Location: The Laughing Warg Tavern-- The City of Thorinn, Aetheria
For every word that the denizens spoke, Benkei held on intently.
He’d spent countless hours around denizens, and none of them ever spoke the way Dariel did. The fact that he actually interjected what Sif had brought up, and gave his own opinion on things…
There was no way this was scripted. It was too focused, too particular, too familiar. Too human.
Kazama had played countless games during his youth. He knew the separation between game and reality, and it fell many times with the NPC and world of the game. Hard as many developers tried, there were always the limitations that brought a player back to reality. He never thought exactly why he enjoyed the game so much, but he began to realize that it was not simply the polish of Pariah, but how perfectly crafted
the world always seemed. “I don’t think I’ve ever tried flatcakes,”
Benkei said agreeably to Dariel. “I’ll have some, thank you.”
He then stood up, and gently took Sif’s arm and shoulder into his hands. “Let’s talk.”
he said quickly, leading her back to her table, where he sat uncomfortably close to the girl. “There’s something wrong here.”
He whispered to her, a mix of panic and excitement in his voice. ”The way these denizens are acting...it wouldn’t be aberrant game scripting. They’re thinking.”
Sif began to protest; after all the tagline of Pariah was “make your dreams a reality.” It was a system that, as they advertised, connected players to a connected “dream” where they all played. Benkei always believed it was a complete bullshit lie. Dreams? What was this, some fantasy world? “I don’t know anything about the tech to understand the whole ‘connecting dreamers together’ aspect of it. But if you make it a game there has to be some aspect of control. Suddenly the denizens are unshackled, they can hurt us.”
He gave a quick glance at Arie, then back to Sif. “It’s more…real than a dream.”
What controlled the denizens? Could it be an advanced AI? The tech that went into Pariah was pretty incredible, but to give that much autonomy to a single NPC...no, that made no sense at all. An AI system that powerful would require an entire city block's worth of power. Perhaps even an entire city.
Were they something like the company’s in-game GMs, forcibly roleplaying? No, that made no sense either. This was an emergency
. Even if their job was to act, situations like this would cause that facade to drop. ”I think…”
Benkei’s eyes became wide with a sudden realization. A sense of horror overwhelmed his mind. ”I’m scared to say. But you see it too, don’t you?”
He thought back to the English textbook they’d read during his middle school class. It was by some weirdly named British author, about some detective or doctor or something. But there was a line he distinctly remembered, and it was something that he could not get out of his head. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Pariah wasn’t a game. But then, the horror that plagued Benkei’s mind opened up into a new question of terror: What the hell was this?