Life As We Know It
A portal opened above Slain's head and Crain fell through it. She hit him in the head with her guitar as she landed, knocking him to the East side of the stage. He rose and they faced each other. Slain flipped Crain off and she stuck her tongue out at him. Then they began singing a duet about a current conflict in Ataraxia. Crain took the side of the mech-based Kirin and Slain sang in favor of the monstrous Faint. The entire field mixed with an extract from Ataraxia, changing proxy styles and altering movements and the color scheme.
A stream of red and blue proxies quickly moved respectively to the West and East of the field. A jagged dividing line formed between them. Large groups of opposing colors remained behind "enemy" lines, resulting in localized tussles.
Thomas left Megan, ran to the dividing line, and threw hundreds of donuts into the blue side.
A few people ate them, but most were wary of weird food thrown from random Crain-tainted players.
As the song picked up, skirmishes broke out along the line. Megan tried to dance as the ground quaked from the tension between the two singers. For a while it was like treading waves and she felt like she was on the verge of being swept away with the slightest misstep. But the more she danced, the more agile her character became.
She was just getting the hang of increasing her resonance by dancing with Crain's song when things took a turn.
Crain struck first. Dozens of car-sized robotic locusts descended from the sky onto Slain's side, harassing blue colored proxies and then exploding in a dazzling array of colors. In retaliation, Slain sent mutant, zombie dinosaurs rampaging through Crain's side. They stomped proxies and gnashed them in their teeth as they ran wild.
A puss-oozing, half-decayed stegosaurus slammed its tail into Megan, impaling her on one of its spikes and flinging her through the air. Her ruptured proxy split in two as it fell to the ground. It seriously smarted and was all a bit much for her. She left her concert proxy before it hit the ground and hovered nearby in her regular proxy.
Inhabiting a non-concert proxy in the concert layer meant that she couldn't participate with the concert and wouldn't automatically appear to concert goers on that layer. But she could still fly around and experience the various sensations of the concert.
She set her broken concert proxy to mimic her prior dancing while it regenerated and flew off to watch the crowd. Despite the carnage below, and Slain's multiplying attack monsters taken straight from Ataraxia, the predominant smell above the Crain's side was that of musty old books. Crain's followers were making inroads into Slain's territory as they moshed and thrashed. A small red group was fighting blue players near Slain's burial mound. Some of them were doing the robot to mock Slain's side.
Body parts flew in all directions on Crain's side as small and large claws fell into the red crowd from the crane above, extracting the energy achieved by dancers successfully following Crain's schematics to activate various parts and Gears of the giant robot.
Megan flew over Slain's side. It smelled like the ocean. And blood. Crain had sent a variety of mechanical creatures of disjointed shapes, again taken from Ataraxia, to Slain's side, and they were laying down over-the-top brutality on Slain's people.
Not that they needed help dismembering themselves. Slain's side featured the most horrifying synchronized dancing she had ever seen. There was biting, gashing, clawing, and furious self-mutilation. Some people repeatedly cut their own heads off and reattached them as part of some dance ritual. All in good fun, of course.
Demons, large and small, consumed Slain's dancers as they completed sacrificial rituals to turn their energy into proper sacrifices.
Megan traced Thomas and spotted him dancing atop a giant freaky serpent, evading its whipping tentacles while pulling off some oddly specific dance maneuvers. She flew over to him and waved. He threw her a donut while he weaved and dodged.
There was a commotion to the East. Crain had sent a ginormous cybernetic squid to wreck psionic havoc among Slain's followers. It crushed Slain's people with its giant tentacles, temporarily mixed up their proxy control schemes to impair their coordination, and blasted their senses with scenes of barren alien landscapes and obnoxious dancing mechanical crabs with high pitched voices. The crabs were the worst part.
Megan flew over to her concert body. She was feeling a little insecure being away from her physical body, so she checked one of her apartment's camera feeds and saw it lying peacefully on her bed. There were tons of sensors and alarms in place for the sake of safety, but it still felt good to check every once in a while. For a moment, she switched off her virtual tactile input so she could feel her physical. She kept her vision and hearing at the concert as she stretched out her physical body. Her left arm had fallen asleep, which wasn't actually dangerous, but she readjusted it anyway so she wouldn't have to deal with it later.
