The Games People Play
Written March 2001
Synopsis: Birkoff and Nikita play a first person shooter and find themselves at odds against a mysterious opponent.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended. This is a nostalgic homage to the best FPS ever: Goldeneye.
Seymour Birkoff rubbed his eyes roughly and gazed at the computer screen again. The letters were beginning to twist and blur into each other. He sighed. He had to take a break or he feared his eyes might pop out of his head. He stuffed a handful of gummy bears into his mouth and closed the file. Boots squeaked on the cement floor behind him, and he turned.
“Hey, Birkoff.” Nikita smiled softly at him.
“Back already?” he mumbled, swallowing a few of the slippery candies.
“Yeah, we got in ahead of schedule.” She pulled a chair next to him and sat down. “Where is everyone?”
“There are only three missions going, all of them low-priority. Operations sent everyone home then went to his quarters.”
“Oh.” She glanced at the wide array of snacks on his desk and chuckled. “Pulling an all-nighter, I see.”
“I’m still converting that intel from Madrid. Madeline wants it in the morning, but there’s more of it than I thought.”
“Sounds like you need a break.” She reached over him to type a command on his screen. A game screen appeared, and she grinned.
“How did you know about that?” he asked, looking around the nearly-empty room nervously. “We aren’t supposed to have this game activated during normal operating hours.”
“It’s one o’clock in the morning. Hardly normal operating hours.” Nikita winked at him before rolling her chair to the nearest computer and loading up the first person shooter on her own console. “Alderman has been teaching me how to play. He says you’re the best.”
Birkoff chuckled as he loaded his character and added some computer simulants. “I’m at the top of the leaderboard. Most kills, most survival awards, most accurate…”
She smiled at his pride, allowing him to indulge in his ego for a moment. “Take it easy on me, okay?”
Birkoff examined his surroundings quickly. He knew this level well; it was his favorite. His character spawned in the air duct, and he dropped into the bathroom stall. After collecting the ammo boxes and a weapon, he opened doors until he reached the top of the stairs. He spotted a sim, aimed for the head, and fired. A message alerting him of the kill made him smile, and he went to collect the guns of the deceased.
Nikita, in the meantime, was trying to find her way out of the room with two long canisters. One lay on its side, the other at an angle toward the ceiling. She had found a small pistol with a silencer and the crates of ammo to go with it. However, she couldn’t find the door. Before she had a chance to do much searching, the chattering of a machine gun ended her life. The screen turned red, and ominous music played as she fell to the ground and was prompted to restart. She did so and read the message: Killed by TechRambo.
Birkoff snickered. “Sorry,” he muttered as Nikita slugged him in the shoulder.
“Oh, no, I’m in that room with the long tubes again!” She groaned. “Can’t I respawn somewhere else?”
“Want me to kill you again so you can find out?”
“No,” Nikita replied sourly. She regathered the gun and ammo, seeing the door on the corner of her screen. “There we go. I’m coming out, Birkoff, so don’t kill me.”
“I’m busy killing other people,” he answered absently.
She opened the door and went to the right. A mischievous smile appeared on her face when she noticed Birkoff standing with his back to her, taking out two simulants. She took aim and fired a full round into his body. He fell to the ground, dropping all of the weapons.
Birkoff, assuming he had been killed by the computer opponents, was shocked to find he had been killed by FemmeFatale. “Nikita!” He turned around to gape at her, shocked by her ruthlessness.
“Turnabout is fair play,” she replied, grinning.
He threw a gummy bear at the back of her head, and she swatted at it.
“You can’t be the best all the time. Let the rest of us win once in a while.”
He swung the chair around again, mumbling something to himself. He didn’t take losing well, especially at a game where he was the resident master.
She picked up another ammo crate. “Better get a gun, Birkoff, I’m closing in on your position.”
Nikita walked down the corridor slowly. A blip was on her radar, and she knew it was Birkoff. He had succeeded in killing her over twenty times since their most recent game had begun, but she was determined to even the score, however difficult it may be. She reloaded her shotgun and waited for the attack.
Birkoff snickered quietly. He knew Nikita was hiding on the other side of the pillar. He carried a rocket launcher, so killing her wouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. She was, however, heavily shielded. Hopefully the flames would wear her down.
