Well, it's been 6 months, but I finally got down to writing this thing. Again, honest criticism is appreciated from anyone reading this.
Nick's arm lay on the armrest of the couch, wrist hanging over the edge idly. His head was tilted to one side, and the muted television illuminated his sullen, sleepy face: sleep snatched at him and chased him, but he eluded it through the television's aid, and judging by his interest in it, he may as well have been slumbering anyway. He knew, of course, that that wasn't the only reason for his distraction from sleep. He could feel something – an apprehension, a dread, a pulsing worry; supplemented by the silence of the room; the shifting, piercing light of the screen and the dark corners of the ceiling. He began to think about the phone conversation that he had heard as he crept through the house. It involved more than just him, the house and Matthew Saunders. There was someone else other than Matthew Saunders – the person on the other line - someone who equally implicated with…whatever it was Nick had been ordered to do. Nick knew it, and he chose to ignore it, deciding that he was beyond the point of wondering – he wasn't being paid to wonder. Shoving the feeling into a murky cubbyhole in his mind, he switched off the TV and closed his eyes; sleep hit him instantly, and it was a deep, dreamless sleep.
His mobile phone woke him in the morning. "Hello."
A man at the other end responded with equal monotonousness. "Knight wants you to come in now, Mr. Lethem."
"Yes, I'll come now."
"That's all, Mr. Lethem, goodbye."
Nick hung up, and went to the kitchen to fill a cup of coffee from the machine. He looked out the window and saw the sun rising over the top of the opposite apartment block into the red-pink aurora of the sky, slowly increasing its glare as he drank from the cup. The courtyard below had a single, average-size tree in its center. Its leaves were turning orange and falling with the change in season, discoloured concrete beneath it and the steel park bench beneath it. He put the cup in the sink, picked up his phone and wallet, and left, locking the door.
He went down into the courtyard. This was a bland, featureless neighbourhood full of 2000s developments built with cheap materials – plaster, aluminium, fake printed textures, mold growing on the gutters; already beginning to degrade and depreciate in value. Nobody seemed to care about it, or object to it, as there was little or no sense of community. Most people here had a strict agenda and a white-collar job, and they paced the streets from place to place, rarely stopping for anything. Nick sat down on the park bench, crouched over with his elbows on his knees. He looked at his watch: 11:33am – the day still had not warmed up, and he could see his breath. Again, the sky was gray as concrete, as if it were the pacifying force behind the deserted street. The hum of the darkly, black 4WD pulling over near the park bench somewhat dented the silence. Its tinted windows provoked more curiosity than they detracted attention. The back seat door opened as he approached, and he slipped in onto the leather seats. The driver regarded him momentarily in the rear view mirror with a faint, fleeting smile.
"Enjoying the morning air, Mr. Lethem?"
"Not easy to enjoy, freezing, heavily polluted air."
"Cold, yes," the driver agreed, "but who woulda thought it was polluted?"
"It's pretty obvious judging by the number of inhalers you see these days."
"Yeah, but I mean if no one had gone and said anything about pollution and toxic gases in the air, or done any studies on it, nobody would know, right?"
"People aren't stupid. Whatever. I'm ready, alright?" Nick said has he turned his head to the window.
"Alright, then Mr. Lethem."
The escort in the stealth suit sitting next to Nick had the transparent mask on his mouth in a second, but that wasn't what frightened Nick. It was the lack of admission, and the vacant, non-expression he saw in the man as he gradually blacked out. He treated Nick as if he wasn't even there. But then again, he wasn't really there anyway.
The drone of an echoing air vent carried him back to consciousness. He heard the driver's voice: "Aaaand thirty minutes…now," he exclaimed mildly. "That's a damn good estimate I'd say. Let's move Mr. Lethem," his tone increased.
Nick began to lift his groggy self out of the car when the escort abruptly pulled him by the arms the rest of the way. "Yeah, I can do it myself, thanks," Nick said irritably. It was an underground car park, and it was completely bare; no cars, no signs, no information, just the cool air smelling of grease and metal.
Their footsteps clapped quietly as they walked towards a pair of doors. The escort held one of them open for the driver and Nick by its burnished handle, with precise movement and a cold astringency. They entered a room with a carpet floor, as vacuous and unfurnished as the car park. The escort went over to a small, steel panel in the corner of the room, produced a nanokey and pointed the device at the panel. As he turned around there began a low pitched whirr and the room vibrated; above them a square group of the rough, cream coloured ceiling tiles began to move outwards simultaneously, lowering steadily to reveal the rigid metal frame of an elevator.
