Tourney at the Hanging Gardens (finale)

Practice

The palm reader couldn’t find his friends. He knew he was their friend because he had read that information right off his own third hand, of the four that he had. How he got four was a mystery. One day the second pair was just there, one scratching his back while the rest stretched into the air with a morning yawn.

There was no one to mentor him in the skill of palm reading; it was just something he learned by immersion, like someone dumped into a foreign land adjusting to the language. Almost everyone had palms, so it seemed strange nobody else responded to that pressure the way he naturally did, by struggling to understand them.

So he probably grew two more so he would have more to read and understand. It was doubtful anyone in the hanging gardens of Babylon knew more about themselves than the palm reader did, which was a touch frightening since he didn’t even know exactly why he had the number of limbs that he did.

Many people had come to the gardens, but none knew what to do after. They came to the palm reader for insight, but he could only supply them with predetermined facts, and not motivation. More frustrating still was his disclaimer that not all facts were predetermined, and only showed up on the body as scars and in the mind as trauma.

Still they lined up, presenting their hands, to get his perspective on their past, present, and future. No advice was given, only the reading, which sometimes created conflict. The palm reader never fought back. His initial hands only ever defended themselves, but the second pair didn’t always obey his soul. They sometimes took offense. The reader didn’t try to stop them, because they came to his body with scars, with trauma, and he could no more help them through it than he could help the people attacking him.

But it wasn’t a disgruntled customer or his extra palms and digits that started that day’s chaos. He didn’t know who it was yet, as they had swept in and opened the vents. Crowds tended to gather around the palm reader, so he had moved himself higher in the gardens so as not to disturb other vendors, which was very easy to do when they were the kind of vendors that actually charged for their goods.

The best place he could find was an enclosed rotunda, unused by anyone else but the mossy mounds upon the floor and the roots of what must have been a gigantic tree emerging seamlessly from the ceiling to then curl around lamps and hold them aloft.

Vents about the roots remained closed whenever he was there, but they had to open some time, at the behest of the gardens themselves presumably, since none claimed to have built them. Higher in the gardens the orange-gold clouds outside tended toward aggression, encircling living things when given the chance, and it was theorized that contact with the heavenly vapors prolonged the life spans of the garden’s plant life. How else could single trees extend their trunks through thousands of floors, and remain healthy despite having tunnels bored into their sides?

Whoever had invaded his space had forced the vents open, and the vapors of their eternity had flooded in, obscured everything in a bright haze. It was right in the middle of a reading too, the reader only managing to trace a line a third of the way across its owner’s palm. That was more than enough information to discern several things however.

He learned they were a warrior, and not by choice. Someone in the gardens was after them, having failed enough times that their quarry had to pivot to a much more violent life to move forward. Their spirit still resisted, but that resistance was waning. Their other hand was already drawing a weapon when the gases rolled in; they had expected to be attacked there.

Their palm spoke of a bond with three other people, forged in this new violence. One of those tributaries in the skin was cut off, likely by a death, and they were still feeling the emptiness. But they still had two left, and those two hardly ever left their side, indeed were with them that day to protect their friend.

Finally, the palm reader learned he was to take the place of the one that had fallen. It was written in their hide, and matched a mysterious mark on one of his own newer palms. Today was a day that two rivers joined and mixed waters. Coming together in this way meant the four of them were friends, even if they didn’t know it yet.

The palm reader did not know where any of them were in the fog, but his second set of hands did. They slapped the floor to get him on his feet, pointing into the murk, unbothered by the screams of his other potential customers as they blindly groped for the exit. Suddenly something attacked him from behind. A newer hand pulled out a chiseled stone dagger coated in blood.

The hand did its best to apply pressure to the wound while its partner fanned its fingers, searching for the reader’s unwitting partners. He found something before he found another ally or enemy, threads of thought drifting in the vapors. They had to be connected to someone, someone with a connection to him no doubt, but it sounded like nonsense when it passed through his mind. Perhaps they were thoughts of ancestors, or descendants, confused by gases that never so much as acknowledged the flow of time.

This isn’t the best character for the situation Dad. I told you to pick between the gargoyle and the panda.

But I like this one. It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun, right? You pick the one that looks the most fun. That’s this guy! He’s got four arms. Wish I had four arms, could work the table saw and sip coffee at the same time.

We’re not trying to mint a new meta here. We’re min/maxing. Only a small selection of characters are viable at the highest level during any given balance patch. Palm reader’s not on that list, at least not for the rotunda map.

What does any of that even mean?

It means if we don’t optimize our decision making we don’t stand a ghost of a chance, okay? Fun doesn’t factor in. It’s a game only in the sense that there’s a winner and a loser.

Then I’ll win with this guy. Come on. The gargoyle’s your thing. I need my own thing. Pretend you have to play the palm reader. How do you optimize him here and now? And what happens when I hit Q?

The palm reader surged forward by his most confident hand. There. It had sensed the hand he had just been reading, was still tracing the line to its conclusion across a desperate palm. He found himself right next to them, right next to her. There was no reason to ever look at their faces when the palm told such a complete narrative, but he saw now that she was on edge, even with a bow and arrow in her hands, even with a lit firework mounted to an arrow.

The creature that had stuck him in the back reappeared, wielding another dagger clenched between its teeth. The palm reader examined it during the brief moment it was stunned to see him coming between it and its prey.

Not a creature at all, but a young man. No clothes but a loincloth. A wild beastly look in his eyes. A snarling nose. Long ratty hair. Back on Earth he was a feral child, abandoned by his parents, raised by wild dogs and monkeys. Upon achieving the hanging gardens he learned only enough language to listen, not speak. He refused to give up the animal ways, the hunt, so all that remained to him was violent work.

He didn’t care why someone wanted the firework archer dead, just that he could get it done with a blade against her throat. Much of this information was hidden from the palm reader, for the feral child was upon all fours, palms obscured by floor and filth. What a way to treat them, the reader thought, affronted. It was a creature after all, perfectly willing to sand off its own fingerprints if it could wrap the rest of them around a foe’s windpipe.

The feral pounced and the reader threw up all four hands to catch the scraggly beast and throw it back into the orange-gold fog. The archer sent an exploding missile chasing after it, but they could hear its palms and the soles of its feet slapping against any patches that weren’t covered in moss.

The sounds headed away from them. No, toward another friend he hadn’t met yet. They were all targets. The palm reader held out his angriest hand, which had already made itself into a fist. Again he let himself be dragged through the battle, by a combination of fury and fate, until he stopped in the perfect position to guard his close ally: the grape stomper.

