Grand Theft Hovercar: Jeffrey Thomas

He loved the freedom most of all, a sense of liberation he couldn’t equate with anything in his life prior to the game. The game had an elaborate plotline that was admirably constructed, giving one the feel of an interactive movie or novel, introducing an array of fascinating comrades and enemies, sending the player on a seemingly endless string of exciting and challenging mini missions. And yet, in navigating around the virtual facsimile of the city of Punktown—in any variety of vehicles or on foot—Giff had discovered that he actually preferred random and directionless exploration to the confines of the plot, however sprawling that storyline was. He had strayed from his latest mini-mission several weeks ago, and hadn’t returned to the storyline’s path since. He wondered now if he ever would.

Giff had been introduced to the game Grand Theft Hovercar by Donny, a much younger coworker in the same department at Fukuda Bioforms. The two men, both of them born here on the planet Oasis as the descendants of colonists from Earth, worked in the “love organs” division, managing and shipping out inventory. Love organs were bioengineered pets that functioned as living sex toys, all but mindless and hence always willing to accommodate their owners. There were numerous varieties: some like a phallus, others with openings like a vagina or anus, others with a phallus on one end and orifice on the other, and in every skin tone from Kalian gray to Sinanese blue. Love organs could go a long time without being injected with sustenance, but not indefinitely, so Giff and Donny and the other worker in their area, Beau, had to be sure the inventory shipped out promptly. No customer wanted to open a cheerily colorful plastic box to find a rotting love organ inside.

When he had first started at Fukuda Bioforms Giff had thought the work might be fun, because of the whimsical products he dealt with, but like all the jobs he had worked at over nearly four decades it had proved tedious, dispiriting, and financially inadequate.

The day Donny first told him about Grand Theft Hovercar, they had been busy in the early morning preparing several pallets for the robot lift to bring down to the shipping dock. The men had stacked the boxes—filled with patiently inert love organs—on the pallets themselves, rather than have the robot palletize them, more out of boredom than anything else. But later there was a long lull in filling new orders and investigating late orders, all the inventory reconciled for the time being, and so they had stood around talking while Beau slipped away early to the company gym.

“I’ve played a few games set in a VR Punktown before,” Giff told the enthusiastic young man, who had just related how caught up he was in this new game. “VR Miniosis and some Earth cities, too. Of course, that’s over ten years ago.”

“Oh come on, ten years ago… you should see this game! Like, you can pick up a candy wrapper off the ground… smooth it out and read the small print. You can feel the wrinkles in the plastic. You can smell the chocolate that was inside.”

“So,” Giff lowered his voice, smiling, lest any female coworkers nearby should overhear them, “the prosties… pretty real, huh?”

“Realer than real! But not just AI prosties; you can have sex with the avatars of other players, and man…” Donny trailed off, grinning, his eyes gleaming feverishly. “But I’ll get to that, I’ll get to that. I want to tell you about the world, how huge it is. Bigger than any VR Punktown before. I mean, not only does it have every single location in Punktown right down to the most obscure utility chute in Subtown… the game lets players map their own apartments and add them to the game, so anyone can go inside. If the person doesn’t want to let you into their apartment, though, maybe you can find a way to break inside. I added my apartment, but I don’t live there; I hacked my way into a beautiful apartment in Beaumonde Square, when the owner was out, and I changed the code on his door so he can’t get back inside.” Donny laughed wildly. “And there are thousands and thousands of players in Punktown, so the places you can go… it’s like infinite in possibilities.”

Giff was very intrigued by that line. Infinite in possibilities. A sense of infinite possibilities would be a refreshing thing to experience, wouldn’t it? An intoxicating thing.

That night, in his own little cell-like apartment where he lived alone except for a love organ he had smuggled home from work a few months back, he pasted ultranet interface disks to his temples, connected with the site that produced Grand Theft Hovercar, and paid for a connection to the game.