Chapter 4: The Glamorous Life Of A Mod

Dawn's first light streamed through the guardtower window directly into Alorael's closed eyes. He awoke with a start, nearly falling off his chair. Groggily, he reached for his bottle of skribbane. Empty.

He yawned, stretched, slung his sniper rifle across his back, and stumbled towards the Moderator Board in a half-asleep daze. If he had been more alert, he would have noticed that almost everyone seemed unusually tense due to last night's events.

"Good morning, Alorael!" Student of Trinity stood next to the Moderator Board door. Beside him, Nalyd sat hunched over and in shackles. Alorael muttered something indistinct and let himself inside. Drakefyre, Stareye, and most of the mods sat at a table. Everything of a sensitive nature had been curtained off.

Alorael paused to take the scene in. "What'd I miss?"

"Take a seat. You'll find out in a moment," Stareye said.

Alorael grabbed an unopened bottle of skribbane and sat down at the table with a groan. "That means it will take all day. I heard a rumor about a parade happening nearby and I wanted to be there if it was true."

Stareye ignored him. "Who are we still missing?"

"I know Slartucker and Arancaytar are talking to the GIFTR. I'll go get them." Schrodinger exited.

Ephesos entered, with Nioca trailing nervously behind him.

"What's this all about? I'm not in trouble, am I?" Nioca asked.

"No. I just want opinions from spellcasters in our discussion about Zephyr," Stareye said, "Where's Zeviz? Ephesos, you told him about the meeting when you revived him, right?"

Ephesos shook his head. "I didn't revive him. I was out of mana, plus Dikiyoba only had one Balm of Life left in stock. I asked Randomizer to do it."

Randomizer looked slightly alarmed. "But I didn't do it either. I told you that Zorro would be nearly impossible to drag away from his game and that I wasn't really up to... well, I wasn't up to summoning anything at the moment."

"What do you mean, 'not up to'? I had just revived Jewels, Actaeon, Niemand, and Tyranicus."

"If you had been there, you--"

"Are you telling us that Zeviz is still dead?" Drakefyre asked.

"Um..."

"Then you had better go take care of that right now."

"Of course."

"We're going!"

Ephesos and Randomizer hastened to the door.

"Drakefyre sure is in a bad mood at the moment," Tyranicus said quietly.

"Everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed once in a while, especially if they are woken up by a demon." Saunders patted his head in a motherly fashion.

Schrodinger, Arancaytar, and Slartucker entered.

"We tried, but the GIFTR are determined to leave. They aren't leaving right now because they don't like being out during the day, but they say they're leaving as soon as the sun goes down," Slartucker said.

"Which means we'll need to find something else to live in the Avernum 4 Forum to keep the GIFTS out." Arancaytar shuddered.

"Or worse, chitrachs," Slartucker added.

They took their places at the table. Nioca looked around. "Wait a minute. Doesn't Goldenking know some spells? Why isn't he... never mind," Nioca saw the looks everyone was giving him and gave up.

A few moments later, Ephesos and Randomizer returned. Zeviz limped behind them. He sank into a chair. "Just so you know, Zephyr is raving about getting revenge. The fact that I was forced to forcecage him repeatedly didn't help any."

Randomizer looked guilty. "Sorry for leaving you dead for so long, but there was a slight misunderstanding." He added in a whisper, "It was Ephesos' fault."

"It was not! You refused to summon--"

"Enough of that," Stareye said.

"Would it be feasible to repair and reconfigure Dintiradan's old summoning machine so that it could only summon elements and then give it the capability to automatically combine them with Galactic Core? That way, in an emergency, anyone could revive others," Schrodinger asked.

"Good idea!" Randomizer said.

"It would certainly be more convenient for everyone involved," Imban said.

"And I know we could do it," Arancaytar said enthusiastically.

Alorael smiled. "I'm envisioning an endless supply of pedestrians. Well, the same pedestrian repeatedly, anyway."

"Okay, that brings up a good point. What could go wrong or be unethical in creating this machine and letting everyone have access to it?" Slartucker asked.

