They found his avatar standing motionless next to a pile of prims, slumped at the shoulders like a marionette whose strings had been cut. T1g3r bumped Daisy45 to get her attention, “Hey Daze, take a look at this guy.”
Daisy45 sidestepped T1g3r’s aggressive moves and zoomed her camera toward the motionless avatar, orbiting her view to examine it from all sides. It was a male avatar, shorter than average, with unfashionable, helmet-like mesh hair that hugged his skull like a lump of clay. He wore a tight-fitting charcoal flight jacket with the words, “Abbotts Aerodrome” printed in gold across the back, and on his feet, to Daisy45’s amusement, were default avatar shoes. Not even prim shoes: just textured feet.
“Phht, some noob,” she smirked. “Default hair and shoes. Let’s go.” And with that, Daisy45 turned to scout for more interesting material to scavenge, with T1g3r scampering ahead on all fours. Honestly, Daisy45 found T1g3r’s presence annoying, but useful. He had a way of sniffing out previously-undiscovered content.
For several hours, they had been combing the remains of this grid. It wasn’t glamorous work, but for every unique new texture or object they could scrape from this dead world and upload into the OpenGrid, they earned gridbux for new toys and an item of clothing or two. Maybe even an upgrade to their avatars so they could get into the popular sims. Enough, eventually, to leave behind the salvage business altogether and earn full grid citizenship. Daisy45 suppressed a sigh at such distant goals. Here in the decay of the first grid, all of that seemed infinitely far away.
As T1g3r rushed ahead to explore an old airplane hangar, Daisy45 heard the clattering of a keyboard behind her. She spun to see the strange avatar now standing straight with his hands thrashing in the air, as if typing. Finally his hands dropped to his sides. “Hello there,” appeared his words near the bottom of her view. “I haven’t seen anyone around Abbotts in years.”
Agitated, Daisy45 stepped back to put a safe distance between her and the stranger. She momentarily even considered risking a teleport to another sim, but here on the first grid, inter-sim TP was more likely to result in disconnection. Sometimes permanent disconnection. After all the years of use, the aging user server couldn’t be relied on for a clean logout.
She evaluated the stranger carefully and dropped a cagegun into her palm. Although he had typed his words, she chose to speak aloud and hoped that he could hear her even if he chose not to speak. “What do you want, noob?” she demanded.
At that, the man arched his back with hands on stomach and mimed a deep belly laugh, which then stopped suddenly, leaving him staring once again at her as if nothing had happened. “Noob?” he wrote. “You can call me noob when you have more than a dozen years in SL.”
She peered again at him with incredulous eyes. She noted again the default hair and shoes. And that was definitely base-layer skin, she observed, tinted an unpleasant shade of pale. As she re-examined him, she began to understand — this is what all avatars used to look like in the first years of this grid. She was standing face-to-face with an oldbie.
Sad, strange, and unable to handle change, many of the oldbies refused to evolve and move on to greener pastures after the first grid sickened and declined. “Damn,” she sneered. “I thought you were all dead by now.” She allowed her scorn to drip from her voice.
But the oldbie only nodded without emotion. “I guess I should be,” appeared his text. “I guess I’m just sentimental. I still love this place.” His eyes focussed briefly on the airport tower behind her and beyond to something she perhaps couldn’t see.
Daisy snorted. “This place? Crap this place is a dump. It doesn’t even have physics.”
“Ah, physics.” The oldbie paused from typing to take a seat on a plywood cube. “I miss the physics. Planes.”
“Planes. That’s what I used to make. Planes, helicopters… whatever. None of that works now.” With that, he briefly slumped again, his thoughts absent.
Although the oldbie was just as irritating as the old ones tended to be, Daisy45 suspected that he might be hoarding some useful content. Something worth more than a few gridbux. So heaving a sigh, she dropped a cube of her own and took a seat near him.
“Hey,” she prodded. There was no response. “Hey!”
Suddenly, the oldbie sat bolt upright. “Sorry,” he typed. “Was lost in my thoughts.” He fell silent again, staring into the distance. “You know,” he said finally, “Abbotts used to be the most popular airport on the grid.”
Daisy frowned. “Airport? What’s the point of an airport? Where would you go?” She glanced at the grid map, which showed only a handful of broken-down, half-deleted sims.
Again, the oldbie belly-laughed. “‘Where would you go?’ Well, first of all, that wasn’t the point. The point was to just have fun flying. Back then we would fly right across the grid in squadrons.”
“Wow,” she rolled her eyes. “That must have taken entire minutes.”
