Gamers Institution

Synopsis: In a perfect world, video game enthusiasts rule the world and life is nothing but fun. Crime rates are nearly inexistent because those who are prone to violence can alleviate their anger through bloody/gory video games. There are those, though, who notice the world isn't the utopia they perceive it to be. They want to work for a change and help those who have grown tired of being restricted from having free will.

Chapter 1--Video Game Utopia

It was known as "Gamers' Institution". Everyone lived within the confines of what was basically a large warehouse that spanned the entire globe. Everyone was well-taken care of and surprisingly fit, except for the occasional few that were couch potatoes or 'virtual reality junkies'. Those who were on the outside of the Institution were hardly ever spoken of since their minds were controlled by the government.

Known as 'drones', these mindless automatons were the workers that made sure those who were privileged to reside within the 'hallowed halls' of the oversized 'University'.

Life as the inhabitants knew it was serene, entertaining and in a word, blissful. No one complained since the only 'job' anyone had was to play video games. Little did the regular Joes of the University know that there was a small faction of people, revolutionaries, who didn't care for the way matters were delegated in this utopia. They were led by a young man, Tobias Fielding, alias 'Justice'. Tobias was a young buck, hungry for a change of scenery beyond the technological hustle and bustle that was inside Gamers' Institution. In this world, no one really cared whether you were black or white or what your religion was. That was all well and good, but Tobias felt his life was lacking. Not only had his identity been taken away but his creativity was outlawed by the owners of the Institution. They were known as, apropos enough, 'Headmasters'.

Tobias and his small group of revolutionary friends each went by codenames so as to not draw suspicion to themselves. The Headmasters didn't even realize that this tiny faction was an uprising because Tobias knew how to blend in with the crowd and his friends were just as clever in 'becoming part of the scenery'.

While in an undisclosed meeting area, the revolutionaries convened.

"We've been following protocol for years now. Have one of you ever wondered what it's like out in the real world among nature ? I haven't seen a tree since I was a young boy.", Tobias said, a hint of sadness in his tone. His fiancée, Rosalinda; aka 'Freedom', nodded her head emphatically. The other comrades agreed amongst themselves, pondering if they'd ever see actual daylight again as opposed to ultraviolet lights that ornamented the ornate halls of the Institution.

"But what do you suggest we do ? If any one of our expert hackers slipped past the Headmasters' security there is no guarantee that we'd be able to shut the entire system down and release everyone from this sterile captivity.", a black man with the alias Integrity stated, honestly. The others whispered their agreement.

This uprising they were a part of was tricky, and not only that, it was precarious.

"We'll have to start making more elaborate plans and have 'worst case scenarios' drawn out just to be safe.", Tobias replied.

"Right. We can't afford to be negligent of any details !", a Japanese man named Honor concurred. It had been a short meeting but the revolutionaries would reconvene as much as they could to begin 'Operation: Exodus'. Knowing it would be dangerous and that they might lose their lives, each member was skilled in many trades and prepared for anything the Headmasters might do in their continued oppression and ostracizing of innocent human beings.

Chapter 2--Fireworks on the 4th of July

Many months passed before the initial mutiny was planned. Tobias, strangely enough, had an enormous stash of fireworks that his parents had collected long before he was ever born and had remained uncollected or confiscated by the Institution Police. Fireworks or explosives of any kind had always been illegal in the Institution except in the grand veranda, which was the only area of the immense structure that allowed people to play sports in a fairly open area and watch fireworks shooting off during various holidays, even Christmas. But these fireworks would be used for an entirely different purpose; distraction. Freedom would be the one, along with Valor, a friend of hers, who would slip into the control center of the Institution. As its name indicated, it was at the center of everything that kept the Institution functioning like a well-oiled machine. Valor and Freedom were hackers and had breeched the 'system' many times before undetected in trial runs. This time, the electronic siege would be real and the rest of the team's hopes lay on their shoulders.

