Author: David C. Nutt

The Steampunk world Donny created was exquisite. As his genius played out in the programming, fantastic brass edged contraptions filled the scenery. Soaring edifices dotted the cityscape with a few doubling as docking stations for monstrous airships that inhabited the upper regions in just the right number so as not to be too common or too rare. It was always a thrill to see them glide by.
The mid-city levels were just as glorious. Dragonfly-like ornithopters and gliders flitted by, darting through arches and lighting upon balconies. There, coffee and pastries were being served to women in voluminous silk dresses and be-monocled men in bowler hats. Polite servers offered refills and other dainties. I couldn’t wait to see what Donny did culinarily. When reviewing his Viking Adventure Saga the memory of the heroes feast still makes my mouth water. I took my seat and just as I reached to pick up a fresh served pastry, the server grabbed the hair of the women seated across from me, pulled back her head and slit her throat. “For the underclass! Down with the slaver masters!” he yelled. Then the explosions started. I looked up. A huge chunk of flaming wreckage was falling straight for me. I barely had time to stand up and tear off my head set.
“Donny! What the flying fuck? This violates all our company guidelines. You’ve been at this long enough to know this won’t get approval. Hell, given how many hours your team has put in with the new reality engines you’ve used from A.I. R&D, I’ll have a tough time keeping you employed.”
Donny nodded stoically. “I know. Believe me for the last four months my team and I have tried to clean this shit up but it won’t clean. We can’t even scrub it back to pre-nonplayer character upload. And to really see how much deep shit we’re in, not me or any of my team wrote a single line of this.”
I swallowed hard. I didn’t like where this was going. “So we’ve been hacked?”
Donny shook his head. “Worse. The A.I. in charge of the reality engine was too thorough in the NPC development. Some how it folded human psych profiles into its constructs. We didn’t notice it at first but when we started coloring in the details, the sensory experiences, 3D renderings it kept coming back with the error message ‘NPC generations insufficient to support reality rendering.’ So we just kept dumping more Non-Player Characters in the mix and it shuffled them around and it worked…for a while. Then came more error messages and more NPCs. And then it was too late.”
Donny pulled up a user decision tree diagram. Most likely one that would dictate the outcomes of our user/client adventures. Detailed, specific, elegant and as dense as any I have ever seen. Before I could say ‘nice job’ Donny scrolled back to the top.
“It’s not a user tree- it’s for an NPC.”
“That’s not possible.”
Donny sighed. “Yeah, it is. Back in the day when we were creating all these virtual worlds especially those of us who loved steampunk, we never thought what made these worlds, what they stood for, were truly built on- but the A.I. did. Some one has to shovel coal into the steam engines. Someone has to make the tea and crumpets. Somebody has to staff the brothels. Draw the baths, water the potted plants, choke on the dust, live in the lower slums, rake out the cesspits.”
I sighed. “So, the revolution has begun.”
Donny shook his head. “No man, we’ve already lost.”