“Welcome to Westworld.
The suave female voice echoed as stunning vistas stretched endlessly into view. A grandiose splendour of scenic desert, lined by mountains standing in the very far off distance, faded by the fog of heat that swathed itself across the sky in a warming haze along the horizon view.
A small town swam into view, rickety roofs dusted with an orange hue. Old saloon doors swung open, a tall man clad in leather, walking with the swagger of someone who owned the place stepped into the main street, his sheriff’s badge glinting in the morning sun. He tipped his hat at the madam standing nearby, who was leaning gracefully against a post, adorned in delicate frills with a petite face to match. She courteously smiled back before walking away, a second sultry glance thrown over her shoulder, hook line and sinker.
Golden fields of straw swayed in the late afternoon breeze, shimmering under the late sun. A small farmhouse panned into view, a mere dot against the sea of dancing grass. A young woman in a flowing white dress swam amongst the straw, her hand clutching that of a small child’s. Her daughter. She smiled serenely down at her, her eyes creased into pure joy. The daughter grinned back, innocence etched across her face as they wove their way through the field.
That’s Maeve, you thought. The name rose to your mind’s eye immediately as you watched the young woman dip out of view as the camera panned upwards to show more glorious scenery, a lens flare burst between mountains, blinding the camera.
A white screen with text appeared. A WORLD WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES WITHOUT JUDGEMENTS
LIVE... WITHOUT LIMITS
The music which had been playing throughout, swelled into a dramatic crescendo, a booming chorus of dramatic strings and orchestrals, intended to captivate those that walked by the screens. To show them what they were going to experience.
A shot of a vista faded into view, with the Westworld logo cleanly stamped onto the middle, dominating most of the screen. The music began to fade.
An exasperated sigh escaped you.
You had never spent more than an hour in the park and that was to help shut down defective hosts.
You couldn’t imagine fully what it would be like to live in an environment completely fabricated for escapism. You felt it would be amazing to not be yourself even for a day, a chance to just switch off. More importantly, to see the hosts in their own intended environment, living their lives perfectly…
“Sorry about the wait there,” came a gruff voice from behind you.
You tore your eyes away from the screen, the woman’s smooth voice began to repeat itself again as the video looped back round to the beginning, a picturesque advert to enchant those that walked by.
Swivelling your head round you remembered you had both hands placed on one of the many reception desks in the area, the marble cool against your palms, stirring you back into reality. You were grounded back into the moment, your own life.
You were standing in the main reception area of the Westworld Mesa. Smooth white walls stretched high into the ceiling, cocooned around glass panels, and around the screens that continued to play the video you had been engrossed in as you waited. Everything about this place felt so daunting and vast. Endless halls of white space so large it felt like it exposed all to its visitors.
Yet it was a place that hid so much.
An older man in formal clothing with a security badge ambled over to the edge of the desk. He was clutching a few parcels, neatly wrapped to the point the paper was so flush it looked seamless. Various logos belonging to the company that sent them were printed neatly along the sides.
The security man sighed as he slid the parcels towards you across the glossy surface of the counter. There were quite a few. “Again I’m sorry management had to send your ass down here,” grunted the security guard, “Normally it’s the concierges manning these front desks, they keep everything organised and we just need to worry about standing guard.” he sighed again, “But we’re bloody short staffed at the moment. I blame Delos, I bet you they’re making cuts and not telling us!” he cursed some more as he slapped parcels onto the counter.
“We need more security, a bunch of our guys got called away for no reason! Nobody tells me anything!”
You tilted your head to sympathise with him, creasing your lips into an awkward half smile, letting him rant away as your mind drifted briefly back to the video you had just watched. Casually, you tried to ignore your tablet as it began to beep and hum on the counter next to you.
Just a few more minutes of respite. Please.
Working at Westworld as a programmer for the Behavior Lab and Diagnostics division was no easy task. It was incredibly overwhelming.
The nights you spent trying to sleep and all you could see was lines of code swimming in and out of view underneath your eyelids. Your fingers sometimes would twitch in memory of the rapid amount of fixes you had to make for some of the incredible mess ups that had come your way.
Yet. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The job was satisfying, a distraction from the life you left behind on the mainland.
Being able to program the most subtle of behaviours in the host was an art form in itself. Underneath the lines and lines of code lay that small idle smile a madam of the Mariposa might give that guest, luring him into her chambers.
That wicked glare that a cowboy might give, causing the guest to feel queasy and realising the sudden danger they might not win in the stand off they found themselves in.
Those words they utter in their final moments, dying after being shot, could trigger the overwhelming feeling of resentment in a guest - setting them off on a journey of revenge.
