The shared story structure for this week is from Todd Zircher’s Zero Tarot. The arcana are:
Effectively, they go from “The Fool” to “Death” and offer a guide or inspiration of the scenes that unfold. The Pool can be used to exchange a card or extend the story. Nine scenes should be enough. From part one, the story is about an evil mastermind, launching a ship (which I will likely make metaphorical) and destroying a grave.
Theme music: Bullets by Archive, Cyberpunk 2077 trailer version
Wendy pulls the VIU helmet away, the room is dimly lit by a wall of scattered flat screen displays. The gaming chair is stiff but not too uncomfortable; just comfortable enough to keep people coming back without complaint. A tall, broad man walks in, footsteps surprisingly light and avoiding the tangle of cables with practiced ease.
“Why you keep playin’ dose fantasy games?” he asks with the remains of a Pacific Islander pidgin.
“To keep you in business?” Wendy responds, this conversation a long familiar one. She pulls the interface cable from behind her ear and gets up from the couch. She scans the dim room that may as well have been brightly lit with her artificial eyes. “I don’t see many clients.”
“Ay, no accounting fo’ taste, brah. When you see what I got planned next… Who was it this time?”
“Petra. The Warlock girl, yeah? Ya know, mos’ people come hea to escape. Sex. Drugs. Be a star. Why you keep playin’ the same kine game?”
“Look around, Fetu. This is anything but normal. Besides, Kyriel, Visemar, Petra… if I can see how the game works, maybe I can see how this,” and Wendy sweeps her hands around the room to encompass the outside world, “works.”
“You know not to call me that.”
“Yeah, I know. An’ you know not to bullshit me. Look around, D. It is what it is.”
Wendy walks toward the stairs leading up from the basement. “It is what it is,” she sighs.
The stairs go up to the first floor of the VIU arcade. The door is locked shut and the blinds are pulled closed. It’s a small, cramped storefront, barely big enough to hold more than seven or eight people at a time. Display cases offer memory cards of various value, everything from How to Repair Electronics to music libraries to movies of all kinds. Little tiny chips with small price tags underneath.
“Ay, Fetu. Anything new?” she calls down the stairs.
Fetu returns to the first floor and gets behind the counter. “Nah. Same shit, lata date.”
“What were you saying about coming up next?”
Fetu smiles, “It’s a surprise, D. Been coding a new module.”
“Can’t wait. You’re a weird GM sometimes.”
“Weird? You seen what’s outside sometimes?”
“Point. Speaking of weird, ain’t it about time for The Change?”
The world outside changes every day at midnight like clockwork. You could set your watch by it and some do. It tries to accommodate for the location of all the people but, sometimes, people just end up part of the scenery. There are a few persistent locations, Fetu’s being one, which become gathering centers: storefronts, banks, business offices. And they’ll occasionally be used for the few people stuck in the streets when The Change takes place.
Wendy walks over to the window and pulls the blinds aside to watch the world become something else. There was the one time her apartment ended up as ocean front property. Which would be nice if she hadn’t rolled out of bed and into an ocean. Since then, she stayed awake until The Change was complete.
Outside, the littered rain slick streets of The City were illuminated by street lights. Fetu’s, the VIU arcade, was at the end of an alley. The streets were empty as people clustered in their homes, most asleep, some waiting for The Change to complete and go about their business.
An overly pleasant gender-neutral voice emanated from above The City, “Reconfiguration in 20 seconds. 19. 18.”
As the countdown reached 15, everything lit with a gridwork of phosphorescent green. At 10, the panels within the grid lines filled with white.
“9.” Another series of monochromatic green grids superimposed themselves over the white panels, suggesting a landscape of small rectangular buildings. Naturally, Fetu’s remained as it was, though the finish might change once everything settled.
“8.” The alleyway faded from the pearlescent white to a carpet of the phosphorescent green. Starting from Fetu’s, the greenery shot forward and spread across the ground, replacing the white with itself.
“7.” A storm of green tiling raced down the alley, coating the surrounding buildings. The shapes of the street lights intensified beneath its weight.
“6.” The street lights buckled and collapsed into the carpeting where the sidewalk had been.
“5.” Anything over two stories was shorn free by whatever hand guided The Change. They simply vanished as if deleted in a burst of white.
Wendy muttered beneath her breath, “Wonder where they’ll end up.”
“4.” The sky cleared and returned to the dark of night. The stars looked on as if nothing had happened. The gibbous moon waited for the rest of the world to settle.
“3.” The ground grew firm and lost its green cast. Fetu was at the edge of a cul de sac. Asphalt faded into view with a manhole cover at the center. The alley had gone from being straight and narrow to circular within twenty seconds. Where the street lights had been, tall narrow trees were planted evenly around the circle.
“2.” The buildings closest to Wendy took on a more natural tone. Browns and beige with hints of brickwork. A strange hodge podge of 2097 style with Old World architecture.
“Hey, Fetu. It’s like a village out here. With neon.”
“1.” The neon signs of the nearby stores faded into a muted copy of itself. Off in the distance, tiny buildings winked into existence, and the world became solid once more.
“Reconfiguration complete. Remaining time, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds.”
“You was saying ‘bout my GM style?” Fetu asked wryly.
Wendy’s comm implant buzzed an alert, “Whiskey Actual to Fox Three.”
“Fox Three, go ahead,” she replied via her subvocal implant.
“Target acquired. Sending coordinates to your wrist comms. You should have details in hand within two minutes.”
“Copy, Actual.” Wendy taps the bracelet on her wrist. She swipes across the holographic projection on her arm and calls for her drone.
Fetu nods, knowing what to expect when she got the far away look in her eye. He presses the button to unlock the door for her, “Off ta work already, eh?”
“Life of a Fox…”