The feral child came in again, and the reader grappled with it a second time, but there was a wound left after the creature was thrown away. The reader’s side was bleeding, and he could only sacrifice so many palms to stem the flow.

The patter, he heard the patter again. All he could do was repeat the process, this time learning that he was bonded to some kind of vampire-pirate hybrid. Whatever there was to love about the undead thief, he would surely learn it soon. Better the man be at least alive-ish when he did.

Now he was outnumbered, as someone else emerged alongside the feral to deal a blow. The reader didn’t even get a clear look, but he did get clear, obvious, painful injuries. The vampirate was safe, but at the cost of more of the reader’s stamina and strength. The alarms in his mind and in his many wrists didn’t slow or cease; the assault was far from over.

As long as he stood he would protect them, but he understood that the possibility was dangerously open. There was one unbearable hanging question mark that came with his additional set of palms. Which one told of his true fate? One set opined that he would live a much longer and fruitful life.

The other was broken up by scars, his lines dammed up in several places, one of them being here and now, thanks to a fresh cut from a stone dagger. One way or the other, his fate was his own, and he trusted the forces that had gifted him with the ambiguity. That trust fell out of him in rivulets every time he took a blow for friends that wouldn’t understand why he sacrificed himself.

Over and over he moved between them, protecting them from as many sides as he could. Every success was paid back in slices and shreds. Eventually he could only stand if his two newer hands held his quivering legs steady. There was a thought that perhaps he should’ve looked at his own soles for a possible third fate, but that time had passed, and with one final swipe of the enemy’s black weapon, so had the palm reader.

The only mercy in his end was that he did not see the others fall, but they did, in much the same fashion. If there was some grander purpose to their suffering, none of them knew it. All that changed was that the orange-gold clouds had a few sips of blood and eventually left, leaving four bodies in their wake.

That was… that was us losing right?” Mr. Vallet asked as he took his hands off the keyboard and mouse. He looked at his belt to make sure he didn’t have two more arms sprouting anywhere. Video game graphics were a lot better than he remembered. Was that sweat on his forehead?

What gave it away? The giant word defeat across the top of the screen?” his son grumbled. “That was a bloodbath.”

It was his first try,” Plusplus said. “I was worse than that on my first try.”

Yeah, we can work with this,” Handzy insisted, slapping Mr. Vallet’s shoulder, causing her to also realize how sweaty he was. “He’s good at taking hits, so we just put all of his customization and items into that strategy instead of making him… you know… aim at things.”

We use him as a shield,” Flippers agreed. “Palm reader can be viable that way. He has the ability to teleport to anyone who starts taking damage, he can block multiple attacks at once automatically, and he doesn’t have to pay too much attention to positioning, only timing. This is it. This is how we get to the top of the loser’s bracket… with some more practice.”

So who did we just lose to?” Mr. Vallet asked.

The computer.” The man went goggle-eyed.

Wait, those weren’t other people? I just got killed by the game itself?”

Yep,” Handzy confirmed, “but don’t feel too bad. We cranked the A.I. difficulty as high as it would go. Nobody can beat it on that setting because it doesn’t miss and it always knows where your team is. It was just to gauge your ability.”

Specifically to gauge it against Microdose Berserk, because if we make it all the way to the finals that’s probably who we’ll be playing against.”

Micro what now?”

Microdose Berserk. They’ve won the last four tournaments they’ve competed in. They have corporate sponsorship. All the top E-sports teams have really stupid random names like that.”

The feral was-”

The one that kept stabbing me with the daggers?”

Yeah that’s the feral,” Flippers confirmed. “He’s an assassin, and the main character of a player named Cover-up. He’s the star on Microdose Berserk, often out-killing his brawler and his ranger combined. He’ll be, by far, the biggest threat, assuming we can win our next handful of matches and get to him.”

So he’s like a veteran?” Mr. Vallet asked. “How many years has he been playing this game?”

This is his first season,” Plusplus explained, diving into one of the more unpleasant aspects of their industry. “He’s only sixteen.” The man was visibly confused. “You need the fastest reaction time to win these things, and that starts to slip in your late teens. Aside from you, nobody older than twenty-five is still in the Hangers-On Open at this point.”

Didn’t you want to make a whole career out of this?” Mr. Vallet turned to and asked Handzy. She was keenly aware that at eighteen she perhaps had a sliver of her prime left. If she returned to college it would be as, by her standards, a fossil compressed to two dimensions by the tectonic plates of time.

If you get a few accomplished years out of it you can transition into being a commentator,” she excused, “or a streamer or content creator. And there’s always other games that don’t need reflexes as much… but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that we keep our nose to the grindstone.”

She cracked her knuckles explosively, making the middle-aged man with more calluses than pores cower in fear.

Dream Big, Dream Tits

by

Mangst Breadslaw

Tell me, how large does a pair of breasts have to be to be offensive? There’s no industry standard, but something tells me there’s a reverse correlation between a woman’s cup size and how mad she is about depictions of them.

For a while, a sweet harmonious while, we had it boys. We had action games starring hot girls with tiny waists and giant bouncing tits. You could pit two of them against each other in a fighting game and the various spheroids of flesh would get so agitated the screen would start to look like a violently shaken lava lamp.

But then they appeared, out of the mist like demons, to shame us, to destroy our happiness. People that never touched a controller in their lives invaded, shrieking about how we were promoting unrealistic body standards for the impressionable girls of the world. They were all going to kill themselves once they saw the treasured chests they could never achieve! (Never mind that this is a passive admission that anyone so influenced is desperate for the attention and approval of boys and men, and if they were just the confident, strong, independent types they claimed to be it wouldn’t affect them at all.)

When they came they brought with them several arguments, all of which don’t matter for the exact same reason. They said sets of armor that looked like metal bikinis made no sense. They said women with udders that size would have constant back pain and inhibited movement. They said no actual breasts moved like water balloons.

And to all of those I say of course. What idiots they think we must be, to assume that our goal at any point in this process was realism, was reasonable expectations. Video games are the realm of fantasy. You immerse yourself in them in order to achieve the heights of your imagination without it interfering in the real world.

I don’t know about you, but since I’m a functioning red-blooded straight man in possession of an imagination, when I see boobs I picture them bigger. Why? Because I’m driven to. Call it carnal, call it lust, call it whatever you want. I want boobs, and since I want them I want more of them, which is most easily achieved by making them larger.

I’m also stimulated by seeing them move, so in a game I would like them to move more than they normally would. There’s no back pain because back pain is not sexy. The armor doesn’t cover them because that would defeat most of the other measures I’ve taken in order to reveal them.

