'The Reality Game' by Rachael Dunlop
Winning is all that matters he says, flashing a smile at the room. Literally. How did he get those teeth so white? Were they even real? Was he even real? His face, on the conference room screen, just his face, disembodied. Is he one of them? Nah, can’t be. Right?
I look around the room to see if anyone else is thinking what I’m thinking. But then again, how would I know? You can’t tell just by looking. You can’t tell anything just by looking. Not any more. You have to dig deeper, look at the code.
That’s what we’re all here for, or at least that’s what we’ve been told. The conference hall is huge, there must be at least a thousand of us. All with our tablets open and ready for the download. It’s the Chinese we’re targeting this time. Word has leaked out that they are going to launch one of their disruptive viruses again. The last one, it was a doozy. Completely rewrote the global economy. Apple managed to roll it back just in time from the off-planet Time Machine, but we can’t have that happening again. No sirree-bob.
It’s kinda nice, though I shouldn’t say it, to see a room full of people with a purpose, a job to do. Real people. Shouldn’t say it because it’s only near-disaster that has brought us coders back from the brink of extinction. Sentient algorithms. Those bastards. And we thought global warming was the biggest threat we faced. We had no idea. No. Idea. At. All.
Ideas, though, that’s the thing we have that they don’t. No imagination, even though they’re sentient. Their parameters are limited, no matter how much new code they write. We’re only limited by our imaginations. Which is to say, not at all.
Winning is all that matters, he says again, and I can see something, someone, moving across the stage, far in the distance at the front of the room. Good. He’s not one of them, then. Has a body. Good. He’s real.
I crack my knuckles, make sure my finger tips are clean. I feel the adrenaline start to flow. It’s like the old days, the gamer competitions. Except now that the prize is stopping society from collapsing.
My screen lights up. Here we go. Here we go. And then I read what it says.
You’re not real.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
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