Author : Mark Cowling

I had Dad drop me off at the rear of the complex. Last time I didn’t know better and rolled up to the front, got swarmed by the news-crews and the paps and like a thousand screaming fanboys. It was super embarrassing to be driven there by my parents, but I’m only fifteen so I needed them to sign a bunch of contracts and stuff.

I made my way past security and then I get escorted to makeup by two dudes with crewcuts and sidearms. They tell me you have to have makeup because of the cameras, everyone does it. While some guy is messing with my hair, he’s pumping me for info. How did I get here? Am I nervous? That kind of thing. People are always looking for some kind of story but there isn’t much to say. I’m just a normal kid with good grades and no drama. My father expected me to become a doctor like him and my aunt, but no parent would stop their kid from going pro. The sponsorship alone is seven figures.

This was to be the first time I got my hands dirty. Before, they didn’t let me near the action. I had to see this guy who I guess was a psychiatrist. He was asking a bunch of questions he read off a form and didn’t really seem to care if I gave one word answers. Some people don’t think kids should even be given contracts, but it’s a simple fact that our reaction times are better. So they passed a bill or whatever and here I am.

I first started taking things seriously at thirteen – which was when I chose the dorky tag I’m now stuck with: MegaKillz. After only a few months of playing on the semi-pro circuit, I won back to back events and that was the first time it had happened like that for a kid my age. Soon after that second win I got the call-up from the US Armed Services.

After the makeup people were done, the crewcuts lead me through to the control room. Looking around, I had to try and keep my cool. Some of the biggest names in gaming were there, including the big man himself, Merlin. Merlin was ancient as far as the pro game goes at twenty-nine. The man was a legend; his last feed got the highest ratings ever on the US Army’s Freedom of Information channel. Which just about makes it the highest ratings of anything ever.

I was too nervous to speak to anyone so just followed the crewcuts who took me to my plugin. I was still more used to playing in the sims than real life, but everything was real natural in the tests the army made me run. I made a few little movements and the symbiot reacted good, minimal timelag.

“Hey kid, don’t sweat it,” Merlin said, shouting above the noise. I looked around like a fool before realising he was talking to me. He flashed me that famous, doped-up smile. “Hey, the blood and shit don’t even look as real.”

I turned back to my screens and hoped no one could see my hands shaking. Soon the cargo drone would drop our symbiots onto the battlefield and it would be show time.

“Yo, who we schoolin’ today?” someone said.

“Egyptian fucking terrorists,” said Merlin.

“Syrians,” said a crewcut.

“Why is that guy still in here?” said Merlin without looking up from his screens. “Clear the fucking room.”