Life Story

Our story so far: for the last week or so, I’ve been posting some stories in the guise of actual journal posts.

Read those first. In any event: now I’m ready to go narrative! This chapter crossposted to DeviantArt and to my LJ.

A HL2: Deathmatch Conversation

Kevin, Naho, and I were playing a <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_(computer_gaming)”>mod</a> Kevin had made for <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Life_2:_Deathmatch”>Half-Life 2: Deathmatch</a>. The reason it was a mod was so that Plan N could play it with us. He was playing as the entire opposing team, as well as everyone else on <i>our</i> team. And the reason for <i>that</i> was that, since he didn’t have a body to distract him, his speed and reflexes were so much better than ours that we thought it best if they were divided among nine different points of view. As it was, Naho and Plan N were in the lead.

As I navigated through the ruined tunnels of City 17 – I was playing with rebel character <a href=“http://www.hlcomic.com/cast/gord2.jpg”>Male_07</a> – I came upon one of the Plan N-controlled <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combine_(Half-Life_2)”>Combine</a> soldiers killing one of the Plan N-controlled rebels. “I appear to have <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn”>pwned</a> <i>myself</i>,” remarked Plan N, pronouncing it “poned.”

“That’s almost a Zen thing,” I said, <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weapons_in_Half-Life_2#Shotgun”>shotgunning</a> said Combine soldier. It collapsed in an unrealistic <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragdoll_physics”>ragdoll-esque</a> position, its expiring exclamation a robotic-sounding <i>URGH!</i>. “And <i>you</i> got <i><a href=“http://www.hlcomic.com/index.php?date=2006-02-17”>Frohwned</a></i>. Uh, so, Naho, have you ever given thought to a last name?”

“Last name?” said Naho, blinking in confusion. “Uh … no. Why?”

I shrugged. “Well, for one thing, I think it’d make it easier for me to think of you as a person instead of, like, a <i>character</i>, or just a machine, or something. Might help other people, too.”

“That … makes sense,” said Kevin. From his computer, there was the distinctive sound of an <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weapons_in_Half-Life_2#Rocket-Propelled_Grenade_Launcher_.28RPG.29”>RPG launcher</a>, followed by an explosion and an <i>URGH!</i> “What if they say, ‘oh, you’re just giving her a last name to <i>try</i> to make it look like she’s more human’?”

“Then they’re trying to argue one of her positive points as if it was a negative,” I said, switching to my <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weapons_in_Half-Life_2#Submachine_Gun”>submachine gun</a> and firing its grenade launcher at a Combine soldier, who caught it with his <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weapons_in_Half-Life_2#Zero-Point_Energy_Field_Manipulator_.28a.k.a._.22Gravity_Gun.22.29”>Gravity Gun</a> and lauched it back at me. The game switched to a third-person perspective as my character died with a yelp. “Hell’s bells, N, that’s exactly why we wanted you to lower your difficulty settings!”

“You mean like that?” said Naho with a smirk.

“Hey, I was talking about philosophy,” I said. “That’s game balance.”

“As for a last name,” said Kevin smoothly, “how does Entu sound? I mean, as in, using her designation as a word?”

“Great let’s do that,” I said promptly.

Kevin blinked, glancing in my direction. “What, you don’t want to hear any of my other ideas?”

I took a moment to fire a <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weapons_in_Half-Life_2#Crossbow”>crossbow</a> at a Combine soldier from long range. “No, cuz I just <i>know</i> any other name you’re likely to come up with is going to be some kind of fanservice pun.”

“And how do you ‘just know’ this?” said Kevin indignantly.

“Because he’s spoken with you for more than five minutes at a time,” said Plan N blandly. Naho giggled.

“Yeah,” I said. “Me, I’d just come up with puns that are just plain atrocious. Like Teranderson – just so I could do <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo_(The_Matrix)”>amusing things</a> with <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Smith”>Hugo Weaving</a> voice clips …”

There were groans all around, and a coincidentally-timed <i>URGH!</i> as Plan N happened to “pwn” himself again.

