T's chinchilla agent Villain, who had been patrolling the club for some excitement, appeared on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. He nodded. A moment later a blue orb appeared over the table and a stately voice emanated from it.
T offered the challenge to the table. Everyone but Megan accepted it. They ported from the table to a space on the play floor opposite ShushieBucket, her partner Amonke, and several of their compatriots. Hundreds of spectators hovered all around them, while numerous others viewed the showdown, which was being broadcast as a highly visible node of interest on Indra's Net.
SluchieBucket performed a perfect anime pratfall.
Thomas looked thoughtful for a moment. Then Villain jumped up into his right hand and turned into an electric guitar with Villain's colorings.
Everyone selected instruments and dance routines and began to warm up.
T went jazz (befitting his zoot suit), while SlushieBucket chose speed metal. The format for the showdown was that the bands would take turns playing, starting with intervals of 30 seconds, in competition to create the most resonance in the surrounding crowd. T's group went first and got a nice early lead. But on their second turn Chester blasted her saxophone in Pawn's face. The turn after that, Pawn turned his trombone into a water gun, shooting spit all over Chester's face, and they began bludgeoning each other with their instruments. T threw them out of the band, but there were no ready replacements and the damage had already been done. SlushieBucket won resonance supremacy on her next turn and used it to incinerate T's group. SlushieBucket's band, flush with victory, played a short concert on that node. It would be replayed, along with the musical showdown, throughout the night.
T and his group reappeared at their table just as their ashes were disintegrating into the play floor. Chester flicked a speck across the table onto Pawn's right cheek. In a few moments it festered into a tiny alien civilization, complete with skyscrapers and roadways. Pawn tried to wipe it off his face, but the civilization retaliated by shooting missiles, which arced out over the table and back at his eyes, exploding into bright white light. Having enough of this, Pawn filtered the civilization away and used a finger laser to etch crude drawings onto Chester's torso. Everyone else tried to ignore them.
Thomas set up a node featuring sexbots generated from SlushieBucket's band's ghosts doing various lewd things to each other. He linked the node to the showdown, demonstrating poor sportsmanship, even for him.
While they were talking, Pawn and Chester were increasingly agitated with each other. They were moving as if shouting at each other, although their voices were private between them. Chester extended her leg under the table and kicked Pawn's shin.
Before Megan had time to respond, Pawn had jumped across the table and was pummeling Chester. Chester swung a cartoon mallet from under the table, knocking Pawn way out into the club's empty space. Pawn shot an energy ball back at Chester, but Chester had already jetted out of his seat after Pawn. The ball hit the table and exploded it, sending shrapnel everywhere. A piece of it embedded into Megan's neck. Sam quickly restored the group's space.
Pawn hollered to the group while trading blows with Chester.
The two combatants fought viciously in midair. Pawn kicked Chester into another group's table, sending their proxies flying. Chester elbow slammed Pawn straight down into the dance floor, so hard that he left a crater and scattered dozens of dancers. They shot numerous energy blasts at each other, mostly missing and causing collateral damage to group spaces all over Omni, including destroying an entire virtualized club.
They left a trail of mangled, twitching corpses in their wake. Luckily for Omni, this was only happening on Chester and Pawn's private layer, which only affected the few dozen people who had opted into it. The main layer of Omni didn't even see them leave the table, although those following Sam's node got to witness the display.
Chester pulled out a baseball bat and battered Pawn. Pawn pulled out a chainsaw and began slowly cutting off Chester's metallic left leg while being hit about his head and shoulders with the bat. Finally, Pawn dropped the chainsaw and twisted Chester's head off, just as Chester punched through Pawn's stomach. Pawn's disemboweled guts fell and turned into various forms of candy before hitting the play floor far below, the one element of the fight that affected the main layer of Omni. Mutually defeated according to the rules they were fighting under, they returned to their seats at the table. Chester put her head, now with a frowny face, on the table. T patted her head while Sam opened a hole in the floor for Pawn's blood to drain.
Sam, who had been surfing Indra's Net instead of gawking at the fight, smiled as she dipped her finger into the matrix and enlarged one of the nodes, making it blink.
While they were looking at some sort of bizarre sex game, Chester, trying to move past the fight, swiveled her head toward Megan.
Megan filtered out the visualization of Indra's Net to view the play floor sprawled across the table. The Indra's Net matrix melted into the table, showing the match up of its nodes to spaces on the dance floor. Most of the play floor was included within Indra's Net, but Indra's Net had a large amount of content that wasn't readily compatible with the floor, as Megan's representation of the floor didn't represent abstract states or spaces within game worlds.
Without zooming in, the floor appeared only as a rough texture over the table, with only a few landmarks large enough to make out. The millions of people active on the floor were microscopic from her initial perspective. Zooming in, much of the floor looked like a classical Christian depiction of the pits of hell, with masses of writhing bodies extending over hundreds of miles. Megan's vision shot around the floor, automatically zooming into any salient details that caught her eye.
