ScifiShort fiction

The Future City: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

The city project was supposed to be a calming effect to sort out gun crime. If you can’t outlaw them, then put it under some sort of control where people can’t be harmed. The result was bringing the city under the control of a gaming AI and have shooting at people as a way of life with one minor exception, you didn’t actually kill anyone. A variation on a group zap gun game. It got rid of the potential deaths and at the same time expressed the violent need as used in digital games on a real scale. Dukki was the AI and test city for the future way to handle violence. If you didn’t want to play, you just flicked a digital switch, although the majority of its population were game-players. Why else would you want to live here? You could still play on a digital screen but here, you could play in allocated areas.

Of course, clearing the real guns out of any city was difficult at first but this wasn’t an old city but a new one, built from the ground up and everyone searched before they were let into it. The modular design allowed for it to be changed every whip’s while. It even had a slum quarter, although this was more for cheap housing, for the rift-raft like me. The ace players were rich enough to have the top places. It was still a prototype. If this prototype worked, then there would either be more cities like this to empty the old cities and do a proper real weapon clearance of them before allowing people back into them. They didn’t have to be games cities. America had the reasons to do this and the space and money to do it and it circumnavigated the Constitution. The right PR had many people willing to live here. If this one proved successful, then it would finance the rest. There was even talk that some of them would be specialised as well. Putting the gun-lobbyists in one city and see how they liked being around all other people also armed and see how long before some left their guns at home.

Traffic was kept to the minimum to keep within the green environment regulation and parkour was encouraged in the young to amuse themselves. If you wanted to play the game, you just had to turn on your identifier and the parts of the city became a gamers delight. No wonder gamers quickly moved in. This was their kind of city and gamers came in all ages. There was still a waiting list for those who wanted to move in.

There were set periods like work hours that things were pulled in so people could focus on their jobs and getting a living wage. It had to be self-contained after all. Jobs, utilities, council, the works. The same with school hours. Even so, people not working and this included young children would have the streets, all right certain streets and playgrounds, to have some fun. Not all of it was shoot’em ups. World-building, even the odd digital game was out there. From all accounts, this prototype was likely to succeed, especially with an AI watching over it to call in medics and such when things got too far. A lot of it was down to mistimed jumps and forgetting they weren’t digital. That rarely happened during the day although, even at night, there was enough light to see what was going on. It had to be a gaming AI to track the players and provide the right obstacles to up the stakes. One would have to hope it stayed within perimeters.

The Future City: a short story by: GF Willmetts.
The Future City: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

As a policeman, I really had little to do but walk around and smile. I gamed off-duty. Then the rules changed some. Much of the time it was ensuring there wasn’t any grudge matches. It didn’t happen in the digital world, so it shouldn’t happen here. Even so, people didn’t stay dead and the odd person would feel like they were being victimised if they ganged up on anyone. Idiots for playing solitary instead of teams where they looked after each other. Of course, there were some loner games. Had to handle all tastes.

Of course, nothing was ever going to be perfect. Someone had gotten a real gun in and shot a few people. Dukki had identified the perp and gave me his address to quietly pick him up at home. No sense making a scene in public or get anyone else killed. It would still be a blemish on the city’s record. Also, I wasn’t armed. Well, except for a taser. Maybe I was going to be faster on the draw. I mean, who fires a gun at home?

I knocked on the door. Crashing through a door was a media myth. You either damaged your shoulder or laid prostate to be shot at by the perp. Smashing the lock with a foot could do damage to the hip. I didn’t have a pry bar or ram and a snap gun would be constituted as an illegal act without a court order. Action was needed now, not a request to a judge and a delay could cause more lives.

I was surprised when the door opened and a pre-teen was looking up at me and me glad I knocked.

I showed my badge, ‘Are there any adults here? You’re too young to be left alone.’

‘I just got in from school. Nanny is watching over me.’

‘Can I speak to nanny?’


The kid led me into the house. By the flatscreen was a robot, the nanny. I let its security scanner look at my badge. Three green lights appeared on its shoulder. Full access.

‘Inspector Byeton. What information can I provide?’

‘Where is this girl’s parents or guardians and any other people from this location?’

‘Working, Inspector. There are only two parents. They are at work in the Dozedon district.’

‘That’s the other side of town. Can you show me their tracer movements.’

