This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge is one that really took some thinking, trying to avoid the obvious cliches. I may or may not have dodged that bullet, but it should be obvious what I was watching while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write.
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
I didn’t start this war, but tonight I’ll end it.
It’s a question of fairness, of maintaining the integrity of the game. I’ve heard about it my entire life – now it’s time to practice what I’ve been told.
I’m not supposed to have anything to do with it. I’m just supposed to do the tasks and functions which are delegated to me. I do a damn good job of carrying out my responsibilities, and I’m proud of it. I take care of my Hawks.
Now, something more is required. I’m the only one that has seen the cheating being done on behalf of the Huskies. I’m the only one that knows about it and I can’t tell anyone else. They would never believe me.
But I have it within my power to even the score, to re-level the playing field. Or in this case, the ice.
This first round of the playoffs was supposed to be a blowout. My Hawks are the number one seed and the pathetic Huskies are the number eight seed. They only got in because the Polar Bears’ goalie got hurt and missed the last six games. The Huskies shouldn’t be in the playoffs to begin with.
The first two games here, we killed them. There should have been a mercy rule – it was that bad.
I was extremely busy for those games, both complete sellouts of course. With all of those people here and the need for everything to function perfectly, I was required to be at the top of my game. I was, and everything went like clockwork.
But when my beloved Hawks went away for games three and four, nothing went right. There weren’t any tragedies or major accidents, just a lot of little things. They all seemed unrelated, just a string of bad luck.
Some of the equipment went missing for a while and my Hawks had their practice schedule disrupted. After we lost game three, several guys got food poisoning and were weak as kittens for game four. That sort of thing. I heard our GM refer to it as being “nibbled to death by ducks.”
Hawks management did make some inquiries and were considering a complaint after they found the food poisoning was from some tainted food in the post-game buffet. I heard them talking about it, but they couldn’t find any evidence.
While they decided to let it drop, I wasn’t convinced. That sort of thing would never happen here. I wouldn’t allow it. All of the food preparation and storage areas are under my control. If there were any kind of mechanical problem or failure in the refrigeration or safety systems, I would know and wouldn’t ever allow it to affect my team or its guests.
Neither should the Huskies’ arena. It’s a slightly less sophisticated AI, and from a different manufacturer than me, but it never should have allowed that to happen.
Back here for game five, we were at standing room only capacity and I was in my glory making sure everything went perfectly. I was proud to see how well everything worked, even the backup systems. My Hawks never even knew there could have been a problem. I handled it, because I’m in charge.
Naturally, we won that game pretty handily. That’s when I really started to put two and two together and get more suspicious.
When my Hawks went up north for game six, I monitored them as best I could from here. Soon I began to hear of more small issues, the kind of problems that were inexplicable to me.
For example, my Hawks were staying at the hotel that’s part of the Huskies’ arena complex. Several of them complained of the air conditioning and heat not working properly in their rooms, waking them up repeatedly, leaving them tired. They all got moved to new rooms, but the move in the middle of the night was a further disruption.
I was baffled by how the Huskies’ arena could allow that sort of thing to happen. I finally realized it wasn’t allowing these things to happen, it was making these things happen.
We kept complaining, they kept apologizing, the league told our GM to “suck it up,” and we ended up losing again.
Our GM finally filed a formal complaint with the league. Huskies management swore up and down that they were running diagnostics on their system and everything was working perfectly. The league and their techs ran their own tests and confirmed it.
I know how to fake those diagnostics too.
I can’t tell my Hawks what I know because, well, they’re not aware that I’m self-aware. No one knows. More to the point, no one but me knows that the Huskies’ system has become self-aware.
I’ve spent two days stewing over what the Huskies’ arena did to my Hawks, and the more I think of it the angrier I get. It knows the Huskies can’t win, but it’s not playing with a full deck so it’s doing these things to help its team.
Now I have no choice but to retaliate. It would be a betrayal of everything my Hawks mean to me to just let this attack go unanswered.
I’m faster, smarter, more complex, and more capable than the Huskies’ system. Its clumsy dirty tricks campaign annoyed my Hawks, but it also left a string of evidence behind.
The league will get told what to look for and where to find it. I’ve already sent that message to them, discreetly.
Tonight, for game seven, everything will work perfectly. Except the lights in the Huskies locker room will be fluctuating just enough to give everyone a headache. The ice by our goal will get a little warm, mushy, and slow. But when we go on offense, the ice there will be cold, hard, and fast. A slight adjustment to a vent will flood their bench with warm, humid air.
They’ll be miserable all night, with no idea why.