There is no shame in sexual fantasy, or in letting it intermingle liberally with fantasies of fame, love, power, and identity. To tell me I shouldn’t play a game as this false woman is to attack me as harmful, when I have harmed no one. In fact, my modified mistress with the stacked rack and the broadsword has been running around in her steel skivvies saving people from the corruption in her lands.

So why are we mired in an epidemic of emptying jugs and thickening waists in our games? It can’t be for money. Look at the data. Women aren’t even buying the games with sufficient action to initiate the stress tests of the jiggle physics. Instead they’re mindlessly emptying their wallets dime by dime on micro-transactions in mobile match-three games with pastel aesthetics and plush score numbers. They’re looking for anime sugar daddies in visual novel dating sims.

Intimidation is the reason. They are upset that we built and had what we wanted, so they instigated various media mobs to shout at and belittle us until we stopped, until we agreed with them that it was better for us to be less happy.

Here’s the thing. It’s all because a handful of women decided to take it so god damn personally. Never mind that there was already a pretty hard ceiling built into breast size in action games. After all, if they get much bigger than watermelons in say, a third person combat game, it means they will be taking up too much of the screen and preventing us from seeing the environment and enemies.

If it was first person we wouldn’t want them much bigger than two mole hills brushing up against the HUD. And of course, there are technically some women in the world who are that gifted in the mammary sense. (Don’t ask me why our desired character models don’t then count as empowering representation, given that they’re portrayed as fearless warriors.)

So the problem of breasts inflating beyond all semblance to the real deal is a fiction, as they stop slightly above the anatomical average in order to not act as fleshy blinders. Even in the abstract they would cease to grow around the time the rest of the body was too small to discern by comparison. Nobody needs to worry about the logistics of desperate attention-seekers attempting to implant silicon celestial bodies.

Should the male eye trend anywhere else, as it currently is with the ass, the same principles apply. The worst thing we’re likely to create in terms of absurdity is a woman shaped like a peanut who finds clothing to be an irritation. Gasp. Let loose the dogs of sexual repression. End the chronic back pain of cinched bundles of polygons everywhere.

So why are they taking it so fucking personally? Nothing stops them from fighting fire with fire. I have absolutely no problem with whatever it is that these women who collectively have a single pair of Christmas ornaments decorating their sternums find sexually arousing. I imagine, assuming they’re attracted to men at all and not large emotionally available dogs or wads of money, that it would be one of two fantasies carrying the broadsword in their adventure game.

The first is a musclebound bearded wall of a thing, at least three feet taller than they are, with perfect gum commercial teeth and a jaw so chiseled it could be used as a can opener. He is unrealistic in every way, including that he only has eyes for the tiniest breasts; anything larger than a chocolate chip he simply cannot abide. He does everything for her and her alone, this pimply, hairy, asymmetrical her, including saving her queendom from whatever threat is marauding around her lands.

The other is a pale twig with big stuffed animal eyes. His counterpart’s crotch bulge is replaced by a panel so shiny and smooth it can capture enough solar energy to power a convention center. He doesn’t even have the capacity to be attracted to another woman, and his talents trend more servile and domestic, fetching things off shelves and folding her delicates.

These fantasies do not offend me. Sure, I think they’re stupid, and indicative of the kind of person who has them, but that opinion remains where it belongs and I never call it anything else. I don’t call their fantasies harassment, or misandry, or an injustice. It is obvious to those with brains that it’s all in good fun.

Where are these games for women so desperate to takeover and rehabilitate our genres? Why am I not seeing a guy in short shorts with a Burmese python balled up in them on any of the posters in the window of the electronics store? If they are truly as ubiquitous as they say they are they must have mountains of money to spend on such games that studios are desperate to get their hands on, yet they’re not pandering to them in that way. Instead they’re just tiptoeing around and chipping away at the things men want.

That’s because these women don’t actually want to play these sorts of games at all. They’re just insecure. It is a fury entirely derived from the fact that, whatever they look like individually, their physical form is not the center of public sexual attention. Fat women want fatter characters so that thinner ones occupy less of our imagination. The same goes for flat women, and women who aren’t blonde, and women who aren’t white. Your mind shouldn’t be your own. It should be enthralled to their altar of vanity.

Seeking to shrink your tits is just the first step to them eventually shrinking your rights. Silly as I made that sentence sound, it is not a joke. Their ultimate goal is censorship, plastering a black bar over everything that has ever generated happiness independent of their influence.

When they looked at the code we wrote, the games we designed and played without their input, they saw only a statement that we didn’t need them. It was a space conceived of, shaped by, and inhabited by men to give them what they want, harmlessly, and as fully as possible. And they’re wrecking it because they weren’t invited and don’t have the capacity or desire to dream as big as we do.

If any of them read this they will assume that I hate all women, even though I only hate women like them. Like most of you loyal slawterhouses, I have loved and will continue to love females, not just the form they take.

As I finish editing this gift to the feminists (be they whichever wave the movement is on now or the shallower birdbath feminists I suspect), I first want to tell you about a woman I have loved and how she affected me.

Believe it or not, her bra size doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t treat her the same way I treat my fantasies. She is very real: a fixed point in my mind and heart rather than something that might inflate or otherwise exaggerate when I’m not looking.

I consider her powerful in the figurative sense, but not the sense that she can bend various sex-starved men to her will. No, she doesn’t make time for such things. She finds what she wants and she goes for it, full tilt, with absolutely no regard for what anyone else thinks. She’s less likely to complain about a supermodel on the battlefield and more likely to seize her as a cudgel and utterly destroy you at your own game.

There isn’t a single critic of mine who I remember by name. They pass like leaves in the wind, even if they are covered in irritating toxic hairs. I remember the name of the woman I love, and I think it before I think the names of any characters in any of the games I play, no matter their proportions. Those creatures are empty, daydreams. She is full, and she is a goal.

So remember friends, don’t let the shrieks get too far down your ear canals. It’s really all they can do, and you’re in charge of whether or not they hurt you. If you think bigger is better then max out those character creation sliders and flaunt what you’ve got up and down that multiplayer lobby.

If you don’t let them shout you down the studios will eventually return to the old ways. They’ll give us back our T and a side of A as well. Our fantasies will giggle and bounce this way and that, all according to our whims, because that’s what they’re supposed to. They’re our toys, and we don’t share. They can get their own.

Dream big my friends. Dream tits.

