GOM is Not Enough
In the beginning there was nothing. Then came Nestea, bringing order to the cosmos and light to the void. For a time all was well. His works were divine in their perfection, his paradise unmarred by mortal imperfection. But where there is light there must be darkness. The shadow of the creator stretched across the universe, and within its dusk another being arose. He possessed the might required to shape the universe long after its creator had moved on. He was beguiling and dominating, enigmatic yet influential. His name is whispered through the eons, taking many forms - the invisible man, the empty lens, the gyre rim, the Walkin’ Dude, IPL 4 champion and a thousand more lost to time. He is everywhere and nowhere, always twisting fate to his will.
He was not there in the beginning but he was destined to stand triumphant in the end. It was an eventuality that he would wield ultimate power. For him, humanity was nothing but a plaything and Earth an empty canvas. He is aLive and this is his story.
May 19, 2012 - Seoul, South Korea
Seoul had been hot for weeks, but inside the GOM studio it was positively an inferno. Sweat dripped into viewers’ eyes as they sat mesmerized by warring Protoss and Terran armies. What had once seemed a foregone conclusion had evolved into a nailbiter as the hopes of the crowd favorite began to slip away. Mvp was a champion and the luminary of the Korean scene; his opponent was undeniably talented but a mere upstart. At first no one in attendance was calling Squirtle’s name, but the audience’s support had gradually swayed in his favor.
Tension rippled through the air as the players steeled themselves for game 7. All present were aware that a man’s legacy hung in the balance. This could be his funeral or a rebirth - when a wounded warrior passed into mythos. Mvp felt the pressure more than anyone. His despair crested as the final game approached. His fingers poised expectantly over the keyboard, he heard a whisper in his ear.
“Uh, excuse me?” Mvp looked back but saw only shadows. As he returned to his game, he thought he caught the glint of circular framed glasses reflected in the monitor. “Mvp?.”
“Who the hell are you?” Mvp inquired warily.
“Oh, sorry,” the voice stammered. “It’s kind of dark in here.”
Mvp nearly leapt out of his seat as aLive stepped into view.
“aLive? What are you doing here? I’m kind of busy.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here,” aLive replied meekly. “I thought I could lend a hand.”
Stunned, Mvp hesitated before replying.
“And how do you plan on doing that?”
“It’s just that Squirtle seems to be giving you a hard time and I had some ideas on how to deal with him.” aLive volunteered. He wrung his hands together as he glanced towards the camera crew.
“Ideas? What could you possibly know that I don’t? I threw everything at him on Metropolis. Everything. Nothing fazes him.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to help.”
Mvp grimaced. “Sorry. I’m under a lot of pressure is all. I can hardly stand straight these days. My wrists are almost finished. This is the end for me.” Soreness flared up once again as he gripped the mouse. “I didn’t even practice for tonight.”
Mvp heard the crowd’s shouts swell as the camera panned his way. The booth started to hum from the din.
“I understand but you’re here, aren’t you? You need to make the most of this chance.”
Mvp scanned the crowd until he spied Squirtle smirking at him from the other booth.
“And how do I do that?” he muttered through gritted teeth.
“Before anything happens you need to promise that you’ll do me a favor someday. I can’t tell you what it is now, but that’s the deal.”
Mvp heard the pinging in his ears as the game countdown began.
“You can’t even tell me what it is?!” Mvp’s head snapped from the rear of the booth to the monitor. “Goddamn it, the match is about to start.”
“Just forget I was ever here then,” aLive said as he retreated into the shadows.
Mvp bit his lip as the loading screen filled his view.
As Atlantis Spaceship materialized, Mvp spared one final glance at the glasses hovering behind him.
“Okay, a favor, whatever you want. Just tell me what I should do.”
February 28, 2013 - Seoul, South Korea
Roro sat before his computer, hands in constant motion, slouching as his eyes strained through another all-night session. His maddened cackles filled the Samsung Khan practice room as broodlings launched themselves towards his foes. The victory screen appeared once more. He leaned back ever so slightly, admiring his lethal fleet.
“Corrupter, infestor, brood lord,” Roro repeated between bouts of laughter. “That’s all I need!”
“Ummmm?” a voice came from behind him.
Roro spun towards the sound. “Who’s there?!”, he cried as he squinted into the hallway. The glow of the monitor slightly illuminated its confines, but he saw nothing in the gloom.
