Terra Reforma. The virtual game world set in the time period after humanity hit the reset button. A time after the bombs dropped, and before society was able to reform into the tech-driven megacities it consists of now. For many players, the grind of the game is more than just a brief escape from the real world. It’s the perfect drug. It’s their way into the next rung of society. It’s the answer to the question of life.
Phase Gannon and Kym Bit are both looking for their own answers. Even though their paths cross in the city of New San Diego, it’s Terra Reforma that holds vindication for the both of them.
I was ready for the journey this time around. Although I didn’t have the buff of a potentially delicious desert chili, I did have a full bottle of water and enough ammo to shoot my way to the hell and back if I needed to. I checked the map and saw the marker for Palm City marked on my HUD.
Palm City looked like a much larger settlement on the map than the places that I had visited so far. I figured it must be the first major city that new players could get to. I wondered if there was anything else I could smuggle on my way there? I still had the room in my inventory and I was headed that direction anyhow. It was worth a shot.READ MORE
I wandered around the Rest Stop some more to see if I could find anyone that needed help. I didn’t feel much like talking to a bunch of strangers after Dalton had already done a number on my ears. There had to be someone...there! Headed away from me, away from town. I took off towards a green marker and the heavily-robed character underneath it.
The figure was just a few seconds out of town, already on the broken asphalt path towards Palm City. “Wait up!” I shouted after them. The man spun around, pistol in his hand, pointed at my chest. He was silent, his thumb on the hammer of the gun doing his talking for him. “Whoa, whoa,” I said as I put my hands in the air. “I thought you needed help.”
Cache Towns holstered his weapon and his name appeared. “Don’t come runnin’ up behind a trader, not unless you want to get your head blown off. Even if we are only a short trip outside Rest Stop. This is bandit country.” The NPC turned back towards Palm City and started walking.
“Sorry,” I offered, “I’m new to this thing.”
He laughed once. “You don’t say? I take it you don’t want to buy anything.” I followed after him.
“No, sorry, I just thought you needed help. I’m headed the same way.”
Without breaking his forward gaze, Cache Towns said, “Alright, I’ll tell you what. My go-to security didn’t show up today. I clearly don’t have time to wait. We get this payload to Palm City and you’re still alive, I’ll give you 100 credits.”
Quest Accepted: Protect the Cache.
Reward: 50 xp
“Any other takers? All you need to do is shoot straight.” Cache posed the question to no one in particular. I looked around, seeing if there was anyone else he could have been talking to. Must have been the NPC programming, designed to try and make it easier to find the quest or something.
“I’m in!” The voice came from behind us. A bright-eyed Soldier was headed towards us, a large sledgehammer in his hands. “Anybody gets near us, I send ‘em into the ground,” he smacked the hammer into the palm of his hand.
Cache kept moving while he spoke. “Couple of new ones, but I guess you’re better than nothing. Keep moving.”
The Soldier was more heavily armored than I was, but his gear was by no means top of the line. It looked to be made from old, sewn-together scraps of thick leather. “Name’s Cee Fracture. You can just call me Cee,” he said. “I wanted just the letter, but it was taken.” Guess that made sense.
“Pleasure. I’m Phase. You new to this whole thing too?”
Cee whirled his hammer around in the air wildly. “Nah, no way, I’m a pro. I’m ready for action. Level 5, see?”
I guess our definitions of the word “pro” were a little different from one another. He was hardly a veteran. Still, he was a higher level than me, and I guess that made him even less green than I was. And I was pretty green.
“Quit yappin’. You hear that?” Cache had stopped moving for the first time this whole trip. I was silent, listening, and Cee wasn’t.
“Hear what? I don’t hear anything,” his voice bounced off the boulders around us, echoing into the hills. The landscape had changed. Our path was still there, but we were surrounded by stones, some of them massive, the size of buildings. They were smooth from millennia of rainwater or some long dried-up ocean. They looked like they were placed by some prehistoric titan.
“Shut up,” Cache snapped in an angry whisper.
