“Why did you guys always insist on Silver Mica capacitors?” Sighed Gralla as she pulled her head out of a machine. “Did you purposely want me to not be able to fix the stuff you built?”
She sighed again as she wandered over to a cupboard and started to run her finger over a group of boxes. “Silver Mica, silver mica,” she mumbled to herself before smiling. “Here they are,” she said as she pulled a box out and wandered back to the machine.
As Gralla put her head into the service hatch she heard her phone ring. The tone was the one she had set for internal calls, and she couldn’t exactly ignore those, especially with Anastasia wandering around.
“Gralla, there is a Laura McMichael here to see you,” came Becky’s flat monotone.
“I’ll come up to meet her,” nodded Gralla, turning off a few power banks before heading to the elevator. She hadn’t been expecting Laura, so wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
As Gralla walked into the lobby, Laura met her with a smile. “Gralla!” She grinned, offering her hand for another handshake.
“Laura,” smiled Gralla in response. “What do I owe this honor?”
“Well,” coughed Laura. “I actually wanted to apologize to you for a bit of unprofessional behavior I engaged in.”
“Oh?” Asked Gralla softly. “Walk with me, I want to show you my workshop, we can talk on the way,” she said as she started to walk, Laura quickly matching pace with her.
“The convention was wonderful,” grinned Laura. “Though I heard about your employee having a slight issue.”
“It is okay, comes with the territory I’m afraid,” sighed Gralla. “But I will pass on your thoughts to the employee in question.”
“That is good,” nodded Laura. “So during the tournament, I made a comment about making a show with you, well I shouldn’t of. I’m not sure if Retro zone would even want it and I would need to pitch it to them before we could even consider making it.”
“I see, I see,” mumbled Gralla as the elevator opened up in front of them.
“I’m sorry, I understand if you are upset by that. I blame being tired, but I should have known better.”
“Well,” said Gralla, smiling at Laura. “I’ve actually done a little thinking about it myself.”
“Oh?” Replied Laura, gasping as the elevator started to rattle and move downward.
“I would like to put up the money for a pilot.”
“Are you sure? I can’t guarantee that they will go for it.”
“You’re not exclusive are you?” Asked Gralla as the doors opened up.
“No, I’m not,” nodded Laura. “I can do work for other people as long as I get my articles into Retro zone every month.”
“So, how about we make a pilot? If it doesn’t get picked up, I’ll keep the footage and use it to promote the arcade in general. I’ve wanted to upload videos to the web for a while now, but I lack a good host.”
“Why not you? You are pretty damn charismatic, you made an audience care about CyberThrust!” Chuckled Laura.
“But I lack the air of authority needed to make people interested, people trust you and your opinions on games.” Continued Gralla, walking into her workshop and fiddling with a few things.
“Wow, you have a lot of stuff in here,” smiled Laura, looking around the massive basement.
“Thank you,” grinned Gralla, closing the box of capacitors with her free hand. “Feel free to wander around.”
Laura nodded and started to walk around the room, looking at various machines and parts, her eyes growing wider and wider as she went, making her look more and more like a kid in a candy shop.
“How do you track these machines down?” Exclaimed Laura. “Half of this is stuff I’ve only read about!”
“A lot of internet searching and warehouse sales.” Smiled Gralla as she moved closer. “I also put a lot of money into restoration, which gives me a leg up on other arcades. With older stuff, you tend to find parts as opposed to full machines.”
“You do seem rather handy,” nodded Laura as she continued to walk.
Out of the corner of her eye, Laura spotted a familiar machine with a little green goblin poking out of it. The second Laura saw it, her eyes rolled up into her head as she felt a heavy object thud right into her brain, knocking her thoughts away.
“Oh it’s the game from Megacon,” giggled Laura, pointing towards it as she wobbled a little bit.
Gralla blinked for a few moments, trying to work out why Laura had suddenly become so giggly, only to spot the machine and smirk to herself. “Yes, it is!” She said softly.
“It was weird but in a fun way,” continued Laura, her brain feeling oddly light and empty.
“Oh it is,” nodded Gralla, biting her lip in an attempt to keep herself from laughing.
“What’s this one?” Added Laura, stumbling towards a small black cabinet. “I’ve never seen it before, or even heard of it!” She said before falling into giggles once more. “Hexiblious Jr.?”
Gralla moved behind Laura, her smirk growing wider and wider by the second. “Well this isn’t a real machine,” started Gralla.
“It looks real to me, I can touch it and everything,” interrupted Laura, giggling at her own joke.
“Well yes, I just mean, it is not a commercial arcade machine,” smiled Gralla. “Hexibilous Jr. is a fake cabinet I made to test parts in. I paid to have it painted up like a real machine so it wouldn’t be an eyesore.”
“Ohhh,” smiled Laura, the world swaying around her.
“Lucky you spotted it, as I actually wanted to show you the game I’ve got in it at the moment. I’ve been looking for information about it for a while now,” continued Gralla.
“Sounds like a mystery!” Grinned Laura. “What is it?”
“Well, it is a text adventure, which, is an odd choice for the arcades,” said Gralla as she wandered over to the side of the machine and started to fiddle with some switches.
The screen burst into life, as some text quickly appeared on the screen. “Are you ready for adventure?” Asked the text, presenting two options, “Yes,” on the left of the screen and “No,” on the right.
“No title screen?” Blinked Laura.
“Yeah,” nodded Gralla. “I’m not sure if that means it is an unfinished prototype or a bug I need to fix,” she said as she moved back behind Laura. “But you just need to tilt the joystick in the direction of the option you want to pick.”