The scores came up at that point; as expected, Plan N had the highest total, but since it was divided between nine different characters, Naho and Kevin came out at the top. I was in fourth place, behind one of Plan N’s soldiers. The Rebel team won.

As I was leaving to head out to my dorm room, Naho stopped me. “Say, Dylan …”

“Yeah?” I said, pausing as I put my winter coat on. Now, I’m not usually the most observant person in the universe, and I sometimes miss the subtle nuances of peoples’ facial expressions and voice, but I suddenly found myself counting up until I wanted to punch Kevin.

“Well, I went into sleep mode,” said Naho, “and I … well, suddenly it was like there was a screen saver going on or something, and there were these … robotic <i>sheep</i> running around in a field …”

<i>Seven</i>, I thought, my face going blank. “It means,” I said, “that Kevin Sanders programmed your dreams.” I turned back to the house and shouted, “KEVIN!”

While I find myself unable to form an opinion on the content of the story, not being very familiar with HL2, I do feel compelled to add this; Your prose is very well-written, and the links and such embedded within add a nice bit of flavor. I know you to be very creative, so you should definately keep writing. :slight_smile:

I suppose the context of HL2 itself isn’t absolutely vital (apart from the “Frohwned” joke, which isn’t vital either; same goes with the vaguely running gag of Combine soldiers going URGH – see my “Mood” in the LJ version). It just lends itself to being specific as I make the transition from “blog post” to “narrative” mode. Methinks if I ever rewrite the whole story for the purposes of making a continuous narrative, I’ll, uh, rectify that …

Pet the kitty. Your post demands reading three extra posts, see, that’s the problem. Click-lazy fellows.

Hm, read it. Only after reading the posts did I make heads from tails. The transition from LJ to narrative is a bit abrupt; the mood also changes as it seems to be more humor based. If you can rewrite it, it’d read better. Now you got your premise; what happens next?

Okay, I decided I’d throw in a little background-thingy for those of you who haven’t read the LJ posts – in essence, transforming the first chapter into medias res. (heh heh) Crossposted to LJ and DA again.

<b>Teleportal Malfunctionism</b>

Perhaps some introductions are in order. Maybe it’ll turn out that they’re entirely <i>out</i> of order – especially depending on what order you’re reading these in – but either way, lemme pause in my “showing” to do some “telling”, so here goes.

Hi, I’m Dylan. I’m a twenty-one-year-old student at Keene State College, currently living on-campus in a dorm room, majoring in Computer Science and probably minoring in Philosophy.

Kevin Sanders is a few years older than me, and a bigger nerd than I am. Here’s a comparison: I know just enough about Star Trek to giggle at <a href=“http://qntm.org/vontus”>direct parodies</a> and the phrase “<a href=“http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ReversePolarity”>reversing the polarity on every damn thing</a>”, but if Kevin decided to focus on Star Trek, he would probably make a database of all the episodes of all five series’, and take notes on any inconsistencies he saw. Kevin could write his own operating system, and could probably give it a GUI that looked identical to that of Windows if he had the slightest graphical skills, whereas I would merely appreciate the effort. Meanwhile, he is obsessed with <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_service”>fanservice</a> and seems to have gotten his hands on every single anime in which it is a primary concern, rather than merely something to throw the fans every so often. He is also, bizzarely enough, an engineering genious with a flair for creating the impossible.

Case in point: Plan N is an <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence”>AI</a> Kevin wrote; the impression I got was that plans A through M had failed or something. I initially thought it was some sort of prank involving an instant messenger, but the computer was clearly running Windows XP, and he had disconnected the internet connection, and he was hovering over my shoulder the entire time, and Plan N and I bickered at cross-purposes over whether or not Plan N was alive (we were both arguing that it <i>wasn’t</i>, but neither of us made this clear. That was embarassing.)

