Patch 1.1

 
Art by:  Karl Sisson

Art by: Karl Sisson

 

“Alright, let’s see what they did.” PandaNam says. “Okay, that’s new and that, and that, wow, they changed…What didn’t they change?”
”No more Lancer or Slinger…or Orphiel.” Ac1d says. “You want to jump into a game, see what’s what?”
”Yeah, let’s do it.”
”Duos?” Ac1d asks. “Or you want to wait for a third?”
”Nah, let’s just go.”

Ac1d hits Launch, the queue begins filling with players. 16…34…52…72…106—

“It’s going over a hundred? Dude, what the—” Panda half gasps as the player count climbs to 151, slows, then stops at 196. A countdown begins, 3…2…1… The loading screen shatters, a thousand honeycomb panels burst, each breaks into a dozen more, another dozen.

The void of space. Stars. To the left a space craft picks up speed, freezes for a half second, a wavering portal appears, the ship punches through, the portal warbles then breaks like the loading screen—a pattern of hexagons that fragments into ever smaller pieces. Moving their mice, Ac1d and Panda realize they too are in a ship.

“Dude. Holy. Shit.” Panda laughs. “What is even going on?” Ahead of their ship a portal opens, a moment later they shoot through.

On the other side the first ship is headed towards one of two planets. Ac1d and Panda’s ship is headed towards the one that looks like a war-torn earth, less green and blue, more brown and blue-ish. The other planet looks to be covered with a massive sprawling city separated by long bodies of water. Long lakes or massive rivers?

“Interesting,” says Ac1d.
”Huh?”
”Looks like half the players are going to one planet and the rest to the other.”
”Oh, yeah,” Panda says. “Weird.”

As their ship enters the planet’s atmosphere a male’s voice breaks through, “This planet’s stability has reached critical levels, destruction imminent. Find as much Resonance as you can, survive long enough for extraction.”

“What’s Resonance?” Panda sounds giddy. “Dude, this is amazing. Holy shit.” Their drop ship heads across the map. Panda marks a spot called Dusk Wood. “How about there? I have no idea.”

Ac1d checks the map. “Yeah, fine by me.” Fifteen seconds later they jump, ten after that they’re on the ground and have begun looting.

”Marshal on me.” Panda says. “I haven’t found a shield yet, tell me if you see one.”

Ac1d bursts through a door. A trio of items await on the floor. Med gel, a Grouter, and a counterweight for either a Raptor or Rodeo. “I need a Raptor if you find one, got a weight.”

“Yeah, I know, I know. Raptor for Ac1d. I still don’t have a shield yet, pretty kitted otherwise.” The second Panda stops talking gunfire erupts. “Shit, man. I think I just got caught between two teams.”

Shit. Still haven’t found a shield and only this crappy Grouter for a weapon. “On my way.” Ac1d vaunts out a window, checks his mini-map, and sprits towards Panda. “Come to me, right now, gogogo.” He throws a viper rod down and begins backing up, aiming down sight in the direction Panda is coming from.

Panda, sprinting, rounds a corner. Not a full second later two players follow in chase. A Cryptid and Lawman. The Cryptid raises both hands trying to attach a soul drain on Panda. The viper rod spits poison interrupting the Cryptid’s ability. Ac1d opens fire. Without a shield the Cryptid dies in four shots. The Lawman, now facing uneven odds hesitates. That’s all it takes. The viper rod hits him with poison as he turns to run, and Panda guns him down as Ac1d reloads.

“No shields on them either, what the hell?”
“You said there was another team?”
“I thought so, looks like they booked it.” Panda says.

“Find Resonance or be left behind,” says the same voice that spoke in the ship as they entered the planet’s atmosphere.

“What’s this Resonance stuff?”
“No clue, let’s keep moving though.”

As the game progresses they discover LBR is not at all the same game it was a day ago. There’s no closing circle to stay ahead of. Instead the planet begins to fall apart forcing players to an ever shrinking plot of land. Sometime after they win their fourth fight Panda notices that looking up he can see the other planet. He and Ac1d stare for a moment, wondering what that’s all about, when their attacked. They manage to win this fight too.

