The Beast Tower

2: Nate's First Change

It was late in the Spring Semester, and Nathan Donnelly was nearly finished with his courses. The only course giving him trouble was Government 102: US Congress, due to a very terrible professor named Hartnell. Hartnell was so terrible that nearly the entire class had failed to learn anything whatsoever, and while he was always good student, Nate was among the number of students who simply could not hack it in the guy’s class. Fortunately, as our story begins, Professor Hartnell fell ill, and was replaced by a new teacher: the beautiful and enigmatic Adelaide Stoker.

(Adam: …that is not a promising name. that is in fact a worrying name.

Maq: lol)

Part of it was that Nate had a lot riding on this course. He couldn’t withdraw, or else he’d find his full-time status and financial aid revoked; he couldn’t fail, or he’d have to retake the course with Hartnell next semester. Part of it was that Stoker was the sort of Professor who immediately endeared students to her—made them want to impress her with their intelligence. Part of it was that she was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Put all of these together, and you have a serious fire lit under Nathan Donnelly’s ass. But as the semester drew toward a close, and he was generously given a fresh lease on life in Gov’t 102, Nate wrote a killer final paper. Things were finally beginning to look hopeful.

Too bad it was all about to go horribly, horribly wrong.

It began innocuously enough: on the morning of the final paper’s due date, after completing the essay and doing his final proofreading, Nate discovered that his printer inexplicably failed to work. Undeterred, and thinking on his feet, Nate copied the paper on to his USB flash drive and went to the University library to print it out there. Unfortunately for him, this is when things began to get a little weird. The printer there didn’t work, either.

Now faced with the increasingly-realistic prospect of not having a paper for his 2PM class, Nate turned to his buddy Wes, a Computer Science major who sat next to Nate in Gov’t 102.

NATE (via text): Wes, if you’re near campus you are my only hope.

Wes was all too willing to help—he offered to take the paper from Nate, through e-mail, print it off, and bring it to class with him. For a few moments, at least, the problem seemed easily solved. But then Nate received a worrying text message.

WES: wtf, man? the file you sent’s all corrupted.

NATE: …define corrupted?

WES: bunch of f’ing gibberish symbols.

Nate opened the file again on the school computer. It appeared to be fine. He sat back in his chair, stared at the computer screen, checked his watch. These inexplicable technical problems were beginning to wear on him, and he began to feel a little shell-shocked.

(Adam: “hmm what collegey skill doesn’t nate have AHH COMPUTER

Maq: haha

Adam: I think Skynet sent Adelaide back in time to prevent Nate’s rise to power and she’s using her robot powers to fuck with the machines.

Maq: lol)

Ever the helpful techie, Wes invited Nate to his off-campus apartment, which was within walking distance of their classroom building, to fix the issue for him and get the paper printed. As he walked up to the motel-style building, and searched for Wes’s apartment number, he bemoaned his fate.

NATE: I think about this time in a past life I drunkenly swerved into a small child.

Again, there was a moment of relief, as Wes took the USB drive, and everything seemed to work fine for a moment. But, much to Wes’s consternation, his printer too simply failed to do what it was told—or even respond to his commands.

WES: The hell?

He immediately began to work toward the root of the problem, clicking away on his Alienware laptop at blinding speed.

Meanwhile, Nate makes a few misguided attempts to help.

NATE: What about like—copy-pasting it into a new file? Or retyping it manually into a new file?

WES: It’s not the file, man. Look, the file’s fine. And the printer driver is fine. And the printer is working fine. But for some reason, somewhere between here, and there, it’s just…disappearing.

Wes checked the wifi. He checked the router. When those things seemed to be in order, he attempted to upload Nate’s paper to his Google Drive—when the wifi suddenly and inexplicably failed.

NATE: Fuck, man, I—fuck. Rotten-lipped cocksucking shitbags of fire. Fuck.

