A little something to get my feet wet.

As I am not Kosuke Fujishima (nor do I play him on television), I clearly do not own the characters in the following story.

Hack Attack

Ah, good old NetHack, Keiichi thought. It might have almost no graphics and a primitive user interface, but it at least it runs on my old computer. Now, time to kick some monster butt!

He double-clicked on the NetHack icon, typed in his name, and there was his character. A level 9 archeologist with rustproof +4 dwarven mattock, an elven mithril coat +3, and lots of other good stuff. He was at the bottom level of the Gnomish Mines and ready to rock. Maybe this was the game were he'd finally get the Amulet of Yendor.

A sweet voice came from the direction of the kitchen. "Keiichi dear? Do you know where the daikon got put away?"

Sighing slightly under his breath, Keiichi hit shift-S for save, closed the NetHack window, and headed for the kitchen. "It's not in the pantry, Bell?"

Urd and Skuld came into the room. Skuld was talking animatedly. "Lots of things in this place could be improved! Look at that old computer – I could add a hyper- visualization module to it, and then it would give you a user experience worth having."

Urd looked dubious. "I don't Keiichi likes it when you improve his stuff, sis. It took a week to find all of the VCR last time you improved something, particularly the parts that got embedded in the ceiling."

Skuld shrugged, clearly unconcerned. "You were involved in that incident too, if you remember. And besides, that was an unique accident – it won't happen again."

Urd smiled. "No, something else worse will happen instead."

Skuld glared at her sister. "So, how could you improve that computer, huh, huh?"

Urd drew herself up to her full height and looked down at Skuld. "Why ever would I want to do that? It's fine the way it is."

Skuld laughed. "Hah. It's an ancient pile of junk and it won't play the dating sims you want it to. Admit it, you can't improve it!"

Urd glared at her sister. "Can't, can I? We'll see about that." She reached into her pocket, and with a dramatic flourish, pulled out a crystal flask full of clear liquid. "You see this? This is Aqua Vitae – the water of life itself! A few drops of this on the computer and playing on it'll seem a lot more life-like than your widget would make it!"

Skuld pulled out a small black box with a computer serial cable coming out of it and plugged it into the back of Keiichi's ancient PC. "There, it's in. Look at the screen now!"

Urd bent over the screen, and frowned in puzzlement. "It looks the same as it always does to me."

"What?" Skuld bent over the screen as well, a mystified expression on her face. "That doesn't make any sense. The power light came on when I plugged it in – it has to be working!"

Urd shrugged gracefully. "Well, it doesn't seem to be. Now, let me show you a true master at work!" Urd opened her flask, and dropped a few drops each on the keyboard, monitor and CPU enclosure. She stepped back with a triumphant expression. "There!"

Skuld looked at the screen. "Nothing."

"What? That's impossible! Let me look."

But the screen looked perfectly normal. Skuld looked at Urd who looked back at Skuld, and they both shrugged. Then, both shaking their heads, they left the room.

A voice was heard from the kitchen. "Thanks, dear, for helping with the vegetables. Now, I'll finish cooking and you can relax for a few minutes. After all, you've had a tiring day."

Keiichi entered the living from the kitchen, smiling over his shoulder. "Thanks, Bell, you're one in a million."

He sat down at the computer, double-clicked on the NetHack icon, typed in his name, and then he vanished with a startled "What?"

Keiichi looked around himself in incomprehension. It was dark, dusty and didn't smell too nice at all. And he was dressed funny, in really heavy clothes. And what was this thing in his hands? It looked like a heavy pick of the sort that miners used.

An odd purring sound came from about thigh level. He looked down to see an orange cat the size of German Sheppard looking up at him. He looked around him again. There were lumps on the floor around him. They looked like dead things. Dead goblins to be exact.

Keiichi realized where he must be. Oh, no, he thought, my NetHack characters always die. Always. Either they starve, or a poisoned dart gets them, or someone blasts them with a wand, or … With an effort he wrenched his mind away from that train of thought. Another had occurred to him and his eyes narrowed: someone had been messing with his computer, and he knew who it had to be. "Urd, Skuld, I'll get you for this!"

