CREO: Game of Creation
After they arrested us, we were split up—Teo and Lucy were taken to some interrogation room—you were hauled away by the guys with big guns, and I ended up sitting in a room by myself for a long time. I guessed they weren’t sure what to do with me, being a kid, until I got a visit from that horrible cloud.
“Hello Adam.” Kuu said with that creepy smile. “You’re not very good at listening, are you?”
“What are you going to do to us? Where’s Kai and the others?”
“It’s okay, don’t cry.” I hadn’t realized I’d started. Kuu always scared me. You’ve asked about it before, but I can’t put it into words—when he appears, I get a feeling deep inside me, dark and empty. I start thinking I’m just a shell and Kuu was there to stuff me with bad stuff. He was born of the same darkness as that dragon, and every time it appears, it feels stronger. “They’ll be reeducated and returned to where they belong.”
“Why are you here?”
“To ask you if you want to play a game.”
“You see, CREO can override your free will any time we wish, but that’d be no fun. After all, we’re a game company! You’re a precious experiment, but we don’t want you getting out of control, so how about this?” Kuu came closer, my body shivering with cold at his approach. “Do what we tell you until after the tournament. Play good boy, and you win your freedom. Think about it, you’d be no different from a normal human boy. Heck, we could make you anything you want, if you’d rather be a girl, or a fish, or a 5-headed cat with wings.”
“You’re crazy. What do you want me to do, anyway?”
“Go along with what Kai says, that’s all.”
“Huh? What’s the catch?”
“You’ll hurt my feelings, Adam. Now remember, be a good puppet—oops, I mean, boy.” With that, the twisted thing disappeared. As soon as Kuu was gone, the door opened, and I was led out into the police station lobby, where Teo, Lucy, and Kai waited for me.
I know, I know, let me explain.
On the steps of the police station, there was an army of reporters. The cameras flashing got me dizzy and their shouting was unbearable. Kai went up to a podium with a bunch of microphones on it and made a statement:
“I want to clarify something, on behalf of my team—the protesters at the university are criminals, end of story.” Teo, Lucy, and I were puzzled by that, as you could imagine. “We did not intend to break any laws of this country, and we hope the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. To interrupt and disparage the International CREO Tournament was unforgivable, then to force our cooperation using CREO technology was even worse. I also want to say that the technology CREO has given us in this tournament is simply incredible—world changing.” He created a ball of fire, which burst into bubbles. Strange, did they fix his watch? “Finally, the lines between the virtual and physical are disappearing and a new world is being born. It’s about time to introduce the world to the face of that progress—Adam.” I froze with an awkward half-smile, like I’d been caught on TV with my pants down. “Adam is an artificial human I created in CREO.” The flashes of light increased rapidly, as did the volume of the reporters. “Just as players and architects can move freely between worlds, so too can CREO materials. It’s a revolution, more real than any conspiracy those students were forcing on us, and we can’t wait to show you all what CREO can do once the tournament gets back on track.” I barely heard what he was saying—I felt sick, it was all too much. Teo and Lucy were staring at me with wonder… and fear. Mostly fear. “Adam, would you like to say anything, as our team captain?” Kai stepped aside from the podium and dragged me into his place. I stood there silent, save for terrified stammering, until I finally squeaked out:
“W-we’re Team KAI, and we’re going to win this tournament.” The reporters seemed awestruck that I could speak, it didn’t really matter what I said.
We finally got out of the press scrum and were ushered back to our hotel. If I hadn’t been so shaken up, I’d have laughed when I remembered all our luggage was still waiting for us in the room we’d abandoned over a week before.
“Whew!” Kai said once our escorts left us in the lobby. “I think that went well. We aren’t in prison, and we’re free to move around as we please.”
“Kai, what were you thinking?” I said. “Why’d you tell the world about me and make me—” He started messing with my hair.
“Isn’t it better this way? No more secrets.” He looked to Teo. “I’d bet it got lots of buzz going about CREO all over the world.” Then he looked at Lucy. “And think about the publicity we get.” Despite his words, we were silent, the mood sour. Kai didn’t seem to notice. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a shower and a hot meal. Let’s meet in the dining room in, say, a half-hour? Oh, come in your swimsuits—we can hit the pool afterwards. Come on, Adam.” I reluctantly left the others and followed him into the elevator.
“What’s with you?” I asked once the elevator doors closed.
“What do you mean? You guys are the ones who look so down.”
“Why’d you call the students criminals? What did…” What Kuu said popped into my mind. I looked Kai up and down. He looked the same as always, happier and less tired, in fact. He felt like Kai, but there was something different.
“We have to behave if we want to survive, Adam.” He said. “Remember why we’re here—to win.” The elevator doors opened, and we stepped out onto our floor.
They said something to him, threatened him, I know it. He won’t say what, but one thing’s certain—Kai’s not Kai, not quite.
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