The Quest For The Perfect RPG Part 5
It's getting dark, my HP's low, I haven't saved yet/
But I know I can do one more level/
So I'll just walk a little while near the entrance/
And I'll try to go up one more level
And one day I know I might just lose my timing/
I might see Game Over in front of me/
And I hope that there are dungeons up in heaven/
Cause I'll want to go up a level
The Gaj player halted when Diggory wound it down and unplugged it. The lights of the Recycle Bin flickered on. Diggory washed tehself, polished teh's armour, practised teh's battle routine and played Hydlide. Soon, it was time for the most important part of teh's ritual; to check for signs of life. Teh connected the computer to the various ports on the switchboard, and switched on the communications satellite. Immediately, teh received detailed overhead maps of everywhere in the universe. The appeal of this had long since worn thin. Everywhere looked the same anyway; either empty or totally nonexistent. Just like the vision, teh remembered.
Zooming in to reveal more and more detail, teh listened hopefully for a beep, or a red light, or whatever the machine did when it detected a life form. Teh didn't know, because it had never done it. In all of the seemingly endless time teh had been here, no trace of life in the entire Universe. Maybe I really am the last person alive. Teh refused to believe that. If it was true... the vision teh had seen...
Don't be pathetic, Diggory told tehself. Visions don't have to happen. You can control your own destiny, sometimes. Teh dug out teh's checklist and crossed off a few more places. Guardia; nothing. El Nido; nothing. Where else was there left to try? Nowhere.
Shutting down the computer, teh pushed down the protective screen on the window and hoisted tehself onto the balcony. There wasn't much point in protection these days; even the harmful magnetic fields in the null environment were diminished. Teh leaned on the balcony and pondered teh's fate. Why had teh been spared? The fact that teh was in a recycle bin meant that teh had died, and was officially deleted. But the bin hadn't been emptied. Who, or what, had put the here? Was there something teh was expected to do? Now there was nobody else left, maybe teh had to hold up the plot single-handedly. No... nobody can do that.
A scarier though entered teh's brain; what if a secretary forgot about teh and accidentally emptied this bin?
It was then that teh realised: there should b lights in front of teh, the lights of the big Game Over screen that should be here. They were switched off. Game Over no longer existed. They had shut down. Teh put teh's head in teh's hands. There was nothing left. It was all gone. Everything. Everything except tehself and a large bin. The emptiness of the world outside was like a bitter wind, chilling teh's body, and teh soon had to climb back down.
Teh flattened tehself against the wall and listened again. Something had just gone woof. Teh slipped behind the computers and crept over to the bin door. To teh's shock, it was open. A dog was standing before the door, looking expectantly at Diggory.
"Er... hello... er... dog." Teh stuttered.
Barking enthusiastically, the dog turned to face the entrance, indicating very clearly that Diggory was supposed to follow it. Is this a hallucination? Diggory didn't care. What had teh got to lose?
* * *
The door led to a long metal corridor. Windows on either side provided a spectacular view of the starless void, making teh feel slightly disorientated at being up so high. Teh hurried onwards, following a flash of brown fur. The corridor was connected to another Bin; a network. They were very rare. Usually, they meant a large project was taking place that was too confidential to even be in the Universe. Teh had once been healed in a bin-network medical center. The medics were second to none. Teh had spent a lot of time studying the way bins worked. This one was full of incredibly old machine parts, monitors the size of rooms and reels of punch card. It must have been abandoned a long time ago. Diggory wanted to stop to investigate, but the dog barked angrily.
Accidentally detonating some nuclear bombs on teh's way, Diggory went into the next room. It contained a small computer. The dog barked at it. Diggory switched it on. After a few minutes it had loaded an obsolete version of Windows. The dog barked. It had a floppy disk in its mouth. Wondering why teh was taking orders from a dog, teh inserted the disk and loaded the program on it.
>Welcome to the Information Center. Currently offline.
Diggory groaned. Barking, the dog ran off and re-emerged with a modem lead trailing behind it. Following the dog's orders, the exile places the lead in the slot and set up some connections.
"If I turn into an Operator again, I'll kill ye." Warned Diggory. The dog barked at the sound of the word 'Operator'.
>Is that my guide dog? Hello?
Diggory jumped out of teh's swivel chair. A face had just appeared on the screen. Teh recognised the glazed eyes and untidy brown hair at once.
"Operator! You're still alive!"
>Of course, he's still alive, you...