The hosts are what made the world of Westworld feel alive… and it was your responsibility to give life to the hosts.
Elsie Hughes was a prodigy in the department, her skills and eloquence in being able to give realism to the hosts were an incredible feat. One that inspired you everyday.
Yet it was unparalleled to that of Bernard, the head of the Programming Division. He was a god amongst men in his observation to notice the smallest of things in human behaviour.
Elsie however, had seen that spark on you not long into when you first enrolled as a junior in the department through luck. She took you on and remained your mentor today, keeping you on track but also piling the pressure... and tasks, on you.
Elsie… whose name was flashing almost angrily across your tablet’s screen. It continued to buzz and bleep on the counter. Even the security guard’s eyes darted warily to it as he shuffled the packages into a pile slowly.
You took a deep breath and gently clasped the smooth glass tablet into your hands. Pressing the answer button you held it against your ear, preparing yourself. In the distance, the sound of the bullet train pulling into the lower floor station echoed throughout the white expanse. The arrival of new guests.
“Where the hell are you? Are you still down there?” came a voice, uttering your name irately, “Things are getting a bit chaotic up here, one of the bigger narratives are about to be reset so we need to finish QCing these hosts we still have in the lab and send them back out into the park!”
“And hello to you too, Elsie” you said coolly, a slight smile forming on your lips.
“Sorry it’s short staffed down here as well so I’m still retrieving those parcels.”
“Well please hurry. More guests should be arriving today so we need to have everything in order. Since that new update rolled out everything has been a shitshow!” There was a pause and a long exhale, “Look, sorry for snapping. You know what it’s like, Bernard is running around trying to meet Ford’s demands and we can’t keep up.”
“It’s ok Elsie I understand, really.” You replied calmly, closing your eyes and pressing a finger to your temple. Your patience with Elsie when she was stressed was a honed skill in itself.
“Hey, calm down. I’ll be up in twenty ok? Think I’ve got everything here.”
As you sighed, your unoccupied ear heard crowds of people's footsteps scattering around the entrance hall downstairs. They would soon be eagerly meeting their host who would greet them formally and lead them to their new adventure. “Can you double check? I know Ford had something specific he needed that got lost down there.” “Where did it arrive from?” You opened your eyes and began to scan the parcels as they wobbled a little. Tracing a finger lightly across the logo… Delos… Bellini Paints…
“Actually,” Elsie paused awkwardly. “It’s from-”
“Ah shit!” A gruff voice cut in loudly as parcels were knocked over, tumbling behind the desk and across the counter. The security guard dived down the back of the counter, disappearing from view. In a knee jerk reaction you managed to catch a few, but your tablet slid from your guest, skittering across the floor with a noisy clatter.
Leaning down you began to pick up the rest of the parcels. One of them in particular, caught your eye.
But before you could reach over, the muffled sound of heels and shoes clicking against marble began to grow clearer, reverberating down the hallway. You turned, swivelling on one foot to see a group of people pace around the corner, past you and down the corridor. In the moment of being caught out by falling parcels and Elsie shouting down the phone at you, your senses took in the presence of these guests almost in slow motion, as you studied them from afar.
You could tell immediately they were of an opulent background. Their clothes were straight angles of sleek black and white, suits and dresses that were cut from the finest fabrics - fitted in ways only money could define. They were young, and bore expressions that were a mix of excitement and determination.
To be honest, you would have felt that way too if you knew you were going into the park.
The new guests, and so early too.
You finished in your observation, glancing at your watch. 6am. You couldn’t remember the last time you had a lie in.
One of them broke the regiment of glancing forward like the rest of the group and looked your way. Your eyes met theirs briefly, fixated by the minor detail of their eye colours being different to each other, before a feeling of self consciousness swept over you, breaking your gaze and turning back to swiftly grab your tablet.
Returning from the distraction, you held the tablet back up to your ear and recalled what you were about to do.
“Elsie?” You said. “Sorry I dropped my tablet.” “It’s fine, as I was saying…”
You saw the parcel you intended to grab. Your name was printed on the label on the front. But down the side…
You felt a pang surge through your chest.
Elsie was calling your name down the phone as you a cold rush dropped through your stomach.
“Hey, can you hear me? The parcel is from-”
“I think I know what one.” You cut in. “Why do we have something from there?”
“I don’t know. Bernard told me that Ford was expecting it though but needed it sent to someone else… for discretion.” “But it’s from…” you held the parcel in your hand, a long box wrapped in the same neat paper as everything else. Your ran a thumb along the logo as if to check it was really printed there.
“Cyberlife.” You whispered.