Things That Inspire
rating: +3+x

Hive was angry. And he was sad. And melancholic. And hysterical. And cheerful. He was many things at once, in a form that a normal human mind could not grasp. He was a gestalt intelligence, formed from the minds of 500 people across the globe.

To his own personal dissatisfaction, he was much less happy than angry or sad. The nineties were supposed to be a time of plenty. The Wall was gone, the Cold War was over, and humanity had managed, against all odds, to not bomb itself into nuclear winter. The event had been pompously called the end of history.

Yeah, sure. History marched on regardless, you idiot! Therefore, Hive's current objective was to survive.

Many of his hosts lived in good circumstances where it would be worthwhile to add more people to his network, but far more lived in less welcoming areas of the globe. They saw what prosperity did cost. Hive saw rainbow-colored waters, sterilized by an oil leak. He saw the blackened facades in industrial areas where smog was so pervasive that people got headaches when they actually breathed clean air. He saw the island of plastic waste that was gradually beginning to form in the Western Pacific, made up of trash from all over the world.

Yup, they probably wouldn't get out of that mess. In the end, humans were just animals who had merely noticed that you could use things other than your own hands to make your life easier. They reproduced, destroyed their basis for existence, and would again become fewer in number until sufficient resources were again available. Typical predator-prey relationship.

Well, if sufficient resources were available. Mankind had not declared itself an event of mass extinction for nothing. They knew what they were doing and did it anyway. Not to become cynical in this world was impossible.

People therefore distracted themselves. With sports, with television, with games.

Hive decided to indulge in it. He drank alcohol, he played soccer, he picked up sexual partners of both sexes, he played video games.

One of those games, an RPG called The Story of Leina, actually managed to captivate him. His compliments went to Reality Rebuilder, the game studio of Letters Entertainment that had created this game. And they weren't even from Japan or America, where the big stuff came from, no, this was made in China.

Leina, the heroine of the game, was in a similar situation to the people around Hive. Humanity was depriving itself of its basis for existence. But Leina was a female engineer, which Hive found quite progressive, and tried to make the world a better place with her inventions.

The gameplay was great and even the humor was good, so Hive's host played late into the evening. And Hive wondered, if more people thought like Leina, what could be accomplished?

Then he looked up and saw factory chimneys smoking in the distance. Wishful thinking.

His host went back to work the next day somewhere in China. He was absolutely tired from all the gaming, but even with this limited perception, Hive saw something that made him stop the host.

In the distance stood a lone wind turbine in a field. It gleamed in the light of the rising sun and spun leisurely. Hive was sure there were no wind turbines here. And the design … It looked like something out of Story of Leina.

It took a little while, but then one of his hosts had found the information he wanted. Letters Entertainment was doing business in the area of the anomalous. His gamer host had not known that until now. He had been able to order the game by phone through a newspaper ad. It had been expensive, but too well reviewed not to try. You even got your money back if you didn't like it.

Okay. Now there was a wind turbine. So what? It would probably be torn down soon because it was redundant. Hive continued to devote himself to his day's work.

The interesting thing about Story of Leina was how distinctive the villains were. They came in three flavors, a massive mega-corporation that had a stranglehold on the world thanks to fossil energy because its leaders were all blackmailing each other in a vicious cycle. On top of that, there was an involuntary mafia that was connected to the corporation. Both had dirt to throw at each other, so they couldn't stab each other in the back and helped each other out. The third party was a vigilante group that acted out of fear of the other two and sabotaged Leina's work. They feared having their power shut off.

Leina meanwhile didn't let that get her down and refined her designs of wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, solar panels and other things. She upset the corporation when she started making synthetic fuel. Leina was harassed, her work disrupted.

This was reflected in reality, as the wind turbine was in the process of being demolished just a few days after it appeared.

But three others had taken its place in the meantime. Hive admired this kind of mirroring and wondered what would happen if the game had sold millions of copies.

But it didn't help, the new wind turbines would also be dismantled shortly.

Leina was eventually driven from her home. She was framed for a crime she had not committed, and so she fled into the Underground. No more inventions were created and the wind turbines in reality had stopped turning. The first one had already been deprived of its blades.

To the Underground, where the outcasts and undesirables lived, Leina brought the light. She used her designs to generate electricity to power devices that had previously been useless. For the first time, people thanked Leina. More and more clean energy could be produced and Leina developed machines to clean up the bad air and the dirt in the Underground.

In reality, there was suddenly a hydroelectric power plant in the local river that offered cheap electricity. People immediately jumped at it. At least until the town reported a lawsuit for unsanctioned business. Against which the people of the town took action in turn. After all, who wanted to give up cheap electricity and switch to a tariff that was now much more expensive in anticipation of the lawsuit?

