But, power does that to people.
It’s somewhat similar to the power to “mess with people” that huge gaming companies sometimes do to their player, throwing curves, delays, and giant changes into play, without explanation. But, I digress…kinda…
Again, A Warning… This Chapter is DEFINITELY RATED M for Mature Audiences. PG has been thrown to the wind…
As Jeanene’s eyes opened from a fitful slumber, she realized that she was still cloaked in almost total darkness. The slit of light emanating from under the door was just enough to illuminate faint outlines of books, stacks of office supplies, and boxes of unused “Wite-Out.” In an instant, her heart was racing with the realization that she was still in the utility closet at the far end of her office as EPPP at EA headquarters. But more important, she was still bound to the fancy Aeron Herman Miller office chair that she had unmercifully connived away from the four other EPPs before her. Several strips of duct tape were not only pinching the flesh of her hands and arms, but were also undoubtedly completely ruining the sheer blouse she had been wearing under the Eileen Fisher business suit she had bought from Nordstom to celebrate her promotion.
Trying once again to scream, she realized that “The Voice,” (now more than just an accomplice and mentor on the phone, and very much a real person in flesh, blood, and intention) had been careful to tie the Diane von Furstenburg silk scarf that had completed her ensemble days ago, around her mouth and neck firmly. Furthermore, she knew that the personal supply closet, in which she now sat, was well beyond hearing distance from the outer offices and anyone who might come close enough to rescue her. But she had to try…
“MMMMFFFFFRRRRMMRM!!!” was all that she could manage.
“What have I done to deserve this?” she thought to herself, tears welling up in her eyes. But of course in the very next instant, she knew exactly why she was here, and what she had done to deserve her plight.
Jeanene had worked her plan of revenge almost flawlessly. From the first time that she had heard “The Voice” on the other end of the flip phone she had found on her desk a few months back, she knew that her fate relied on her ability to move her plan forward, while keeping “The Voice” placated. She knew that while “The Voice” wasn’t an employee of EA, it was clear that he had some sort of insider information on the company that had both impressed her, as well as kept her from being completely open during their brief but frequent conversations. She was trusted, but she trusted nobody else…even the one person who had made her rise up the corporate ladder possible.
She knew her problems had come from “going rogue” as it were, while getting her revenge on both Ted (her original target) and then Arnold (someone who had the sad misfortune of misjudging and underestimating her abilities). But in both cases, it had come at the expense of TSTO integrity and longevity. However, she had been able to convince “The Voice” that both had acted on their own, and had ignored her advice and counsel as to pricing, and flow of Premium Items.
But, like so many others who are placed into power positions, hubris and overconfidence had won over common sense and “leaving well enough alone,” (or in this case, WHell enough alone), and she had finally found herself literally tied to the results of her actions.
“The Voice” had made it clear that any TSTO updates that included gambling elements (especially those which were clearly rigged to the “house” by computer algorithms), were patently abhorred by most players. It had started with Christmas, continued with Valentines (which had facilitated the easy removal of Arnold in its wake), and should have stopped there. In fact, “The Voice” had received Jeanene’s personal promise that any further use of “WHell, or WHell-like updates” would forever be purged from future planning.
The ramifications of player displeasure, especially in the light of the release of a competitive “Free” game, The Family Guy Quest for Stuff had taken a huge chunk out of active players, and bottom line revenues. It just made sense to be prudent, “The Voice” had explained, and that it was time to return to some sort of game strategy that was fair, robust with Simpsons’ creativity, and fun.
But, Jeanene had found herself once again being “jerked around,” by EA management. Yes…she had been given Arnold’s office and title. Yes, she had been able to redecorate it “on the company dime” with rich, professional office furniture and a huge array of exotic potted plants. But, they had been remiss in getting her raise “run up the flag pole,” and offering her a stock options package commensurate with her new Executive position. This had enraged Jeanene. And as they would learn, an enraged Jeanene is not prone to rational choices.
Knowing full well that Accounting didn’t really follow the game, she told them that she had a strategy to boost revenue in a new way, without resorting to a “WHell of Chance.” She convinced Programming, that Accounting had signed off on the methodology of “earned prize levels,” but at exorbitant levels that all but forced players to spend money on donuts to complete, while not as obvious as the WHell in their “gambling protocol.”
But most important, when the Ill-fated Easter update hit, with the worst aspects of “Whacking Day” and the “Christmas Whell” combined, she had been able to convince “The Voice” that Programming had mixed up her requests, and that there wasn’t anything she could do about it!”
At least she thought she had convinced him.
Nobody really knows why she did it. Not even Jeanene. She had reasoned that she didn’t like being “disrespected.” She had reasoned that “they had it coming.” And of course, that all made sense on the surface.
“The Voice” had pleaded with her, that she was not only destroying the game and hurting the company, but she was destroying the pleasure, enjoyment and sense of community that TSTO players experienced. She was patently disregarding the greater good, for her own personal failings.
