All characters portrayed herein are the
Intellectual and copyrighted property of
Fred Gallagher and Fredart Studios Lic.
Six months ago:
E3 Game Show
"Wanna know what I think of your stinkin' con? THIS is what I think of your stinkin' con!" screamed Largo.
Piro, who was Largo's long-time friend and roommate, was looking up at the boisterous redhead standing on top of a display booth at the annual E3 game convention. Largo was drunk and rowdy, which was normal for him. He was also getting naked, which was also normal for him. Piro felt he ought to at least make an attempt to stop Largo's vulgar display, if for no other reason than to avoid an accessory charge.
"Ah, Largo, please come down," said Piro. "And put your pants on."
Looking at the two young American men, one would not really think they could get along. Largo was a very loud and often-obnoxious person, whose main interests in life were First Person Shooter games, beer and computers. He was somewhat tall, with a slim build and an energetic way of moving. Normal people began to get tired just from standing next to him.
Piro, on the other hand, was shy and mostly quiet. He wore glasses and tended to hide behind the lenses. While he shared a love of games with Largo, the types of games the diminutive blonde Piro liked were dating simulation games. He wasn't much of a drinker, and tended to move slowly. He was much shorter and stockier than Largo, and was quite clumsy.
The one thing they did have completely in common was that neither one went by their real names. They were so immersed in the world of computers that most people, even in real-life, referred to them by their screen-names.
Needless to say, neither one had ever had much luck in the realm of girls. Since Piro preferred dating-sim games, and Largo actually seemed to be somewhat suspicious of the female species as a whole, neither one cared about their lack of feminine companionship.
"Sir, are you with this man?" asked one of the security staff at the convention, holding Largo by the collar of a shirt he was still trying to remove.
"If I say 'Yes' will I be held as an accomplice?" asked Piro, looking over at Largo.
"Both of you need to leave, now," grunted the guard and motioned them towards the door, dropping Largo in the process.
Luckily, when the guard released the struggling man, Largo ceased his attempts at disrobing and lay there in an inebriated heap. He had a decidedly green tinge to his skin.
"This con sucks," slurred Largo. "These people are not l33t. They don't know what a game convention should be!"
"Why not go to Tokyo, then?" asked Piro. "It's like Mecca, but for gamers."
Largo would have responded were he not in the process of getting violently sick all over the Bioware booth.
"Good enough," said Piro and began laboriously dragging his friend to the exit.
Piro booked a flight for Largo and himself at the airport, which was a little difficult as Largo had passed completely out while riding in the taxi.
Largo recovered during the plane ride, and Piro informed him of what had transpired. Initially, Largo had taken the news poorly, but had decided that maybe a trip to Tokyo wasn't such a bad idea, after all.
After arriving in Tokyo, the two men decided to go shopping for games and beer. This turned out to be a mistake, since they both had fairly low limits on their credit cards and could not afford a return ticket. Having concluded that they were stuck in Tokyo, Piro contacted his friend Tsubasa, who obligingly let them stay at his place until they could acquire the funds needed to get back home. Several weeks went by, and Tsubasa started to get a little annoyed at his two guests. Sadly, after borrowing the money from two friends back in the States, Piro and Largo blew all their money on games and beer, again.
By sheerest chance, Piro managed to land a job working at a video game store in the Shinjuku district called MegaGamers with a girl named Erika Hayasaka.
Shortly thereafter, Tsubasa left quite suddenly to go and look for a childhood sweetheart of his in the US, causing Piro and Largo to be evicted from Tsubasa's apartment, along with Ping, a life-like android whose purpose was to make dating-sim games more realistic. After hearing about the lack of living quarters for the two men, Erika bullied the owner of the game store into allowing Piro and Largo to move into an apartment that was on the third floor of the building the game store was in.
A couple of weeks after the two men moved in, there was a riot in front of the store, which had turned violent. It turned out that Erika used to be a voice actress for an older anime called "Girl Phase", which had seen a massive fan-base built up over the years. Erika had quickly become a national idol, not only doing voice acting, but also releasing music CD's and doing photo-shoots for magazines. She dropped out of the scene a couple of years ago due to personal problems. It was very sudden, and had shocked all of her fans; still, she remained quite popular, as evidenced by the massive horde of fanboys that had descended on the shop. Piro had come out of the ordeal with a broken nose, and the hackers that were attacking at the same time had badly damaged Largo's computers. After a few days, life returned to normal.Present Day:
Note: Any text in ( ) is spoken in Japanese.
Piro was slowly coming awake. He had not slept well since Largo had sat up most of the night working on repairing his Beowulf Cluster. Admittedly, it had taken a severe beating by the fanboy hackers who had been stalking Erika, but since that whole thing had been mostly resolved, Piro saw no reason why it needed any sort of work done to it.
Looking at the clock, Piro realized that it was somewhat late and that he needed to get ready for work. The good thing about living right above where he worked was that he did not have to get up earlier than 8:30 AM. "Oh well," he said as he rolled out of the futon where he slept, "guess I'll get some breakfast."
Walking to the section of the apartment where the kitchen was never Piro's favorite thing to do, as it took him right past where Largo did his "L33t" adjustments to whatever piece of equipment was unfortunate enough to have drawn his attention.
