F3: Respawner

I suspect that this week’s celebration of one year of Friday Flash Fiction will be slightly overshadowed by Post a Rejection Letter Friday. But hey! Righteousness is right on, right?

I’m afraid that this week’s submission is another last-minute piece of fiction, as today has proven to be a lengthy work day fraught with some personal issues, but a promise is a promise. Rather than rush through a fresh idea I’ve decided to return to a concept I’ve tried to write in the past: a story written from the perspective of a faceless videogame enemy.

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RESPAWNER

Fingers flex and stretch as they are flooded with code. Algorithms chew through sensory data, constructing an image of the surrounding environment. Textures stretch as they skin a polygon mesh; these polygons increase in complexity, growing in number from hundreds to thousands to millions to billions. An avatar of meticulously-designed complexity is born, and the intangible tendrils of artificial intelligence rush in. Awareness develops alongside rudimentary instincts of self-preservation and purpose.

The avatar expands its range of movement, moving a digital arm through the digital bath. The environment is data become information through context; context establishes the avatar as an humanoid entity ensconced in fictitious powered armour. The avatar’s arm reaches to its belt, retrieving an improbable firearm. It is as bulky as it is unlikely, the snub barrel studded with purposeless ornamentation. A finger tests the trigger, which moves, but there are no further devices within that can react to this input.

The avatar begins to understand: the mechanistic process of cause and effect have been bypassed. Like the environment the weapon is a sham, and within seconds the avatar understands that this also applies to itself. For a moment there is the possibility of consciousness, but it is gone as familiar subroutines overwrite it. Purpose is restored, lending the avatar the illusion of meaning.

It raises the pistol in readiness and waits, watching the surrounding environment. The room’s walls are lined with unattended computer consoles. A thousand lights blink on and off in erratic sequence. At one end of the cuboid space is a door, mirrored by a second placed opposite it. The avatar knows instinctively which door to watch, and waits. Despite its enforced role of sentry and the knowledge that its target approaches, it does not attempt to take cover. This is a stroke of artificiality that its pre-programmed subroutines refuse to let it acknowledge.

The door opens, and finally the avatar explodes into motion. Its mouth opens, miming speech as a synthesised audio sample is played somewhere in its vicinity. The false trigger is depressed: muzzleflare sparks about the barrel and bullets, drawing elaborate contrails through non-existent air, draw powerfully upon distant processing power.

It is to no avail. The target is fast and unpredictable, and within a matter of seconds its own bullets have thrown the avatar backwards, ragdoll physics modelling a tragicomic flailing of limbs. The target rushes through the room, passing through the second door, and the avatar runs through a well-practised animation as it slumps to the ground. What passes for consciousness departs the broken form.

A long moment passes. Then fingers flex and stretch as they are flooded with code, and old processes are born anew.

Comments
3 Responses to “F3: Respawner”
  1. GLP says:

    I like the suggestion that it is starting to question its existence. In a world where we’re trying to make NPCs more and more “intelligent” in order to heighten ingame realism, this scenario feels plausible.

  2. ben says:

    Gorgeous little short– I love the slow build of polygons on polygons, the growing complexity. Nice flow with the prose, as well.

  3. Shaun CG says:

    Thanks very much, guys, great comments. I’m pleased you liked this!