The virtual world inside the node was always the same; it was the little details that interested Lexel. While she had run through countless other nodes peeking around and tinkering most of them she had found held highly detailed renderings of visual settings. This strange little digital landscape was fairly sparse to the point of being nearly blank. It was an endless sea of white in all directions every time her mind settled into it that slowly took shape depending on the game she selected.
And that was the other curiosity; the games themselves. These were not the complex kind of games that flooded the markets in an endless stream that strives to capitalize on whatever whim was the latest craze. The games listed here never changed, they were fairly simple in nature and always held the same main character. Each game’s name was some odd approximation on a cliched theme like war games or battle training. Lexel had originally thought the whole thing was kind of silly at first, until she tried one of them.
It wasn’t the games themselves that initially proved to hook her, it was the strange character always referred to as ‘Unit Zero.’ This Zero character was always represented as some four legged robot that looked kind of like a dog. The truth is though that the peculiar character had grown on her to the point that Lexel thought of it like a friend. She knew it wasn’t a real thing, just a bit of programming but she always found herself cheering for the little guy.
“Let’s see, what sounds like fun tonight,” Lexel asked herself without even calling up the list of available choices. She had been playing these games every night for at least a month or so and by now knew them all by heart. “I know, let’s just try a quick game of Match Fight,” she decided and smiled when her familiar friend formed before her.
Of all the games Match Fight was one of the most straight-forward; the point of the game was simply for Zero to fight another simulated robot. However the only catch was that Zero had to do so without being armed with any weapon systems. Hence the challenge typically made less than fair by the fact that almost always his opponent suffered no such restriction.
Zero greeted Lexel’s presence with his usual bowed head before focusing his attention in front of him where another figure formed. Taking shape was a two legged form with broad shoulders and large arms that nearly drug the ground. Its shoulders displayed mounted weapons of some kind that immediately trained themselves on Zero and fired violent blasts that barely missed the already moving target.
The brutish bot turned to track Zero as it tried to continue to press its attack but for all it’s firepower it couldn’t match his speed. Lexel knew that Zero had the advantage in that regard and would have to make the most of it. “Zero, tangle rush,” she called out the command, one of many she had taught him over time. As she watched Zero changed course to charge his way towards the other robot, desperately dodging blast after blast as he did.
With his four legs Zero quickly closed the ground between himself and his opponent. Just as he entered into range he activated a grappling tether and prepared to launch the magnetic locking tipped cable aimed at his foes feet. In a hiss of release a series internal actuators in Zero’s legs fired at once launching him forward as he set himself to leap around his over-sized adversary.
Everything happened so fast that Lexel almost missed it. Zero sped his way towards the other robot and jumped into an arc designed to carry him around his attacker enabling him to get close enough to tangle its legs up with a grappling tether. But as Zero let fly his cable a massive metal arms flung its way forward to intercept him in the air. The harsh crack echoed around them and Lexel watched in shock as Zero slammed into the ground. She had seen the little digital dog take a hit before but the sheer size of his opponent made her shudder to think of what the blow had done to him.
Rising from the ground, the resilient robot shock off the stunning strike and redoubled his attack. He raced his way back towards the ever-blasting bot to angle for another attempt. This time, though, as Zero vaulted his way into the air he made one calculated adjustment to his offensive and activated his micro-light. The sudden flash scrambled his attackers optical sensors as it tried to compensate for the sudden change in light and the momentary distraction was all Zero needed to avoid another counter-strike.
His tether hit home with clang as the magnetic tip locked on to its target allowing the trailing cable to tangle its way into winding around the other robot’s legs. Without the support of his legs Zero’s challenger found himself off balance and unable to maintain the footing it needed to support its bulky frame. Awkwardly the clumsy creation toppled to the ground, its weapons still firing into the air defiantly trying to somehow destroy its intended target.
His opponent now helpless on the ground the game registered Zero as the winner. Lexel rewarded him with her regular pat on the head as she considered just how proud she was of this little piece of programming. She called up the time with a subtle mental cue and had to sigh at the displayed answer to her query. It was getting late already, which meant she would have to log out and see to some things around the apartment.
“Don’t worry Zero, we’ll play more again tomorrow,” she told her friend as she bit it goodbye. Lexel would keep playing all night but she knew somebody would have to clean up and make dinner. Besides, she could play more tomorrow as usual; it wasn’t like anyone was going to discover her little game sessions. If they hadn’t by now then they probably never would.
Still, Xeph’s worried warning hung at the back of her mind, bothering her. “Ugh, she worries too much,” Lexel said to her self and tried to forget about it. But all night long it remained like a lingering headache that refused to go away.