The Final Boss

Current Phase: C-002
Phase Type: Story

Version Beta

Secrets of the Beta Worlds

The Paradigm has been rebooted, updated, improved. It is a new metaverse, with countless unexplored worlds appearing like stars in what had been an infinite black void. Under this new order, three Factions rise to seize control, power, and influence. Will one secure dominance over the others, or will they together bring about the end of The Paradigm?

These are the secrets of Version Beta.

Version BetaSecrets of the Beta Worlds

Story 3

The Final Boss

Liaison of Records


Logged at
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The emergence of the Beta worlds brings a whole new breed of missions, quests and gaming to the Paradigm. Guilds rise up to scavenge loot, rack up points, and dominate high scores. Only the elite make it into the coveted Winners Circle.

The last MOB of Wave Nine was a giant mutated raider with two heads and bulging, cybernetically-enhanced arms spackled with brightly colored tattoos. It had de-mezzed two Brokers before Triple F (better known as Fast Fingers Freddy) tore both of its heads off with a double twist of his own robotic arms. He whooped in triumph, even as the gruesome trophies and the rest of the tumor-riddled body evaporated in a cloud of radioactive green pixels, and loot poured into the inventories of the remaining high-score hopefuls. 

There were only three of them left out of dozens that had joked and boasted as they waited for Wave One to appear. One by one, the others had been d-mezzed over the first nine Waves of the grueling Warlord's Challenge, brought low by radiation or a raider’s chainsaw. As Freddy cracked his knuckles, adrenaline pumping from his Wave Nine kills, he surveyed his remaining competition. There was 1Win, a Mechanic whose specialty might as well have been camping and who had spent more time avoiding getting iced than actually fighting. And then there was Shock.wav, a totally badass MetaExplorer with top-of-the-line gear who had given Freddy a run for his credits at every Wave. They all used their gamer tags out here. Chosen names rather than the CyberBroker identities assigned to them by the long-dead designers of the Paradigm. 

Freddy checked his internal HUD, most of the heads-up display was crowded with readouts and status bars unique to the world of Waste Land!, a twisted half-amusement park, half-nuclear landscape filled with endless post-apocalyptic battles and missions. His Rads meter was stable, thanks to his Lead-Lined Boots and Toxin Filter Mask. You couldn’t survive here without some sort of radiation-blocking item. Freddy had seen one too many Brokers arrive in Waste Land!, eager to explore this newly unlocked Beta world, only to be d-mezzed a few bloxs later when their Rads meter warned them they had reached dangerously high levels of radiation and their HP had been depleted. Whoever had crafted the environment here in Waste Land! hadn’t been messing around.

Now confident he wasn’t going to be d-mezzed (at least not in the next few bloxs) by the digital radiation, Freddy glanced at the only meter he cared about. That sweet, sweet score. He was still a few hundred points above 1Win and Shock.wav, and within reach of the threshold set by Guildleader mr_ir0nic. He only had to survive this last Wave to finally be initiated into the exclusive Winners Circle, but beating the other hopefuls was also a key goal. And surpassing the illustrious Guildleader's high score on the final challenge? That would be a big win. 

When Version Beta had been initiated, a lot more had changed than just new worlds, like Waste Land!, opening up. This reboot of the Paradigm had ignited something - not just in Freddy, but in the rest of the CyberBrokers too. After spending three lifetimes trapped here in this digital universe - wandering the same streets, fast traveling to the same cities - the promise of adventure this new expanse of worlds promised brought a frenzy of hopefulness the Brokers hadn’t felt in forever. At least, that’s how Freddy felt. 

Everyone jokes about “Leftover Complex”, the constant overcompensation by Leftovers like Freddy to make up for the fact that they are the only CyberBrokers without a Talent. An innate responsibility, job, belief system, that drives them, and the world they live in, forward. Without Mechanics like 1Win, they would all still be roaming around in the ancient-looking mechs first uploaded in the Paradigm. Without MetaExplorers like Shock.wav, no one would even know how to get to the new Beta worlds. But without Freddy? Life in the Paradigm wouldn’t skip a beat. 

