Convention Convection

East Exhibition Hall A, Vancouver Convention Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
May 14th, 2016
10:44 AM PDT

“The booths are set up.” Feeney said into the mic of his headset, holding a clipboard. Thanks to the natural 'weirdness censor' guise of Powers, nobody would think twice about a walking scarecrow in the Vancouver Convention Centre. At worst, someone might wonder why there seemed to be straw and cotton left behind wherever Feeney went.

Equally protected was Alex, who had been randomly boosting games throughout the Exhibition Hall with minor Miracles. “I'm done with the buffing. All the right games have been given a helping hand. My master plan is ready.” he said into his bluetooth earpiece.

"Then Operation C.O.N.V.E.N.T.I.O.N. is go!" Gadgeteer said, looking over the Exhibition Hall from the steel rafters. "…what? You don't think I wouldn't have discovered that cartoon by now?" he said over the connection with his BOGGLES.

“What does that even stand for?” Alex asked.

“Convention On New Virtual Entertainment Technology Illusions Occupies Nobilis…” Gadgeteer told him.

“We'll stick with CVR, kid.” Alex responded.

East Exhibition Hall A, Vancouver Convention Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
May 14th, 2016
10:47 AM PDT

Alex Chaser leaned against a small part of the outer wall of the convention hall, looking around. It was then he noticed a visitor dressed suspiciously similar to Gadgeteer, despite the person being a mortal human in his mid-20s.

“Hey, Gadgeteer? Take a look at something for me, will you?” Alex asked over the comms. “Who is the guy by booth 21 that stole your wardrobe?”

With that odd comment, Gadgeteer zipped through the rafters using his BAKPAK and spotted the person in question. The BOGGLES identified the person as Oliver Trent Zehn, Age 25 and as a Registered CVR Attendee to boot. “Oliver Trent Zehn?! Oliver Zehn was the name the Adults gave me, before I was- but the middle name doesn't match!"

"What was your middle name?" Alex asked.

"Forget it. Who the crud is his guy?!” Gadgeteer hissed into the comms. A quick internet search revealed a blank Facebook page, an equally blank Twitter account and an almost non-existent digital footprint. He tried using the Sight, but there was nothing particularly Playful about Mr. Zehn to be revealed. “Feeney, check this guy for Disruption. I bet he's part of some scheme against us!”

Feeney strolled towards the area and took a look at the pseudo-Doppelganger. The Sight revealed no connection to Disruption either, so obviously the man was not a threat. “Nothing. Unless he's a decoy, there's no malevolent plot going on.”

“That's it, I'm finding out who this guy is.” Alex said. “You guys stay on the lookout, I'm going in.” he told them, and approached the mystery person. “Hey, Samuel!” he said in Mr. Zehn's direction. Mr. Zehn remained unfazed until Alex extended a hand to offer a handshake. “Sam Eckheart! Long time, no see! I haven't seen you since university!”

“I- My name's Oliver. Oliver Zehn. You've got the wrong person.” Mr. Zehn responded.

Alex faked surprise. “Oh, sorry. I swear, you're the spitting image of an old colleague.” he said, trying to look embarassed. “I'm Alex Chase. I'm part of the event staff. Are you enjoying the presentations, Mr. Zehn?”

“I guess. This is the first booth I've looked at and I'm still in line.” Mr. Zehn pointed out.

Alex scratched his chin. “Ah, that would be a hamper to talking about the exhibits then. Are you a game developer or VR researcher, Mr. Zehn? Or just an interested consumer?”

“The latter, to tell the truth. I'm hoping VR can change the world someday, but to do that it needs to prove itself.” Mr. Zehn said, finally relaxing. “Have you ever wondered if a VR scenario from the point of view of a victim of a crime could be better rehabilitation for criminals than prison?”

Alex pondered that thought for a moment. As the Power of Video Games, he was still in charge of Virtual Reality until further notice. The idea was sound, but not without caveats. It wouldn't work on psychopaths and would require that the post-rehabilitation social environment be welcoming and able to integrate ex-convicts. “That's actually not a half-bad idea. Let me guess, you're a social engineering scientist with a passive interest in the tech?”

“Actually I'm a writer.” Mr. Zehn explained. “Although I haven't published anything yet, ironically enough.”
Bingo. “Do you have any ongoing projects?” Alex asked him, but wasn't really listening for a response. He looked into Mr. Zehn's soul using the Sight and was astounded. At 25 this young man had 15 years of writing experience under his belt. He may not have been a published author, but there were child prodigies in the field who had started later than that.

Alex had just decided to give Mr. Zehn a blessing of the Estate of Writing, when suddenly a blast went off from a nearby trash can. There was confusion and panic as smoke filled the air. The words “Allah condemns your virtual sins!” were shouted and another blast went off nearby.

Alex looked around, and immediately jumped to his feet. Despite this, he was injured. He'd discovered quite recently that when something bad happened to the video games industry, it hurt him personally, usually in the form of a 'coincidential' gaping wound or broken bone. Someone had just ruined their convention and thrust a chunk of plastic shrapnel into his left shoulder, and they were going to pay. “Gadgeteer, get down here and start protecting any kids you see! Feeney, find out who just disrupted our convention and start disrupting the actions of the bombers! I'm about to go rip these assholes a second one!” Alex said, laying down amongst the injured patrons and waiting for information from Feeney.

“Who… are… you?” a voice said weakly from nearby. Alex turned to see Mr. Zehn laying on the floor, gravely wounded. He was losing blood fast and a metal rod was shoved straight through his torso.

“What do you mean?” Alex said, trying to act natural but also as if he was in shock.