Laura stepped up and grasped the joystick firmly, tilting the stick to the left, to select the “Yes” option. Instantly the screen changed to another bit of text. “Can you read this text?” Asked the screen, with the same options being presented. Laura tilted the stick to “yes” once again.
“Can you focus on this text?” Asked the machine, causing Laura to select “Yes” once more.
“Is this text readable?” came next, offering the same responses once more. Laura selected yes without a second thought.
“Very thorough,” she mumbled.
“Yeah,” replied Gralla, her voice growing quieter, “it gets interesting in a minute though. Keep going.”
Laura nodded softly and continued select options, going through question after question about the text’s readability, answering yes over and over again in quick succession.
“Are you ready to follow the text?” Asked the machine. Laura instantly selected yes. Of course, she was. Why was she playing a text adventure if she was just going to ignore all of the words?
“Are you ready to do what the text says?” Asked the machine. Laura nodded and selected yes again. She couldn’t exactly do what the text didn’t say unless she planned to reprogramme the game every time she reached a choice.
“Are you calm?” Asked the text. Laura selected yes without thinking, letting out a long exhale as she did. She was calm, she was playing games and games were how she relaxed.
“Are you reading this?” asked the machine. Laura selected yes. How could she answer this question if she wasn’t reading it? Was this game worried about escaped monkeys attempting to play it? Laura giggled at the thought as the next question appeared on the screen.
“Are you following this?” Asked the machine. Laura selected yes without hesitation. This game seemed determined to confirm things that should really be obvious to any sane person.
“Will you do what the game asks?” Continued the text. Laura instantly selected yes. Of course, she was going to what the game asked. It was a game, to not do what it asked was to not play and Laura hadn’t come to an arcade to not play games.
“Are you feeling good about the game?” It asked. Laura hit yes before she could even consider the question. It did seem a bit of a weird thing to ask, but the game was weird in general.
“Are you feeling relaxed about the game?” Asked the screen. Laura was relaxed, she felt all light and giggly like her brain was only half there. By the time she had realized how relaxed she felt, the next question was already on-screen, Laura’s body answering before her mind got a chance to think.
“Are you complying with the game?” It asked. Laura nodded as she went to select yes, she was doing what the game wanted as that is how she made progress.
Gralla smiled as she watched Laura robotically select the yes option over and over. Suddenly Gralla’s phone started to ring. Gralla moved quickly to the other side of the room, keeping her eye on Laura the whole time.
“Hello? Alice!” Grinned Gralla as she answered the call. She let out a small sigh of relief as she saw that Laura was too focused on the game to be distracted by her conversation. “You are not disturbing me at all,” continued Gralla into the phone. “I’m just tinkering with machines, replacing some parts, basic maintenance, you know.”
Gralla leaned against the wall, watching Laura the whole time. She was staring at the screen with glassy-eyes, her arm moving left every few seconds, a big dumb grin plastered on her face.
“I am free Friday night,” continued Gralla. “I would love to do dinner, I’ll make us a reservation, I know just the place,” she said with a grin. “Why don’t I pick you up at your apartment? Wonderful! It’s a date!” Giggled Gralla, blushing slightly as she did.
Gralla continued to talk on the phone as Laura continued to play. To Laura, the sound was nothing but meaningless static that washed over her
“Obeying allows progress,” said the machine as Laura selected yes once more. It was true, she had to do whatever the machine said if she wanted the game to continue.
“Nod your head,” added the machine as the screen flickered slightly.
“Obedience is fun,” said the machine as Laura continued to select yes, her head nodding softly. “Obedience is great,” it added as Laura selected yes without thinking, the flickering light of the screen reflecting off of her glasses.
As the call ended Gralla let out a little cheer before looking over at Laura. Gralla shrugged, “not sure why I’m being quiet, you are likely away with the fairies by now,” she said before starting to tap on her phone. “Hello, I would like to make a reservation for Friday night, for two.”
The radio dissolved into a mess of static, Anastasia reached over and started to furiously press the buttons on her car stereo. While it was a sign of her progress it was also a regular annoyance. She pressed the buttons until a station came in clearly. A banjo started to twang out of her car speakers, “country music,” she sighed before turning the radio off.
How dare that alien scumbag get her suspended from her job? How dare it pretend to be the whistleblower and mock her in that statement to the police. She was not “under stress” she was right and she was going to prove it.
Anastasia suddenly started to laugh as she realized the delightful poetic irony of the situation. Getting suspended gave her plenty of free time, enough free time to drive cross-country and find out just who “Myra Knox” was when she was at school.
Several hours and a few radio stations later Anastasia pulled up at the university and walked into the main reception before following the signs to the records office.
Once inside Anastasia turned on all of the calm corporate charms that could only be learned through years of government work. Her heart pounded in her chest as she explained to the student volunteer that she had been asked to collect the records of her dear friend Myra Knox.
“I’m really not sure I can give you that,” mumbled the volunteer, obviously not sure how to react.
“Well I have all the paperwork,” smiled Anastasia, reaching into her bag and dumping a large manila folder onto the desk. “Signed by Myra and everything.”
“Oh,” nodded the student, opening up the folder and looking inside. Their eyes went wide as they saw stack after stack of official-looking forms. “I’ll get the information for you,” mumbled the student, quickly wandering into a back room.
Anastasia smirked to herself. It had been a stroke of genius to print off copies of every form she had access to. By the time the school realized that half of them were office furniture requisition forms, Anastasia would be long gone.
The student walked out and handed Anastasia a sheet of paper. “We don’t have much for her, sorry. She was around before we had more detailed digital records.”