As they came up top into the small atrium the first thing Nick noticed, as he habitually did, was the security – silent cameras, sleek assault rifles carried by armour-wearing guards displaying the exact same sternness as his escort. Their calm was intense, militaristic; they were indiscriminate, speaking to any individual as if they were an intruder with explosives. They did their work well, Nick thought. The chain link gate of the elevator rattled as it opened, and Nick and the other two stepped off. A guard operated the terminal next to the elevator, watching them as they one by one used the palm and retina scanners. "You're cleared for entry. Mr. Knight is waiting." The guard blocking the door let them pass, and the door slid open. Beyond was a bleak, lengthy corridor, lined with long, fluorescent lights, four to five doors on each side. Knight's office was the first one on the left.
Knight, like everyone and everything related to his 'work,' Nick knew next to nothing about. Knight was the boss, the supposed leader of the organisation, the one who briefed Nick, and gave him the money when he returned. "Good afternoon, Nick," he greeted as Nick entered. He was sitting in a red padded office chair, behind the smooth beige desk dominated by a thin, broad monitor. He was a lean, bony man, clean shaven and wore a suit and tie. Knight was well-spoken, and Nick had never seen him become even slightly agitated, but Nick had no respect for him, as there was no need for any; most briefings needn't say anymore than 'yes' or 'no' or another minor response. "Take a seat. Your performance on the previous task was adequate, Nick, but only just. I take it your briskness was due to…his being alerted?"
"I…uh…I would question the order to check the door; I don't think that was such a good idea."
"Yes, we hadn't predicted that he would be quite so paranoid."
"And…why would he be paranoid?"
Knight eyed him for a moment. "You know the rules Nick."
Knight got up to open a drawer built into the wall, opened it to take out a bundle of banknotes, and placed it on the desk. "Five thousand," he said.
Nick pocketed the bundle.
"I have another task lined up for you in the near future; it is a rather difficult one at that, but I think by now you should be experienced enough to handle it," Knight said as he sat back down in the chair. "Do you think you're up for something…bigger, Nick?"
As Nick heard those words something inside of him screamed for truth, for an end to secrecy and deception, for something real. This was the only thing he had going for himself though, he thought, and there was no point in walking away from it now. He sighed and looked at his feet. "Yes, I think I'm ready for it."
"Good." Knight put his elbows on the desk, held up his chin with his thumbs. "For this assignment you will be working with Catherine and there will be a…field advisor behind you to get you past any security you come across – I will brief you in detail tomorrow. Until then, you will remain in the facility.
A guard showed Nick to his room, and he let himself fall onto the temperfoam mattress. The nothingness of this place, of his occupation, was getting to his head, and the lure of wealth and the thrill of danger he felt was wearing off. He rolled over and switched on the television.
A work of fiction, of indefinite length which I have been working on. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, so honest criticism is appreciated.
"Matthew… Saunders you say?"
"No, nobody called Matthew Saunders lives here."
"Well, I was told he lived at this address."
"Who? Who told you he lives here?"
"It doesn't matter; I guess you must be pretty busy at the moment. Sorry to bother you, sir."
The man shut the door, and Nick walked back to his car, further down the street and out of view from the house. A dull twilight was about, and the sky held huge, gray clouds. Nick could feel the faint patter of rain droplets on his face. So the man, supposedly Matthew Saunders, wasn't willing to discuss his work as a journalist, nor did he feel the need for anyone to know that he was residing at that particular address. Plan B then. Nick always liked Plan B – he preferred to get straight to the point, rather than lying his way through an obstacle. That said, Plan B usually cost a lot more, and not just of money, but that wasn't exactly his problem. He walked back to the house, and checked the street for bystanders before climbing the steel fence. He went along the side of the house to look for a way in, moving stealthily now; ducking under the windows. There were some steps leading up to a side door. From the pocket of his dark brown jacket he took a pair of goggles. They were quite bulky, but were important for infiltration. He put them on, and twisted the left eyepiece – through ultrasound, he could see an image of the space beyond the door in a radius of about 6 – 7 metres. The door appeared to be at the side of a hallway, and had a card reader next to it. Nick took another device out of his pocket, this time a handheld device, slightly larger than a mobile phone. The electromagnetic waves it transmitted disrupted the circuits in the card reader, and the door unlocked. Slowly, he pushed open the metal door, just wide enough for him to slip through, and then shut it. The light from a sitting room to his right faintly lit the hallway, and he could hear a television in there. Down the hallway to his left were three doorways. The farthest one was shut and the other two ajar. Nick twisted the eyepiece on his goggles, switching to the hued green of night vision. He peered into the first room – a queen sized bed, a chest of drawers… He proceeded to the next room, only to find that it was a bathroom, and then started for the third room.
Nick froze, and looked down the hallway. He couldn't see anyone.
"Oh. Yes, I'd like to speak to Mr. Jessop. Thank you."
Nick now hastened his search. The third door was unlocked. There was a desk with a lamp, some books and a cloud terminal on it. The man who answered the door was still speaking, now in a quieter tone.
