Authors: Saul Tanpepper
Table of Contents
S.W. TANPEPPER'S GAMELAND
Season One (Episodes 1 â 8)
Six young hackers break into a live action virtual reality gaming arcade populated by the resurrected bodies of executed criminals.
ALSO BY SAUL TANPEPPER
Infected: Hacked Files from the GAMELAND Archive
Jessie's Game: Signs of Life
A Dark and Sure Descent
Jessie's Game: Dead Reckoning
BUNKER 12 Series
Book 3 (Spring 2016)
Book 4 (Fall 2016)
THE FLENSE Series
Book 4 (Spring 2017)
Shorting the Undead & Other Horrors
Insomnia: Paranormal Tales, SciFi & Horror
Also available in print
For a free starter library and exclusive offers, subscribe:
Fifteen years after
It wasn't Reggie's idea
to break into Gameland, not initially, though of course he took all the credit. He liked being the go-to guy whenever it was something the five of us could all get behind. He was funny that wayâa big brute of a kid with all kinds of brains and good looks and a huge gaping insecurity complex that needed constant attention. But whenever something turned out to be not so good after all, he was usually the first to distance himself from it, claiming he always knew it was a bad idea, right from the beginning. That's just the way he was.
He had a way of picking the bad ideas, which is why we should've just said no.
We were in Micah's basement. He and Kelly were team-playing
, which is supposed to be something like
. Except it turned out to be nothing like it at all. First of all, it was nowhere near as real. There's no VR and the action's totally lame. Plus, the holographics are just so-so. You don't get a good feel for what it's like to be in the actual Gameland, fighting actual zombies, trying not to get eaten. Now I know.
I also know this: Not even those lucky rich pricks have any idea what it's like, the ones who are connected enough to pay for a state-of-the-art cybernetic setup and a Player,
weasel the necessary invite into
. Arc Entertainment didn't just let anyone play. They only wanted the best.
Reg and I were bookending the couch. Ashley was sprawled out between us, her feet on his lap and her head on mine. She was drinking a Red Bull through a straw, the can wedged between two cushions to keep it upright. Reg had chugged his and had tossed the empty at the old milk crate in the corner. He missed, of course, and blamed it on the lighting, which admittedly was piss-poor. Micah's HG setup was old and glitchy, so he had to keep the lights dimmed.
Reg was antsy. He was always antsy, but probably more so then because of the caffeine. He kept asking us if we were finished with our drinks. I'm sure he thought the first miss was just a fluke and wanted to redeem himself. That's how self-deluded he could be. But I'd barely even touched my RB. I like the taste of it, but the stuff gives me a headache if I drink it too quickly. And Ash was purposefully nursing hers just to be a pissant.
I was messing with her coppery hair, twining it between my fingers, trying to straighten the curls and watching them spring back. For some reason it struck me as comical and I kept giggling, even though I wasn't even the slightest bit drunk or stoned. Not like Micah. He was the druggie in the group.
The rest of us got our highs playing games or hacking them. That was our escape from the misfortune of being born into families that couldn't afford to buy a decent entertainment system. My family was once so lucky, but after my dad died and Grandpa was fired from his prestigious command post in the Marines, that all went away. Of course, that all happened fifteen or so years ago, so as far as I could remember we'd always been as poor and out-of-the-loop as anyone else in that room.
I caught Reg glancing over at usâprobably envisioning me and Ash acting out one of his perverted girl-on-girl fantasies. I obliged him. Sort of. I reached over and pinched Ash's nose until she slapped my hand away with an inviting shriek. The movement caused her to dig her heels into Reggie's crotch, which was precisely what I was going for. I saw him jerk in pain. He tried to hide it, but I saw.
What's so funny, Jess?” Ash asked me, gazing up at me with those brilliant green eyes of hers. They were so innocent looking, but I'd always known how manipulative they could be.
Nothing,” I answered. Then I coughed, trying to hide another snort of laughter.
Reggie groaned out loud. Then, trying to hide his discomfort, he started complaining about how bored he was: “This scene blows, guys,” he whined. “You know what we should do? We should break into Gameland.”
We already tried, Reg. Remember?” Kelly replied. He was referring to Ash's and Micah's attempt to hack
a couple weeks earlier. But I sensed that Reggie was talking about something else altogether, something a hell of lot more illegal and a shit-load more dangerous.
I watched as Kel's and Micah's zombie hunters searched through a dark warehouse looking for food. I'd never played this level before, but I could guess what was going to happen. There were certain patterns to how
was constructed. Once you recognized them, it was a lot easier to survive and advance to the next level. If my guess was correct, they were about to be jumped by a bunch of the Undead at any moment.
, dweeb,” Reggie barked. “I'm talking about breaking into Long Island itself. We should actually physically
Kelly didn't look up. “Yeah, man. We'll just hop onto the next transit over there right now.” He exhaled with disgust when a zombie slipped out of a shipping crate and chomped down on his ankle, immediately crippling him. If he didn't make it back to his antivenin kit within the next few minutes, his character would be dead and return to undo everything he'd accomplished to get this far.
The “antivenin kit” was one of those things that irritated me the most about
. First of all, the bite causes an infection; it's not a poison, like a snake bite. They should've called it an anti-infective. Secondly, in real life, if you're bitten, there is no cure. What's the saying? Once bitten, twice dead? That professor who tried fifteen years ago proved that. The one who everyone says killed my father.
I'm not talking right this minute, brah,” Reggie answered.