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The Quantum Connection
By Travis S. Taylor
Baen Publishing EnterprisesCopyright © 2005 Travis S. Taylor
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI just barely ducked the knife that was thrown at me by her, my nemesis, JackieZZ. I responded by slipping left, crouching, and leaping at her with all my strength focused on taking out her helmet laser. I was nowhere near quick enough, because she burned off my left hand with a full second to spare. Although it vibrated and I could feel the light shock, I tried not to let it stop me from pressing the attack. With the momentum in the fight that I had gained by the lunge, there was a chance, a good one I hoped, that I could take her now. I managed to wrap my hands, erh, hand and stump, around her backpack power supply and then I ripped it right off of her armor. Sparks flew everywhere and there was a cool-looking array of secondary explosions as I rolled off her back to the side.
JackieZZ was too damned good. For a woman with such big breasts on such a small frame, damn, and the powerful spritelike movement she had, she made it difficult to focus and I barely managed to roll out of the way of her counterstrike. I did a back flip just in time to miss a venom-spiked boot crushing through my face.
"Damnit, quit watchin' the scenery and fight!" I had to remind myself. I had been playing these gladiatorial games for years now and was undefeated; Icouldn't lose now! There was no way I could lose!
I tried to deepen my concentration and my hand moved as fast as I could make it. JackieZZ and me, StevieM09, had been at it for hours now, maybe longer, and we both were wearing down. My back was killing me, my fingers hurt, and my right wrist ached all the way up to my shoulder. Then she made her mistake; she stepped backward while throwing an x-block with her forearm quantum shields. I figured I could get her the same way I defeated MarsKen44 last weekend. The quantum shields drain the power level below my secret attack's power level, so I went for it. As fast as my fingers could move, I lunged forward, then rolled to my left, then launched myself with my hydraulic jumper boots to more than eighty feet above JackieZZ, then I turned down headfirst, hit my downward thrusters, and then came the secret code. Left circle, right triangle, forward, forward, right right1, left circle, right x, right x, left x, left left1, and then both left and right circles on both controllers. I turned myself into a pure energy being and was propelled at JackieZZ faster than any reflexes or secret codes I had ever heard of, but something different happened this time.
JackieZZ wasn't just throwing a quantum x-block, but instead was completing a secret code of her own. The quantum force field amazingly shaped itself into a quantum singularity or mini black hole. There she was in an awesome gung-fu- style fighting stance with her hands cupped upward holding a mini black hole over her head. The tidal forces were so great that the hair protruding from beneath her helmet as well as her mammoth CGI boobs pointed upward and toward the event horizon. Material from all around The Realm was being sucked into the singularity-except for JackieZZ who stood there basically unaffected.
Baffled, I tried everything I knew to steer my new energy form away from the black hole, but it was far too late! I was sucked into the timeless abyss from which there was no known escape, forever. I became a pencil-thin beam, and then a single, ray-thin beam of light and finally my visor blinked to totally black. I flipped up the visor and looked at the big screen just in time to see her standing there, triumphantly, and maniacally, laughing. The black hole had dissipated and the big screen now displayed in gigantic font JACKIEZZ WINS!!!
"Shit!" I cursed my controllers, my puppy, and I kicked my forty-ounce beer bottle over. I stood up and stretched for the few seconds I would have while the game logged off to the Waiting Room. I slipped my visor and headphones off, rolled my neck left and then right, and then I realized, "Shew, puppy either you or I stink and one of us needs a bath!" It was probably both of us since I had been sweating profusely while fighting JackieZZ for the past few hours and puppies always need a bath. I tugged on the little fellow's ear and told him he was a good boy.
I had never been defeated at any of the Realm World Competitions, especially not at the Gladiator Sequence, ever. And damnit, this JackieZZ that I met yesterday in The Realm's Tavern had beaten me at everything.
I stumbled over a pile of empty cereal boxes on my way to the fridge and pulled out another forty ounces. Unfortunately, I was out of cereal, so I had to settle for corn chips. The Waiting Room door popped on the screen and a video square with JackieZZ's computer likeness standing there smiling back at me opened.
"Gotcha again, but man that was the longest it has ever taken me to beat a Sequencer. You're good." She put her hands on her hips and winked while that pleasantly, if not freakishly, disproportionate body jiggled up and down.
"Where the hell ..." I finished off a sip of beer and belched, "did that mini black hole thing come from?" I was comfortable speaking to such an attractive image since I knew she was seeing my six foot two, chiseled granite washboard abs and giant muscles image. After all, I am a Sequencer. Although, come to think of it, that belch probably wasn't cool. And of course, my own personal appearance of six foot one and two hundred forty pounds, all fat, was well hidden behind the video display.
"You liked that did you?" JackieZZ's boobs wiggled with every movement she made. It was distracting, a good fighting strategy, especially since she undoubtedly knew that most of her opponents would be single and male and hard up. "I call it ZZ's Hole!" Her video likeness laughed.
"Cute, but effective. Who wrote the code and have you sold it yet?"
