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Round 48
August 30th, 2010

Round 48

If you’re new to the Great Game, please have a quick look at the blurb to your left, where you’ll find a short catch-up introduction.

Surely he wouldn’t have me shot. Why would he have waited this long? He could have killed me when I was tied down, and sent someone else to check the data. Unless…

I shook my head stubbornly, and told myself I was being paranoid. I even tried to make myself believe it — with a degree of success.

Either way, I needed to get a decent meal if I was going to avoid simply falling over. There had to be somewhere fairly nearby to eat at, and if it got me out of the immediate area for an hour or two, well, maybe that was no bad thing.

The machines were whirring away, so I left them to it. Outside, the clean-up was in full force. Off to the right a way, they’d made a small field of body-bags. Looked like several dozen. A bit closer, they’d started stockpiling reclaimed kit. There were a heap of guns, and another pile of less identifiable equipment, but by far the biggest heap was covered in a rumpled camo cloth. I peered at it, and realised it wasn’t covered at all. It was clothing. My mind shied away from the implications, and I happily let it.

My pod was at the edge of the camp, not far from a group of transports the clean-up guys had presumably arrived in. It looked untouched since I’d arrived that morning. I sank into it, and sighed gratefully, then told it to take me to the second-nearest place that served food that would be open for at least another ninety minutes. It flashed up a confirmation that I barely looked at, and then got underway.

Ten minutes later, it pulled in to the car park of a pleasant-looking Italian restaurant. There were three other pods parked up, and space for thirty. Slow night. I cackled, and then eventually managed to stop it. After a moment to pull myself together, I got out of the pod and went into the restaurant. “The Olive Grove”, the door said. Cute.

Inside, artists had done a passable job of painting the walls so as to make it feel as if you actually were inside a sunny olive grove. They’d even put down a greenish carpet, and painted the ceiling a cheery light blue. It could have been hideously kitsch, but it worked. Just about, anyway. A frazzled-looking waiter leapt up from a chair, and stared at me. He was the only person in the room.

“Hey,” I said. “Table for one?”

“Of course, sir.” He looked a bit hesitant, but he managed to keep it out of his voice entirely. “Feel free to sit anywhere.”

I fought down a giggle, and went over to the most central table I could find. I sat down facing the door.

“I’ll get you a menu, but, uh, a lot of things are off. You know.”

Yeah. “That’s OK,” I said. “What’s good?”

“The chicken parmigiana, and…”

“I’ll have that,” I said, cutting over him. “Some cold beer, too.”

“Nastro Azurro?”

“If that’s cold, and it’s a beer, then sure.”

He nodded and headed into the kitchen. I heard voices. A short while later, the waiter came back with a basket of little bread rolls, a dish of butter, and a bottle of beer. I nodded appreciatively, picked up the beer, and said “Thanks. Better get me another one of these.”

He was back less than a minute later, by which time I’d finished the beer and eaten three of the rolls. When it came, the Parmigiana was excellent. I had two portions of it — along with most of a second basket of bread, and several more beers. Travis hadn’t said anything about staying sober.

Finally, I ordered a coffee to wash my stims down with. I felt pleasantly full, for what seemed like the first time in days, and the beer tinged everything with a light halo of golden cheer. For a moment at least, the world was good.

The coffee arrived. It was attached to a tall, pretty blonde woman somewhere in her 30s, in a light grey suit. She put it in front of me, waved at a chair, and said “May I?”

I blinked, smiled up at her, and said “Sure.”

She slipped into a chair. “How was your meal, sir?”

“Great. Are you the chef?”

She managed a smile. “No, I own the Olive Grove.”

“Well, you’ve got a real gem of a cook back there. Best food I’ve had in… Well, in quite a while.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry to ask, but are you from the, um, trouble zone?”

Heh. Was I ever. “Yep.”

“Forgive me, but what’s the situation? What’s going on there?”

Huh. That was why she looked stressed. As far as I knew, we didn’t have any instructions to hold information back.

“Well…”

I thought about it, and decided to...

  • ... give her the very basics. (71%)
  • ... give her my best attempt at charm. (18%)
  • ... give her the full story. (12%)
  • ... give her nothing. (-1%)

Voting Closes at: September 2, 2010 @ 11:00 am

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Today’s photo is Aztec Skull by Seriykotik.


Sorry!

I know I’m rubbish. It’s not absent-mindedness or health this time, it’s ludicrously high-pressure deadline nonsense.

I’ll try to update tomorrow.