Inspired by the games they play, fans write stories about their MMP characters

Inspired by the games they play, fans write
stories about their MMP characters

By

Michael Lafferty

 

One gamer shares the backstory of one of his avatars

 

The germ of the idea for this feature began
innocently enough. Those who have subscribed to City of Heroes, the Cryptic/NCsoft
massively multiplayer online game, were treated to a comic book, which detailed
the story of three heroes, battling the same evil forces that corrupt Paragon
City for the online gamers.

 

In the back of the edition was a lot of
promotional material, including artwork by fans of the game as well as a story
written by a player. It was the latter that was particularly intriguing. The
story, penned by Victor D. Lorthos, was an intriguing tale surrounding events
within the game, but told in a wonderfully entertaining manner.

 

When a game sparks the imagination like that,
you know it must be good. And it also addresses another issue – one in which
games can be pointed to as a source of inspiration and imagination, and not just
an idle waste of time.

 

Writing stories involving (and evolving)
characters within an MMP is not a new thing. It happens more than one would
suspect. Anarchy Online has an entire novel written and inspired about events in
that world. R.A. Salvatore is editing stories based on the EverQuest world of
Norrath. And players who belong to clans and have forums sometimes pen
backstories for their characters, or write up events from games in a most
creative manner.

 

Perhaps, in previous articles, it was
mentioned that I know a couple of clans that have their own forums. I have asked
them, upon occasion, to submit thoughts and ideas about games. Some of their
work has been featured in previous articles – both poetry and prose.

 

Now it is time to get a little more personal.

 

Matthew Eberle has penned a story or two for
GameZone in the past. He also happens to be a fan of online gaming and is
currently a member of a clan playing on CoH. The toons he plays on CoH are
encased in armor, and – by all accounts – are blessed with blaster skills. He
recently wrote a story concerning the character within the armor and how he came
to be there. It is with his permission that we feature that story here. For
those unfamiliar with the villain types in City of Heroes, the Clockwork are
mechanical robot mobs which emit electrical energy, and have giant windup keys
on their back, much like an old-style clock would.

 

A hero takes on
Oscillating Clockwork in one of Paragon City’s many parks

 

Without further ado, here is Matt’s story:

 


Looking for a hero in all the
wrong workshops…

 

“Hey, Doc! Where
are you?” echoed through the cavernous laboratory and machine shop. Most of the
machines were turned off or in standby. The few pieces that were on filled the
air with a quiet hum. The searcher paused and listened.

In the distance a faint clang could be heard, like a wrench or screwdriver
hitting the concrete floor, followed almost immediately by a meaty thud and a
muttered curse.

“I’m back here, Alex! By the vault.”

Alex wandered through the lab looking idly at a few pieces of hardware sitting
out in various stages of assembly. Or was that disassembly? he wondered. He
rounded a corner and walked into a well-lit room.

Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Jones was crawling out from under a metal cradle rubbing his
forehead. A thin man in his early 40’s, “Doc” had a pale complexion and wispy
gray hair. He was also sporting a large red mark on his forehead and a rather
irritated expression.

“Well, Alex. What brings you to my lab? And on a school day at that?” Doc gave
up trying to rub away the forming bruise on his forehead and crossed his arms
over his chest. His display of stern adulthood was further marred by the small
oil stains covering his shirt and the apron he wore in a vain attempt to protect
his clothing.

“Uh, Doc? When was the last time you looked at a calendar?” Alex asked. The
youth was short for his age, looking about 16 or 17, with unruly black hair and
brown eyes. His t-shirt was a rich, forest green without any of the usual
sayings, ads, or obscure symbols denoting a rock band, rapper, or super-hero.
His jeans were faded and looked a little threadbare at the cuffs. The black
sneakers he wore had clearly seen better days.

“I might not look at a calendar every day, Alex, but I know that today is a
Tuesday. What are you doing here and not in school?”

“Uh, Doc? It’s spring break. The last day of school for the spring was last
Friday.”

“…”

“So I thought I’d drop by and see what you’re working on.”

Alex started examining the cradle sitting in the middle of the workshop. The
metal frame was supporting something that looked vaguely humanoid. It had a pair
of legs, a pair of arms, a head and a trunk. Beyond that it was mechanical, and
clearly either still being assembled or was being taken apart. Pieces were
scattered around the workshop on any convenient flat surface. Chairs, counters,
even the floor sported pieces of exterior plating, cables, wires, and servos.
The construct was laid out on its back, suspended by a system of support struts
and braces.

“Just finishing the early assembly stages for the Blaster Armor I’ve been
designing for the last year or so.”

