Level 1 – 5
The beeping grew in intensity as she moved towards the dot on the radar to which Dylan ultimately cried out, “Is there anyway to shut that thing up?”
Bo spoke up, “Hold ALT and press F9.”
“Can I just read the manual real quick?”
“Who reads the manuals?”
“I do. Besides, if there’s an emergency and I need to break the rules, it’s easier to do it when I know what the rules are first.”
Bo let out another little laugh, “I have the command key pulled up on a separate window. If you need to know something, just shout. Keep playing.”
Dylan nodded and kept walking forward sans beeping noise. Raising a hand, she asked, “How about making this thing go a little faster?”
“Let’s see here… Ah, Hold shift.”
With her middle finger on the ‘W’ key, Dylan’s little finger compressed the shift key. Immediately Dylan’s character bolted towards the little scrap heap of a village ahead. Everything was nearly crystal clear from the makeshift storage container houses, to the rock and sandstone walls that surrounded the conclave. A message scrolled up on the lower half of the center screen.
Big League:/>(all units) – “Units in position, breach on mark.”
Dylan circled around the perimeter of the warehouse like compound where the dot on the radar had lead her. She searched for a door, or an opening. Instead, Dylan found what looked like a seven-foot tall metal skeleton with a very large gun leaning up against a sandstone wall. With a low whistle she exclaimed the obvious, “Holy shit, that thing is awesome.”
It looked a lot less refined than robots she’d seen in Terminator 2. Instead of polished chrome, it was closer to unpolished brass and black plastic. Shiny stainless steel would have stood out like a sore thumb here in the desert anyway. It’s head looked like two Panasonic F-250’s camcorders welded together. Cradled in it’s hand was a massive minigun with a gun belt wrapped around it’s arm and into a large pack on it’s back. The machine was even decked out in Desert Storm styled fatigues and armor.
Dylan moved her mouse to look down at her own mechanical hands. Both were empty.
Big_League:/>(all units) – Position check.
Spear_Mint:/>(all units) – Check.
Eclipse:/>(all units) – Check.
Orbit:/>(all units) – Check.
Dylan had her hands on the keyboard ready to answer when she turned to Bo, “How do I send a message with this thing?”
Bo, “ALT and ‘M’ and type. Enter to send.”
Before Dylan could write her response, Luke grabbed the keyboard out of her hands. Dylan tried to pull the keyboard back from her step-brother but couldn’t, “What’s your problem?”
Luke replied panicked, and voice shaking, “Don’t tell them you’re name.”
Dylan looked to Bo and then back to Luke, “You think I was born yesterday? Of course I’m not going to tell them my name.”
Luke released the keyboard, “Just be careful.”
Rolling her eyes, Dylan got back into position, “Dude, it’s a game. Relax.”
Big_League:/>(all units) – Breach!
Dylan watched her monitor as the wall where the larger mechanical man once stood exploded inward into a cloud of dust and debris. With her eyes widening she blurted out, “Weapons! Need weapons now.”
Dylan remembered her earlier mistake and cycled through the number keys starting with ‘1’ and watched as the armaments came up onto the screen: an ax, a Colt .45 pistol, a M4-A1 carbine rifle, a M79 Grenade Launcher, and finally something that looked like a harpoon gun.
Bo excitedly squealed, “Go back to the assault rifle!”
Luke whined, “Let her play.”
Dylan spoke low and cool, “Guys!” Cracking her knuckles like Matt would do, she readied her fingers on the keyboard and mouse, “I’ve got this.”
Bursting through the wall, Dylan pulled up her Colt .45 and ducked for cover. Voices in some foreign language were screaming through the speakers under the sound of gunfire. Popping up from behind a crate, Dylan expertly tagged the shadowy figures of men with incredible accuracy. Each target that entered her crosshairs went down in a single shot.
Big_League:/>(all units) – Frag out!
Dylan backed her character behind the nearest cover narrowly avoiding a blinding white light followed by a powerful boom that rocked her speakers. Before the smoke even cleared, Dylan was out and scanning the area. Light poured in through the massive hole in that used to be the north wall of the main room.
Big_League:/>(all units) – Company status check?
Spear_Mint:/>(all units) – Power at 45%. Heavy damage.
Eclipse:/>(all units) – Power at 35%.
Orbit:/>(all units) – Power at 40%. Fuel low.
Dylan quickly typed her message and hit the enter key.
Five:/>(all units) – Power at 75%. All clear.
Spear_Mint:/>(all units) – Anybody have eyes on unit Five?
Big_League:/>(all units) – Unidentified user ‘Five’ state your name and rank.
Five:/>(all units) – Captain DAY, ready to rock!
Dylan laughed to herself as she continued to explore the dust filled room. Bo suddenly began clicking the keys of his laptop faster and with greater intensity. Luke was mumbling, “Can they see us? Can they find us?” Bo Han shushed Luke. Dylan, kept searching the room once again rendered with astounding detail. Normally, when a character died they just disappear. Dylan was almost frustrated that she had to deliberately walk around dozens of downed enemies.
Orbit:/>(all units) – Mission priority: Primary target Al Hazar is escaping in oil tanker truck headed Southeast.
Five:/>(all units) – Copy, in pursuit!
Moving her character out through the hole in the wall, Dylan stepped back before she was nearly hit by the tanker speeding past her. Holding down the shift button, Dylan watched robotic hands pump up and down in rhythm. Sand flew up in the air as her robot moved at an otherworldly pace after the tanker truck. Another series of beeps forced Dylan to glance at her left monitor. Her battery gauge was dropping rapidly.