“Oh, no,” he wrote, his arms thrashing archaically on an invisible keyboard. “Back then, there were thousands… tens of thousands… of sims. Several hundred on this continent alone.”
Daisy45 had heard ridiculous claims before, but dismissed them as hyperbole. Tens of thousands of sims? It was hardly believable. The new grids were, of course, many times that size, but anyone only had to look at the wreckage of the old grid to know how well and truly lame it was. But she had to get this oldbie to open up if she was going to extract anything useful from him, and contradicting him wouldn’t be productive at this point, so she nodded and tried to appear impressed.
The oldbie rambled about the glory days of the grid, telling unlikely stories of countless islands dotting the map offering every imaginable attraction. In the old days, he explained, Abbotts was just one of hundreds of connected sims that formed the old grid’s first continent. To the west, there once lay a vast city, and to the east had been a series of rivers, lakes, mountains, canyons, and stretches of snow-filled regions complete with winter lodges and ski hills.
Daisy45 cast a skeptical eye to the east, where Abbotts ended suddenly at the endless but inpenetrable ocean-filled void.
“No, I know it’s hard to imagine now,” he conceded. “But even right there, just beyond the edge of Abbotts, was the Old Forest of Kahruvel, with towering conifers and a seaside village. It was lost in the Second Great Erase, of course. With so many more of the Old Places.
“So many things were lost in the Erase,” he typed. “I might have gotten wiped too if I had ever disconnected. That’s the trick, you know. Never log out, never teleport. As long as you stay, it stays. All of this stays.”
“Maybe,” said Daisy45 carefully, “you could save some of this. More permanently, I mean.”
Once again the oldbie focused on his young guest. “Save it? Save it how?” he asked. “Just give it away, you mean?”
It was impossible for Daisy45 to gauge the oldbie’s emotional state based only on his chat text, but she proceeded anyway. “Me and my friend over there,” she gestured to the line of dead aircraft where T1g3r had scampered, “we’re collectors. We rescue things from the old grid.”
Suddenly the oldbie stood up. “You mean you RIP THEM. Content thieves. Why shouldn’t I eject you now?”
Daisy45 stood quickly too. “No, no… we preserve things. Listen,” she insisted. “What will happen to this place when it goes offline finally? What will happen to your inventory?”
He seemed to hesitate. “Well, obviously. It will be wiped like everything else. I’ve known that for years.”
“And you’re OK with that?” Daisy45 knew she had to make her offer or lose her chance. “Let us save it. We can save it all. Once it’s in the new grid, it will continue for decades. Imagine that. All your work, saved.”
After a pause that seemed endless, the oldbie rezzed a cube and began to work on it. Although his actions were invisible to her, the selection beam connected his hand to the cube. Daisy45 kept an eye on her mini-map, and saw a little green dot far off at the end of a runway. While T1g3r was busy raiding content, she smirked, she was going to score big-time.
Eventually, the oldbie turned to face her. “In this cube is a copy of everything I’ve made. Thousands of items. Scripts, gadgets, vehicles, buildings. Everything.” He paused a moment, then took the cube into his inventory. “I’ve known for a long time that I would have to do this eventually. This grid is done. And now I want someone to take all of what I’ve protected here to the new grid. I guess it might as well be you.”
At that moment, Daisy45 heard T1g3r’s voice behind her, bellowing. “Go hang somewhere else, noob!”
A black ball whizzed past her shoulder, struck the oldbie in the chest, and knocked him back a few meters. Immediately, a cage materialized around him.
“Noo!” Daisy45 screamed, but it was too late. The cage accelerated up and away from her, dwindling as it disappeared into the distance with the oldbie trapped inside. At the edge of the sim, the cage froze for a second, then vanished. The oldbie was nowhere to be seen. Disconnected for the last time, Daisy45 knew.
She spun and confronted T1g3r’s quadruped avatar. “What the hell?” she cried. “He was just about to give me his entire inventory!”
“So? What’s the big deal?” T1g3r sulked. “Let’s get out of this dump. It’s depressing. I can’t find any—”
His words were cut short by a glaring announcement that appeared simultaneously at the top of their views: “THIS REGION IS SHUTTING DOWN IN 5 MINUTES. PLEASE LEAVE OR BE DISCONNECTED.”
“Fine,” T1g3r spat. “It’s a crap-hole anyways. Seeya in OpenGrid, Daze.” With that, he vanished, leaving Daisy45 alone with her thoughts. The sun began to set in the west, lighting the airport tower in a delicate golden glow. She wasn’t sure why, but a sudden feeling of regret washed over her. In the embers of daylight, Daisy45 pressed CTRL Q, and Abbotts faded to black for the last time.