Waking to Another Sky Ch5 bit – Not a Game

Jack loosened his shoulders, muscle by muscle, from the tight knots they’d made when he cringed. Two kids had just hit the limit of their ability to deal with sheer human nastiness. If the sick bastard weren’t already dead, Jack would have dealt with Kuradeel himself. No sixteen-year-old should know what it felt like to kill another human being with his bare hands.

Make that, hand.

Worse, Kirito had made the right call. His partner was disarmed, he was crippled, and Kuradeel had made it damn clear he wasn’t going to stop. Not for anything short of a deathblow.

He shouldn’t have had to make that call.

But the absolute worst? Not Kuradeel; not even what Kirito had had to do to save himself and Asuna. Jack had seen people caught between death gliders and a hard place before. Those two had bent, but they hadn’t broken.

No. That wasn’t the worst. “Kayaba recorded this,” Jack said harshly. “Specifically this. Out of six thousand people still fighting and dying in his game, he picks two scared kids having one of the worst days of their lives.” He thumped a fist on the table, white-knuckled. “What the hell did they ever do to him?”

“They were too good at the game.”

Not what he wanted to hear from Daniel. “Run that by me again?” Jack said pointedly.

Daniel didn’t look any happier the second time. “If someone is really good at a game – really, really good at it – then you have to make it harder for them. Or no one else has any fun.”

Stunned, Jack pointed at the screen. “Not a game.”

“It was, to Kayaba.” Daniel winced. “If he was in the game, if he could tailor it… I’d guess all the high-level players have horror stories.”

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34 thoughts on “Waking to Another Sky Ch5 bit – Not a Game

  1. I just had an evil thought. Kayaba tailors the game to the players, making it harder for specific people? Bets on if he pushed the PKers to specific players, or even started rumors that “it’s just a game, you can’t actually die in a game, people who die just get logged off” to make it that much harder to stop the PKers? Any takers?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well as far as SG1 thinks anyway. There could have been another reason Kayaba was focusing on Kirito and Asuna. Maybe he considered them the closest to accomplishing whatever he inteneded for the players.

    I mean if we use canon, there’s no real evidence that Kayaba altered the difficulty etc for particular people. Most of the horror stories resulted from the actions of other players.

    Though I can see him keeping an eye on them after (and potentially during) the Yui incident, because there is no way Cardinal wouldn’t have informed him about deleting the MHCP-001 and somebody monkeying around with the console.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve a vague recollection that it is canon that he recruited the Knights of Blood for having physical qualities that he was interested in. Maybe also that Asuna and Kirito were near the peak of that.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. We have to remember that he was building a narrative with the Knights of Blood. That they were the best of the best etc and around the 90th floor (I think) we would unveil himself as the final boss and escape to the 100th floor.

      But here where SAO was a twisted SGC training scenario we have to ask ‘did he have another reason for this narrative’?

      Now we know that Kayaba included expies of the rebel Jaffa (Renegade Displacers) and the Goa’uld (Yuan-ti) but depending on how he set them up, the latter might not have one particular trait the Goa’uld, Namely the ability to infest somebody in your command structure and secretly work against you. And considering that they blanked on the ‘hosts’ statement in chapter four, I bet the Yuan-ti can’t do that.

      If Kayaba/Heathcliff pulled his reveal as planned, the KoB (and clearers in general) would be thrown into chaos. He would have in-depth knowledge of their tactics, capabilities, members, you name it. So not only would they need to deal with the shock/betrayal but also adjust EVERYTHING because their current setup would be known to the ‘enemy’ and he could make special preparations against it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I suspect all the players have horror stories, and many will have mental issues. Players who’ve not seen someone die in front of them should, statisticly, be as rare as hen’s teeth.

    The guys who never left the the starting city? One appears in the written “Morning Dew Girl”. He’s spent two years spending the day sitting under a tree watching for fruit to fall and probably the nights hiding somewhere, as there’s no way he could afford to rent a room (which would be safe). (Some sick bastard had found that if you found someone asleep, you could challenge them to a duel, move their hand to the accept position on their screen and kill them. It works in safe zones and doesn’t make your cursor turn orange.)

    The clearers? They’ve been fighting for 12 hours a day, nearly every day for two years solid. PSTD city.

    Those who risked their lives for fun?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. To be fair though, in SAO, and especially as a solo player…what does ‘daytime’ really MATTER? Kirito could have his nap in a nice day and then simply grind out mobs all night and repeat as necessary. He had nobody whose timetable he had to cater to, nowhere to be except on the front lines and for the occasional boss battle. Keeping to a schedule was something that happened to other people.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. And we even have canon evidence of Kirito doing so. Remember during the Black Cats episode, he sneaks out at night for some grinding. Sachi catches him sneaking back in afterward.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I hate to say it, but… that’s not just a game thing. And Kayaba, both in canon and even moreso in this story, appears to think of it as *more* than a “mere” game. He seems to be in the mindset of “the strongest steel comes from the hottest fire.” And whatever his overarching goal, his intent for SAO appears to have been to create the strongest steel possible with what he had to work with.
    And in real life training scenarios, you *tailor* the training to the trainee — a master martial artist training a beginner doesn’t go all-out, they “detune” (derate?) themselves down to give the trainee, say, a 10% chance of “winning” any given spar… and then they just keep “levelling” one step ahead of the trainee. You need to give the trainees enough hope to keep them from rage-quitting, but also keep the pressure on them to improve.
    In the IT world, there is (was? It’s been a while) a (in)famous certification test (MS Network Engineer Cert, maybe?) administered by an automated system. The test was several hours long, and initially pulled questions randomly from a much larger list of questions. But the selection algorithm was programmed to detect areas of weakness in testee’s answers to the earlier questions, and begin biasing its selections towards categories where the testee’s knowledge appeared weak. It was a hell of a test, but anyone who managed to pass it was damnear *guaranteed* to be *solid* in both the depth and breadth of the grasp of the topic.
    And Kayaba? For all he’s a sociopathic SOB… he’s *good at this.* His methods are brute-force and wasteful, but he was counting on his large initial “recruit” pool to counter that, mostly. The hell of it is, given what the SGC knew, *they weren’t wrong* to tap Kayaba for their training system. They just had no way of knowing they were dealing with a mad genius capable of pulling a Xanatos Gambit on them, 10,000 hapless civilians, *and* the NID *all at the same time.*
    I mean… what were the *odds*?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. From a MMO gamer’s pov… MMOs that stay static are boring. The ones that are updated every couple of months with new content to master though… those are fun. One the one hand, people who like “finishing” games can find this frustrating and can be surprised at the people who love a never-ending supply of new things to do. Given that SAO was a MMO from the get-go, I’d bet a lot of the surviving players are in the latter category, or at least initially were. Unfortunately for them, their content creator has no idea what sane game progression looks like…