Class time was drawing increasingly near. Nate began to despair, but since Wes seemed hopeful for a solution, Nate offered to take Wes’s paper down to the classroom while Wes continued to troubleshoot the issue. He only hoped Wes could fix it and get down to the classroom with the paper before their class time expired.

NATE: Really appreciate it, man. You’re a king.

WES: No problem.

Nate headed to class, where most of the students had already accumulated. He arrived at just the same time as Professor Stoker—the attractive young instructor coming right up behind him as he entered the doorway. Proximity to her gave Nate all kinds of hormonal feelings—she was even prettier up close—and Nate closed his eyes and took a few meditative breaths to try to keep calm.

STOKER: Hey—you okay?

NATE: Well—I’ll know in two minutes. I’ll save the puppy dog face ’til I know how fucked I am.

They exchanged a few more words, and when Nate’s began to take on the air of excuses, Stoker frowned and told Nate to speak to her after class. Class proceeded as normal, until about halfway through, when Wes texted Nate and asked to see his computer. So Nate went out to meet Wes in the parking lot and lend the guy his laptop.

WES: Man, Stoker’s really got you fired up, doesn’t she?

NATE: Having the grades to get out of this county has me fired up.

WES: Sure it’s got nothing to do with Stoker’s ass?

NATE: Not sure at all.

While Wes booted up Nate’s laptop, he explained that Nate had somehow acquired a computer virus that had messed with every printer and wifi connection he’d since come into contact with. He told Nate he would work on tracing the source and getting a fix to the problem.

WES: Dude. Free porn dot exe? You seriously fell for that?

NATE: I—what? I realize—this sounds—I mean—I really think that must have been my roommate.

WES: Your roommate, huh? Your roommate use your computer this morning?

NATE: The only thing that did this morning was write my paper, use my email, a database, some Washington Post blogs, and watch some Youtube videos about the filibuster.

WES: Uh huh. Well, the file was added to your hard drive this morning at 8:10AM.

Wes told Nate that he would work on tracing the IP that the virus came from, but that it would take him anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours. Hoping for the best, Nate returned to class, and promised Wes that he owed him a good meal in return. But as class wore on, and Nate’s hopes of getting that paper in on time dwindled, he began to text Wes for results—and received no replies. Class ended, and the other students turned in their papers and filed out, ultimately leaving Nate alone in the room with Professor Stoker.

NATE: So I can skip ahead if you’ve heard this part before, but after I finished the paper I had some technical problems.

STOKER: Nate, I thought we were past this kind of BS.

Nate swore that he had the paper done, that it was on his USB drive, and that he could prove it. Stoker, seemingly unsure what to make of Nate at this point, agreed to wait in her office for Nate to fetch the drive and bring it up. And while Nate had begun to be concerned for Wes, it turned out that Wes had simply been engrossed in the fascinating task of tracking a stranger’s IP address. Wes had determined that the signal was coming from a dedicated T1 line—local, but not from the college. He offered to help Nate track the culprit down, but Nate was less interested in revenge at the moment, and more interested in fixing his paper situation. So he took his USB drive and went up to Stoker’s office.

All seemed to be going well as stoker loaded the USB drive into her computer. The two even seemed to get along well—even flirt a little. Nate hinted he might do some car repair work to off-set a debt; Stoker confided that her Bug wasn’t in great condition and could use some work.

The tone of the conversation changed dramatically when Stoker opened the contents of the USB drive, however.

STOKER: Is this your idea of a joke, Nate?

NATE: This is like a bad dream.

STOKER: It certainly is.

Someone had apparently replaced Nate’s well-written essay on the effects of the Filibuster on American Government with a lengthy piece of terrible erotica.

(Maq: gross dude

Adam: I’m so surprised

Adam: also just wanted to make dan write the bad erotica out

Let it never be said that the ST shirks his grim responsibilities.