"I wrote the code, StevieM09. You wanna buy a copy, that'll be seventy-six hundred euros." Her CGI likeness held out its left hand palm up and then winked at me.
"Uh, uh ... how much is that American?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, I've been in Ramstein so long I almost speak German now. That's about one point two times in U.S. You want it?"
"Shit, I couldn't afford it. How did you get so good?" I stroked my belly and propped the corn chip bowl on it with my left hand while reaching for my beer with my right hand. The picture in picture news alert icon blinked on in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. I ignored it for now.
JackieZZ chimed back in, "Oh that; my dad works for RealmSoft Europe. I write code for them in the summer when school is out."
"I see, uh, no, I don't see. What'd you mean, when school's out? How old are you?" I had a bad feeling about this.
"How did you get in to The Realm? It's for adults only!" I thought of some of the other more adult Worlds within The Realm like Orgy World and it spooked me a bit. Kids just shouldn't be in there.
"How do you think I can write the code for RealmSoft if I can't get in The Realm, stupid?" That last was more of an insult than a question. Her video likeness stuck her tongue out at me and put her hands on her hips. I felt bad about noticing the boob wiggles this time.
"But, you shouldn't be in here, JackieZZ," I pleaded.
"Oh pooh. You're a prude just like my mom. Don't worry, mother, I have a special access that just lets me into the Gamer Level Worlds." Again the wiggles.
"JackieZZ, that is impossible. You know as well as I do that once you open the door to The Realm there are no doors that can't be opened. You're in The Realm, for Christ's sake!" I shook my head then stuffed a handful of chips in my mouth.
"Yeah I know, this is a new experimental access with a worm attached to it. If you go to certain places the worm starts to eat you. I'm trying to figure out how to beat it for my dad. If I can't beat it, The Realm will no longer be an adul-" She stopped talking and her likeness vanished from the screen.
"JackieZZ, are you there?" No response.
"JackieZZ, Jackie are you online?" Nothing.
Oh well, I thought, she must've somehow gotten disconnected, turned off or something. I had heard of that happening but had never seen it. "How about that," I told Lazarus the Puppy, "kids in The Realm. Bad enough they're in the Framework, but The Realm. Weird stuff, hunh? Yeah, that's right, you're a good puppy." I tugged on Lazarus's left ear and scratched his neck. The little guy looked up at me with sad little two-month-old puppy dog eyes. My mom and dad had given him to me recently as he was a pup from the last litter of the family dog, Molly. They had kept a family dog from the same genetic line since I was a kid; it was sort of a tradition.
The news alert icon had continued to blink since I lost contact with JackieZZ, but rather than worry about it I decided that I was going to get another beer. Upon arrival at the fridge I realized that I only had one forty left, the horror. "Oh God, Lazarus, we're out of beer! Go to the store and fetch some boy, good boy!" Lazarus just lay there chewing on his squeaky toy and didn't respond other than his ears propping up at the sound of his name.
Then I remembered where I had heard of the Framework connections being disrupted. It was a few months ago when the meteor destroyed Colorado and part of Wyoming.
Oh my God, I thought. I frantically grabbed the remote and opened up the news alert icon on the TV, afraid of what I might see. "Let's just see what the talking heads have to say!"
"... again, so far to our knowledge, there have been huge explosions or perhaps impacts, near Los Angeles and off the coast of Cape Kennedy, Florida."?
"Mom and Dad! Carly! No!"
"... We have no idea what has caused such explosions. It is possible that these are events, which are similar to the one in Northern Florida and the catastrophic impact in Colorado a few months ago when the meteor hit there, but we have no confirmation of that yet. Wait ... just a moment, my God, there has been another impact or explosion, or whatever it is, in Europe. It seems to be centered near Ramstein, Germany ..."
I watched television for the next fourteen days straight, only going out for food, puppy treats, and beer but immediately returning home as quickly as possible. I was numbed by the total destruction and loss of millions of countless lives around the world that evening. The meteors impacted all around the globe, in China, Russia, North Korea, Germany, California, and Florida. I never heard from poor little JackieZZ again. That broke my heart.
On top of that, I'm from Bakersfield, California, which is just about fifty miles north of Los Angeles. My entire list of living relatives that I know about were all gone! Everybody I could connect with or could count on as family, were vaporized in an instant. My high school was gone and probably most of my high school chums. There would be little reason for a ten-year reunion.
My mom and dad and my little sister, Carly, were gone. The house that I had known as home all of my life-gone. Sure I lived in Dayton now, but home was still Bakersfield, home was still where Mom and Dad and Carly lived. Home was still where we had raised generations of our family dogs since I was little. Home was still where I built the tree fort in the back yard with my buddies when I was nine. Home was still where I went every holiday and vacation. But now, it was gone-all gone.
I missed work for two weeks straight and I sure as hell didn't make it to any of my college classes. In fact, I wouldn't make it back to college for a long time and I got fired from that job. Oh well, who needs it; the world just nearly got destroyed, man! And, and I was alone, just Lazarus and me.
Excerpted from The Quantum Connection by Travis S. Taylor Copyright © 2005 by Travis S. Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
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