“Oh I’m sure she won’t mind,” smiled Anastasia, pulling the paper to her chest. “Have a nice day!” She said as she turned to walk off.
“Oh, Miss!” Shouted the volunteer. Anastasia gritted her teeth before turning around.
“Take a flyer for our alumni dinner! We would love to see Miss Knox there!”
“Oh,” replied Anastasia, letting out a small sigh of relief as she went to grab the flyer. “I’m sure Myra would love to attend,” she added before walking back to her car and driving away.
Once she was a good distance away from the school Anastasia parked up at a rest stop and started to skim through the sheet of information.
It wasn’t dramatically interesting. Certainly not the bombshell she needed to convince people of the evil under their noses. Myra Knox seemed like a model student, getting high grades and easily obtaining a psychology degree.
Anastasia pulled a sheet of paper out of her glovebox and looked it over. While this information wasn’t what she needed it was merely a stepping stone, a way for her to narrow down which Myra Knox became Gralla. Anastasia started to cross reference the information from the college against the information she had found on every publically known Myra Knox.
After some furious work narrowing down names, Anastasia had a strong lead. A Myra Knox who was the right age had the right education and seemed to fit the alien’s modus operandi. The strange thing was that this Myra Knox ran a business a few states over.
“Universe Video Rental and VHS repair,” nodded Anastasia, entering the address into her satellite navigation. “Why are you so attracted to old technology?” She mumbled to herself as she turned her radio back on and started to drive once more.
Alice took a few deep breaths as she looked in the mirror. It had been months since she had dressed up for a date. She wanted to look attractive but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it.
Alice jumped as her door intercom buzzed. Alice walked over and pressed the button. “Hello?”
“It’s me,” replied Gralla, her voice sounding wonderful even over the old intercom.
“I’m on my way down,” smiled Alice, grabbing her purse and keys as she wandered out of the door and downstairs. As Alice stepped into the lobby her eyes went wide.
She could see Gralla through the glass lobby doors. Gralla was clad in a three-piece suit and she looked utterly stunning. It was like someone had ripped her directly out of a fashion supplement. Alice’s heart started to beat even faster, a warmth pooling between her legs.
She felt like a shy schoolgirl. How was she going to get through the whole evening without burning up totally?
Alice opened the door and smiled, doing her best to hide her out of control arousal. “Hello.”
“You look divine,” grinned Gralla, causing Alice to go an even deeper shade of red.
“You look amazing,” mumbled Alice, wiggling her hips a little bit. Gralla offered out her hand. Alice took a deep breath and gripped it gently, letting Gralla guide her to the waiting car.
Gralla drove Alice into the city, making small talk the whole way. Alice did her best to avoid staring at Gralla too obviously, hoping the cool air inside the car would help cool her burning cheeks a little bit.
After a short time, Gralla pulled up outside a restaurant. A man in a small hat moved up to the curb to greet them. “L’Escargot Blanc?” Gasped Alice, reading the sign on the building. “Isn’t this place really fancy? Gralla,” started Alice, stumbling over her words a little. “I don’t think I can afford anything here, I’m sorry.”
Gralla turned to face Alice and chuckled. “Well you’re not paying, so that is totally okay.”
“Oh I couldn’t ask you to do that,” replied Alice.
“Well you are not getting a choice,” smiled Gralla, unbuckling her seatbelt. “Very rarely do I get to take a beautiful girl out, and I think she deserves the very best.”
Alice squeaked as her cheeks flushed again. She unbuckled her seatbelt and stepped out of the car. Watching as Gralla paid the man and passed him her car keys.
Gralla took her hand once more and led her into the restaurant. As they walked up the front desk Gralla started to talk to the lady working there. “Reservation under Palmer?”
“Of course,” replied the woman, leading Gralla and Alice to a small table at the back of the restaurant, away from everyone else. Alice sat down gently and smiled at Gralla before picking up a menu.
“She called you Palmer,” smiled Alice, looking over at Gralla.
“Very few people can get away with one name,” chuckled Gralla.
“I can understand that,” grinned Alice as she gazed lovingly at Gralla. The candlelight made Gralla look even more dashing than usual, and made it hard for Alice to keep control of her emotions.
The evening flowed gently, every word seemed to make Alice more and more infatuated with Gralla. She was so interesting and funny, Alice could honestly listen to her talk all night.
As they finished their meal Gralla leaned closer to Alice, the candle flame causing light to dance over her face. “Tonight was wonderful,” she said softly. “I wish it never had to end.”
“Who said it did?” Replied Alice with a wink, the butterflies in her tummy dancing around happily as she did.
“Oh? Do you want to come back to my place?” Asked Gralla, rubbing her hand softly across Alice’s cheek.
“Oh that would be glorious,” grinned Alice, leaning into the touch. Suddenly Alice let out a giggle as she bit her lip. “Where do you even live, I presumed you just slept in the arcade.”
Gralla let out a laugh as she shook her head. “No, no, I do actually have an apartment, I can give you the tour. Show you my books, my pictures, and my bed,” winked Gralla, causing Alice to squeak.
Gralla gently led Alice back to the car and drove her across the city. Alice spent the whole drive squirming softly in her seat. Was she really about to do this? To go back to a girl’s house on the first date? She wasn’t normally the type to do this, then again she wasn’t the type to flirt so brazenly either.
Gralla drove into a building’s underground lot and helped Alice out of the car before guiding her to one of the doors on the fifteenth floor. Gralla unlocked the door and pushed it open, allowing Alice to see inside for the first time.