“You know the bulb is out in here, right?” The bleak light caught the circular frames of a pair of glasses.
“Who are you?” Roro stammered. His hands clenched the arms of his seat as he glanced back at his victorious brood lords floating on the screen.
“Well we’ve never met before, but I’m kind of worried about you.” aLive stepped out of the pitch-black air, arms crossed disapprovingly. “I think you have a problem.”
Roro abruptly croaked in disbelief, half-cackle and half-snarl.
“With what? With these?” His arm swept towards the monitor. “Nothing is too strong for brood lord/infestor. I don’t need anything else to win.”
“I don’t think they’ll be enough against Taeja. He’s pretty clever.”
“You’re crazy! Once I get to this composition, it’s game over. It’s impossible for Terran to beat it.”
“I’m just trying to help.” aLive stammered. “Taeja will pick you apart if you do that. If you want to be a champion, maybe you should try something else.”
“And what do you know?” Roro demanded.
“Well, I’ve been around for awhile. Most people learn that too late.”
Roro flinched. Where did that cruelness in tone come from? He fell silent, casting another glance towards his beloved composition. He shook his head and sighed before looking back into the shadows.
“If you know everything, what should I do?”
“You can’t directly challenge Taeja in a brawl. His defense is incredible and he will punish you for the slightest error. Instead, try and use what you’ve learned over the last 5 years. You have good mechanics. Trust in them. You don’t need to wait for victory when you can overwhelm him in the mid game. Early attacks should break through his guard as well. if he hangs too long, go for ultras. All of this sounds crazy now, but it is the path to the finals. Then you can use brood lords to your heart’s content. So, maybe, try that out and see what happens.”
Roro looked back. The brood lords were still on his screen, regal and alluring. He waited for the stranger to finish his speech, but the words never came. Suddenly alarmed, he faced the hallway, only to be greeted with silence. Roro reached for the keyboard heavily and exhaled as he exited to the score screen. As the menu came into focus, he stood and left the practice station behind.
July 27, 2013 - Seoul, South Korea
The summer rain had broken through the humidity, but Maru’s mind was still a bleary mess. He leaned against the entrance to the Prime House, losing himself in the clamour of the bustling street, the cadence of rain drops and the electric glow of Seoul. He stared forward, tracing the headlights of cars as they whizzed past. Every so often he shook his head as his thoughts returned to the game. It teased him with promises of victory, but he knew such aspirations were ridiculous. INnoVation couldn’t be beaten. He was simply too good. How could he beat that Gundam-esque monster? Not even in his dreams was it possible.
“Hey, uhhhh...do you have an umbrella?”
Maru looked up from beneath his hood. Squinting against a streetlight, he saw the outline of a man. His face was obscured by the deep silhouettes of the buildings. Neon lights highlighted the frames of his glasses. They seemed like they would sear off his face with their glow.
Maru slightly tilted his empty hands before him.
“Can you move over then? It’s really coming down.” Maru took a step back as the man shuffled underneath the awning.
“aLive?” Maru quizzically replied, his melancholy forgotten. He knew him from past tournaments, back when TSL and Prime faced off during GSTL. But he never hung around this part of the city.
“Yeah, sorry, I should have introduced myself. It’s been a long time. How old are you these days?”
“I’ll be 16 tomorrow.”
aLive smiled nebbishly.
“Well, that’s definitely something to celebrate.”
Maru glumly splashed a puddle.
“If you say so.”
“Is something wrong?”
Maru shook his head.
“You wouldn’t understand. You haven’t played in Korea for a while. Life with EG must be taking up most of your time.”
“Tell me your troubles. I’ll do my best.”
Maru exhaled heavily before replying.
“In a few days, I’ll be playing against INnoVation in OSL. “We’ve been playing since Wings of Liberty, but they say he’s better than either of us already. Hell, he might even become the best ever. I don’t know how I’m supposed to beat him.”
“INnoVation, huh?” aLive remarked with a shrug. “I’ve never heard of him. So, what’s he like?”
“Where do I start?” Maru laughed mournfully. “He does everything perfectly. It’s like the game is scripted before it starts. The longer things go, the stronger he gets. He’s like a vice. You feel yourself getting crushed, but nobody knows what to do against him. I’ve been wracking my brain for answers. My style bounces off him. No matter how much I attack him in the midgame, it doesn’t stop him from getting stronger. There’s no way I can go toe to toe with someone like that.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t try to then?”