In the meantime, in the game, law enforcement noted that strange things were going on in the Underground, because the number of offenses committed by Underground residents had noticeably decreased. Investigators finally reported Leina's developments. This later came to the attention of numerous residents of the city, who began to tap electricity from the Underground and agreed with Leina on payments in the form of food and other necessary goods for the underground.

The mafia later learned of this, and through them the corporation, and they began destroying Leina's machines again. But this time they drew the ire of the undergrounders, who were also very familiar with the bowels of the industrial infrastructure, and began to sabotage the corporation's work.

The local power producer of the city in China came under fire these days as the price of the coal used to run the plant skyrocketed, which was passed on to local electricity bills. Even some senior officials protested the move, granting an emergency request by the hydroelectric plant to obtain a permit for its operations. The court, meanwhile, agreed with the company on a hefty fine, but the power plant was able to endure it quite easily, as customers were now suddenly flooding to it. Even when the price of coal dropped again, no one who had left wanted to go back.

Leina's troubles came to an end when, after a subplot, the mafia turned against the corporation and the vigilantes were drawn to their side by alternative ways of buying electricity. In a tremendous finale, the corporation's corruption was exposed and its machinations ended, sometimes more and sometimes less legally. Leina was finally able to return to her home and was hailed as the greatest genius of the century, while she herself returned to doing what she liked best, tinkering.

The playthrough had taken about two months. After those two months, the coal-fired power plant was now on the brink of closure and a new wind farm was being built. People had begun to take action against the industry's toxic fumes after noticing that the air quality had improved noticeably after the coal boilers were shut down.

And Hive finally understood. People weren't inherently stupid, it just took something to make them do the right thing. Something that planned and inspired. Something like him. Hive now knew what he had to do. It was no longer a matter of just surviving, it was a matter of leading so that as many as possible could live without worry.

Some thirty years later, applause from all corners of the Hive with its more than 8,000 members, roared to the creators when the collective's first fusion reactor finally came online and began to power the small community somewhere in eastern Europe. While Hive noted this with pride, one of its main concerns was another.

It had taken forever to infiltrate Letters Entertainment, but now the Chinese man who had once played Story of Leina finally gained entry to the office of Reality Rebuilder's storyboard director. He had the old copy of Story of Leina with him and was posing as a reporter for a small newspaper.

The author of Story of Leina was now sitting in his department's director's seat and welcomed Hive with a smile.

"You are not a reporter," he began the conversation.

Hive's host froze even as he sat down.

"What makes you think that?"

"We know that Mr. Feng, who announced you, is now a mole. We have acquaintances in very esoteric circles, that's what makes our games what they are," the Storyboard director explained. "Do you want to make me a puppet, too? I don't advise it."

"I'm not making anyone a puppet," Hive protested vigorously. "And I'm not going to force you to join. I just want to ask you something."

His opponent raised his eyebrows.

"Oh? A question from a being with far more mental capacity than any human? What kind of question is this that only I can answer?"

Hive laid his copy of Story of Leina on the table. The creator took it in his hands for a moment and looked at it.

"Oh, one of my first works. It makes me nostalgic."

"Why does it do what it does?" asked Hive. "This game made me who I am today."

Hive received a blank stare.

"Why?" the author repeated. "I was pretty young at the time. I saw the dirt and grime and everything and thought about what I could do about it. Everyone deserves a clean home. My first draft of the story was pretty much a woodhammer, or so my boss at the time told me. So I sat back down at the table and thought about what I could do. I borrowed some books on human mentality from the local library to learn how to inspire people instead of just dictating things to them, and finally concluded that showing worked better than explaining. And so the game changes reality only in small ways, piece by piece, so it doesn't turn out big. There wasn't enough console power for big changes anyway."

"But why are there so few copies of the game on the market?" asked Hive.

"Each copy of the game is a one-off, so we only delivered to order. That was necessary so that the magic that had been woven into the code would work properly. We don't settle for cheap goods here. The game hardly brought us any revenue, but we didn't care at the time. Our name was getting out there and we were having fun developing it."

"Have you ever thought about a sequel?" asked Hive.

"Sequel? Hmm," the creator made with a quiet smile. "What for? The sequel is already becoming a reality, isn't it?"

Hive laughed. It wouldn't happen today or tomorrow, but he was sure he would be able to create the second part of Story of Leina. People were not inherently self-destructive. They did the right thing if you let them.

And it had only taken one video game for him to understand that.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License