366 Goralpri part one

    The courtyard was quiet.  A central fountain that flowed through a magnificent gold dragon gurgled quietly while several wagons were being off-loaded.  The man carrying the body headed toward the main house, while the stealthed duo followed him.

    [Whisper: Ronnie:] Put this clown on track, so we don't lose him.

    [Whisper: Bali] Already done.

    /Hotness: Ronnie: Coming in hard or soft?

    /Hotness: Nix: Hard, of course.  Find cover; we'll rendezvous in the courtyard in five seconds.

    Nix's Daiken banked into the clouds, the difference between his Shadow and the other Daiken was instantly noticeable.

    [Summons: Fey]

    If anyone thought the thin teen felt uncomfortable being summoned in mid-air, the wild smile that instantly plastered her face would have told them otherwise.  She calmly spread her arms, her long silver hair flowing downward-laughter filling the air when Nix plummeted passed her without his Daiken a moment later.

    /Hotness: Pon: The f*ck are you doing?

    /Hotness: Semmi: Holy crap Nix.

    The silver drakon appeared and lazily folded one wing, turning downward into a steep dive.  Within seconds she caught her free-falling spirit companion.  For his part, Nix formed an 'X' with his body, his face completely calm when Fey eased past him and assumed her duties as his winged mount.   They stealthed an instant later as the ground rushed toward them.

    /Hotness: Semmi: We starting a fight?

    /Hotness: Nix: Yep.

    The busy courtyard below remained completely clueless until gale winds swirled around them on a day that had been without any breeze.

    Fey targeted the caravan, a moment before all hell broke loose.

    [Carpet Bomb]

    Nix leaped off Fey's back when she pulled out of the dive.  The blazing inferno didn't bother him; the sight of human torches running and screaming seemed oddly familiar.

    Nix has used [Execution] on Captain Durie.

    Captain Durie has been slain.

    /Hotness: Ronnie: Nix, the guy carrying the corpse turned toward the east side of the courtyard!

    /Hotness: Nix: Understood.  Let's meet there.

    The only buildings other than the house were in the eastern courtyard. Nix sprinted towards the structure.

    Fey's AoE hadn't reached the wooden building; Alpha team was waiting for him by the time he arrived.

    It was a two-story dark building with skylight windows.

    /Hotness: Ronnie: Bal, and I will go up top!

    Nix grinned at the old man whose entire body was engulfed in flames.  Pon's white hair looked orange as he stood in front of the double-doors.

    /Hotness: Pon: Can I say hello?

    /Hotness: Nix: Sure... Be polite.


    [0800 Colonial Virtual Reality Lab, St. Paul, Mn]

    Marshal Rey sighed heavily and leaned against the heavy glass that separated the VR capsules from the classroom.  There were thirty capsules, one for each of his trainees.  He frowned at the redheaded woman who entered; he could already tell she had seen the numbers.  He faked the best smile he could.  \"Good morning, Director Obrien.\"

    \"Good morning, Marshal.\"  Her brown eyes settled on the 'jump room' where they kept the VR capsules. \"You've had these guys for three months?\"

    Marshal nodded. \"Only three out of the group passed.\"

    Unexpectedly, the Director shrugged.  \"Three isn't bad for the first dive.  It's easy to mess up.\"

    \"I'll bring them out.\"  Marshal activated his wrist hud and waited a few seconds as the capsules slowly shut down.  \"You want to talk to them?\"

    \"Yes, Marshal, I want to talk to them.  Why else would I have them write down questions?\"  The redhead walked to the front of the classroom and stood comfortably behind the podium.

    Marshal waited next to the massive Holo-platform that took up the entire front of the classroom.  \"Please take your seats.\"

    One by one they filed in.  They were the newest recruits in Colonial's VR Drift program. The students arrived at the VR labs nearly four months ago; after thirty days of training, they were sent into a three-month dive.

    Marshal keyed up the results of the three who passed.

