Hired Help


Today is April 19th, 2012, which is important to note the time difference between when this story was originally written in September 2011 and when the infamous Norway killer, Anders Behring Breivik, admitted in court today that he used Modern Warfare 2 as a training scenario to prepare him for future attacks.  It is important to note that I have no connection between this accused killer and would never seek one. 


The main point is that, for years, science fiction has been regarded as nothing more than a nerd’s pasttime used to escape the real world.  Yet, based on my writing coming to fruition decades faster than anticipated, it should be a focus of law enforcement and anti-terrorist groups to take video games more seriously.  Now, I am not saying that people who play video games are more prone to violence.  On the contrary, there has been no direct correlation found to link those two types of people.  Therefore, the point of this forenote is to say to government agencies:  please study the potential of video games for terrorist training.  The Navy is already seeking recruits to combat cyber terrorism, which is a great start.  Perhaps, these agencies should also consider hiring science fiction writers and futurists which often display the ability to think outside the box in order to prevent attacks like these from happening again. 


Snake, Samus, and Master Chief all sat in the break room of their abandoned warehouse in east Manhattan.  Of course, those weren’t their real names as they were handpicked to pay homage to a few of the first older generation video games made a little less than a century ago.  Now, in the year 2079, video games were revered as much more than just a hobby to pass the time or a means to vent frustrations of reality…

All three of the figures sat huddled together in an attempt to scarf down a sandwich and an energy drink before beginning another session.  The only words they spoke to each other were the occasional requests to pass the mayo or a napkin.  Of course, they didn’t want to talk to each other.  In fact, the fewer words they spoke to each other meant the less chance they would reveal their own identities.  After this job was done they would part ways and never see each other again.  Or, then again, they might cross paths under different code names and disguises and never be aware.

That was also the beauty of their code names.  By picking a codename it made choosing an alternate identity easier than having to create one from scratch.  Once the video game programmer and the clients picked the job to be performed and how many people were needed, those hired ‘helpers’ were assigned their code names and an alternate identity in order to keep their names and faces compartmentalized- even from their co-helpers.  No scars, tattoos, or any other distinguishing features were seen by the others so that they may live to serve another day while reducing the threat of waking up to a cold gun barrel pointed at their heads.

All three members of the hasty team sat on the cold steel seats centered on the solitary table in middle of the room.  They ate quietly, wondering how long this break would last until the programmer had modified the scene to accommodate for a more lethal scenario.  Strangely, this break seemed longer than any other.

Snake began to think to himself how much this particular job would pay once it was completed. A grin broke out on his face as he imagined how many cartons of smokes he could buy and the new Harley he could get which could reach 2Gs in a matter of seconds.  Then he started to wonder how much the programmer would make from this job.

If anyone got a sizable cut of the salary from the client it was the programmer.  The programmer knew the location of the job to be done better than anyone.  He or she was almost always an inside person with the knowledge of secret passwords, locations, and the do’s and don’ts once on location.   This was most likely a person that got screwed over from the same company so many times that enough was enough.  Not only was he or she going to seek out their revenge, they were going to heap a healthy reward for it as well.

The thought alone of how much money the programmer would receive made the wad of sandwich in Snake’s mouth seem like a stone as he tried to swallow it, eventually spitting it out and hiding it inside of a napkin.  But, then again, Snake knew that the death rate of programmers was pretty high, especially after the job was completed.  Some ‘less-than reputable’ clients found free to be a much more appealing amount owed to a programmer than the average $2,000,000 paid to the inside scum that sold out his or her organization.

Snake was sure to force the remainder of his half-eaten bite of sandwich into the energy drink in order to muddle his saliva and DNA should anyone try to reveal his identity.  After all, he wasn’t a noober.  He knew all the tricks in the book.

The light flashed above the solitary door in the break room and everyone threw their rubbish in the trash receptacle, taking their time to wipe down the energy drink cans with their napkins and in order to make sure no bodily shavings were left to include hair or dead skin.  Snake didn’t have to worry about that since he shaved all his body hair every day and scrubbed his skin with a Brillo pad for extra assurance.

After making their way back into their individual training rooms, they all slipped into the sensor/simulator suits and replayed the scenario which they had become intimate with after seeing it 36 hours solid with no rest.  This was to be their last session before bedding down for 12 hours in order to allow their bodies time to rest while allowing their brains to dream of the scenario that they couldn’t get out of their heads even if they tried.   Clients believed that deprivation and sensor/stimulatory overload were the key to success on a mission.  No matter what the hired helpers thought, they were never to question the client.

