Death and Friendship.
Love and Gaming.
Mind and Machine.
The Meaning of Life.
High School Graduation.
The End of the World.
That Kind of Stuff.
If you press them, anyone who games will admit to some variation on the idea of how they’d love to be the hero for real, just once. Just for one day. But right now, I’m on an empty street five hundred kilometers from home, barely able to walk. I’m soaked and shivering, wearing someone else’s clothes, and with way too many memories of almost dying rattling around in my head. And right here, right now, all I can think about is what I’d say if anybody asked me how much I want to be a hero…
I try to focus. I need to bring the previous days into some sort of relief that will let me sum things up.
“Me and some friends of mine, we got caught up in something. We thought we were beta-playing a game. An online tactical simulation, but the game turned out to be… you know what, that doesn’t matter. But none of it was our fault, and now we have something this guy Lincoln wants. A piece of tech. I want to give it back to him, but I can’t trust him to leave things alone after that.”
“What kind of tech?”
“A Soviet-era mobile weapons platform, whose heuristic on-board systems developed advanced artificial intelligence capability while it sat forgotten in a bunker in Smolensk.” Saying it sounds just about as ridiculous as I expect it to.
“I didn’t think you wrote fiction.” Connor tries and fails to laugh. It’s like he has some sort of esophageal deformity that routes all intent to guffaw straight from his lungs to his nose.
“Not fiction. This is the truth…”