Heading into the former downtown area of Bakersfield, the crew arrive to inspect the area for buildings that may still house tech that Kave would be able to use to build a CitiNet. They encounter a few street vendors, most selling food, and walk up to a noodle vendor to pick up local rumours. While they eat, the street vendor lets them know about weird things he’s seen in town. The crew pry him for more information, and the vendor eventually explains that there is an old arcade parlour in the north part of downtown. He has seen six people enter into the arcade over the past few months, but he’s never seen them again.
Defying all reasonable logic, the crew decide to locate the parlour and head inside. Inside, they find an array of arcade machines that are still powered on, but the building appears otherwise abandoned. Fennec looks into the details further and finds what he thinks are drag marks on the floor. Gunhead scans for a localNET and cyberdeck picks up a pre-4th war, old-school NET that looks to still be operational, but remains isolated. Displays throughout the arcade continue to gesture for the team to “PLAY”, “PLAY NOW”, “KEEP PLAYING”, so Gunhead and Rama sit down to play some fighting games. VC looks into the back area of the arcade, finding an office which appears to also have been abandoned and coated in dust. Later, VC, Rez and Fennec find a staircase and what appears to be a large and complex mechanical locking system in the basement of the parlour.
After their game, Gunhead is prompted to take his game to the “next level”. He declines, and Fennec and Rama sit down to play a game. As this happens, interface trodes stick out from the machine’s joysticks. Fennec is able to break free, but Rama remains connected. In response, VC pulls out his shotgun. Several small drones appear from slots in the parlour’s walls. They enter into combat with VC, and he takes significant stun damage from their built-in stun weapons. Rama eventually breaks free from the interface trodes. In the NET, Gunhead finds traces of a large program called “H.U.G.O”. He sends a message to the program requesting its purpose. He gets a simple response: To Entertain. Gunhead sends the program terms: Stand down the stun drones, and he’ll play. H.U.G.O agrees, asking for them to all play, but eventually agrees to Gunhead fighting alone with the rest of the party observing. Everyone connects to the joysticks of the arcade machines and black out.
A short time later, everyone awakes in what appears to be a virtual reconstruction simulation of an ancient roman coliseum. Gunhead stands alone in the centre of the stage, while the others have appeared in the grandstand, standing next to a number of NPCs. A large man wrapped in rich clothes watches over the stage and announces that Gunhead “will play”. A large horned creature walks out of a staging room and bellows a loud roar. He questions Gunhead if he truly wishes to fight alone, so Gunhead chooses for Rama to join him in battle. Meanwhile, Rez, Fennec and VC inspect the virtual crowd that is watching the game.
Gunhead focuses on avoiding the creature’s claw and bite attacks and turning on his cyberdeck, so Rama moves in and shoots at the creature with his pistol. Gunhead picks up an older type of NET architecture on his cyberdeck and connects in to assess what he can find. Rama continues, landing a few pistol shots against the creature, slowly bringing down the creature’s health. Fennec and VC notice a weird shift of the air, with a new character in the crowd appearing, so VC moves to investigate. Gunhead identifies a file called “Sci-Fi assets program” which is being contained in-memory for this simulation program. VC speaks with the mysterious figure, who indicates he has a vested interest in the party’s survival. The figure also appears to have a cyberdeck, and is able to load into the coliseum a golden shield, which Rama picks up. The figure also informs them of a collection of acidic barrels he has placed in the simulation, which they can use to deal damage to the creature.