As Kass stood in front of G.O.R.N studios, she couldn’t help but feel both underwhelmed and confused. The parking lot was huge. In fact, it seemed like the entire building was only a parking lot. Flanking the building on all sides were parking decks ten and twelve stories high, yet there in the middle of them was a simple, old-fashioned, two-story house with a double-car garage that looked like it had been transplanted straight out of a late 20th-century subdivision. It even had a nice wreath on a giant wooden door and a cute pathway leading up to it. That said, as she stood there dazed and staring at it, several dozen people had already gone in and out of the big door with the wreath on it. In fact, there were so many people going into the building that she started to wonder how they all were able to even fit.
Is this even the right building? She started to wonder as she walked closer to it, double checking her address to make sure she was in the right place. Yep. Looks like the right address, but how come there isn’t a giant skyscraper with G.O.R.N written all over it? Where is the big tag stating it’s the Gamer’s Official Review Network? She nervously walked towards the big door with the wreath hanging on it at the front of the suburban house. I’m going to look like an idiot and be in the wrong place, aren’t I? she was starting to complain to herself when someone else saw her lost expression and offered some help.
“Hey there! Are you lost? Can I help you?” the full-suited man with a ridiculous Looney Toons tie said as he turned to face her.
“Um, yeah. It’s just my first time and . . .” she began, but wasn’t able to even complete the sentence before he interrupted her.
“But you weren’t sure if you were at the right building? No, you’re in the right place. You can follow me in. I’ll take you to the front desk so they can get you sorted and help you out. By the way, name’s Rainer,” the dorky-looking, clean-shaven man said as he stuck out his hand.
“Kass. Um, yeah, nice to meet you,” Kass took his hand and shook it as best she could. He wasn’t handsome or any of the qualities that would normally make her nervous enough to be self-conscious when shaking hands, but there were two key details she quickly noticed that were making her wonder if her palms were going sweaty. One, it was an overly formal setting she just wasn’t used to since she had never gotten to the interview stage for jobs that required suits anywhere near the Armani level. And two, after quickly glancing around, she was becoming painfully aware of the fact she was drastically underdressed compared to every other woman who was walking in or out of the building.
“Likewise. Now, I’m guessing you don’t work here, so I can probably skip the front desk and just take you straight to the intern office. They are the ones in charge of showing around guests and big wigs, so it should be the right place anyways,” he said in a jolly, chipper manner. Kass was kind of surprised to see someone going to work with such a big grin.
“It’s where they take the big wigs to be shown around? Maybe I need to go to the area where they take people who can’t afford wigs, or just to the front desk and see where I need to be.” Kass tried to make light of the difference in formality between herself and the rest of the people. She definitely didn’t want to call unnecessary attention to herself when she was just trying to get in, set up an interview and walk away with enough cash to keep her dad happy for a year so she could keep playing video games.
“Nonsense. My girlfriend Kerrigan is one of the few paid interns, so they always stack her with stupid work. She’d love a break to show someone around. Not to mention, she was really mad earlier when I told her I was coming into work late. So, yeah, she could definitely use the break.”
Kerrigan? He’s dating Kerrigan? His name is Rainer? Crap, I’m the cause of her being angry, aren’t I? “Why was she so upset?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “She said someone had called in and spent a bit of time on the phone making fun of her name. I have no idea why she gets so sensitive about things like that though.”
“Someone called in and made fun of her name? That sounds odd. Kerrigan doesn’t seem like a bad name,” Kass wanted very much to just leave it at that and feign complete ignorance about the subject, but she couldn’t help herself. “I mean, it’s not a super silly name like Tassadar or anything.”
Rainer, unlike Kerrigan, clearly enjoyed the reference and seemed to perk up even more as if his smile could actually get bigger. “Right? You think people would zerg her to compliment her name. Totally surprised she ended up brooding over it.”
Kass almost burst out laughing. This guy is as silly as Darwin, she thought. “Well, at least her boyfriend appreciates her good fortune.”
“Absolutely! Then again, isn’t it the man’s job to appreciate the woman who doesn’t appreciate herself?”
“Eww . . . Should I tell her that you think appreciating her is like a job?”