It looked a lot like the private area of the arcade, the walls were covered in posters for various old movies and there were two arcade machines against the wall. However, unlike the area in the arcade, this room was immaculately clean, every surface shined as if it was new.
“You sure love arcade games,” grinned Alice as she wandered into the apartment.
“But I can play these while naked,” smirked Gralla.
“Now that, I have to see.” Smiled Alice, wandering over to Gralla and slowly starting to undo her tie.
Anastasia looked at the strip mall. The place was a dump, a concrete mass in a small desert town. It looked like it hadn’t been touched since at least the 1970s, every inch of paint was flaking and all of the signs were faded.
She pulled into one of the many empty spots and got out of her car. This place gave her the creeps. The video store wasn’t visible from the road, forcing Anastasia to venture between stores if she wanted to find the place.
As she mentally prepared herself, she saw someone walking around on the other side of the lot. Anastasia walked over and shouted at her. “Hello!”
“Hi,” replied the woman. Obviously slightly confused by someone randomly starting a conversation with her.
“I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions quickly.” Asked Anastasia, doing her best to look friendly.
“I’ve got a doctor’s appointment,” said the woman, pointing to the small medical clinic a little down the road. “But sure, if it is quick.”
“I’m looking for Universe VHS repair,” smiled Anastasia. “It is meant to be here, but I can’t find it.”
“It’s round the back,” nodded the woman. “But you might be fresh out of luck.”
“Well, the place ain’t never open.” Nodded the woman. “Closed down a few years back, guessing whoever owns it is still paying the rent.”
“Who owned it?” Asked Anastasia.
“Are you with the police?” replied the woman as she narrowed her eyes.
“Not with the police, just a collector of old videos,” lied Anastasia. “Always good to know who I’m dealing with.”
“Some woman I think. I never had much to do with her. The store mostly did things by mail and I never needed anything they offered,” said the woman with a shrug. “But I better be going.”
As the woman walked off Anastasia nodded to herself. This fit the alien perfectly, a small town like this would be a great place to hide from prying eyes.
Anastasia walked deeper into the mall, looking around to make sure she wasn’t being followed. At the very back of the complex was the building in question. It looked exactly the same as the other concrete boxes on the lot. The only thing that set it apart was the sign on the front.
Anastasia walked to the door and pushed it, only to find that it was locked. Anastasia nodded to herself and started to walk around the building a few times, inspecting it for any signs of life.
The place was deserted, and from the looks of it, it hadn’t been used for a while. Anastasia continued to look around, only to spot that there wasn’t a single security camera on any of the buildings. With a shrug, she picked up a rock and smashed a window before running off.
Anastasia waited to see if anyone would come, but no one did. The strip mall was as quiet and deserted as it was when she first arrived. With the confirmation that the place wasn’t guarded, Anastasia climbed through the broken window.
The inside of the building was just as delipidated as the front, everything had a thick layer of dust on it. It was mostly a load of empty shelves and tool racks, befitting the store’s apparent role as a repair shop.
Anastasia started to search around, looking for something that might be of use to her. In one of the rooms, she found a filing cabinet and smirked to herself. She pulled the drawer open, causing a cloud of dust to rise up into the air.
“Oh my,” grinned Anastasia, reaching into the cabinet and pulling out a load of paperwork. “Seems you left a trace.”
Alice lay under Gralla, her body almost burning up from the heat that washed over her skin. “Take me,” purred Alice softly, feeling Gralla grip her shoulders.
“If you want,” smiled Gralla leaning down and kissing Alice on the neck, using her teeth to tease at the girl’s skin. Alice moaned and squirmed under Gralla’s body.
“Bite me,” gasped Alice. “Please, please, bite me.”
Gralla blinked, a look of shock washing across her face for a few seconds before an evil grin formed. “I don’t realize you were so kinky,” said Gralla softly, blowing on Alice’s neck before biting down firmly.
Alice let out a loud and passionate scream as the teeth dug into her neck, the pain only making the heat inside her feel even more intense. “Yes! Yes!” She shouted, her whole body trembling.
Gralla pulled her teeth off of Alice’s neck before kissing her lips passionately, her tongue roaming Alice’s mouth as her hands gripped the other girl’s shoulders tightly.
Alice moaned and accepted it, she felt hotter than she had ever felt before, this felt so wonderful and yet so right, she wanted every inch of Gralla. After a few minutes of kissing Alice slid her hands down Gralla’s body her fingers gently teasing between Gralla’s legs.
Gralla shuddered and let out a small moan as Alice’s fingers started to roam around her sex. “Oh my god,” purred Gralla, unable to control herself as she slowly started to grind against Alice’s fingers.
“Move up, let me taste it,” cooed Alice softly. Cocking her finger as if to beckon Gralla towards her. Gralla smiled as she indulged Alice’s request, moving up to the top of the bed so she could straddle the girl’s face.
Alice started to lick gently at Gralla’s snatch, doing her best to pleasure her in the ways she had only dreamed of being pleasured, moving her tongue expertly over each fold.
Gralla groaned deeply, leaning back to allow her fingers to dance over Alice’s crotch. Alice let out a small muffled groan as she was touched. It was almost like they became one, each of Gralla’s movements made Alice tremble and lick more. And each of Alice’s licks and squirms made Gralla feel better and better, making her want to please Alice even more.
They rose through level after level of pleasure. Their breathing growing faster and more ragged as they both reached the top of a wave of bliss. A small movement from Alice’s tongue pushed Gralla over the edge, her thighs closed tightly around Alice’s head as she started to rock and scream. This sudden pressure caused Alice to explode in euphoric bliss, her whole body twitching and wobbling as she groaned into Gralla’s thigh.