She returned her tactile senses to the game and jumped into her autonomously dancing concert proxy. She put new effort into it, turning her hair a brighter shade of red as her proxy resonated with Crain's energy. She was soon mauled to death by a group of satanic marmots, but kept her wits about her and kept dancing as her body knitted back together, pushed on by the crazed energy of the concert. The mood was getting almost apocalyptic due to the insane destruction being unleashed in all directions.
Thomas, still riding the snake, spoke to her over a private audio feed.
T chuckled knowingly.
Thomas was partly flattened by a tentacle, but still managed to complete his dance. A crane fell from the heavens, smashing him to pieces and extracting his energy. More importantly, the crane pierced through the giant serpent too, leaving it with a gaping hole which slowed it enough for other players to tear into and kill it.
Thomas, having helped to vanquish the mega-serpent, found Megan again. Teleportation of game proxies had been locked down once the C/S conflict had begun, but luckily he had attained some cybernetic leg enhancements from scoring high enough on the dance. As soon as his legs had reformed, he used the powered leg bracers to jump over to her.
By the end of the song, Crain's mech possessed the 'Gear of the Kirin', while Slain's mound sported the 'Glyph of the Berserk'. With a toothy, demented smile, Slain disappeared into a black puddle of ooze and flowed off the stage and into the ground. His monsters left Crain's field, for the moment.
There was a short pause in the fighting at the dividing line between the two sides, but it didn't last past the beginning of the song. Crain's side slowly pushed the dividing line East.
Megan was moderately impressed.
T grabbed his belly for emphasis and did a little dance.
Crain's people unlocked the 'Gear Of The Gears' before the end of the song.
Ancient Ineffable Echoes Of Forsaken Aeons
From Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, Part 4
A full orchestra of revenants appeared on the roof of the stage, which grew walls to house them. The walls, like the members of the orchestra, were bleeding and crawling with insects. Slain started up the song and his energy filled Chimera Field. It sent spikes of molten blue death up through the ground of Slain's half, disintegrating thousands of proxies. Slain invoked the horror world of Painted Doors, and the environment and proxy designs of the field shifted to match. The field became cold and it began to rain heavily.
It was a catchy song. Crain's side danced along with it as much as Slain's. Megan danced for Slain while Thomas ran over and climbed up the left knee of Crain's mech. It took some effort due to the relatively small size of concert proxies compared to the giant robot.
Megan haltingly climbed up the metallic mesh draped over the mech and after several near slips stood beside Thomas and looked out at the sea of people. It somehow felt like a more impressive view than when she had flown over the field, maybe because of the thrill of knowing that she could fall.
Thomas nodded. They looked out over the throng below. Mechanical bears and crocodiles left over from the last song tore through Slain's followers while large jawed clowns attempted to chew on, and feel up, Crain's people. The clowns were new, and maybe just a little too creepy for the audience.
Megan removed her filers and looked out over the chaos.
After five minutes of rapping about indescribable horrors, a stone 'Elder Sign' appeared on Slain's burial mound. Thomas noted the already potent combination of stone Glyphs with concern. With Elder Sign, Berserk, and Alucard's Recurring Nightmare, Slain could already summon a relatively powerful demigod, at least compared to the potential Star class mech that red was preparing. Things were looking dire for Crain and her followers.
Slain's Orchestra slowly melted away as the song ended. They screamed the whole time as they turned into puddles and melted off the stage roof and into the ground.
Candy Trail To The Little Death
Crain phased on stage next to Slain. The two singers moved to the center of the stage as if they were about to fight, but then started singing in harmony. The sun rose and brightly illuminated Chimera Field. Double and triple rainbows arced across the sky, sprinkling flower petals and delicious gum drops over the crowd. The various demons and mechanical monsters harassing the crowds transformed into unicorns, adorable elves, and friendly hydra. The grass on both sides of the field turned purple, and all fighting stopped for the duration of the song.
