"Oh, come on!" Graverobber snapped in frustration as his video game character died yet again.
"Rolled a one on perception, I guess," Shilo snickered back at him, her character still alive and fighting.
"Shut it, kid," came the unamused reply. But it was halfway drowned out by a crow of obnoxious laughter from their third player, Amber Sweet.
"Guess the big boy is all bark and no lung! All talk and no action!" she taunted, her jibe and tone much harsher than Shilo's.
"Well excuse me, princess," Graverobber growled. "Not all of us have access to this fancy-shmancy gamer-gizmo-gadget stuff! You got to eat out of the palm of Daddy's hand, so of course you have an unfair advantage."
"That's called using what you got!" Amber bragged back. "It's not my fault you aren't as rich!"
"Grrrr," was the only reply from Graverobber as the respawning of his character took his attention away from Amber and her snide remarks.
The island of Sanitarium was no stranger to pandemics. In fact, it was a pandemic that led to the creation of their island at all! Way back at the turn of the century, organs began failing until some 10 million were dead. Then GeneCo was created, its owners riding in like heroes as they made organs affordable and accessible beyond what the rest of the world had ever known. Thanks to them, humanity managed to survive that first great plague long enough to reach the year 2057. But as cruel fate would have it, it seemed like another plague was on the way.
This new pandemic was called the Corona virus and it began in the far east, in the remains of China. Despite the world still reeling and recovering from the first pandemic, this second one managed to rise up and spread across the globe even faster than the first. The only good thing about it was that it did not seem as fatal as the first pandemic. Of course, there were plenty of deaths due to Corona, and the danger was all too real, but it was not to the effect of the one that caused mass-organ failure all those decades ago.
But when that virus began to spread and catch the rest of the world's attention, the remaining countries were fast to enact all sorts of new rules and regulations in hopes of protecting themselves against the virus. No one wanted to face another pandemic like what happened 57 years ago. Masks, gloves and quarantine became law. Sanitarium was the strictest of all about this. In the most extreme cases, in part of the city, you could be shot by police if you refused to comply with the new safety regulations. But despite Sanitarium being (understandably) pickier than the rest of the world, there were still pockets of places where the rules were basically nonexistent.
One of those places, ironically enough, was GeneCo itself. Although GeneCo was obviously forced to undergo a lot more health and safety precautions to keep their organs clean, the entire operation was still up and running. Heck, sometimes Amber even still threw parties, plays and operas! Even though everyone needed to be very careful when attending these events, it was still technically possible to see a GeneCo show. The stage was still active and the actors were all, for some reason, considered essential workers, allowing them to keep working despite the rest of the city being under a very tight lockdown. And it was due to GeneCo still being open that Amber was first able to send a computer to Graverobber.
It all began a few weeks after quarantine first started. Amber was bored and desperate. Being cooped up in GeneCo was slowly driving her insane and the lack of sex and Zydrate was even worse. Yes, Amber had GenTerns for that, but it wasn't the same as Graverobber or the other street crawlers. That was what finally led Amber to sneak out of GeneCo to bring Graverobber a laptop.
"Couldn't you have brought me a house instead?" he snarked when she ran up to his dumpster and showed him the laptop.
"This is the only way I can stay sane during quarantine!" she snapped back, shoving the laptop at him.
"By giving me presents?" this was a snide remark too, but there was a genuine question behind it. But the answer would soon become all too clear. She was asking him to join her in an online gaming community to play with her.
It seemed preposterous at first. Absurd! Insane! But Amber quickly proved that she was being all too serious. Yes, she was the new CEO of GeneCo. Yes, she had a lot of responsibility to bear. But that was part of the reason why she'd suddenly gotten into online gaming at all! An escape. And because she was the new CEO of GeneCo, she considered it her right to do as she pleased. She'd been a good little girl and enacted some new safety protocols, so now it was time for her to reap some reward and go out and play! She, and she alone, was allowed to break quarantine and do as she wished. It was the least she was owed in favor of leading the company so well. And if anyone tried to laugh at or judge her for playing online games, there was an army of Repo Men they could talk to instead.
From that first day onward, Amber and Graverobber had been part of a guild of other online players who had nothing else to do during quarantine. Even though Amber was a big and important figure, a CEO, she had more free time than one may have expected and she decided to spend all of it gaming. And Shilo had joined not long after. Despite the initial animosity from Amber towards Shilo (fueled by the fact that Amber was bitter over how close Shilo had come from stealing GeneCo from the Largo children) it didn't take long for them to reach some sort of treaty and, during that time, Amber realized that Shilo was quite harmless. In fact, in time, Amber even began to find it cute!
Amber was a domme by nature, in all things, so to meet someone as shy, quiet and submissive as Shilo felt like a perfect match. As soon as Amber was able to wrap her head around the fact that Shilo was innocent and it had been their fathers who orchestrated all the chaos in the Genetic Opera of 2056, Amber actually grew rather attached to, and possessive/protective of, the lost and lonely little girl. Of course, Amber's way of showing that affection was to be very touchy and belligerent, but she no longer hated or envied Shilo. So Shilo became a third guild member.
From that day on, the trio would spend long hours gaming and bickering. And Shilo proved to be quite the skilled gamer to boot!
