True to Form, Part Six

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The sunshine girl flashed a sunny smile when she saw me as I stepped through the entrance. “Hello sir!”
“Don’t you ‘hello sir’ me!” I said, slipping into a chair across from her. “I want to know what is going on with my software.”
The smile melted into a puzzled frown. “The software, sir?”
“You know perfectly well what I am talking about,” I said. “The test software that I was given today.”
Her stenciled eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Oh yes, so you are one of the testers?” Before I could say another word, she lifted a phone from the desk and punched a few buttons. “Hello, Robert?” she said a moment later. “This is Andrea. There is someone wanting to report a bug in the beta…Oh really?” She glanced at me. “Yes, I am sure he would be willing to discuss the problem. Okay then, I will escort him over there.” She hung up the phone and stood up. “If you would follow me, sir?”
“Where are we going?” I asked, also rising.
“To Research.”
She opened a side door and motioned me inside a wide atrium that was filled with office workers scurrying everywhere. The entire place was decorated in a mix of Art Deco and Roman. Pillars of green marble populated the area as much as the workers, with ironwork skylights piercing the high ceiling. A giant set of stained-glass doors loomed at the other end of the room.
“Are we headed through there,” I asked, pointing towards the doors.
She barely glanced that way. “No. We are headed in another direction.”
The receptionist led me into an elevator, whisking us up to the fourth floor. “Here we are,” she said, smiling, as the doors opened. “Research.”
I stepped out, my eyes bulging out in surprise. The room and floor was painted sterile white. Wide-screen televisions hung all over the room, each one connected to a computer. People in regular clothing, I am assuming testers, sat in easy chairs, playing and occasionally jotting down things on a small notebook. Others were shirtless and had sensors attached to them as they played while white-coated workers carefully took note of the results printed on long strips of paper. A set of greyish-blue cubicles were at the other wall, next to a huge office window that offered a view of the skyline. Far off, I could see a wall covered with huge computer towers.
“Ah, yes, you must be the person wanting to report a bug?” said a tinny voice.
I turned to see a short, bespectacled man in a coat looking way too big for his frame. He had a heavy moustache badly in need of a trim. “Uhm, yes I am…” I turned to the elevator, but it already closed.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said, extending a hand. “I am Mister Mackay.”
“Uhm, hi.” I shook the hand, still looking around. “I must say, this place looks amazingly awesome.”
Mackay chuckled. “The owners spared no expense for our research,” he said with a slight twinge of pride. “When we want to provide the best in gaming, we give it in spades!” He cleared his throat. “But down to business. Andrea said there was a bug in your beta?”
I nodded, still distracted with the surroundings. “Yeah. Something fishy is going on. I mean, characters just don’t come to life, right?”
He grinned, or at least I think it was; the moustache hid most of it. “Actually, they are.”
“What?” My head whipped around to focus on the guy, eyes wide in shock.
He nodded as he motioned me to walk alongside him past the TVs and towards the cubicles. “Version seven of True to Form is supposed to allow the formation and development of characterization within our three-dimentional space. The workers?” He motioned to the testers behind us. “They are just lights and pixels wrapped in spatial dimensions. Not real at all.”
“Then why are they here?” I asked, amazed.
“We set up the software to fix itself,” he answered. “We simply set up the parameters, and had it do all the rest.”
I blinked, trying to let that sink in. “Okay…but what about that wolf character, Carlos? He-”
“Oh, him?” Mackay asked. “He is our mascot, of a fashion. Want to meet him?”
“Wait, wait, wait! What did you say?” But he was already tapping at a cubical entrance.
A huge anthro grey wolf rose up, towering over the walls of the cube. I silently gulped as he came out. He must have been an even seven feet tall, with the build to put any heavyweight bodybuilder to shame. He wore an orange tank-top and grey mesh shorts. “You wanted to see me?” he asked gruffly.
“Uhm…” I said intelligently.
Mackay grinned toothily. “Meet Carlos, rendered by the seventh version.”
“H-h-hello…”
The wolf grinned, grabbing and squeezing me tightly into a huge bear hug, leaving me gasping for air.
“This guy could be said to be made from the others currently running out there in public,” the researcher said, waving a hand towards the window. “He can tell you what is going on with your game and how to fix it.”
Carlos let go and playfully gave my cheek a lick, his tail wagging up a storm. “ID and Source Code, if you please.”
I rubbed off the wolf drool and handed over the CD case that was in my pants pocket.
“Hm,” Carlos hummed coolly. A pair of half-moon glasses appeared on his muzzle as he peered closer at the case. “I remember something about this,” he said, looking at Mackay. “Some glitch in the servers a while back, I think. I will have to check with Customer Service for this.” He gave the case back to me and then vanished.
My jaw dropped slightly. “What the…?”
“He does that all the time,” Mackay said, flashing another toothsome grin. He clearly was enjoying this. “He has to, you understand. He is the embodiment of all of the other Carloses that are being played right now. Including the one you have running right now.”
I nodded in mute amazement.
“As a matter of fact,” he said, putting his hands in his coat pockets, “you might be the one who could answer our problems.”
“Oh?”
He nodded. “He mentioned a glitch in the servers. That happened, oh, about a few days ago, actually. Something upset them, leading to a system-wide shut down that lasted a few hours before we could do anything about it.”
Carlos reappeared. “I’m sorry, sir, but nothing could be gathered from your ID and code.”
Mackay looked slightly confused as he turned towards the wolf. “Nothing at all noteworthy?”
The wolf shook his head. “No sir. All I could find is that he has two weeks free trial, done by Mister Philip Bishop, ID Number 0392. All other things are in good order.”
I frowned. “So everything that the game is doing is perfectly fine?”
The wolf nodded. “Yes sir.”
I wanted to ask about the scenes played out with the moose character, but I figured that since everything was alright, there was no need.
“Anything else I could interest you with?” Mackay asked.
I shook my head. “No. That is alright. I was only wondering about the game. I mean, I didn’t expect a giant moose on my bed, you know?”
The two nodded and Carlos smirked a bit. “You put down ‘moose’ as species, eh?” he said. “How did that happen?”
“I thought I was putting down my gaming character’s last name,” I said sheepishly.
Carlos chuckled and grabbed me into another huge hug, his tail wagging once again. “It happens. I know of several people who have made that same mistake. Don’t worry. I’ll keep tabs on your account, okay?”
“O-okay” I said, impulsively hugging back and ruffling the back fur. “Damn, you are amazing.” We released, and I turned to Mackay. “I mean, I didn’t know you could do this sort of thing.
The researcher grinned. “Our software is one of the most sophisticated and powerful of all that are around,” he said.
And with that, the duo escorted me to the elevator, where it opened to show a gangly, pimpled-skinned youth dressed in a plaid button-down and khakis. He came out of the compartment and said as I was getting in, “I need to talk with Carlos for a moment regarding that account he asked ‘bout.”
The shutting doors cut off the rest of the conversation.

Part Five || Part Six || Part Seven

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