Megan looked around at the suddenly relaxed crowd from atop the mech's knee. There didn't appear to be a single fight anywhere.
Those who opted-in to be orally pleasured by one of CS's sexbots determined the parts of their proxy bodies which would be stimulated, although most limited it to their genitalia because of the time constraints. Some people left their concert proxies to have sex with CS's ghosts in separate private spaces. Others would continue the oral experience long after the song ended. Proxy sex doesn't involve chafing or soreness, unless desired.
After a few minutes, colorful flowers bloomed all over Chimera field. They shimmered magically in the sunlight and smelled of all kinds of delicious, dreamy goodness.
The song wound down and the ending notes creaked and soured. The special Candy Trail oral sex opt-in ended by default, although many chose to keep it going. The sun set and the stars blanketed the sky once more with their cool glow. The landscape transformed back into a battlefield of red and blue. The air suddenly felt charged.
Crain and Slain went back to their sides of the stage and stood silently with their heads downcast in intense concentration. The crowd was deathly quiet as it separated cleanly into red vs. blue. Then a minor earthquake knocked Megan off her feet and split the ground between the two sides, raising Slain's side a few inches higher than Crain's. Thousands of blue resonating proxies jumped over to Crain's side and moved into the crowd.
Serial Experiments Crain Versus Pool Of The Precious
Crain broke the tension.
The crowd cheered.
The crowd cheered again.
Crain and Slain began playing different songs. Crain sang of classic surreal anime while a mixed extract of anime worlds infused her side. Slain rapped about Lord of the Rings and the Golden Martyr books while a mixed extract of popular game worlds based on them infused his side. After a few seconds, Crain's followers automatically filtered away Slain's song out and vice versa, so they could focus on their own side.
Fighting along the divide had begun and quickly intensified to new levels of savagery. The entire dividing line from the stage to the far South end of the field became a writhing, tangled mass of mangled bodies and dismembered parts, each piece struggling to break through the opposing line. From a distance, the line appeared to glow purple.
Thomas kicked Megan off of the mech's knee, and she screamed as she fell into the mass of players below. She broke a few limbs and messed up a few players who broke her fall. She made a note to herself that she should kick Thomas off of something sometime. She watched him jump down and dance into the distance until her proxy had regenerated enough to dance.
Megan perused the various available dances which activated or leveled up mech Gears, and picked one that helped level up the Slayer Gear. It would also give her a shiny, defensive chest plate if she scored well. She set it to beginner mode, which achieved lower resonance and fewer points, but carried less chance of embarrassment.
She jumped into the dance, which was halfway through its cycle. It involved precision thrashing with a touch of Bollywood.
Default trainer settings provided a semi-transparent copy of Megan's proxy which occupied her space and moved a half second ahead of the dance to give her the pattern to trail. If she did well enough, it would sometimes offer several motions to explore, some of which would branch into different dance paths. Some paths gave momentum to song variations and helped pick the next song.
She tried to trail her copy, but it was hard to follow. So, she moved her dance trainer a few feet in front of her. This worked better until the song picked up. Then, the dance started incorporating hand gestures and funky foot movements, and she lost the flow.
She looked around at the other people doing the same dance. One was doing it perfectly and adding his own flourishes. Most dances allowed room for freestyle improvisation, which if done well added points and resonance. People were head banging and spazzing their way to remarkable achievements while Megan fumbled about.
Megan grew discouraged as others showed effortless mastery of more advanced forms of her dance. The hardest included dancing while singing and even playing the song with a guitar. She did a quick search on Crain Slain's rhythm game for help, and took some comfort from finding out that the rhythm game aspect of Crain Slain had been adapted into a popular home version which CS fans undoubtedly practiced obsessively with.
Luckily, she looked dejected enough for some guy, in a retro-robot guise, to offer help.
Megan, slightly embarrassed, thanked him and ran self-consciously to the indicated group. It contained about a hundred people, of various skill levels. Megan started doing the Slayer Gear dance near the group and was automatically added as a member. Now her dancing actually kind of mattered, since it impacted the group's overall achievement. She focused and found to her pleasant surprise that belonging to the group created a subtle force on her proxy, guiding her through each motion. The group's collective, averaged ghost was pulling her along, which greatly helped her keep up.