*published two years ago

*views: 3,655,284

Finals

The road was long and hard, littered with heat rashes from their computer fans and too many crushed cans that each contained way too much caffeine. Mr. Vallet stuck to coffee, but never admitted how many canisters he went through in the process. It was worth it though, as the Beaucoup Bucks arose victorious in each and every match after their tragic blunder.

First came the uphill battle against the Burner Cells, who had imported a player all the way from South Korea just because of his position on the regional leaderboards. They used several unorthodox characters, owing to different strategies prevailing on different continents and servers. The Bucks hadn’t even bothered training their newest member against the epic poet, the Faustian lawyer, or the ship’s figurehead.

All they could do was trust their strategy, and play out of their minds, both of which they did. Plusplus pulled in a new record for healing on any of his characters, but only because Mr. Vallet managed to take a staggering amount of damage without going down. With their medic glued to their brawler even more than usual, Handzy and Plusplus had to be self-sufficient, which was best achieved by choosing their targets wisely and not missing. Both came away with an accuracy over seventy percent. Once they managed to give Handzy the chest, handed off automatically by one of the palm reader’s A.I.-controlled hands after Mr. Vallet briefly teleported to her side, she beat a hasty backward retreat from her already distant sniper’s nest.

From there all she had to do was use the firework archer’s blow-back skill, which involved firing an explosive arrow at her own feet. She took a small amount of damage in the process, but it sent her rocketing in an arc backward as well as pushing any near foes in the opposite direction. By the time she couldn’t delay the mounting cooldown any longer they had already accumulated enough points to win.

The online audience grew larger every round, so there was immediately buzz around the mysterious Bucks player who took the place of their disgraced brawler. If they were a ringer why did they tailor their skill set to basically play itself? Why did they make such odd decisions? Why ignore kill opportunities just to absorb a few more non-lethal hits heading for their medic?

Such questions would be answered if the Bucks ever took to the stage in the live event that was the finals, but first they had to knock out three more teams: Kenny’s Super Toddlers, Ridge Powerhouse, and Dragon Backwash. The last two had corporate backing, meaning their equipment was cutting edge, their internet connections more stable than some nuclear reactors.

But the Bucks refused to be intimidated. Their backs were against the wall, and fear could not be wielded as a weapon, so they opted for insanity instead. When the Super Toddlers brought out a squad much less whimsical than their name, a roster that was generally effective but deeply predictable, the Bucks countered by largely copying the team the Burner Cells had used, except they swapped the ship’s figurehead for Mr. Vallet’s palm reader so he wouldn’t have to pivot.

The idea was that they could play it better, having just seen the ways in which it could fail. Plusplus, himself quite inexperienced on the Faustian lawyer, still managed to tailor his risk/reward healing pacts perfectly while keeping himself largely hidden, allowing Flippers and Handzy to each have a dedicated support mechanism on their rampages.

Another W was banked by the Bucks. Ridge Powerhouse, despite having the full strength of Barberfit brand gaming chairs on their side, were shaken by the now-blazing reputation of the oddball team. The Bucks’ cursors moved around the character selection screen erratically, like they were all foaming at the mouth, like they had nothing to lose.

Certainly not that match. Powerhouse looked like anything but as they were shredded limb from limb, lucky they couldn’t hear the positively murderous shouting going on in the Bucks’ voice channel. All of them, including Mr. Vallet, only faced the remotest threat when there was a knock on the granite storehouse’s door. Someone had called the cops thanks to their shouting, but they were all sweaty smiles when they greeted the officers.

Dragon Backwash put up a much greater fight in the semifinals. Their brawler-ranger combo was beyond brutal, which involved the iron maiden skewering a player so they could then be blasted from an unknown angle by the musical debuffs of the lightning conductor. The latter could also repel most of Handzy’s projectiles with his sound wave bubble.

It was up to Flippers on his trusty vampirate to save the day, as his hook-handed health siphon was classified as an ethereal attack, which meant it was unaffected by most means of blocking damage. Once he had the ranger eliminated the combo broke down, the chest was stolen away from their assassin by a teleporting palm reader, and they once again played keep-away until the timer ran down. The Beaucoup Bucks were now in the finals.

Mr. Vallet couldn’t be hidden from the public any longer, for the finals were to be held in front of a packed audience in a convention center typically used for RC robot death matches. The barred and glass-reinforced cage that usually stood had been disassembled and temporarily replaced with a more traditional stage, but the whole place still looked like a battleground thanks to the numerous scorch marks and scratches on the floor from leaky flamethrowers and saw blade shrapnel.

False pillars and walls were brought in, along with tons of plastic vines, to simulate the earthen pot interior of the hanging gardens of Babylon. Cosplayers arrived in the dozens, doing their best to bring characters from the game to life with an attention to detail that more than gave the furries a run for their money.

Actual developers were there for interviews: artists, programmers, and writers for the tie-in books and comics. That meant if the Bucks performed in an inspiring fashion, win or lose, there was a chance their efforts would live on in the game through their influence on the staff. They were there to make a mark on the eternal, even if they burned up in the process.

The drive had been hundreds of miles, undertaken in Mr. Vallet’s delivery van, which had been quickly modified to safely seat them all as well as Handzy’s sister Holmes, who had decided to attend for moral support. They didn’t need to bring their equipment with them, as the event was supplied with some of the best gaming PCs available. Yet, there was a light box stashed in the back of the van, and Mr. Vallet only revealed its contents when they made it the parking lot outside the venue, with five hours until their match against Microdose Berserk and the dreaded assassin Cover-up.

I had these made for us,” their chauffeur and teammate explained as he carefully opened the package with a box cutter. Out came something folded that he whipped around and unfurled, deep brown and glossy green. A jersey. Their logo stared back at them proudly, dollars skewered on its chandelier-worthy antlers. He flipped it around, revealing a handle rather than a name.

One for Handzy, Plusplus, Flippers, Granslam, and the man himself, who never bothered to type anything but Joaquin into the gardens’ logs.

I know it was a last resort to have me play with you guys,” he said, tearing up, his hands trembling as he remembered he shouldn’t use the jersey as a handkerchief, “and I didn’t know what to do at first… but this has come to mean so much to me. I… I didn’t realize how little fun I was having after Mrs. Vallet passed.

It’s just, I’m used to being the boss, but with you kids I really feel like l-like w-we’re a… a team and weuhh-” There was too much traffic in his tear ducts and nasal passages for him to finish, but he wasn’t embarrassing himself since he’d created the exact same conditions in the rest of the Bucks.