The Version Beta reboot didn’t change this fact. Freddy was still a Leftover and Leftovers still lacked a purpose - at least an officially designated one. But now, Freddy finally felt like he might have a chance to have a real place in the Paradigm. And that place was the Winners Circle. A lot of guilds had formed when the Beta worlds were revealed, all set up to farm points, gather loot and set high scores on the thousands of new missions that opened when the worlds did. The Winners Circle was the most elite of them all, and getting the high score here at the Warlord’s Challenge meant not only would he get into the guild, but he’d skyrocket in their rankings. 

Freddy knew he wasn't the only one with a high score on their mind. He glanced at Shock.wav, who was prepping her Vortex cannon, a massive weapon with only a single shot and a long reload time but powerful enough to take out a whole pack of MOBs. Next to her, 1Win gulped down her last Water Pack, not offering any of its HP-granting abilities to her comrades. Everyone had shared resources during the first few Waves, as the more who survived meant better odds of them all surviving to the end. But now that they were at the final boss and competing for those precious points, it looked like it was every gamer for themselves. Despite his flashing HP meter, Freddy didn't mind. Just one last fight and the ultimate prize would be won. May the best gamer win.

The horizon flickered and a cloud of dust appeared in the distance to signal the start of Wave Ten. The final Wave. The boss level. Despite the Warlord's Challenge being attempted thousands of times and completed a few hundred, no two unfolded the same way beyond the presence of a powerful Warlord boss MOB. In one case, the Warlord had been strapped with live nukes riding upon mutated desert dinosaurs that slithered over toxic sand and spewed forth radiative clouds. Another time the Warlord and their band were crowded onto rusty, scavenged cars and motorbikes, reinforced with thick salvaged plating and kitted out with makeshift weapons, from tarnished pikes to barbwire blades and arrays of radiation bombs and nerve-gas missiles. Freddy had read every report about this encounter, and the only thing he could be certain of was that nothing was certain. Which was why it made for the perfect test for those eager to join the illustrious ranks of the Winners Circle.

Binoculars manifested in Freddy’s hand as he tried to get a peek through the advancing wave of sand, glimmering green as many things in the post-apocalyptic Waste Land! did. A suggestion of some nuclear end that never actually happened. All just part of the narrative. Freddy didn’t mind the story, as long as they didn’t lay it on too thick. He was all about the gameplay. The action. He zoomed in another few degrees and caught a glimpse of something massive at the center of the roiling storm of sand and fury. Then a head emerged from arid obscurement, a giant face metallic and sinister. Oh fuck. The Warlord had a mech this time.

1Win must have noticed it too since she immediately activated her Stealth Field and became nothing more than a fleeting shimmer in the air and footsteps across the sand as she headed for the cover of a nearby rock outcropping. Freddy didn’t blame her, it had been her standard all the previous Waves, so why switch up a successful tactic? It didn’t matter if you went in guns blazing or hid behind a rock until all the enemies were dead. 

Winning was winning.

"Shock, watch out. Looks like the Warlord is riding in on a mech. Big ass one too."

The MetaExplorer looked up from her Vortex cannon and sprouted a maniacal grin. "Oh yeah. That's one sexy death robot. Gotta be a Nexus model. Hoping to get an Oberon myself one day. But bigger they are, bigger they fall, right?" 

Freddy shrugged. He didn't know much about mechs besides you didn't want to fight one unless you were strapped into a mech of your own. He had a few Ordinance class weapons in his inventory, some mech parts he was planning on taking to Pretty's when the whole challenge was over, and he even had looted a legendary mech mod during Wave Five. But he had no mech of his own yet, which didn’t leave him with many options when faced with a Nexus model, the best mechs publicly available with the highest Power, Speed, and Endurance ratings. Hopefully one of his companions had something up their sleeves, otherwise, their whole run was over and it would be a whole cycle before they could give it another go.

