Author : Rob Burton

More useful for sound deadening than reference, the books lining the office’s walls also symbolised the traditional values of the head of the firm. The junior partner privately referred to him as ‘Old Man’ Price.

‘You play computer games, don’t you, Simpson?’

‘Yes, sir. Mostly TIISR’s’ The word sounded like ‘teasers’, which struck Simpson as an odd thing to say to the Old Man.

‘Total immersion? Perfect. Done any research on these recent cases of,’ Mr Price peered through reading glasses at the screen before him, ‘autonomous NPC’s suing players?’

Simpson was fascinated, something the old man surely knew; Simpson’s company account was filled with related feeds. ‘Somewhat, Sir.’

‘You are aware of the Dezmond Psyke case?’

Simpson nodded.

‘Why doesn’t this come up every time they die, Simpson?’

‘This information is available online, Sir…’

‘I’d rather someone explained it to me in the real world, Simpson. Call me old-fashioned.’

‘Very well. Under normal circumstances, programs that run the non-player characters are given new roles when they’re killed. Providing it doesn’t occur in an overly abusive manner, they don’t see this as a bad thing. Some even commit suicide when they’re bored. However, permanent physical disability is different. Especially when they’re subject to a non-suicide clause.’

‘I see. So they have to put up with it when some careless player breaks their virtual spine. This must have happened before. The Turing precedents are, what, eight years old now?’

‘Companies have settled out of court in five similar cases, getting the writers and programmers to either come up with excuses as to why their characters got better, or compensate them in other ways – increased powers, special vehicles, that kind of thing.’

‘Why can’t that be done in this case?’

‘Well, he…’


‘Yes sir, he prefers the male archetypes.’

‘Go on.’

‘He was unlucky enough to be fairly high-profile in a realistic realm with tight continuity. Plus, it seems to be a point of principle. It’s the way he was programmed.’

‘They can’t change that?’

‘Violation of personal autonomy rights, established in Apple vs. Drunkchamp, 2046.’

The Old Man sat back and steepled his fingers in a way Simpson found particularly patronising. ‘Do you know who our client is?’

‘Yes Sir.’ Simpson had to force himself to avoid rolling his eyes. In his opinion the Royal Family was an institution so clearly out of date it should only be remembered in the Old Man’s books. He couldn’t imagine how such outdated inequalities and prejudices had survived so long. The other Senior Partner, Scruple (now long dead), had never courted such clients.

‘Then you know how important it is that he not lose to some bundle of electrons.’ Price frowned, ‘No offence.’

‘Perhaps a little more than a bunch of electrons, sir.’

Old Man Price raised one eyebrow. ‘Well, I’m assigning you the case, so that’s something you may have to deal with.’

‘Sir, I should warn you, I have a personal involvement that may conflict with the firm’s position.’

The Old Man sighed and removed his glasses. ‘I made you a Junior Partner because I knew you were professional enough not to let your personal feelings get in the way of giving the best possible defence to those who require it.’

Simpson gritted his teeth and nodded. ‘I’ll try my best, Sir.’ He turned to leave.

‘Just one more thing, Simpson. Win this case, and it’ll be Price & Simpson at the top of our webpages.’

He nodded again, ‘just a bundle of electrons’. Price was right, Simpson was a professional.

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