> Seth Underwood Stories: REAL RACERS - a sci-fi short story

REAL RACERS - a sci-fi short story


Image- Black And White Businessman Man People Car Vehicle, By Pexels, Source pixabay (Processed using Adobe Spark)

In January 2021, the news announced that a popular electric car brand was going to allow passengers to play triple A video game titles.

By the start of the Second Age of Humanity, car dealerships took this to a new level with the game “Real Racers.”

“Real Racers” was a Chinese in car gaming app. The app was used by a few American car dealership chains to help prop up their leasing sales. Players took out an initial lease on a cheap car and worked their way up through earning points, or paying for point boosters, to get a more expensive car. The dealership would fold the value of the new car into the old lease. The total debt was deferred while the person played the game. Legislators banned the game in several U.S. states, as the states saw it to be contributing to reckless driving, but this didn’t stop the game’s popularity with a certain male populace. 

For unknown reasons, the game was not popular with women drivers. Psychologists studied the issue and couldn’t come to consensus on the root cause. Ideas around a woman’s maternal and spendthrift nature were debated, but they could draw no absolute conclusions. In the end, many psychologists cited the negative media image attributed to male players. This they believed may have turned off women drivers from playing.

# # # #

For a year, Roger had been playing “Real Racers.” Competing online with others for rankings and car upgrades. He used his personal credit to pay for cup credits, the in-game currency.  He purchased point boosters allowing him to increase his point totals. This allowed him faster access to chances to win a free car upgrade from the dealership or the chance to win the rare car, Phenomenon.

All the while his partner of twelve years, Annie Carson, would complain to Roger about his playing of “Real Racers”. Five years prior to their domestic partnership, he started dating Annie while pursuing a degree at online college. Annie didn’t mind Roger playing a normal video game. In fact, while dating, and even after, it wasn’t uncommon for the two to engage in competitive team games. But she despised “Real Racers” and it’s use of actual cars. At least two times Roger almost got into an accident while playing. She almost left him one weekend when a sponsored drag race event occurred on the same day they had a “date night.”

# # # #

Roger Mann and Annie Carson were approaching Fiwood, a local fresh food market, in their electric self-driving car, a Flux Model C.

Instead of letting the car drive, Roger had taken control to score points as shown by the heads up display on the windshield. Roger was weaving between cars as he sped up and braked.

“Damit Roger! You are scaring the hell out of me! When will you give up this game?!”

“Look, I need just another 5,000 points, then I can turn this car in with the dealership for an upgrade.”

“We don’t need another fucking car! This is our fourth one in the last two months!”

“Yeah, but if I get enough points, I can score a chance for a Phenomenon. That’s the best car on the market.”

“We don’t need that! This game is ruining our partnership!”

“What? No, I’m improving our lifestyle.”

“At what cost? You go out driving at all hours of the night and every chance you get.”

“That’s just the nature of the game.”

“I can’t talk to you.”

“Fuck! You made me miss a bonus score!”

“Sure, blame me. Like you always do.”

“Just shut up so I can make up the loss!”

Annie crossed her arms and turned towards the passenger window, only to be jarred forward as Roger slammed on the brakes, because a car in front of them slowed down.

As the two approached the parking lot of Fiwood, the car skidded as it turned right into the lot. Roger returned the controls back to the car, which automatically slowed down and parked itself.

“You’ve arrived at your destination.”

Annie got out and then leaned through the passenger door opening.

“That’s it. I’ve had enough of this game. I’m done with you. I’ll collect my stuff next week from the apartment.”

“Annie, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I’m not taking this kind of abuse anymore. I’m dissolving our partnership.”

“But… what do you mean by abuse? I’ve never hit you?”

“You’re an idiot, Roger.” Annie slammed the passenger door closed.

Roger sat in the car dumbfounded for two hours. Annie wasn’t coming back. He drove back to the apartment. On his way back, he continued to play “Real Racers.”

# # # #

Roger Mann worked at Oakworld Claims and Adjusters for ten years as a field agent. Oakworld had contracts with various insurance companies to confirm a person’s filed damage claim. Despite the increased use of automation in the insurance industry, in person verification was still required of claims over certain values. In person verification were audit requirements of both state regulators and the insurance industry.

Roger’s job required him to drive to each assignment. When he started to play “Real Racers”, he switched from the company car to his own to maximize his play time. Then he would put in for a travel reimbursement to cover his electric charges per Oakworld’s employee reimbursement policies.