“What do you mean?” Maru asked.
aLive adjusted his glasses. He squinted up at the sky.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the best way to defeat someone is to use their strengths against them. If he really does gets better the longer the fight goes on, then time is your enemy. You gotta take the fight to him early. About that whole scripted thing? It might we worth it to try and turn things on their head. If he’s a vice, then break the lever before it tightens.”
He hadn’t thought about it like that. Could it really be that simple? “Take it to him early, huh?” Maru stroked his chin in contemplation.
“I think that might work out pretty well.”
“You know,” Maru said as he looked towards aLive. “That could be the answer…”
He paused as he found himself alone. “Leave without saying goodbye,” he added with a chuckle before reaching for the door and heading inside, thoughts of victory swirling within his head.
November 7, 2015 - Anaheim, USA
sOs sat alone in a folding chair. The din of Blizzcon reverberated all around him. His coach had reminded him that his final with Life was only 10 minutes away before leaving sOs by himself as was their ritual. sOs took a measured breath as he glanced towards the stage. As always, he felt its irresistible aura. He loved the stage. He lived for it. Yet beneath its allure was something he had never felt before. He had seen it in the eyes of vanquished opponents like herO and Jaedong. As his meeting with Life approached, sOs felt discontent stir within him.
“This seems like pretty dicy,” a voice remarked. sOs did not turn towards the newcomer. The voice was definitely Korean, and something about its cadence was oddly familiar. Probably one of his Jin Air teammates, maybe a new recruit. “He might even be more trouble than Mvp.” The speaker paused. “Mvp was something though.”
sOs shut his eyes, basking in the warmth of the light overhead.
“I’ve never felt this nervous before,” he declared. “I’ve always welcomed these moments.”
“But not this time?”
“Life’s not like the others. I could predict their actions a mile away. I knew what they were going to do before they did. I don’t think even he knows what he’s going to do before it happens.” sOs’ face scrunched up at the implication. “I’m supposed to be the crazy one. That’s always been my edge.”
There was a clatter as a chair fell to the ground. “Sorry about that. You think he won’t fall for your tricks?”
sOs’ attention jerked towards the crashing sound. In the shade of the towering stage display, he hazily saw an outline. The figure was hastily picking up the fallen furniture, back turned. It had to be another progamer. sOs shrugged before answering.
“I don’t know. Maybe he won’t care. Life’s not afraid of anything. He’s made a living by picking his opponents apart with nutty stuff. On top of that, he sees openings where there are none and makes them when there aren't any. I’d be flipping coins if I pulled out my regular builds against him.”
aLive stepped into view, nervously wiping dust off his pants.
sOs squinted as he looked up.
“Han Lee Seok? What are you doing here?”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” aLive answered hastily. Don’t worry about that, I’m here to help you.” A hint of a bemused smile appeared on sOs’ face.
“If you're feeling afraid, why can’t he?” aLive continued. “You don’t have to play his game if you don’t want to. You two are, um, what’s the English phrase? Two peas in a pod! Right,right, peas in pod.” Upon hearing his broken English attempts, he started to blush. “He gets frustrated if he can’t dictate the pace too. From what I've seen, he wants to harass so much that he’ll keep at it even if you shut him down.”
sOs frowned at the suggestion. He was right in a way. But that’s what he didn’t want to face in the first place.
“I mean this in the nicest way possible, but people say you’re crazy. That’s why no one wants to play you. The things you do, they just don’t make sense and Life isn’t going to have a better idea of what to do than me or anyone else.” aLive screwed a weak smile onto his face. “Before you go, one last thing, please. For what it’s worth, I’m glad it’s you out there.”
Out of the corner of his eye, sOs saw his coach approaching. He wiped his slightly clammy palms on his pants before looking back to thank aLive. He had disappeared without a trace. Where aLive had stood moments earlier, there was only gloomy shadows. sOs took his feet as his coach neared.
“Maybe he’s right,” he whispered. He began to grin as the coach called his name. “Life’s the one who should fear me.”
