The Game

by Miriam English

There are restrictions to what you can do, of course, but I had managed to reprogram part of the video so that I could see further than he could.

I surveyed the buildings around me: no movement or heat source. That didn't mean he wasn't nearby though.

Ah, there he was skulking around the far side of the building opposite. Watching him through the stone walls of the building I wondered if it was actually him or another one of his simula. Well the only way to find out for sure would be to go after him. He could only have just so many simula, and he couldn't move his main body fast while he was operating one, but the moment he stopped remoting it he could move twenty or thirty times as fast as me. He had little strength and almost no armour but he did have a beam weapon.

I decided to go up to the roof - safer up there.

As I slowly climbed the stairs I watched the distant figure. What was he doing? By the time I reached the roof I had it figured: he had seen how slowly I had moved when I destroyed that other simula near my entry-point, so he was barricading the streets. He would pick up a car, carry it to the intersection and throw it onto the pile he had built there.

I smiled to myself and armed a small bomb, set the trajectory, and sent it. It flew in an arc over the street to the top of the next building, clattered along the bricks and fell down to the street on the other side where he was - or his simula.

The bomb exploded throwing cars along the street. For almost a minute I could hear the glass from shattered windows falling to the street.

And then silence.

I scanned all the buildings for movement. Sure enough, there was a figure madly racing up the steps of the building I had made the bomb appear to come from.

I smiled and lobbed another bomb. This one rolled to a stop near the middle of that roof. When he burst through the door onto the roof I triggered the thing and the roof exploded into color and smoke and pieces of concrete and steel.

But it was just another of his damn simula because instead of winning, I found that I'd damaged the building I was on, and parts of it were subsiding with thunderous creaks and crashes into the street below with me riding them.

Hopefully all the dust and debris hid my descent.

Lying under the rubble I looked around, trying not to move the larger pieces of concrete. This is where my dabbling with the video programming came in very handy: here I was, hidden totally from view under tons of concrete and steel and yet able to see clearly everything around me. I dared not move from here just yet; if he didn't see my fall I

didn't want to draw his attention to me. I was too vulnerable on the ground out in the open - he could move too fast for me. Just wait and watch. It would be night soon and I could move up into another of the buildings.

I lay there getting cramps in my legs watching the sunset - no pretty colors, just the bright orb sinking behind the horizon. I made a mental note to see old man Jetson when this game's over and suggest colorful sunsets. But he would probably point out that there is only just so much storage space in the machine.

Almost dark.

The street-lights all flicker and turn on. That never happened before! Either he has found some switch somewhere or else he too had been tinkering with the program.

Well, best hope for the first and not the latter. If he was at some sort of switch then he probably wasn't watching the streets. Now was the time to move.

I rose up from under a couple of tons of concrete and dust, my mirror armour gleaming under the street lights. I moved as quickly as I could (almost a fast walk) to the nearest building. There was no entrance on this side so I made one with a few kicks and walked through. It was dark inside, lit only by light through some high windows. I headed for the stairs and started up them.

I had reached the first floor landing and was continuing up the next flight of steps when a door I'd just passed flung open. My opponent ran out, turning to run up the stairs and ran smack into my side. He bounced off my armour to fall sprawling backwards, skinny metal arms flailing. I'm sure behind the expressionless robotic face his eyes were goggling in astonishment. I was surprised too. As he raised his arm to fire his beam weapon I triggered one of my bombs. I knew that my armour would protect me but that it would destroy him totally.

I saw the blinding flash and felt myself thrown backwards....

Then it was dark, cool and quiet. The harness was unwrapping itself from around me and as the hood lifted, I saw the game room around me and my opponent freeing his long, thin, pale body from his harness.

I called to him triumphantly, "I won!" And to rub it in, "Again!"

He was smiling strangely as he stepped onto the shiny, black, tiled floor and walked over to his clothes. He pulled out a large gun of some sort and aimed it squarely at me.

Horror! A surge of adrenaline, a loud bang and a thud in my chest.

I was wondering is this what it is to die? No pain, just darkness...

Suddenly there was light again as the hood lifted and I could feel the harness unwrapping from around me... again.

As before, my opponent was freeing himself from his harness across the room from me. He was smiling again. This time he laughed. "Don't worry there is no gun." And, shakily, I realised what had happened.

He had indeed been mucking around with the program and had added a final scenario to imitate the computer game-room itself. He had seen the potential of a game which was so realistic you could not be sure when it ended.

Instead of getting up, I lay back in the webbing breathing deeply to soothe my racing heart while he happily dressed himself chuckling.

Copyright ©1997 Miriam English