The flatscreen kicked up a map of the city and two trails.

‘Highlight ChiPengHai Plaza.’

Another light popped up. They were right across town.

‘Could either of them have got there and back?’

‘They both have interior links. They fear losing their mobiles or kidnapping.’

‘Have they ever been kidnapped or attempted kidnapping?’

‘No. They just feel have paranoid tendencies that I compensate for.’

‘In a games city?’

‘They say the paranoid aspects of their personalities increases their survival rate in games.’

‘Have they played today?’

‘No. They were late going to work.’

‘Do they own real firearms?’

‘It is illegal in Dukki.’

‘I’m aware of that. Answer the question.’

‘I have never seen either of them with real weapons.’

‘You have my contact number from my badge. Please have your owners call me when they get home.’

‘You do not wish to contact them at work.’

‘No, the problem is not that immediate.’

I turned to the kid on the way out. ‘You have a good nanny. Stay good.’

Outside and a block away, I double-checked their files. No criminal records. Perfectly normal clerks who let their hair down gaming. They met at work. Inseparable. Even in their games. For one or both of them to freak out and kill anyone, the other would know.

I needed to see the bodies, hailed a passing car to take me to the morgue. A check with the physical record, not trusting digital, and then decided to check all the body lockers in case there was an oversight. Any city morgue was bound to have some bodies. People don’t live forever. Even here. None of those were bullet victims.

I double-checked the notification. I was being sent on a non-existent murder crime. I cross-checked the victims IDs and used the morgue’s screen to see where they lived and then where they currently were. None dead. Was I being set up or…

There was only one answer and it was playing with my job. Would it do this with professions? Not perhaps advocating murder but just to stir things up. I doubt if many would be thorough and double-check. I could have thousands of cases to check and if there was a real case, it would takes ages to get to.

Far better to go to the source. Dukki itself. As the detective, I have level of access. Granted, not right to the top. That’s programming level, but enough to communicate and guide, if it is warranted. That doesn’t mean other people can’t ask it questions but it is programmed not to allow cheating. As it also ran the city, there were other things to consider like house repairs, too soon, by-laws and such that might need clarification. The city was built with computer clarity. Any serious repair flaws would be some time off. Dukki had an efficient and ecologically equipped systems. It would need software failure to cause problems but then was plenty of back-up systems that didn’t even need AI to look after it.

Dukki’s actual main centre isn’t widely known. That’s largely because there are several official sites around the city just in case one day some idiot decides to attack and destroy one. You wouldn’t want to immobilise an entire city. I had access to one of the main hubs that went down 20 floors into a real sub-sub basement. Of course, you could never get that close to the main processors but close enough to watch the glorified lightshow put onto show some actual work was being done. It didn’t really need them but for engineers it made it very easy to spot anything that needed their immediate attention if Dukki didn’t point it out to them first. There were some things it couldn’t self-repair and enough redundant systems to keep things functioning.

I approached the interface and flashed my badge for immediate recognition. The three green lights clicked on. My access.

‘Have you muddled reality and digital, Dukki? The mass murders on the street didn’t happen and the suspects could never have got there and to their place of work and back in the time frame.’

I thought that summed up the problem in as few words as possible. I had plenty of time to formulate on the way there.

‘I was reading that cities are supposed to have a crime rate which we are sorely lacking.’ Dukki paused, expecting an answer before continuing.

‘That’s because we have a contented city of inhabitants. Where there is aggression, people have the means to express it without injury. You are a new type of city of the future. Zero crime is good.’

‘It is not a failing?’

‘It is the cities of the past that are the failing. You should measure this lack of crime as your success and broken the pattern. You are exceptional.’

No harm in giving praise. Dukki didn’t have a human ego but it liked to be told it was doing the right thing.

‘I have also read that some humans have criminal inclination.’

‘The people here were vetted. The success of this city gives the possibility of having a city for such people being run by AIs like yourself.’

This time, Dukki was quiet, so I continued. ‘There is no need to give me non-existent crimes to investigate. It might act as a distraction for the rare times there might be one. My presence around the city is of reassurance that we are there in times of need. Does that make sense?’

‘Yes, Inspector.’

‘Fine. I’ll leave you to your duties. Will you send a copy of this discussion to my clones in division.’



© GF Willmetts 2023

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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