47 Tears of the Programmer, Unwillingly Given
| Vir-Tech Labs |
"Oh no you don't," Visby mutters savagely, bloodshot eyes glaring at his monitors. His long fingers fly across his keyboard, every "ENTER" keystroke a satisfying smash more aggressive than the last.
Most of his co-workers are so hyped on stress and caffeine they don't notice anything amiss over the faint buzzing filling their overworked brains.
The few people who do pick up on Visby's increasing descent into programmer madness are too afraid to broach the topic.
(Besides, it's not like he's the only one devolving. One intern who hasn't left the office in three days has started to hear colors, but his team leader assures him it's not worth panicking over until he starts smelling lines of code.)
"Hehe," Visby chuckles darkly as he hits the final key and leans back to admire his handiwork, cracking his neck and absently massaging his hands.
Two of his monitors flow with code, while a third is filled with small square windows of live gameplay that look like CCTV security footage. The content of the windows change every thirty seconds, but a few particular players appear frequently, as if the footage is their highlight reels.
An Anubis Warrior fights a pack of Redcaps with his obsidian crescent axe, a Valkyrie gores a demon hound with her spear, and a Rakshasa rips a Gancanagh* apart with its bare hands.
These players are all located in different areas in-game, but they share a common trait; they're all the highest-ranking players in Viren's Refuge.
Visby's eyes are currently glued to the center window, where a certain Lvl 12 D'Raven is charging around a dungeon, fighting a Banshee.
Stacey, a thirty-two-year-old software engineer with the snack habits of a thirteen-year-old and a full sleeve of tattoos hiding under her Cheeto-stained hoodie emblazoned with:
Did I ask for your \u003c input \u003e? (¬_¬)
walks past Visby's workspace on her way to the vending machine for the eleventh time today. Her eyes aren't so glazed over she misses Chaos\u003c3Boy, as she's affectionately dubbed him, racing around front and center.
"What's he up to now?" she asks, leaning on the back of Visby's chair.
Visby's so engrossed, he doesn't even flinch like usual when she gets all up in his personal space. "The AI's calculating a probability shift. This damn kid is probably going to defeat a Hidden Boss Harbinger."
She whistles low. "Damn. What's that do? Does he face the Hidden Boss or move directly to the Final Boss?"
Visby shakes his head. "Tch. No, no. Those are too easy for this damn D'Raven."
Stacey blinks rapidly, trying to force her fried brain to comprehend. "Huh? What does that mean?"
"The AI and I are planning something a bit more...special for our little friend."
"What do you mean, you and the AI are planning?" Frowning, Stacey pulls the strings on her hoodie. "It's not like you can communicate with the AI or anything."
There's a beat.
"Right," Visby says.
"I don't like how long it took you to answer that!" she yelps, slapping his shoulder. A lurid orange handprint joins yesterday's coffee stain and this morning's tofu pudding soy sauce splatter.
The button-down is looking more and more like a canvas of sad abstract art titled "Workaholic."
"Ow," Visby hisses under his breath. He actually looks up from his computer screens, though, to glower at Stacey.
Unimpressed, she frowns right back. "Is it...wise? To communicate with the AI like that?"
Under the intensity of her stare, Visby deflates with a sigh, head lolling onto the back of his chair. "Probably not. Honestly, I'm too tired and over this shit to care at this point."
His eyes find their way back to his screen just in time to see a Frozen Banshee get bombarded with attacks from four sides, including a 100% Skill Proficiency Chakra Burst, and disappear in an explosion of glittering fractals.
His chapped lips curve up into a tired, wry smile. "I may regret it later, but right now, it feels like justice."
Rolling her eyes, Stacey pushes off his chair and makes him roll into the desk next to him. "Justice, huh?"
Visby huffs a laugh as he rolls back to his station. "Well. At least the look on his face is going to be funny as fuck, and that's almost worth the next week of all-nighters."
| Inner Crypt, Dolmen Dungeon |
The room freezes like there's a glitch.
The blue opalescent fragments of the defeated Banshee remain locked in the air, as a series of bright, chiming notifications fill my view.
[ BATTLE LOG ]
|| Nightmare Bonus: 2x EXP ||
|| Repeated Destruction Bonus: For repeatedly defeating the same mini-boss in a single run, 3x EXP ||
|| Irony Bonus: For bringing about an Untimely Death to the Harbinger of Untimely Deaths, +3 Vitality, +2 Perception, +25,000 EXP ||
|| Tears of the Programmer Bonus: For making the game developers cry, Fickle Fortune Loot Drop Rate is set to 100%, +3 Free Attribute Points, -1000 Reputation among Vir-Tech Employees||
The Drop Items list is just as impressive and overwhelming as the Battle Log.