Suddenly, his screen turned crimson as his character died. “No!” he yelled.
“What?” Nikita asked, still waiting for him in the corner. Before she had a chance to move, an opponent appeared out of nowhere, hitting her several times with a crossbow, penetrating her shielding and killing her. “Hey! Birkoff!”
“Yeah, he got me, too.” He grunted in frustration. “Which sim was that?” The name of his murderer appeared on the screen, and he frowned.
“Who’s ‘Valkyrie’?” Nikita wondered aloud. “Is that one of your fantasy women?”
He paused. “No. I didn’t create that sim. It’s a human player.” He glanced around, seeing only two other people at computers. “Which one of you is logged into the game?” When they both shook their heads, his frown deepened. “Must be someone else in Section.”
“Yeah, but who? Everyone’s gone home, and it’s–” She glimpsed at her watch. “–almost two-thirty.”
“Two-thirty? Oh, I’m never going to get the Madrid intel finished. We have to quit after this round.”
“You said that two rounds ago.” With a small smile, she focused her attention back on the game. She respawned in a tiny room with a gun and two ammo crates. She picked them up and brought out her gun. A semi-automatic with only six rounds per clip. She let out a sigh; it would have to do until she could find a better weapon. She opened the door and was greeted by fire. Her character died once again. Quickly, she restarted and saw the message: Killed by Valkyrie. “She killed me again!”
“Valkyrie!” Groaning, she pressed continue once more. She was in the room with the canisters again. At least she knew her way around this time. As she collected her weapons, Valkyrie appeared, killing her once more. “This is getting ridiculous!”
Birkoff, in the meantime, tried to hone in on the radar dot that appeared to belong to Valkyrie. He paused outside the door as the blip came closer to his position. He reloaded his machine gun, pointing the crosshairs at the door. Slowly it opened… He put his finger on the trigger, readying himself for the fight. Something flew through the crack, and the door closed again. He frowned for a moment before realizing that a remote mine had just been attached to his wall behind him. There was no escape; he was in an enclosed room. He swore under his breath, and the screen turned red, indicating that Valkyrie had just detonated the weapon.
The cat-and-mouse game went on for a few more minutes with Birkoff and Nikita losing badly. Regardless of whether or not they worked as a team, Valkyrie was too skilled, and she succeeded in destroying them. It was almost as if she wasn’t human.
Beeps echoed through the speakers, signaling the end of the round. They were shown the placing of the human players: TechRambo had second, FemmeFatale had fourth, and Valkyrie was in first, complete with the four awards of survivor, kill master, head shot, and accuracy.
Birkoff stared at the monitor in disbelief. He had been beaten at his own game.
Nikita rolled her chair over to him after logging off the LAN. “Who do you suppose it was?”
“I don’t know, but if I ever figure it out–” He sighed. “I can’t believe it! The hours that player must have logged in is phenomenal!”
“Or else she’s just really good.”
He glared at her slightly, not wanting to hear that line. “All of my teams have gone home. No one in Systems was playing, there aren’t any computers in Medical… There’s really only one person who I didn’t see go home, but…” He shook his head seriously. “Impossible.”
He opened his mouth to answer but paused when he heard the all-too-familiar sound of heels clicking on the floor. Both he and Nikita turned.
Madeline walked in their direction, smiling her patented Mona Lisa smile. She approached their desks as they stared at her, wide-eyed. “Shouldn’t you be working on the Madrid report, Birkoff?”
“Madeline?” Nikita squeaked.
She clasped her hands behind her back. “I realize that there is a lot of material to cover in that report, but we do have deadlines. Try to stay focused.” She continued on her way, nodding politely at a passing operative.
Both Birkoff and Nikita remained silent until they could no longer hear her. They looked at each other for a moment before gazing once more in the direction of Madeline’s exit.
Shaking his head to clear it, Birkoff rolled back to his console. “I’d better get back to work.”
“I’ll help you.”
They looked at each other again, unable to contain their amusement any longer. They began to laugh, nearly doubling over from the side aches. The other operatives in the room watched them, wondering what could possibly be so funny.
Peals of laughter carried themselves from Comm to Madeline’s location. She paused, allowing herself a small chuckle before turning the corner and disappearing.