"Spoilsport," Alorael muttered.

"What would happen if someone accidentally tried to revive someone who was already alive?" Kelandon asked.

"I don't think that's ever occurred before. I have no idea," Zeviz said.

"The summoning machine would have a verification process in case someone accidentally selected the wrong member, of course," Arancaytar said.

"But what if someone intentionally wanted to revive a live person, or if someone had already been revived but the person using the machine didn't know it?" Synergy asked.

"Well, we could probably create a fail-safe that would check to see if a person was actually dead or not," Arancaytar said.

"But what if the fail-safe fails? Or someone disables it?"

"What are the odds of that happening?"

"I don't know, but it's possible."

"It's also possible that we could lose all other methods of resurrecting people. I'm currently out of Balms of Life. Zephyr can't be trusted and Randomizer refuses to summon anything, so if anything were to happen to Zeviz or Zorro, we couldn't revive anyone at all," Ephesos said.

"Actually, I know the spell graze dead but, well, it's not pretty," Slartucker said.

"Perhaps if we kept the summoning machine in the Moderator Board?" Schrodinger suggested.

"Honestly, what's wrong with making it with a few safety features and then putting it in the Tech Support Forum?" Arancaytar said.

"What if someone revived someone we wanted to keep dead? Like Zephyr, for instance?" Synergy asked.

"You have a point. One point," Arancaytar said.

"Why don't we design it and keep it in the Moderator Board for a while. Then, if it works well, we can move it to the Tech Support Forum," Schrodinger said.

"But what would happen when we revive someone? Wouldn't they end up in the Moderator Board?" Imban said.

"So, we'll set it up in the Tech Support Forum but only grant mods the ability to use it," Arancaytar said.

"Sounds good to me," Drakefyre said.

Stareye nodded in agreement. "Now, Randomizer, Zeviz, if you would tell us what happened last night."

By the time Zeviz and Randomizer finished their account and answered questions, Delicious Vlish was looking noticeably limp. "It's lunch time. We vlishes need our nutritional midday meal or we get cranky. And when we get cranky, we try to eat people's brains. Mmmm, brains."

Tyranicus was sitting next to Delicious Vlish. He scooted his chair away nervously.

"All right. We'll break for lunch. Meet back here in half an hour," Drakefyre said.

After lunch, Nalyd was questioned for a few hours. Finally, Stareye said, "You were not the instigator of this, so I won't ban you, but consider this your final warning. If you cause any more trouble, Drakefyre or I will ban you. Understand?"

Nalyd opened his mouth to complain, but Drakefyre cut him off. "He was being lenient, so don't start whining."

Nalyd just scowled. Drakefyre tossed Student of Trinity a key. "Here. Unshackle him and get him out of here."

As Student of Trinity dragged Nalyd off, Nioca laid his head against the table and closed his eyes. "I never knew being a mod was so boring."

"Now, now, it can't all be as exciting as the KKK," Saunders said.

"The what?!" Nioca sat up in shock.

Saunders held up the torn blanket she was mending. "The Krazy Kwilting Korner, of course."

"Oh. Okay. For I moment, I thought you meant... never mind." Nioca's head went back on the table.

"Next, I'd like to get everyone's opinion on what we should do to prevent a situation like Zephyr's out-of-control summoning from happening again. Do we need tighter controls on magic or not?" Stareye asked.

"Can't we just ban Zephyr for a month and be done with it? Ugh," Nioca said.

"No, because after the ban is over, he'll continue doing exactly what he's been doing," Zeviz said.

"Ban him forever then," Nioca muttered.

Ephesos sighed. "Maybe Nioca is right. We're doing a pretty good job preventing people we can't trust with magic from learning it in the first place--"

"--at the cost of people who can be trusted with magic but aren't allowed to--" Synergy muttered.

"--and aside from Zephyr, everyone who does know magic is responsible with it," Ephesos finished.

"I'm not yet willing to ban Zephyr permanently," Stareye said.

