I surveyed the terrain with care before moving forward, my fingers deliberately keeping my avatar in a crouched position. No sense giving too big a target. If I lost here then we would lose the war in the real world. In my booth, all I had to focus on was to survive. I could not afford to let my imagination wander to what laid beyond. People were watching with their own fears and fighting spirit but no one was as good in the game as I was and my job was to win. My life depended on it.
Fighting wars digitally was something that a modified Geneva Convention with UN backing had come up with after so many people had died in all sorts of wars. You name it we had them. If it wasn’t between countries, it was people within countries. The toll shown in the media alienated a lot of people but it never seemed to stop.
The solution was pure geek. Instead of fighting for real, the battle would be fought in cyberspace or more specifically in a specially designed computer game. They did try having players wearing cyber-suits so their actions would be conveyed digitally except they were in the same room. During the heat of one battle for the Middle East, an Arab stopped playing digitally and killed his opponent Arab for real. Although it was possible to have the opponents in separate rooms, it was decided to go back to the old button push manipulation. It was a great equaliser and allowed opponents to check their surroundings in case anyone broke into the room.
Of course, there hadn’t been just the two of us playing when we started. There had been one hundred on each side but now we were down to the last two according to the HUD. You would have thought that there would have been an uneven number of players. After all, you can’t kill each other all of the time. At some point, one side or the other would be outnumbered. A digital bomb had seen to that this time. I took out all but the remaining two enemy with it and had just brought the numbers down to mano-o-mano. From a potentially losing position, we actually had an evens chance of winning this war but it was all down to me now and I had no idea who exactly was my opponent. Then again, he wouldn’t know who I was neither. Whoever I was fighting this time had to be better than my usual opponents. Our avatars weren’t generic but the last thing you would want to know was you were facing an ace player. Then again, from my own experience, a good amateur could be formidable as well because they wouldn’t have the habits we pros had. Whatever, I moved gingerly forward, looking for signs of my opponent. I couldn’t afford to take chances.
You might think we would have it all our own way. A safe way to battle a war with no deaths at the end. We could go away and lick our wounds and just get ready for the next time our leaders got into a dispute and we had to war. If life was that easy. Locked into my console was a detonation device. If I lost, it would go off and good-bye me. The same with my remaining opponent if I got him first. There was some sort of logic about this. The losing side wouldn’t necessarily jump into a war situation again in a hurry because they would know we were the stronger opponent. It would have to be something pretty bad to go back to war. As winners, we not only had an acknowledged world victory but also the spoils and rights for what we fought for.
What was this war about? I can’t really remember. Did the foot soldiers in the old-fashioned wars always remember why they fought when sent to the front line? They were more worried about the loved ones they left behind, the sergeant who barked their orders, the damp more than any dodging bullets. They would forget the reason. Even in this modern day, my main concern was to stay alive and win.
I heard a twig snap and moved gently around. This wasn’t like those primitive early games where you could step through things without making a sound. Everything was associated to sound and audible to the players.
Who was stalking who? It would be easy to climb up a tree and use that as some high ground but it could also make me vulnerable from below. I remembered that there was a cliff-side further along. In reality, it was just the perimeter of the game but at least I wouldn’t have to watch my back. I’d used that approach before, except this time, I was going to get my opponent on that side and just pop him off. He wouldn’t expect that.
Skip that. There he was up ahead. One of my team must have hit him as the avatar had blood on his battle-armour. He was making himself too easy a target. Cautiously, I looked around. Could they have brought in an extra player? We did that once and got away with it. Could the player himself be running two avatars? We did that a few wars ago. They would have had to have studied such plans. They couldn’t afford to keep on losing.
I snucked along real slowly this time to ensure I could get a straight shot. He wasn’t moving. Had the real player paused and getting further instructions? Had he gone to sleep? This war had been going on for two days now non-stop. We were both tired. If I wanted to sleep, I would have found somewhere more secure to hide my avatar and let him waste energy looking around to find me.
With greater confidence, I stepped out opposite him.
I fired and the avatar went down in a stream of deadly digital bullets.
Victory! Once again for our side.
I put my foot down and felt a click.
The boom brought me back to my console and it promptly exploded beside me.
I was going to suffer the same fate as my avatar. Death by opponent sacrifice.
I recorded my last thoughts for posterity: What happens when there’s a draw?
© GF Willmetts 2013
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