Hero Games

Ryan blinked and looked around. He was still in the same round room. But where was the hero he had created? In fact, he was standing in the wrong place. He was standing on the dias, between the stations now. He had been standing behind his hero, by the red button. He turned around. There was the red button, but now the wall beyond it had opened. A large archway led into another room. He reached up with one blue-gloved hand to scratch his head full of curly blond hair and found a hood instead. Ryan slowly looked down to see the tights and boots of the Blue Bow, the hero he had created.

“Oh, this is too cool!” He stepped off of the dias and walked through the archway. The door whispered shut behind him.

“Welcome, Blue Bow,” a robot called from the center of the room, “and congratulations on your creation.” The robot was silver metal and humanoid from the bald head down to the waist, where it ended in a round set of equipment that hovered three feet off the floor.

“Uhm, thanks.” Ryan swallowed, still coming to grips with his new heroic body. Six foot two with glowing red eyes wasn’t his usual self-description. With the hood up, all you could see were the red eyes.

“You can call me Trainer, and this,” he gestured with a sweep of one of his skeletal steel hands, “is the Training Room. It’s my job to teach you to use your powers as you acquire them. This first time, of course, is the most important, as I also must teach you the basic hero skills.”

Ryan started to feel a little more at ease now that they were talking about gameplay. He decided to test the AI a little. “So, Trainer, what’s your favorite color?”

“Blue Bow, I think we should focus on your training. You’ll be needing it very soon. Let’s start by talking about your HUD.”

Wow, nice response. Must be listening for keywords. “But Trainer, I want to be friends. Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Sir, with all due respect, my personal life is none of your business. Focus, please?”

Nice, it keeps dodging the actual question. “Ok, one last question. What’s your favorite sport?”

“Coed Mud Wrestling, if you must know. Are you ready now?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Wow, even his tone was good. This game was thumbs up for graphics and AI so far!

“That’s Okay, I’m sure you’re curious about many things this being your first time, but you should learn to focus. In this game in particular, focusing your mind is key. Now, let’s talk about your Heads Up Display, also called a HUD for short.”

“I don’t think I have one. I don’t see anything.” Ryan looked all around to double check, but felt silly even as he did so, since there wasn’t a screen to put a HUD on anyway.

“Of course you don’t; I haven’t given it to you yet. Come over here, please.”

“Oh.” Ryan followed as Trainer floated to a cabinet on one wall nearby. Trainer tapped a code into the keypad and the cover faded transparent, revealing shelves of small items. Most of them looked like decorative jewelry, but some looked like cell phones, remotes, or even a miniature tv on an arm band.

“These are personal HUD controllers. Once you have chosen one, I’ll code it to your ID and only you can use it. Some have more hard-coded controls than others. This medallion, for instance,” Trainer pointed to a gold necklace with a huge green jewel on it, “is a simple Settings and Activation device. Press it once to bring up the settings menu, twice to make your HUD go away, and once again to bring the HUD back.”

Trainer floated lower to indicate the miniature TV on the wrist band. Ryan knelt down, too and at closer inspection, it was more involved than first glance.

“This one is worn on the arm as a bracer. The buttons can be set up to control many aspects of the HUD, depending on your personal preferences. The screen can serve as your HUD entirely if you choose, requiring no information be displayed in your actual HUD. It can also double as your communicator. Which do you think would work best for you?”

Ryan looked over all the many different styles, considering slowly. At least the Trainer couldn’t tap his feet impatiently if Ryan took too long. That thing was so lifelike. Ryan looked down at his light blue tights with the royal blue accent marks, the dark blue suede boots that were so soft and supple. He hadn’t realized how comfortable they were until he looked at them. He returned his attention to the cabinet. It would have to be something blue.

“Can you change the colors of stuff? I mean, if I pick something that’s red in here, can I get a blue one?”

“Yes, Blue Bow, the colors are all optional. Just let me know what you’d like.”

Ryan ran his eyes over the case again. “I’ll take the little remote here. It can go in one of my belt pouches, right?”

“Absolutely, an excellent choice, very simple design. I assume you want a shade of blue?”

“Actually, I’m a little worried that I overdid the blue thing. Maybe just a simple black for the remote?”

“Black it is, Blue Bow. And if I might say, I think the blue is quite dashing on you. The cape is a nice touch and the red eyes really stand out amid all the blues. No, I think you’ve done a very nice job on your costume.” Trainer reached down to the floating ‘seat’ he rode in and opened a small drawer. “Here is your HUD remote. It is keyed to you so no other can use it, but let’s talk about how it works.”

“Uhm, thanks. I mean, ok.” Ryan was a little startled by the Trainer’s opinion of his costume. That AI just kept getting better.

“If you will press the button on your remote, your HUD Settings Window should come up in front of you.”

Ryan pressed the button on the remote and a small window the size of a computer monitor appeared in front of him, within arm’s reach.

“Now, only you and I can see this window, and only you can see your HUD. The first feature of the HUD and its Settings Window is that it is completely personalized. You choose what you have on your HUD and where it is, and in some cases, how it works.”