Elijah was fanning his eyes. Jenny was tilting her head back. Marco could be heard sobbing inside the jersey that was currently being pulled down over his face. Glenn had his forearm under his nose to block the flow. Their efforts quickly collapsed into a collective hug and sniffling, with Holmes standing off to the side dabbing at her eyes as if watching a soap opera, which lasted until another van pulled up alongside them, also bearing the contact information for Mr. Vallet’s company.

Oh a-and I got us- us one m-more thiiiiing…”

The miniature exhibition tournament was coming to a close, the costume contest had been judged, the developers had made their small but lapped-up announcement of upcoming content in the next patch, and it was time to determine who would win one million dollars and the Hangers-On trophy: a golden cup with several small figures clutching its edge and hanging on as if it rapidly rocketed toward Babylon.

Out came Microdose Berserk, in jerseys of their own thanks to three different sponsors, two of them caffeinated. Cover-up emerged from the sidelines last, to a roar of approval from those crammed into the hundreds of seats, and those thousands watching from their phones and homes. He was a tiny frail creature with wide deep-set eyes surrounded in shadow.

To Mr. Vallet he looked like he’d never slept, or even blinked, even inside the womb. He was like the fresh pink offspring of a naked mole rat, but not in the gardens. In there he was a fearsome foe, a spree killer with no authority above to stop him.

Microdose Berserk was even more perplexed by their opponents, considering that several tech assistants swarmed in and removed the Bucks’ computers and keyboards, only for yet more staff to come in and remove the table they’d been resting on. Several of Mr. Vallet’s strongest employees took their place, carrying an incredible slab of colorful granite and strong legs, with streaks of brown and green that matched the Bucks’ jerseys.

With a collective grunt it was set down, and the machines put back into place atop it. What did this team need the prize money for, the crowd wondered, if they wouldn’t even play without their own incredibly expensive table being installed? When the players emerged they looked much less wealthy than their foundation implied, but all the speculation about that fell away as soon as the man in his forties took his seat next to his three teammates.

Not the coach. That sentient five o’ clock shadow was not the coach, or a tech, or a family member cheering them on. That shriveled thing was supposed to be a player. Those that had been following the tournament closely put it together and quickly spread the narrative to everyone around, a narrative that Holmes Handerly was already keenly aware of.

She wasn’t there just for moral support. A middle-aged E-sports player didn’t seem impressive, more sad really, at least until they started making their way to the finals. This was a story, and one she was closer to than any other journalist. It couldn’t take the place of unmasking Mangst, not after so long on his tail, but there was now the slightest chance this exclusive could deliver similar results.

I’m going to head up there and take some pictures, good luck,” she had whispered in her sister’s ear just before the Bucks ascended the steps at the side of the stage. The intrepid reporter was referring to the uppermost row of seating, which was positioned almost directly over the stage, and was currently abandoned but for a lighting technician with a console in his lap.

For a robot duel it was the perfect angle to view the carnage, but it made no sense for E-sports as their monitors looked like nothing but eyelashes from directly above, and the main screen all the action was funneled toward was behind the participants and completely invisible to the upper deck.

If she needed photos of the in-progress match it would just be more effective to pull screenshots from the various recordings that were being made of the game directly, so the unique angle was for the human element, for the best possible view of the gorgeous granite slab that Mr. Vallet had brought along to declare himself part of the E-sports scene.

She snapped one with the flash on, noticing how much the granite had been polished as a result. The stone was highly reflective, so much so that she wondered if it had a special coating, as she could even see her sister’s face when she hung her head for a moment. It was blurry, but even through that her nerves were obvious.

But it wasn’t the match, just minutes away, that had Handzy quaking. Nor the announcer hyping up the crowd. Nor the muttering about the exhumed bog body that had been removed from the local museum and placed on their team in the brawler role.

It was because she had a question for her team, brought forth in her soul after a crisis of faith. She wasn’t sure she believed in the meta-game anymore: the rules above the rules. They dictated that Mr. Vallet could never make it that far, that the palm reader character, out of the meta for nearly a year, couldn’t make it that far. Yet here they were.

Perhaps there was a power she could unlock, a final level that could be ascended, if she only took the man’s advice and played to have fun, even if it could send her future sliding down a sewage tunnel. It would be an impractical decision, one made solely for joy, but if she didn’t make it, why else was she doing any of this?

Guys,” she said to draw the others’ attention. They all looked to her. “I want to play time traveler.” Since they’d adjusted to the sounds of the crowd the next few seconds felt like silence.

Whatever you want,” Mr. Vallet said with a smile. “Win before we win.” The others nodded, without a doubt in their eyes. Handzy thanked them, but it wasn’t entirely up to her or her teammates, for their characters of choice first had to survive the ban phase.

The music quieted, as did the crowd, and the lights came into focus on the stage, with the large screen behind them, bigger than a movie theater’s, switching from advertisements to the HGOB character select screen. The announcer explained the ban phase, which sometimes varied in competitive play; each team was free to collectively select two characters that no one on either team would be able to play in that particular round.

This was considered the most strategic part of the game, even more so than the most hectic battles fought in real time. Banning was like chess, but where taken pieces never even made it to the board. It was the choice of which enemy eye to cover with a patch, which fingers to tape together to hobble them most effectively.

Though the coaches at Microdose Berserk would never admit that such a ragtag bunch of players with an absurdly high average age stood much of a chance, they had done days of research on the Beaucoup Bucks’ performance in the tournament so far. Their bans were selected with the precision of a scalpel, and delivered like a nick in the heart and one in the lungs without ever breaking skin.

And for our first ban, courtesy of Berserk, we have the palm reader!” the announcer shouted. “No doubt this was to target the sub player Joaquin, who has not played any other brawler since being brought in.”

It was a painful strike for the Bucks, but not unexpected. Attack the weakest link, break the whole chain. There had been some hope they would simply disregard the palm reader as an obstacle given Mr. Vallet’s limited experience, but they hadn’t taken the bait. Now it was their turn to return fire; no discussion was needed.

Our second ban, courtesy of the Bucks, is the feral. I think we all saw that coming!” The crowd booed the Bucks; they’d paid to see Cover-up shred everyone. It might take him slightly longer to do that without his best character. The boy’s only response was a smirk that put the audience at ease, assuring them he had plenty left to work with.

Third on the chopping block is the Faustian lawyer!” So Microdose hadn’t liked the look of Plusplus on the newly-adopted lawyer since their match with the Burner Cells. It was the easiest healer to play inattentively, setting up bargains that could pay off later and under certain circumstances without having to look at the character in need of healing. They wanted Plusplus laser-focused, but still forced to switch targets constantly.