He wasn't exactly looking forward to being d-mezzed either, with all the gear and loot he had picked up since arriving in Waste Land!. It had been quite the experience gating into the middle of the strange apocalyptic theme park that served as the world's central hub. A d-mezzing meant all his active inventory, filled with items he had painstakingly gathered here in Waste Land! would get burned. And he wasn’t even counting all the items he had already used up to boost his stats in hopes of making it to the end and proving himself worthy of the Winners Circle. 

"Looks like Mr. Warlord has a whole army of drones along with him. Power level looks pretty low though. All coming up green for me." Shock.wav’s cybernetic eyes were opened wide, emitting a flat plane of red light that scanned the approaching MOBs.

Freddy adjusted his display to show Power level, and sure enough, the army of haphazard robots, held together with tape and splashes of graffiti, all shimmered a pale green, barely enough of a threat to grant exp and loot. The Warlord's mech however shone like a hateful crimson sun, a color reserved for the hardest MOBs and raid bosses. If every single one of the Broker hopefuls had been here, still fresh and ready with their HP high and ammo full, they might have stood a chance. But now it was just the three of them, spent and weary. Might even just be the two of them, since 1Win had decided she was better off hiding than confronting this monstrosity.

The sand cloud had settled now, the vast array of the Warlord's forces on full display as they shambled over the arid wastes, the giant mech towered over the scavenged drones, crushing some of its own with every stride. The broken remnants were picked up by the drones rushing in behind, adding the scavenged pieces to their own twisted forms.

Then Shock.wav let loose her Vortex Cannon. 

A tiny black sphere rushed across the barren landscape, sucking up sand and hot, blistering air, before crashing into the front of the robot army with a silent ripping of the universe. The tear swallowed the entire horizon in nothingness. Freddy was worried it would expand and pull the whole Paradigm in, but then it reached its terrifying crescendo, shuddered like the last breath of a corpse, and withered to nothing in an instant.

The robot army was gone. Completely devoured by the horrid darkness. A few twisted metal limbs twitched in the scattered sands, but all that remained of the Warlord's vast army was the gigantic mech, alone and untouched. The Warlord's mech continued to lumber forward, feet crunching the rapidly fragmenting remnants of its army deeper into the blasted sand. It would be on them in a handful of tixs, and Freddy couldn't see a path to victory. Maybe survive as long as possible in hopes that there was a pity prize for the last hopeful standing. 

In a feeble survival attempt, he switched out his gear for a set of Ironwood Armor he had painstakingly collected over in The Thirteen Groves, a Beta World that looked a lot friendlier than the terrain stretched before him here in Waste Land!. The armor’s fantasy aesthetic clashed with the nuclear apocalypse motif of War World, but it had some of the highest defensive stats currently available. At least it would allow him to survive a hit or two from a Nexus. Probably.

A wave of small canisters erupted from the mech as it closed the distance, fanning out in the air and leaving a trail of green gas as they came crashing down around Freddy. He ran as fast as he could away from Shock.wav, hoping that splitting the mech's fire would give some slight advantage. As he ran, canisters exploding into toxic green clouds around him, Freddy scrolled through his list of meds and bevs, consuming any he thought might have value. Speed Potion, Rad Killer, HP Max soda (limited-edition orange/red flavor), Pirate 'Gram…sure, why not!

Looking like an 1800s pirate and glowing with a half dozen effects, Freddy broke free from the toxin cloud as the Warlord mech sprayed a volley of depleted uranium shells into the space he just vacated. Shock.wav yelled in defiance and erupted up out of the cloud on neon metallic wings, returning fire with a beautiful antique rifle right out of a classic western, except for it shot hot-pink energy bolts instead of .56 caliber bullets. Scorch marks appeared along the mech’s armor, as it tried to track the soaring MetaExplorer, but Shock.wav was too quick; zigging when it zagged, going low when it went high. Freddy couldn’t help but be impressed. But impressed or not, he couldn’t let Shock.wav grab all the glory and, more importantly, all the points.