Belldandy came into the living room to tell Keiichi that dinner was ready, but he wasn't there. But she sensed something odd about the computer. It seemed … distressed. She placed a calming hand on the CPU enclosure and looked at the screen. "Why don't you tell me what's bothering you, dear?"

The cursor moved around the screen to settle on a tiny icon of a human moving across a dungeon followed by a tiny cat and fair-sized horde of assorted monsters. Belldandy frowned. She had seen Keiichi play this game several times, and it had never played by itself before. She looked at the status line, and gasped. The character was listed as "Keiichi the Engineering Student", and she was sure that that was not a standard level title for NetHack.

She looked at the screen again. There were monsters after Keiichi. She had to do something, but what?

Keiichi was exhausted, but he kept running. He had to get out of the game before it killed him! If he died down here, he'd never finish his homework! But the worst part of dying would be never seeing Belldandy again. Oh, Bell, I should have told you I love you more! I wish you could help me now.

Belldandy felt a faint prickling at her mind. It felt like, like, someone was praying to her. Or something like it. Belldandy smiled. Prayer had power in NetHack, she remembered. Maybe she could grant his prayer. She was a goddess, after all.

Keiichi stopped in shock. Suddenly, he felt rested, fed, strengthened and blessed, and magical artifacts rained down around him, including a jeweled wand. He grabbed the wand. Maybe it would take care of some of the monsters chasing him. He pointed it at the wumpus leading the pack, and fired. A voice spoke in his head as the monster horde thundered ever closer: "For what do you wish?"

Keiichi's eyes almost bulged out as he stared at the oncoming monsters and struggled to think. At last he croaked out: "A cursed scroll of teleportation!"

A scroll appeared at his feet and he snatched it up. He zapped the wand again, and again a voice spoke in his head: "For what do you wish?"

The monsters were very close. Aside from the wumpus, Keiichi could see a vampire, a troll, a giant zombie, several werewolves and what looked like a dozen orcs of some sort. Keiichi gulped, and answered: "A blessed ring of teleport control!"

He jammed the ring on his finger and opened the scroll. I really, really, really hope I remembered this trick right, he thought. He read the scroll, and a voice spoke in his mind: "What level do you wish to teleport to?"

Keiichi screamed. "One, level one!" just as various claws, teeth and weapons reached for him.

Belldandy watched, one hand clasping the other so hard that the bones almost creaked, as the screen changed, showing a set of rectangular rooms clear of monsters. The level indicator said "1". As she watched, the little man crossed the level until it came to the icon for the stairs out of the game. Then it vanished.

Suddenly, the chair in front of the computer wasn't empty, as a stunned looking Keiichi sprawled in it. He would have fallen out if Belldandy hadn't caught him. He looked up at her in wonder. "Bell, the strangest thing just happened to me."

Belldandy smiled. "I know. But it turned out all right, didn't it? Now come eat. After an ordeal like that, you need some supper."

Keiichi and Belldandy left the living room, the goddess half-supporting the man. The computer hummed to itself.

Skuld and Urd reentered the living room and stared at the computer. Skuld shook her head. "I still can't see why it didn't work."

Urd shrugged, "Me, either. But it doesn't matter. Since the computer is free, I'm going to take the opportunity to play Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

Skuld wrinkled her nose in disgust. "And with the naughtiness level set to 'lewd' I suppose. I don't see how you can play that thing."

Urd shrugged again. "It's campy and funny and I like it. Now shoo! You're bothering me!"

Skuld stalked off. Urd smiled, and started the game. She only had time to give a startled "eep!" as she vanished. But there was no one in the room to hear her.


NetHack (or Nethack) is a real game, and will run on practically any PC, even ones so old that the keyboards were chipped out of stone and the manual came as cave paintings. Leather Goddesses of Phobos is a real game, too, but perhaps the less said about that, the better.