A huge room, perhaps 100 foot by 100 foot, with stations set up for perhaps 10 to 15 people.. row after row of stations meant to provide the stage for 500 top gamers. Banks and banks of quantum computers and neural net servers. Just the amount of electricity needed to run the computer hardware was beyond comprehension. Lightning speed connections. 3 Dimensional hand movement interfaces. Terraflop computer boxes.
“So this is it“, He thought, “The 2020 Video Crown awards. The best of the best.”
And why shouldn’t he be amazed. He made it to the World Series and Superbowl, all rolled into one. A tournament of the best gamers in the country, vying for that top award of 1 million dollars and the coveted crown of the best “first person shooter” game series.
Bragging rights for a lifetime.
“Hell, I would have paid big bucks just to have a poster of all this lightning power..”, He thought “but to actually get to USE it? I must be dreaming.”
Suddenly he felt this hand grab him by the shoulder and spin him around in on motion. What looked like a 500 pound gorilla in a black suit was glaring down at Billy… and not looking like he was going to offer him a T-Shirt.
“Excuse me”, said the bruiser, “but you do not have clearance to be in this building!”
“I’m playing in the tournament tomorrow” Billy said sheepishly… “And are those glasses you’re wearing the new Transmuton 4000 Dimensionals?”
“All tournament players are to arrive tomorrow at o-six hundred. You are not authorized to view the platform yet. You will have to leave immediately”
“Okay… Okay… don’t get your panties in a bunch. Geez…” Billy was trying to act all cool but honestly he was starting to feel a little bit of fear. “Lighten up dude. You’re talking to the next gamer king.” But the goon wasn’t having any of it and followed him closely as Billy walked out of the building.
“Well… that was fun” Billy chuckled as he got back into his car to drive to the nearest fast food drive-in.
Pulling into the drive-in, Billy suddenly noticed a weird smudging on the outside of his windshield. But he could only see it if the light from the drive-in overhead was at just the right angle. So he backed his car up a bit until the light illuminated what he thought he had seen before.
It read “The Game is not what it seems” just as plain as if someone had written him a note. Right there on the windshield.
“Damn punk vandals. Probably had something to do with that last team I beat to get to the tournament. Yep… just jealous.”
“May I take your order sir?”
“I’ll take a double caffeine burger with swirl cheese, a order of tater balls, and a DoubleFF hexa-sized brain buzzer drink.”
“Please pull through to the next window”
After waiting about 17 seconds, the girl opened the window and handed him his 256 ounce drink. “Here’s the DoubleFF buzzer”, She said “We’re waiting on your tater balls to process. Please pull forward.”
As Billy pulled forward and had time to think about the day, he couldn’t quite get over that huge dude that accosted him.
“Seems like a too aggressive representative of the gamer company. Considering I own almost 100 of their latest games… the nerve of that guy.
After getting the rest of his food order, Billy had nothing more to concern himself but pigging out and getting some rest. A big day tomorrow.
When Billy walked in the auditorium the next morning, bright and on time at 0600, he expected a huge crowd; but all he saw was about 15 kids about his age, standing around in a group.
He walked over to the group. “Might as well get to know those I’m going to defeat.”
But just as he was going to say something, an announcement came over the auditorium projectascan speakers:
….. Mission Process Go. Labor Dispute Scenario Delta Alpha Tango….. then there was silence. Suddenly 4 huge bodyguard types herded the group over to a station while a very sophisticated yet
familiar game came up on the screen.
One of the bodyguard types spoke up. “Your goal today is to be performed as a team. No team member will attack another member and to do so means disqualification. Your mission is to search out the infected ones once you arrive at the destination site. They can be identified by their blue shirts only. They will not look like soldiers but don’t let them fool you. They have special powers that cannot be underestimated. The only way to be sure is to eliminate them BEFORE they get close enough to communicate.
“Remember… you will be judged on your efficiency of kill and total numbers. Certain weapons will be exclusive to certain players such as laser rifles or unmanned flying vehicles with missiles. How you use those weapons will count considerably towards your overall score. Welcome to the Game. Begin”
Suddenly the 3D interface picks up our hand and body motions and the screen shows a group inside a helicopter about to be dropped to a destination. One of the soldiers that I seemed to be sitting by turned to me with a big smile and blurts out…..”This is so DAMN cool!”
We rappel out of the helicopter into a building. Not a military installation.. more of a factory. Blow the door and toss a flash bang for an introduction. When I swing into the entrance, low and to the right, I can see about 50 of them. All grouped together coming towards us. I let them have it with the laser scatter that cuts them to shreds. Easy pick-ins really. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Continue to the other side of the room and sweep for more infected. And so on and so on for the next 30 minutes. This must have been the first level because this was just too easy. I wondered how the others were scoring. Could they possibly be as good as my game?
Then my screen displays “End of Round 1″ while my favorite guitar solo from my favorite song from my favorite band “Dead Parts” is screaming rock and roll. SWEET!
But as I’m enjoying my moment of glory, a faint flicker shows up on my screen. “The Game is not what it seems”.
Perhaps for a second or two. Then blank screen.
“This is getting wicked strange man… ”
Then another of the bodyguards starts to talk. “That will be all for today. You have done very well and have surpassed all previous benchmarks of kill efficiency. Please return to your homes and jobs. You will be contacted when the next round will begin. Thank you.”
“What? That’s it? What about all the other players? When do I find out if I won or even what my score was? This sucks, man. I have half a notion to return all my games and cancel my subscription to Gamer Girls magazine. Teach them to mess with….. damn… this just sucks”
But I have no choice. The bodyguards are leading us out to our cars, no questions answered. What a rip. I get in my car and drive about a block when this car in front of me stops suddenly and I bump into them. Shit! I start to get out of my car when another person jumps in the passenger seat. Only saying just watch… he shows me a clip of a news report. But it’s from an news agency I’ve never heard of, across the world, in a language I can’t understand. Fortunately it has the translator program running.
It’s a video of what seems to be a building but there is so much smoke I cannot make it out. Then the translation bar reads…. “350 people die in factory fire”.
So what ? Why should I care and why is this guy in my car?
I continue to watch the clip until I recognize something that jolts me like an electric shock. The building. It’s the exact same one in the game! And those bodies… they’re all wearing blue shirts. I can read a sign that one of the dead is still clutching on to. “On Strike! More Pay or No Gadgets!”
My heart is pounding and the mind is spinning!
What the hell is going on here???
I look over at the person just as he is leaving my car.
But before he closes the door, he leans back in the car and whispers… “The Game is not what it seems.”