“Might as well go all out,” Freddy mumbled, flipping to the highest weapons in his inventory, a Plasma Rocket Launcher he had been saving for over 900 cycles. Sure. Why the fuck not!

The sandy wastes around them became a whirlwind of explosions, flames, and energy plumes. Shock.wav continued to soar circles around the mech, keeping the Warlord mostly distracted with her blazing pink gunfire as Freddy unloaded an arsenal many cycles in the making into a precise joint on the side of the mech’s knee. Dodge, fire, dodge, fire. Most boss encounters had a rhythm to them. A pattern that if discovered could be used to avoid the worst the boss had to offer. The problem was that most bosses also had a timer of some sort, that if not defeated quickly enough would trigger some event that pretty much guaranteed a d-mezzing. He couldn’t imagine that just two of them could take a boss down before the rage timer flipped on. 

“Hey. Psst. Five-fingers or whatever your name is…” 

The whisper behind Freddy almost sent him diving in the wrong direction into a pool of radiative ooze. 

He pivoted at that last second as the pool erupted in a shower of deadly radiation before fading away to nothingness. He sent another spray of bullets into the knee joint of the Mech and then addressed the two footprints and hazy patch of air nearby. “What do you want, 1Win?” 

“You’re shooting at the wrong spot.” 

Dodge, fire, dodge, fire, don’t move too far away from 1Win. 

“You’re free to join in any time now.”

“Not a good time for me. Sorry. But you should be aiming for the tube along its spine, just below the central fastener. The one filled with radioactive goop. Do you see it?” 

It was hard to miss since the tube was probably 10 times as thick as Freddy himself and spanned the whole back of the towering mech.

“Yes, I see it! But I don’t have much ammo left that can even put a dent in this thing. Don’t think switching targets is going to help.”

“Shooting its reinforced leg joint isn’t going to help either.”

Freddy shot a glare back at the hazy air, which forced him to expend an Evasion boost to avoid getting trampled as the mech brought its foot down. Arguing with 1Win was throwing off his rhythm and all it would take was one hit to bring his HP to 0. 

“What do you even know? You haven’t helped one bit over nine Waves!”

The whisper sounded rather indignant. “Because I’m a Mechanic, duh. Don’t know why you’re acting so high and mighty. You’re just a Leftover. What do you even know about anything?”

This discussion wasn’t going to get them anywhere, and she did have a point. Mechanics knew just about everything there was to know about machinery, vehicles, and mechs. So, swallowing his pride, Freddy dodged and dodged again to get a good firing arc, switched his targeting upwards to the giant tube running along the mech’s back, and unloaded his last clip into it. 

Nothing happened. Not a scratch. The mech kept up its rampage trying to swat the MetaExplorer out of the air, and now Freddy was out of any effective long-range weapons. 

“Cool. Thanks for that, 1Win.”

“No, no. That was perfect. I wasn’t sure which fastener was the weak point. I only have one shot at this.” 

“Shot at-” Freddy didn’t have the chance to finish his question.

The haze around 1Win turned purple and then disappeared entirely with a quiet pop. There was another louder pop and a small cloud of angry purple energy appeared on the back of the Warlord’s mech, just below the upper fastener. The energy quickly resolved itself into 1Win, holding a giant sword that glowed with the pure blue light of a thousand proton stars. As she fell, she swung the blade with all her might into the large green gunky tube, severing it neatly. Radioactive ooze sprayed out in a violent geyser, catching 1Win just before she vanished in another pop of purple energy. 

An instant later she appeared next to Freddy, shrieking in frustration as her avatar melted away wherever the ooze had touched her. 

“Fuckity fuck! I thought I had timed that perfectly. Damn it. I was so close.” 

She waved off Freddy as he materialized his last health pack. 

“It’s an acid effect meant to bring down mechs. That ain’t going to cut it.”

“Sorry,” Freddy said, using the med pack to top off his own HP.

