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Game On

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"Hello there," said Douglas Reynholm, throwing the door open, "people in the—" he paused. "—in the, ah, basement. This is me saying hello to all the little people on the occasion of Christmas Eve. And this is my last call." He paused, threw his arms out, and said grandly, "Hello, little people!"

Moss and Roy looked blankly back at him; Jen looked at her glass, refilled it, and knocked it back. "Oh, God," she muttered with quiet desperation.

"Actually," said Moss, "I believe that I am of average height."

"Really?" Douglas looked at him, vaguely puzzled. "That's... not very interesting." He went over to look at Moss's screen. "Oh look. More little people. What are they doing?"

"Being played," said Moss. Noticing Douglas's blank look, he added, "It's a game."

Jen stood up, swaying slightly. "As it's Christmas Eve and we're all at work instead of out shopping and having fun—"

"Two mutually exclusive activities," said Roy, kicking the six-pack, now more a two-pack, of beer out of sight under his desk.

"—but as the users aren't doing any actual work, it being Christmas Eve, there isn't a great demand on the services of the IT department." Jen gave Douglas a bright smile. "So the boys are using the time to hone their IT skills." She picked up her glass and the bottle, removed from Reynholm Industries' executive lunch room after the morning meeting, and retreated to her office. "I'll just be in here." She closed the door. Then opened it again to add, "Managing."

"A game, you say? I like games! Can I play?"

"Probably not," Moss said primly, "since it requires a certain amount of manual and mental dexterity."

"I think he meant may he play," said Roy.

"Oh. Well." Moss considered this. "I suppose so."

"Oh goody." Douglas sat down. "Have you got a computer thing for me?"

"I have!"

("Not my sodding laptop, you haven't," said Jen, hugging it defensively. "Not when I don't know but am pretty sure where your fingers have been.")

"It's the one we use for visiting players," said Roy, unearthing it from under a pile of cables.

"He means," Jen shouted from her office, "the one users can demonsht demon show us their problems on."

"All right." Douglas sat down. "What do I do?"

"First you have to set up a character." Moss came over to show him. "Give each attribute a numerical value."

"I'll have a big one."

"A big what?"

"Attribute of course. Make it twelve long."

Roy sucked in his lips till the urge to laugh had mostly passed. "There's a list," he said patiently. "Of things like courage, dexterity, strength, height, speed."

Douglas peered at it. "But not the most important one." He sat back. "Just set them all to the max. That's pretty much me."

"That'll do it," said Roy. "Then you'll be all one big one, won’t you."

(Jen bent over with laughter.)

Douglas nodded happily. "And what about girls? Are there girls? Perhaps Jen could play."

"No!" Jen shouted. "I'm managing!"

"In her case, that means coping," Roy said, secure in the knowledge that it would clear Douglas's head by several feet.

"That's a pity," said Douglas. "She has some very good attributes."

("Just you bloody stop right there," Jen muttered.)

"Now what do I do?"

"Move your character with the arrow keys, like this." Moss demonstrated. "Other commands are in the little box up in the top left corner."

"All right. That looks simple enough."

I suppose everything does to you, thought Roy, Moss, and Jen simultaneously.

A couple of concentrated minutes passed.

"Hey!" Roy reared back. "What are you doing?"

"Perhaps," said Moss, "it's Graeco-Roman wrestling,. An interesting and novel approach, but not one recommended against a sword fighter."

"I'm snogging that woman," said Douglas. "I'm using the sustained hold command. And she doesn't seem to be struggling much which in my book is a definite yes."

"That's not a woman! That's Thandor, my mighty warrior."

"Not with those attributes!"

"They're pecs! He's heavily muscled!"

"Pull the other one. In fact I think I will, ha ha."

"You're lying on top of a man on the ground," Roy pointed out.

"Ah." Douglas stood up. "All right. I feel a little bit dirty now." He looked around. "What was I doing here? Oh yes, saying hello to the little people. Right. Have a very merry whatever it is tomorrow, won't you."

Roy and Moss looked at each other as he closed the door behind him, and smirked.

"He's right," said Moss. "Your Thandrina's attributes are rather large and now I think of it, they might possibly get in the way when she's involved in a battle."

"Not in armour, they don't." Roy raised his eyebrows. "Challenge?"

"Hand to hand?" Jen suggested, emerging from her office. She sniggered. "Close fighting?"

Moss sucked his breath in through his teeth. "No finesse. We like to use our martial skills. Long swords?" he asked Roy.

"With nunchucks?"

"You're on!"