Game Over, страница 1
Copyright 2010 Todd Thorne
This ebook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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The raging cut off.
Timmy snuck up to the kitchen doorway and peeked in.
"Not another word about money, Roger," Mom growled, jabbing a finger at his father. Dad stood across the kitchen island from her, his hand working his jaw side-to-side, shock smeared across his face.
"You took the little slut to Jamaica with you," Mom continued. "Bet you bought her more than a plane ticket and hotel room, didn't you? Was it worth it? Did she offer you plenty of tonsil massages? Spread those legs on demand?"
Dad's hand slapped the marble counter, balling up into a quivering fist.
"If you ever touch me again, Doris, I'll--"
"You'll what? Punch me? I sure wish you would. It'll give the judge more to consider as I take you for everything. Go ahead," she sneered, thrusting out her chin. "Be a real man."
Dad's cheek sported an angry purple blush; the rest of his face tinted bright crimson, as if he'd just staggered in from a sunscreen-free beach day. Heat surged, radiating off his dad. Mom's wish seemed about to come true.
Timmy leaned around the corner for a better look.
"You wicked bitch--," Dad hissed but he swallowed the rest at a head jerk from Mom.
"Go up to your room." She turned and glared. "And shut the door."
Timmy gulped. "Am I going with Dad now?"
Her icy glare swung back over the island.
"Not tonight. He'll pick you up in the morning after breakfast. Is your bag packed?"
"Do it! And I don't want your butt down here again. Your father and I have much to discuss. Privately."
"Okay. Night, Mom and Dad."
They muttered something, turning their backs to the island and each other, as if he'd somehow affronted by including them both in a single goodnight wish.
Up the hall, Timmy lingered. The kitchen conversation resumed in sharp whispers, only parts of which he could make out.
"... more careful ... see us fighting...."
"He's not stupid, Doris...."
"... think I know? ... nightmares every night, thanks to your...."
Which reminded him.
Timmy took a detour through the study and snatched a fresh set of rechargeables. The set upstairs wasn't drained but why take dumb chances? Not with the nightmares. Mom was wrong; those two weren't responsible for his nightly terrors all week long. That blame fell squarely upon him.
He gave his parents full credit though for the reoccurring migraines, and he had a real bitch of one now. Timmy took a second detour through his mom's bedroom. Hidden behind a mass of brown bottles crowned with ivory childproof caps, he found the aspirins, pried off the idiotic lid, and shook out six tablets. They felt like tiny bones scraping down his throat.
Back in the hall, the kitchen whispers swirled.
"Keep that teenage slut away from my son...." Mom.
"For Christ's sake, she's in her twenties, owns a house and works in a bank."
Whore. Slut. Bitch. Various female sex parts.
Mom liked referring to the 'other woman' in such creative ways and wasn't bashful about doing it. She also enjoyed stressing that Christine--Chrissy, as the slender woman on his father's arm had introduced herself to Timmy--lagged Dad's age by seventeen years. That fact Timmy struggled to comprehend why it mattered so. Mom never explained.
He went upstairs, shut his door on the irate whispers and settled behind the computer. The thin flat panel glowed with a warm light, welcoming him back like a true friend. With a few finger flicks on the touchpad, he spoofed his mom's parental snooper into thinking his PC remained asleep and accessed the net.
Damien Jules had e-mailed a token after patiently enduring Timmy's lament over the school's excuse for Friday lunchtime enchiladas. Damien knew all about stream dueling, his reputation at it being respectably adept, though he refused to compete anymore. Smart boy. Timmy dragged the token out of the encrypted mail store and admired its design. Shaped like a round coin, it portrayed a lightning bolt slicing off the top of a bald man's skull, spilling brains and blood onto a golden treasure chest. With a flick and a ching, the Net Ringer app ate the token.
'McAndrews accepts only business calls,' a popup advised. 'Is this for business purposes (Y|N)?'
He chose 'Y'. A second later a voice scratched through the speakers.
"Charlie here. What's your pleasure?"
"I--" Timmy leaned forward and mumbled into the pickup. "I want to buy a stream."
A long stretch of hiss passed before Charlie responded.
"Is this a joke?"
"Look, you've no net profile. Return calls are denied. Video is blocked. Most of your attributes are blocked. You sound like a kid. Why don't you ask me if I've got Prince Albert in a can and get this over with?"
"It's no joke. I'm a customer."
"You're underage, right? Of course you are." Charlie sounded like he'd had a long day. "Here's what you need to do. Ask mommy or daddy to tell you about the birds and bees. Tell them you'd like to see pictures and movies to understand better. If they want to buy some, send them to me. Got it?"
"I want scary streams, not... not what you said. Terrifying stuff. The worst you got."
Again the hiss assaulted Timmy's ears.
"Okay, kid. Sorry about that. I can do scary. Have you browsed our catalog? They start at twenty for low to medium fear factors and go as high as a thousand for the real Hollywood-looking productions. I've got multipacks too, if you need several at a pop. One-click purchase from the web, just like the big boys. Easy."
Timmy gulped. "I don't have a net account."
"No account? Then get Mom or Dad to set one up. It's simple. They register you as a minor on the Homeland Security web site and enable supervised financials by linking their credit card. You're good to go."
"You don't understand. My parents can't find out. I have to do this alone."
It sounded like Charlie whistled into his pickup.
"I want to mail you some money," Timmy continued.
"Snail mail? No, no. Bad idea, kid. FedMail Corp got a whole crop of new regulations when they spun off of Uncle Sam. Those regs are vicious, especially regarding dealing with minors."
"My friend said you could help. Can't you just take my money and send me a stream?"
"I'd love to help. Really. But I enjoy the fact I've never tasted prison food, and I'd like to keep my track record perfect. Selling illegally to a minor blows that. Sorry."
"Then I'll go somewhere else."
"Do that. Good luck."
Timmy slid the pointer over the DISCONNECT button.
"Wait," Charlie said.
His finger froze in mid tap.
"You're dueling. That's it, right?" Charlie asked.
"What if I am?"
"Maybe. A little."
"A lot, eh?" A sigh blew through the speakers. "What system do you have?"
"The Immersion Station has fantastic production abilities, kid. Some of the best on the legal market. Did you think about crafting your own stream?"
"Tried that. It sucked chunks."
"Maybe you should give it another shot. Listen, the secret to success is to compose something that's a part of you. Don't just create something you hope will work. Make it you. Be you. Pour your raw feelings and deepest emotions into it. Hold nothing back.
"Look, kid. Nobody's going to deal with you, except people you really don't want to be dealing with. Let me text you something: two links. The first gives more advice on producing streams with real heart and bite. The second is for a tool. Plug it into your stream when composing and, during playback, you'll get an idea of the effect. That's all I can do."
"Thanks, mister." Timmy unblocked text messaging and saved the two links. He severed the connection. The speakers hushed.
Link one led to a website with fascinating tidbits, giving him plenty of frank coaching. He devoured it all like a famished man wolfing down what could be his last meal. Link two yielded the tool Charlie mentioned, which he stored for future use. He unblocked the parental snooper and the computer went to deep sleep with a fading whir of fans spinning down.
Packing for Saturday with Dad was a breeze. The fresh rechargeables snapped into the halogen Q-Beam. Then he had time to kill. Lots of it.
Comic books came first. Harry Potter followed. He soon tired of Hogwarts, having reread it ten times already, and turned to his homework, fifth grade math and accelerated sixth grade reading. When the house darkened his room light at 10:00 pm, he flicked on the Q-Beam and inspected the underside of his bed. As usual, his search uncovered nothing but skittish dust devils.