"Well, remember that Dad never let me out of my room, so games were kinda all I had," Shilo admitted once, regret and bitterness in her voice.
"Oooh, right, tough luck, kid," Graverobber had the same trouble displaying warm affection that Amber had.
"Loser," Amber teased. "But it does mean you had a lot of practice," she added a second later, just so Shilo would know she was only kidding.
"True," Shilo couldn't deny that. Because of all the literal years she'd spent gaming, she was an absolute beast on any console and in any genre. Even though this little gaming group had been Amber's idea, Shilo was the one who led them through. Amber had only ever played games to kill time, but for Shilo, they were practically a passion.
"Oooh, ok, so here, we have another puzzle inbound, but it's not gonna be hard, it just won't be obvious!" Shilo said after Graverobber managed to find the other two again after respawning from his latest defeat. Like he had said, because he had neither house nor money nor much in the way of technology, he was by far the ineptest of the three. As soon as he was back, though, Shilo continued to lead them on.
"This puzzle may look hard, but it's actually not," she continued. "The answer just isn't what common sense might dictate."
"Is that not the very definition of hard?" Amber sneered.
"Well, I mean that it won't necessarily take brainpower or knowledge to pass," Shilo explained patiently, well-used to Amber's rudeness by now.
"Well, let's take a look, shall we?" Graverobber moved his avatar closer to the puzzle. It was a room with a door at the end, but the door was hidden behind a wall of fire. The question was how to get through the door without roasting.
For a good while, the trio pondered what spells or tools they had at their disposal, but none of them were useful.
"Should we go back and buy a water spell or something?" Amber finally asked, growing frustrated with the lack of results.
"No, these puzzles promise that everything needed to solve them is already in the room," Shilo insisted.
"But we've already clicked every inch and there's nothing anywhere!" Amber whined. Shilo had no answer to that, because Amber was right. But Shilo had faith in the game to uphold its promise that they did not need anything extra to solve the puzzle. Instead, all they needed was right there in front of them… Or behind them!
As Shilo turned her avatar around, she noticed a mirror hanging above the door they'd just entered. When looking through it, the flames were gone. She knew it could just be a glitch, or a missed animation on part of the game designers, but a sudden burst of crazy inspiration gave her a brilliant idea that she just couldn't ignore.
"Let me try something!" she said suddenly. Then she had her character walk backward, still looking at the mirror, and she was able to pass right through the wall of flames as if they weren't there at all. Like the mirror was showing.
"Holy crap, how did you do that?!" Graverobber asked, because to him, it looked like Shilo had simply walked backward through the fire.
"You have to look at the mirror!" Shilo answered triumphantly, excitement evident in her voice.
"Mirror?" he echoed, turning his avatar around. "Oh."
"There must be some mechanic where looking at the mirror activates something that nulls the effect of the fire," Shilo mused as Amber and Graverobber both followed her through the doorway. The flames were still there, but not a single heart of health had been lost.
"Well, well, well, puzzle master," Amber sounded approving.
"Heh, thanks, it's what years of gaming does to ya," Shilo smiled sheepishly. "I sometimes forget I'm in lockdown at all because this feels just like normal life for me."
"Cannot relate," Graverobber joked. "I've seen a decline in customers and an increase in cops! It already wasn't safe to leave my little dumpster, but now it's nearly impossible!"
"Oops," Amber said, not sounding sorry at all. "I'll just send masks and gloves next time I visit."
"Don't rub in the fact that you're the only one allowed to break quarantine," Graverobber complained.
"Well, I gotta rub something!" Amber teased. While Graverobber gave something halfway between an annoyed groan and an interested moan, Shilo laughed to herself. Last year, she would've been scared by their overtly sexual behavior, but in the year of getting to know them, she'd changed.
She was still the same old Shilo that she was before, but increased time with Graverobber and Amber (both in real life, and then over online games) had loosened her up (admittedly, in multiple senses). Now, although she was still definitely the "purest" of the three, she was still hardly innocent or clean. Instead, she could only smirk as Amber continued to flirt with Graverobber, Graverobber sometimes getting some witty words in edgewise before Amber would "out-lewd" him and leave him stumbling again. All of them were bisexual switches, but Amber was definitely the most dominant and promiscuous of all of them. Even Graverobber wasn't quite as kinky or freaky.
"Oh! Next boss fight!" Shilo cried, interrupting the flirting session. As the music set in and the monsters descended, all thoughts of sexuality vanished from her mind as she began casting spells left and right while offering up all sorts of nerdy and silly battle cries. This left Amber and Graverobber to laugh softly at her behind her back before raising their own weapons and joining the fight. It was quite the odd world they lived in, but in a year as topsy-turvy as this one, the weird was almost normal. So yes, a CEO of a megacorporation, a homeless thief and an introverted orphan girl that the other two were sort of raising were all sitting in their respective "homes" to hide from another pandemic and they were passing the time by playing video games with one another. It was as wild as any opera, and twice as fun.
AN: In case it wasn't clear, this is an OT3 and sequel
And this is inspired off how many gamers this pandemic has either created or inspired because now we all have time to start or finish long video games we otherwise wouldn't have
And I think I've just been suckered into a DND campaign, so I'm about to get started too (even though it's not technically a video game)
Either way, Happy Pride! I'll post the last story tonight