The day after Annie left, while at Oakworld Claims and Adjusters, Monique Chapman called Roger into her office.

Monique, dressed in a knee-length skirt and white short-sleeve shirt, sat on the corner of her desk. She had an infopad in her hand.

“Roger, please sit.” She pointed to the chair in front of her desk.

Roger took his seat. Monique was the office manager for Oakworld and working around her made him nervous. She had this look about her that always reminded him of this math teacher he had with online middle school. The teacher would scowl at the camera. Not that the two women looked the same. But something about Monique’s demeanor reminded him of that teacher.

“I’ve been going through the current budget, and I was noticing a lot of travel reimbursements from you. Is there something wrong with the company car we’ve issued you?”

“Humm… my car was more power efficient.”

“I understand, until I looked deeper into your reimbursements. You were driving twenty miles out of your way on average to get to the client. Can you explain that?”

“Maybe, accidents or traffic?”

Monique sighed.

“Roger, going forward use only the company car for assignments. I don’t want to see any more reimbursements from you. Do you understand this?”


“Fine. Now get back to work.”

# # # #

Roger was exiting Oakworld to go to an assignment. He headed straight for his own car, not noticing Monique standing outside smoking a marijuana cigarette. Monique stomped out her cigarette and walked towards Roger.

“Roger! What the hell are you doing?!”

Roger turned to Monique.

“I’m going on assignment.”

“Weren’t you listening this morning?!”


“So why are you going to your car?”

“Oh. I thought you meant starting next week.”

“That’s it. You’re done working here. Collect your stuff and leave.”

“You’re firing me?”



“There’s no but here. You’re fired. Go inside and collect your stuff from your cubical and leave.”

# # # #

Roger awoke around 3am and could not get back to sleep. The events of the past couple of days had shattered his spirits. He was at a loss about what to do. Annie had left him, and now he lost his job of ten years. To make matters worse he was so close to achieving that upgrade package in the game.

But something inside him was telling him he had to return the car to the dealership and close out his game account. This would mean using what life savings he had to pay off the deferred auto lease.

Around 8am he took some caffeine pills and got into the car and drove to the dealership.

On the way he still played the game, but his performance was not the same. He was still 243 points shy of getting to the next car chance. And if he earned an extra 1,000 points, Roger could have gotten a free chance for the Phenomenon.

He so wanted to win the Phenomenon despite the less than 1% odds. Most prizes were things like cup holders or interior upgrade packages. Sometimes a player would win a car better than their upgrade. Like most players, Roger didn’t care. The Phenomenon was the coolest and rarest car manufactured in America. It was only available through “Real Racers” and to date three players had won the car. A Japanese citizen playing in America, and two American men. It was possible to win the car. It only took time and points.

Roger entered through the glass and aluminum doors of the local Reid Dealership. He was greeted by the leasing agent he worked with initially a year ago. A young woman, a red head, a foot shorter than him, and wearing a tight-fitting dress suit. Roger would never admit it, but he found the leasing agent hot. And now that he thought about it, it could explain those looks Annie gave him when a year ago the two of them came to the dealership for a new car.

“Mr. Mann, how may we help you today?”

Roger rubbed the back of his head. “I need to close out my ‘Real Racers’ account.”

“Why? Is there something wrong?”

“I lost my job.”

“That’s not a problem. We have a program for that.”


“Do you think you’re the first man to lose his job while playing? It happens, and we at Reid understand. That’s why we developed a job loss forbearance program for game players. Now if you’ll follow me to my office, we can discuss the terms of the program.”

Roger followed the woman, trying his best not to look at her ass as the two walked to her office cubical where they would discuss the program. He discovered he could get a year of forbearance while he searched for a new job. The program required a small down payment, and him to log in daily to keep the loan underwriter informed of his job search activities. The loan underwriter would confirm this information with businesses he contacted using a proprietary licensed HR system, or a connection to the North Carolina Unemployment Job Application site. Besides the forbearance, they gave him three free chances at winning the Phenomenon or some other prize.

While explaining the program, Roger fidgeted in his chair. Without Annie present, he felt uncomfortable being alone in front of the agent. He knew at some point Annie would dissolve their partnership, but for now he was a taken man. He tried his best not to show his interest in the young woman. But he was getting lost in her eyes and red-orange lips. When it came time to agree to the program, he only nodded and signed the documents.

