Foolscap I've been spending some time in the bar working on my novel, including the following scene:While attending
Through the large window beside our table we could watch the Earth slowly wheel by three times a minute. It’s the view the ‘Top of the World’ restaurant is known for, but it makes me nauseous if I watch it too long. Alice seemed to love it.
“I’ll bet that fuzzy patch there is Paris!” She pointed to somewhere above us in a nighttime Europe. Most of the Atlantic was covered by darkened clouds and the morning was working its slow way across Asia behind me. We would cross into the sun ourselves soon; beating the dawn in our race around the planet.
“Are you always this enthusiastic about everything?” I took a sip of my coffee; Alice was drinking wine and picking at a salad.
She turned to me, eyes dancing. “Of course! It’s the only way to live your life; enjoying every second. Sucking the last drop of fun out of everything around you.”
I almost said something about life usually sucking the fun out of you instead, but thought better of it, “I guess that’s why you play a game for a living and I find mislaid luggage.”
Alice frowned, biting her lips and tilting her head, but eyes kept laughing. “I don’t ‘play’ a game. I ‘live’ a role in a way designed to entertain an audience. I give them a vicarious thrill they don’t have time or ability to seek for themselves. Besides, it seems to me that you live quite an adventurous life yourself, only for real.”
“You saw what happened downstairs then?”
Her eyes were steady, their dance stilled for the moment. “Oh, yes. What that man was talking about, it’s what you mentioned earlier isn’t it? Did you love her?”
I shrugged. “I thought I did. Then I thought she didn’t love me and I hated her. Then I found out things were more complicated than that and it was too late.” Complicated. Almost too simple a word for something I still hadn’t untangled for myself.
Alice leaned forward, intent. “What really happened?”
I felt that familiar flash of anger, but tamped it down. “I’ll bet you’ve executed a full agent search on me since we talked earlier, so you already know as much as I am willing to talk about right now.”
She sat back, crossing her arms, and then uncrossed them and put them on the table, palms up. “I’m sorry for prying. And you are right, of course, I looked you up.”
“Just as I did you.” I smiled, but decided not to entirely defuse the situation. “You really are quite the player at Augmented Reality Games. For example, you didn’t just do well at Elizabetha. You went from serving wench to a Duke’s wife in under a year.”
Her nose wrinkled. “We weren’t really married and he wasn’t really a Duke. As you say, it’s a game.”
“So, what was he then?”
“He was an accountant. And an asshole. Elizabetha is really a girl’s game and the few men who play it usually do so precisely because there are so few men, if you know what I mean.
“I guess you did research me.” She added.
Actually I had barely had time to scan the summary and headlines the search agent had mailed me, but I nodded sagely and dropped the only bomb in my arsenal.
“I think maybe you used your Duke more than he used you, you out-played him.” I put on my spex and selected an article. “As you wrote in your blog: ‘Alterness doesn’t actually produce Augmented Reality Games so much as they they produce genred lifestyle entertainment products with positive reinforcement feedback loops and semi-passive audience participation mechanisms. Excelling at this kind of game requires first understanding that you are playing to an audience, not to a rules system. It’s about narrative far more than it’s about collecting the right talismans.’”
I took off my spex and smiled disarmingly. It was fun watching Alice’s face right then. It looked like I had finally broken past the actor to the creamy real girl center.
“How did you know I wrote that? I thought bounce-blogs are completely anonymous!”
I couldn’t help boasting. “They are. But there are other ways to connect things up. I’m a computer security expert and I have hand-raised search agents I don’t share with anyone.”
“Oh.” Alice visibly collected herself and re-assumed her confident facade. “I guess you win at the prying competition then.”
“I usually do. It’s my job.” Just then the waiter arrived with my steak and Alice’s duck.
“Not just finding lost luggage then?” There was a brittle edge to her voice. “But how are you at the bigger game?”
“Understanding why people do the things they do, and anticipating them or nudging them into the direction you want them to go.”
“I take it that is your special talent?”
“Perhaps. Though it’s not manipulating people I’m talking about here. There’s another blog entry I wrote that you should read, where I talk about something called co-opetition: helping others to reach their goals in order to achieve your own.
“You know, I’m not very hungry after all.” She stood up and smiled. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner anyway.”
She walked away, swaying slightly. As I watched her go I called Ricky on my phone.
“Hey Dallas! What you doing?”
“Watching a very smart lady tell me I screwed up without using a single word.”
“Que? What you say?”
“Never mind. You got a few minutes to talk? I need to double check something with you.”