"Wait. Ephesos, Kel, could we strip his magic away through a script?" Arancaytar asked.

"We... we might be able to," Ephesos said, "I'd have to ask Lazarus and some other about it, but we probably--"

"I've done it before," Kelandon said, "Remember?"

"Oh. Oh yeah. But that was a scenario. I don't know if we could do it here on the board. That's what I meant. I know we can do it in a scenario."

"Doing something like that could prove to be more dangerous than any magical experiment," Slartucker said, "If Zephyr can have his magical powers stripped, then anyone could have their powers stripped--or else jacked up to unreasonable amounts."

"Yeah, but it takes a long time to learn. The average noob doesn't have the intelligence or patience," Arancaytar said, "They can't even spell properly."

"Becoming a mage or priest takes a long time to learn too," Zeviz said.

"But learning one or two powerful spells doesn't take much effort. Look at Goldenking," Arancaytar said.

"It doesn't take much effort for someone to learn enough to give them one or two powerful abilities either," Zeviz retorted.

"Like what?"

"Like creating a powerful weapon for themselves like a... a..."

"Sword of +500 fluffiness. I've always wanted one."

"Yes, thank you Saunders."

"Five hundred fluffiness? That's absurd!" Tyranicus said.

Saunders shrugged. "What can I say?"

"My point here is that scripting can be abused as easily as magic," Zeviz said.

"But it's not. We've really had to provide information and push for scenarios to be released," Kelandon said.

"Maybe it's because they aren't interested in scenarios. All those requests for trainers and questions about making trainers in the Geneforge 4 Forum makes my vlishy head hurt."

"What's the matter, Zeviz? I thought you wanted to prevent people like Zephyr from abusing magic," said Arancaytar.

"I do. But I don't want to trade one broken system for another."

"It's not really broken," Ephesos said, "It's just Zephyr. If we could quietly deal with him, everything would calm down again."

"But once word of that gets out, a lot more people will take an interest in scripting," Zeviz said, "No matter how quietly you do it, sooner or later people will figure it out."

"Guys, if this discussion goes on much longer, UBB will try to eat it," Nioca muttered.

Ephesos leaned over and pulled him upright. "Maybe you could try helping out. You are a spellcaster and scripter, after all."

"Oh, well, why don't we just do what you suggested and then make it impossible for people to learn scripting?"

"Are you nuts? You want to make it more difficult for people to make scenarios?"

Nioca put his head on the table and closed his eyes again. "You can't ask for my opinion and then attack me for it."

"Er... right. Sorry. Sort of," Ephesos said.

"Would it be possible to keep the more dangerous forms of scripting--like editors--out of people's hands without making it more difficult to create scenarios?" Schrodinger asked.

There were several minutes of silence before Ephesos ventured, "I don't know."

Drakefyre yawned. "Really makes me wish for the days of BoE."

"No. We are not getting into that again," Ephesos said.

"Indeed. Fluffy kittens are all too rare today," Saunders said.

"So do we have any consensus here?" Stareye asked.

Two or three people started to speak but Stareye quickly cut them off. "I'll take that as a no."

"So now what?" Tyranicus asked.

"I'll talk to Lazarus and Niemand about the magic-stripping idea to see what they think of it. Maybe I'll even ask TM," Ephesos said.

"Hasn't Nikki done something like that in one of his scenarios?" Nioca asked.

"Yeah, but Nikki is about as stable as..." Ephesos paused, unable to come up with a proper analogy.

"...as Homeland on Vista!" Arancaytar said.

"How would you know?" Tyranicus asked.

"It's a logical conclusion."

"I'll make a poll asking the general populace some questions about magic and scripting. Perhaps we'll get some enlightening responses from it," Slartucker said.

"Zephyr will get a three week ban, so we have plenty of time to think about it," Drakefyre said, "Zeviz, if you'll summon some promethium, I'll handle reviving and banning him. The rest of you are clear to go."

Alorael looked at his watch and shook his head. "I told you it would take all day."

"Finally!" Nioca jumped up and sprinted for the door.