June 14, 2029 - Seoul, South Korea
President Park of South Korea stared at the memos strewn across his desk. He rubbed the bridge of his nose as the hangul blurred into an indistinguishable mess. He had hoped this day would never come. The Nuclear Disarmament Act of 2025 was supposed to be the first step towards global prosperity, but now the world was on the verge of total war. Park and his officials had done everything they could to preserve the peace but ultimately negotiations had failed. He had been left with no choice - he needed to defend his nation. But how could he do so against such powerful enemies? If Korea was to survive, they would need to strike swiftly and establish dominance.
This task required a masterful general and the military claimed they found one. He was a mere civilian who had fought on a fictional battlefield in a game called Starcraft 2. He was known as Mvp, supposedly the best player ever, and was possibly their last hope.
Mvp had been living in a small town in Yanggu County for years. Despite his solitary life, Park’s generals were confident he could rise to the occasion.
Park pressed a button on his desk. The Prime Minister appeared, slightly tense at the suddenness of the decision.
“Tell the military to contact him,” Park said. He paused as the Minister’s expression softened. “We can only hope he’s still the man they say he is.”
June 14, 2029 - Yanggu County, South Korea
Mvp’s legs trembled as he stepped into the yard, trailed by the hushed whispers of military officers. Of course he knew about the war. Everyone had heard about it by now. He never expected it to find him in these serene woods, though. He quelled those thoughts as he started for the treeline. Though a shadow of its former analytical self, his mind quickly set to work considering all the factors and possibilities inherent in the generals’ proposition.
Mvp leaned against a tree and contemplated the madness thrust upon him. The droning of cicadas reached an oppressive pitch as he shook his head. Supreme ruler of the South Korean army? What were they thinking, asking him to lead real troops into battle? He had never so much as held a gun in his life. It was crazy to even consider accepting it.
“It’s really hot out here,” said a voice within the woods. “I thought you were never going to come out.”
It was a familiar tone. Fluorescent images of a crowd erupting in cheers flashed through his mind as the realization dawned on Mvp. He turned and gasped. It was still the same glasses, the same face he saw on that fateful day when he had become a bonjwa.
“aLive?” Mvp stammered breathlessly. Suddenly the strength went out of his body and his legs buckled. He braced himself against a tree as the figure emerged from the shadows.
“I know, I know, I should’ve alerted you ahead of time. But it’s time for you to repay the bargain we struck all those years ago. I asked for obedience back then and as it turns out, I need it today,” aLive answered with carefree glee.
“In a few days things are going to get messy,” aLive cooed with delight. Indeed he had not aged a day since that GSL final. The only difference was his clothes: he sported an odd pair of star-patterned pajamas. “They think you can save Korea and that’s simply not true. You’re not up to the task. It’s too big for you, too big for anyone without the qualifications. I know how awkward it will get, but I want you to say no to those army guys.” A mischievous glint appeared in his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of things. You’ll have to suggest an alternative or else they’ll lose their poor minds. I figure you ought to recommend a person who’s even better than you. After all, even the great Mvp learned his best tricks from someone else.”
Mvp immediately understood. “No, I can’t betray them now. The whole nation is…”
“Relying on you? Of course it is. And what do you think you’ll do, once you’re face-first with real blood and real enemies? Be a hero? Ha!” He positively barked in contempt. "Don’t be afraid. They believe and trust you. This will go off without a hitch and everything will be solved in the end.”
Mvp could only nod meekly. He was so confused by aLive’s strangely delivered but powerful words. Mvp felt his resistance plummet as he tried to figure out aLive’s endgame. “How do you know that?”
“I knew where to find you, didn’t I?”
June 17, 2029 - New York City, USA
Behind him fires still burned in charred pits. They did throughout most of the world, but it’s not like anyone was in a position to complain. aLive stood upon a makeshift stage with thousands of soldiers arrayed before him. Some originally joined him from the Korean expeditions. Others had latched onto his cause as his conquests mounted. In the end only America was left to resist, but it had been brought to heel too.
The sky was filled with dark smoke and raid-laden clouds. The world seemed insistent on washing away his war. Let it try. His victory would not erode easily.
aLive strode towards the podium, feeling the eyes of those assembled glued to him. He could see in his imagination the millions more watching on screens across the globe. Many had heard his name, but few had seen him when he was a nobody. He would not make them wait any longer.
aLive allowed himself the faintest smile as the camera settled on him.
“Hi, everyone. My name is aLive.”
Writer: Mizenhauer twitter.com/Mizenhauer