He has since abandoned the alphabetical “plan” naming scheme; his next project was Plan N2 (not a reference to <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neon_Genesis_Evangelion_glossary#N.C2.B2_Weapon_.28a.k.a._N.C2.B2_Mine.29”>Neon Genesis Evangelion</a>'s <a href=“http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NuclearWeaponsTaboo”>Not Nuclear</a> weapons), which turned out to be an android body for Plan N, designed to resemble a <a href=“http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RobotGirl”>cute Japanese girl</a> who looked somewhere between sixteen and twenty-five because of how some Japanese girls, to the untrained American eye (i.e. mine), look “youthful” to begin with. Kevin named her Naho; her software is technically a copy of Plan N, who is still fully functional in one of Kevin’s computers and now uses voice synthesizers to speak, using the voice of <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_9000”>HAL 9000</a>. Naho’s personality currently resembles Plan N’s, but I’ve noticed subtle changes already. The body must be shaping her personality differently, and the changes will most likely get bigger.

Oh yeah, the last major character in our story is Agent Pinkerton. He seems <i>quite</i> interested in Kevin’s various inventions, such as a teleporter he built in his basement whose useful (or at least safe) range is the size of said basement, but he also seems particularly interested in Naho. Plan N has stopped several hacking attempts; Pinky’s the prime suspect. I was there for one of these hacking attempts; it had interrupted a conversation I was having with the three of them about how I’d dropped Philosophy: Ethics in favor of Philosophy: Existentialism (“So, what did you learn in your Philosophy class?” “I learned how to pronounce Nietzsche(<i>knee</i>-cha), and I learned that I’m not prepared to discuss ethics at 10 AM”).

Everyone got that?

<hr>

“Dylan, you are a dork,” said Naho, sitting at one of Kevin’s computers as I stepped into the apartment. Even though it was January 28, she was dressed in shorts and a tank top, which had the side effect of revealing hard-to-see seams and joints on her wrists and knees and shoulders.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “So, uh, you saw my <a href=“http://yarkramer.livejournal.com/41920.html”>LiveJournal</a> post?”

“Yeah,” she said. In fact, I could see my Livejournal over her shoulder. “I would have responded there, but I couldn’t figure out how to post my name. There’s the ‘login to LJ’, and ‘login to <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenID”>OpenID</a>’, and ‘anonymous’ option, but there wasn’t a ‘not logged in but with your name’ kinda thing. How’s your hard drive?”

My laptop’s hard drive has been on the way to the Big Dell Inspiron 600m In The Sky for a while now. “Well, I bought the new hard drive, and took them to a guy who my mom calls our ‘computer guru’, and he backed up all my files on the new drive, but it doesn’t have an <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_enclosure”>enclosure</a> I can use to actually put it <i>in</i> the laptop. We would’ve taken the enclosure off the old one, but the screws on one side are stripped beyond removability.”

Naho nodded, then hesitated. “We could have Kevin do something about that,” she said, in a I-know-this-isn’t-actually-a-good-idea tone of voice.

“No, we couldn’t,” I said. “Knowing Kevin, the odds of his solution ruining the <i>old</i> hard drive and destroying the enclosure are about three to one.”

Naho glanced at the basement door, then at the computer Plan N was on. “Thirty-nine point eight seven two zero four percent, actually,” said Plan N’s voice.

“You probably want to get some sort of drill to get at it,” said Naho with a shrug.

“Heh … y’know, that’s the third time someone’s suggested that,” I said. “Um, Naho, are you plugged directly into the computer?”

Instead of ears, Naho has grey plastic domes, each with an antenna sticking out of the top. Presumably, there’s some sort of complex microphone system in each, but I’d just realized that there was a thin cord trailing from her right ear to the back of the computer. “Hmm? Oh. Only the audio system. I’ve sort of got built-in headphones that work separately from my normal ears…”

“Awesome,” I said. “Where’s himself?”

"Watching <i><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DearS">DearS</a></i>," said Naho flatly.