“Oh, Nathan,” she rasped longinigly, as she grasped his purple-headed warrior, “you are so big.” Her D-cup breasts swelled in anticipation, the perky nipples puckering with arousal. Nathan had never guessed her rack would be so tremendous and juicy. As he grasped those twin vanilla mounds, and stroked the perky rosebud nipples, he wondered where and how she had hidden it all. But all inquisitive thought was wiped away from his mind as he felt the tight warmth of Professor Stoker’s mouth envelop him like a slick, wet sheath…

Okay, I need a shower.)

STOKER: Nate, if you want to be some kind of…creative writer? That’s…fine? But Government class is not an appropriate outlet, and I would certainly appreciate it if you left me out of your…stories, in the future.

(Maq: that’s fairly level-headed of her, all things considered.)

NATE: I wouldn’t—didn’t—whatever that is, just—I doubt I can really sound convincing about anything, at this point, so—just know I’m incredibly, sincerely sorry, and I just want to end this however you feel is best and most appropriate.

STOKER: I’m really, sincerely, completely baffled by your actions today, Nathan. I can honestly say I haven’t a clue what to do with you right now.

NATE: I can just go.

STOKER: You probably should. And Nathan? Just for the record—I am nowhere near a D-cup.

NATE: Oh, for Christ’s sake. I am so, so sorry.

Needless to say, this latest turn of events stoked—if you’ll pardon the expression—Nathan’s desire for revenge. He returned to the car and, after a few words with Wes, the pair decided to track down the culprit together and sort this mess out. Worst of all was a sinking feeling in the back of Nate’s mind: anyone who knew enough to write such a piece of Nate/Stoker fan-fiction must have been well acquainted with the victim.

GPS in hand, Wes led Nate on a drive all the way back to his hometown of Thompson Falls—and then, out of the car, into the wilderness south of town. The signal brought them to a perfectly ordinary patch of dirt in the middle of the mountainous forest, and Nate was just about to give in to his wordless frustration when his foot happened to make a hollow metallic sound on the ground beneath him; and underneath that very foot, he discovered a hatch leading to what appeared to be a Cold War-era nuclear fallout shelter. And just when Nate thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the hatch opened by itself—as if beckoning him to enter.

NATE: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Nate and Wes descended into the shelter, which was illuminated from within. At the base of the ladder, they found a storage room full of provisions.

(Whereupon the players speculated with abandon:

Adam: …fuck I didn’t take investigation
Adam: wtf was I thinking
Maq: hahaha murder shack
Maq: cannibal shack
Adam: nah there’s gonna be like one dude, and numbers, and a button)

Nate then discovered that the main provision being stored here was some type of dried meat, not store-bought, but home-prepared.

(Maq: i told you, human cannibal shack
Adam: yeahhh)

Wes and Nate passed through a steel door and into a second room, which contained more provisions, books, and other detritus, surrounding a centrally-located computer workstation. Seated in front of the workstation was a slumped-over corpse, with a crude hand-fashioned shiv jammed through his right eye. Nate began to feel strange, stretched thin, as though he had somehow strayed into a world that wasn’t real—as though he were in a waking dream.

NATE: Fuck.

(Adam informs us of his thoughts at the moment, as well as his character’s primary objective:

Adam: we’ve now reached the point where we just sound like the two guys in the very beginning of the episode of supernatural

Adam: who are about to be killed by the monsters/mysteriously vanish

Adam: my new (doomed) goal, keep wes alive somehow)

NATE: Wes, you need to get the fuck out of here right now.

WES: Uh, why? Oh, shit. This guy’s dead.

WES: What the fuck—Nate, take a look at this.

Looking where Wes was pointing, Nate saw a screen with a big black window, featuring some big red numbers that appeared to be an upward-counting timer. Along with that, two buttons: EXECUTE, and ABORT. The clock had been running for nine hours and change—putting its time of initiation right around the same time that Nate acquired his computer virus.