The mech had begun to flail widely, stumbling away from Freddy and the Mechanic who was quickly dropping to 0 HP, giving them a little respite. 

“That was an awesome attack though. You can be proud of that at least.”

“Fuck all it will do to help me get into the Winners Circle now. Might give you two a chance…”

“Thanks for that. Good game.”

“Same to you, GG.” And with that, the green ooze consumed the last of 1Win and her avatar exploded in a cloud of sparkling motes of light that swirled around Freddy before vanishing completely. 

Another message appeared on his display: Soul Boost x10. Granted by 1Win. 

Wow. D-mezz effects were pretty rare, especially high attribute boosts like this one. Freddy sent his spent rifle back to his inventory, swapping it out for Bloodbath. The triple-chain blades of the chainsaw-like weapon roared as he pumped the trigger and started running for the Warlord’s faltering mech.

A text came over his comms. “WTF was that? 1Win was really holding out. I was just playing before, but we might have a chance now. LFG!” 

Freddy waved up at his remaining ally as she flew circles above the mech raining down continuous pink energy blasts. He had just started composing a response when the mech suddenly snapped to action, bringing one open hand in an arch above its head and crashing it into Shock.wav. A yellow sphere of energy appeared around the MetaExplorer at the last instant, throwing out a powerful shockwave that sent the Broker spinning widely away, brought the mech to its knees, and almost knocked Freddy on his ass. That couldn’t be good.

He rushed forward to get eyes on Shock.wav. The mech was already on its feet again, lumbering forward to a Broker-shaped crater in the sand that was too far away from Freddy to help. He watched in dread as the Warlord raised one massive foot and brought it down with all the power a Nexus model could muster. 1Win would probably have known the exact damage output, but Freddy knew it would be more than enough to d-mezz his last hope in joining the Winners Circle. The landscape shuddered with the impact, and the Warlord roared in triumph. The irradiated bastard must have known that Freddy had nothing that could touch him. The battle was over.

Freddy paused at the top of the rise created by the shockwave, looking down into the sandy basin as the Warlord’s mech brought its foot down a few more times for good measure. He was considering just fast-traveling out of here back to the Safe Zone and salvaging what loot he could when a glimmer of red slithered through the sand behind the triumphant mech. The Warlord must have detected something as well, as it tried to turn around to face the mysterious threat. But even a Nexus wasn’t fast enough for the pure elegant speed that emerged from the sand in a flurry of graceful cuts. 

It was beautiful. A sleek mech with a black, glossy exterior and glowing black emissives. The two slender blades that made up its forearms cut deep into the back and side of the Nexus, and before the acidic spray could mar its metallic carapace, it had already darted around the Warlord, staying within the larger mech’s blindspot as it slid across the sand on bladed feet.

He couldn’t believe it. Shock.wav had pulled a damn Bladerunner mech out of thin air! A Lupis model usually couldn’t take down a Nexus in a fair fight, but the smaller, lighter mech was faster and could pack plenty of punch. With the Warlord already damaged and Shock.wav getting the element of surprise, there was a pretty good chance the Bladerunner would come out on top. There wasn’t much Freddy could do to sway the outcome either way, so he sat down on the rise and watched the two mechs beat the crap out of each other. 

The Bladerunner got a few more good slices in before the Warlord was able to finally get eyes on Shock.wav. The Warlord countered her volley with a barrage of canisters that exploded into a toxic cloud before the Lupis could change directions fast enough to completely avoid it. The green mist clung stubbornly to the Bladerunner, creating hissing holes in the glossy black exterior, slowly sapping the luster and defensive power of the mech with each corrosive tix. Shock.wav tried darting quickly from side to side to shake the acid off, but it refused to do anything but dig deeper and deeper into the mechanical workings of the Lupis, eagerly seeking the Broker operator hidden within. 

