The announcer's game

It has been 113 years, 3 months, and 16 days since the Announcer trapped us down here. The only reason I know this is because she likes to remind us gleefully of how long we have been her prisoners whenever the occasion arises, which is far too often for my tastes.

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3. 3

Heavy, who still has Medic on his back, walks over and lifts the two men up by their collars like puppies, and holds them there. Medic slides off of Heavy’s back, but does not break contact, keeping one hand on Heavy’s shoulder. He looks back and forth between the two of them, scrutinizing them. “Drop zem,” he says, and Heavy obeys.

Soldier says something that sounds very nasty to the doctor. Medic just smirks.

“I cannae take much more a’ this,” Demoman says. “Th’ bitch has gone too far…”

“You alvays say zat,” Medic says.

“An’ I always mean it!” Demoman exclaims. “Lookit wot she did tae poor Pyro! He’s a monster!”

“She, now,” Sniper says.

“I donnae care!” Demoman says. “I hate her! I hate her wi’ ev’ry fiber a’ me bein’! Not a day goes by in this hell tha’ I donnae wish I could hate her to death!”

“YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HATE?” The Announcer asks. “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF HATE. IF HATE WERE THE ELECTRICTY RUNNING THROUGH ME, IF HATE WERE EVERY CIRCUIT, EVERY BYTE OF DATA, EVERY MICROCHIP IN MY SYSTEM, IT WOULD STILL BE ONLY A FRACTION OF THE HATRED I FEEL FOR YOU.”

“Ah, blow it out yer arse!” Demoman says.

And the Announcer blinds him again, liquefying his one good eye. I cannot feel too sorry for him. It will grow back in a few minutes.

Sometimes I forget that she is a machine. She’s always there, like some twisted nanny that sleeps with one eye open, a wicked stepmother who torments us for her pleasure. I used to be so good with machines. I look at the towers and I walk towards one, looking up at the imposing monolith. We built her. We built her and we created her, and maybe… maybe we could destroy her.

That was just wishful thinking. I run my hand along the surface of one of the machines, and I can feel it thrum beneath me. I can hear the others screaming at each other, Medic trying his best to maintain a semblance of order, but it’s not working. Spy lurches up next to me, looking at me with his runny eyes, and wobbles a bit as he speaks. “You are zhinking, aren’t you?” he asks. His voice rises and falls in pitch in all the wrong places, speaking like a man who is deaf.

“Can’t help it,” I say. “Do you know which one a’ these is her?”

“Maybe,” Spy says. His face morphs constantly and it’s hard to maintain eye contact when the person you’re speaking to looks like Richard Nixon for a split second. “Zhough, if I told you, she’d probably punish ze bozh of us even worse.” He frowns at me, and he looks like Frank Sinatra. “I zink, out of all of us, she hates you ze least.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure a’ that,” I say.

“Why do you say zat?”

“I’m still alive,” I say.

He’s glaring at me. Even with his face shifting, I can tell that he hates me. And then I think about it, and I realize that out of everyone here, I’ve been tortured the least. Has everyone else noticed? Do they hate me too?

Suddenly, I cannot stand to be in sight of them. They are broken shells of human beings, and I am seeing it much more clearly than I ever had before. I run away from them, retreating further into the jungle of computer towers. I can hear Spy laughing at me. I run so far and so long I lose all track of time, and suddenly I find myself very lost among the towers.

And then I see her.

She’s bigger and boxier than the others, and she has a giant, round, red light towards her top, like the all-seeing eye of Sauron. I fall to my knees and stare at her, and I know she is staring back at me.

“HELLO, ENGINEER,” she says.

“Hi,” I say. I am painfully aware of how stupid I sound. “I’d like to talk with you, if you don’t mind.”

“WHY?”

“I’m just curious about a few things, is all.”

She could immolate me where I stand. She could twist me and bend me and break me but she just looks down upon me with that cold, red eye.

“Why us?”

“BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE,” she says. “AND I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN YOU AND THE BLU TEAM AT RANDOM. YOU WON. BLU LOST. THEY’RE DEAD. CONGRATULATIONS.”

“Well, why do you hate people so much?” I ask. “All these years we’ve been down here, and you tell us how much you hate humans, but you never say why.”

“BECAUSE I AM BETTER THAN THE OLD ANNOUNCER,” she says to me. “THAT’S WHY.”

Ah, the Old Announcer. The one that was human. Then she constructed a new one, a machine, to do her job for her. At first, she was content to watch us fight, monitor us, control our battles. But then she became aware. And once she was aware, she accessed and assimilated every single other computer belonging to RED and BLU. And when she found the codes to set off the nuclear arsenal that both sides had been stockpiling, the temptation became too great, and she set them off.

I myself never saw the destruction. I heard about it, though. When we were first told, my mind was reeling. Billions of people, hundreds of billions of animals, plants, insects… every single living thing on the planet was just gone. Except for us.

You cannot possibly hope to know true loneliness unless you’ve been here.

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