After a few moments, Gralla fell backward, uncovering Alice’s face. “That was heaven,” panted Alice as she stared up at the ceiling.
“Yes,” replied Gralla softly, wrapping herself around Alice as she did.
Anastasia continued to ransack the office, pulling out every bit of paper she could. It seemed that the alien had massively failed in their plan to clean this building up. They had left documents all over the place.
Anastasia looked at the table and smirked at the pile of papers she had acquired. She picked it all up and went over to the window, keen to get it all back to her car so she could get out of this town as soon as possible. However, just as she got to the window she looked back at the building and realized that she couldn’t leave the place like this.
Her careful searching had made it obvious what she had come to collect. If the alien saw this, it would instantly know that Anastasia had broken in. Anastasia walked back inside and put the papers down before taking a deep breath.
Anastasia charged forward, throwing one of the filing cabinets to the ground with a loud crash. She then grabbed a chair and started to smash it against the wall, doing everything she could to make this look more like an unplanned smash and grab.
Anastasia continued to smash the chair into the walls, doing her best to cause as much damage and chaos as possible. Anastasia swung the chair at the door, only for the leg of the chair to embed itself into the wall with a loud crack. As Anastasia looked at the wall she realized that this area was actually made out of wood.
Anastasia blinked as she smashed the chair into the same spot again, only to hear the wood splinter once more. Anastasia dropped the chair and went over to investigate. As she peered at the wall she realized that there was small compartment hidden behind the wood.
Anastasia reached in, feeling around in the darkness until she felt something large and metallic. She gripped it firmly and pulled it out, splintering some more of the wood as she did. It was a metal lockbox.
“Someone left their secrets,” laughed Anastasia as she put the lockbox onto the table and grabbed the chair once more, continuing her attempts to cover her tracks via destruction.
Alice put the shot glass to her lips and downed the liquid inside. She let out a small gasp as the burn hit. “That’s strong,” she said, looking at Gralla.
“I warned you,” giggled Gralla as she returned from the kitchen with a bowl of candy.
“Not enough,” replied Alice, sticking her tongue out. Despite her initial reservations she had to admit that sitting around Gralla’s house totally naked was pretty fun, Gralla had already seen and touched everything, so Alice had nothing to hide from her.
“Want to play a game?” Asked Gralla as she kissed Alice on the cheek.
“Sure!” Replied Alice. Gralla smiled and wandered over to the two arcade machines that stood against the wall. She flipped a switch near the outlet and watch as the machines started up.
“Well, this one is co-operative,” said Gralla, pulling a plastic gun out of one of the machine. “And I’ve never finished it, it gets very hard very quickly.”
“Police Crisis,” nodded Alice, walking over and pulling out a second plastic gun. “You know, we likely should have done this before I started drinking,” chuckled Alice. “I’m not going to be able to aim for toffee.”
“I’m sure you’ll pick it up,” laughed Gralla, aiming the gun at the screen and pressing the button. Instantly the screen flashed as a cutscene started to play.
The whole thing was a strange cyber-punk pastiche of a 1970s cop drama, featuring two female cops working the streets of a futuristic city, trying to take down a notorious cyber-drug dealer.
After two minutes of dialogue that was both terrible and fantastic at once, the game started. The cops moved through a futuristic dockyard as various people jumped out from behind crates and buildings and attempted to shoot at the screen.
Alice and Gralla started to move the plastic guns around, shooting at each evil-doer in turn. “You take the left of the screen, I’ll take the right,” nodded Alice, shooting at a man who dived out from behind a box.
“Sure,” nodded Gralla, furiously pulling the gun’s trigger in an attempt to shoot as fast as possible.
“Crime is illegal!” Shouted Alice as she shot a man who jumped out of a window. After a few minutes of furious shooting, the world “hold” appeared on screen in bright red letters.
The characters started to talk to each other as they moved out of the docks and into a cityscape. The word vanished as people started to jump out once more.
Alice swung her gun left and right, doing her best to shoot everyone as quickly as possible.
“Do you know how light guns work?” Asked Gralla
“I think so,” replied Alice, not tearing her eyes away from the screen. “But I would love to hear you explain it.”
“Well,” started Gralla, moving the plastic gun as she spoke. “When you pull the trigger on the gun, the whole screen flashes black. The game then draws the targets in white and a detector in the gun checks if it is aimed at the white shape or not,”
“That is cool,” smiled Alice, shooting a few more people.
“Part of why shooting feels so good in these games is that our brains can pick up the flashing,” continued Gralla between shots. “It makes everything feel intense and exciting.”
“This is pretty exciting,” nodded Alice, her eyes darting around the screen.
“If you look really close you can see the flash,” said Gralla softly. “But you have to really focus.”
“Right,” said Alice, squinting her eyes a little bit as she focused, keen to see what Gralla was talking about. As she pulled the trigger the screen flashed for a moment.
“Now sometimes the game will flash a few different things to get more information about the shot,” smiled Gralla as she continued to play, her voice growing slowly quieter.
Alice continued to shoot as she leaned closer to the screen in an attempt to try and make out the stuff that Gralla was talking about.
“Really good players actually ignore the graphics,” purred Gralla. “They just look at the shape that appears during the flash, as it lets them see where the hitbox is”.
“Right,” nodded Alice, squinting more as she looked at the flashing screen, trying to make out the white shapes with any degree of accuracy. The flash was only for a fraction of a second, if she wasn’t specifically looking for it Alice wouldn’t have even realized it was a thing.
The girls continued to shoot as more and more figures started to jump out. Gralla hadn’t been lying when she said the game got hard quickly, it seemed like this game was designed to separate people from their money.
