Existence Finis is no ordinary game
Erased From Existence
Scoreboard: Cadre - Division VII, Existence Finis
1st place - Operative DCCXXXVII - Weekly Total of 17,789 XP
2nd place - Operative CLXI - Weekly Total of 16,322 XP
3rd place - Operative CDXXXIX - Weekly Total of 14,896 XP
Updated - 12:01 am
I’m still first.
I’ll have to tell Dax. He said he’d knock me out of first by the end of the week, but it’s Monday and he’s still in second. He always promises that he’ll beat me one day, but I tell him to keep dreaming.
He laughs at me and tells me to stop using that old expression - we don’t sleep anymore, let alone dream.
Existence Finis is my game - I’m the best fourteen-year-old registered in the sim. That’s why the Cadre contacted me to live full-time in the sim-world, to become one of their operatives.
The soft glow from the scoreboard illuminates the hallway. I stayed up just to see the scores update.
I’m on duty in six hours, so I’ll just stay awake and elec-patrol Quadrant Two. I head back to my room and sit on the couch with the elec-headset. When I put it on, a whole new room blossoms in front of me. Staring at an aerial view of Quadrant Two, I see teenagers battling and playing the game, like they’re supposed to. A live count of conscious players updates to the side of my field of view.
I’ll drop in on an attack, just to watch. I float down to a group of teenage boys. I walk behind them, listening in on their conversation. They can’t see me - I’m not actually there.
The players’ levels range from 4-6, which is a pretty high-ranking group. One of them has 13000 XP from this week, which is a lot for someone who’s not a Cadre Operative.
“Okay, initializing attack c-program. The Cadre won’t even be able to find us after we take all the XP!”
“Keep it down! We’re still in stealth mode.”
I frown. Existence Finis doesn’t allow custom programs. Alert: Custom Program! Send to Office Two, I think. Immediately a report is sent to Office Two.
One boy curses loudly.
“What? Seriously, be quiet!”
“An operative’s elec-patrolling us right now!”
“Immobilize them - get their profile before they leave!”
They can’t immobilize an operative! Report: Unauthorized Activity, I think. Denied is the response.
“Her name’s Cyana. She’s the top operative for Division Seven of the Cadre, with 17,000 XP for this week. She’s level 8.” The boy reports smugly.
Report: Unauthorized Activity Denied
Control: Quit Denied
Control: Shut Down Denied
Control: Override All DENIED
“What’s her geo-tag?”
“Room 737, Adolescent Wing, Cadre Division Seven.”
I have to get out of this elec-patrol session. I run the risk of brain damage if I remove the headset before quitting, but I don’t have any choice.
“Place a tracker on her.”
I reach up and rip the headset right off. I fall off the couch, shaking, my headset broken on the floor.
Grabbing it, I sprint to Office Two.
“Cyana, you’re on duty in twenty minutes. What’re you doing here?” the night worker asks. I hand him the headset.
“Scan this for any trackers or viruses. There’s a rogue group with a c-program in Quadrant Two.”
“Thank you,” he replies.
My armor desperately needs a clean, but I put it on anyway. I report for duty downstairs, out of breath.
“Report any unusual activity in Quadrant Two,” a robot tells me.
I nod, taking an earpiece from its hand. When I slide it into my ear, a transparent display spreads in front of my eye. Command: Teleport To Quadrant Two, I think, and suddenly I’m standing in a busy town square filled with teenagers.
Existence Finis is a virtual simulation set in a post-apocalyptic world. Kids enter from Earth and are given a new name and a profile. Then, they earn XP and work their way onto the leaderboards. People can steal others’ XP or help to rebuild the city to earn it.
Every few days, there’s a random attack on the city by the Vyxori. They’re the species that took over this world in the apocalypse, and so everyone has to protect the city.
I’m just a staff member and moderator now, although before I was one of the best players.
Players duel casually, and others bet XP on who’s going to win. I miss those days - nobody would bet XP on me, but I’d win almost every time.
A familiar face passes by - it’s one of the boys from before. I fall into step behind him, blending in. He’s on edge - I can tell. I temporarily replace my profile with a beginner’s name and level.
A warehouse on the edge of the city appears before long. The rising sun peeks through its broken rafters. The boy lifts a sheet of metal and steps inside.
I duck inside, being careful to stay in the shadows. The warehouse is big, filled with scraps of rusted, mangled metal.
“She’s here.”
Footsteps echo from my right, behind a piece of tin.
I try to pull up their profile, but it flickers away. I can’t read it.
A teenage boy, armed with a dagger and wearing full steampunk armour rounds the corner. His profile finally clears up:
Lucian – Level 11 – Infinite XP this week
That’s not even possible - there’s no such thing as Level 11.
“This operative knows too much. She must be erased.” He advances toward me menacingly.
I can feel him hacking the code surrounding me, tearing apart the game, reaching inside my mind and snatching my memories, my skills, my XP. The warehouse dances and fades around me, breaking into lines of zeroes and ones, then those fly apart too, mixing with the blurring colours of the room and the hard impact of the ground on my face and the boy counting down from three, to two, to one, to zero.
And then, nothing.
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