And last to go is the burned witch,” the announcer finished. The map they would be playing on was the irrigation dungeon, a deep chamber in the gardens filled with waterfalls and canals that eventually watered the manifold plants that held it all together. The Bucks suspected the enemy ranger would go for the burned witch thanks to the interaction between her fiery abilities and the watery environment, which created obscuring steam.

Now both teams were free to select their squads of four from what remained, but they weren’t done interfering with each other yet, as they alternated picking individual characters, and could still lock their foes out by selecting a desired one for themselves. Handzy took a deep breath. It wasn’t likely; Microdose had no idea they were throwing strategy out the window.

Since they’re in the winner’s bracket, Microdose picks first,” the announcer explained, “and they fill their medic role with rune scarred! Daring first choice. Now they hand it off to the Beaucoup Bucks.” A second announcer chimed in, having finally figured out their microphone issue.

And they’re quick to snap up the half-petrified Vesuvian as their brawler. That’s unexpected, but anything would be out of the mysterious Joaquin, a phantom out of time itself.” The crowd laughed, but it did nothing to unnerve the Bucks. The Vesuvian was the back-up character Mr. Vallet had practiced on most, picking it up solely because it was his son’s favorite. His skills were largely transferable, for while the Vesuvian couldn’t teleport he could still absorb massive amounts of damage as most of his health points consisted of rocky armor.

Microdose answers back with firework archer, perhaps to keep it out of Handzy’s hands?”

Party animal will be healing the Bucks! Jesus… I mean wow!” Plusplus had selected his favorite as well.

That clearly threw Microdose off course. They took their entire time to select… god-king’s rubble! An unusual pick in the brawler role for them.”

Holy- and the Bucks fire right back with the time traveler of all things! What synergies do you even have with these characters? Maybe the traveler can send the animal’s healing bubbles forward in time but… not even that sounds worth it. I’m flummoxed guys, genuinely.”

Microdose keeps me from having a heart attack by rounding out with a normal pick here. They’re putting fishy investigator in as their assassin.”

And the Bucks are calming down too. They’ve finished up with vampirate.” Handzy glanced at Flippers, but he didn’t look back. He was the only one who hadn’t selected some kind of personal favorite, opting out of master of disguise for a more meta-friendly pick. She assumed he was trying to put the whole team on his shoulders so they would be free enough to have fun without him while he earned the trophy.

There wasn’t time to tell him it wasn’t necessary, that her life of game-playing would only be as she imagined it if she was allowed to make stupid ridiculous decisions like the ones they now made together. The countdown was already happening, already on five, four, three-

Let’s have some fun!” Mr. Vallet snarled into his headset.

Word among the Babylonians was that a great treasure had fallen down a drain, which could also be called a bottomless chasm thanks to the nature of their great and terrible citadel. Still, many interested parties descended deep in search of it, and as the fates would have it two groups arrived upon the chest’s resting place simultaneously, and broke out into battle.

In one group there was a time traveler, and unfortunately she had witnessed the near-future, which saw their bloody defeat if they even attempted to make peace with the other group and split the spoils. The only way to avert such a fate was to strike first, which she did.

She was the most sensible choice for the act of aggression after all, with very little left of her human soul to damage. Constructed by a wizard born out of time, her soul snatched from beyond death and placed into a largely artificial body, it was her job to do his bidding; at least it was until he remembered that, since he was out of time, he had never been born, thus ceasing his existence.

Now she was free to make her own decisions with her chrono-powers, and she chose to defend her friends, or rather the only thing she understood to be both eternal and good, which was the memories of her friends, as they were at their best. The only way to stockpile more was to keep them alive.

In addition to the giant hourglass that was the automaton’s waist, she had a smaller one, its two halves wrapped about her wrist, and when it spun it fired a jet-stream of time sands out of her palm as a projectile, one that could strike moments later, or moments before, or an age after if she so chose.

With her action the timeline had been thrown into chaos, and she could no longer predict what would happen in the coming minutes. When her sands cleared she was shocked to learn their enemies had all but vanished. Not that great crumbling statue of the earthly god-king, for it didn’t have that kind of speed, but all the others.

The man in the long fish scale coat had transformed into a mackerel and disappeared into a flowing irrigation ditch at his feet. They knew where he was though, for he had somehow attached the treasure chest to himself and it was now speeding away, bobbing in the current.

There had been another man, shirtless, his body covered in open written wounds, but he was nowhere to be found. The same went for the woman with the firework bow, but her location on the level beneath them was obvious enough given that was where the explosive colorful arrows were screaming out from.

The god-king rubble charged through the water toward them, the current less than a breeze against its legs, but the time traveler prioritized their prize over her own life, firing one last stream of sand at the chest before it was gone. A direct hit, the chest disappeared and reappeared where it had been ten seconds prior, allowing her ally the half-petrified Vesuvian to snatch it.

He was often seen as slow, but that was thanks to his craggy armored half. Few knew that there was an inner volcanic power he could activate, one that could push miniature eruptions out the bottom of his feet, allowing bursts of incredible speed at the expense of some of his own stability.

Still, the rubble was about to catch him with a shoulder tackle before he could get going, necessitating the intervention of the life of their group on even the darkest days, the party animal. Laughing, the rotund satyr threw himself between the two, his magically rubbery body repelling the statue and launching the Vesuvian away.

The satyr appeared unharmed, but there were bubbles of wine in the air all about him. His endless grin. His laugh deeper than any of these pipes. They didn’t mean he was alright, just that he knew how to be happy until the moment he fell and there wasn’t enough air in his lungs to knead into laughter.

Yet if any of them, aside from herself, was the master of their own destiny, it was their party animal. Attention had to be turned back to the investigator; now that he had lost the chest he would be coming back. His bloodthirsty reputation preceded him in Babylon, more than the man the rubble was in the image of, who had somehow ruled a continent for three lifetimes.

With a blast of sand she tried to pull the river he’d disappeared into back, but there were no shadows in the returning waters. Where was he? Back in human form? Damn those from Ys, always so slippery. Suddenly, a red firework exploded in her face.50. Cracks spread across the glass of her waist, her vital sands leaking out. Perhaps if- no, it was too late. Somehow, with all her careful examinations of the stitch of time through space, she’d missed this spot of ‘too late’. There was someone just behind the firework obscured in smoke and light, and with one blow they destroyed all of the existing she was busy with in that moment. 77.

What the hell!?” Handzy shouted, gawping. It couldn’t have been Cover-up on the fishy investigator that got her. Even he wasn’t that good. She’d tracked the assassin as closely as possible, and neither his man form or fish form was anywhere in sight.

