Losing Battle

“Holy hell!” Gee exclaimed. “That was too damn close! Stay fast, Ace!”

“I’m trying! This is -” Ace began. She had to break off to focus. This wasn’t just hard. It was weird. AI routines were predictable. You figured out the patterns on the mobs, the rogers, the bosses. It might take a few tries, but there was always a pattern. But now there was a person on the other end, with who-the-hell-knew-what sort of toolkit to work with.

Ace had new sympathy for the challenge the secops developers had in dealing with the Raid sim.

One man down from the start, this fight was not looking good. Zee was already disabled and they didn’t have enough time or resource to rez him back into the fight. El was stepping up his game to fill in – something Ace hadn’t realized was even possible – and Dee, of course, was her monstrous self. No way would they be lasting without her.

What was it like? Ace wondered. Fighting yourself. Knowing that you were intimately connected to the same force trying to beat you down. Something to ask Dee later. Assuming she survived this. She had been unclear – possibly uncertain – on that point.

“Watch six and nine, Ace!” El shouted. That boy has said twice as much tonight as he had the whole time Ace had known him. Good thing, too.

Jet knew all of the patterns, all the strategies. He picked up on everything within minutes of them switching out. Probably listening in, knowing their shorthand. Yet they heard nothing from him or Dee-Prime. Not exactly level playing field. But that was the point. What were they going to do? Give a complaint to the evil AI? Hey, this ruleset seems unbalanced, could we get a redo?

The last of her stim cans was tossed aside, drained. Her hands were shaky already and she guessed the others were in a similar boat. Any other night, she would have given up and gone to bed. This was the first time in her Raid history that it felt like it really mattered. Something real was on the line here. She could not stop, even as her fingers started getting numb.

And then everything froze. Not her term, just the mobs and the avatars. Like some sort of global time-stop.

“Hey, is anyone there?” asked an unfamiliar voice.