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Even after he’s quit the program and shut down and crawled into bed, his brain is still patiently inventing and solving new puzzles, over and over in the dark. Alejandro would like it to stop, or move on to something besides linking red gems to gold coins. This could have been convenient back when he was struggling with state capitols and trig.

The game has made him its homunculus. What if this is his end state, the brainlock doom of permanent replay mode? Alejandro maps out a tricky spiral and thinks, hey, maybe this is what alcohol is supposed to solve.


The Teutons are a bitch to play in this game but Alejandro really wants to see if he can get through the campaign, survive the Lithuanian uprising and limp to the Peace of Thorn.

“We miss you,” she says, her IM window making the monitor blort.

“I’m done with guild drama,” he types back.

“Nursing your chapped ass in VGA nostalgia?”


“So you’re not trying to take back Samogitia right now.”

Alejandro winces. “Yeah, well.”

“Do you miss us?”

“You mean ‘me?'”

But she’s already signed off.

The Peace of Thorn is brief and bitter; it becomes the Hunger War.


The hook, in god-games, isn’t the destructive power or capriciousness. Sure, you can drop a volcano on Manhattan or fling your worshippers at distant islands, but so what? One might as well build a block city and kick it over in a raging second: fun, but not for long, and you have to clean it up.

No, Alejandro knows, it’s benevolence that addicts you. When else is doing good so easy, so clear, so quickly rewarded? If real kindness were like this, he thinks (drumming with pencils and wishing he was playing another turn), shit, he’d probably be a volunteer.


The tiny postapocalyptic biker gang dangles from Alejandro’s cursor as he tries to decide where in the desert to plop them down.

“You’re addicted to that game,” she says.

“It’s only addiction if my insurance covers it.”

“You don’t have insurance.”

“Shit,” he says, “I should take up smoking.”

“Anyway, this box is the last of your stuff. Unless you want the towels.”

“Nah,” he says, very lightly, “they’d smell like you.”

“Shit,” she says, “I should take up smoking.”

Alejandro drops the flailing bikers. They cheer and pop pixelated wheelies, until the one with the eyepatch dies of radiation poisoning.