The Play Floor was a conglomerate of spaces from all over Outside. There were proxies and costumes of every type, with quite a bit of nudity. As before, Megan's visualization divided the floor into sections representing different activities- dancing, fighting/sports, interactive art, and sex.
Due to Omni's format, most of the floor was devoted to music and dancing. There was something for everyone, and if you couldn't find what you wanted, you could simply set up a new space on the floor and play your own music. Those with plants could leave their physical bodies relaxing and dance all night long without getting tired. People danced with every conceivable style- from ballet to swing to thrashing in one of the countless mosh pits. Many people were dancing in mixed states, or had no Plant at all. Much of the dancing was virtualizations from physical clubs. Other people danced in their living rooms or backyards. Megan had seen people dancing in parks, and now imagined that some of them might be dancing on Omni's floor in an ecstatic mesh of the virtual and the physical.
Megan noticed that the floor was encompassing the live Crain Slain concert she had visited. The play floor was so large that the concert covered only a tiny piece of the table, despite having hundreds of thousands of participants.
There was fighting of all varieties. There were battlefields of horrific violence, though usually synced in some way to music, or at least to a rhythm. There were fields where people were playing sports. Nude volleyball seemed particularly popular.
There were interactive art displays, ranging everywhere from the gruesome to the sublime. Megan especially noted a group of people suspended from hooks. The display's info noted that the core group were actually suspending their physicals (mostly without the aid of the plant's pain control abilities), but everyone was invited to hang out with them.
Religious groups had set up various modes of worship, from every major, minor, and pseudo religion. Megan's SIS directed her amused attention to one particular riotous dance party hosted by the Subgenii followers of Bob Dobbs. She was happy they were still around.
And then there was the sex. Every form of it, every position, and every kink in the physical world, as well as a huge variety of sexual activities that could only develop and occur Outside. Because of Megan's content filters, proxies in sexy areas appeared to simply be dancing. She removed almost all of her filters so she could get a clearer view of the floor's erotic content, and added a mod that showed smalled fireworks exploding over the heads of proxies having orgasms all over the Play Floor, determined by the physiological responses of those who opted in. Thousands of them were popping up in Megan's range of vision at any given moment.
Relaxing the strict sectioning of the play floor, Megan could see that there were couples and groups of people in sexual congress everywhere she looked at the floor. She was amused to find that many of the orgy participants were cartoons or even muppets, which was both a kink and a way to make anonymous sex less awkward for shy participants.
There were many specially designated orgy spaces where general participation was allowed, as long as the rules of the spaces were respected. The orgies flowed freely into each other, but their differing rules and environments kept them from merging completely. Many were taking place in nature- in forest groves, in meadows, at beaches, on the Moon. One beautiful locale, a lagoon at twilight, with sex on the beach and underwater particularly caught Megan's eye.
Another space was a large mansion filled with every sort of erotic play. It was far larger than any physical mansion and surrounded by extravagant gardens. It splayed open in response to Megan's gaze, displaying its enormous and diverse rooms. The rooms had different rules and restrictions, so that you could get any kind of action you wanted comfortably, without surprises if you didn't want any. The info for the mansion, which didn't even have an official name, showed that it was far larger and more diverse than any physical orgy in the history of the world, and had been going continuously for many years without a pause. And the sex spaces in Omni were small compared to those hosted at clubs devoted specifically to sex.
There was a popular expanse in the orgy section with cushioned floors and beautiful canopies, devoted to snuggling and foreplay. Megan thought it quite sweet.
There were spaces that mixed sex and violence, mostly within the so-called "sex arenas," where people fought in various forms of combat to win sexual dominance over their defeated foes. The resulting sex would often be displayed publicly. Players generally only fought opponents with sexually compatible SIS profiles, and put up their ghosts to take their place if they didn't feel up to the sex. This definitely wasn't a game for everyone, but everything was agreed upon beforehand and "losers" were not obligated to actually be present for the sex acts, and could even pull their proxies out of situations that made them too uncomfortable.
Another section had bathhouses and hundreds of oversized jacuzzis, filled with people relaxing and having fun with their lovers, or with partners selected according to their compatibility ratings. Megan projected the relevant sensations from her proxy into a jacuzzi and found both the water and the view most satisfying, although she was reluctant to become a more active participant.
After soaking up the jacuzzi for a while, Megan found and adopted the sensations of a woman vigorously dancing at high speeds through the air. She took sharp turns as she jerked and gyrated, occasionally bouncing off of the floor. It was like a very intimate roller coaster. The vicarious experience was exhilarating, and prepped Megan to sample something more adventurous.
Megan searched for a couple having sex, found one that she found attractive, and gradually adopted the sensations from the woman's proxy. The sensations from Megan's primary proxy body faded away as the new proxy sensations faded in. It was a thrilling experience- a type of voyeurism more intimate than was possible without the Plant. She switched to inhabiting the male's proxy, which faded in as much as was comfortable for her given her limited experience with male physiology.