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Raveled

Pwned (IC)

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Jessica Parker settled into the folds of her ergomonic, foam-padded leather chair, easily the most comfortable seat in the house and positioned where the girl did most of her sitting -- in front of her top-of-the-line computer system. She double-checked all her supplies: soda in a cooler, pretzels within easy reach, and headset around her neck. She booted up her CLI web browser and pinged a particular ISP randomizer.

"Mara. You online yet?"

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Mara, for her part, was sitting in an old, overstuffed cloth chair that looked two days from busting a seam. In her lap was a light slab of polished metal - apparently her idea of an improvised desk - on which rested a wireless keyboard and mouse that didn't look like they got much use. She was even making rare use of a large monitor and equally-large speakers, both of which looked like they'd been collecting quite a lot of dust. filthy in that closet - surprised I still had them - at least computer has a microphone built in

She got a small flashing alert in the corner of the screen a few moments before Jessica's voice came through. Stretching a little, she settled back into her chair. "Mm. I'm here."

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Jessica grinned, typing rapidly on her keyboard. "I found a server that'll let us use those mods you talked about. The triple jump and the cost rebalance. You ready to go kick some newb-ass?" While she was talking, she booted up the program and started navigating through menus. She hesitated just before typing in the ISP, though. "Mara, are you sure you wanna play UT Gold? It's, like, ancient. I've got GoD 3 and Bloodstain 2 and Heart of Valor: Congressional Honor. I've got 'em on my FTP server, too."

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She shrugged, typing back. "Not as old to me. Didn't...get to play games much when I was younger." awkward - move on - other games interesting

":p You pick the game today, then. Pick a good one, though. Stress to work off. Teenagers to make cry. Will learn as I go."

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Jessica eyed the clock on the wall and did the math. "I'll shoot 'em to you later. Got school in the morning, need to get to bed at some point." She typed in the ISP one-handed and connected to the match, clicking the 'ready' button and allowing the game to choose her avatar at random. The game world loaded in less time than it takes to say, and Jessica's avatar materialized in a pseudo-SF space station. Everything was made of blocks and straight lines, and she could practically see individual polygons. She tore her eyes away from the graphical atrocity to start maneuvering around the level -- only to have her screen flash red and black and to start staring at a respawn timer. Someone had killed her? Two seconds after she loaded? The girl checked the notification list in the corner. "Mara!" FlyFlyDragonfly had just shotgunned IronBootsies. "You teamkiller," she said, her lips curving into an evil little smile, flexing her fingers as she waited for the respawn counter to tick down. "Okay. That's how you wanna play it, huhn?"

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Mara smiled a little, humming lightly as she started putting some distance between herself and likely spawn points. "Don't know what you mean. Accident, I'm sure. Finger slipped. Glitch in the system. Mistaken identity." revenge is sweet

Even 'handicapped' by forgoing her datalink, Mara took the opportunity to steamroll right over a few other players in her path, each of them getting an avatar full of shotgun lead (FlyFlyDragonfly has just shotgunned Th3Man; FlyFlyDragonfly has just shotgunned Demonoid; FlyFlyDragonfly has just shotgunned URMOM) as she hunted for a better weapon...and had very little luck. Eyeing her rapidly decreasing ammo count, the young woman momentarily wished this level wasn't quite so randomized.

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Jessica respawned and started strafing immediately -- only to run off a cliff and fall for ten seconds before the game killed her. So she respawned, strafed in the other direction, bunny-hopping as she went. She picked up a machine gun, a sniper rifle, and before long she was hauling around a rocket launcher. She made a few experiments with the game's physics model and, by the unlikeliest of circumstances, ended up very nearly balancing on top of FlyFlyDragonfly's (apparently) very flat head. She bounced off and started racing alongside her teammate. "Hey, Mara," she called out. "Been racking up the kills?"

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"Some. Slow night. Weapon could be better. Nice rocket launcher." hm - maybe She glanced quickly between Jess' arsenal and her few remaining shots. no - better not "Will find something soon enough. Luck never lasts forever."

She may as well have been a prophet. No sooner were the words sent than she spotted a sniper at the far end of the room - try as she might, a shotgun's no good at that distance and her damageless shot was rewarded with a bullet in the forehead. Scowling as her screen went black and red, she made careful note of her killer's handle. "All yours, Jess." and mine later She eyed the respawn timer, tapping a finger on her mouse. should have taken the rockets

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Jessica's HUD in the lower right-hand corner displayed the remaining ammo in big, red numbers. Next to that was another counter with a much smaller number -- alternate ammo. Jessica pointed in the general direction of the sniper and tight-clicked. A slow-moving projectile, trailing mustard-yellow 'smoke' behind it, circled out in a lazy spiral. When it neared the sniper's nook it broke into a half-dozen separate rockets, filling the impact area with explosions and particle effects. A smile smile spread across her face, back in meatspace. "Cool," she whispered, intentionally too low for the word to be picked up by the microphone.