NATE: Jesus Christ on a fucking stick.

Nate also noticed that the man who was operating the computer, before he’d been killed, had apparently opened a chat window to someone named Lucita. The message, unsent, read simply: “LOL.”

(At this point, everyone in the OOC chat begins to heckle Adam. Abort! Execute! Hit enter, mang! HIT ENTER! Adam resolves to spite everyone by taking no action whatsoever. The ST works to ensure that this is not a possibility.)

WES: Uh, so should we maybe like…abort that program?

NATE: Don’t know what it does. Need more context.

Nate scanned the computer for additional chat history—any further information—but, to his frustration, discovered that either someone had cleared out all the logs, or there had never been any logs in the first place.

WES: I’m pretty sure, whatever it does, we don’t want it to “Execute,” don’t you think?

NATE: I think it’s executing already.

Nate inspected the body of the victim, and found a cell phone, which had the same count-up screen running on it.

WES: Well, it’s probably the virus.

The vaguely unsettling feeling Nate had been experiencing increased. The situation felt wrong to him, somehow, and the stress at not knowing what to do, not knowing how to fix it, increased Nate’s pulse, making him sweat and giving him a pounding headache. Starting to snap, Nate impulsively hit the enter key on the chat window.


LUCITA: what’s funny?

WES: Oh shit. You got a reply.

Nate decided to try to manipulate the conversation with this mystery contact in the hopes of learning something.

CRASH: It’s happening.

LUCITA: What’s happening?

CRASH: Pressed the big execute button.

LUCITA: Oh noes!!! is there a bomb on the bus? Does it detonate if I slow down to below 40 mph?

CRASH: this is not the second season of Veronica Mars, come on now.

LUCITA: I was referring to the movie “Speed.” Which I know you’ve seen. Don’t lie.

CRASH: playing dumb is one of my many virtues

It was this line, for reasons Nate may never understand, which gave him away.

LUCITA: Who the fuck is this?

Nate gave up on the chat. His pulse was pounding in his skull. Everything felt wrong. Why was this guy dead? Why was nothing fixed? Why would an innocent thing like a term paper lead to this kind of calamity? Who was out to get him? What did they want? Would this ever stop? The stress of it all began to become too much, and his reality began to collapse down to the form of that simple choice waiting for him on the computer screen. ABORT. EXECUTE. ABORT. EXECUTE.

Nate hissed, growled, smacked the desk. He turned, started to pace away—and then spun back and slammed the EXECUTE button. Yielding to this—making the impossible choice, finally tipping the scales in one direction—caused Nate’s world to finally shatter. The floodgates broke, and the tide tore through. No longer able to control himself, or his urges, or his Rage, Nate exploded into his Gauru form and destroyed everything in sight, including his trusty side-kick, Wes.

When he came to, he was in the adjoining storage room. The dried mystery-meat jerky was scattered all over the room. A flow of blood was oozing in from the computer room, and from within it, Nate heard Wes whimper.

WES: Nate? Wha’…

NATE: Wes. Wes, man, are you okay?

It only took one look for Nate to know that he wasn’t. Wes’s body was a twisted wreck—like the body of a man caught between a subway tunnel and a speeding train. Nate’s EMT training told him that Wes had only minutes to live—that he would die of his internal hemorrhaging, if nothing else. And as his future packmates, Willow and Emma, filed into the bomb shelter from above, Nate took up the knife that he’d found plunged in the corpse’s eye.

NATE: One sec, man. You’re gonna get away clean.

He ran a hand across Wes’s brow.

NATE: I am so, so sorry. You’re a king.

WES: Think maybe you should’ve…hit abort, man…

NATE: Maybe. You have anything needs taking care of?

WES: If you…get a chance to nail Stoker…Make her say my name?

Nate swallowed thickly, knowing what he now had to do. And with one final word of encouragement from his friend, Nate bent forward and slit Wes’s throat.



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