Chapter 5:

Semper Fi


“If you can make it in real life, you can make it in AO.”

Anyone who invested in the Crafting skill tree could attest to that saying. Even though the best items in the game were drops or rewards, that didn’t stop players from coming up with the wackiest of inventions to keep up.

Take, for example, the XM179 Bald Eagle, an experimental sniper rifle that existed both in-game and in real life. A player made the Bald Eagle in-game, only to get into an argument with an actual sniper on the forums. The sniper then leaked classified U.S. military documents just to prove a point.

Not only did the madlad win the argument, but an exclusive ticket to prison, too.

Since then, the Bald Eagle became a staple for any PvP-heavy server. No other weapon or ability in Aksara Online could match its effective range, making it perfect for taking out high-priority targets like healers from a distance. In the case of Maniavolution, the Bald Eagle watched over spawn, dispensing “freedom” to all Newbloods who tried to leave.

Said Bald Eagle was in the hands of Warthog. Those same hands also waved a white flag, choosing surrender in the face of the devil.

“You two are actual soldiers?” Jason asked. It was as if they were in the wrong game, completely decked out in military camo. The only sense of fantasy left was that Warthog was a female Orc while General Erection was a male Dwarf.

Were actual soldiers,” Alice cut in.

“Vets are soldiers, you devil!” Warthog snapped. “We’re the reason you all could keep playing in pe—”

“I don’t live in America, dumbass.”

Curious, Jason turned to his party member, “Just wondering, but where do you live, Alice?”

“Rent-free in your head, of course. But you should be interrogating them, not me. They’re on BH’s payroll.”

“Why are you helping this Newblood? Figured you’d be down there killing them,” growled General Erection.

“I kill for fun, General, not money, unlike you and your associate. And I can do whatever I please.”

Her wings flapped in beats as if to fan herself. They were at the soldiers’ sniping position by the large rock overlooking spawn, but it wasn’t any cooler compared to the lava-rich area.

“Look, I’m not here to interrogate anyone. Yes, I know, you guys shot me in the head and all, but I feel we started off on the wrong foot.

I’m Json Null, and I’m making a documentary about Black Hat. Is it okay if I interview you guys? Don’t feel pressured to tell me things that you aren’t supposed to, just tell me what you know.”

“No fair!” exclaimed Alice. “Why didn’t you interview me first?!”

“Umm…because you wanted to kill me?”

“Hypocrite! They tried to kill you too!”

“Well, unlike someone who gets off from wanton murder, these people are doing their job, which I can respect.”

“Hmph!” she stomped off, perhaps to find her next prey and vent off.

“Now then, how should we do—”

“General!” Warthog interrupted Jason, “X-ray spotted at your six! Permission to—”

“Weapons free! Engage!”

Jason panicked, seeing the two veterans suddenly in action. The massive Bald Eagle materialised into the Orc’s arms, letting loose a single, deafening shot. Target crystallised.

Regaining his composure, Jason dusted himself off as he got up.

“You know what? Can I record you talking, General, while Warthog snipes from the background?”

It was exactly the kind of framing war correspondents used in the news—action going on in the background as a soldier explained the situation. A shot like this would hook the viewers in easily!

“Son, you said your name was Null?”

“Err…yes?” he swallowed his spit. Despite his Dwarf avatar being half of Jason’s height, the General commanded an air of authority. Sure, people like Alice who love murder were scary in their own right, but talking to someone who has probably taken lives in the real world? It was a different kind of pressure altogether.

“Well damn. That explains it. Helluva an exploit if you asked me. Y’know, my wife’s family name is Null, too. IT people hate her. Hahaha!”


“Hold on…is that your family name too?”


Jason was supposed to be interrogating him, not the other way around.

“You don’t happen to know a Sarah Jean Null, do you?”

“I swear to the Stars and Stripes, never heard that name in my life, sir.”

General Erection glared at him, eyes like a hawk. Without realising, Jason was already standing in attention, purely out of fear. The last person he wanted to piss off was a military officer.

“You know what? Why the hell not?” General Erection broke the tension.