“What? NO! Don’t do that! Don’t even kid! It took me two months to get out of the dog house the last time I messed up!” He panicked visibly, his face turning so white you could slap a Hellmann’s label over it and pass it off as mayonnaise.
“Really? That bad? Did you kill her cat by accident?” Kass felt relieved as she walked with him into the building. She had gone from nervous to chuckling as soon as she saw him go stiff and white like a giant chalk stick.
“What, no. How would I even do that? Leave it in the oven? Lock it in the freezer? Set it on fire? Toss it in the bath along with a toaster, accidentally, of course?” he kept listing off suggestions as the two went through the big, wooden front door.
Kass awkwardly came to a halt. On the outside, the building had looked exactly like it was from a 1990s subdivision, but on the inside it was entirely different. It wasn’t two stories tall. The whole thing, from where the double car garage should have been on one side to where the master bedroom might have been on the other, was all melded into one giant, empty white room except for a single large white circular desk with two secretaries in the middle. There were also three very large sets of see-through elevators. Each was set on a wall other than the one with the entrance door. The whole thing felt like it was out of a futuristic sci-fi movie and was enough to leave Kass momentarily stunned.
“Kass, relax. I didn’t kill her cat. She doesn’t even own one,” Rainer said, turning around to face Kass, who had gone from a brisk walking pace to a dead crawl as soon as the surroundings shocked her. “All I did was forget a birthday.”
“Oh. Isn’t that a bit cliché?” Kass pulled her head back to earth and quickly walked to catch back up to Rainer. “I always thought the only place men forgot a girl’s birthday was on TV–where that trope belongs. Although, if I had a boyfriend who forgot mine, he’d have to do something big to get out of the dog house after only two months.”
“I didn’t forget her birthday though.”
“I thought you just said you did?”
“I said I forgot a birthday, but it wasn’t hers. It was mine. I forgot all about it and spent the entire night working in the office. I even passed out at my desk. The real kicker to the whole thing though was that the text message I sent her saying that I was going to stay late working didn’t go through. So, when I came home the next day to find out that she had gone the whole nine yards, made me a nice dinner, baked a cake, picked out some . . .” Rainer’s eyes glazed over for a moment before he shook his head clear of inappropriate thoughts. “Yeah, she wasn’t happy. Didn’t forgive me until I pulled off something big for Valentine’s Day.”
“Ouch, but you work in the same place. She should have understood how demanding your boss is,” Kass remarked.
“Oh, it’s fine. I’ll put up with the dog house so long as I get to keep my Kerrigan,” Rainer said as they passed by the front desk on their way to the back elevator.
“So, what’s the deal with this place?” Kass wondered aloud as she followed Rainer across the white marble floor. “Why does it look like a normal house on the outside, and it’s just a bunch of elevators, all going down, I guess, on the inside?”
“Ah! That’s a fun little story. You see, this wasn’t actually an office building at the start.” Rainer leaned forward and pushed the elevator call button as he told the story. “The owner, a huge Trekkie, made his fortune without ever leaving his man cave. Since he never left the comfort of his home to spend his allowance, he was able to save all of his money and make a killing on the stock market when he hit 18. By the time he graduated college, he had more money than he knew what to do with, and he decided to start a company. So he started one in his mom’s basement. Then, since his entire life had been spent playing games in his mother’s basement, and being told jokes about how serious gamers are just people who live in their mom’s basement, he decided to just keep expanding his mother’s basement. When he got around to setting up this office, he gave his mother the deed and made the whole thing underground so it could still be called ‘his mom’s basement.’”
“So I’m not really entering an office building. I’m just going downstairs into some dude’s mom’s basement?” Kass clarified as she got into the elevator.
“Yes, but I’m going to have to stop saying mother’s basement. I’m starting to feel like a broken track record,” Rainer chuckled.
“What was that?”
“I said I’m going to have to stop . . . You heard me the first time, didn’t you?”
“Yep,” Kass smiled. It was easier to pull jokes on Rainer than it was to mess with Darwin. He always twisted her words around until the joke was on her.
“Ah, this is us,” Rainer said, holding the door as Kass stepped out of the elevator and into a weird and still overly-white hallway.
“This guy sure has a very specific theme,” she noted.
