“I’ll go first,” Dave said as he walked to the restroom and closed the door behind him. A few minutes passed before Dave re-emerged with his face stained red with blood. Ian entered the rest room and for a few minutes, Dave and Steve sat in agonizing silence, trying to imagine Ian cutting his face again as he had done many times earlier in the day. Then the door opened and Ian emerged, his face so bloody it was dripping on his shirt.
STARG> Fine. Now let’s play.
The number grids once again appeared and the frantic clicking resumed as the agents were determined to win big. They began thinking of their opponents hoping to capitalize on their weaknesses. They also began thinking of those opponents who quit their jobs and retired early because of the fortune accumulated just by playing a stupid little game. They channeled these thoughts into motivation and determination to win games for a change instead of letting their opponents take away the huge payouts that could have been theirs.
The clicking became louder and faster and 15 minutes later, the games were over and it was now time to review the earnings. Each agent felt like they had given it their all and was hoping for bigger rewards this time.
STARG> Okay guys, let’s see how our numbers look.
A few minutes passed and during those few minutes, the agents were exercising their tired hands and catching their breaths as they waited in anticipation of huge winnings. They felt they had earned it.
STARG> Latest Earnings:
There was a tense silence as the agents felt sad and disappointed. They were just no match for their opponents.
STARG> Go bloody your faces. All of you.
All the agents rose up and stood in line to use the restroom to take turns cutting their faces. One by one the agents emerged with blood streaming down their faces and dripping on their clothes. In silent disgust they each glared at the surveillance camera that was mounted on the ceiling near the wall that watched their every move, and they knew full well that Starg was watching them through the camera.
STARG> You may all go to lunch now. I expect you all back within an hour, which should be sufficient time to adjust your attitudes.
Within minutes the room was empty as the agents left for the break room next door to where they worked. There was no camera here so the agents could relax and be themselves for a change instead of being puppets to some guy they never met.
“I can’t figure out this guy Starg,” Ian said as he pulled out his sandwich. “I never even met the guy.”
“I haven’t either.” Dave agreed as he stood by the microwave oven that was heating up his pizza. “I have no idea why we still work for him, other than being his puppet.”
Steve snorted as he ate his lunch while seated at the table. “And what did that ad say? ‘Earn big bucks playing games’? Boy, did we fall for that one.”
“We sure did,” Ian replied. “No interviews, no background checks, just fill out an online application, click ‘Submit’ and get hired instantly. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“And what kind of business has us cut our faces with an X-Acto knife?” Ian asked. “So they give us our own blades. How does that create a comfortable working environment?”
“And I wonder about this F.A.R.T.S. game,” Dave added. “Are we even supposed to win big at all? Why not give us some more training to we can counter the strategies these guys are using to beat us so we can earn more than just change each payday! I can’t even get by with what I’m making here. I think this whole thing is rigged so we lose on purpose just to make him laugh. It seems cruel for him to get away using us like this.”
Ian was shaking his head. “There’s something about all this that just doesn’t add up. This doesn’t even sound like a legitimate business venture. I mean, clicking numbers on the screen and cutting our faces when we lose? Does that sound right?”
“I think you got something there,” Dave agreed. “What does F.A.R.T.S. even stand for anyway? I’ve tried looking it up online and found absolutely nothing, yet Starg keeps telling us about players who were able to retire from their jobs because of the huge fortune they make from just playing it. Guess what, I found no information on that either. You’d think this would get some news coverage.”
“And Starg keeps telling us about these strategy books supposedly floating around on the Web,” Steve added. “I searched for hours on the Web and didn’t find a thing. But you’re right. There’s something very fishy about all this.”
“I don’t like Starg either.” Ian shook his head. “He’s the worst boss we ever had!”
The other agents agreed and finished their lunches before returning to the office to resume working. When they sat down at their computers, they were startled to see a message from Starg on their screens.
STARG> I heard your conversation in the break room. You guys are the worst employees I ever had.
Stunned, Dave typed a response.
DAVE> How did you hear our conversation???
Starg’s response had the agents shivering with terror.
STARG> I was there.
There was a long silence as fear began to fill the room.
“Weren’t we the only ones in the break room?” Ian asked.
“I thought we were,” Dave replied.
Suddenly the lights in the room went out and all the computers were ungracefully shut down in the pitch-black darkness. The agents were sitting in the dark, terrified and wondering what was going on when they heard the sound of a door opening.
Someone was entering the office.
“Oh, I was there,” said a sinister voice. “I heard your every word. Needless to say, I don’t like it one bit.”
To be continued…