>WICKS! Get away from the microphone, there's something very wrong at the other end! Why is the reception so bad? Can you hear me? Who are you?
"I'm the last person alive." Teh said sadly, "And the reception is bad because the world ended."
>Oh no! It happened, didn't it! Go AWAY, Veg, I'm not going to collapse, I'm just talking! You... are you... Diggory?
"That's my name."
>Thank goodness you're still alive! But the computer predicted you would be... The computer is always right.
"If ye can predict it, why didn't ye stop it?"
>I can't, I'm sorry. I... live in an unreleased world. I can't cross over. Do you understand why there is a Beta? This place is for the prototype ideas that were never released because there is no more space... or because they are not viable. The only way I can interact... is with my switchboard. Through you.
"Eh? Through... me?"
>The Quest for the Perfect RPG... What you are told... what you know... the times you could have died but didn't...
"I go to an office... your office"
>I sent you there, with my switchboard... we swapped existences for a second...
"The Frozen Flame!"
> Yes, it's the only thing I can do. I can send things through the other end too. My guide dog... he came here to fetch you.
"What are you going to do?"
>My plan is very dangerous, but it might just work. I'm going to send you through without sending myself back the other way. I might overload the switchboard. If that happens... I'm not sure what the consequences will be. No, Wicks, I AM going to do this! Don't argue! VEG, DON'T PRESS THE RED BUTTON! Ah... I think it's time for me to do this now... place your hand on the switchboard.
Diggory did as teh was told, and the Operator did likewise. Teh saw a blue flame shatter into a million pieces... and then teh was there again. In the Information Center.
* * *
Diggory stared open-mouthed at the Operator and his office. The place was real! It had seemed impossible, like something from the most bizarre dream. Nothingness, the last moments of the Universe... and inside it all, an office...
"It is time to tell you the truth of this Universe, and of my origin." said the Operator. His voice was still slightly frail, even without the bad reception of the communications system. "The Perfect RPG existed in potential from before the beginning of time. It is the completion screen of creation. It is the purpose of the world's plot."
"I understand that." Although I'm not sure I believe it. I'm not sure I can believe in completion any more.
"What you don't know, is that the Perfect RPG has always been a Beta game. Our world... the world with me, Wicks, Veg and the dog in it... was created first. It had to exist, in order that the Perfect RPG would come about."
"Why wasn't the Perfect RPG ever released?"
"It can never be. It has a non-viable plot."
"The Belthasar Paradox." Said the Operator sadly.
"The Perfect RPG... is the purpose of creation. It is creation's final product. If the Perfect RPG never existed, the plot of the Universe would end." Explained the Operator, "Therefore, no other game can exist before the Perfect RPG. So the Perfect RPG must be the very first plot. However, the plot of all things ends when the Perfect RPG is released, because it is the completion screen. So, the Perfect RPG creates bugs in all plots, whatever happens. It is logically impossible. Non-viable."
"The creation team for the Perfect RPG built all this... all these offices and this city." Explained the Operator, changing the subject.
"Ye were on this Creation team? Ye saw the Perfect RPG come to be?"
"The Belthasar Paradox meant that their goal could never be realised, and they became desperate. They hired me to use my switchboard to interact with the released world, to try and sneak parts of the Perfect RPG in. That is how the Quest came about on your world." He said, "But there was... rivalry between the staff."
"The completion of the Universe's goal was a very personal thing to some people. They all wanted it to end differently. It became an obsession to some. They formed gangs... the two biggest gangs were the Overites and the Completionists. The Overites wanted to have a Game Over screen, so the Universe could die if that was its fate. The Completionists didn't... they said that the plot was too important for there to be even a chance of not completing the game. The Overites were lead by a man called Lynx. The Completionists were lead by a man called Miguel."
"Miguel! He worked on the Perfect RPG?"
"He himself designed the completion screen. And Lynx designed the Game Over screen." The operator sighed, " Eventually, they disobeyed their orders from the President of their company, and travelled to the released world. They were trying to brainwash the people whom I had chosen to be characters in the Perfect RPG. And then... Miguel, the real troublemaker of the two... he tried to kill the main character."
"Who was the main character?"
Diggory's eyes opened wide with shock. The screensaver whirled dizzily around teh.
"You have no plot. You understand RPGs. You are wiling to sacrifice everything you have to get a job done. And... you have something to gain. We can fix your language implant. We can make you see in colour again."
"But the world's ended now. How can I do anything?"
"You can start up the plot of the Perfect RPG. The released version."