Tobias and the rest of the uprising acted casual as they typically would on any other given day and no one seemed to notice. Everyone acted normally and was polite. There were no questions asked and other people had absolutely no idea that there was a secret inside plot occurring before their eyes. All other people cared about was playing their video games or literally 'hooking up' with the latest model of fem-dolls that had been marketed to the public recently thanks to the scientific minds that were forced to manufacture them. One of the escaped scientists on the uprising team, Catalyst, aptly named, was in the uprising for this reason alone; to save her fellow scientist from unproductive work and encouraging carnal behavior and destroying whatever was left of the family unit as they knew it and understood it.

Ambiguously, the comrades walked toward the center of the Institution, their presence non-suspicious. Justice and Honor split off into a team and Valor and Freedom were already ahead of them. Integrity offered the diversion of fireworks to set the guards scrambling out of the control center and goaded them to follow his lead, which they did without provocation. While the guards were chasing Integrity down, Freedom and Valor began their electronic siege, eventually flooding the main computer system. From there on out, a domino effect occurred. One by one, people could be heard complaining that their video game systems were no longer working, nor could they connect with each other via cell phone. The only way they could connect now was to go outside and actually communicate in person. Not an awful lot of gamers wished to do so because they had gotten so used to being numbed by the effect of video games. There were some, however, that came out of their cells, out of seclusion and eventually started to communicating with each other, wondering what was happening inside of their 'utopia'.

Chapter 3--Escape

For those who wanted to see what the outside world was like, they followed the small uprising. Soon what had begun as a tiny group had grown into a near armada.

Cops were scattered all around the University, looking for Integrity, but could never locate him. Confused, frustrated, and slightly frightened, the cops decided to make the 'attack' a closed case and would return to it as soon as it was convenient. Right now, it was their job to try to keep the inhabitants of the Institution in their 'cells'. The operators had to start their system from scratch after being hacked so violently. They would stay up without sleeping for days until the system was operational again since they were aware that the law would uphold everything else.

Without setting off any alarms, since the alarms were silenced due to the main computer system being inoperative, Tobias stepped out into the open for the first time. The world was much different than how he had envisioned it. Massive growths of trees, flowers and other vegetation were everywhere. Animals didn't seem the least bit perturbed by human influence but knew to be wary when human beings were walking around. There were species that had been thought to be long-since extinct that were living and breathing, happy and healthy in the outside world.

"It's far more incredible than I would've ever imagined.", Tobias said, with a tear in his eye. Rosalinda was also emotional about seeing nature for the first time in many decades.

"I had forgotten nature's beauty.", she said, hugging him from the side, nestling her head upon his strong chest. He held her affectionately around her hourglass waist and sighed pleasantly. There was nothing but the sound of animals all around them, going about their usual repertoires, unbothered.

"The air's actually breathable.", one of the former gamers observed. He took deep breaths in and out, laughing, jumping, spinning, and acting like a big kid. Another former institution dweller sighed serenely when she felt the gentle caress of the wind upon her cheek.

"It's exhilarating !", she exclaimed, dancing to a tribal beat.

"The only questions I have now are where will we live and how ?", Ikuto Nakamura, alias Honor, asked solemnly.

"Whatever happens, I am sure that together, as a team, we'll survive.", Valor, alias Dharma Patel answered sagely.

Chapter 4--Outside the Confines

It took about a year, but the new colony, or 'colonials' as they called themselves, had started to live off the land. There were a few scientists among them, which made their lives quite a bit easier. Yet, even they learned they weren't exempt from learning something new along this journey of discovery and survival.

It had been a year since the 4th of July uprising and the colonials were wondering if the Headmasters would ever come looking for them. The truth of the matter was that no one had ever successfully escaped the Institution without being corralled and placed back into their 'cell'. Of course there were those who repeatedly tried to escape but eventually they were placed into induced comas to teach them a lesson that such futile attempts were taken seriously at the University.

Dharma always kept a lookout for scouts from the Institution. They never had to worry about droids because they saw every organic being as another one of them. Therefore the colonialists were living among the droids without being detected as free men and women. Sort of ironic in a bittersweet way.