“The interview, son! Get on with it. You don’t know my wife, so that’s good enough.”


“Alright. So, General, introduce yourself to me.”

“Name’s General Erection. Got discharged in ‘53. Lost my right leg in Malaysia.”

“Holy sh—I mean, wow, was the Malaysian Civil War that bad? I mean, I never heard of a general getting injured in the field before”

“Nope, just a Private! I’m a General Manager for a company that makes condoms. Gotta keep things safe y’know? Hahahaha!”


“At ease, son. What, you think an actual general of the USA is gonna have the time to play video games?

“Sorry to cut in, General,” Warthog remarked. “But General Conroy is a professional RhythmBeat: Heartbreaker player.”

Jason felt as if his last three brain cells had died. On one hand, he felt the intense desire to just smack the Dwarf in the head. But there was a part of him that firmly believed vets deserved to be treated better.

“Alright! Moving on—”

“Hold on, you don’t wanna hear about Warthog here?”

“No I thin—”

“40 confirmed kills. USMC Scout Sniper. One of only three women in history to receive the Medal of Honor. That’s her right there.”

“General, you know you just doxxed me, right?”

Jason could hardly believe what he just heard, “Are you serious? You’re actu—”

“Jason, please don’t include that in your video,” her response was polite, but enough to put the fear of god in his heart.

“I won’t. You’ll just be shooting in the background. A nobody.”


True enough, a cursory search revealed Warthog’s identity. A whole wiki page was dedicated to her. Best to keep that skeleton in the closet, lest he became her 41st.

Perhaps to hide her identity even further, Warthog began to crouch and jump repeatedly, spinning 360 degrees to land headshots. She had truly become a casual tryhard, just white noise in a multiplayer game.

“So, General, if you don’t mind, what’s your relationship with Black Hat?”

“We get paid to make sure no randos could waltz out of spawn.”

“Wait, you’re okay with revealing that?”

“I don’t remember signing an NDA, son. Besides, the others couldn’t keep the Newbloods out as well as me and Warthog do. If anything, it’s their fault for not paying us more!”

“Others? How many of you are there?”

“Us Workers are split between the day shift and the night shift. Day shift’s just another squad who takes weekdays. God knows how many people are taking the night shifts, but they suck. Resting on their laurels just because that devil usually does their job for them. Can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they realise she’s gone…”

“Alice? Wait, you’re saying she never logs out?”

“No one’s seen her log out, son. Sometimes, I don’t think she’s human.”

At a distance, Jason noticed dark beams and explosions. Alice was definitely killing something. Maybe General Erection was right.

“Right. How much are you getting paid, if I may ask?”

“What are you, the IRS? Next question.”

“Ah…err…could you describe Black Hat to me? Like how they look like, number of members, how they operate?

“Well, that’s the thing…you never know. The one that talks to me is a Lizardman dressed in white robes, like a blanket, but with a fedora on top. Pretty ridiculous if you asked me. Never did get his name. Told me to refer to him as Black Hat.

Ain’t nobody on this server knows how many Black Hats are there. Might be just one person runnin’ around as different people. Hell, you and I might be Black Hats. All I know is that you don’t find Black Hat—Black Hat finds you. And if that happens, either he’s got a job for you, or you done goofed up.”

“What happens if you…done goofed up?”

“Hell if I know. But if anybody in this server can kill you, it’s Black Hat for sure.”

“You mean in-game, right?”



“General! They built a bridge!”

“Ah shit here we go again,” General Erection stood up, equipping some kind of flamethrower. “Well, Jason it was nice talking to you. Stick close to that devil, you hear? You’re the only one who’s got her on a leash.”

“Wait, you mea—”

“Oh, and one last message to your viewers—don’t join the military. It’s not worth it.”

The lone figure of General Erection hobbled towards the cliff, flamethrower revving, exhaling fire and brimstone. Hordes of Newbloods poured out like zombies, one by one turning into crystals as Warthog’s bullets whizzed past the Dwarf.

Not a single Newblood made it out that day—the only exception being the invincible cameraman, Jason.