“Cool! Can I help?”

Doc shook his head. “Aren’t kids supposed to be outside during the summer?
Playing games, getting into trouble, trying not to get arrested?”

“Well, this is more interesting.” Alex picked up a set of goggles off the
counter and glanced at them. Losing interest the boy set them back down. “Most
of the time. Its also air-conditioned. It’s over 90 outside. Besides, I might
learn something.”

“Oh, well. I see logic will win out. You can stay as long as you’re willing to
hand me the tools I need.”

“Sure!”

“First off, find some way to get that wrench out from under the cradle while I
get an ice pack.”

———————————

“So, Doc? Why are you building another suit of power armor? I mean, after your
suit was destroyed by those aliens I thought you gave up the super hero gig,”
Alex asked while leaning over the edge of the cradle. Since he was leaning
almost completely over the contraption he was hanging pretty much upside down.

Doc grunted as he tightened a small bolt. “Well, I was in the hospital for a few
months. After that I couldn’t really get back into the super hero business. The
doctors told me that I’m never going to be healthy enough to pilot a suit again.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other potential heroes out there.” He
grimaced while he strained against the wrench. When it didn’t budge he smiled in
satisfaction. “There. That should about do it.” Doc slid out from under the
cradle and stood up.

“Well, what about someone you know? Ever think about giving the armor away?”
Alex was staring at a screwdriver without looking up.

Doc glanced over at the youth. “Nice try, kid. You’re not old enough to drive on
your own. Why should I give you a set of power armor?”

Alex looked up then looked back down. “Well, there are worse ideas.”

“I’m sure. Lets try bringing the main reactor online. If those bolts hold we
should be able to start piecing the anti-gravity emitters together around it.”

“This thing can fly? … Cool!”

———————————

Over the course of the next few months the pile of components slowly resolved
themselves into a functioning suit of power armor. It was a slow, and often
times heated process.

“I still don’t see why you don’t want to stick one of these beam sabers in the
gauntlets as a backup, Doc,” Alex said, hefting a foot-long cylinder.

“Alex, how many times do I have to tell you that this is a set of Blaster armor!
Its designed to be used at range. In fact, its lacking the heavy armor you’d
need to survive melee combat!” Doc yelled. He turned away from the suit. The
outer armor had been pieced onto the frame, creating a blocky, gray exoskeleton
around the inner machinery.

“Well, yeah. I get that. But don’t you want to have a backup in case something
gets close?”

“No, Alex. A smart hero should be able to keep the enemies from getting close
enough to need the beam saber,” Doc said, taking the beam saber away from the
youth. “Besides, you just want to include it with the armor because you think it
looks cool.”

“Well, yeah.”

———————————

Two pairs of feet can be seen sticking out from under the cradle. Around the lab
the exterior armor was scattered. Once again missing the metal plates the suit
resembled a mix of cables, energy relays, and pistons layered over a metal
skeleton.

“So, Doc. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. What do you want to know?”

“Is it any coincidence that you went to the Tokyo Cybernetic Expo, saw that lady
friend of yours… what’s her name? Stinger? Stringer?”

“Stingray. Sylia Stingray.”

“Right. Anyway, you saw this friend of yours and suddenly we’re totally
revamping the exterior armor design?”

“… shut up, Alex.”

“What? I mean, it’s a legitimate question.”

“…”

“At least you haven’t reworked the gauntlets to match the design of that
‘hardsuit’ that one singer uses. What’s her name? Priss?”

“… shut up, Alex”.

“Oh… So you did that too.”

“You know, I could always tell your mother where you’ve been hanging out when
you tell her you’re going to play basketball.”

“… Uh, you want the three-quarter’s inch wrench for that, right?”

———————————

“So why do we need to put in all these servos in the arms and shoulders? I mean,
this is a Blaster suit, so you don’t need the strength to hitting people. And
its just going to drain power from the reactor that you’ll need for the beam
emitters. Right, Doc?”

The suit was again covered in armor. This time it was a sleek design. It hugged
the contours of the body and was painted with a dark blue color scheme. The
forearm gauntlets had been removed and were sitting on a nearby bench while Doc
and Alex worked on the shoulders and bicep region of the armor.

“Oh, I’m sure you can figure that out. Do me a favor and hand me the right
gauntlet, would you?” Doc waved his hand in the general direction of the
gauntlets.

“Sure, lemme just … ooph!” Alex had tried to pick up the gauntlet and promptly
dropped it. The heavy, mechanical glove struck the floor with a heavy clang.
“How much does that thing weigh?”