After months of watching and waiting for scouts, Dharma realized that the Institution had forgotten about them. Apparently, once they had escaped, their memories, dossiers, everything concerning them; obliterated forever. She could now breathe a sigh of relief, but part of her wanted to free the droids that kept the Institution running. Her boyfriend, Lionel, alias Loyalty, wasn't so keen on beginning what could become an apocalypse.

"Why though ? They've been under the thumb of the Headmasters for ages. If I hadn't been saved by my grandmother, I might've been 'programmed' to become one of them. She hid me away in secret and I was spirited away in my youth close to the Institution. I don't really remember the happening itself. I must've blackened it from my subconscious.", Dharma retold, sobbing a bit. Lionel held her close, smoothing her hair and doing his best to calm her. He wiped her tears with his fingers and kissed her eyelids lovingly.

"As selfish as it may seem, it's survival of the fittest for us. There may come a time when you can try to begin another uprising, but granted, it will cause upheaval within the Institution itself. I have heard rumors that the Headmasters, the Law, and the Supreme Command keep a heavy arsenal for such a time as that. Personally I don't want to see that type of firepower used.", Lionel explained with a stoic expression and seriousness in his eyes. Dharma longed to see her grandmother Priti again, but in this case, it was unlikely. Besides, 'decommissioning' a drone took years and in the best cases only a few months. Priti was old and it was unknown whether she was alive or not. The law of 'save thyself' was most important as well as keeping the group together to face another day in the wilderness. The Israelites had done it, why couldn't the colonialists do the same ?

Chapter 5--It Takes a Village

Fortunately among the colonialists there were rabbis, priests and preachers in the occasion that a couple wished to be married. In this ground-breaking time, marriage between any sex couple was seen as sacred and homosexuals could live without fear of discrimination or brutality.

It had been 8 years now after the revolution and the colony was thriving. A new village had begun to flourish and many people were beginning to establish their own living arrangements. Tobias, who had been courting Rosalinda for many years had finally decided to wed his sweetheart. They were brought together in holy matrimony by the local rabbi and the wedding was vibrant, festive and jovial. After a few months passed, the blissful couple welcomed twins into the world and they were quite a handful. The colonials had learned rapidly how much children ate and how they were to be watched like hawks, lest they were recruited by 'Shadowmen'.

Shadowmen were those who had been responsible for programming people who hadn't been 'chosen' to become part of the University and its privileges. They were dark programmers whose only purpose was to kowtow to the will of the Headmasters and act as 'yes men' for their commands. Thankfully, the Shadowmen lived quite a distance from the colony itself and the children often knew where to roam and what sectors were perilous. In this day and age, intuition was always a character trait that was highly developed. Not even the numbing effects of games could rob self-will from a human being, particularly not the stubborn nature of a child.

Lonnie and Donnie, the twin boys of Rosalinda and Tobias, began to grow more each day. They always had questions about the Institution and they thrilled to hear the story of the revolution.

"Will there be another like it, papa ?", Lonnie often asked.

"That's uncertain at this time, Lon. Perhaps there will be.", Tobias answered, a smidge of hope in his voice. He had always felt slightly guilty that he hadn't been able to enact a mass exodus of the Institution. A part of him wanted to return to the Institution and 'finish what he had started', but then he recalled that only a fraction of the inhabitants were willing to make the journey with him. It was his selfishness bickering with him. Even though his intentions were virtuous, the only actual reason he wanted to 'save' the others was to make the colony stronger than what it was.

Then he realized it was his sense of conceited self preservation that was gnawing fiercely away at his altruistic heart. He dismissed the notion, however 'noble' it was at the beginning. But somewhere in his secret heart he prayed that Lonnie's question would become a reality someday. Surely there were other revolutionaries that loathed the iron grasp of dictators and the cold, steel chains of technology.

Many years passed and the colony grew. Lonnie and Donnie were married to beautiful women and had families of their own and like the twins, their children began to ask questions on how the colony was started and why the ominous 'dark sector' was off limits to them. Again, the tales of victory came once more. It seemed that these children hadn't fallen too far from the Silverstein family tree.

The youngest grandchild, Eliza, had a terrific desire to breech the security of the Institution with a team of special ops in her forces.

