I went down the stairs and out onto the street, feeling more at home under the gaudy neon lights of this part of Metro-City than I ever would in places like Forestshire. This was my domain. Dark streets, puddles collecting from the rain. The only thing missing was my oil-cloth. Idly, I wandered down a few blocks to the clothier's shop. Inside, the shop was all polished wood and brass, plate glass and mirrors.
"Hello there sir. Anything I can help you with?"
I didn't recognize the guy behind the counter. That itself was strange, being that the same NPC had run the place for years, but it was made more strange by the fact that the voice wasn't synth- it was miked. This was a player. "I'm looking for something in a heavy oil-cloth with some protective additions."
"Ah ha!" He wandered around the shop, checking things on racks, browsing around, and occasionally eying my avatar, as if he were sizing me (despite all items being one-size-fits-all).
"So how long have you been running this joint?"
"Oh, a month or two, month or two. I picked it up at firesale prices. Rumor has it the city-bosses are moving NPCs out of the main neighborhoods, trying to make for a player-only town; corps are dropping any NPC controlled reality and the maintanance costs."
Interesting. That was news I had heard yet. "Mind if I ask where you heard that rumor?"
He emoted a smile at me, and picked up an oil-cloth from one of the racks. "This what you were looking for? Good AC mod."
I took the coat, and made a few more stops around town before heading for a different subway station, where I could hop the line to the Galactic Region.
I disembarked in New Corralia. Instead of a train, I stepped off of a starship. It was midafternoon, and the port was fairly bustling with traffic between planets and server shards. There was a cacophony of races, languages, colors. Someplace in the crowd I heard weapon fire... sounded like a blaster/phaser battle: typical gang war noises. I forced my way through the space-port into the city proper. Here, large buildings spiraled off into the distance, their tops above the clouds. Early on, a good chunk of that space was inhabitted. Lots of businesses wanted to make a go in the "digital world of the future", but the fan wars had run them out. Guilds like Syndatex had learned to make a profit selling to both sides, and exporting the few copyrights the shard still held. The Galatic Region, as an entity, lisenced a few items and personas from various sci-fi success stories. Major motion picture blockbuster things, GR had rights to alot of them. No other shard did, which meant there were entire classes of items that GR had control over. Syndatex all but controlled GR, and hence, had control over a large amount of imports and exports. Big stuff.
I walked to the curb outside the spaceport and flying cab pulled to a halt. I walked up and opened the door, and inside, a PC said, "Where to bub?"
"You're kidding me right. Isn't this usually an NPC gig?"
He brought the cab into the flow of traffic. "Yeah, well, this is actually more fun than you'd expect. All sorts of exciting stuff when you're a game cabbie. Good money too."
"Can imagine. I'm heading for the replift factory on the east side."
"The Syndatex one?"
"Oh yeah, just opened up a few weeks ago. Some n00b took control and swiped a share of the copyright straight out from under Syndatex. There's been a quiet war for about a week now."
"Got a name for me on the n00b?"
"Nah. When you loggout though, hit the boards, he's all over the place."
"I'll do that. What other IP did the n00b swipe?"
"Hah. There's one big one in this area. Them light-sword gimmicks. He's been knocking them out as fast as the server throttles will let him."
That was a big one. Light-swords had been strictly regulated. There were hundreds of cross-server treaties ensuring that light-swords would be one of the most devestating game weapons, but would also be extremely rare (never more than 1 for any five-thousand players in GR). I can see why this started a war, if the n00b wasn't put down now and taken out of business, the light-sword treaties are going to get cancelled, and there'll be no exports. "No shit. That's a character asking to get wiped."
I leaned back in the cab and contemplated things the rest of the ride, trying to get my head straight.
What is getting me about this story is that I've made it this far without having a direction. Or alot of grammar or style, description, or anything else for that matter. But goddammit, I've got an idea, and a world. Who needs convincing characters, right? Seriously, expect characters in the second draft; I'm not a machine people. I'm enjoying the fact that I don't know any more about the outcome of this mystery than David Crane. I've got some suspicions that he probably doesn't, but... well, I'll be suprised by the ending. Which probably means anyone who reads this will be surprised by it too. I hope.