Augmented Reality Game Goes Awry

Bottomland, Valles Marineris, Mars -- 6 Apr. 2057:  A programming error in the latest episode of "Homeland Secure", a popular augmented reality game, has caused chaos and disruption in cities across the system as games collide with real life.  Though no deaths have been reported and property destruction has been minimal, there have been numerous minor injuries and arrests due to the invasion of public spaces by hordes of gamers unable to tell fiction from fact.

The game casts players of agents of opposing fictional covert operations agencies attempting to accomplish various hidden agendas, which they advance through a combination of subterfuge and open combat.  "A lot of the game is woven into our everyday lives," top Homeland Secure player Flex Andross explained to us in an audio interview.  "We spy on other agents, try to pass information along and intercept communications, make deals, seduce each other.  In each episode the plot leads to a big set-piece gun battle between different agencies.  The software overlays details on our contacs -- gunfire, non-player characters and computer generated sets, and the like.  Most players get really into it; we dress up in team uniforms and break out replica weapons when we know a big combat is coming up.  The fighting is supposed to be confined to an area rented ahead of time by the local section chiefs, so we can fight each other without any real civilians getting in the way."

However, an error in the code downloaded and implemented by local servers today shifted the boundaries of the game's designated combat zone, directing the players into areas there was not supposed to be any fighting going on, including private buildings, crowded commercial areas, quiet residential districts, and even people's homes.  Our correspondent Flicka Netrosiam in Bottomland witnessed the chaos firsthand.  "I was minding my own business, buying a yeast shake and a danish, when there was a commotion outside," Ms. Netrosiam told us.  "People in old twencen-style suits and dark glasses were running into Gaithner Square outside, ducking behind anything they could find for cover -- trash cans, the fountain, benches, you name it.  Most of them had guns.  I know now they're fakes, but they looked like real powder punchers at the time, handguns and SMGs.  Another group was coming along from the north side, all wearing these red berets and what looked like military uniforms.  They started yelling and pointing their guns at each other; I didn't hear any shots but I was sure it was going to start any second.  One of the guys in the red berets threw something across the square, and all the people in suits jumped away from it like it was a live grenade.  Then another of the red-beret people grabbed a poor old andie who had no idea what was going on and put a gun to zer head!  That was when the cops started showing up."  Reports are coming in of similar scenes in nearly every city in the Alliance.

High Octane Entertainment, the makers of Homeland Secure, have issued a press release apologizing for the incident.  "We sincerely regret that our error has led to so much harm and confusion, and promise that steps will be taken to ensure that it does not happen again and that our thousands of players throughout the system can continue to enjoy the fast-paced action of our game without endangering themselves or others," the statement reads.  It then goes on to offer material compensation to anyone negatively affected by the glitch.  High Octane's stock has already lost hundreds of millicredits on the InterPlan Exchange and is continuing to drop.

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