As “hold” appeared on the screen once more Alice and Gralla took a breath, using the cutscene as a chance to relax for a few seconds. The girls on screen walked from the cityscape into a parking lot full of cars and flaming barrels.
“Rich area,” giggled Alice. “Who pays to park their flaming barrels?”
“I just keep mine in the wardrobe,” nodded Gralla. “This is where the difficulty really spikes,” she added as people started to jump out and shoot.
Gralla and Alice started to move the guns around, furiously pulling the triggers to try and keep up with the sheer amount of people on screen. Gralla shot at a crate, only for someone to jump up and instantly falls over.
“Wait, you shot them before they appeared?” Gasped Alice. “How did you do that?”
“Watching for the white shapes,” replied Gralla. “Sometimes the game spawns in a hitbox before the graphic for the person is on-screen. If you watch closely you will see their outline during the flash.”
“Right,” nodded Alice, trying to focus harder on the flash. It was very hard to maintain her focus, she had to really stare to even catch a hint of the shapes that appeared on the screen.
“Try and look through the screen,” cooed Gralla. “Look through the screen, not at it. It is like those old magic eye pictures. Relax your eyes, and just look through the screen, it makes it so much easier to spot the outlines.”
Alice nodded and followed Gralla’s advice. Trying her best to relax the muscles in her eyes so she could look through the screen. Truth be told she had never really had any luck with magic eye pictures, but she was willing to try if it helped her do better at the game.
More and more people jumped out from behind various objects. Each time Alice pulled the trigger she got slightly better at spotting the white shapes in the flash.
“Just allow your reactions to take over, just let your body react naturally, just zone out, let the flashes wash over you,” continued Gralla, her voice dropping into a low melodic purr.
Maybe it was the time, or the alcohol or just her being worn out from her earlier nerves, but Alice didn’t pick up anything weird about Gralla’s tone. She just continued to shoot people as they popped out, doing her best to look for the white shapes.
“Just let the flash guide your eyes,” continued Gralla, her voice becoming more of a soft coo. “The less you think the easier it becomes to target correctly, just let the flash push all the thoughts out of your mind,” she continued, watching as Alice continued to shoot, her eyes glazing over as she did.
Alice started to zone out, the world dropping away until there was just the screen. Even the game’s graphics started to lose meaning, all she was focusing on was the white shapes that formed during the flashes.
“This is the best I’ve ever done at this game,” smiled Gralla, watching as a small smile came to Alice’s lips. “Just keep going, just let it happen and we’ll win so easily,” purred Gralla.
Alice didn’t even respond to Gralla’s words, she was just too focused on the flashes. It was growing easier and easier to see the white shapes, almost as if time was stretching out, each second becoming an hour.
She continued to focus, shooting several people before they appeared on the screen. They were making great progress in the game, the backdrop moving from a parking garage to an office as more people continued to appear
“We’re doing so well,” said Gralla once more, watching as the light from the machine danced across Alice’s glazed eyes. “Just keep focused and keep calm, just watch the flashes,” she whispered.
“Okay,” mumbled Alice, totally focused on the game and her shots. Despite all the chaos on the screen Alice felt very relaxed, only moving to change her aim, every other limb was totally limp.
“And the focus is easy to maintain,” purred Gralla. “You can just focus on the white shapes, block out everything else. Just reacting, no need to think, just react.” Explained Gralla, her voice slow and rhythmic.
Alice continued to gaze at the screen, her mind perfectly at rest as she moved from shape to shape, not really caring about what they were meant to represent. Gralla’s voice flowed into Alice’s mind without Alice really needing to worry about what she was saying.
Gralla continued to softly coo as she waited for her moment. She felt nervous and uneasy, doing this was usually so simple but this time it felt odd. It felt wrong. Gralla pushed the thoughts out of her mind as she kept her eyes on the screen.
The girls made their way through the office. As they reached the end of the cubicles the world “hold” appeared on screen once more as the game started to dump exposition.
“And hold means stop,” said Gralla firmly. “Everything must stop. No shapes, no flashes. Everything must stop. You stop and the game stops, everything comes to a total halt. No flashing means no input and no input means sleep. You have no input when you are sleeping, so if there is no input you must be sleeping.”
Alice wobbled a little as Gralla’s worlds pushed into her mind, her logic made so much sense. This whole evening had felt like a dream, having a girl as pretty and as clever as Gralla spend time with her could only happen in a dream, she must be asleep, this whole thing was too perfect for the waking world.
Alice felt her eyes start to flutter, she hadn’t realized how heavy and tired they had become, her vision was blurring and her eyes were watering. The screen was becoming hazy as her mind started to fall into a deep sleep.
“Yes, just let it happen,” smiled Gralla, quickly moving behind Alice to catch her. “Just sleep, let your dreams wash over you, you’ve done so well, but the game told you to hold, so everything must hold,” she continued to purr as Alice went limp in her arms.
Alice’s mind continued to fall into the velvety embrace of the darkness. The warmth of Gralla’s body acting like a warm blanket around her as she continued to descend. She was asleep and dreaming, and it felt so wonderful.
Gralla gently guided Alice to the floor, rubbing her hair as she did. She looked so peaceful and even cuter than normal. “That’s it, and you might realize that if you are asleep, you can’t question, you can’t question in your sleep,” continued Gralla. “Just enjoy the calm.”
Alice lay limp on the floor, warm waves of relaxation washing over her body as the world faded to a small pinprick of light that was thousands and thousands of miles away.
