Laskowitz had wiped his forehead so many times that the sleeve of his suit was sagging. Johnson and Donald were at the bar, drinking and talking about football like old buddies. Sara was still motionless by the wall, eyes open but distant, mind probing outward.
James, Alicia, Kanade, and Julia were playing a card game called Bullshit. The most amusing part of the game was yelling bullshit when someone made a false move, so the game immediately degenerated into a bullshit festival. Threatening, cajoling and teasing each other, laughing until tears leaked from their eyes, was a big improvement over staring morosely at the table hoping that they weren't all about to die.
"So, about your story," James said to Alicia, as his turn came around. "I'm playing a five, by the way. How did you end up in Shattered Land on a famous team with Patrick Kerrigan?"
"Bullshit!" Kanade hollered, triumphantly flipping over the card James had played. It was a five. "Oh, come on. I thought for sure this time."
James laughed. "Pick up the pile."
"Your time will come," Kanade said. "I play a six."
"Well," Alicia said. "Should I answer, or was it a childish ploy to get her to pick up the cards?"
"It was a real question," James said. "Also not childish, because it worked."
"Hush." Kanade's lower lip protruded. "I'm sad now."
"I play a seven," Julia said.
"After I graduated and changed my name, all hell broke loose," Alicia said. She scratched the back of her neck, then put down a card. "Playing an eight. So, I moved to New Jersey. I went from job to job until people forgot me. Surprisingly, they do forget."
"I play two nines," James said.
"Bullshit!" Kanade yelled. "Oh, damn it. How can you have it every single time?"
"Skills," he replied.
Alicia laughed. "Never play a mind-reading game with a mentalist."
"Not fair," Kanade said. "I have half the freaking cards now. Let's take a break, I'd like to hear this story."
"Hey, what is this?" Alicia asked, as all eyes turned toward her. "Maury Povich?"
"Everyone has a story," James said, "but yours is more interesting than most."
"Depends if you're hearing it or living it," Alicia said. "Everywhere I went, I was just the senator's daughter. Then the President's daughter. I was never Alicia."
Alicia set her cards down on the table. "I started Shattered Land to hide out. But I got into it, made some friends. We did tournaments. Got our asses handed to us and laughed. Then one time, I met Kerrigan." Her eyes crinkled. "He steamrolled us. But afterward, he said I had talent. Wanted me on his team." Reminiscence in her smile, but sadness too. "It was hard to leave my friends, but he got through to me. I'd always wanted somewhere I would stand out because I was me. I thought with Kerrigan, I could make a mark."
"And you did," James said.
"I thought we did." Alicia laughed, a few short puffs of air. "Oh God, I hated you so much. You reminded me of my friends, having fun with no intention of winning. I gave that up because I thought it would be worth it to win, even on a team of people that only had a goal, not a bond. Seeing you guys running around with so much fucking talent and not even caring, I was like ... grrrrrr. Well, and it didn't help that they introduced you as the President. I wanted to strangle you." Alicia smirked. "Still do actually. But I guess winning and fun don't have to be separate."
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No Life to LoseMystery / Thriller
James Kirkpatrick's difficult life leads him to take solace in virtual reality—a momentary peace soon shattered by mystery, intrigue, and unseen forces bent on plunging the world into chaos. An epic tale of love, loss, and the boundless influence of...