I click my pocket mic twice to inform Bitefighter—a 10 lb. Terrier Extraordinaire, my Buddy For Life, and in this case, my one-dog command center—that I’ve just breached the perimeter of Blizzard Games. Yep, you heard right: your favorite indie author and perennial Man Child Kent Wayne has infiltrated one of the biggest game companies in the entire world. Why? Because in the depths of their liquid nitrogen catacombs, they possess something that’ll change my freakin’ life.
A working prototype of Starcraft 5.
When you first enter their offices, all you see is tech nerds slaving away at their next mountain dew-infused masterpiece. Through months of research, I’ve ascertained that this tier of Blizzard is referred to as “Layer 1.” Layer 1 is exactly what you’d expect: accountants, dorks, and various species of office folk. Layer 2 is subsurface—one level below the ground. 2 is comprised of high-level execs and former special operators; they’re entrusted with maintaining the security of the world’s next real-time strategy game. The security makes sense; Blizzard makes stuff that’s so goddamn entertaining that their consumers forgo friends, family, and the need for sexual release. People die when they’re hooked on Blizzard games.
Which brings us to Layer 3. Layer 3 is where they keep their working prototypes.
I’ve doubted the existence of Layer 3 for well over a decade. It was only through Bitefighter’s Dark Web contacts that we were able to confirm Layer 3’s existence. Admittance to Layer 3 requires a genetic scan, which, upon completion, allows one to enter a 100 ft. long, underground elevator that tunnels deep into the bowels of the Earth (kinda like the one you see the Umbrella Corporation use in the Resident Evil movies). From the schematics, Bitefighter was able to determine that Layer 3 is staffed by the nerdiest of nerds; as soon as they detect an ounce of muscle on you, or if you snort/laugh one octave off, they’ll know you’re a faker. Layer 3’s liquid nitro catacombs are supposedly guarded by something unbelievably formidable.
I’ve just entered the Layer 3 elevator, and I’m making my way down to the catacombs.
I go through a secondary biometrics scan (I can’t help but sweat balls; these guys are fucking THOROUGH!) and I’m accepted into Layer 3. My eyes are greeted by vast expanses of cool blue holo-touch walls. Every employee I see is an impeccable nerd. 90% of them have receding hairlines, none of them are yoked, and they all wear coke-bottle thick glasses. The sallow glow of monitors reflects dimly off their faces.
I take a deep breath and adjust my pocket protector. I force a vacant, doofy grin onto my face and start walking through their ranks.
As I make my way forward (careful to keep my gait deliberately uncoordinated and devoid of athleticism), I make sure I project the proper amount of nasal exhale, so as not to arouse suspicion. Am I a nerd? Absolutely. But I’m what you’d call a “Daywalker”—a term derived from the Blade movies. Blade is a half-vampire, so he’s got all their strengths, and none of their weaknesses.
Much like Blade, I have all the inclinations of a nerd, but due to my interests in physical culture, I can also blend in with jocks. Daywalkers are rare, and are typically persecuted by both sides. We’re a living reminder to nerds that they should get some sun and work out. And we remind jocks that there’s more to life than heavy lifting and the latest hashtag. It’s an existence that requires a delicate touch; Daywalkers occupy two different worlds, yet we don’t hail from either of them.
“Hey, you’re the new guy, right?”
I turn to see who asked the question, and meet the gaze of a Lead Nerd. Lead Nerds possess great intellectual acumen, yet they’re also able to employ unbelievable viciousness—it’s a required trait when you begin ascending the nerd hierarchy. Ever see a nerd get super pissed? Yeah it’s kind of funny…but also a little scary.
I force extra doofiness into my smile. “Yep—I’m new!” I add a snort/laugh in for good measure.
The Lead Nerd seems impressed. He raises his eyebrows and says, “Good snort/laugh! Come on over to the break room and we’ll talk quantum physics.”
Uh-oh. I can spout some general theory, but these guys are probably capable of following the actual math. I hope they don’t go in-depth with the actual equations.
I follow Lead Nerd into the break room, and my eyes are greeted by dozen or so subordinate nerds. They all have names like Herman, Phineas, Norman, or Barnaby. They’re laughing about the idiocy of newbie app developers and their reliance on something as user-intuitive as the Swift programming language. I laugh right along with them.
Things are going well. I’m making sure I’m eating sloppily, getting donut crumbs all over my lips and shirt, braying out carefully measured doses of snort/laughter at the appropriate punchlines…the entire time, I’m surreptitiously scanning my surroundings, trying to gain an inkling of where Starcraft 5 might be. I’m also looking for their Layer 3 security system.
This is a little easier than I thought…eat some donuts, laugh along at awkward jokes…and then it happens: I give myself away with a dick joke.
Dozens of nerds turn toward me, their eyes eclipsed by the reflected glare of their super thick glasses. For a long moment, no one says anything.
Then, the Lead Nerd points at me with a beet-red finger and screams in a thin, trembling voice: “HE’S NOT ONE OF US!”
The ceiling crumbles and a massive figure bursts through, landing in an anime-style crouch. He rises slowly to his feet and I see that he’s just like me: a Daywalker. He, however, seems to be a purified version. The dude’s like seven feet tall, and I can see by the thick dick-print that winds up from his slacks and coils around his belly that he’s just as well endowed as I am. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s undergone CRISPR-directed gene-editing.
He cracks his knuckles and grins. “My name’s Mongo,” he drawls. “Prepare to have your spleen pulled out through your asshole.”
He charges and I sidestep. I barely have time to regain my balance before he pivots and lunges, meeting me in an over/under clinch. Christ, he’s strong! We grapple for a few seconds, but it’s clear that he’s got me outmatched in every dimension; he’s bigger, more athletic, and far better trained. I have no fucking chance. Unless…
I reach into my pocket and open my eReader to Echo, activating its reality distortion powers.
He’s instantly covered with super rare Magic: The Gathering cards, as well as a collector’s series of twenty sided dice. He stumbles back, looking down at his body in dawning horror.
He looks back up at me. “What have you done?” he whispers. His face twists with rage and fright. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???”
The surrounding nerds sniff the air, then start snarling like meth-addled Gollums. No nerd can resist going feral when they’re exposed to geeky artifacts. A horde of savage dorks descend upon Mongo and begin ripping him apart limb from limb. I make my escape, running through the hallways of Layer 3. As I do so, Bitefighter remotely flies in an automated drone fleet equipped with protein powder bomblets. The bomblets go off, saturating the air with high-quality amino acids. Nerds begin coughing and gagging as their allergy to protein overwhelms their parasympathetic nervous systems.
“BITEFIGHTER!” I scream into my mic. “WHERE’S STARCRAFT 5???”
He answers back, “Arf roof rowskies.” (Translation: Calm your ass down, Kent. Three lefts, four rights. You’ll see a vault. The code is Alpha Tango Victor 108-3)
I follow his directions and unlock the vault. Spinning slowly in the center of an anti-gravity column is Starcraft V. I can’t help but smile.
I reach in and grab it, then dash through the corridors of Layer 3. I make my way up the elevator, then back through Layer 2, back through Layer 1, then out of the building. Bitefighter swoops in low on a jet-enhanced hang-glider, then snaps a quick-don harness onto my torso. I’m swept away into the clear sunny blue, clutching my newly acquired treasure.
Starcraft 5, here I come! 😀
Are you deep in the bowels of a massive corporation? Have you been compromised in your attempt to steal one of its most prized assets? Never fear! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle #kindle #kindleunlimited #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book