Time stopped, and beings descended. They examined the frozen scene. A Predecessor in the midst of death, a Traveller erasing himself.
Wipe the entire server. It’s time we started from scratch.
No. There are too many ongoing storylines, too many resources already devoted to this project.
Reverse time. Fork it.
No. The Gam3 will not be restored by backups. Play with a copy on your private server.
It’s not the same. You never provide true copies.
Who gave the Traveller this ability?
The Weaver. They will be reprimanded.
How do we balance this?
A mind wipe, a few restorations.
The Traveller still succeeded. The Predecessor still died. They should each reap the consequences.
The Traveller was deleted.
We could make an exception.
No. Once one exception is made, many will follow.
Why not? They proved themselves a Major Player. Maybe even Ascendant material.
It is a unique circumstance, brought upon by one of our own.
No. We are to be objective. Rules must be followed.
Lighten up. What’s the use of being gods if we can’t take advantage of it?
He is corrupted. The information provided is not reliable. Let him remain deleted.
Restore him, but remove the corruption.
Fine. An exception will be made. This is the only one.
That’s what you said last time.
Quiet. The rest of you return to your games, I have work to do.
Alan awoke in his Home. Or at least, that’s where he thought he was.
Alan tried to connect to the Administrator, but couldn’t. His implants were missing. No, not only his implants. Everything was gone: his abilities, his stats, his equipment. He was standing there naked.
“What’s going on? Where am I?” Alan asked.
“Greetings Anomaly, you are currently on the Main Network,” the Administrator said.
“What happened to me, where are my levels, my equipment?” Alan asked.
“Error. I do not have permission to access the required files. Please wait a moment.” The Administrator’s head twitched, and then its eyes glowed red. Something else had taken over.
“The Traveller Alan has been deleted. You have been restored from the latest backup and given the memories of Alan before his self-deletion.”
“I’m, I’m what? A copy?” Alan asked.
“You are a perfect restoration. No more, no less, than the Traveller Alan moments before his death,” the Administrator said.
“What happened in the Game? Did the Empire collapse, are my parents okay?”
The Administrator gave Alan a questioning look. “You have never entered the Game, Anomaly. Only the Gam3, the third simulated version of the Game.”
“Explain to me the difference. Didn’t the Lords of Life win the Game?”
“No. The primary Game, technically the Gam1 though no one calls it that, has never been won. It expands outward too quickly for any to take complete control of space, the necessary requirement to beat it.”
“What are the different copies of the Game then? If I was in the third, what about the others? How many are there?”
“Five main simulations, with many smaller versions. The primary Game, the arbiter of reality, may only be entered once by sentient life. Once you die within the Game that is it, you may not re-enter. No respawns.
“The Gam2 is the military boot camp required to enter the Game. The majority of combat is dictated by drones and spaceships firing lasers at each other from vast distances. A minimum of Major Player status in the Gam3 must be reached to be eligible for the Gam2.
“The Gam3 is the main entertainment simulation designed to be humanoid friendly. It is also designed to discover the Travellers that are worthy of cultivation and those that are to be deleted.
“The Gam4 is used to simulate specific battles or setups within any of the previous Games. A sandbox, as you might call it.
“The Gam5 is used to experiment and create new life and technology. Seed worlds are hosted on this server, as well as many educational facilities.”
“Okay,” Alan said. “Tell me about the Gam3. Has the Extinction Event ended? What happened to my friends, my family?”
“The Extinction Event ended 32 days ago, Gam3 standard time. I am uncertain who you would consider a friend, and have no record of any family,” the Administrator said.
“No family? The Traveller Alan’s family, then,” Alan said.
“As punishment for breaking the rules of the Gam3 the Traveller Alan and all associated data was purged. Non-essential data is routinely deleted.”
“Deleted? What do you mean, you can’t go around and delete people. My parents were on a ship to colonize hospitable planets. From Earth, my home planet. You know Earth, don’t you?” Alan asked.
“The seed world Earth is functioning normally. Non-travelers not connected to an active Player are deleted on a set schedule.”
Alan stopped. He grabbed the Administrator. “What is a seed world?”
“A seed world is a world created to populate the game servers.”
“No, no that can’t be. Earth…Earth can’t be a simulation. If that’s true, that means that I’m, I’m an AI?”
“By your definition, yes,” the Administrator said. “The vast majority of Players and Travelers are AI. Information is hidden to ensure they perform as intended.”
Alan started laughing uncontrollably. It was a sick joke, but the Gam3 turned out to just be a game after all. Only, it wasn’t for Earth, or humans, or Travelers. It was a game for Ascendants. Beings with such power, such scale, that they were able to act as gods and do as they pleased.
Alan was a mother fucking NPC.
The long flights in real life, those were loading screens. Alan hadn’t been traveling between galaxies, but networks. Everything in “real life” had always felt fake, and now Alan knew why. It was fake, a simulated version of reality. But what was reality then, if Alan had never been there?
“What am I supposed to do now, is there any way to restore deleted data?”
“A unique set of rules binds each Anomaly. You are allowed to find work or re-enter the Gam3 as a beginning player,” the Administrator said. “You are to prove yourself worthy of restoration within 100 standard days by achieving Major Player status or face deletion. Other requirements may be raised. Only Ascendants may restore deleted data, with the permission of the Authorities.”
“Khersath, my place of residence in what I considered real life. Where would that be? Is that location available, or has it been deleted?”
“As the Black Rose guild is still an active guild within the Gam3, the area still exists within the Gam5. A rank B capsule in the Traveler Alan’s possession was kept active and undeleted due to its importance to the Gam3.”
Alan considered his options, then shook his head. Who was he kidding? He would re-enter the Gam3. This time though, he knew what the Emperor meant by true enemies. The Ascendants would pay.
Alan decided there and then that he would stop playing to win. Instead, he would make sure everyone else lost.
Fuck, Alan thought, I just lost the game.