      SGC (or Jack at the very least) is a group of people who at heart want to finish what they’re doing (dealing with the goau’ld threat). They’re kinda like a bunch of speed-runners who have met up with a bunch of MMO players and are wondering why the MMO players would want to stay with a game system they all know how to use (SAO in the real world) as opposed with finishing it and getting on with the next game (getting back to real-life). The MMO players would much rather stay with mechanics they all know so that they aren’t juggling two different mechanics on the next dungeon/boss fight.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Quick question, we were just going over retroviruses in my class this week, and what struck me was the integration with the genes. Does this mean that the modifications done to the players is going to be a gift that keeps giving? As in, did Kayaba hit the reproductive genes with his nanites, and if so, was it on purpose? I’m thinking it might have been, but that’s because I find evil genius to be scary and not nearly as absentminded as some authors seem to think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unclear as of yet. It would be a reckless act, unnecessary for any of his so far known goals, with uncertain results.

      Janet is interested in keeping everyone alive, which would make gametes a very low priority.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True, but Unintended Consequences need to strike sometime. Also, if he were trying to create a repository of Japanese to survive in a worst case scenario, making sure that future generations could keep surviving isn’t outside the realm of possibilities. Not saying that was his goal or his priority, but our current level of genegeniring is messing around with retroviruses. So, he may not have been focusing on it, but he wouldn’t complain if it got passed on.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m no fan of Kayaba, and look forward to his hubris meeting nemesis in this story. Given that he can hand his technology to the players, gamete modification isn’t absolutely essential given what we know now.

        Long term, Janet will find out and may even know. I’m just saying that we can’t yet be certain based on in universe knowledge, because it isn’t immediately lethal, and things are hectic enough know that the medical staff is more interested in things that are.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. True. Very true. This probably isn’t going to be something anyone really thinks about until it becomes abruptly relevant, I think. Some of that may be a deliberate not thinking, because NID. Also, Go’auld. Though, what are the odds that Kayaba created some sort of nastiness to go after invaders? Like, immune system Turned Up to Eleven, ala Shinigami in Upon a Fiery Stead.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Super immune system stuff would probably be a result of putting a lot of stats into Vit, or maybe a really leveled up skill. (I was just checking the wiki yesterday, and Kirito has near maxed battle healing. Battle healing doesn’t quite fit, but…)

        It may not be long before it becomes relevant. Right now we have a lot of combat stress, and a fairly mixed population. (1 woman for every 2 men.) Medium term, we are probably looking at more space, less supervision, and a lot of boredom. Plus, Japanese and Christmas is coming. There may well be some conceptions soon.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. True again. Battle healing would probably help avoid infection, and might mean his recovery time has been sped up. But that is a very good question about how that would work IRL. At least, in a non-magical setting.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. There are a couple of good candidates for what battle healing is, assuming someone at the NID was really wise about telling Kayaba what would be valuable in a super soldier.

        Historically the concept of HP has at times included the psychological and physical resources needed to avoid hits. As in, are you fresh, or worn out to the point of barely being able to swing a sword.

        Historically, reserves in a shock infantry combat are held far enough back that they don’t see or hear things well enough to be worn out by the stress of being near the combat. Because rested troops can be very effective against tired troops. Even if a rested troop may be more worn out than I have ever been in my life. If you haven’t read accounts of how the hunger, sleep deprivation, fear and so forth combine, you probably aren’t imagining the full scope.

        So battle healing might give a very rapid bounce back, which would involve hormonal, metabolic, and brain modifications. We kinda see evidence of that in mention of how fast Kirito came back from the Kayaba fight.

        Second is combat fatigue, which is not the same thing. Basically, you can only get so many days of high intensity combat out of most infantrymen before they stop being effective. (Modern US training is or was realistic enough that it tended to shorten that time.) Being immune to that is very rare, but it is possible. If Kayaba had a way to create that without making people insane, it’d be extremely valuable. Maybe more so than anything else. But, we see Kirito torn up about things in a way that may preclude combat fatigue immunity.

        I’m thinking modding for combat fatigue immunity might be more of a meditation thing. That said, assuming Kayaba knew what was really valuable. He spent two years nonconsensually modding a bunch of random people. When he could have been doing SGC training scenarios, and positioning for a monopoly on advanced US DoD VR training. So he turned his back on stuff that would have been very militarily valuable for the SGC and hence Earth, and on a bunch of money.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. I would say they’re highly resistant to combat fatigue, even so. The whole mess with sleep-PKing did a number on everyone’s nerves.

        And as for money… if Kayaba had ever wanted that, he’d never have done a death game in the first place.

        Liked by 1 person

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