# # # #

One of his free chances gave him an upgraded car as he left the dealership. During the next month he was served partnership dissolvement papers. He was now single again. He thought he could try to date the leasing agent at the dealership. One day he visited her at noon.

“Mr. Mann, what can I do for you?”

“I was wondering if you had lunch yet?”

She raised a single eyebrow in puzzlement.

“Are you trying to ask me out on a lunch date?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Mann, but I’m going to have to decline.”

“I see. You don’t date the customer, right?”

“No, that’s not it.”

“Then what?”

“You are just not my type.”

“That’s cold.”

“No, you misunderstand. I’m not into men.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. You’re not the first.”

Roger turned and left the dealership feeling like a complete idiot for taking such a risk.

# # # #

For the next four months, Roger went online through the North Carolina Division of Employment Security (DES) site that managed work search benefits. With the creation of national universal basic income program (UBI), unemployment programs had been discontinued and replaced in many states, like North Carolina, with an online job applications program. These programs were designed to promote certain kinds of work in the state with tax incentives going to the businesses for hiring from the program. In addition, these state programs were interconnected to various banking institutions and the loan underwriter program used for the game. This allowed for automatic verification of those with unemployment forbearance.

All the while, Roger used every second of free time to play the game. He was playing so much that he forgot to bathe and lost 20 pounds due to lack of eating.

While playing, he would experience from time-to-time blurred vision and pain behind his left eye. Despite having access to health care, the game had become more important to him. Roger had reasoned all he had to do is secure a new job before the forbearance ended. In the meantime, he would play as much as possible hoping to secure a Phenomenon. Once he was hired, he’d get checked out since a physical was required for work.

One day during a special game event, Roger missed scoring a free timed opportunity chance for the Phenomenon because of being cut off by another non-playing car. This was his last chance for the event. His previous chances didn’t result in the Phenomenon. 

Roger had his car pull over to the side of the road. He was so mad that his veins on the side of his neck were popping out. He pounded his fists against the steering wheel in frustration, having missed that opportunity.

He felt instantly nauseous. He opened the driver’s side door and threw up.

The nausea ended, and he put the driver’s seat in a prone position.

His vision became blurry. A severe headache followed this.

He pulled his legs up towards his chest, holding them in as the pain in his head intensified.

His heart was pounding in his ears. 

He felt this fear he never had before. This sense of impending doom caused him to shake.

The shaking got worse, and he fell into a seizure.

Foam formed in the corners of his mouth, until the shaking stopped, and he laid there staring at the ceiling of the car.

It wouldn’t be for another three hours before a person on a bicycle would find his body and report it to the authorities.

# # # #

Later that night at the County Coroner…

“Roger Mann, white, male, age 37, six foot in length, weight 135 lbs. Mr. Mann is five pounds underweight for his size. He was found deceased approximately around 2pm in his car by a passerby the day of this recording. Was pronounced dead by local police officers on the scene at 3:15pm. Based on scans, estimated time of death is placed at 11:14am. Blood work indicates no genetic manipulation, so I suspect he was a natural birth. African American stroke mutation factor 10 markers are present in his genome. AASM Serum indicates he was never treated for this common condition. His scan indicates the presence of hypertension stress on the arteries. Current medical records indicate no treatment of hypertension or presence of hypertension in the last ten years. High levels of caffeine are indicated in the Aminop-2 test, along with five undigested caffeine pills. Results from GRDT serum shows no presence of other legal drugs, such as marijuana, in his blood work, or earlier usage based on his body scan. There is presence of minor marijuana residue in his lung tissue suggesting he was around someone who did smoke. This is not uncommon today, and I don’t suspect it played a role in his death. Mr. Mann was currently unemployed, so I suspect the cause of the hypertension was the result of his caffeine diet in conjunction with the untreated genetic mutation factor. Current medical studies support this assessment for AA stroke mutation factor 10. There’s no indication of depression based on CDT serum, but there was the presence of lower-than-normal levels of serotonin in his cerebrospinal fluid. This finding suggests an untreated aggression problem. Overall, cause of death is from complications associated with hypertension resulting hemorrhagic stroke from a ruptured aneurysm of the ascending frontal artery.”

# # # #


During the First Age of Humanity, North Carolina, and five other southern US states, changed their laws by removing the word “marriage” and then created domestic partnerships as the only form of marriage. This was done to comply with the 2015 unconstitutional ruling against their marriage laws and left the concept of marriage to a couple’s religion.

# # # #


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