“Yeah, for some reason every science fiction movie seemed to associate the future with big empty white spaces, so the boss just ran with it.” Rainer’s pace picked up a bit as they approached a room on their left almost immediately after they had gotten out of the elevator. He swiped his card, and the door opened to reveal a bunch of young, college-age people sitting around glass circular tables with their laptops out.
“Hey, Kerrigan! How are you, sweetie?” he shouted loudly to a girl all the way across the room that was stuffing her face with a piece of pepperoni pizza. “I missed you so much! Now, tell me, when does this–how did you describe her–awful, rude, bitchy, loud-mouthed, sassy, sarcastic, spoiled, greedy, little brat show up for the interview about the battle?”
Kass wanted to facepalm. Is that how I came off? All I did was tease Kerrigan about her name. Kass shook her head. The whole time Rainer was repeating Kerrigan’s words, Kass could see Kerrigan gesticulate in a ridiculous fashion, trying to warn him that the person in question was right behind him.
“Huh? Her?” Rainer looked back at Kass for a moment, and then, in an epic failure of communication, totally misunderstood Kerrigan’s hand signals. “Yeah, sorry I forgot to introduce her, she’s Kass. It’s her first time visiting the G.O.R.N compound and she had no idea where to go, so I brought her here. Figured you could have one of the noobs show her around while we wait for the Hydra lady.”
Kerrigan, who had, in a spectacular fashion, managed to swallow the giant bite of pizza she had taken without really chewing, did what Kass had only wanted to do: facepalmed. “Rainer, this is why we always fail at couples charades! That girl next to you is the one you’re going to interview.” She stood up as she fussed at him, brushing off her dress. “Sorry, Kass, I didn’t mean to make such a bad impression. Umm, this guy here is the one in charge of managing the content we put on our shows.”
“No problem. I just have one question though.” Kass looked at the two of them.
“That’s great, how can I be of help? Are you going to need some water for the interview?” Kerrigan offered, doing her best to pretend like she was a hundred percent professional.
“Do I have to construct any additional pylons?” she asked, causing Kerrigan’s face to flush red with anger.
Kerrigan looked like she was about to say something to Kass, then just sighed and looked at her boyfriend. “Rainer, conference room three is open and already set up for you. If you want to do lunch after the interview, I’ll have an hour free to catch a coffee with you while you eat.”
“Sounds great, dear,” Rainer responded then turned to Kass and said, “and, Kass, I think we both know that for humans it’s a supply depot, not a pylon. This way!”
“Hey! Not you too!” Kerrigan called out after them as they left through the door they came in, and Rainer led Kass to a small empty conference room with white boards for walls.
“Yeah, so, sorry about all the insults. You were made out to be some evil demon.” As Rainer sat down at one side of the weird, oval-shaped table, Kass just sat down at the other side.
“Oh, no, it’s okay. I hang around demons all the time,” Kass remarked candidly, but planning to never let him know exactly how honest she was being.
“You do?” He queried, picking up a pen and notebook that Kass hadn’t noticed on the table at the spot he had picked to sit down.
“Yeah, it’s like a whole army of them sometimes,” she kept the private joke going.
“Well, gamers can be pretty savage, so I understand the feeling. Anyways, let’s start off with a few basic questions. For one, do you have a full clip of your experience with the fight? Did you save it all, or have you deleted some of it?”
“No, it’s all saved.”
“Are there any parts you aren’t willing to share with us for airing purposes?”
Kass thought for a minute, How do I say, ‘Parts that would give away Darwin’s secret?’ without actually hinting he even has a secret? “Ah! Parts with dialogue or sections where commands are being issued out.”
Rainer lifted his pen for a moment. He had begun jotting notes down as soon as Kass had opened her mouth. “Well, that’s okay. We understand the desire for privacy with gamers, but that brings us to another important question: Are you the one in charge of the army? Was it lead by you? Did you come up with the winning battle strategy?”
“Well, actually, I’m kind of in charge, and I’m kind of not.” Kass found the question difficult to answer. She had the title of being co-leader, the Lady of the guild, but she hadn’t actually done more than go with Darwin to get the Creation Stone. A fact that, as much as she hated to admit it, didn’t really put her in charge. She had only played off Darwin’s nature to get the title ‘Lady’ to match his title ‘Lord,’ and as soon as she had gotten it, everyone started calling Darwin, ‘The Great Lord Darwin.’