Jessica didn't see her username up by the notifications, so she fired another cluster shot and started heading back to the spawn point. "Hey Mara," she called out, "where do I find alt ammo on this map?"

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finally Mara spawned back in as the timer hit zero, immediately taking off towards Jessica before cutting off to the side into another hallway. "Not many places. Could hack the map...no, no cheating. Should be - here." Stopping for a moment she 'pointed' with her character towards a little shadow-hidden alcove and ducked backwards into the alcove opposite, watching with great satisfaction as her HUD updated to reflect the generous - if rapidly-depleting - ammo count on the minigun.

She let herself grin a little, pausing to let Jessica catch up and grab her alt ammo. "Mmhmhm. Yes. More dakka."

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"Woot woot," Jessica replied, checking her new ammo count with a critical eye. She switched back through her machine gun, sniper rifle, and a set of dual pistols that she had picked up without even realizing it. The cluster munitions were fun, sure, but so many of these hallways were cramped, and since friendly fire was (evidently) on, she didn't want to shoot the wall and blow herself up. She settled on the pistols, her avatar holding them straight out in front of her. She fired a few test shots at the wall and frowned at the plink-plink noise. She needed something with a bigger bore, something more intimidating, something like...

"Hey, Mara. Can you dual-wield shotguns on this map?"

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Mara nodded - even though Jess couldn't see it - and took point down the corridor with the minigun spinning. "Equip a shotgun, pick up another shotgun. Bad range. High damage. Useful sometimes."

The (relative) quiet of the map was starting to unnerve her. like a crime warehouse - noise means you're aware of threats - quiet means threats aware of you - too many on the map for this little action "Think we made other players nervous. Building a reputation?"

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Jessica jumped as she cleared a threshold and so took a bullet in the ribs instead of the head. She turned, centered her cross-hairs on the point of incoming damage that her HUD had highlighted, and started sending down a stream of hitscans. Return fire stopped after a few seconds, so Jessica switched to the sniper rifle and went down-scope, hunting.

"So I'm thinking about adding a monoblade to the suit," she said in a conversational tone. "Obsidian and glass can be made into an edge a handful of molecules wide just by knapping. If I reinforce it with a simple energy field, it should be rigid and strong enough to handle combat."

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Having played the game entirely too much to trust that the sniper was working alone, Mara took the opportunity provided and dashed past the distracted sniper's sights, pressing her back against the opposite wall and opening fire around the corner before she could even see who was there. Rewarded with some hits but no kills, she stuck to little bursts of fire to keep them nervous without wasting ammunition.

"Good plan. Melee options useful - thinking of something similar myself. Inspiration while working on the wings. Stupid things slice test dummies in half anyway; should harness that. Controlled, lift-less spacial blade viable. Priorities. Too many projects to work on at once." She paused, tilting her head. "Benefits to physical blade, with a suit. Advantages in boosted strength. Leverage, striking power. Utility."

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Jessica snorted. "Monoblade, Mara. Won't be able to handle too much physical strain, at least not without reinforcement. Doubt there will be many climactic duals and locking of blades." She switched through her arsenal until she found something rapid-firing and slid past the corner, blasting away and running into the next room. It was a wide-open, multi-leveled space, full of catwalks criss-crossing the open space and several large platforms where closer-range combat could take place. Jessica felt her perspective drawing back into something more detached and methodical as she spun left and right, snapping off short, controlled bursts. At the same time, she managed to keep talking to the other woman. "Hope you're not working too hard, Mara," she said. "You need to get out more. Meet a nice guy."

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"In this business? Uncertain. Best to be prepared. Assumed 'simple energy field' would be sufficient reinforcement." Picking up an assault rifle almost by accident as she ducked away from stray enemy fire, Mara turned around and covered the area they'd just left, teaching a couple other players a short lesson about the pitfalls of trying to flank a two-person team.

alt fire - can't remember - practical test Bringing her minigun back up she right-clicked and blinked as a small spread of spear-like mines covered the hallway behind them. well - useful - unexpected - interesting design difficult to replicate - stable explosives? storage a problem - link dimensional fold to.... "Working as hard as a I need to. Good to keep busy. Distractions. Get restless if I can't work. Meeting a guy...." She paused as some unlucky fool didn't spot a mine in time. "....not likely."

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Jessica switched back to the sniper rifle and went down-scope long enough to snipe a pair involved in a knife-duel. "Should get out more," she countered, unconsciously slipping into Mara's grammatical form. "See the city. Learn what you're saving. Get smooches, at least on irregular basis." She ran over a grenade launcher and began blindly firing explosives around corners and over the horizon. "Besides, dating's fun. Me and Blake went park the other day. Had smooches. Almost got arrested." She eyed the alt ammo counter for the grenade launcher, noticing that it was surrounded by sharp blades. She launched one at someone just entering her field of vision and watched them get gibbed by a shuriken the size of a trash can lid. She gave out a low, appreciative whistle and wondered vaguely if it was possible.

