Sunday, January 18, 2015
First 5 Pages January Workshop - Scott Rev 2
Name: Rachel Scott
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Science Fiction
The girl’s pale hand grazed flames but was not burned. Her green eyes were as electric as the storm raging outside. The rain’s steel-drum beat assaulted the windows of SimTech, but I had stopped noticing the terrible San Francisco weather and the people in the lobby as they watched water streams like news ticker tapes. They were uninteresting. It was the girl inhabiting the giant screen who captured my attention, those strange eyes taunting me with a silent, Didn’t know a few pixels would alter the course of your existence, did you, Nate Walker?
At least, that’s what I imagined she’d say, if she were real. Her silver dress and icy blonde hair fluttered in the fire that appeared to consume the screen which mirrored the downpour outside. Shadows of droplets fell in straight rows like calculations. There would be a lot of numbers forming her on that screen. No flesh and blood, just heartless binary.
The image zoomed to frame her eyes, and words appeared beneath them. Cognitus is born. It was just an ad for a video game, but the artificial intelligence that powered that game made it one of the most important products mega-genius Wesley Sims had ever developed.
Sims never did anything that wasn’t revolutionary. Even standing there, in his glass and steel powerhouse, intimidated me. I was just a student who never would have scored an invitation to test the game if my father weren’t Sims’ right-hand man. Vote Hal Walker, dad of the year. He’s for nepotism.
Oh well, I was there and the game was waiting for me. Who cared how it happened? A rush of January wind chilled me as the doors swung open. A chrome handle banged something from the force. Min had arrived, barely on time as usual. I waited for her from my spot below the girl. No, the ad for the game.
The clunk of Min’s worn motorcycle boots paused near the front desk where she was delayed by security. She swore in Korean before darting over to me.
“Is that a spark of humanity in your baby blues, Nathaniel? Should I dare to think you’re excited about this?” Min-Ji Kim flung one arm over my shoulders, which was dumb, because she was a lot shorter than me, and it made her stand on her toes.
“Never. Okay, maybe. And don’t call me Nathaniel.” I tried to raise one eyebrow in the condescending way only she could manage.
Min’s black hair was a glossy sheet that fell over new glasses that veiled her scary black eyes. She had near-perfect vision, so the glasses were probably for one of the bets she loved to make. She smelled normal at least, like coconuts.
I turned fully towards her. “Your glasses are stupid, and your hair is super shiny. It’s mismatched.”
Min gave up her awkward position and shook her arm. “The glasses are a dare that’ll get me twenty bucks from the new AV kid. The hair is because I bathe in Crisco and faerie blood.”
“Doesn’t this noob know better than to bet against Min the Mighty?”
She punched me in the arm. “Don’t call me Min!”
“But your name is Min! We’ve been through this before.”
“It’s Min-Ji. You’re the only person I let get away with plain Min.”
“You’re not letting me get away with it,” I whispered like it was a secret.
“Yes, that is what Nate is short for.” I was phasing out though, fixating on the screen again, and Min followed my gaze.
“If that’s an example of the graphics, they’re nuts. It looks so real. Like real real.” Her eyes bugged out with anticipation. “Man, I’m so excited, and I’m so gonna beat you like always.”
“You hardly ever beat me.”
“Fifty percent of the time. You know it.” She side-eyed me, but there was a little smirk lurking at the corner of her mouth.
“Fine. I’ll give you that.” I nodded.
It’d be just ten more minutes, or fifteen, before I saw the game for myself, the world behind the silver girl’s unnerving eyes. It was hard not knowing exactly when so I could count down and occupy myself with the quantification of seconds.
My father would meet us soon. Maybe there’d been no real conversation between us since my mother’s death seven years ago, and maybe our relationship was beyond repair, but still…Hal didn’t have to arrange for me and Min to be the first game testers who weren’t SimTech employees. I’d been stalking news of the project for months, but I’d never asked him about it. I’d never begged for this chance to see the pure magic of new code.
The clipped march of expensive dress shoes announced my father’s arrival, activated our shiny techno adventure. Right on schedule.
“Good, you’re here.” Hal checked his watch after the fact. Weirdo.
Min answered, because she could talk to Hal freely, unlike me. “Yep, responsible testers we are. So responsible, so adult.”
Hal smiled at her. Everyone always smiled at her. “Course you are. You won’t have much time in the game, I’m afraid, but since this wasn’t a planned session, it was the best I could do.” He spun back the way he entered and took a few sharp steps.
I analyzed my father’s strange behavior. It didn’t seem to be fake. It didn’t seem like bribery for attention, but why was he being so…nice?
I cleared my throat. I’d spoken less than ten sentences to Hal this month, so I could spare one. “Thanks.”
He faltered, but recovered quickly and didn’t glance back. “It’s nothing. I know how much you like this sort of thing.”
When Hal had mentioned he could get me a testing session, it might have been one of the few times I’d been rendered speechless. I’d nodded and maybe even smiled, and I hadn’t even had to ask about Min. Her inclusion was a result of a carefully-crafted formula: fifty percent assumption, fifty percent Nate never goes anywhere without her anyway.
I stopped the tiny feeling of gratitude to Hal I had subconsciously allowed. It was time to game, and it felt as if thisgame waited for me like a living thing.
I brushed one set of fingers through my hair, flooded by the urgency of new. This game was the first break I’d felt in my tedious existence in such a long time. I couldn’t shake it. Maybe it was depression. Or lack of complex carbohydrates. There was only silence then as we followed Hal across the lobby. I stole one last look at the girl before we got whisked away in a glass elevator like Willy Wonka.