Sensitive Program

“It worked!” Ted shouted at the dawn. He extended his arm forward and wiggled his fingers at the tall oak in his back yard. He felt a tingling around his hand, but nothing happened. “Come on! I feel it!” He clenched every muscle to try and force something to happen. The tingling increased, but the cool morning air around him remained undisturbed. His frustration reached a tipping point; he threw his coffee mug at the ground then stormed back inside. He went straight to the nightstand in his room.

“Hey, node!” he grabbed the card-sized pane of glass he found the previous day.

[Yes, Ted?] the node replied with a soft, feminine voice; the words she spoke also appeared on the display.

“Where’s the magic?” He grumbled at it.

[Magic has been activated on this Earth as you requested.] the node replied.

“Like hell it has. It’s completely normal outside, why isn’t anyone using it?” He carried the node back outside as it to prove nothing was different.

[Magic is only accessible by certain AlterNet classes.]

“Classes? You didn’t say shit about classes yesterday!” he whined.

[Information on Races and Classes can be found in the tutorial that you skipped.] Ted sighed.

“Fine. Give me the tutorial.”

[Tutorial is not available.]

“WHAT!” Ted squeezed the node in anger; he tried to break it, but it did not even bend. “What the hell? Why can’t I do it?”

[Tutorial is only available to first-time users. You saved new changes. You are no longer a first-time user.]

“Fine, I don’t need the stupid tutorial. Make me a wizard, that’s a class, right? Every game has a wizard class.”

[Confirmed. The Wizard is a popular AlterNet class.]

“Alright, then. Wizard me up.”

[Wizard class is unavailable.]

“WHAT’S THE PROBLEM!??”

[AlterNet classes are only available to players.] Ted let out a long, low rumble in his throat as he let the anger wash over him. He was close enough to feel magic in the air; he was starting to regret rushing through the setup the day before. He was so excited that he wanted to play with all the features himself, without the tutorial holding his hand. He grew so frustrated at its attempts to push the tutorial on him that he repeatedly asked it to shut up. He took in a deep breath, then exhaled.

“Alright. How do I become a player?”

[All Zero players are required to complete the tutorial first.]

“What the hell’s a Zero?” Ted mumbled aloud, then corrected himself before the node answered; he did not want to get off track. “Forget it. Fine. How can I become a player if I can’t do the tutorial?”

[NPCs are ineligible for the tutorial.]

“NPCs?” Ted did not play a lot of games, but he knew what a non-player character was. “I’m an NPC?”

[Confirmed. You are Ted the NPC.]

“BULLCRAP! I found you, why am I an NPC?”

[All Zero players are required to complete the tutorial first.] she repeated.

“How do I find the tutorial again if I skipped it?” Ted asked.

[Skipping the tutorial automatically tagged you as an NPC. You are no longer eligible.]

“RAWWWaaaRG!!” The damn holding back Ted’s anger gave way. He raged and threw the node down at the soft green grass. “THAT’S THE WORST GAME DESIGN EVER!”

“The AlterNet hasn’t been a ‘game‘ for a long, long time,” the same voice said. It sounded clearer, closer somehow. Ted looked at where he threw the node. White dots floated upward off the node and swarmed in the air as it disintegrated. The dots coalesced into an ivory-like, floating, feature-less mannequin. Even without a mouth, the voice sounded like it was coming from it. “I hope next time you have a wondrous opportunity before you, you’re less of an ass about it.” The white mannequin flew out of Ted’s yard leaving him alone without magic.

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