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"Mm. More complicated than it sounds. I think." Mara shook her head, laying down another layer of mines in the hallway before pulling out the assault rifle and joining Jessica in taking out anyone unlucky enough to wander into the room. "Do get out sometimes. See a movie. Treat myself to a good meal. Good for personal motivation, mood. Can do part-hunting while I'm out. Efficient."

She brought up her scope; no excuse for the sniper rifle, but it'd do. Sweeping it across the room, she didn't even bother turning around as someone else hit a mine - though she did smile, if only on the inside. "Haven't met someone to date. Suppose I'll keep an eye out. If I must. Do prefer not to get arrested." complicated - awkward

Tilting her head, she left the scope view and caught back up to Jessica. "Talking like me again. Sorry. Can try to talk normally if you want."

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Jessica jumped down three stories to the bottom of the arena-room, where digital lava flow painted the ceiling prettily. She machine-gunned a pair who were weapon scrounging, looted their bodies, and grinned as a nickel-plated pump action floated in her view. She tried it on a nearby wall, then charged into a hallway. The weapon was ideally suited to the suddenly shifting corridor, and she gained a quick three kills by filling faces with pellets. Her rampage was brought to an end by a bouncing explosive, and as the server-change timer started counting down Jessica leaned back in her chair and stretched. She took the opportunity to grab a pull of water and then answered Mara. "I don't worry about it," she said. "I get excited. Start dropping words," she added, lips curving into a smile. "Not problem. Don't worry. Focus on kills."

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"Mm. Story of my life." Mara stood as close to the wall as possible, watching the hallway Jess had just gotten blown up in. "Fair enough. Think they'll remember us here?"

The - from the stat board, fairly decent - player who'd gotten Jessica with the grenade was rewarded for his prowess with an assault rifle to the back of the head as he came out of the hallway. His friend got in a couple good shots, but not fast enough - by the time he'd registered the kill she'd already swung her rifle down and sent a good spray of bullets at head-level. Hallway clear and with (most) of her health intact, the young woman made her way down the corridor to claim the shotgun Jessica had lost. "Not even cheating. Doubt they'd believe it."

"So," she prompted, as she stalked through the small maze of identical hallways. "Things proceeding well with Blake, then?"

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Jessica watched the timer count down, saw the arena fade into digital limbo and all the players get booted back to the lobby while the next match loaded. There was the usual post-round shuffle of folks joining and leaving, and a few names complained about players teaming up when it was supposed to be a free-for-all match. Jessica stuck her tongue out at them and kept chatting with Mara. "I don't know about 'proceeding,'" she giggled. "We're, uh, having fun. And taking it a bit slowly, I suppose." She blushed and lowered her voice. "I kinda want to wait until I have my own place before he, uh, spends the night. And Blake's got a roommate, you know?"

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Perusing the post-game statistics (with no small measure of satisfaction), Mara blinked. "Spend the...? -oh. Oh! I didn't, uh. I mean I wasn't- that isn't...I...oh. Not...not what I meant."

She took a moment to point out to the chat that they weren't the only ones teaming up, glad to have any excuse to shut her mouth. well done - 'smooth' - maybe should get out more Glad there was no camera so Jess couldn't see her turn a little red, the young woman coughed. "No place of your own? Surprised. Not too hard to find private space."

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Jessica stuttered a bit as she tried to explain her situation. "Well. I mean, this is technically my parents' place, but they're not around so much. So I'm mostly here by myself, but my granddad spends a lot of time here. Except he's staying in town tonight, which is why I wanted to game tonight." She blushed as she continued talking. "But I don't want my first time with Blake to be 'just because it's convenient.' I want it to be special, you know?"

She sighed with relief when the next map loaded. It was a series of skyscrapers, rising high above a colorless fog. Jessica looked around, trying to get her bearings, when her screen abruptly flickered black and red. Her name appeared up the notification tree: RedEyeDog ganked IronBootsies. "Oh, you spawncamper!"

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Mara shook her head, looking down at Jess's despawning body. "What you get. Have to be careful after spawn. Never know-" Her screen went black and red; 'RedEyeDog ganked FlyFlyDragonfly'. ...deserved that Leaning back and popping her knuckles, she shrugged. "Wouldn't know a lot about special. Guess it's a good idea. Rushing isn't always wise. Follow your gut? Or your...no. Stick with instincts."

She looked around her warehouse, quiet and pretty empty aside from her, humming machinery, and the sounds of the game. "Would go crazy without plenty of personal space. I think so, anyway. Need to have areas that are mine - no intrusion. Guaranteed privacy."

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Jessica grinned and tucked her chin into her chest, supressing another case of the giggles. "My, uh, 'gut' is what wants to rush things, Mara. It's my head that wants to wait."

Jessica respawned and bunny-hopped across the first towering platform, picking up a strange rifle with lightning bolts coiling in its guts. She tried firing it and was pleasantly surprised in a bolt of plasma shot across the platform without any drop or apparent flight time. Humming lightly to herself, she settled next to a pillar and scoped in on a nearby tower top, picking off targets of opportunity.

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