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Utopie Arcade

Parking Lot

Colonial Building Site

Switzerland

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017, 10:30 am

 

 

      The entire colony gathered at the parking lot for the start of their last night, and day, on the town.  They had spent many such nights throughout their time preparing in Switzerland, but this was the last time they would leave the colony before they went inside and locked themselves apart forever.  Therefore, while there was a sullen tone from the outset, they quickly were past it so they could enjoy the day and night.

      All the colonists went, even Spencer.  In case Spencer could not make it through the night, which would probably be late, enough trucks were prepared so that Michelle or Jared could leave with Spencer without having to worry about stranding any of the other colonists.

      Getting everybody together often proved difficult, but for an event like this, everybody was exactly on time.  They quickly got into the trucks and drove into Zurich.  Throughout their time, they had found many great places to have fun.  Even better, most of those places were family oriented, which was perfect for them.  In this case, they were heading to the Utopie Arcade. 

      The Utopie Arcade was a very modern arcade.  In fact, very little of the building had the older style of coin operated arcade games that were still favored in the United States, despite the fact they were almost a decade outdated.  While many of the games in arcades of 2017 were location-based, it was the virtual reality, which had finally caught on and come into its own, that was favored by the current gaming community.

      They arrived at the arcade at 11:30 am.  Aaron announced before they went their separate ways, “Let’s meet up to eat in the café at 12:30.”

      Everybody nodded then broke up into their gaming cliques.  While the colonists were very social with each other at the colony, gaming was always different.  It was not as if they were faking friendship before, it was just that serious gamers take their gaming very seriously.  Each gamer has his or her own taste, so in this case they split up into those ‘taste groups.’ 

      Aaron, Yuri, Cleo, Oliver, Keith and Carmen went for the action games.  Mike and Kara went for the sports games.  Emma and Oliver went for the role-playing games.  Michelle, Tara, Zoe and Sarah went for the pseudo-gambling games.  Aaron and Samuel went for the location-based games.  The younger kids went for the children’s area with its tubes, slides, rope ladders and rock climbing. 

****

      Mike and Kara were glad to be alone.  While most people knew they were together, they had no definite confirmation.  They did not want to make a big deal about it because they wanted their privacy.  Let Keith and Carmen be the young lovers under the spotlight; they played the part better than Mike and Kara would or even could. Sure, Kara liked, loved, the spotlight.  This was not the same type of spotlight though.  Getting good grades or being on stage got positive attention.  Being in love caused mixed attention at best.  With the colonists, it was usually positive attention, but not always. 

      None of the prejudice issues Mike’s parents worried about happened.  The two were natural together.  They had to be natural together with none of the others in their age range.  They were going to be locked inside that thing for eternity and the only people they could choose was each other.  It could not have been much different for people with prearranged marriages.  Throughout history into modern times, prearranged marriages have been successful, certainly more successful than the marriages that begin and end with choice.  A prearranged couple has to fall in love: tradition, family, and honor force it and enforce it. 

      Freedom of choice can be an awful thing.  It always leaves the chooser to question if he or she made the right decision.  In many instances, people would rather have others make their choices.  It makes life easier, simpler and lets people enjoy the important things in life.

      For somebody to have freedom of choice taken away is horrible.  If only they had made the choice when they still had the opportunity, if only they could get that chance back to choose again, what was there to do but rebel?

      Keeping to themselves became their way of rebelling.  They liked each other, but not for the right reasons. They liked each other because they both had choice taken from them, because they were stuck on a wild ride that they liked less and less as it continued on and on.

      As they headed to the sports games Mike said, “So, what’s your pleasure tonight?”

      “Hmm . . . how about we race.  Let’s try the motorcycles!”

      “OK, but I’m going to win!”

      “How do you figure?”

      “Well, because men are just better at these things.  No white girl’s gonna outrace me, no matter how pretty she is.”

      “Nice, try to throw a compliment in there to defend your sorry self.”

      “Hah, I don’t need to defend myself from you, girl.  I’m gonna win.  We can put some AI players in for you to beat, though.”

      “Well, that is a good idea. We can have some AI players in to laugh at you as you get outraced by a ‘white girl!’”

      The sports section of the arcade was rather empty, even for a Tuesday morning.  The motorcycle games were a mix of VR and the old-fashioned biking arcade games.  You sat on a bike that felt like the bike you would ride in the game.  Usually though, it looked nothing like the bike you rode in the game.  Out of game, they were always flashy neon colors with black. 

      When you got on the bike, it would be stiff and immobile.  Even the handlebars were in a fixed position. After getting on the bike, a player would put the headset on, with its large sunglasses.  The headset was very light.  It made you feel like you were wearing goggles or ‘granny sunglasses.’  After a quick iris scan to determine your identity, for payment purposes as well as high score details, it would light up with the game menu in the language you chose when your eyes were initially scanned.

      Using the handlebars to navigate through the menu, they quickly started a race.  The race they started was a highway street race.  Mike chose a huge American bike while Kara picked one of the sleek Japanese bikes.  They chose no computer opponents. 

      The computer graphics were extraordinary.  While neither of them had ever ridden a real motorcycle, they knew that they were getting a great replication of a real ride.