“Now, listen closely,” started Gralla before stopping. She looked over Alice’s body and sighed. She clenched her hands into tight balls as she took a few deep breaths, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “I can’t do this, not to you.”
Anastasia pulled up in front of the motel, it was miles away from anywhere and the perfect place to work without being bothered. She wandered to the front desk and rented a room, trying to block out the overwhelming smell of disinfectant.
She quickly unloaded the documents into the room before fetching two bags from her car. Anastasia quickly locked the door behind her and closed the curtains. Once she was sure the room was safe she pulled out the lockbox and giggled to herself. “Time to find out what secrets you hold.”
Anastasia opened up the one bag and fished out a crowbar, pulling the price sticker off it as she did. She quickly started to attack the small box, doing all she could to break it open.
For hours the room was filled with the sound of metal hitting metal as Anastasia laid into the lockbox, determined to extract its contents whatever the cost.
Suddenly, there was a loud crunching noise as the box gave in to the continued attack, the lid breaking open and revealing the paperwork inside. Anastasia dropped the crowbar and smiled to herself. “Perfect!” She shouted before she started to pant. “I need a drink.”
Anastasia reached into the bag and pulled out the bottle of soda she had bought at the hardware store and twisted it open before chugging half the bottle in one go. Once she was refreshed Anastasia sat on the bed and started to look through the contents of the box.
This box was packed full of letters, some were on official letterheads while the others were handwritten. Anastasia pulled out the most official looking letter and started to read.
It was a letter from Myra’s university, detailing how they were going to have to shut her experiment down due to ethics worries. How they couldn’t allow her to embed “certain things” into innocent looking technology.
Anastasia nodded to herself, this perfectly fit the alien. In fact, this explained so much. The alien was so good at psychology because it had planned this all out before it took on its human form. The schooling was merely a front so it could try and take control of innocent humans.
Anastasia continued to flip through the letters, finding all sorts of correspondence between Myra and her teachers, debating in vague terms if she should be allowed to continue her experiment. Every time her teachers refused to allow it.
Only one letter deviated from this topic. It was a purchase order from a “White Circle PMC” giving Myra a few hundred thousand dollars in exchange for what the order described as “recreational AV equipment.”
Anastasia grinned to herself. This was the smoking gun she needed to prove something was going on. Not only was the alien controlling people, the government was buying this technology to suppress the masses! Now all Anastasia needed to do was get the information out there!
Alice blinked and yawned as she opened her eyes, the gentle sound of rain echoing around the room. She reached out to grab her phone, only to not feel her bedside table.
Alice sat up as her brain kicked into high gear. She opened her eyes and looked around, only to realize that she wasn’t in her own bed. She was in Gralla’s bed. Then it hit her, she hadn’t gone home last night, the last thing she could remember was playing a game with Gralla.
Alice climbed out of the bed and started to walk into the living room. “Gralla?”
“Oh you’re awake,” came Gralla’s cheery reply. Alice spotted Gralla walking out of the kitchen, a cup of coffee in her hand. “How is your head?”
Alice blinked as Gralla passed her the cup. She turned to sit on the couch, only to realize it was covered in pillows and sheets. “I feel okay,” she mumbled. “What happened last night?”
“Oh, let me move those,” smiled Gralla, quickly picking up the sheets and the pillows and throwing them into the bedroom. “I think you had a little too much to drink. We were playing Police Crisis, you sat down for a minute and the next thing I knew you were sound asleep.”
“I was?” Replied Alice, taking a sip of the coffee. “It is pretty hazy.”
“Yeah, it was cute,” giggled Gralla. “I put you into the bed to sleep it off.”
“Oh, you didn’t sleep out here?” Gasped Alice, realizing why the sheets and pillows were on the couch.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate to share the bed with you without asking first. It’s fine, not the first time I’ve slept on this couch,” smiled Gralla, sitting down next to Alice with a cup of her own.
“Silly,” giggled Alice, resting her head on Gralla’s shoulder. “Last night was wonderful.”
“I loved it,” said Gralla, gently running her fingers through Alice’s hair.
Alice relaxed against Gralla, the sound of the rain against the window making everything seem warm, cozy and romantic.
Alice and Gralla lay like that for hours, holding and gently touching each other, enjoying each other’s company and each other’s bodies.
“What time is it?” Blinked Alice, looking up at Gralla. Gralla picked up her phone and opened it up.
“Crap!” Shouted Alice, sitting bolt upright. “I promised to meet Kim this afternoon. “I’m sorry I’ve got to go!” She said as she bounced off the couch, quickly trying to put her clothes back on.
“Oh don’t worry about it,” giggled Gralla. “But it is pouring down with rain, let me give you a ride.”
“I’ll be okay,” smiled Alice. “I need to get stuff on the way!”
“Well, at least take my coat, it will keep your lovely dress dry,” smiled Gralla, pulling her neon jacket off of a chair.
“But don’t you need this?” Asked Alice, looking at it with wide eyes.
“I’ve got a few of them, no big deal,” smiled Gralla.
“Okay! Thanks,” grinned Alice, putting her arms into the coat and running out of the door.
Alice dashed through the city, quickly dropping into a bakery to buy whatever doughnuts they had available before moving onto Kim’s apartment.
Kim opened the door, only to instantly fall into giggles when she saw that Alice was dripping wet. “Still raining then.”
“It is a torrent,” sighed Alice, shaking her head as she wandered inside.
“But I’m glad last night went well,” added Kim, grabbing a spare bath towel and throwing it at Alice. “Use this before you make puddles everywhere.”
Alice caught the towel and blinked at Kim. “How do you know last night went well?”
“You’re wearing her coat.” Chuckled Kim.
