A gentlewoman comes to a war zone, and wreaks havoc...
OCCUPYING JESSIE, PART I: HOSTAGE SITUATION
OCCUPYING JESSIE, PART I: HOSTAGE SITUATIONBhodi Silverman wanted her art gallery to provoke a reaction, and she quickly got it-- though maybe not the way she planned.
"Hamlet," a Resident named Ryen Jade IMed me awhile ago, "you may want to know, I am currently holding two people hostage at the Jessie arts center."
I'm skeptical: "Can you send me a photo of them holding today's New York Times, for proof of life?"
"No," says Jade, "but you will get a picture of me holding a gun to the monkey's head."
"I'll be there!" I say, and wing off toward Jessie.
Meanwhile, I'm getting IMs from Derek Jones, a Resident who plays as a chimpanzee, relaying the hostage-taker's demands: "They want their own combat sim they can control," says Derek. "They are shooting at people."
"What group is this?" I ask him.
"The Jessie Liberation Army."
Derek frantically copies the text they're shouting at him:
"Sit, Infidel Monkey!"
And then comes, "Your monkey shall be first to go!"
By the time I arrive, the terrorists have built billboards over the gallery, to warn of my arrival. Inside Bhodi's gallery, they are holding a monkey and another non-combatant at gunpoint. They've walled off the entrances, and after some deliberation (and my yelling at them through the glass), they let me in to talk.
After that point, things happen fast, and what goes down next quickly becomes unclear.
Somehow (near as I can make out) Derek Jones gets hold of a pistol, while the other hostage manages to go into his inventory and quietly seed the gallery floor with proximity mines. The JLA terrorists kill the monkey in a poof -- before he can even get off a shot -- but the prox mines are triggered, choking the place with smoke, then killing the kidnappers...and me.
After we're all reincarnated, the monkey comes back in flying battle armor, to engage the JLA. Airborne combat over Jessie ensues. Not stopping at that, Derek brings his battlecruiser out of a nearby hangar, and plows it straight through the art gallery. And the melee rages on.
A few frags on both sides, and a battle-weary truce emerges. Putting aside their hostilities, Derek invites me and the terrorists into his cruiser, and takes us up to 472 meters.
And high above Jessie, the JLA lay out their demands...
OCCUPYING JESSIE, PART II: MAKING DEMANDS
In the clouds looking down on Jessie from the deck of Derek's battlecruiser, Cyanide Leviathan and Chris Kobayashi tell me the demands of their group, the Jessie Liberation Army:
They want to own a combat simulator like Jessie all to themselves. Set the rules, and decide who stays in it and who goes. No more "homesteading", people building houses within the perimeter, only to complain when the gunfire starts.
If their demands aren't met, they promise another terrorist attack: "Soon," says Cyanide Leviathan, "if the Lindens don't listen." Or, he adds, "We might hold another raid for fun." They've been harassing some of the non-JLA residents in Jessie, trying to drive these homesteaders off with pranks and drive-by shootings.
Only trouble is, one person hasn't budged for them. At all.
"Baccara Rhodes," says Kobayashi. "She doesn't allow shooting or even foul language at her house in the South West corner of Jessie, which I think is majorly stupid, this being the only completely free sim [for combat] in Second Life."
More than that, they don't like the way she treats them. "I walked into her house," he continues, "and she goes, 'Chris! Don't shoot us!'." Kobayashi shakes his head, annoyed. "I said 'J---- C-----, Baccara, just because I have a gun doesn't mean I'm gonna use it."
"And she said, 'Language!'" Leviathan finishes for him.
So they want her to leave, or they want another simulator all to themselves, or they'll continue their terrorist hijinx, like the hostage situation at the art gallery.
It's all very interesting, but something about it strikes as odd.
"You know," I tell them finally, "for a bunch of terrorists, you're getting pushed around pretty easily by a lady!"
No real response to that. I continue:
"I just don't get it, frankly. Baccara doesn't want you to swear or fight, but since this is the Outlands, you don't have to listen to her, so who cares what she does?"
"She has a lot of Mentor friends," Cyanide Leviathan says. "Killing her will make us unpopular, and turn people against us."
"And I wanna join another group," adds Kobayashi.
So there they are, wreaking havoc on everyone else, while one woman has delayed their plans for sim domination. Who could possibly be so powerful to stop them cold? I promise them that I'll go talk with Baccara, to tell her what the JLA wants from her.
"Okay Hammy," says Chris.
After a pause, he adds, "Don't make it sound like I am rude."
OCCUPYING JESSIE, PART III: THE LADY WITH THE TOMMIE GUN
"You were right of course," says Baccara Rhodes, a few days later. She greets me at the door of her ocean front cottage in Jessie, dressed in a opulent Versace evening gown. "I have to leave Jessie. It is becoming impossible again. It is turning back into a war zone."
Outside come the sound effects of machine guns blasting, and an imported sample from Beavis and Butthead.