I heard the wind blow, and I listened for more. A carrion bird in the distance, maybe. A crow or a vulture. Cache drew his gun and I raised mine.
“Let’s do this! HAHA!” Cee gave his best impression of a Herculean war cry and charged forward, hammer in the air. I didn’t see his target, and quite frankly I don’t think he did either- he must have been using some kind of intimidation skill. I only hope it worked.
“Idiot!” Cache muttered, “He’s going to get us all killed!”
Cee was a couple seconds’ run ahead of us when we heard a twang that could have been the string of a guitar breaking. Only it wasn’t. Poor Cee had enough time to look down, enough time to realize his mistake, and enough time to finish his battlecry. The ground underneath him exploded upwards, and unfortunately for Cee he did too. His hammer flew high up into the air one direction and he went the other way.
Cee Fracture has died!
It was a wire trap connected to a mine, one that Cee had so thoughtlessly sprung and saved us from. “Get ready!” Cache shouted. There were boulders on either side of us, and the bandits came from both of them. I activated my Deadeye talent and took aim at the first Bandit I saw. He appeared to slow down as I lined up the sights and I tried not to be distracted by his face. It was covered in blood- or maybe just red paint- in either case it achieved the desired effect of making my hand a little shaky. I pulled the trigger as fast as I could, and winged him with 3 of 4 shots but he still had 27 HP left.
Ding, ding, ding, miss and the Bandit showed no signs of slowing down. The only reason I wasn’t dead yet was because that Metal Pipe he wielded made him too slow to bash my head in. Then a small metal orb landed right in front of his feet.
“Get back!” Cache shouted. He had thrown a grenade! Hopefully it would be enough to take him out. The device exploded and I thought my ears were going to blow, too. I felt like my head was inside of a church bell being rung on all sides. It wasn’t enough to kill him, but he was staggered, and at 2 HP almost down for the count. I could barely see straight, but I could still lift my gun. I fired again…and missed. One bullet left before I had to reload! Had to make it count, and it did.
Bandit was killed.
Pistols skill increased.
I was ready to celebrate, and I felt like getting a pat on the back. Instead, I got a club to the head. A critical hit by the feel of it, and one that knocked off 15 HP.
I staggered backwards, but I didn’t quite fall over. I had foolishly forgotten about the other Bandit, and he had closed the gap on me. I didn’t have any more bullets in my revolver, and I didn’t feel so hot. No time to reload, so it was time to resort to the backup plan. Cache kept him busy, taking away chunks of health with his revolver. I pulled out my Rusty Dagger.
“Come on, kid!” he yelled, “it’s now or never!” He was right- I was fighting for my life. The Bandit raised the Club into the air, ready to deliver the finishing blow, but I flung the knife out in front of me. I was rewarded with a crit for my effort, leaving my aggressor with only 4 HP left.
“You staggered him! Nice job!” I don’t know if it was luck or skill, but the Bandit stumbled backward. Cache’s pistol rang out one more time and the Bandit dropped his club and fell to the ground.
Bandit was killed. +20 XP.
One Handed Melee skill increased.
Level Up! You are now Level 3.
The dust settled and everything was silent again. I was ecstatic, both from my own survival and from the fact that I leveled up. Even the ringing in my ears was gone, no doubt due to my own level up. I took the down time to reload my revolver in case there was any more miscreants waiting down the road.
The feeling, though! I couldn’t help but let myself bask in the glow.
“Handled yourself pretty good right there,” Cache Towns told me as he reloaded his own pistol. “Too bad we can’t say the same for ol’ Cee.” I was so proud of myself I had forgotten about poor Cee. I walked over to his body, blown clear from the fight. Maybe there was something I could do? Towns seemed to know what I was thinking. “Unless you’re a voodoo doctor, not much you can do for that man. Medkit won’t help him. He’s too far gone.” At least he was still in one piece, I guess. “He learned a lesson today, one he’ll think about the whole time he’s in Float. Next time, maybe he’ll be more careful. Or maybe he won’t.”COLLAPSE