By Cory Doctorow
Public Domain Books
They smashed half a dozen more sniper outposts and fought their way through a couple packs of suspiciously bad-ass brigands before coming upon the cottage.
“Bloody hell,” Anda breathed. The cottage was ringed with guards, forty or fifty of them, with bows and spells and spears, in entrenched positions.
“This is nuts,” Lucy agreed. “I’m calling them. This is nuts.”
There was a muting click as Lucy rang off and Anda used up a scrying scroll to examine the inventories of the guards around the corner. The more she looked, the more scared she got. They were loaded down with spells, a couple of them were guarding BFGs and what looked like an even bigger BFG, maybe the fabled BFG10K, something that was removed from the game economy not long after gameday one, as too disruptive to the balance of power. Supposedly, one or two existed, but that was just a rumour. Wasn’t it?
“OK,” Lucy said. “OK, this is how this goes. We’ve got to do this. I just called in three squads of Fahrenheit veterans and their noob prentices for backup.” Anda summed that up in her head to a hundred player characters and maybe three hundred nonplayer characters: familiars, servants, demons...
“That’s a lot of shares to split the pay into,” Anda said.
“Oh ye of little tits,” Lucy said. “I’ve negotiated a bonus for us if we make it – a million gold and three missions’ worth of cash. The Fahrenheits are taking payment in gold – they’ll be here in an hour.”
This wasn’t a mission anymore, Anda realised. It was war. Gamewar. Hundreds of players converging on this shard, squaring off against the ranked mercenaries guarding the huge cottage over the hill.