“Oh right,” smiled Alice, using the towel to cover the redness of her cheeks. “Last night was nice, yeah,” she mumbled through the towel.
“Well, that’s surprising, despite the box being sodden these doughnuts are in perfect condition!” Beamed Kim as she put the doughnuts onto a plate before moving the plate over to the table.
Alice took the coat off and hung it up on a peg before she put the towel back in the bathroom. She then made her way over to the couch to join Kim.
“Last night must have been a lot of fun,” winked Kim. “Didn’t even get chance to change, lucky girl.”
“I am lucky,” blushed Alice, sitting down next to Kim. “Anyway, where were we with this?”
“Didn’t we end with Maria pledging her love to the Bandit Queen?” Replied Kim, tapping her finger on her chin.
“We did!” Nodded Alice. “So that was episode nineteen?”
“Twenty actually,” smiled Kim, pressing a few buttons on the TV remote. Alice and Kim settled back and started to watch the show, making jokes the whole time.
As the episode ended Kim rose from the couch. “I need to use the little girl’s room,” she said as she dashed across the apartment.
“Okay,” grinned Alice. “I should actually check my messages, I’ve not done that all day,” she said as she grabbed Gralla’s jacket and brought it back to the couch.
Alice started to rifle through the pockets, she had shoved everything into the coat very quickly and thus was very unsure where her phone was.
Kim came out of the bathroom and chuckled. “Trying to find information on your date?”
“No!” replied Alice. “I’m trying to find my phone, I sort of left in a rush.” She said as she felt something in the inside pocket. Alice pulled her hand out, only to find she was holding a small black box with a button on it. “What’s this?” Asked Alice.
“I don’t know,” said Kim with a shrug.
Alice’s curiosity got the better of her. She pressed the button on the box, only to jump as a little chirp rang out of the box.
Kim stiffened and let out a little moan as the desire to get a high score washed over her body. Alice turned and tilted her head at Kim.
“Kim? You okay?” She asked gently.
“I want the high score,” moaned Kim. “Will do anything for the high score.”
“Okay?” Replied Alice. “What brought that on?”
“I need points,” mumbled Kim again, visibly squirming in her chair.
“Okay Kim, this isn’t funny, stop please?” Said Alice, getting slightly freaked out by how Kim was acting.
Kim suddenly stiffened before relaxing back into the couch. She turned to look at Alice. “What are you looking at? Is there sugar on my face?”
“No,” replied Alice, shaking her head. “Um, have you been feeling okay recently?”
“I’ve been feeling fine, why did you ask? Is something bugging you?” Asked Kim.
Alice pressed the button again, letting the small chirp ring out once more. Kim stiffened again, letting out another low moan.
“I want the high score,” mumbled Kim.
Alice leaned closer to Kim, waving her hand in front of her face. Kim didn’t react at all. “Kim, can you hear me?” Asked Alice softly.
“I can hear you, Alice,” said Kim in a soft monotone.
“What is going on?”
“I want the high score,” responded Kim, panting and squirming on the couch.
“Yes, but what does that mean?” Sighed Alice, very confused about this whole situation.
“Points are good, the more points I have the better I feel, I will do anything to earn points,” said Kim, her speech becoming almost a chant, her eyes staring off into infinity.
“How do you get points?” Asked Alice, still unsure if Kim was messing with her.
“Doing what Gralla says. Gralla must be obeyed.” Said Kim firmly.
Alice blinked. Gralla? But why would Kim want to obey Gralla? Questions ran through her head only for her mind to grind to a halt as she came to a sudden and sickening conclusion.
Kim hadn’t been acting like herself recently. To be more specific she hadn’t been acting like herself since they first went to Blissoplis. First, she was hanging up on Alice at random and then she was randomly trying to set her up on dates. Neither was usual for Kim.
And if that was true, then was that woman correct? Was Gralla really messing with peoples’ minds? Alice shook her head. The idea seemed crazy, but she couldn’t deny that strange things seemed to orbit around Gralla.
Part of her wanted to ignore it, unable to comprehend that someone as sweet as Gralla could do such underhanded things. But Alice pushed those thoughts down. Crush or not, she couldn’t allow something like this to happen right under her nose.
“Kim,” said Alice, her voice shaking. “Explain what you have to do for Gralla.”
“If asked I will do whatever I can to sell Gralla as a good person, the kind of person Alice would want to date.” Replied Kim.
Alice’s mouth fell open. She was in shock, she couldn’t believe that she had been played like this, that Gralla had used one of her best friends against her.
“I am to go to Blissoplis whenever I am called with the phrase “Do you want the high score?” Unless I am with Alice, in which case I am to be polite and make an excuse to cover for me leaving.” Continued Kim, totally oblivious to the horror on Alice’s face.
“But you will do what I say, right?” Asked Alice, “if it will make me like Gralla more?”
“Yes,” said Kim.
“The next time Gralla sends you that phrase, call me before going. If I get to see you and Gralla together I will find Gralla so much more datable.” Explained Alice, her voice wavering as she spoke, a tornado of emotions spinning inside her.
“Yes, of course,” nodded Kim.
“Good, now snap out of it,” sighed Alice, watching as Kim relaxed back into the couch.
“What’s up?” Asked Kim, confused by the sadness on Alice’s face.
“Nothing, just the romance in the last episode got to me,” replied Alice, doing her best to fight back the tears.
“Oh, you are such a romantic!” Giggled Kim. “Well we’ve got three more episodes to watch, so buckle in!”
“Yeah, such a romantic,” mumbled Alice as she sank into the couch, heartbroken.