The problem was, Largo did his upgrades totally naked. He said it was prevent static electric discharges from damaging the gear, but Piro suspected it was just another manifestation of Largo's multiple psychoses. This morning, however, Largo had already left the apartment to go to work. Hopefully, fully clothed.
Largo had somehow managed to finagle a job as an English teacher at Shiritsu Daitou High School. He didn't really seem to take the job seriously, preferring to teach his students how to defend themselves against hordes of zombies and "3vi1" creatures rather than teach them English. Still, it was better than having him sit around all day while Piro was working. Fires tended to get started that way.
As he was pouring himself a bowl of Oaty O's, Ping came rushing out from behind the privacy screen she had Piro put up for her.
(Good morning, Piro-kun!) Ping said hurriedly. Ping was a robot-girl; a PS2 accessory called the Sony SEVS-44936, which brought a whole new level to the world of dating simulation games. She was incredibly life-like, not only in appearance but also in personality. She would, given time, begin to emulate the girls in any dating-sim game that utilized an Emotional Doll System (EDS) interface. Good technology, but bad for one's social life. Doubly so, since Ping looked to be between the age of 14 and 16, and was programmed to believe she had to go to school.
(Good morning, Ping,) replied Piro, with a yawn. In all honesty, he would have been very glad to have had one of these robot girls back in the states. Here in Tokyo, however, she really caused him a good bit of trouble. Still, he felt responsible for her since Tsubasa had asked him to take care of her.
(I'm sorry, Piro-kun, but I'm running really late for school! Tohya-san didn't come by this morning, and I didn't set my internal alarm, so I've got to hurry! I'll see you this afternoon,) the robot girl said with a wave as she ran out the door.
(Yeah, see ya,) was all the still sleepy Piro really had to say.
As Piro got dressed for work, he briefly wondered why Tohya hadn't come by this morning, since she was usually very prompt. Piro was relieved that she'd not come, however.
Piro, Largo and Tohya had something of a history together.
Years ago, the three of them knew each other from playing an online game called "EndGames." Due to a user statistics algorithm she had found, Tohya had been able to easily manipulate the other players in the game, even to the point of affecting them in the real world. She was also one of the few gamers that were able to successfully cheat the game, though the how of it remains a mystery. Oddly enough, she had been completely unable to affect Piro or Largo. It had ended as a rather heated competition between the three of them, with Piro and Largo soundly defeating her.
Since the two Americans had moved to Tokyo, Tohya had been spending most of her time tormenting Largo. Largo believed she was a Zombie Queen, waiting to unleash her hordes of the undead on Tokyo. Tohya did nothing to quell his suspicions, seeming to enjoy the conflict.
She seemed to have lost interest in Piro, though she still contacted him at times, for various reasons. Because Piro could not see an agenda, he was not completely sure of what to think about her. He did know that she made him very nervous. He often wondered about her friendship with Ping, but since she seemed to genuinely like the robot-girl, he believed Tohya did not mean Ping any harm.
When Piro walked into the MegaGamers stockroom, Erika was already there. She was a rather tall and imposing girl with brown hair and a figure that most supermodels murder people for. She was quite rough with Piro, but somehow managed to keep him from getting himself in over his head most of the time. She sometimes seemed to like Largo, but was highly intolerant of his antics.
She turned and held out a small bundle.
(Here, put this on,) said Erika by way of greeting. The bundle turned out to be one more ridiculous cosplay outfit, not unlike others that Erika forced him to wear every day. Piro considered telling her that he was sick of looking like something out of Pokemon, but decided to shut up and wear the stupid thing. "It's kind of like health insurance, I suppose," mumbled Piro.
(Did you say something?) Erika asked.
(No, no…I was just talking to myself,) replied Piro hastily, and started to assemble his outfit..
Besides, it was nothing compared to what Erika's roommate, Kimiko Nansawa, made for Erika to wear. Today it was an outfit that looked like a cross between a French Maid and an Elizabethan Era noblewoman. Kimiko liked dressing Erika up in all sorts of fantastic outfits. She was really quite talented.
(I'm going to take these games out to the shelves,) said Piro, carrying a box full of new releases.
(Fine,) said Erika, who was trying to adjust the ribbons that Kimiko had woven into her hair.
Piro puttered around the shop for a few hours, trying to keep busy. Truthfully, he really enjoyed working at MegaGamers, but sometimes the store was distressingly slow. Then again, it was better than starving and it allowed him a place to sleep at night.Shiritsu Daitou High School
Looking around at all the faces of the students, Great Teacher Largo couldn't help but wonder if all his efforts had been in vain. Seeing the smiling students, running around as if they had no cares in the world, as if they did not mind the evil plague that was just starting it's descent on an unsuspecting populace, Largo was filled with a sense of dread. The truly odd thing was that he was beginning to feel responsible for these young, untrained n00bs. It was a completely foreign feeling for him.
Until very recently, the only time he felt at all responsible towards another life form was when he instructed another gamer in the ways of loss and defeat. But, that was always showing the poor gamer that Largo could not be beaten. That he was l33t. That he owned them all.