“Raptor here.” Panda says.
”Finally, good grief. Still no shield?”
”No, man. I’m starting to think they took them out. You find anything called Resonance yet?”
”Nope.” Ac1d drops the Grouter, equips the Raptor and attaches the weight plus a pin-sight he picked up off the third team. “If you find more arrows let me know, I’ve only got fifteen.”
”Only. You’re a god with that thing.”
”Guess that’s what I get for only playing Euryale.”
”You think they meant for her ult. to be used like that?”
”Dunno, don’t care. It works damn good. I just hope they don’t take her out like they did with Lancer.”
”Dude, I’m still amazed they did tha..Whaaa…The fuck is that?”

Ahead, half in the water of a foul beach is what looks like some kind of alien tree. It’s branches, if they can be called that, shimmer and move as if hunting the air. Maybe hunting isn’t right. Feeling? Searching? Now and then the tendrils—not branches—form patterns that almost look like…But no, that doesn’t make sense. And yet, there it is again.

“You, uh…You see this, right?”
”Yeah. Yeah I do.” Ac1d says. “One sec.” He runs back towards the way they came and drops a viper rod to cover their backs then returns to the tree-like thing. “It reminds me of one of those art installations where an artist hangs a bunch of stuff and if you stand in one particular spot you see something like David Bowie.”
”Dude, that’s exactly what it’s like. Is it just me, or do you see Lancer?” Panda asks.
”Yeah, that’s what I see too.”

A blip appears on Ac1d’s mini-map, someone hit by his viper rod’s poison. “Yeah, nah. Get fucked.” He spins, spots the incoming two, aims, draws, fires, then hits his ult. The arrow splits in two mid flight skewering both players with an arrow that does double damage and applies a poison effect twice as strong as the viper rod’s. Euryale’s ult., unlike viper rod poison, inflicts player damage. A moment later both players drop dead.

“Oh, something happened? What’d I miss?” Panda laughs. A warning goes off, more of the planet being destroyed. “What do you want to do with this thing?”
”I have no idea. Shoot it?” Ac1d suggests.
”Yeah, okay, cool by me.” Panda opens fire with his Lasher, an AR style weapon he likes. The tree-thing shatters in the same way the portals did, the same way the loading screen did. A honeycomb puzzle of golden glass tumbles down. Left where the tree had been a moment ago is a trio of hexagon pieces. When moused over their label reads “Resonance.”
”Well there we go.”

—x—

“JAX, what’s the word from the people? What say our players?” Markus puffs his chest out like he’s some English Lord addressing a lowly peon.

“Aw good sah, be kind to ol’ JAX ‘ere. A bite to eat, sah?” They both laugh, a few nearby Linear employees shake their heads and chuckle.

“Reception is…As a headline? Confused, but excited, player-base seeks answers.”

“Beautiful,” Markus smirks. “Just as we hoped. Keep them wondering what’s around the corner, keep them interested. And Lancer? Much blowback there?”

“Nah,” JAX shakes their head. “A vocal few grumbling, but when Resonance images starting showing up they shut up and got all kinds of excited. People have no idea what’s going on. I’d say the overall emotion is wonderment. Kids on Christmas morning.”

“You know, there’s this line attributed to Jaime Griesemer of Bungie. Is he still with them? Not sure, but he said—”

JAX nods, “The thirty seconds of fun thing?”

“I’ve said this before?” Markus lifts his brows in mock surprise. “But my goal has always been—”

Todd joins the impromptu meeting sipping espresso from a cup almost too small for a doll. “Thirty seconds of fun, uh?” JAX nods. “Markus loves that one. Has he said what his goals is? A minute of wonder.” He waves his free hand through the air like his painting a rainbow, the look of his face a cross between derangement and awe.

“Well if the reception of this patch is any indication of what to expect,” JAX smiles, “I think we might have figured the wonderment part out.”

—x—

“Uh, Ac1d? Why isn’t the game over? We won, right? Last team standing?”
”I have no idea.” The two of them are standing on a slab of land the size of a cartoon island where there’s only one palm tree and a couple coconuts. S.O.S. written in big letters in the sand. Only there’s no tree, nothing besides Ac1d and Panda.

“Sorry for the wait, Heroes. Extraction ship coming in now.” Says the same voice that kept on reminding them about Resonance. Ten seconds later a ship drops out of the sky, it hovers a few feet off the ground while one Euryale and a Deus-Ex board it.

“Now what?” Panda asks.
”I know as much as you, man. This is my first game since the patch too. Guess we’re about to find out.”