"I just had a guy at the door, says he's looking for me. Yes, at my house, why do you think I'm calling you?
Nick didn't have time to hack the terminal, so he took the less discreet option, and unplugged all the cords.
"So you want me to get out?"
He picked up the machine, and tip-toed out of the dark room.
"Fine, I'll pack up and see you... in an hour."
Nick shut the side door, and ran back to his car, along the side of the house and over the fence, with the terminal under his arm. Inside the car, he plugged the terminal into a jack between the seats, turned on the screen beside the dashboard and quickly plugged in his 'fire hose' stick into the terminal. He had to find as much information as possible before Matthew Saunders canceled his account, and he had his doubts about whether he could hack it, but he was glad he was doing it here and not back in the house. A small box came up in the corner of the login screen. Nick adjusted some settings, and the device began to work away at the security. After about twenty seconds, much longer than usual, the fire hose gave him a username and password. He entered them, and logged into the terminal. The desktop had several folders on it. He opened the one named 'Evidence0451,' and copied all the contents. Just as he exited the folder the screen went black, except for a message box saying the terminal had been locked. He disconnected the terminal, and immediately sent the folder back to HQ through his own terminal. The folder was gone, along with any spark of curiosity as to it's contents; or any interest for the reason he had just taken it from this man's home. This job, and every other, meant nothing, except for the large sum of money he would receive afterwards. It was finished, all that he had just seen – the briefing, Matthew Saunders, 'Evidence0451,' left his mind as he started the car; its low, quiet hum calming and relieving his senses.
The white downtown streetlights created a line of specks which rolled along the curved, glossy surface of the car as it cruised under them, along with reflections of signs from shops, restaurants and other commercial establishments. The streets were busy with people on weeknight outings, dodging each other as they went down the sidewalk – groups, smiling couples and the occasional person walking by themselves. Nick pushed the indicator button, and turned right into a lane. It was unlit, except for one or two security lights. He drove a short distance down the lane, pulled over, turned off the car, took off his jacket containing the equipment and put it under the seat. He took a half-empty soft drink bottle out of the glove compartment, took the key out of the ignition, and exited the car into the cool night air. There was a woman standing in a doorway to his right. She wore a shirt and pants, and walked toward Nick slowly. She was thinly built and had her hair down to her shoulders, but he couldn't make out her face in the dimness.
"Knight is mildly displeased," she said. "But...didn't have much time, did you?"
Nick handed her the car key, turned round, and walked down the lane towards the main street, sipping from the bottle.
First Day, First Post, so obviously no one is going to be reading this. Rage is supposed to be coming out sometime in 2010, and I'm fairly interested in what it will turn out to be. Id Software does not have a reputation for being a particularly innovative. This is an ironic thing to say considering that they developed the first FPS game, but they've stayed with pretty much the same formula for the past 20 years, adding a reload mechanic with Doom 3. In terms of gameplay, Rage, (from various articles I've read), is not bringing about huge change either. Rage is set in a Fallout 3esque wasteland. The game is meant to create a sense of openness with huge environments - i.e big canyons and deserts. Id, who are renowned for their groundbreaking game engines, are basing Rage on Id Tech 5, one of the features of which is megatexturing. Basically what this is is using one gigantic image for a surface. A common dilemma in 3D games, is looking down from a height, and seeing texture tiles on what is supposed to be a gravel carpark or a grass hill. Megatexturing solves this problem, and will increase the realism in Rage, and other games in the future - which will in turn increase that feeling of a real, open world. However, its not really. Id still maintains a linear level design, like so many other games. You are given missions by characters in the game, and you must complete them for the game to be finished, or fulfilled, if you like. Carrying on from Doom 3 and Quake 4, Id are putting more concentration on characters and a storyline, and much more so than previous games. Put simply, they are trying to hit a sweet spot between Quake and The Elder Scrolls. Quake, while being tiny compared to the scope of Oblivion, concentrates mostly on gameplay, but brings about better purity because of it, helped by some excellent game mechanics. Oblivion (among the other TES games) gives the player options galore, not just because of character customisation, but because of the sheer size of the game world, and the content that the player can see, not just in a single playthrough - but in multiple. Id are betting that the illusion of a non-linear game environment along with dictated storytelling, is ultimately more entertaining than the player using their imagination. For me this is true, to an extent, but of course the thing that makes RPGs tick is the use of imagination. The game also features car combat, a genre (if there ever was one) which has never really taken off the ground. Whether this is merely a peripheral feature alongside the main FPS gunplay one cannot say. don't expect Rage to be some sort of a hybrid - like Deus Ex - but it does look to be a much needed expansion on the genre. Here's hoping that Id will show 'em how to do an FPS, or should I say, DOOM clone?