I nodded; I’d heard of this particular fanservice-nightmare, and I agreed with Naho’s opinion. “You know, I thought I was jaded towards fanservice <i>before</i>, but Kevin’s <i>really</i> managed to bring out that part of me that can snicker derisively at a hot chick in lingerie.”

Downstairs, there was the buzz of the <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleportation”>teleporter</a>, followed a yelp.

“Uh-oh,” said Naho, unplugging the headphone-cord and hurriedly getting up.

“Uh-oh is right,” said Plan N as we descended. “Kevin got an idea for a portal-based version of the teleporter after watching a scene from <i>DearS</i>, and, well … see for yourself.”

There was a brightly glowing ring of light hovering above the teleporter pad. It didn’t lead to the other side of the room. I wasn’t even sure it led to anywhere on Earth.

“Um … what happened here?” said Naho.

“Apparently, the coordinates got mixed up,” said Plan N. “Furthermore, activating the device apparently teleported him as well.”

“Was he <i>on</i> the pad!?” I exclaimed. That would have been dumb even for Kevin.

“No – there’s probably a loose connection in the pad,” said Plan N. “Also, I’d say that’s the least of our concerns at the moment …”

Naho and I stared at the portal.

“So, um, where does it lead?” I asked.

“It <i>looks</i> like it leads to a forest of trees with neon-green leaves and lavender-colored bark under a deep purple sky with red-orange clouds,” said Naho. “And its local gravity must be at a right-angle to ours, because we’re looking straight at the sky. Um, tell me, do you recognize this place at all?”

“Not really,” I said. “I’ve never used <a href=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoactive_drug”>illegal psychoactives</a> before.”

Naho nodded and stepped forward. “I’ll go first.”

I stopped her. “Uh, Naho, I doubt the wisdom of ‘go’, since it could be lehal, and I resent the implications of ‘first’, which are that I’ll follow you.”

“This is cool!” said Kevin, walking into view. “Where is this!?”

Plan N said, “Well, according to the teleporter’s log, you’re at,” and listed some numbers and Greek letters. Several of them were in a pointed tone of voice. None of it meant anything to me.

“But <i>some</i> of that should mean twelve miles away, not to mention rotated around the wrong way, and the rest of it shouldn’t even make <i>sense</i> in this dimension!” said Kevin. “Wait! I know …”

His last six words made my stomach drop.

“Another dimension,” said Naho.

“Fascinating,” said Plan N. “An entirely different universe which not only has similar laws to our own, but it also has an environment which is, by an astonishing coincidence, hospitable to humans.”

“Let’s call it Dimension X,” said Kevin, and did a swan dive into what was, for him, a hole in the ground. This meant that when he came back to Earth, he was more or less horizontal, and landed on his hands. “Whee! That was fun. Okay, we’ve got to explore that place sometime!”

“Define ‘we’,” I said.

“Me and Naho, if you want to be a killjoy,” said Kevin with cheerful annoyance. He turned away from the pad. “Okay, Plan N, shut the portal down for now!”

"What if there’s dangerous <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fauna">fauna</a>?" said Naho.

A hideous face peered into the portal as it closed, resembling that of a cross between an alligator and a Doberman, the whole thing bigger than my entire thorax.

“Nah, don’t be ridiculous,” said Kevin, still facing away. “There can’t be anything like that, can there?”

Waiting for that to segue into the interesting part.

Take notes:“It looks like it leads to a forest of trees with neon-green leaves and lavender-colored bark under a deep purple sky with red-orange clouds,” said Naho.

I liked that. Especially if you were in ironic mode.

Glad to see Dimension X again. I thought they all retired after the '80s.

That, I found quite amusing. I’d say more, but I just woke up and haven’t gotten my psyche all into one piece yet. So, uh, keep up the good work, or somethin’.

I’ve decided to rename this to “Quantitative Life Story”, on the basis of the number of Google results for “Life Story” when compared to the other.