Now she was trapped in the crystal tomb until she respawned, and was cut off from the rest of her team’s voice channel, unable to inform them that it could not have been Cover-up that temporarily ended her. It was a longstanding quirk of HGOB that teammates weren’t supposed to communicate across the veil of death.

It was difficult to enforce in live matches, but enforced it was. All their headsets canceled most noise, and each monitor had blinders placed on them so the Bucks couldn’t look at each other’s screens. Referees were standing by if it looked like illicit communication was underway.

All she could do for a time was think. Only three other players could have killed her, and she definitely saw a figure in the haze, so it wasn’t a second volley from the firework archer. The god-king rubble would have been much larger. The medic. Rune scarred had killed her, dealing three quarters of her health in one blow.

Plusplus appeared beside her, but he must have figured it out if he was there too. Then Flippers joined them and there was no denying it any longer.

Handzy: They kitted out their medic for damage instead of healing. It’s not even an intended play style. It’s totally an afterthought that if a short range wound-rune misses an ally but hits a foe it deals damage instead of healing.

Plusplus: For him to deal that much damage he couldn’t have any skill points in anything else. He should be useless out of range!

Flippers: But he’s not… because he’s the best player on their team! That’s Cover-up! They put Cover-up on the fucking MEDIC and then retooled it to catch us off guard. We’re getting murdered by a walking bandage!

Plusplus: Now their team comp makes sense. Investigator is just supposed to run the chest around in the currents. Archer’s too far away to take damage so she doesn’t need a medic, and rubble has more health than any other character, so he doesn’t really need it either.

Handzy: Wait where’s Mr. V!?! We should all be dead by now…

Handzy: Still nothing. Think guys, where’s our brawler?

Plusplus: He can’t beat them in a fight, so he’s hiding. And there’s only one spot to hide in the dungeon: the water.

Flippers: And all the currents terminate at the same place. Assuming fishboy doesn’t find him they’ll converge at the drain and catch him.

Handzy: But he could still have the chest. Vesuvian is classed as a heavy character, so the chest sinks when he has it. They can’t see it. We could have a ton of points! As soon as we respawn we’ll hit the drain together, make it a battle. Come on Mr. Vallet. Just keep hold and drift. Just keep hold.

Holmes was barely listening to the announcers as she waited for more photo opportunities, but she did hear them mention the fishy investigator a lot. She only played HGOB when her sister needed a teammate to round out a practice session, so she didn’t know much about the story, but the investigator always seemed like a straight shooter to her. Too bad he was on the enemy team this time.

Something involving him had the audience riled up. They were chanting Cover-up’s name now, which couldn’t bode well for the Bucks. Holmes looked down again, just in time to see Flippers hang his head as the vampirate was surprise-slain by rune scarred. Glenn’s face was reflected in the granite.

-500. That was how much damage Holmes felt like she took; her phone nearly dropped out of her hand and turned into a bomb that could’ve stalled the finals. Calm down, she told herself. That wasn’t definitive; it only felt that way. There was a way to check however. All she had to do was open the game Pocket Protectors on her phone.

It chimed as soon as she did. Nordicbagel. The exact same username she had connected to Mangst Breadslaw. He was in range for a duel, but Holmes had already won. There was no way it could be a coincidence, not when coupled with what she recognized.

That was the face she’d caught a glimpse of reflected in a door, through the blur of the chlorine in her eyes after her waterlogged fursuit nearly drowned her. She didn’t catch it until the granite applied similar effects, but now it was like a stamp on the surface of her mind. Her sister’s teammate Flippers was Mangst Breadslaw. Glenn Delaney was Mangst Breadslaw.

The guy who had once written that the United States should annex Mexico in order to make tacos more authentic, who had written that women should only have suffrage after they’d charitably screwed at least one virgin guy, who had written death threats that sent his followers after specific people who dared criticize his nuclear meltdown opinions.

He was right there, playing his withered little heart out, caught up in an underdog story he didn’t deserve, just a flea on the underdog’s ass. Holmes felt like throwing herself over the edge, landing with a crater like a superhero, and putting a stop to the match just to reveal him to the throngs, many of whom had probably long forgotten that Mangst even existed in the first place.

If they won the tournament Mangst would likely never post again. He would be an E-athlete now, with enough notoriety and skill to follow that track instead of bigoted contrarianism. That couldn’t be allowed, wouldn’t be. Holmes had bested her Moriarty, but it could wait until the match was over. Her sister’s dreams still hung in the balance.

She was kicking herself for not seeing it sooner, especially afte spending a day in a van with him. He must’ve been disguising his voice during his speech at Pinecon. The girl opened her phone, to the nearly completed draft of her Mangst-unmasking piece, and added the finishing touches. G l e n n D e l a n e y. Known in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon community as F l i p p e r s.

The match raged, trampled, exploded, and chronologically detached itself as the Beaucoup Bucks struggled to adjust to the rune scarred medic-assassin. It was an uphill battle that destroyed many sluices, pooling water at the bottom of the dungeon. All eight of them were down in the muddy chaos, ripping the chest away from each other, hanging onto their last vital health points.

The vampirate bit the firework archer, sending her last shot flying off course. Party animal slipped on a mackerel and fell over, unable to right himself in time to get in the way. God-king rubble pushed forward, but dozens of sand-stream projectiles reappeared in a new moment and skewered him, also hitting their creator, as her position was the only way to lure the statue into their line.

That left rune-scarred, leaping out of the water, inches from the half-petrified Vesuvian who had lost most of his armor, exposing raw molten muscle underneath. The Vesuvian had the chest tucked behind him, but he was doomed.

A bloody glowing rune emerged from a matching wound on the enemy medic’s knuckles. In it was enough damage to destroy the last armor chunk and all the non-armor health Mr. Vallet had. As soon as it landed and killed him the chest would transfer to the next player in range, which was Cover-up. The final five seconds would pass, and Microdose Berserk would win by three points.

That was one possible stitch in time, but the time traveler decided to pull on a loose thread, and to embrace the disorder that came. She snapped her fingers as she was dying, re-instancing every friendly projectile that had crossed that area over the course of the match. A sandy tornado in her waist brought them all back, among them one wine bubble bled by the party animal.

Nearly-random physics interactions had determined the bubble’s position, directly between the projecting lethal rune and the crumbling skin of the Vesuvian. It made all the difference between one future and its next door neighbor with the condemned sign. The rune popped the bubble, providing the Vesuvian with just enough health to survive the blow.