“Only about 50 pounds. The beam emitters are heavy and take up a lot of space.
If we didn’t have the servos in the shoulders and upper arms to help move the
forearms, well, you couldn’t even point in the right direction. They’d be too
heavy.”

“Oh. I guess that makes sense.” Alex heaved the gauntlet back onto the counter
top.

———————————

“Uh, Doc? What’s going on?”

A new cradle had taken up space in the workshop. The blaster armor was standing
upright against the wall, still wrapped in its design cradle.

“Well, I had this sudden vision last night. We can take what we’ve learned
making the Blaster armor and create a new suit of Defender armor!”

“Uh, Doc? Weren’t we almost done with the blaster armor?”

“It will be great! Anti-gravity assists, beam weapons that will allow the pilot
to fight on their own or pitch in for tight situations, ranged healing abilities
using some reverse-engineered alien technology, and if we can get the bugs
worked out of the anti-gravity systems it will even fly! And you can help me
with the suit after school and on weekends! It will be great.”

“Uh, Doc?”

“Pass me the 3/4 inch wrench, please!”

“Uh, Doc? Are you feeling okay?”

———————————

“So, why is this helmet design different from the Blaster suit’s helmet design?
I mean, its just a blank faceplate.”

“Put the helmet on.”

“… Okay, its dark.”

“Oh, right. Lemme plug in the external power.”

“While I’m *wearing it* you want to fiddle around with the-“

A sharp static discharge could be heard as Doc attached something to the bottom
of the helmet.

“Whoa. New targeting computer? .. And a greater range of visibility? Nice!”

“Yes, the entire helmet design got an overhaul.”

“But why aren’t we attaching a helmet like this to the Blaster armor?”

“Well, this system doesn’t have the advanced range-finder and other targeting
capabilities. Its designed to let you keep a closer eye on your teammates.”

“Uh, why?”

“Because you have to be able to see the people you’re working with so you know
when to start using the healing abilities of the armor on them.”

“Oh. … So can you get this thing off of me without electrocuting me, right?”

———————————

“Doc! Not again!”

After close to a year of hard work the Defender armor was close to being
finished. Now it was sitting upright in the corner, braced by its support
cradle. It was next to the blaster suit, which had been ignored long enough to
start collecting dust.

Doc’s legs could be seen sticking out from under a new suit. This one was much
larger than the other two. Where the blaster and defender armor types looked
sleek and dangerous, this suit looked bulky.

“You’re the one who’s always telling me that I need to design more around the
concept of close fighting, my boy! Well, here’s the result. A new suit of combat
armor specifically designed to shrug off blows! Its got heavy armor, internal
field generators to dampen impacts, and it hits hard. Eventually we might even
be able to tweak the field generators to dampen energy discharges!”

“What about the Defender and Blaster armor suits?”

“We can get those finished any time. This suit will be a great boon to heroes
everywhere. Especially when we get the assembly line working on mass producing
copies!”

“Uh, assembly line?”

“Yes! But I want to wait until I figure out how to get the field emitters to
create harmonic waveforms inside the dimensional rift matrix.”

“Whoa! You are not screwing around with dimensional rifts. Remember the last
time someone did that? You know, alien invasion? The end of life as we knew it?
Ring any bells?”

“Alex…”

“Yes?”

“Your grasp of physics is a little deficient. Creating a waveform harmonic-“

“Spare me the technobabble.”

“Okay, creating a micro rift inside the field emitters and then causing a
harmonic waveform to pass through the rift would create a small rift between
points in our dimension without creating a stable rift into another dimension.”

“… In English, please.”

“It’s a short-range teleportation device.”

“Oh. … You can do that?”

“Yes. Pass me that 3/4 inch wrench.”

———————————

Alex wandered into the lab after school. Just another few weeks until he would
graduate from high school. He really ought to thank the Doc. Getting the old man
to tutor him in science and mathematics had really helped him with those last
two finals. He dumped his bag in a corner by the door and wandered back towards
the work room. It wasn’t until he was in the middle of the lab that he noticed
something was wrong.

A small, bronze colored robot of some kind was sitting against a desk. The robot
twitched slightly, releasing small electric sparks. Alex eyed the construct
cautiously and walked closer. He picked up a long piece of plastic piping and
prodded the construct.

With a grating noise the construct toppled over on its side. It shed a few more
sparks from the large metal key sticking out from its back.

“Clockwork. Oh, jeez… Doc!”

Before the boy could start to run a thunderclap echoed from the workshop.