Now, he felt that he had to teach these kids how to survive the coming apocalypse. All in all, it was a very disturbing feeling, and one that he still tried to come to terms with. Until then, however, he would continue to track and observe the movements of the Zombie Queen, as he called Tohya, and attempt to foil her wherever possible. She had to be stopped, he felt.
(Oh! Good morning, Largo-sensei,) said the Vice-principal of the school. (I have been looking for you.)
Largo turned and looked at the small man with a cold eye.
(Do you have a minute, so we can talk?) the Vice-principal asked.
"I don't understand you," Largo replied. He began looking the Vice-principal over for signs that he had been taken over by the undead. Almost every one of the zombies he had encountered here spoke in this strange tongue.
"I'm sorry, Largo-sensei. I can speak English, if you prefer," he said, easily. Largo relaxed, slightly.
"I don't have time for you. I need to get to my class," said Largo. "There is much that I still need to teach them."
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that, Largo-sensei. The other teachers have been listening to your students talk about your…curriculum. I know that the schools in America are different than schools here in Japan, but your teaching methods seem to be somewhat…odd," he said.
In truth, the Vice-principal was not so certain that hiring this man as an English teacher had been such a wise idea. While his class had been learning English at a phenomenal rate, some of Largo's methods had disturbed the staff at the school.
"I teach the kids what they need to know to survive!" Largo retorted. "If you wish for them spend the rest of their lives in ignorance, unaware of the 3vil stalking the world, then say so! You will be the cause of their destruction." Largo's eyes were flashing dangerously as he moved closer to the shorter man. "Your ph34r is misplaced. J00 will get b34td0wn, and will take the students with you. "
The vice-principal was taken aback by Largo's heated reply. He had thought that Largo was not taking the children's education seriously, but he began to think he might have been wrong. He did seem to care about the children's well being and had not hurt any of them. Still, the odd field trips were something he would have to discuss with Largo, at some point. Before he could continue with his train of thought, the bell rang, and Largo walked away, headed towards his class. He hoped that he was wrong about Great Teacher Largo, and that he wasn't as crazy as some of the teachers have been saying.
As Largo walked towards his class, he was scanning the crowd of students looking for any signs that the Zombie Queen's infection was spreading. Most of the kids seemed normal enough, but he knew that they could turn at any point. He would remain on his guard. He was always on his guard.
"Stand, bow, be seated," said Junko, the class leader, as Largo walked in the door. When he reached the podium, Largo stood for a moment looking at the faces of his students.
"Who is missing today?" he asked, noticing three empty seats.
Junko raised her hand, and stood at Largo's acknowledgement.
"Maehara-san is out today for her mother's wedding. Tohya-san and Ping-san have not come to school, yet."
Neither the Zombie Queen, nor Piro's psychotic Sony were here today. Largo wondered where they were. Was the Queen planning a new diabolical plot to take over the minds of his students? Over his dead, cold body. He was glad that the Sony wasn't here, though. He was tired of her attacking him with brooms and telephone poles.Tohya's Apartment
Miho Tohya was not feeling very well. Her heart had been giving her more trouble than normal. She lay in bed most of the day, thinking. What was it about Ping that disturbed her? Was it the artificial emotions? Or was it the fact that Miho was responding to them? She really knew better than to get attached to a toy. She had learned that lesson in her conflict with Piro and Largo while playing 'EndGames'. They had only been toys to her. Toys that she could not really figure out, nor play with effectively, granted, but toys nonetheless.
It had become a personal thing for her, that game she had played with them. That they had avoided her manipulations, and overcome her ability to cheat the game had come almost as a personal affront. Now they were here in Tokyo. Her home.
Largo was proving to be as amusing as before, but he was so wrapped up in his little fantasies that it was really no different than the game for him. The only difference lay in the fact that he was totally unaware of his limitations. Miho was all too familiar with limitations.
Piro was not nearly so amusing. He could, to some extent, tell the difference between the real world and the game. He still treated girls as if they were characters in a game, to be sure, but was aware on a deeper level that they were real. If she wanted to play with Piro again, she would have to find a new way of doing so. However, after hearing Ping talk on and on about Piro, she was not so sure she wanted to get involved in his life again. Not to the extent she had been during the game. That may have been because of the trouble that it would cause for Ping.
Damn. There it was, again. Thinking about that robot. That girl.
Miho lay in bed for several hours thinking about it. In truth she was feeling much better than she had when she woke up this morning, but she was intent on figuring out the extent of her attachment to Ping. It was easier, sometimes, to just lie in bed and think.
She was still thinking when someone knocked on her door a couple hours after noon. She got up and answered the door, but all that was there was a small package sitting on her doorstep. She looked down the hallway leading to her door. No one was around.
She brought the package inside and looked at the wrapping. It was simple brown paper. Nothing was written on it, except her name. The only thing she could tell about it was that it was a videocassette of some kind. Her curiosity piqued, she decided to open it. The words, "Play Me," were scrawled in English on the front of the tape. Shrugging, she put the tape in her VCR.
Five minutes later, she ran out the door as fast as she could, the tape clutched tightly in her hand.