Loading.... Chapter Two
"Relax," Michael said, "I'm a photographer."
Despite his very real skills at photography, he always came off as a bit of a creep. It wasn't like he was a jerk around the office, stealing people's lunches or drinking too much at the Christmas party. No, Michael was a dick—or rather, it was clear he thought with it.
The NYC Today wasn't a big production, so Owen could watch from his desk as Michael tried to nip and tuck the model like real-life Photoshop. The model, who may or may not have been called Ashley, kept shifting between professional mirth and contempt between takes.
He could imagine clearly what Daniel would do in this situation. He'd get up without further thought and tell his co-worker to sod off, and the model would thank him with a realistically unreasonable amount of gold.
But this wasn't a game, this was real life. Doing the best thing for everyone wasn't so cut and dry. Who knew if Ashley just wanted to finish the job, let alone the crap he'd hear from his boss for possibly ruining the shoot.
He jumped in his seat, barely catching a pencil cup before it fell over. That would be his boss, Frank. Owen took another glance over to the others before he walked over to Frank's office. The room had a mounted TV in the corner, as if it was meant to keep someone company idly in a waiting room. In truth, it stole far more time than anyone intended.
Frank looked oblivious to Owen's presence as Owen stepped into the room. On the TV, two Age of Shadows arena players were going at it like gladiators in the coliseum. It was a brutal match broadcast close enough to the sweat and blood so you felt you were on the ground with them. A burly avatar cleaved a shining axe into the shoulder of another man, causing enough damage that the feed cut to show the players underneath. Their faces pulled into masked expressions that the Greeks would have been familiar with.
The celebration of the audience was mirrored in the mirth Frank had as he cheered his favorite on. But the tragedy of the other player was closer to the cringe Owen gave over the collective volume.
"That's a win for the English faction," an announcer said, taking over the discussion. Behind the two speakers, one could make out the players who ended their match much like boxers would. The talking heads debated what this meant for the next arena match.
Excited from a win that was debatably his, Frank finally turned to Owen who lurked in the doorway. "I knew that warrior didn't have it in him. It's nearly impossible to fight a knight straight on if you haven't taken the oath yourself."
Owen nodded so slightly it was almost a one-man play in sarcasm.
"I take it you don't play?" Frank laughed.
"Uh..." The answer should have been easy, but what Frank was really asking was what he wasn't saying. He meant: Do you play Arena? A yes would lead Owen to nights out with his boss, watching matches and downing sodas to keep from being unprofessional in front of his employer. "No."
"Ahh!" Frank waved his hand as if there was a fly about. "For the best. This stuff will rot your brain out."
Owen's eyes flared a bit wider in an effort to keep them from rolling. That must have been said about every medium when it first came out. "So, what did you call me in for?"
"Oh, right, yes!" Frank leaned over his desk to grab a sheet of paper. "Here is the list of the candidates running for council member. Research them all and see if you can find anything good."
Owen crossed the room in a couple strides and took the print-off. He scanned over it, but didn't recognize the short list besides the man who was already in office. "Sounds fun," he said with a shrug.
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Bone Diggers (Paperback out now!)Science Fiction
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC. Dirty little secrets can't be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more impo...