May
15
National Security Incident

Episode 1

National Security Incident

They stole her game . . . and now she must join their fight.

May
22
A New Player Has Joined

Episode 2

A New Player Has Joined

Tandy struggles to fit into Team USA.

May
29
Do the Math

Episode 3

Do the Math

The team takes a chance. It doesn’t go well.

Jun
05
Xyzzy

Episode 4

Xyzzy

The team goes on a quest.

Jun
12
Minglegrass Wood

Episode 5

Minglegrass Wood

A hotfix, a rare drop, and a mini boss.

Jun
19
Battle Royale

Episode 6

Battle Royale

PvP mode engaged.

National Security Incident
Episode 1

National Security Incident

They stole her game . . . and now she must join their fight.
Need a refresher?
Previously on Alternis

1.

 

Tandy | Class: Veiled Archer | Level: 35

HP: 720/720 | Status: */Debug Mode/*

XP: 1,355,135 | Next Level: 1,500,000 

 

The water dragon was a sinuous creature: thirty feet of smooth yellow skin speckled with brilliant red. Tandy found her in a wide green lagoon in one of the many sea caves off the Coast of Fire. The dragon was sleeping half-submerged, curled around a clutch of eggs mottled gray and black like river stones.

“Aloha, pretty thing,” Tandy murmured. “Sorry I can’t just let you nap today.” It was a shame to kill her, as gorgeous as she was. But sometimes you had to do what you had to do.

The dragon had a full health bar at 4,200 hit points. Tandy used her Greater Insight skill to check the dragon’s resistances:

 

Weak to cold

Strong to water

Strong to fire

 

So far, so good. Tandy pulled up her inventory display, looking for just the right cold attack. Ice Arrows? No, she wanted to get this done faster to make for a clearer test; Tandy needed to pull out the big guns for this. Enhanced Ice Arrows it was.

The dragon stirred in her sleep, laying her webbed digits on one of her eggs protectively. Tandy felt a twinge of guilt.

Hopefully she’d only have to do this one last time.

Tandy shot an Enhanced Ice Arrow toward the shallow pool in which the dragon rested. The arrow left a glittering trail in its path, resolving into snowflakes that drifted in the air for a few seconds and then vanished. When the arrow struck the water, the surface glazed over and turned to ice.

The dragon began to take damage: 100 HP a second, ticking down and down. She reared up on her hind legs and thrashed, shattering the layer of ice that held her in place.

The dragon spread her shimmering jaws wide and roared.

“That’s it,” Tandy said encouragingly. “Go on, you know you’re mad; now do something about it!”

The dragon glowered at Tandy, twin trickles of steam rising from her nostrils.

But she didn’t attack. “I’m right here,” Tandy said. She waved, but all the dragon did was watch her, head bobbing nervously.

Tandy pulled up a console window and skimmed through the log rapidly unspooling there. She frowned. The dragon was definitely aware of her, and flagged her as an enemy, too. That was an improvement—the last time Tandy had used an indirect environmental attack, the dragon had never realized that she was an enemy. But Tandy had patched that yesterday, and obviously that part worked. So why wasn’t she attacking now?

The dragon’s health was still ebbing away. The ice was gone, but the magical bubble of cold that the Enhanced Ice Arrow had created was still there. She was down to half-health. Down to one-third.

Tandy paused the world. The dragon stilled, and so did everything else: the curling steam from her nostrils, the motion of the water, the ripples of refracted light across the cave ceiling.

She scrolled back through the last minute or two of action, trying to pinpoint the problem. The dragon wasn’t doing the right thing. But what was she doing instead?

And then Tandy found it. The dragon had gone aggro on a target, and the target was the layer of ice on the water. Once she’d destroyed the ice, she hadn’t been able to retarget the source of the original attack—Tandy and her arrow—because she was still taking damage from the ice. The ice that didn’t exist anymore, and couldn’t be attacked.

“Right.” Tandy grimaced. There were some easy ways to patch this, but she’d have to think about which one to use; as complicated as Alternis was, even a small change in targeting behavior could wreck the whole game’s balance.

Alternis was her life’s work, her masterpiece, her hobby and her reason for living. For almost ten years, she’d been building the MMO she wished she could play: a sprawling, beautiful virtual world where magic was real and evil could be fought. It was her secret sanctuary, and her hope of one day building a better life for herself. Except—

She pulled up the time: 8:17 a.m. If she didn’t hustle, she’d be late for work.

She put her system to sleep to save on her utilities rations, and then she pulled off her VR headset and gloves. She tossed them in an untidy heap on her desk, grabbed her retro ZeldaTriforce messenger bag, and ran out the door to catch the bus.

Alternis could wait a little longer. She had as much time as she needed to get everything right.

#

Tandy made it to work eight minutes late, ducking past Kasper’s cube in the hope her manager wouldn’t notice she’d snuck in and would just assume she’d been there the whole time. She threw her bag under her desk, and while she waited for her workstation to boot, she used her phone to check her personal email. Just one last time before resigning herself to eight hours of being cut off from...

They stole her game . . . and now she must join their fight.