But, Jeanene didn’t care. She was “over it,” and was taking immense pleasure in how angry and disillusioned players and bloggers who wrote about the game had become. Like the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” she was overcome with her own power to control the lives of those happier than she, in ways that certainly blinded her from a few simple truths.
But, that had all come to an end the night that she had pushed the boundaries too far.
It was a Friday, just before quitting time at EA headquarters. Jeanene called Daniel, her young Personal Assistant into her office. When he came through the door, she took the time to look at his athletic young body, barely hidden by the one Brooks Brothers suit he owned for work, and said, “Pour me a drink, Daniel. And pour yourself one while you’re at it.”
“Uhm…I’m sorry, Miss Broadsmoore. I have plans tonight. I shouldn’t drink,” Daniel said with a withering tone.
“Cancel them. We are going to be working for a while, and I need you to relax,” Jeanene said as she kicked off her stiletto heels and moved closer to Daniel. “Look…have just one drink. It’s the weekend…relax a bit.”
Daniel breathed an audible, deep sigh, and then turned to begin mixing two gin and tonics at the portable bar. He made his drink extremely “light,” hoping to drink it quickly and leave, while not leaving the stench of deceit and alcohol on his breath, to be detected by his girlfriend.
As he began to turn, he felt Jeanene wrap her arms around him, in a way that created a need for a split second decision for him; spill the drinks, or just let her embrace him. He opted for the latter, but ended up spilling the drinks as he jumped in reaction to Jeanene’s hands covering the territory from his chest, past his six-pack abs, and to the buckle of his belt.
“Ah…you spilled…” Jeanene mewed in a deep, sexy tone. “That’s all right…you didn’t get any on me.”
“I’m sorry…I…just can’t…we can’t…I am going to get married soon, and I…”Daniel Stammered.
“But you aren’t yet…and you haven’t experienced what it is like to be taken by a…wait…stop! You can’t go!” Jeanene had urged as Daniel pulled away, and forcefully headed out of the office wordlessly.
Jeanene had found herself standing alone in the middle of her office…the gin and tonics spreading across the rich, expensive carpet, leaving a stain reminiscent of a crime scene.
She hadn’t bothered to clean up the mess. She had instead simply poured herself a fresh drink, a double, and had gulped it down in a few forceful swallows. This was followed by a second, and then a third…until she finally stumbled back to her desk, fourth drink in hand, to sit on her fancy Aeron chair.
She reached for the flip phone in the top desk drawer.
“I’ll call him. He’s always there. He always picks up the phone. He won’t let me down,” she mumbled out loud.
She hit the speed-dial number associated with “The Voice,” striking first the 6 and then the 7 with such force that it left a mark in the forefinger of her right hand.
“Well…I wondered if I would hear from you tonight. It sounds like you have been busy. Daniel told me that you were in a playful mood.” The Voice said in dulcet, smooth tones.
“Oh…I forgot he had a phone too. I forgot that you always keep the EAs in the loop…I mean you did that with me…and well…it was a misunderstanding. I didn’t…well…I am feeling lonely tonight. And I have had a couple of drinks…and I shouldn’t have…”Jeanene stammered as tears began to flow down her face.
“Relax, Jeanene. I’m here for you…take some deep breaths…close your eyes…and just listen to my voice. I’m here. You’re not alone. I’m here…I’m here…I’m here…”
Jeanene closed her eyes…letting her head fall backward…and passed out.
Waking after a brief slumber, Jeanene remembered the voice in her ears sounding more personal, soothing, comforting, and real than ever before. She opened her eyes slowly at first, and then widely as the shock that “The Voice” was indeed there…right next to her…but that she was unable to move.
Something was holding her into her chair, which was now being moved rapidly across the room, toward the door of the storage closet on the far side of her expansive office. Jerking her head around to see who was pushing her chair, she saw a face, cloaked and hidden by what appeared to be a deep purple robe…all but hiding any recognizable features of his face. But…the voice was unmistakable. It was him. She could feel his breath on the top of her head…with each phrase uttered in a low, gentle tone.
“I’m here….I’m here now…we can fix this…relax…I’m here now…”
While time in dark, closed spaces, broken only by food and bathroom breaks in the dead of night has a way of confusing perceptions of time and space…by her best recollection, that had been almost 3 weeks ago. The ritual had been repetitive, and yet somehow comforting. But, since that first night…not a single word was spoken. In the near pitch-black darkness, she had often thought that her mind must be playing tricks on her, as the size and breadth of the cloaked figure seemed to change, sometimes with the cloak dragging on the floor behind her, others with the cloak barely covering the dress shoes that protruded beneath it.
But one question remained, “Why hadn’t anyone come looking for her. How could “The Voice” possibly keep her locked away from hundreds of busy people, not 35 feet away?” And most important, how long would this go on? Was there no end to the penance that she was paying for her misdirected and selfish misdeeds against EA and the greater TSTO community?
Only “The Voice” knew the answer to this question…and “The Voice” wasn’t talking.
To Be Continued…