Chapter 2: “I FEEL ASLEEP!!”—Guard, Metal Gear
“Shit,” Randal whispered to himself. “What the hell?” He wiggled the analog stick on his wireless game controller, pressed all four colored buttons and pulled all four triggers. His avatar wouldn’t move. She just stood there. He wondered if it might be the batteries, but no, he could still bring up the console’s menu screen. It looked like the game had frozen. They hadn’t had a game-freezing bug in over a month, and a new one this close to shipping meant someone was going to get their ass handed to them. He made a note in his log and turned off and then restarted his machine. Then, for the first time in too many hours, he stood up, stretching his arms above his head, cracking knuckles, and exposing a sliver of white, not too terribly flabby belly below his logo-free, plain blue t-shirt. Looking at the clock on his PC on the desk next to him, he exhaled a long breath. 5:30 was quitting time in most of the world. Not here of course, not this month. It was crunch time, and he’d only been here nine hours, the day was hardly getting started and free pizza wouldn’t arrive until 7:00.
He checked his office e-mail, leaning over the back of his chair and poking at the keyboard. Memos, meetings, jokes, alerts. The usual. He unclipped his phone from his belt and checked his personal mail. More alerts, more jokes. Something from Adult Friend Finder listing 35 hot singles in his area. He opened that and scrolled through quickly, but none of the new faces caught his eye. He winced inside when he saw one of the familiar ones and erased the e-mail. He took the time to confirm in Outlook that he would in fact be attending tomorrow morning’s optional (but not actually optional at all) Production Feedback Meeting, or “bitch session” as everyone referred to it outside of company e-mail threads. He glanced back at the console and saw that the game was back up and ready to go. At least it no longer mattered to him exactly how long it took the machine to boot. His first job in the industry had been as a day-hire, sitting in a lab with a stopwatch turning Xboxes on and off over and over again and timing how long it took them to fire up and load Halo. Somewhere in the building there were probably poor shlubs doing something just as brain-numbing for $8 an hour, but he wasn’t one of them anymore.