Hana checked the cameras, and the volume levels, making sure everything was perfect. But not too perfect. She needed to vent, but venting still had a purpose, even now. Particularly now.
It's important, she thought. But it can't look... it has to look normal. Just better.
She'd put extra care into her war makeup, this time, and added an information box - with reward points for reading all of it - summarising what she was going to say.
Giving everything a final lookover - rockin' it - she nodded, hit Go Live, and watched as the viewers rolled in. Ten thousand, twenty, fifty, seventy-five.
"Hey, guys. So... here's what's up."
Hoo, where do I start? She already knew, of course, but the thought still came back, as it had since Emily had suggested that maybe it was time to let her fans know what was really going on.
"I know it's been a few days. I am gonna stream a game, promise! At least for an hour or two. I've got a poll down at the end of the 'what's up?' box for the second hour. But first I have to fill you guys in, 'cause you deserve to know what's happened.
"Remember how I streamed a little less while we were getting ready to go after the China Sea omnium? Welllll... you can probably guess why I've been streaming less this time, too. It's in the news pretty much everywhere, after all! So it's not exactly a secret anymore. We were going after the last omnium.”
"But it was different this time. We were on Russia’s turf, which meant they wanted to call the shots. If you've been following their side of the story, Russia says they did it all themselves, but…”
She swallowed, and looked a little nervous, but also, a little angry.
Her chat stream - 100,000 strong - erupted with emotes and icons and reaction images.
"We were there. It was our plan. We went to them, after we won in Korea, and made an offer, and they took it. Only this time, we were gonna try to save everyone. Save Russia, and the omnium, and try to fix it, try to make it better again, try to... heal it."
Confusion, on the stream. Save an omnium? Really? Why?!
She laughed, a little.
"I know, right? Crazy mad plan. Risky as fuck, too. But Lena... Lena thinks everybody can be saved. It's something she tries to live up to. And... that doesn't just apply to her. Does that make any sense?"
A bit, admitted the chat. Goals.
"Anyway, some of us went in. Angela, Lena, and...you remember the stream with the spaceflight trainer? The one where Beatbox joined up with me again, to help with that?"
Icons of Hana spinning, giggling madly, as she tried to control her character while being rotated on three axes at the same time.
"She's... one of us. She had the idea about how we could make it work, and she volunteered to take the biggest risks. She was literally on the dome, putting down our locator beacons, when…”
She sniffed, and rubbed at her eyes, for a moment. It had been so bright, so painfully bright, even through her shields.
"She'll make it. We think. She hasn’t woken up yet. She was in surgery for hours and hours and there'll have to be a lot more work done, and who even knows how long it'll take, but... we're all hoping. But we're worried, because it's bad."
200,000, and another flood of emojis, and reaction pics, and sympathies.
"And the hard part is... here's the deal, right? It wasn't the omnium who did that."
The chat erupted into a storm of confusion, questions and reactions scrolling faster than any human could follow.
"Yeah. It wasn't the omnium. It was the Russians. The people we were helping. The people we were fighting for! They hit the dome - and her - with the biggest space weapon anybody's ever used, and we had no idea it was coming."
Dismay, in a flood. 300,000.
" It was a sneak attack. I guess…” Her voice began to break, and she stopped a moment to regain control of herself. “I guess they decided they'd rather have the omnium’s AI die than to let us figure out what went wrong. Than to give us a chance to fix things. And if that meant killing a couple of my friends and taking the rest of them prisoner - they tried that, too, at the same time, we don't even know why - then that was okay."
Shock, and more dismay, as the information was absorbed, and more and more followers logged on. The counter topped 400,000.
"I mean, maybe, from a game standpoint, from a strategy standpoint, I can kind of see what they were thinking. But... that's not how you play the game. You don't turn like that on your friends, you don't attack your teammates, and they did."
She was shaking a little with rage, and didn't have to fake that, not at all.
"Everything was going to plan when the people who were supposed to have our backs hit us with everything they had. We were kiting the mobs away from their armies, we'd disconnected the AI from its network, we'd done it, and they turned... and... attacked."
Sympathy, and protest. Why? the chat demanded.
“I wish I knew. The only people who can really tell us why aren’t talking. But I can guess.”
Hana sniffed again.
"I think they decided that it was more important to kill the AI than to try to find a better way. if a couple of us died too, well, nbd. Collateral damage, right? It's war. It’s dangerous. My friends and I could've died protecting Korea years ago, and we could've died when we moved in and shut the China Sea omnium down, and we could've died in Siberia, too. Kind of expected we might, really. Fortunes of war, yeh?"
She shook her head, angry and resolute.
"But not like this. Not... by our side. Not betrayed like this. I am... so angry."
Rage, 500,000 strong.
"It didn't work. They tried, but it didn't work. And we're not gonna let 'em get away with it."
Cheering, mocking, and memes of the Great D.va rampaging across games, mixed with calls for justice.
"We've got some plans. We're not gonna just charge in and aim at everything that moves, 'cause we're not the n00bs I guess they think we are? But we're gonna take care of this. You're gonna hear about it, too, 'cause I guess now this is all out in the open, and we're not gonna hide much of anything. Everything we do? It’ll be on the table."
She shook her head, slowly, as if deep in contemplation.
"I'm not gonna lie to you, fam. It might get a little scary. This isn't a game, anymore, it's... real. Too real. Sometimes that’s just how it is.”
She paused again, and when her eyes met the camera, they were full of determination.
"I'm not gonna let you down. None of us are. We're all gonna be here for you, and that’s a promise. Because I love you. Every single one of you." She giggled. "Even if you're all super-easy to p0wn."
Hundreds of thousands of hearts. Tens of thousands of new subscriptions.
"So keep an eye out, okay? Things are gonna happen soon. It'll probably be messy, 'cause it's in real life. That means streaming might be a little spotty sometimes, but I'm gonna be online with you as much as I can. We're gonna do this, and then everything is gonna be okay."
She smiled broadly, her voice radiating reassurance and hope. "No - it'll be better than okay. It'll be perfect."
A million followers cheered their Goddess of War as she saved the clip and set it to autoplay for new followers as they joined her stream.
"Weird how I feel so much better now, getting that out there," she said as she dashed a few tears from her eyes, surprised at her own deep sense of relief, and reassurance. "Thanks for caring so much."
She smiled to her fans, her friends, flipped the screen to feature the new game, and picked up her controller.
"Now - let's play!"