"What can you tell us about Prescott?" A man wearing a Canadian tuxedo—dark denim shirt and light blue jeans—asked in a booming voice. He was playing a game manufactured by Williams Electronics in the 1980s, Robotron: 2084.
He was a friend of mine named Baron Corduroy: a plant I'd brought along to prompt certain aspects of my presentation.
"Yes, well, we know that Dr. Abigail Prescott allegedly worked under both Stanford's Robert Wilson—a professor whose main area of interest is game theory as it relates to economics—and quantum physicist Ronald E. Meyers, but nobody has been able to dig up anything else of any real value on her. Some believe Abigail Prescott is a pseudonym, but nobody knows for sure."
"A pseudonym for who?" asked Dungeon Master Sally.
"No idea," I replied, which was true. Abigail Prescott was a cipher. It was almost impossible to find anything about her online or anywhere else—and believe me, I've tried.
"Where did you get that recording?" It was that voice again, coming from somewhere in the back. I still couldn't locate the speaker.
"Well, as most of you know, The Prescott Competition Manifesto is extremely rare. The moment it's posted to a crowd-sharing site, it's removed faster than the big movie studios pull down their copyrighted works. It's not much, but this clip is currently our best source of information available on the game."
Another pause for dramatic effect.
"This particular clip was given to me by a friend of mine who almost won Eight." This last bit was a lie. I'd bought the recording on the darknet for twenty-six dollars' worth of Bitcoin.
A hush fell over the room.
They loved it when I mentioned anything related to the numbered iterations of the game, or the winners of those particular iterations, The Circle. And, of course, Hazel, the most infamous Rabbits player of all time.
Hazel wasn't the only famous participant. There were the two well-known Canadian players, Nightshade and Sadie Palomino; ControlG, the winner of the tenth—and most recent—iteration of the game; the Brazilian anarchist who went by the number 6878; and, of course, Murmur, the deadliest of them all, allegedly sacrificing their spouse to gain an edge during Nine. But all of those players, as accomplished as they were, existed a tier below Hazel.
Hazel was my closer. I always saved a brief mention of Hazel for the end.
"Come on, tell us something we don't know." My friend Baron again.
This time he didn't even turn around as he asked the question. I made a note to have a word with him about his commitment to earning his cut of the profits.
"Well, rumor has it there's another force at work, operating behind the scenes of the game—something powerful, mysterious, and, occasionally, deadly. Something out there watching from somewhere else, staring into our world from an infinite darkness, waiting for the players to make a mistake." I paused again for effect, and then continued, my voice a bit lower than before. "This warning was discovered written on the back of a Dewey decimal card in an old set of drawers in a thrift store in Ireland."
I cleared my throat a little, then recited:
"Remember the game, or your world it dies.
"Remember to follow the patterns and signs.
"We wait in the shadows a-twisting your fate,
"While you crawl and you stumble blind into the gate.
"It's all predetermined, no losses no gains,
"So play, little human, keep playing the game."
"Wow, that's dramatic." The unseen man again.
I looked around and caught part of a green military-style jacket moving through the crowd.
"So, that's the game," I continued. "Rabbits."