    Silas Jericho: Age 43 [Passed]

    Previous Occupation: Retired Navy Captain

    Clearance level: Top Secret

    Assessment Level: 84/100

    Neymar Deshmuk: Age 27 [Passed]

    Previous Occupation: School Teacher

    Clearance level: Top Secret

    Assessment Level: 82/100

    Glory Jones: Age: 34 [Passed]

    Previous Occupation: Corrections Officer

    Clearance level: Top Secret

    Assessment Level 96/100

    \"Welcome back.\"  Marshal studied the wide variety of expressions his students were wearing.  A few were crying, while others looked disappointed or angry.  \"The reason this program is so long is because Deep Role-Playing (DRP) is very challenging. However, you will get better.\"

    Two of the students left the classroom without saying anything further.  Marshal raised a hand to get everyone's attention.  \"This was a first-time jump for many of you.  Don't read anything into it; a good or bad first experience has little bearing on your success here.  That being said, please give your attention to Director Obrien, who is here to answer some of your questions.\"

    The petite redhead stood in the front of the room, her fingers casually swiping her hud as she moved from question to question.  \"As you know, I'm Sahara Obrien, the Director of the Colonial DRP program. I'll answer the questions you've submitted, and then we'll talk a bit more.

    [How old are you?]

    \"I'm 37, although my jump time amounts to a bit more than twelve years, so I look like someone in their mid-20s.\"

    [Have you had sex in Colonial]

    \"Yes.  Many times. The easiest way for you to be successful at this job is to treat it like your life. Make friends, make enemies, love, hate, and everything in-between.\"

    [Who monitors Colonial?]

    \"Colonial is monitored by two separate Super Computers (SC).  BALTO is a separate Virtual Intelligence that keeps an eye on our NPCs.\"

    [What is Colonial Drift]

    \"Colonial Drift is a phenomenon that causes NPCs in the game to become stagnant and uninteresting. The Virtual Intelligence that creates behavior modification is subject to falling into a repetitive pattern that creates a discernable difference between NPCs and players.\"

    [Can Colonial Drift be stopped?]

    \"Yes, that's why you are here.  We continually keep nearly a thousand NPC deep-role players (DRP) in Colonial.  BALTO monitors their behavior and is able to use the data of their interactions to correct the drift before it happens.

    [How many NPC role players are in the game?]

    \"As I said, nearly a thousand.  Over time we tried different numbers; this was the minimum that could achieve the results we wanted.\"

    [Why not have more NPC role players in the game?]

    \"Security.  Our security has vetted each of you.  You carry Top Secret clearance and are aware of the consequences of a leak.\"

    [What happens when you want to take a break?]

    \"The NPC you play will also have a VI that represents it.  Your processes are carefully analyzed and predicted by this program so it can assume duties when you are gone. If your role is considered vital, then your character may be sent on a long quest to hide your absence.\"

    [Will a slip-up cost me my job?]

    Yes is the easy answer.  This depends on the magnitude of the slip.  Referencing the outside world without players around is considered bad, but won't necessarily cost you your job.

    [Are you one of the NPC role players.]

    I am.

    [Is meeting a Deep NPC role player random?]

    Some of the time, we do use deep-role NPC role players as a way to manage players and the game.

    The redhead read the last question and noticed several hands go up.  It was a common occurrence after a Q&A.  Sahara pointed to a middle-aged man in the front row.

    \"How can using DRPs help manage the game?\"

    Sahara brought up a player on the class holo. \"This is the player on our manage list.  He currently runs the strongest guild in Colonial.  Early in his playtime, he came in contact with the elite members of two other guilds. Colonial rewards creative initiative, and this group has been nothing short of amazing. Nix and his inner circle have taken over.

    Glory stared at the familiar face on the hud; it was a person she often thought about.  Immediately she raised her hand.  \"Have you worked with this person?\"

    Sahara nodded.  \"Yes, but I wasn't assigned to him. Our initial meeting was random.  The current expansion of Colonial is reactive to his actions.\"

    Glory continued the conversation, sensing Sahara wouldn't mind talking. \"He's your friend?\"

    \"I love him.\"  Sahara smiled at the shocked faces.  \"Listen, no one is telling you to be someone's love interest or try and create important contacts.  We want you to be the character and act accordingly; it's the cornerstone of the DRP program.  This is also how the colonial drift is corrected, the human factor.\"

    Marshal closed the hud and turned toward the class.  \"Take the weekend off and get outside.  Those of you who come back Monday will start the next phase of training. This is where you demonstrate your gaming ability.\"
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