This story has been inspired by a news article. I looked at the events from a different angle and came up with this story. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it, but I hope it makes you think.
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He sat down in his special chair, put on his headphones and picked up his controller. The large screen in front of him was already showing the interior of an armoured troop carrier, complete with troops. It was in motion, the view shaking and bouncing around.
Someone spoke on the gaming channel. “We all ready? Snacks, energy drinks, bladders empty?”
He laughed along with the others. “Yep, all ready,” he confirmed.
“And batteries in controllers checked? We know what happened last time.”
“I’m using the charging cable.”
“Good. Here we go. Let’s hope they’ve fixed the lag problem, finally.”
“Says so in the patch notes.”
“Heard that before.”
The troop carrier slowed and then stopped, the rear door fell open like a draw bridge and the six of them ran out into a sunlit forest. A red dot appeared on his HUD. He knew the same thing was showing on everyone else’s screens.
“Looks like we’re straight into it this mission.”
“Yep, get in formation, we’ll move up towards the target.”
The six of them spread out and began a stealthy advance towards the red dot, using the trees as cover as much as they could. The single dot soon became two as they moved closer and then more, clustered in a small area.
“Let’s do a circuit, take out those guards first, then decide on an approach when we know more about the layout.”
“Ok, going right.”
The forest ended and he found himself moving through a drought-stricken cornfield. The only cover was a rusty tractor and bowser, sitting on their rims nearer to the farmhouse beyond. He crouched and moved towards it, one of his teammates a few metres behind. They reached the cover of the tractor without incident. He went prone and took up a position underneath it. He was playing a sharpshooter today, so looked through his scope and zoomed in to have a look around. As he scanned the farmhouse, he saw a figure moving inside. The person was armed with a heavy rifle of some kind, not the typical tool of a farmer.
“Contact, inside the farmhouse, large calibre rifle, looks like a red and black patch on his sleeve.”
“Rebels again. I hope there’s something more challenging further in.”
“Yeah. Ok, I’ll take him out.”
He lined up a shot on the window the man was looking out of. When the rebel moved into full view he tapped a button on his controller and the man fell over backwards, a small hole appearing in the glass. The kill/death indicator on his display ticked over to 1/0 and his score went up to 500.
“Ok, he’s down.”
“Move in, watch your backs.”
The squad moved in to clear the farm and its outbuildings, easily taking out more rebels with no injuries to themselves. More red dots indicated a larger cluster of rebels further on, in and around a small village a few hundred metres away. Most of them were gathered around a central building which seemed to be a small factory unit.
“Right, same again. Take out the guards and then storm the large building.”
Only a short time later, the group had reached the factory with little difficulty. He’d taken a hit, a lucky shot from a rebel he’d surprised; his health was down to 98%. It was annoying because it would affect his final score.
They all gathered in a loose group outside a large door, ready to go in. “Usual spread, two left, two right, two centre, ready?”
The large factory door ground open and revealed a truck covered in steel plates. He had time to shout a warning before the truck shot forwards and smashed him to the ground. He heard gunfire and it was this that finished him off. His screen went red and the simple message, ‘You died’ faded in. Damn, that would really affect his score. He pressed a button and his screen cleared to show he was back inside the troop carrier.
He jumped out of the vehicle and ran back into the action, noting his previous body lying in a greasy heap. He would have to recover it later; at least he would get some of his points back. The rest of his group had spread out around the factory, the truck immobilised by an RPG strike to its front end. The rest of the factory had been cleared, leaving some survivors inside the truck. The group surrounded it and began to shoot it with everything they had. One of the team had a flame thrower, which dripped liquid fire through the gaps between the plates. The screaming started, and his score began to go up. When the screams ended, a blue banner appeared. Victory!
“Good job!” they all congratulated each other. He picked up his first body and the team headed back to the troop carrier. Once they were all seated the final scores came up and the screen faded to return to an animated menu. He was fifth of six, which wasn’t too bad considering he’d died once. He pulled the headphones off, put down the controller and stood. He pulled open the steel door and stepped out of the bunker. Shading his eyes against the increased light, he looked around as his five teammates emerged smiling.
“Come on, we need to get to the canteen before they run out of chips!” one of them shouted.
He caught up with the squad leader, who was a little older and always calm.
“Do you ever think about it?” He asked the older man.
The man stopped. “No, never think about it, it’s just a game, ok?”
“Do you want to retire one day, enjoy your pension and not wake up every night with the screaming shakes?
“Then it’s just a game!”
He glanced around at the hundreds of identical steel bunkers sitting in neat rows. He nodded. “It’s just a game.”