Once the scenario began, the hired helpers were so accustomed to the security guards, security systems, and the ideal hiding places for concealment that they couldn’t even tell the level had been increased to the maximum amount.  Either the caffeine was kicking in and they were beginning to get their 6th wind or they could have sworn the level hadn’t changed one bit.

At one point Master Chief was shot just before reaching the objective which would have warranted a cease-fire of the training scenario.  But the scene continued as if nothing peculiar happened.  While he closed in on the objective that everyone had surrounded, he let himself relax and wait for the sensor/simulator suits to go green as a sign that another break was underway so that the scenario should start over again.  Yet, still, nothing happened.  The other two members looked at him as he stood there for a second longer before blinking out entirely from the scenario.

Snake shrugged it off as Master Chief having to go to the can or cursing himself in his private room for getting shot.  Or maybe the client had decided to fire him for such a mishap that could have gone much worse were this the real deal.

Snake and Samus walked quickly into the vaulted room in order to buy time.  Samus had successfully overridden the security access code for one minute in order for the team to enter the room, grab the client’s desired object, and exit before the computer realized it had been fooled.  Both hired helpers ran up to the center console and lifted the object with all their might since they assumed it weighed over a metric ton after too many replayed sequences.  Yet, surprisingly, this time the object was lifted with such ease that all four team members almost hit their own heads while lifting.

Snake and Samus managed a quick, curious glance at each other for a brief second before starting into a dead sprint for the exit.  Both of them were quickly amazed at how easily their legs pushed them forward in this last scenario.  It was almost like a dream where you felt just a few more MPH would allow you to take wind and fly.

Samus was breaking a smile across her face as she realized this new rush of power when she almost missed the giant steamroller which appeared out of nowhere behind the team.  Her only assumption was that a hydraulic floor allowed the machine to be lifted with ease in order to eliminate the threat of fleeing intruders.  The machine was gaining on them at a speed which he calculated to be roughly 100 MPH, a great advance from ancient steam rollers of yesteryear which topped out at 10 MPH.

Samus and Snake tried to pick up speed but they couldn’t move any faster.  Within a moment both hired helpers’ elation from the new found power transformed into a doubt that their characters could be crushed and they could all be relieved from this mission (even without compensation).

Just as the steamroller was about to touch Samus’ shoulder they both screamed one word in unison, “JUMP!!!”  Their legs lifted them into the air with a force so powerful that they almost thought this was a dream.  Within one second they managed to look back and see the machine halted where they zoomed into the air.  They were both stricken with laughter as they continued flying into the air on their way to the assigned drop-off point.

Snake hadn’t laughed this hard in years.  All he could think was how much a cigarette would make this moment so much better.

Within 5 minutes they were at the drop-off point for the object.  Why the client had picked a park bench as a location was beyond any of them.  But, of course, you never questioned the client.

Both hired helpers set the object on the bench and continued their flight back to the training warehouse, simply waiting for the scenario to dematerialize.  But, even as they continued their joyous flight over the city, the scenario continued on.

As they flew over the river which separated the warehouse from the objective, Snake felt a terrible feeling in his gut that this was more than a normal training scenario.  Flying at an altitude of over 1,000ft above the water’s surface, Snake couldn’t help feeling a sense of danger even if he was in a simulation.  Even though his body was still suited up in his training room, he felt as if this particular job was a terrible mistake.

It was then that both hired helpers lost the ability to fly at the same moment.  At over 1,000ft above the water they began to feel nauseous as their downward momentum gained.

“Why would you do this?” Snake screamed at the programmer as he went pummeling down toward the water.  Enough was enough, he thought.  Screw this! It’s time to unplug and see what the hell is going on!  Samus must have been thinking the same thing as Snake’s last digital image was seeing her unplug from the sensor/simulator suit which caused her to blink out.


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About Manny Garza

After serving 8 years in the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Analyst, Manny departed the military in order to pursue his B.A. in Philosophy from American Military University. Aside from college, he writes short stories and essays in the realm of philosophy and science fiction. Manny's short stories are heavily influenced by who he refers to as The Trinity: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Jack Williamson. He is married to his lovely wife, Melissa, and has two dogs named Koopa and Goomba. Aside from being an editor and contributor of Nerd Trek articles, his hobbies include playing guitar, singing, and both tabletop and video game RPGs. Manny currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.