Real Time

"Oh, you turned into a . . . dog."  Laura stifled a laugh.  "In fact, you actually kind of look like Phil's dog."

From the end of the bed the big, black dog perked up his ears, and looked at the four people behind him.  It was only a cursory glance really, they didn't appear to be offering him food so whatever was going on couldn't be that interesting.

Jenna frowned.  "I think this game is going to crash.  Look at my screen."

The other three players turned their attention to her DS screens.  In the top screen a large black dog, with a strking resmeblence to a certain hound not too far away, was baring its teeth.  In the bottom screen however, the game seemed to be scrolling through her character's vital stats.  The data was whirling across the screen at quite a high speed, but it was possible to pick out words and phrases.

"Hey!"  Jenna jabbed her stylus at the screen.  "Did you guys see that?"

Exchanging a quick look, the way that only couple's do, Laura a Phillip leaned in a little closer to their friend.

"Sorry Jen, I must have forgotten to put my bionic eye in this morning."  Phillip smirked.  "How am I supposed to know what the hell you just pointed at?"

Yeah, because sarcasm is sooo attractive.  Rather you than me Laura.

Ignoring the typical Phillip comment, Jenna continued to watch the screen as words and numbers flashed past.  To most people it would probably have looked like unrelated information, but to her it was instantly recognisable.

"I don't believe this." she said.

"So it's scanning your character, so what?"  Laura was genuinley puzzled.  "It's probably configuring it now that you've morphed.  This is only a beta version you know, all of this would go on behind the scenes in the published game." 

Jenna sighed.  "I know what a beta game is, I'm not stupid.  But this isn't scanning the character I just created.  It's running through a list of characters that I have set up on a bunch of other games, for all I know it might be going through every chanarcter, in every game I ever played"

Leaning across, Phillip snatched the DS from out of Jenna's hands.  "Let me see that."  He scowled at the screen, but slowly the furrows in his brow began to lift.  "Holy crap, you're right.  I recognise some of this stuff from playing you online.  Vampire the Masquerade, Neverwinter, Dungeons and Dragons: there is stuff from all of them here."

Silence fell across the group. 

Laura and Phillip continued to stare at the dual-screens in amazement.

"This is crazy." said Laura.  "How can it be accessing information from other games?  Especially games that you played on other formats."

Suddenly, Jenna grabbed hold of the small console and began frantically pressing buttons.

"It won't exit the game!" she cried.  "Even the power button isn't working."

Jenna began to panick.  If a game that was only is beta stages could log onto a wireless network of its own volition, and then start accessing her other online accounts through her log-in, then that meant one of two things.

Virus, or hackers.

Either way, she was not going to have thousands of hours of gameplay stolen or copied.

In fustration she threw the sleek, black console onto the bed. "God damn it guys, I'm being violated here."

Laughing, Ryan picked up the DS and tapped his own stylus against the screen options a few times.  Nothing responded.  He tried the power button, but it had no effect either.

"Mmm, maybe . . ." mused Ryan.

He held down the power button and waited, intensely aware of Jenna's face right next to his own as she watched.  Eventually, after thirty seconds or so, both screens finally went dark.

"Oh!"  Jenna exclaimed.  She threw her arms around Ryan and planted a huge kiss on his lips.  "Thank you so much!"

"Don't be too thankful, I was about to start stamping on it if that didn't work." said Ryan, a slight blush of colour now in his cheeks.

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Jenna sat back.  "No way am I playing anymore of this game tonight."

Laura pulled a face.  "Oh come on Jen.  It was just a glitch or something.  I keep telling you to stop using the same log-ons for every game you play, it probably just got confused as soon as it conneted to the internet and found hundreds of characters with the same passwords and codes."

It is possible I guess . . . but still pretty unnerving.  No, I have to know that everything is OK before I even contemplate playing again.

Shuffling forward and off the bed, Jenna grabbed her trainers from off the floor and began to lace them up.

"Sorry guys, I swear I will only be fiftenn minutes at the most."  She finished with her footwear and stood up.  "I have to go home, and check that my whole network isn't riddled with viruses or something."

The three friends looked at each other, and then at Jenna.

"Are you sure?" asked Laura.

"I can walk with you if you want?" interjected Ryan.

Jenna smiled.  "It's fine, honestly.  I probably am just being paraniod, but I need to check or it is going to bug me all night.  Carry on playing, I won't be long."


It was dark outside, and the wind seemed to have picked up too.

Jenna zipped up her hooded jacket, and stuffed her hands into the pockets.

I can't believe that game had access to all of my networks.  That has to be illegal.  And Andrew gave Laura that damn game!  What was he thinking?

A sharp pang of guilt stabbed at her, immediately after this thought. 

Why did everything have to constantly remind her of her dead friend?  Her dead potential boyfriend . . .

And why does Ryan have to be so hot?  It really confuses the issue.

Climbing carefully over the small gate at the bottom of the yard, so as not to make any noise, Jenna turned to cross the road.  There was an alleyway opposite, that cut through to her own street, and would take a chunk out of her journey.  She had no desire to be outside any longer than necessary, as the wind was starting to cut through the flimsy protection of her jacket, and chill the skin on her arms and neck.  Glancing once at the length of street, illuminated by bright orange lamps, she checked for traffic and jogged across the road.

A stray cat ran out in front of her, just as she reached the shadowy entrance to the alleyway.

Startled, she stumbled a few steps backwards and then regained her balance.  "Jesus Christ cat, what are you doing sneaking around out here?"

The animal regarded Jenna with typical feline disdain, and then flicked its tail once for good measure, and resumed its own journey into the night.

And a good night to you too.

The narrow space and high fences in the alley, had turned it into something of a wind tunnel.  As Jenna made her way along, head bowed low against the cold, the wind moaned and echoed around her.  The fencing panels creaked and strained to stay upright, and somewhere close by a door or gate banged shut over and over.

All of these noises, coupled with her own determined focus to get home as quickly as she could, meant that Jenna did not hear the footsteps behind her.  She did not hear the heavy soles of the leather boots that followed her into the alleyway.  She did not hear the sound of metal sliding from a scabbard, as a weapon was drawn.  And she did not hear the strangled sound, that left the lips of the thing that crawled along the top of the same fence that she was passing.  Did not hear it fall to the ground with a wet thud. 

All that she heard, was the wind.

The End

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