"I will return you to your own world. Here is a disk. You will place the disk in the drive, start up the program on it and type in the word 'install'."
"That's all? And everything will be okay then?"
"The world will have a plot again. Sprites will be reloaded. Life will begin again." The Operator smiled.
Diggory looked around once more and put teh's hand on the screen. The blue flame shattered, and teh disappeared. The Operator turned to his guide dog and petted him.
"You've gained true free will from somewhere, Diggory. I can feel it. I'll leave it up to you to make your decision. I wish I could tell you... what is going to happen... but you'd never believe me in infinite years."
* * *
The light was flickering on and off, a shade of red similar to the one Diggory remembered in the President's office. Was this an abandoned project of the Perfect RPG design crew? Teh briefly wondered if teh knew the company, if they had made any other games. Teh looked at the disk the Operator had given teh. It was red, and had the word 'CROSS' written on it in large, bold letters. Teh walked up to the computer and put the disk in the drive. A cross-shaped icon appeared in the floppy disk window. Teh doubled-clicked it. A simple DOS-like window appeared, black background and white letters.
>Welcome to the Perfect RPG admin pack. Type 'install' to install the Perfect RPG on this computer. Type 'edit' to access a list of files that make up the Perfect RPG and view the editing options.
Teh watched the flashing prompt stupidly. Is this it? The purpose of the Universe? DOS?
"So, you're the Operator's pet warrior."
Teh whirled around. Miguel stood there, the red light making him appear ghostly. He was leaning on his walking stick as though Diggory's continued survival was wearing him out.
"Yes, just like Dario was my pet warrior." He laughed.
"I told you not to rely on pet warriors." Said another familiar voice. Lynx stepped out of the shadows, a spectre of black and red.
"The Operator told me all about you two."
"You know too much."
"Ye can't threaten me any more." Teh told them calmly, typing as teh did so. Edit. "All I have to do is key in a few words and press Return."
"I knew this would happen. I know... who you are. What you mean. To me, and Lynx, and the whole Universe." Miguel said.
"What button are you pressing, Diggory?" asked Lynx, "Are you going to make Miguel's dream come true? Mine? If the Game Over screen is there, someone will go there. Then the entire Universe will be deleted. But if it isn't... is there really any point in life? With no real challenges, is there any point in carrying on?"
>What do you wish to edit?
"President Lunarian will be here in a few seconds time. She'll have us removed from our roles. We'll probably cease to exist." Miguel went on.
>Do what with completion_screen.dll?
"You really shouldn't be messing around with system files." Said Lynx.
The Universe went 'FFAUGLM'. Miguel screamed and fell on the floor, unconscious. Lynx stared in horror at the screen.
>Do what with Game_Over.dll?
"NO! You'll delete the entire..."
Blackness filled the office. Blackness filled the Universe. There was no more.
* * *
There was nothing. For infinity upon infinity of years, there was nothing. Then, briefly, a signal reached a switchboard. The switchboard responded. A gate was opened, and nineteen people, ragged refugees from history, climbed through it, into the world. And there was a world waiting for them. It was their world, the world that slept for years. The world ravaged by the Apocalypse. But with the Apocalypse, the rest of the world's history could be remembered. The world healed. Plants grew. A bird flew overhead. The bird was a dream, the final dream of a quest truly fulfilled.
When the Apocalypse was stopped, mankind had a future, and the Perfect RPG could exist. However, it brought great evil with it. People are not happy on RPGs. They are terrified of Game Over, and desperate to reach the completion screen. Only by taking away the goal of false happiness could this be recognised. The world began to exist just for itself, it began to take time to heal and flourish, and for the first time, be truly happy. This was the true world. Life is a cycle, not a straight line with a beginning and an end. The Operator was lying when he described the reason for his existence. He was the one who brought Diggory out of the box and thereby forced him to think outside it. The Operator was there to burn the box down.
Thousands of millions of years of evolution passed. Humans began to exist. They evolved from the Lavos, and lived side by side with this amazing creature. One day, a strange human washed up on the shore of one of the continents. He wore black plate armour and gripped a red floppy disk, and was almost dead. The people of the local city couldn't revive him, so they wired him up to the ultimate life-support system, which belonged to a computer. A computer that had lain dormant for years, never allowing anyone to access it. Nobody knows where it had come from. This computer accepted the stranger instantly, and came back to life. It was called the Information Center. The computer refused to allow anyone else in the building, and nobody ever heard from the Operator again.
Nobody except two medics and a dog, and they also never left the building again,
* * *