“That’s nice.” Ryan reached out to poke the window and his hand went right into it.

“Since you’re eager to get started, the bars just above your hand are your Life Force and Power/Energy meters. Why don’t you grab one of those and pull it out?”

“Grab one?” Ryan looked doubtful but reached for the red meter bar and closed his fingers on it. Surprised, he pulled it out of the window and brought it up in front of his face. “Wow! That’s really neat.”

“Thank you. That red one is your Life Force Meter. That’s the heart symbol on the one end. If this hits zero, you’re dead. Now put it in one corner of your vision, for example.”

“I don’t understand. One corner of my vision?”

Trainer gave a metallic sigh and took Ryan’s wrist between his metal fingers. “Like this,” he explained, as he pulled Ryan’s hand just above eye level. “Now let go.”

Ryan, his attention split between the grip of the Trainer and what he was trying to teach him, let go and felt his eyes widen. The meter hung in empty space just where he had let it go.

“Whoa! How did you do that?”

“You did. Now you try it. Place the Power/Energy Meter under the Life Force Meter. It’s the yellow one, with the symbol that looks like an atom.”

Ryan nodded and reached again into the Settings Window, pulling out the yellow meter. He set it just under red one, and hesitated. He let go quickly, still expecting it to fall, but it stayed exactly where he had left it.

“Now look to your left.”

Ryan turned and the meters turned with him. They kept their relationship to him, no matter where he looked. He tentatively knelt down and stood up straight, watching them follow his motion.

“They won’t move unless you purposefully take them down. If you sweep your arm through them, your arm will just pass through. If you grab the meter and move it down to the bottom of your field of vision, it will move and stay where you let go.” Ryan tried it, amazed by the little meters. They felt so real and solid in his hand, like cool metal, but hung weightlessly in the air when he let go.

“Any of the items in your Settings Window can be placed anywhere on your HUD or returned to the window to get them off your HUD. You can also duplicate most of the items on your HUD. Press the symbol on one of your meters, please?”

“The symbol?” Ryan reached out to his Life Force Meter and pressed the heart with one finger. It clicked into itself with a small electronic chirp.

“Yes, now take that Meter down and hand it to me, please.”

Ryan, again dubious, took hold of the red Life Force Meter and pulled it down to hand it to Trainer. Yet when he pulled it down, he was surprised by pulling down a copy. The original stayed where it was and the copy was in his hand. The original chirped again as he pulled the copy away. Trainer took his red Life Force Meter from his hand and reached out by his own shoulder. The Meter vanished.

“And now, I have your Life Force Meter on my Heads Up Display. “Trainer reached up by his eye and pressed the air, then plucked something from it. He held out a similar Meter to Ryan. “And here is mine. This can be a very useful technique for teammates.”

Ryan took the Meter and placed it on his HUD. It was slightly smaller than his own and the name Trainer was engraved on the top edge of the Meter.

“To get rid of my Meter, merely drop it into your Settings Window.”

Ryan obeyed, dropping the Trainer Meter into his the screen. It vanished, and did not appear on his Window with his other Settings.

The Gages you see there are Heroism and Public Opinion. Those two look rather like speedometers. Heroism is your Leveling Gauge. As you do good deeds, it goes up, and misdeeds or mistakes bring it down. You start at 500. If that hits zero, you get recalled.” Trainer leaned forward and whispered, “That’s a bad thing. You don’t want to be recalled.”

“Gotcha.” Ryan nodded.

“Public Opinion is based on your reputation with the police, the media, and the citizens. You’ll learn more about Public Opinion later, but having a positive Public Opinion can be very useful. Also in the Settings Window is your Hero ID. You can keep it on your HUD and give a copy to friends you make. It will allow them to get in touch with you via your communicator, among other things. There is also a Digital Map access point, which will allow you to bring your map up in your HUD, and locate places, such as your HQ. Feel free to tinker with your HUD Settings later. Now let’s have some fun! Close your Settings Window.”

Ryan nodded, swallowing. He clicked his remote again and slipped it into one of the pockets of his belt.

4 Responses to “Hero Games”

  1. Oh, you wanted a superhero for the modern world? (lol) No, a fantasy hero just wouldn’t work in here at all.

    This is very good Jace. Well done on integrating the world building, character descriptions, and character building without it being an info dump. This has good pacing, forward movement, excellent voice. Serious and bantering both, but not too chatty. The dialogue is great; informing of the rules of the world and the training itself, yet it adds just enough emotional investment from Blue. I love the close third person limited POV. You use it effectively.

    This is extremely well written and polished. I’m ready to turn the page and read more :)

    ……..dhole

  2. I like the trainer’s responses to his questions, it made me giggle – “Coed mud wrestling.” The entire idea of this novel seems pretty awesome! I’ve always been drawn to novels about games, especially ones were the mc is unwittingly thrown into a video game. Do you have this novel in its entirety somewhere?

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