Part One

by Peter Rasmussen


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Rob was in the simulator struggling in a dogfight to keep out of the sights of his opponent.

Outside Paul sat at the computer terminal giving chase.

Tim's garage was crowded with about eight over excited schoolmates. It was the finals of the computer air-war competition. A monitor was set up for the onlookers. One of the boys, Chris, sat by a whiteboard, which displayed the winners of the heats. The standing contestants were Rob, Helen and three others: Paul, Ian and Steve. Helen stood next to Tim as she watched on. Tim was enjoying being the grand master of the games. He lent over to Helen. "You're doing all right for someone who's only had twenty hours simulator time."

She put her hand on his. "I have a good teacher."

Rob manoeuvred with great cunning but Paul made a hit. The crowd registered in unison. Tim noticed Paul was momentarily distracted. By the time he got back to the game Rob's craft was on top of him. A missile was fired.

"That's heat-seeking," Tim said to Paul.

The crowd chorused. "Eject! Eject!"

Paul suffered a direct hit. The animated representation of his craft exploded in mid-air before Paul could manage to eject. An alert came up on Paul's screen reading "Aircraft totally annihilated. Pilot killed."

Tim looked over to say something to Helen but he was surprised to see she was not there. He went over to Paul who was very annoyed.

"When are you going to build the second simulator?"

"It doesn't happen over night," said Tim.

Tim looked to see what Paul was distracted by. Helen was standing in the yard framed by the garage door. She threw her long hair forward to brush it.

Chris, the scorekeeper addressed the mob of boys. "That about wraps it up for Paul."

Ian slapped the gormless Steve on the back. "You just fluked it last time. Now your number's up."

Ian clambered into the simulator and Steve sat slightly confused behind the computer terminal.

"Now it's Ian and Steve in a fight to the death. The winner of this bout will go into combat with Rob and that brings us up to the main event."

The garage was filled with the noise of the battle and the cheering onlookers. Tim's reverie was suddenly destroyed by something he saw outside. Through a crack in the wall he could see Rob and Helen talking. He couldn't hear what they were saying. She was very coy and smiling and giggling.

Steve was hardly in the air and was already taking a beating. The crowd was hungry for blood.

"Go for the kill."

Rob put his hands on Helen's shoulders and moved his face very close to hers. She smiled and became short of breath. She moved slightly avoiding his eyes but she melted in his arms and they finally kissed. The kissing became passionate.

An explosion was followed by a huge cheer from the hungry crowd.
Helen became very turned on and pulled Rob's shirt up and put her hands up under it.

Tim's senses were filled with the roar of battle coming from the game. He closed out the image of the two kissing and looked at Steve struggling to stay alive and then at the hysterical crowd. Tim breathed deeply, his head still spinning from what he had just seen outside. He turned coolly to his computer and surreptitiously made some adjustments to the game. The underdog, Steve, now made a miraculous recovery and with Tim's hidden help destroyed the superior opponent, Ian. The crowd was ecstatic at the unexpected turn around. Ian got out of the simulator very angry and went over to Tim.

Chris yelled out the garage door. "Rob! You're on."

"What's the big idea?" said Ian confronting Tim.

"What's your problem?"

"That was fixed."

The crowd howled him down. "Take it like a man."
They began to chant. "Loser! Loser!"

Ian nearly bowled Rob over as he fled from the jeering of the crowd.

Rob was a bit flushed. He was confused to see Ian leaving and Steve eagerly climbing into the simulator. Tim eyeballed Rob and indicated the computer. "You're on the terminal."

Rob was very confused. "Steve?"

"That's your combatant," Tim assured him.

"This'll be a piece of cake."

Steve's end came in no time at all. Rob's thumb pressed down firmly on the kill button of his computer game joystick. A bloodthirsty roar erupted from the crowd. The simulator rocked savagely as Steve tried to elude Rob's hot pursuit. Unseen Tim made his adjustments. Again Rob fired. Another big shout. Chris wiped Steve's name off the whiteboard. A bewildered Steve handed the helmet over to Helen.

"Rob, you have the choice of the simulator or the terminal," said Tim.

"I'm staying where I am." He looked directly at Helen. "I'm hot."

"It's all the same to me," said Tim.

"You'll be a pushover," said Helen. She climbed into the simulator and closed the canopy.

Rob whispered seductively into the mike. "I'm gunning for you baby."

Tim cut them off. "No talking to the enemy."

Helen was in the air. Tim selected the program Mirage Special. In exactly the same way as Tim's jump jet special flight, it all turned real for Helen. She was amazed and frightened by the transformation. "Tim, how are you doing this? Tim?"

She was not watching carefully enough and allowed the craft to drift into enemy territory. Anti-aircraft fire broke out below. A shell exploded close in the air. Shrapnel caught her arm. Helen cried out in pain and clutched her bleeding arm. She bashed at the canopy and screamed. "Tim, let me out."

She yanked repeatedly on the eject lever to no effect. Nothing helped. The anti-aircraft fire got heavier. Instinctively she took the controls and climbed to a higher altitude. "I'm sorry Tim. Please let me go."

Everything was normal outside the simulator. Rob sat at his computer terminal. "Look out baby. Here I come."

The gang of schoolboys cheered Rob on. Tim watched two radar specks approach each other on his computer screen.

Helen looked in horror as she saw the blip of another aircraft on her radar screen. A jet hurtled past at the speed of sound. It turned back in a big arc to find her again, this time it launched an air-to-air missile. Helen manoeuvred dramatically to sidestep the missile. She tried to put distance between her and the other craft but it caught up quickly.

Rob worked his controls. "This is no fun. She's not fighting back," said Rob.

"Just playing hard to get," said Paul.

Rob fired a missile.

Inside the simulator, again a missile headed toward Helen. Again she narrowly slipped out of the way. Her face was wet with tears. She pulled the craft into a steep climb and came out of the sun at the other craft. She fired but it was too fast for her. She made a complex manoeuvre and was hot on its heels. With a vengeance born of terror she launched three missiles in rapid succession and decimated the enemy aircraft. She was relieved to find the cockpit had turned back into Tim's home-made flight simulator. Helen caught her breath and wiped her tears. She pulled on the eject lever and the canopy slid open.

Helen climbed out of the simulator to find the garage in chaos. The screen of Rob's computer had exploded. In the background Steve was vomiting. The wall behind where Rob was sitting was splattered with blood. A very shaky Chris put a blanket over Rob's lifeless body where it lay, thrown off the chair.

Tim was on the phone. He was disturbingly calm. "Hello, emergency? We need an ambulance at 24 Kelly St Ryde. There's been an accident."

He hung up. Helen came over to him. "What happened?" she asked.
Tim turned to her.
"You won."



Part One

Copyright Peter Rasmussen 1995