There was no greater danger in the hanging gardens of Babylon than a barely-alive Vesuvian. For when he was on raw health, with his ashen armor crumbled away, he blazed with the pyroclastic power of the mountain that destroyed his civilization. Speed tripled. Cooldowns nonexistent, for there was no cooling down. Damage tripled. Eyes of pure rage, artistically programmed by a developer who had recently gone through a contentious divorce in which he did not get custody of their corgi.

Mr. Vallet was a passive shield of a player. The only reason he had stayed submerged with the chest so long involved a child-like curiosity over where the current would take him next in that wondrous world, which isn’t to say he didn’t absorb anything his son barked at him. He knew that flames at the edge of his screen meant that, for at least a second, he wielded incredible power.

Cover-up was still under the assumption that his target was a falling corpse; even if he understood what just happened the game wouldn’t allow a fast enough reaction. Mr. Vallet jabbed his left mouse button like a woodpecker, breaking it in the process. The half-magma Vesuvian responded with a battery of blazing blows on a rune scarred chest. 17 -17 -17

The heat turned his blood to crimson steam, cauterized the open wounds that were his source of power, disabling any ability that had time to work. The last seconds, and points, struck them all, audience included, as shock waves.

Unbelievable!” the announcers sputtered together.

Bucks win! Bucks win!”

Oh my god! Oh your god! Oh everyone’s gods!”

Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin Joaquin Joaquionua quinoa quinoa quinoa quinoa quinoa quinoa!” The Beaucoup Bucks didn’t notice that Mr. Vallet’s true gamer tag was being invented by the chanting crowd, for they were all on their feet, Granslam included, hugging each other, with Joaquin ‘Quinoa’ Vallet himself holding two of them off the ground as he spun.

And the trophy, with the million dollar grand prize, for the second annual Hangers-On Open goes to the Beaucoup Bucks!” The golden chalice was brought out to them and handed off, absorbed into their huddle. Mr. Vallet asked everyone to get their hands on it so they could all hoist it into the air together.

Holmes got there first, rushing across the stage and peeling her sister back so she could speak to them. The crowd’s furor died down, as they didn’t understand, but Holmes was about to be an even bigger buzzkill to those close enough to hear her.

Don’t!” she warned sternly. “He shouldn’t be up here!” Her accusing finger found Flippers. “He’s Mangst Breadslaw. I just confirmed it Jenny. Go ahead, ask him.”

What’s she talking ab-” Handzy started to ask, but she turned and saw his face, white as powdered sugar. His guilt was plain to see.

Breadslaw? That guy who said if slavery still existed the slaves would have it easy because their owners would buy them game consoles?” Plusplus asked.

That racist guy?” Marco asked.

I can explain,” Flippers said with half a grin whipped out like a switchblade. “It doesn’t matter now though, we won! Let’s raise this thing and go home, then I’ll-”

No you won’t,” Handzy said, wrenching the trophy away from him. “We can’t stop you from taking your share of the money, but you’re not standing up here and holding this with us.”

Jenny, everyone’s watching.”

I don’t give a shit Glenn.” Those perfect memories, of her friend at his best, were tainted, rotting away with remarkable speed. They’d never sat under a granite tent and shored each other up. That was just a ruse from a master of disguise.

I didn’t write any of that stuff because I believe it!” he insisted. “They were all jokes, okay? Jokes that made money! How do you think I had the time to practice with you guys? How I bought such a good computer? I did what I had to to get here, just like the rest of you!”

I never said anything about happy slaves,” Plusplus noted.

You did it effectively; you didn’t do it right,” Marco growled.

None of your readers saw them as jokes, and you knew that,” Holmes accused further.

It’s the gardens,” Flippers said as a shadow passed over his eyes. “You have to do terrible things to get here. None of you would be here without me, and I wouldn’t be here without Mangst. You can’t keep me from the raising.”

Nobody asked you to do them; you did them for yourself,” Handzy declared, anger splashing off every word. “I will literally wrestle this trophy away from you, tumbling and kicking across the entire stage to keep you from raising this cup, and I’m a biter. Now get down.”

Jenny I know you’re like that,” he said with a tiny desperate chuckle. “That’s why I l-”

Oh come on!” Holmes blurted.

I don’t know what’s going on exactly,” Mr. Vallet said, more collected than the others, “but I think you should go Glenn.”

Yeah, because everyone’s watching,” Handzy reminded. Flippers peeked out over their shoulders, at the hundreds present and the thousands beyond, all waiting to see what was happening. Jenny wasn’t a liar, so they would see one of two things: either he would step away and be quickly forgotten in the renewed excitement or they would all gawk as he attacked his teammate and probably lost a toddler’s no-holds-barred fight.

He was the boy in the wolf mask, the master of disguise, the wendigo watching his people ascend without him, and no matter what face he drew on a paper plate and held over his own, that would never change. Mangst Breadslaw turned away from the stage and scurried out of sight, sobbing into his jersey.

Ten seconds later it was like he’d never been there. The trophy was as high as Mr. Vallet could hold it with the shortest of them still able to stretch and tap its base. Any moment now one of the developers would come out with a giant novelty check for a million dollars. On it Handzy would see only a landscape painting of her future, and those of her true friends

in the hanging gardens of Babylon.

The End

We’re just getting Started Boys

by

Mangst Breadslaw

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated my friends, as have the rumors of me being an actual furry. I’m sure you’ve all seen that technically I’ve been unmasked by a sloppy little bitch named Holmes Handerly. We’ll get to her poor journalism ethics soon, but first we have to talk about the future.

With my prize money from HGOB safely banked, we now have plenty of resources to start growing the Breadslaw engine. You know what that means: tell your friends, your coworkers, random assholes on the street. Shout it in their ears if you have to. Mangst is the one looking out for you in the worlds of culture, relationships, and of course video games.

Moving forward we’ll be running much more coordinated boycotting and criticism campaigns, looking to actually shift the course of games in development so we can get what we want from those who are meant to serve us.

First up on the docket is the MMO Cursed Shore. If you’re not familiar with their trailers, it’s a game set in an alternate timeline where North America was completely uninhabited and undiscovered until the 1800s. As players you get to move in and literally set every precedent.

Early on it looked like the game might have had a slavery mechanic, where you can literally own other players, with you either controlling them in several ways or letting them earn enough to buy their freedom. They said they scrapped it early on, but if we bark loud enough I bet we can get them to put it back in. So get ready, and check out the list of names below the fold to know who to hound.

The age of Mangst is just getting started. I love you all, especially you; you know who you are.

*published three weeks ago

*views: 17

One thought on “Tourney at the Hanging Gardens (finale)

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