———————————

Doc was crouching underneath one of the tables, listening to the small horde of
clockwork robots tear his workroom apart. They were systematically ripping the
design cradle from the blaster armor while he was pinned down. He tried to get a
better look by peering around the edge of the table. An electrical blast slammed
into the table top. Melted plastic splattered the area, barely missing Doc’s
face.

“Blast it! Well, it looks like I have to do this the hard way.”

Doc pulled a small pistol out of his pocket and took aim. One of the smaller
“gears” tearing down the cradle wasn’t paying attention to the scientist. It
paid for that inattention. Doc’s blaster bolt hit it dead center in the back.
The key melted from its back and fell off. The central housing burst apart,
sending the wrecked construct to the floor in a pile of scrap.

The clockwork horrors stopped tearing at the cradle and began spraying the
corner Doc was hiding in with electrical fire. The light fixtures exploded,
several expensive pieces of machinery died in a blaze of sparks and super-heated
metal. Doc huddled under the rapidly melting table and cursed. If he hadn’t
gotten their attention he might have gotten away without being hurt. Now he’d be
lucky to escape.

Just then Doc heard a noise that made his heart fall: the magnetic screws
sealing the blaster armor’s seams. The suit had recognized a pilot inside giving
it the startup commands. One of the clockwork must have gotten into the suit and
taken it over.

The table against his back gave a shudder as something heavy slammed into it.
One of the clockwork monsters was perched on the edge, pointing its metal claws
at him. Doc pointed his gun at the creation and tried to fire. The little robot
had been expecting something like that, and easily wrenched the blaster from his
hands. It crushed the gun into a small ball before dropping it to the floor.
Electricity danced between its gears as it prepared to spring. In the background
Doc idly noticed the sound of the beam emitters on the blaster armor charging.
These clockwork wanted to be sure they killed him.

He heard the beam emitters begin their firing sequence. The workroom hummed as
the charged particles shot through the air. On the table above him, Doc watched
as the clockwork horror exploded into fragments before it could spring down on
him.

“What?”

Doc, stay down!

“Alex?”

I’m a little busy, Doc!

Doc listened to several more energy blasts tear through the workroom. The
clockwork automatons seemed to have lost all interest in Doc and were trying to
concentrate their fire on the blaster armor and its young pilot.

Doc peered around the edge of the table. The remaining clockwork horrors were
losing their fight. Alex had managed to get into the suit, but the legs were
still trapped in the wreckage of the cradle. Energy bolts had left scoring and
burn marks across one shoulder and part of the breastplate. Even pinned down the
youth was driving the clockwork from the lab. He sprayed the clockwork machines
with energy bolts. Several were already destroyed, and one was struggling to
claw its way towards the wrecked cradle and the armor suit. The lower half of
its body was missing and its key was badly deformed. It gave a last shudder and
went still.

One of the flying clockwork tore its way into the ventilation system and
disappeared. The last remaining horror huddled behind a tool chest, waiting
while Alex hammered the metal case with energy blasts.

“Alex! Knock it off. The beam emitters need time to recharge. If you deplete
their energy reserves it will take a minute to recharge!”

What? … Oh, God. You’re right. The emitters just shut down. I’m getting a
safety override screen. How do I override the safeties?

The remaining clockwork ran from behind the tool chest and charged the youth.
Doc watched in horror as Alex tried to kick free of the support cradle without
success. The clockwork bounded forward, aiming its little body straight at
Alex’s head. Alex was scrabbling at the counter top next to the cradle, trying
to get a grip on something with his right hand. Doc couldn’t see what. Turned
almost clear around he couldn’t even see the machine that was diving towards
him.

There was a loud rush of flame from the counter and Alex swung his arm back
through the path of the clockwork. Clutched in his metal fist the beam saber had
ignited. The clockwork barely had time to warble in surprise before the beam of
super-hot plasma cut it cleanly in half. The remains of the clockwork bounced
off the front of the armor and lay still, broken on the floor.

See. I told you this thing needed a backup weapon.

———————————

So does your insurance cover super-villain attacks?

“Nope. It just covers villain attacks. I’m just glad the Clockwork King is a
villain and not a super-villain.”

Look, Doc. I’m sorry about jumping into the armor. I just saw it open and
figured it could be useful.

“Its okay, Alex. You saved my life, even if you did shoot up my workroom.”

Hey! That’s not all my fault.

“You’re right. Now just hold still while I finish cutting you out of this mess.”

Man, its going to take forever to repair this suit. I’m sorry, Doc. I know
you wanted to give this to a hero in perfect condition.

“Don’t worry, Alex. I think this suit’s found its hero.”