"Listen to this. Disgraceful. The rude noises. Quite unmannerly. A very disreputable young man purchased 24x4 plots outside my land, to place as much noise [effects near me] as possible.
"When you first moved here," I ask her, "didn't you know Jessie is a war zone?
"Not really. I flew by and saw the island. My friends lived all around the area. I was looking for a place for a small beach cottage. Really, Hamlet, I am far too busy to think about such childish nonsense. And it was quieter then."
"Have you yourself been shot?"
"Only by accident," says Baccara. "And I retaliated."
She pulls a Thompson submachine out of her inventory. "Tommy Gun - 100 percent damage - Massive Push," the weapons announces out loud. "Enter Mouselook to shoot me!"
"A Gentlewoman's Revenge, so to speak," she says, with a touch of pride. "I am not afraid to use it, Hamlet." And now she's also enraged that one of the victims of JLA's pranks was someone close to her.
"Soon I am planning to leave because they forced out my best friend. That I will not abide... They want my land. I will have the last laugh, won't I, Hamlet? I will fix them. They will never get my land. I will do better than that," she vows. "Watch me. I have friends in high places, don't I, Hamlet? You do not treat me like some piece of marshmallow fluff."
This is the woman that the terrorist leaders of the Jessie Liberation Army were too afraid to kidnap or kill-- and now, I begin to see why. Somewhere in a New Jersey suburb, a "mature woman" (as she describes herself) has carved out her territory, and held it against all comers-- even though most of them are young men in their late teens and early twenties.
Offline, Baccara is in the wholesale flower business, though she previously made her living as an events planner-corporate parties, conventions, and so on. "[Now] I only make deals between my company and large corporations; no more personal work. But I miss it sometimes. So when I saw no one was setting up events here, well..."
So she's able to still plan events, like the recent fashion show for Fey Brightwillow's latest line. "But [now] I am more able to pick and choose. At least I was," she adds, apparently referring to the recent conflicts that are eating into her time. "But now, as always, Second Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."
Still, she says she doesn't regret coming to Jessie. "Hamlet, I am not sorry with the path I chose here. We all have an exciting chance to do it again. We can make our destiny to some extent. But… To really take full advantage of this experience you must interact with others, not be 'an Island', And then you lose some control-- just like in Jessie. Otherwise you might as well play by yourself offline. So I understand the consequences"
In the background, she starts up a pre-recorded track on her baby grand piano. She came upon Second Life through a New York Times piece, she says, "explaining that SL had the capacity to return our imagination to us. Something severely lacking in life these days." Trouble was, the computer she used for her flower business wasn't powerful enough to let her enter the world.
"I tried to get into Beta, but my machine wouldn't play. So I had to open my wallet, and got a nifty new PC. When [it] came the video card was wrong, and I was hysterical... 'cause all I wanted to do was get online." She says her "Baccara Rhodes" persona was struggling to emerge, even then. "She was waiting in my head and my heart... and you were all waiting for me."
She tells her friends and loved ones about her in-world adventures, but for the most part, they scratch their heads. "My family is quite perplexed but very understanding. And my friends are real life socialite suburban women… going to Bloomingdales and Saks [in Manhattan], then country clubs, and Florida when it gets cold.
"So, Hamlet, I will continue to bring a woman's touch to Second Life. There is no reason one cannot be strong, graceful, elegant and successful. Look around you: Fey Brightwillow, Viola Bach, Candie Apple, and Nyna Slate, charming, talented, and lovely. I understand that this game is the first to attract real life women of the above-20's age bracket. But there are so many women like myself here.
"I love what I see around me," she finishes. "I hope we all continue to thrive. Including the bad boys of Jessie. I was enjoying being like Wendy. Mother of the Lost Boys."
Soon after she says that, two of the Lost Boys wander in through the front door.
"Hello dears," Baccara says, greeting the barrel-chested Jack Cook, and the dwarfish Chris Kobayashi. "These are lovely gentlemen. Jack helped build this house, Hamlet."
"So these aren't the war gamers that enrage you?" I ask her.
"No," she says, "they are both very nice." I'm tempted to mention that Kobayashi was one of the instigators behind the hostage crisis a few days earlier, and that he launched it partly in response to Baccara Rhodes. I decide that would be inserting myself into the story, and keep quiet. In a few weeks, in any case, Ms. Rhodes will have left Jessie, taking her grand piano and her evening gowns with her. And the place will become even more martial, with new siege factories and fortresses looming everywhere.
So for now, they all chat amiably. Chris complains about another Jessie resident they've been trying to drive out of the simulator. "We tried to rate him negatively," he says, "so he would not be able to pay taxes on the land."
"That isn't the way to act, Chris," Baccara tells him.
"I know, Baccara," he answers. "It was suggested that I do it, and that it might be the only way."
"And if it was suggested you jump off a bridge," Baccara Rhodes replies, "you would do that too?"
She turns to me, and if her avatar could wink, I think she'd do that now.
"See, Hamlet? Wendy."