      The road they appeared on was a Parisian road on the outskirts of the city.  The race was 16 kilometers: about 10 miles long.  It was night in the game world, and it was starting to rain.  The drops splashed as they hit the dark pavement before them. 

      Mike revved his engine as the countdown commenced.  A sultry woman’s voice began the countdown.  “Five . . . Four . . . Three . . . Two . . . One . . . GO!”

      Replacing her voice was a fast techno song that changed with the game.  Mike quickly got up to 60 kph and ahead of Kara.  He said to her, “Come on, at least give me a challenge!”

      She smiled a knowing smile, which said he was going to get his challenge.  Had he seen her smile he probably would have taken the game more seriously.

      They arrived at the first turn both driving at 100 kph.  Kara slowed down just before the turn and rode the inside.  Mike continued to speed up and quickly found himself in the outside lane.  He overcompensated trying to turn back in and almost crashed, but recovered to find the ‘white girl’ was ahead of him. 

      “OK, now let’s play for real,” he taunted.

      He held the throttle down as they came to a section of wavy turns.  This time he had the sense to slow down.  Kara switched back and forth between the sides to stay on the inside of each turn.  Meanwhile, Mike stayed on one side.

      As they got through the section, the rain increased and visibility became poor.  Oncoming traffic started heading their way.  First, it was small vehicles, like other motorcycles and compact cars, which they easily avoided.  Then came bigger cars, SUVs, and trucks that they had a tougher time with.  Mike barely missed hitting a pick-up truck.  Kara had to slow to avoid two cars.  An oversized flat-bet truck appeared at the crest of a hill.  Kara stayed to the left side and was able to squeeze by with a little excess room.  Mike was on the right side, misjudged the space, and found himself on the sidewalk.  He lost control of the bike, forcing him to an almost complete stop.

      By the time Mike got back up to speed, Kara was out of sight.  There was an in-game map heads-up-display that showed she was ahead of him by two small curves.  Even if the road between them was straight, she would have been hidden by the rain.

      Mike tried to catch up, but the rain took away all traction and speed.  The AI now brought in crossing traffic.  Pedestrians stepped into the road.  He avoided most until he skimmed an old man, catching a pants leg and tearing it.  Instinctively he yelled, “Sorry!”

      After having to avoid the pedestrians there were boulders, which he fortunately avoided.  Finally, there were cows, cows in the middle of Parisian streets in the middle of the night during a rainstorm!  It was a naked contradiction in a game that was otherwise a realistic simulation.  Not only was it graphically realistic, but the physics were realistic too.  Even the wet road conditions affected the ride.

      Once they got past the cows, the rain let up.  The map showed he was nearing the finish but that he was two thirds farther from it than Kara.

      This section of the game was meant to allow for rubber-banding.  If a person had lagged behind as Mike had, because of the obstacles, weather or visibility, now was that person’s final chance to get back in the running. 

      Mike went all out on the throttle.  The road became a straight course that led into a tunnel.  The lighting was eerily realistic.  Only the lack of wind reminded him it was a game.

      When he got to the end of the tunnel, he could see Kara . . . just as she reached the finish line.  As her motorcycle dropped, her digital avatar did a little victory dance.  This version of Kara had her face correct because of the iris scan, and her sex correct because of the arcade’s database.  Otherwise, it looked very different from the real Kara. 

      Just as she finished the dance, he finally crossed the finish line.  What she saw was a digital version of him removing his helmet and throwing it onto the ground in disgust, which was realistic for Mike!

      They both got off the bikes, but she didn’t gloat . . . no need to poor salt onto that wound.  They walked on to look at the other games.

      As they walked, Mike said, “This really is crazy.  Only a bunch a white folk could think up something so outrageous as living underground in this middle of a nowhere country.”

      She, of course, agreed with him, except about the country.  “What can we do?  We’re stuck here now!  Maybe this is our fate.”

      “Fate.  I don’t believe in fate.  It’s like that movie The Matrix.  I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my own life.”

      She replied in a deep voice, “I know exactly what you mean,” which caused them both to laugh.

      “Maybe we should leave.”

      “Leave?”

      “Yeah, forget about these hicks with their crazy ideas and leave.”

      “Leave to where?”

      “That’s the question.  Where would we go?  England’s so far away.  We can’t speak any of these stupid Swiss languages!  What is it with these Swiss, can’t they just pick one and be happy!”

      “We have translators,” she reminded him.

      “Yeah, but I don’t think we’ll be able to find jobs and live a life wearing those things 24/7.”

      “True . . . of course we would only have to wear them when working”, She replied with a laugh.  She hoped he would just drop the whole thing; it was too depressing to think of. Why did he have to keep on it?  ‘Those darn White Folk, blah, blah, blah, stupid hero syndrome blah, blah, blah.’  “Where would we work though?  It’s almost as crazy for us to leave as it is to stay.”

      “Work,” he sneered.  “We’ll just take a builder!” 

      “NO,” she insisted.  “There has to be another way.  It’s too dangerous to bring one of those out with us. We’ll find another way.  We have to!”

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford

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