The snowdrops hung in space, glitching and stuttering against the blurry city backdrop. LARDby_04 glanced in my direction, before looking down with a single jerky movement. A text box appeared on the angular expanse of his chest. In glowing green letters, he said: ‘The Christmas rush. Already?! WTF? It’s July!‘
I moved to shake my head, but my body remained stubbornly frozen. Around me, the snowdrops started moving again. From their blurry edges, it was clear that whoever was running the server had switched them out for a low-res sprite file. Finally, without warning, my head flailed from side to side. Good thing avatars don’t get whiplash. When it stopped moving, I pulled up a diagnostic terminal.
As each letter crawled into view, LARDby_04’s head flickered upwards. He met my gaze with two unmoving painted eyes. Opening a text box of my own, I said:’ It’s rude to stare ‘
‘Easier than opening my own terminal. Hey, the bandwidth’s up to 54 gigs a second.‘ His text box bleeped at me.
I looked down at the diagnostic terminal. Or rather, it jumped into view a second after I thought about looking down. Not only had it dropped to 52 gigs, but the sensory input delay had reached an entire 890 milliseconds. ‘My god! It’s the fckn dark ages! What next? Modems :I ‘
A bright green “LOL!” sprite flashed and flickered above LARDby_04’s head. His text box read: ‘ I thought people didn’t do their Christmas shopping ’til August.’
‘Must be bad if they’re pulling bandwidth from the “Winter Wonderland” SIM. It’s usually dead as dial-up this time of year.‘ I replied. I tried to gesture, but all that happened was that my arms suddenly flailed around wildly. I waited for the diagnostic terminal to jump into view. Motor accuracy had dropped to 7.45 nc/s.
By now, there were three “LOL” sprites above LARDby_04’s head, each one competing for my attention. ‘Another BOLD MOVE from CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. LOL!‘
‘The motor accuracy is wrecked! Still, the shopping sites must be hilarious. I bet some idiot has already hacked in a gauss cannon from the latest action game. You know, “gimme that holographic snow globe for 70% off, not 50!” ‘ Instinctively, I moved to mime someone holding a gauss cannon, but my arms just shot forwards and waved uncontrollably.
The swarm of “LOLs” above LARDby_04’s head intensified. His text box read: ‘That’s a rather SWEEPING statement!’
I tried to roll my eyes, this elicited even more LOLs. The world around me spun and flickered for two minutes. When my vision returned to normal, there was an angry red message box dangling in front of us. It read: ‘From Admin: Offensive jokes about last year’s Christmas shopping disruptions are in violation of our content policy. Warning strike 1/3‘
The message disappeared. I thought about commenting, but obviously the admin was watching us like a hawk. So, I just said: ‘I’m just glad I did my shopping in February, when did you do yours?’
LARDby_04 replied: ‘Jan..Hey, look at your terminal.’ He actually said it this time. His synthesised voice cutting through the silence like a blade through ice.
I looked at my terminal, wildly overcompensating for the sudden swiftness of my movements. Actual laughter echoed through my ears. When I’d righted myself, I noticed that the sensory input speeds were back to normal. Even the bandwidth was back in the lower petabytes again. ‘No way!‘ I muttered.
At the same time, we reached out and pulled up newsfeeds. LARDby_04 was quickest, no doubt because of that fancy water cooling system he was always going on about. He creased up with laughter, rolling around on the hard pre-rendered snow at our feet. A red message box swooped towards him, bleeping furiously.
Swatting it away, he caught his breath. Looking up at me, he said: ‘You aren’t going to believe it! Someone hacked in an infinitely-respawning swarm of rabid Martian dinosaurs from “Space Adventure 7”. All of the shopping sites will be down for months!‘
‘Ha! No way! I guess you could say that…‘
USER BLOCKED! REPEATED VIOLATIONS OF CONTENT POLICY ( Sec. 1: Taste and decency, para 4-9/ Sec. 9: Glamourisation of hacking, para 2-3/ Sec 12: Criticism of commerce, whole document).