Shock.wav must have done the math, the Bladerunner wasn’t going to last much longer. She went completely still and then thrust one bladed arm upwards in a taunt emote. The Warlord cackled and changed recklessly forward, its fists cloaked in a growing energy field that spiked Freddy’s Rad bar despite the distance. The moment the Nexus raised its fists to strike, the Bladerunner darted forward with all its speed, driving both its bladed arms into the giant biohazard symbol set in the larger mech’s chest. The mad cackle turned into a roar of rage and the Warlord brought its overcharged fists down onto the head of Shock.wav’s mech.

Everything went white-hot. The initial shockwave of the explosion sent Freddy back over the rise, covering him with a wave of sand and shielding him from the worst of the blast. Even then his HP was flashing red and his Rad meter was only a few points away from automatically d-mezzing him. If it weren’t for 1Win’s Soul Boost providing extra resistance, he would have been a goner for sure. Somehow he had survived it all, though it wouldn’t mean much once he pulled himself out of this sand and got stomped on by a mech. Might as well get it over with.

Climbing out of the mountain of sand he had been buried under, Freddy was greeted with a thick haze of green-tinted dust that hung thick in the air. The blast marks on the ground were slowly fading along with the dust cloud, but it was still pretty easy to head in the direction of ground zero. His audios weren’t picking up any heavy clomping around, so maybe Shock.wav had done enough damage to render the Warlord’s mech immobile. That was the best he could hope for really. If it had been iced, then the challenge would have been over. He would have gotten a deluge of loot, exp, and those sweet, sweet points. He would have been on his way to the Winners Circle’s private club to be welcomed with open arms and initiated into the Paradigm’s finest gamer guild. But instead here he was, struggling forward valiantly to his own d-mezzing. 

The haze broke suddenly, and Freddy found himself not 30 meters away from two massive, burnt-out mech husks, locked in death’s embrace. The Warlord’s mech was a twisted wreck; its head and chest blown away by the combined explosion of its own fists and the failure of its engine. There wasn’t much left of Shock.wav and her Bladerunner, just its internal skeleton and two blades extending out the back of the wrecked Nexus. Even those bits were fading fast, turning into the swirl of pixelated energy that marked d-mezzing. 

“Wow. Damn. I did it! I made it!” Freddy’s shock turned quickly to triumph, and then quickly back to shock again when the Nexus wreck began to stir. “Oh, damn, damn, damn. I knew it was too good to be true.” He gripped Bloodbath with both hands and moved slowly forward. It wasn’t much, but it was all he had left.

One of the twisted metal plates still attached to the mech’s chest burst off and clattered to the ground. Emerging from what Freddy assumed must be the mech cockpit came a hideous, lumbering MOB. Bluish-gray skin, burnt red in several places, clad in scavenged armor that was partially melted into the mutant’s still smoldering flesh. With a sound that was more sputter than the growl it probably intended, the Warlord leaped down to the scorched earth. 

Freddy was in motion before the first clattering echo reached him, holding down the chain-weapons trigger with all his might as he drove three roaring chainsaw blades into the Warlord’s chest the moment the injured boss MOB touched the ground. The Warlord had only a brief moment to look utterly shocked before exploding in a shower of gore, covering a grinning Freddy head to toe in foul, green blood. 


The door to the Winners Circle gleamed bronze and bright among the dark, dreary buildings that surrounded it. It was beautiful, and not just because of the sparkling door itself or the amazing stained-glass depiction of Guildmaster mr_ir0nic in all his glory. No. The door was beautiful because of what it represented. Prestige. Triumph. Belonging

Freddy had paced by this same exact spot before and had only seen concrete, the door only materializing to those who had been extended a coveted invitation to the Winners Circle. Now, Freddy lifted his arm and a projection from his bracer of his own invite, nestled safely in his inventory, appeared before his eyes. Fast Fingers Freddy had been the last hopeful standing. He had gotten the killing blow on the Warlord. And even though he had missed that coveted high score by a measly 93 points, he had proven his worth to the Winners Circle. And that was all that mattered.

He was a winner now. One of the elite. Everyone else? Just a bunch of losers.

Freddy clenched his mechanical fists once, twice. Then he reached forward and twisted the doorknob.