“How does that work?” he asked, staring at her intently and making her feel guilty about the whole situation even more than she had when she first decided to do the interview.
“Well, I’m not the founding leader, but I am technically second in command,” she stumbled across her words.
“I see, and what do you mean exactly by ‘technically’?”
“Hmmm,” Kass was starting to feel really frustrated with the persistence of these detail-oriented questions. With the way Rainer was calmly and methodically digging a little deeper into each thing she said, Kass was beginning to feel like he was a shrink and that she should be lying down on a couch instead. “I guess the best way to put it is that the main leader, the guy you probably saw from some of the other clips in the bathrobe, always seems to put whomever the experts are on a subject in charge. He is a counsel-before-pride kind of leader,” she explained, remembering how everything from getting the Creation Stone to joining the beach battle had been with or at the advice of others.
“I see, and are those experts on a subject part of the guild too?”
“Sometimes,” she answered. If it wasn’t for Stephanie and his sister Eve, she could have just answered ‘yes.’
“Does your group have a title?”
“Oh, yeah! We’re the StormGuard Alliance!” she said proudly. It was weird, but even though she hadn’t been a member for long, the idea of being a part of it did make her pretty proud.
“And does the leader, the guy in the bathrobe, have a name?”
“Yeah, he does, but I’d rather not say. I figure if he wanted the world to know more about him, he would have called you himself,” she dodged answering the question as politely as she could, but as soon as she did, Rainer leaned back in his chair and began writing something quietly, leaving Kass in silence.
“I understand,” he answered after a minute as he lifted his pen again. “Now, a few more simple questions: Can you tell us about the Hydra? Where did you get the Hydra, now dubbed the Dark Hydra, that you rode in on?”
“We acquired it in one of the tunnels we took to get to the harbor faster.”
“Can you tell us how you were able to acquire it?”
“I’m afraid it was the leader who acquired it. He just let me ride it during the battle.”
“I see . . .” he said, aggravating Kass with his therapist voice once again.
“You said earlier that you want to cut all the clips from the fight that involved dialogue or commands. Can we at least get you to walk through the strategy your team used during the live interview? For instance, how, why and what spells you used?”
“Uhh . . .” Kass racked her brain to see if this was a safe zone for information that she could share. “Alright, that seems fair.”
“Good, well, send over the clips and–” Rainer stopped talking when he saw Kass pull out a data storage device from her pocket.
“I’ve got them right here, and I’ve already clipped the dialogue sections. I can email them as well,” Kass said, putting the data device on the table.
“Oh, great.” Rainer stood up and put down the notebook, but not before pulling a fat stack of white papers out of it. “In that case, I’ll just wait on the email, but I can say for certain we definitely want to have an on-air interview with you. I’m going to give you this contract, and if you like everything you see here, just email that file over to us with a signed version of the contract. I’m really looking forward to seeing you in the future and watching your interview.” Rainer had managed to become even more robotic as he talked and handed her the paperwork.
Kass took the contract, looking over it for a minute. How much time away from playing my game is it going to take to read all of this? she griped to herself as she looked back up at Rainer.
“Now, I need to go cool off the girl–she seems mad for some reason–and catch a lunch with her. Do you remember the way out?” he asked as the two of them walked towards the door.
“Yeah, I do. Thanks a lot for showing me around, and I’ll try to forget all the colorful remarks that were made earlier when I do the interview on air.”
Rainer laughed and then clasped his hands together in a pleading motion, “Please do!” he said in an over-exaggerated fashion.
“Alright, see you ‘round,” he said as they started to split directions, and he began walking back towards the interns’ area while she turned to walk to the elevator.
“You too, and one more thing.”
“Kerrigan is a really amazing girl. Be nicer to her next time, will you?”
“No problem. It’s what us spoiled brats are good at.” She flashed her teeth in the most mischievous manner possible and started back towards the elevator with her new contract.
So much to read, so little boat time left to do it, she grumbled. It’s too bad the StormGuard Alliance doesn’t have an NPC lawyer to read this out for me.