"Now Eliza, if you do enter the Institute, you do realize you'll have a lot to contend with.", Rosalinda, Eliza's sage grandmother stated sagely.

"I'm aware, grandma. But you were a trailblazer ! I think I can be a trailblazer as well, and my friends are here to help me. I am certain their skills will be useful.", Eliza said, confidently.

"Don't be too confident, little sprite. If you need anything from the storehouses, you may use as much as you can carry. Still, be cautious. The last thing we want is a war ensuing because you wanted to free more inhabitants from the Institute.", Tobias warned. Eliza knew her grandpa was right. Both grandparents, though wrinkled from old age still had vim and vigor and had decided to watch this new group of freedom fighters from afar in case they needed back up.

"The veterans shall assist the youths.", Ikuto quoted.

"In them lies the future, doesn't it ?", Trinity, Ikuto's wife agreed.

Chapter 6--Eaglets

Eliza and her friends knew that the Institution was heavily guarded by security cameras and robot guards. A couple of the team members, Harold and Vince, knew their way around a robot's CPU system after studying them for years thanks to the technology they themselves built out of scrap that the Institution simply threw away in a landfill that was only a few miles away from the colony.

Eliza, Harold, Vince, and a group of about eight others managed to sneak past the surveillance and robots. Vince had a circuit disruptor he had built in his possession to implement on the main security-bot guarding the entrance to the Institution. Over ear buds, Harold relayed his position.

"We're entering the Institution. We'll be in in a few minutes. If we don't come out in about 10-20 minutes, then come in after us.", Harold stated.

"Kid sounds ultra-sure of himself.", Integrity, alias Nathaniel Boone, muttered.

"You should know. He takes after his dad.", Tobias added jocularly.

"I'll take that as a compliment, Silverstein.", Nathaniel retorted.

The "Eaglets", as they labeled themselves, successfully walked into the Institution as though they were scientists from the outside being recruited to assist the 'mechanism' of the University to run more smoothly than it already did. Thankfully their costumes from the storage bins had done the trick and their appearance was accurate and everyone inside fell for it; hook, line and sinker.

Eliza had a barrage of cherry bombs in her pockets and a lighter, poised and ready to begin 'Operation: Exodus'. The likes of such a plan had never even been considered by anyone doing their job in the University. Particularly not the Headmasters. As far as they were aware, the first siege was a fluke and had been stricken from the history books. There weren't any rumors among the inhabitants about escape or an inkling of having more options, or worse; gaining imagination and entertaining oneself without the use of technology. Their perfect utopia was about to be shattered for the second time, and this time, half the populous of the University was about to be set free.

It was a gloriously orchestrated show of fireworks, music piped out from PA systems blaring Ode to Joy and a plethora of confusion. When the inhabitants awoke from their game-induced dazes, they looked around them and noticed that there were youngsters among them that weren't wearing the University uniform.

"There's a world outside our own ?", one inhabitant questioned.

"Yes, and it is far more marvelous than you can fathom.", Betty, said, taking the elderly woman's hand in hers and leading her outside. The woman couldn't move very quickly, but a group of others who could see the sunlight shining from the outside picked her up and carried her, much like they would a victor after a long, bloody battle was won and started to run outside. Inside, chaos was still prevalent.

There were those who wouldn't budge and others who were so atrophied that they couldn't budge even if they wanted to. Games had become their only comfort and they knew nothing else. Eventually, these few would rot away in the University, tragically.

Epilogue

Eventually, the Institution began to wear down. The remnant from "Operation: Exodus" weren't reproducing. Eventually, they died and the building itself became sort of a memorial to what technology had done to mankind when greed became its main component. Those who had come to the outside adjusted, even if the adjustment took many days. Yet, they came to love the sunlight and thrill to the soft chill of the wind upon their skin. In the distance, both in the north and in the south, where the dark sector still existed, lay the wastelands of remembrance. It was a graveyard of failure. One they would never commit again.

And although this natural, idyllic setting wasn't a paradise and survival could be rough now and again, the land and the people lived in harmony once more as they had eons ago, as it was always meant to have been.

The End