“I know of an Alex Chase. He was a character created by a friend for an online roleplay. Gadgeteer was my character in a tabletop RPG.” Mr. Zehn told him. “I need to know. Please, before I die… Who are you?”

Alex contemplated telling him, when Gadgeteer landed beside Alex and looked at Mr. Zehn with horror. “There were no kids here.” Gadgeteer said, then switched subjects to what was at hand. “I heard what he said. He created me?“

“It looks like it.” Alex said. “What's disturbing me is that I might be a fictional character. Should we tell him?”

“I'll do it. Feeney's been trying to get ahold of you but the comms are being interfered with since shortly after the bombs went off.” Gadgeteer told him. Alex nodded and ran off to find Feeney. “So then you…” Gadgeteer trailed off.

“Yeah.” Mr. Zehn said weakly. “I'm sorry.”

“For what?” Gadgeteer asked.

“For anything. There's got to be something that you wish I hadn't put into your world.” Mr. Zehn said, blood dripping from his mouth.

“Are you kidding? You know which world I hate? This one. Being ennobled was the worst thing that ever happened to me! If I could go back and continue living my old life, with Hazmat and Haystack and even my so-called family, I'd do it.”

“Ennobled? As in, Nobilis?” Mr. Zehn asked. “As in, A Field Guide to Powers?”

“You know about that?!” Gadgeteer said shocked.

“It's a tabletop RPG manual, or at least I thought it was. There was a few weird sites I found out about that were mentioned in it, like the Australian Nobilizer's Club. I just thought it was a running joke or roleplaying. Holy shit, if that book was about something real… that explains so much about the world.” Mr. Zehn said, and then coughed up some blood. “Ugh… I think I'm almost done for. I just wish I could have finished my writing.”

“Do you have your files saved somewhere?” Gadgeteer asked him.

Mr. Zehn reached into his pocket and pulled out a thumb drive. “This contains my novel. It also has an offline backup of all the information I have on Kidpunk. It won't be enough though… So much is just in my head.”

“Well, there is one way.” Gadgeteer said, thinking back to some of the magic he'd read about on the more fantastic parts of the internet. It was called the Gift of the Heart, and it usually required a bunch of complex ingredients. Fortunately, if a Noble were to do it, the process became much simpler. He just needed a flower. Looking around, a nearby concession stand had been abandoned in the chaos. A packet of sunflower seeds sat on a table, covered in a fine layer of dust. He grabbed the package, tore it open with his teeth, and poured a single seed into his hand. With a small infusion of his Noble power, the sun-dried and baked seed returned to life. “Swallow this.” Gadgeteer said, handing the seed to Mr. Zehn, who followed the direction. A glow began to come from Mr. Zehn's heart. “Sorry, but this is going to hurt.” Gadgeteer said, trying to keep him calm.

“Believe me, I'm already in a ton of- *cough* -pain…” Mr. Zehn responded. He still yelped a bit however when a sunflower sprouted from his heart through his skin, bearing a single glowing seed. “What is…” he said, unable to finish the sentence from the fatigue.

“The seed of knowledge.” Gadgeteer explained. “It's the only way to transfer the artistic potential of a mortal human to another vessel. Are you sure you're going to die? Because once I eat this seed you'll die. It's basically making your soul a part of me.”

“I'd never get into Heaven anyway, and I'm sure as hell not going to… Hell. I'm ready.” Mr. Zehn said. Gadgeteer reluctantly plucked the seed off of its flower, and Mr. Zehn instantly expired. He quickly tossed the seed of knowledge into his mouth and swallowed it. Information came rushing in, and soon he knew everything about Mr. Zehn's writing that he had kept in his mind over his life.

Canada Place
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
May 14th, 2016
11:08 AM PDT

Gadgeteer, Alex and Feeney stepped into an 'evacuee bus' belonging to SeaLink Transit. Alex cringed at the pain in his shoulder as he sat down. He'd torn out the chunk of metal himself, and the wound had been wrapped up by a paramedic shortly after when they'd told him how bad an idea that was. After that, Alex was going to be transported to a hospital, but Feeney and Gadgeteer were able to get the medical professionals away long enough for Alex to leave inconspicuously. The bus pulled forward, and the three of them sat in silence at their failed venture.

Alex was the first to break the silence. “I can't remember much before I founded Draconic Studios. I don't think my creation was Rau's doing, either. I looked into Mr. Zehn's friend. He's been missing since shortly before I can remember back to, and there are still messages coming in on his Discord account, but only at times when I'm asleep. Something weird is going on.”

“That man… He was like a second father I never knew. I mean, he genuinely cared about the world he'd made, and how that world affected me. He wanted his writing to live on without him.” Gadgeteer said. “We have to finish his writing, Alex. His soul and creativity now lie with me, but I'm not much of a writer. Take this.” he told Alex, handing the Power of Video Games and Writing the thumb drive Mr. Zehn gave Gadgeteer.

“The attacks were typical Noble politics. Zealotry wanted to sabotage the convention.” Feeney told them. “Everything that happened… It was Disruption, my Estate, yet I was on the receiving end. I'm not so sure I can side with the Dark for the sake of my Estate when the Dark can so easily turn against it…”

“Typical Noble politics? No, I saw Lord Entropy waiting outside the convention centre. No on-the-job paramedic would wear a prominent picture of a beetle as part of his uniform. This was a setup. We need to be more careful, guys. I can't say I loved Mr. Zehn, I barely knew him, but love is going to be a trap we can't afford to fall for. We had no idea about the impending attacks, either, but our enemies are trying to close in on us. I don't know how, but we need to enter high gear.” said Gadgeteer.

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