Zit Massman’s warpspeed Z-Wing Galactiprise-E soared through the exploding wreckage of the Daleklingon FataliStar (with the masterful strategy of clicking seventeen times, waiting 2.4 seconds, then clicking another five times) and there was only one celebration suitable for the new savior of mankind.
She’d been taking longer and longer to bring him lunch for the last five years, sometimes forgetting altogether — or even worse, arriving when he’d started another mission and couldn’t be interrupted — so he’d started shouting earlier to compensate.
But then the president called.
“You’re the best gamer in the world, and every highly-trained NASA test pilot in the world is just too fit to properly hold a mouse! Help us, Zit Massman, you’re our only hope!”
Zit started to explain that he couldn’t leave his room, but the President understood.
“Don’t worry, we know all about your totally real self-diagnosed problems, and all those doctors have been fired. We can’t risk damaging your finely balanced nerves. We’re sending some people to pick you up for the FLEET.”
Four burly secret service agents burst into the room to lift his bed and carry him down the stairs. He noticed that all of them were popular jocks from back in high school. One accidentally knocked over his Miseinen no Kimiwaruidesu Schoolgirl Swimsuit Inspector Platinum Collector’s Edition figurine, and was docked a year’s pay. They all apologized for bullying him and said they wished they were his friends.
The limousine had a full bar of every flavor of Mountain Dew. Even the Japanese ones.
In the helicarrier every gamer had their own personalized computer rig and a full squad of cheerleaders.
“Men are just better at games, it’s a biological fact,” the medical officer had explained. “And once you consider evolutionary psychology, well, it’s just a law that girls have to like you now.”
Zit told the Zitettes how great he was at games and they listened and “oohed” at all the right bits. He read out whole pages which were nothing but lists of titles of nerdy things — not even with any story, just wikied lists of names and years — and everyone told him it was wonderful and gave him money.
He gripped his joystick. This was going to be great. But first he phoned home.
“Haha, mom, now who’s ashamed of me?”
“It’s not that we’re ashamed of him.”
The old woman fretted beside the Fantasy Ludo-Electro-Encephalo-Tube, a clear vertical cylinder filled with blue fluid around Zit’s comatose body.
“It’s just that since we retired we can barely afford rent, never mind his net subscriptions.”
Zuri tapped her Pip-girl, calibrating the amniotic protocols.
“Don’t worry about it” she said. “Under the new Population Density Act your son’ll be paying your rent and net fees from now on. Honestly, he’ll be happier in there. I’ve seen the program.”
A gaunt man with skin like wrinkled paper patted the old woman’s arm. He cleared his throat.
“He just never found a job that suited him, is all.”
By now the blue fluid had soaked through Zit’s t-shirt and jeans. Not that they could have gotten more stained. Indicator lights along the upper rim: biolink, neurolink, netlink, green, green, green, all good.
“Well, don’t worry, he’s working already. All that untapped neural potential firing for the global computational grid.”
She turned to the two worried faces. Ah, what the hell.
“And, well, look, you CAN’T tell anyone I did this, but…”
She thumbprinted open an access hatch at the base of the FLEET. Her fingers flew over small rubber keys and the cheap touchscreen flashed up “CCC”. She whistled appreciatively.
“Wow, see that? He’s part of the Collective Cancers Computation. He’s helping find new treatments!”
They gasped and clutched each other tighter. Zuri congratulated herself on reading the symptoms right. Now they might even feel proud of him, finally helping in their old age. Who knows, it might even be true, but all “CCC” on the little screen meant was that she’d typed “ECHO CCC” into the little pad.
He was probably rendering the graphics for the next issue of his own favorite game. Ever since psychomarketers had characterized the sequelon, quantum of the smallest possible change before fans would buy a whole new product, most franchises had been releasing at a rate measured in milliHertz. Zuri preferred to tell people the tech was going to the CCC. Maybe it was her own little tribute to mama, ten years gone.
Still, you had to think of other people. You couldn’t just sit around obsessing over the past.