Strawberry FieldMature

Halfway around the world, another adolescent had also been eating fries.  His had been abandoned some time ago, many of them standing on end, forming a Stonehenge of potato in a field of mayonnaise.

Even here, a continent away, the fries were still bland and uninteresting, because he was not concerned with them either.

Time zones.  Camlo cursed them with every ounce of his being.  The bay of St. Tropez, strangely glass-smooth and a brilliant, jewelled blue, was metres away.  The beach before him was pristine, and even the fact that the afternoon sun was beginning to dwindle away couldn’t keep the sunbathers off of the sand.

He was sitting under an awning thatched with palm fronds, sipping from a can of Stella Artois that had long ago become too-warm.  His beer-sipping and occasional adjustments of his fries-and-mayo monolith were all gestures borne of compulsion; he really had no need to drink or fidget.

He really didn’t have any need to be here, either.  Six all-expense paid weeks on the French Riviera, and all Camlo could think about was time zones.

If it’s 4:00 PM here, he mused, then that means

A smile flitted across his striking Mediterranean features, and he stretched his arms wide and yawned.  There had been a definite reason as to why, to the chagrin of the family who had taken him on this extravagant journey, he had maintained a sleeping and waking pattern consistent with his hometown.

He could sleep right here, right in the chaise under the awning of the beach house.  He could sleep right here and go to where he really wanted to be.  Tonight was the night.

~

The world rematerialized around him, but it was no longer the sandy beaches of Port Grimaud that he saw before him.  And he was no longer in his comfortable chaise at Prairies-de-la-Mer.

Thank heaven for interface modifications, he mused as the new surroundings came into focus.  I can go anywhere and still be connected…

The familiar shimmering text before his eyes displayed the familiar countdown to game time, citing Central Standard Time as his current time zone.  The modifications he’d gone to great lengths to acquire, download, and install into his implant were working.

Where he found himself once the login process was complete did not lend itself well to the romantic fantasy that Vagary was supposed to be: he was prone in a muddy field, eyeing the horizon through rows and rows of strawberry plants.  His chain-and-leather armour ensemble felt cold and uncomfortable, but the feel of the crossbow in his hand had the opposite effect.  That much, at least, was something he felt good about.  His weapon, and his goal.

The text that floated in front of his eyes – both the eyes of he and his alter ego, An’arath – told him that the game was mere moments from beginning, and that he was free to send messages to the others on the server.

Camlo did not concern himself with such things.  He came to Vagary to play.  To be An’arath, and to finish this battle.

A beep.

An’arath lifted his head to get a better understanding of his surroundings.  He was not a man of any importance, but he was a man of honour, as were the scores of men who also lay prone in the strawberry fields with their crossbows armed and ready.

The intelligence had shown that Prince Klyneh was bringing a battalion this way.

An’arath grinned a sly grin.

He cannot take this region, Camlo thought.  There are too many of us lying in wait.  Too many of us who want this to end in our favour.  We’re here to beat the AI – we’re here to win.

And win he would.  Camlo was determined like that.

The End

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