As she moved within the group flow, she discovered room for her regular dance style. At first stifling, the structure of the dance opened Megan's dancing to new possibilities. As she got the hang of it and began racking up points, she could feel Crain's warm resonance pumping through the ground into her proxy. Her hair spiked up and effervesced red.
She was developing a feel for how CS worked. The audience became two competing corporate entities, which physically manifested Crain Slain's music and guided its direction. Each participant was a living visualizer and speaker for Crain Slain's music.
At the height of the dance, Megan felt herself become a conduit of Crain's spirit. At that moment, she was just one out of the now more than six hundred thousand active concert proxies, many of whom were more influential than her. And yet, her presence had an impact on everyone around her, potentially thousands of people over the course of the concert. She changed the flow and outcome of the concert by boosting Crain's power, by acting out her music, and by resonating and broadcasting variations she liked. She was one cell of the deliriously gigantic organism that was Crain Slain, but she could still be significant. Even the tiny ripples she made in her tiny part of the field would mix with the whole and change it in innumerable small ways, sending small ripples throughout her area.
The dance went well. Megan's group was partially destroyed by a rampaging reptilian monster, but managed to reform and continue. The dance's period ended and the group dissolved, having failed to bring the upgrade to fruition. But it wasn't a complete failure, because the energy that each proxy in the group had developed could be used to bolster future efforts to enhance the Slayer Gear, and the individuals in the group had developed resonance and gained new equipment. Overall, Crain's sound would be louder and her glow brighter.
Megan managed to achieve the chest armor she wanted, 'Ripley's Plate'. It flowed up through the ground and over her chest like mercury and set into matte black, form-fitting armor, complete with meaningless blinking lights. An info window popped up showing Megan the plate's stats. It would provide her with a strength-enhancing exoskeleton for the final battle. Combined with other enhancements, it could become a more powerful mech.
Megan did some freestyle dancing to celebrate her first achievement.
Meanwhile, Thomas had done a search for Sam and discovered that she was no longer visible at Chimera Field, but had left a tag. He left his concert proxy dancing to the music and followed Sam's tag with his regular proxy. He found himself sitting next to Sam in the middle of an abstract representation of the concert. There were no people, fields, or musicians there, only the music and flowing colors which pulsed and pounded all around them with the beat of the concert. The two groups of players were represented by sound distortions and vibrations through the colors.
Sam was listening to Slain's song. Crain's music was present only through the distortions caused by the actions of her people. Sam also had a 5 foot long, real-time replica of the concert hovering next to her right side. Desktop views of the concert were popular with those who didn't want to be fully immersed in the concert.
Sam stretched her neck, producing an unnatural series of cracks.
Then Thomas noticed Pawn floating along the abstract waves in the distance. Pawn's body was stretched out across the waves like a rubber band, vibrating and whipping in various directions in response to concert happenings. Pawn had distorted his proxy beyond recognition in an attempt to become the concert.
Thomas turned back to Sam.
Sam zoomed in to Megan's tag on the 5 foot concert to her right and watched Megan dancing.
T leaned back to enjoy the music and pretty colors.
They were both distracted by the installation of the 'Gear of Shinji's Mom' into Crain's mech, which was represented in Sam's view by a streak of red splashed across the sky, pumping like a heart. It flowed over their bodies, infusing and enveloping them with the breath of the music, before falling away and collapsing into a single point. It sent Pawn pinging around the color streams like he was a pinball.
Thomas sat mesmerized by the colors for a minute.
Thomas left a proxy sitting in Sam's abstract space, in case he wanted to return, and popped back into his concert proxy in time for the ending of the songs. Crain's song was normally shorter than Slain's, but she had extended it so they ended within a few seconds of each other. Crain's people were still celebrating the 'Gear of Shinji's Mom'. Slain's people had mauled themselves with enough grace and style (and break dancing) to acquire the 'Glyph of The Spiral', aka Uzumaki.