All Play and No Work, A Speculative Fiction

Sandra was a loan officer for a large bank who very much looked forward to Monday mornings. This Monday, in particular, was going to be exciting, and she was heading in early to make sure she was ready.

As she walked to her cubicle, Sandra scanned the rankings board. It was lit up like a Christmas tree, displaying the top 100 loan officers from all the major international banks. Today, Sandra was going to break the top 20. Looking over her nearest competition, she noticed that Frank, her main rival, had gained a number of points over the weekend. Now he, too, was poised to make the more exclusive list. A final loan payment must have cleared late Friday, or the interest rates on a foreign account had moved in his favor. Regardless, it would provide her with extra incentive today. Frank made it onto the board before her. He also made the top 50 first, and she wouldn’t let Frank reach this goal ahead of her.

After sitting down at her desk, Sandra started up the Loan Loader and un-checked the boxes next to the pictures of the car and small house. Automobile and first time home loans were easy, but the time they took could be spent staking out business and major real estate loans. As she did every Monday morning, she thought about the stories her mother told of her days as a loan officer. She knew if her job today was anything like Mom’s, she wouldn’t be so successful. Between keeping track of paperwork and taking time to meet with applicants, there’s no way she’d have kept up.

When Sandra’s parents realized that her dyslexia and preference for late night death matches over homework made her a less than ideal candidate for employment, they thought she’d never get a decent job. But thanks to advances in Job Design Theory and Work-Flow Engineering, she is now outperforming her mother by more than five to one, even accounting for inflation and other economic factors Sandra doesn’t understand.

Sandra’s system indicated readiness and she fired up the game as the system clock blinked 9:00 a.m. She clicked her left mouse button and zoomed in over a digital crowd of 150 applicants. Double clicking a woman in a brown suit automatically selected all applicants in brown suits. Sandra directed them to the side. She ctrl-clicked the four tallest brown- suited avatars and sent them to her base, where she could look them over later. These were real estate speculators with decent portfolios, and were good for a few points; they tended to play it safe and make their payments on time. Noticing a short and shabby-looking avatar, Sandra zoomed in for a closer look. Ill-fitting gray suit – first time business loan; manila accordion stuffed with papers – poor credit history; unshaven face – no current loans; bloodshot eyes – behind on utility payments. Sandra wondered why this guy was even applying here.

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Shaking her head in irritation over the time wasted, she clicked him and sent him heading for the bench, then quickly zoomed out to re-scan the now smaller crowd.

Then she, saw him: her Prince Charming. Tall, dark gray pinstripe suit; immaculate hair and complexion; briefcase of a lustrous leather that looked sturdy enough to withstand an explosion – this was her lucky day. Sandra quickly switched her avatar’s outfit from the conservatively- professional suit to something a little more daring and moved in for the kill.

He pulled out a cell phone. “Damn,” she thought. That had to be Frank. She stepped up and said hello. Charming’s eyes moved to her, lowering the phone slightly, and Sandra poured on the charm, using every emote available to her in expert succession.

She noticed his eyes kept flickering over her shoulder. She turned the camera so see what was attracting his attention, and moved applicants out of the way until she realized that he was looking at the bum she’d benched. Curious, she recalled the bum and invited him into a private room with Charming who, cell phone still half-raised to his ear, willingly followed. Sandra excused herself from the room and left a camera behind to watch what happened. It wasn’t long before the prince and the bum started shaking hands and chatting. Gotcha! Those two were somehow related. The bum was meant to distract attention or make the prince look like a golden opportunity. She released them and benched them both. Let Frank take the bait and make the top 20. Sandra would play it safe, and down the road when they took Frank for a ride, his rank would plummet while hers continued to rise. Sandra smiled. Nobody could beat her in this game, nobody.

Corvus Elrod is a storyteller and game designer who is working on bringing his 16 years experience into the digital realm. He has a habit of taking serious things lightly and frivolous things seriously, a personal quirk which can be witnessed on his blog, Man Bytes Blog.

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