The tanker was gaining speed and distance. Dylan switched from her pistol to her rifle. Brass hands cradled the rifle as she took her shot. Nothing happened. The truck continued to pull ahead of Dylan. She switched to her grenade launcher. Despite the speed, robotic hands held her weapon steady. Lining up the shot, Dylan fired.
With a bright flash, and explosive roar, the tanker truck’s back axle was blown clean off. The truck swerved, tumbling end over end careening into the shallow ditch beside the road. After a final rotation, the tanker buried itself in the sand dune beside the road.
As Dylan’s character approached, she surveyed the beautifully crafted wreckage. Nothing was pixelated. Not the fire, the sand, or the mutilated truck. Nothing clipped or disappeared as she walked her character to the driver’s side. Among the carnage, Dylan appreciated the time it must have taken to create such an incredible fiction.
ALERT! BATTERY LIFE AT 25%
Removing her pistol, Dylan carefully sidestepped around to the front of the truck cabin. Crawling out from the truck came the body of a man, bruised and bloodied. The detail was captivating. He was actually panting for breath. His eyes were bloodshot. It almost looked like this man was staring up directly at Dylan.
His eyes pleaded with her, grasped by sheer terror.
Hovering her cross hair over what must have been the boss, an FBI’s Most Wanted mugshot materialized along with a detailed biography on Dylan’s right screen. Despite being blown out of a truck, the man kept trying to crawl away. This was a pretty easy bossfight for the first level. As the man kept trying to pull himself across the sand, Dylan steadied her pistol.
With two clicks of the mouse Dylan fired two rounds into the back of his head and whispered, “Game over.”
Seeing the blood splatter across the sand, and the wind blowing through the boss’s dark, matted hair, an uneasy feeling surged through Dylan’s veins like thick, cold mud. Her pulse slowed and sent a shiver down her spine. It wasn’t just that the body ceased to disappear. It wasn’t the absence of a Level Cleared or You Won title across the screen. There was something deeper than all of the hundreds of thousands of ninjas Dylan had slaughtered over the years.
She had seen this man’s face.
She looked into his eyes.
Somewhere, Dylan figured, a team of artists had sat in a room in front of their monitors and programmed an enemy that feared death. Unlike any game before, Dylan almost felt sick. Her gag reflex was itching at her throat. The only thing keeping her from throwing up all over the keyboard was her brain reminding her of the plain and simple truth: This wasn’t real.
This was only a game.
The metallic ping of the message alert interrupted the deathly stillness that fell over the desert.
Orbit:/>(all units) – Eyes on target, Al Hazar is down. Neutralize Unit Five, then proceed to extraction zone for skyhook.
Eclipse:/>(all units) – Five in sight, tango down.
All of a sudden, the monitor went black followed by the metallic sound of a bullet piercing metal. The audio was still picking up the rustling wind from the desert level prompting Dylan to ask, “What gives? Did one of you hit the monitor cable?”
Dylan looked over to Luke and Bo Han who was furiously typing on his keyboard. Looking over on to Bo’s screen, there was still DOS text code crawling over the page. Luke was pacing back and forth as he breathed out, “They’re going to find us.”
Bo Han didn’t turn from his keyboard as he chided Luke, “Their word per minute is not equivalent to how fast they can hack my system.”
Luke gripped the back of Bo’s chair, “Well, you’re typing faster.”
“I’m only one guy. Whoever they are probably has a team of people trying to figure out where their uninvited guest came from.”
Dylan looked onto her monitor. Everything was still black except for the submenus, and a timer in the center of the screen counting down below a message that read, Unit Five compromised. Self destruct sequence activated.
Looking back over to Bo, Dylan asked, “Is that it, or does this thing have another level?”
Bo chided, “I’m a little busy here. Just tell me if anything happens on the monitor.”
Luke continued to pace, “We need to shut off the servers.”
Bo laughed his little laugh, “We’re not shutting off the servers. Calm your tits.”
“I’m serious, Bo Han.”
“You call me Subzero, Gaijin.”
“I’m not fucking calling you Subzero. Shut down the servers before they find us!”
Dylan turned around in her chair, staring up at Luke. He looked like he was about to explode. With fists clenched and nearly hyperventilating, Luke continued trembling as he stared down Bo’s monitor. Not growing up in a home that expressed comfort, Dylan wasn’t sure how to react. It was abundantly clear Luke must be stressed beyond what had happened in the game.
Trying to reach out to her brother, Dylan offered a calm distraction, “Luke, what did you think of the game? That was pretty cool huh?”
Luke snapped, “I don’t care about the stupid game.”
Dylan was taken aback. She knew that Luke used to be just as much of a gamer, if not more so. She tried to probe, “Why exactly did you need me to beat this game Luke?”
Luke kept his eyes on Bo, “You don’t need to get involved.”
“You’ve already got me involved. What else is going on here?”
“I just needed you to play the game. Bo, you need to shut down the servers, now!”
Bo Han finally looked away from the monitor. With a stern voice, and a thicker accent, he shouted, “You’re not touching my servers. Just let me work.”
Dylan looked at the countdown timer: fifteen seconds.
Luke shot a look over to the glass closet and dashed towards the servers. Bo Han set his laptop on the table top and followed after him shouting in Korean.
The two teens struggled and shouted.
There was a quick explosion sound from the speakers, and then static.