And thank you, Mr. Rover," said the officer.
"Huh?" I said. "Oh right. Yeah. I was totally listening and not thinking of Sally's hair."
"Uh..." said the officer as Sally slapped her palm against her forehead. The officer pointed at the VirtPod. "What I was saying is that Al Rock is the third eSports athlete to fall under this eComa. They're perfectually healthy, well as healthy as they'd always been; they've just lost their minds."
I shoved my face against the VirtPod glass so I could see inside. My breath fogged the glass a bit; and when I turned back, a nose print was left behind. "He's a she!"
"Always the observant one." Sally snuck a look inside the VirtPod before continuing. For a moment she looked like a fan meeting their idol. "She was one of the first eSports players. But back in those days video games were seen as a male sport so she created a male avatar. She became the Grand Champion of the 2020 eLympics in Tokyo. Her female identity is only known to a few."
I'd once again pressed my face to the smooth, transparent surface of the pod. I turned back to Sally. "Why? Why not tell once she won?"
"One, men don't like it when women beat them. Second, lying like that would mean death."
"WHAT?!" I took a step back. "Death?!"
"Yeah. As in banned from playing. They would delete her avatar. It'd be game over. I thought you would know this since you game."
"I'm not that obsessed." Sally seemed to take offense to the comment. "So, Al is really Alberta."
The officer coughed and interrupted. "And just as with Xam and Player R, Alberta will die without a mind." He sadly shook his head. "We have no clue what to do."
"Where was Alberta last seen?" I asked.
The officer checked his holographic notes. "Witnesses saw him...her entering Sector 2G in Springtown. It's a section modeled after an old '90s show." He turned back to his holo-notepad than to us. "Rumor is that she was going to meet Player R and Xam there to discuss developing a new game called The Wizard. Xam confirmed this before he vanished. According to his coach, that was why he was plugged in at the time."
***
    Springtown looked like a normal Analog World (aka the physical world) town, but somehow...dumber. After our meeting, Sally and I returned to the Doghouse to use the VirtPods there to log onto the VirtNet.
    "Is that power plant supposed to be leaking nuclear waste?" I said.
    "Do you really think we'll find something here, Joe?"
    I shrugged. "It's as good a place as any. Xam, R, and Al were meeting here to discuss creating a new video game; now they've disappeared."
    I tugged the collar of my jacket further over my neck. The chill from the rain was getting to me. Or maybe it was the case. Three famous eAthletes vanish into the ether with a connection to a new game. Could this game be some kind of game changer? One that would bring untold riches to the developers? Or was there some secret that someone didn't want getting out?
    "Joe?"
    "Yeah?"
    "Why are you narrating?"
    "Was I?" I brought up a holo-screen and changed a setting to OFF. "Sorry."
    As I was saying, this case seemed to be all about money or power.
    "Is that better?" I asked.
    "Much," said Sally. She covered her head with the jacket's hood.
    The question now was who would want to abduct these three? Who could gain from a new video game? And--
    "Joe?" Sally's timid voice exposed her consern. "Do you hear that?"
    I listened. "Hear what? I don't hear anything."
    Sally closed the lapels of her jacket tighter as if some sudden chill hit her. "Since when do you hear nothing?"
    My lovely partner had a point. My super human-dog hybrid senses allowed me to hear a cat stub its paw in Indiana. Though we were in the digital realm, my powers still existed--if anything they were maginified because I was no longer resiricted to "Earthly" forces. Yet there seemed to be a void. The rain still sounded, but there seemed to be an unnatural...stillness.
    This was the Internet; when is there not a few thousand people running around making noise, but since our arrival in Sector 2G there has not been a single car or person...not even a cat.
    "This is getting...unsettling," said Sally with a slight whimper.
    I suddenly felt a chill. A deeper and colder chill than one brought on by rain.
    "Sally Pine," said a voice that could only be discribed as spooky. "We have looked within your soul and found you guilty...guilty of mur-der!"
    Sally jerked back in surprise and rage. "What?!"
    A figure formed out of the rain. It seemed like the figure was born from the rain, not simply walking through the rain. "You have been charged with the repeated killing of our brethren." This figure looked remarkably close to the mid-boss from Spies in Paris. An excellent game about a secret agent, Sticky Bond, trying to stop a nuclear weapon from destroying Europe. I give it a 9.3 out of 10.
    I pointed to more figures emerging from the shadows. "Those are the henchmen from Duty Howls." A first-person shooter series where the player plays as different military soldiers. It's about an 8.4 out of 10 in my opinion.
    Another character joined us. His sudden voice made us jump. He looked like a character from the RPG game Final Documents. "I was once a space adventurer until I took a plasma bolt to the knee." He pointed at Sally. "By YOU!!"
    "That was you?" I asked. "You were behind that meme?" She gave a guilty, yet noncommittal, shrug.
    Suddenly various animals and monster-like animals began to appear around us.
    "You thought we were nothing more than code," said a cow-like monster from the stratagy/turn-based game Kaiju Red or was it Kaiju Blue, I can never keep them straight. "You cram us into those monStar devices and then drag us out to battle other monsters while preaching about friendship and kindness."
    My mouth dropped open. "You guys can talk?"
    The Spies mid-boss spoke. "You have trapped us, shot us, and jumped on our heads for decades. And finally the cries of our spilled code..." Sally glanced at me and mouthed, "Code?" "...have reached the ears of the Almighty Maker. He has freed our spirits so that we may seek vengence upon the Gamers. We are the ghosts of everything you killed."
    "Video game characters don't die: they respawn,"said Sally.
    "That is exactaly our point!" said a random character. "We keep dying over and over and over."
    The Spies mid-boss pointed at Sally like some judge pointing at a murder suspect before sentencing. "It is time to pay for your crimes."
    I put my hands on my hips as the collection of computer code characters edged towards us. "Wow, you sure play a lot of video games."
    "So do you." Sally's eyes went bright and big. "Wait," she said holding up a hand. The gaggle of gaming goons groaned to a stopped. "Joe plays games too. Why aren't you going after him?" What exactly was her plan here?
    One character, who looked like an overstylized villain, answered. "We have looked into his heart and seen he is pure."
    "How can code look into a person's heart?" asked Sally.
    "We read his PostBook posts," said a chair made of Conecto blocks (from the Conecto video games series of course).
    A possuem with a tire stripe down his back stepped forward; he came from the game Roadkill. "Let's not get too hasty here, fellas. He did seem to enjoy breaking the storage boxes and pots when he played as Maggie in Tales of Maggie."
    Another character sighed loudly. "Maggie is not the name of the character! It's Chain! Why does everyone get that wrong?!"
    The binary bad guys began to argue until one character from a game I didn't know shouted, "Guys!" He pointed to Sally and me. "The Players." He said it like, "Duh, you guys. Pay attention."
    "Right,"said a cartoon goblin. "Let's kill them both!'
    Our fictional foes started towards us.
    "Thanks a lot, Sally."

To be continued...
*Many of the titles are parodies of various video games such as Legend of Zelda, Pokèmon, or LEGOs. Some are parodies of other things like James Bond or The Simpsons.*
*I came up with the plot to this story after watching a StampyCat's (or stampylonghead) Ocean Den video ("Fruity Day"). You can see it here https://youtu.be/G7d4FvLFPkk*
For more adventures with Joe and the rest of the Pack, check out the Dogboy Reborn book(s) at Barnes & Noble
http://goo.gl/uBgLmB or at Amazon.com http://goo.gl/DPgOci
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Until the next wormhole...
End of Transmission.

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