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2084 by guest on 9th November 2019 06:25:03 AM

It was hot. That was one thing. He was curled up in a hole in the concrete, trapped underneath a car.


"Don't waste your time and money," she had said. 


But here he was. He had given up struggling to escape. He was too weak to push against the hot metal of the car. He choked on thick clouds of black smoke from the burning tires. He could smell the sweet scent of gasoline. 


"It's a stupid tax for idiots with a bit of extra cash. You'll never win." 


He collapsed. Gasping for breath, he took in her words a second time. Gasoline swirled in around him with the water. 


He closed his eyes.


The car exploded.


--------------------------------


Waking up in the gaming center was never exactly pleasant. Well, neither was dying under an exploding car, but at least then you're doing something. Here your choices were more limited. You could buy beef jerky, a soda, or try again. 


Neat rows of people were hooked into the pods, neural feedback systems securely fastened to their scalps. Most of the time, they looked peaceful, since their muscular efforts were diverted to thoughts as if in a deep sleep, but during intense gameplay, you could almost read their facial expressions.


His cell buzzed against his leg. He closed his eyes. It was them.


"Yeah." 


"Mark." 


"Yeah." 


"You lost." 


A pause. He winced. 


"I did." 


"Can you pay?"


He could hear the woman on the phone smirk. Apparently she loved asking that question. How do they get only the sick freaks to work at ThornWorks?


Of course he couldn't pay. If he could pay, the credits would have been withdrawn from his bank already. He wouldn't have to deal with this phone call. But instead, he used ThornWorks and got himself into a mess. ThornWorks covered his tab on a loss, and got a cut of any win. 


So he couldn't pay. But they still ask, to make you uncomfortable. 


"No." 


"You have three days. If you can't come up with the full amount in that time" 


The voice grew fainter as he took the phone from his ear and hung up. He knew what was coming next.


The advertisement blinked into his FOV immediately. An herbal supplement flashed in the bottom-left corner of his vision, rotating slowly and flashing the word "SALE" repeatedly until his cranial device registered that his attention had shifted to it. Then the words changed to "GOOD PRICE! $499.99" 


He sighed. It would take a long time to get his vision back. 

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