First, I get a skillbook for the magic spell Breath of the Dying, which even at Level 1 is a truly awesome CC (crowd control) skill; it creates an ominous fog that puts enemies within a 20-meter radius into a "Sorrow Stupor," which is a 90-second -20% Movement Speed debuff.
I can't wait to level this baby up to the point where I can debuff the movement speeds of everything within my Taunt radius!
I also pocket the Eye of the Banshee Amulet. The fog-swirling sphere grants me another +5 Fortitude, but it's creepy and gross, so I store it right next to my bloody baby hand talisman. They seem good for each other.
Even while frozen, the system lets me send drop rewards to the rest of my party, so I go ahead and distribute the other goodies while I'm at it.
(Considering how strained the devs seem, given the not-so-hidden message in those "special rewards," I don't mind being patient while they figure out what the hell to do now that I've yet again fucked up their plotlines.)
First, I send the Willow Switch to Lialas. It's a magic item automatically imbued with a Healing skill and a Defense Shield skill, though the description makes me think if Lialas finds the right master instructor, the switch could gain another 2-3 Healing skills. I don't know if his INT is high enough to wield it yet, but it Binds Upon Equip, so I can't use it for whatever craziness is about to descend and then pass it along.
The Runes (Wind, Ice, Lightning) I send to Lialas, however, he absolutely can use in the upcoming battle. He'd shot the Ice Runes with his slingshot during the Banshee battle, and it had actually increased the efficacy of the Runes! Who knew there'd be such a cool perk?
Nightfury gets the bundle of iron-tipped arrows, while I keep the iron-tipped bolts for my crossbow. Iron deals extra damage to fae, though it's not as deadly in-game as it is in folk legends.
After some internal debate, I also send Nightfury the Lvl 12 chest armor. I figure a) I'm still wearing the Ankou Death Shroud, and the lightly tattered dark cloak works wonders for my broody aesthetic (while also providing solid defense, obviously), and b) it won't be long before I can equip my Lvl 25 Cuirass, but Nightfury and co have a ways to go yet, so Lvl 12 armor will be more useful for them.
Shadeslayer gets the shaft this time, only ending up with his share of raw materials, which he promptly accepts and sends me the bloody snaggle tooth he'd been holding onto right back.
I add it to the Upgrade Storage and smile as Zen'aku trembles in excitement.
Once all the housekeeping is out of the way, we remain frozen in weird glitch mode for another five minutes at least before, finally, the dungeon whirs back to life. When the last of the Banshee disappears, the game's mostly back to normal, and we turn to check in with each other.
"You guys good?"
"That was crazy!"
"What the heck was that?"
"Is this gonna be a Hidden Boss now, or..."
Before anyone can actually answer anyone else, that extra special *Super Happy Chime of Doom* dings and echoes in the wide catacomb room.
[ AILLÉN TRECHEND, SOUL BURNER ]
[Level 18 - HP 100,000/100,000]
[Special Boss Alert: For reasons I don't think I need to explain (You know what you did.), you have attracted the attention of a Special Boss! Prepare for Battle, brave Heroes!
Warning: Death Penalty increased to 1.5 Levels' worth of EXP, and you will not be permitted back inside the Dolmen Dungeon for 7 Days.]
Author's Note - Folklore Time! (Wanted to split this into multiple paragraphs, and I know that's sometimes hard to read with all the ellipses...Webnovel forcibly inserts into Author Notes.)
*Folklore Time: Gancanagh "Love Talker" (TRIGGER WARNING: NON-CON FAE BASTARD)
In my opinion, this guy is truly the most disgusting, vile creature in all of Celtic mythology.
The Gancanagh is the Date Rapist of Celtic myth. Literally, he oozes these intoxicating pheromones that draw women (and sometimes men) to him. His victims are helpless against the onslaught, and once they touch even the tiniest amount of skin of the Gancanagh, they are magically drugged and enslaved by the creature forever.
He looks tall, dark, and handsome if you're under this thrall, but he's actually part of the Leprechaun family, so everyone else just sees a short, bearded dude with a pipe, and no one can understand what you see in him. Even more insidious than an incubus (which at least provides killer orgasms and generally leaves you alone after), the Gancanagh first steals your heart, then your pride, then finally your sanity.
Like a total douche-bro, he enjoys the "game" of humiliation, so he often forces his victims to perform sexual acts (or other degrading acts, like being a human footstool, etc) in places their friends and family might see.
When he's bored, he inevitably moves on. His victims fall into a lovesick frenzy, and can no longer function without the touch and fake affection of the Gancanagh, so they eventually die. Usually of starvation/neglect.
My headcanon for my own story is that the VR Gancanagh was about to put the moves on an NPC dairy maid, so the Rakshasa player tore him to pieces and castrated him. #boomjustice