by John Dodd

Kelly asked for a satire of online gaming. Not knowing much about the aforementioned subject, I found this one to be a bit of a challenge, what I've done is based it on how I've heard some people talk about online games.

"You see this new game yet?"
"No, but you've been raving about it for weeks now, what is it?"
"You control teams of operatives, and you send them out to complete certain objectives."
"Really? How realistic is it?"
"Well, whenever you get into a fight, it switches to a live action image, sort of like Fantasy Final 46."
"Show me."

"Right, this blip is one of my teams, the operative squad I've called Invincible Retribution."
"Cheesy name."
"Yeah, but what you gonna do, call them Butterfly Knives or something?"
"Ha, suppose not, okay, what do you do?"
"Well, this list here is a set of targets and objectives, you pick one of them and your team will go and try to do it. You've got to match your teams skills with whatever objective you're going for, if you beat the objective, you get a credit prize and an SCL increase."
"Interesting, what about the enemy?"

"Well, you can get all the different software packages, there's a DarkNight pack, a Shiver pack, there's a bootleg package that lets you use Thresher troops, and if you're not very rich, you can get the Monarch pack."
"And how do you win?"
"Simple, you get your squad to a certain level of credits or SCL 5, whichever is first, the other packages have different objectives, it's all down to what you want to do, whether you want to fight the good fight or not."
"Show me."

"Okay, there's a code red going on over here, I'll just instruct my team to pick it up and take care of it."
"How fast do they respond?"
"Well, it's all in real time, so you sometimes have a bit of a delay while your team gets motivated and gets their kit together."

"There, you can see the team assembled, now they choose their vehicle, and set off."
"That was fast!"
"Yeah, but my teams the best."
"Yeah, yeah."
"Okay, watch, they've encountered the darknight terrorists and are engaging them, watch the screen."
"WHOA, look at that, it's like watching a film, can you change the angle?"
"Nope, you can only watch the battle from the different angles that the cameras in that area supposedly can see from, but you can relay information to your squad about more dangerous targets, watch this."
"YEAH, take that darknight scum!"
"Brilliant isn't it?"
"Yeah, I'm going to get a copy, can you do other things, like shooting civilians or something?"
"Well, you're not supposed to, but you can issue an override command and get them to target things that are normally listed as civilian or operative if you want to. You just have to be careful not to attract the attention of Cloak, those guys get real nasty on your ass if you keep it up with the killing of innocents."
"Show me."
"No, I've had these guys doing this for a while now, they're fairly good."
"Aw, go on, c'mon, you can always get another team."
"I suppose so, you just right click here, then drag that box over what you want to be shooting up."
"Does that warning always come up?"
"Yeah, it's just so you don't end up engaging targets by accident, more realistic I think, I mean, I'd like to think that a squad would ask before shooting things up that it wasn't supposed to."
"So how do you get around it?"
"Well, you just pick one of the override options here, look, you've got Station Analysis, 3rd Eye, and all the other departments that SLA has, you've just got to pick the right one, if you get it wrong, the squad won't do the job."
"Is there a cheat?"
"Well, yeah, you can pick Cloak Division, they always do it then, but then there's a much higher chance that Cloak will get involved."
"Do it, do it, do it!"
"Okay, okay, watch this."

"Detailed isn't it? You can even see the splatter patterns on the wall where that grazer round took that civ in the neck."
"It is, isn't it? Oh shit, they've seen us!"
"Cloak, see that grey dot there, that's a cloak agent!"
"Doesn't look like much, it's just a little guy in a grey suit."
"Appearances can be deceiving."
"BLOODY HELL, What just happened?!"
"That's how Cloak deal with problems, I'll have to generate a new squad now, but what do you think, you going to get a copy?"
"Definitely, do you reckon we can get our hands on the Thresher module?"
"I've got a friend of a friend who might be able to help out with that, we'll have to see what we can get. Besides, it's only a game, who's going to care if we want to play Thresher, I mean, just imagine how much damage you could cause with a Powersuit squad!"

"Cloak Agent Smith here, renegade operatives terminated, they got twenty Civs and fifteen Monarchs before I arrived, their comms seemed to indicate that the order to fire on the Civs came from our department."

"Understood Smith, we're looking into that now."

"Acknowledged, that's the fifteenth such incident we've had this week, you guys had better get your stuff together, we can't keep this sort of thing under wraps for that much longer."

"Understood, return to base, we've got another two incidents reported over in sector 52."