[ESC] Did It in Two Worlds

edited April 2014 in ESC
You wake up in your own bed. You aren't alone, Beatriz is here. So is Ray, he's lying on your feet.

How was last night for you? You were intimate with Bea, in VR and then later, here. Which did you prefer?

How do you feel this morning? Bea, which is what she asked you to call her, isn't up yet

What do you do?


  • Would you be terribly disappointed if I said VR was better? Don't get me wrong: Bea is a fantastic lover, and I'd do it again IRL in a heartbeat — but sex in the real world is biologically limited. Men can only go once every few minutes, unless you practice a lot, and there are a slew of features in VR that can stimulate parts of the body largely inaccessible during IRL sex... IRL sex is just more personal — it's kind of for people who enjoy being with someone, rather than the act.

    I enjoy being with Bea, but sleeping together? That's more a fantasy... She's a rich, and highly successful VC. I'm a client of her firm. I'm not sure what she wants from me, but it's probably safest to assume it's not to wake up in my bed every morning... I'd be happy to give her a VR headset though.

    The worst part about IRL sex is how messy it gets, so I'm going to let her sleep a while and slip into the shower. I put one of my headsets on top of the pile of clothes she made in the doorway on my way out to the shower, and pat Ray on the head as I pass.
  • The shower is nice. Beatriz doesn't join you. When you come back out, drying off, she's gone, her clothes are gone. So is the headset. She left you a text message on your phone:

    Thanks for last night, Raleigh. I caught a cab. Hope to see you before I fly out. If not, maybe in VR?
  • Yup... That's what I thought. I'm not disappointed.

    I quickly twitch out a reply for her:
    It was my pleasure. You know where to find me!

    Then I quickly get dressed, and go about my morning routine.
  • Walk Ray, head into work, then? Sure, routine is good.

    Jenni greets you at the elevator. She came out to wait for you, since you ended up coming in a little bit late. "Morning, Raleigh. Have a good night?"
  • That's the plan...

    I wave to Jenni, and smile. "As you'd expect. How about you?"
  • Jenni snickers, "I had to let BrokeNL cry on my shoulder. Called it a night early."

    She walks with you into the office. The team is here, already working on bug fixes, tweaking and prepping for the next iteration.

    Any plans for the day?

    Oh and by the way, you get a text from Erin.

    I am free for lunch today! I know, it's like NO NOTICE. But a client canceled. So, you know... You pick, I'll pay!

  • I give Jenni a playful pat on the shoulder, and chuckle to myself. "Thanks for taking one for the team." I plan on spending some time revising the plan for the incoming VC money, specifically for the new GUI employee, and working on an after-action report of the meeting.

    I go around the office saying good-morning, and seeing what people are up to, before finally sitting down at my desk and getting to work. When I spot the text from Erin, I kick my feet up on the table, and twitch out a message:

    Sounds good! There's a new Thai place that opened just down the road I've been meaning to try. Should I get us a table for noon?
  • You get a quick text back.

    That sounds great! Tell me when and where, I'll see ya!
  • I make a quick reservation for two online, and send her the Google map link. Part of me is a little relieved this is just a lunch date, considering my place is kind of a mess from last night, and I don't want Ray thinking we're having visitors all the time... He likes womens' clothes you see.

    Once the location and time is sent, I'll wrap some things up and see if anyone needs me before heading out to lunch.
  • Hitesh asks for some help looking over code. Mindy has some trouble with her software and you end up showing her a few shortcuts.

    Then you're out. What's this Thai place like? Walking distance?
  • I'm glad everything is in order at the office. Hitesh can handle helping Mindy while I'm gone, and Jenni can handle everything else.

    The Thai place is a little family owned deal about a 10 minutes walk away. I'm pretty sure they got in under a landed immigrant initiative, which is cool – and it's ordained with a collection of various traditional Thai decorations. Everyone's dressed in brightly colored silk, and the food smells amazing.
  • The restaurant, named SriPraPhai, is a little busy, since you chose a regular lunchtime. Baraba, the matron of the place, she sees you and greets you warmly, hustling you over to a recently vacated table. She cleans it for you with the cloth from her apron and asks, "Do you want the Thai Chicken Curry again?"

    It's one of their best dishes - Thai Chicken Curry in Coconut Milk:

    Do you order for Erin?

    After a few minutes, you spot Erin. She's wide-eyed, that kind of tourist look where you're trying to see the directions to the place you've never been, but you aren't asking directions again

    She's wearing a nice white blouse and a tweed skirt. She flashes that brilliant smile when she comes into the restaurant sees you. HEre's Erin:

    She hustles over to you.
  • I'm nothing if not a creature of habit — call me a sucker if you want, but I know what I like. "That sounds great Baraba, can I get some of that iced tea, too?" Us small business owners like sticking together... It's all good.

    I sit down and take a few minutes to swipe through some news while I wait for Erin, but when I spot her come through the door, I stash my phone and stand to greet her. "Hey Erin! Wow! You look great!" Which she really does — dressed for success with that smile... I'll take a second to do the obligatory dance before offering her a seat. "I didn't know if you had any allergies or anything, so I didn't order for you — I hope you don't mind."
  • Erin steps up to give you a quick hug, it's unexpected and maybe yeah, a little awkward. She takes a seat across from you, "Oh, no. No allergies, but thank you for thinking of that!" She picks up a menu, looking it over. Talking to you, but looking at the menu, she asks, "Should I get what you have? It smells really good."
  • Awkward, eh? Hmm... That's weird. You'd think she didn't call me awkwardly in the middle of the night to set up a lunch date — or something. I take it in stride — some people subscribe to the european hug greeting thing... I'm used to it. "It's great stuff — probably the best thing on the menu."

    I sit down, and take a sip of my tea, "so how have you been? Life seems to be treating you well enough."
  • edited April 2014
    Yeah, awkward, like she hesitates after committing to the hug, maybe a second-thought about being too forward? Too public? Who knows? Just a little awkward, not like she shirked away or anything.

    "Thank you. I'm good, Raleigh." Erin answers after ordering "what he's having". The tea is very sweet this time, by the way. "I'm doing advanced tutoring for a local academy. Mostly lit, but French, too. I'm sort of a gun-for-hire, but with, you know, textbooks. It pays well, and great bennies, too, so yaaaay." She makes a little "hands slightly up cheer" motion, like "go me".
  • The cheer makes me smile — reminds me of Chem when she'd do a titration right. Kind of odd she thought I was talking about business though. "That's awesome! Congrats! Teaching all the kiddies the classics I take it? Right on. So you ran into my Mom, did you?"
  • Erin nods enthusiastically at the suggestion she's teaching the classics. You ask about her meet with your mom, and she looks up at the ceiling for a second, like "oh man, I'm a stalker", then answers, "Yes. Random grocery store meet-up. Weird, since I only met her the once, when she came to graduation. But she's so sweet."

    The food arrives, and Erin carefully centers the plate, pulls out her spoon and fork and places them "just so" around the dish like it's some weird feng shui or something. Then she continues, not taking a bit. "I asked how you were, we ended up walking around the store together. I just had a basket of some veggies and soy milk, followed her around. She's really proud of you, you know."
  • So she's a fan of the classics. Nice. I'll have to follow up on that. I watch her knoll her cutlery for a second, being the sucker for aesthetics that I am, and listen to her recount the story of how she met my mother... Sort of... I blush and bow my head when she talks about Mom being proud of me, shrugging it off. "That's what moms are for, I guess... She's always been good to me. Don't beat yourself up about this, by the way — this is a no-judgement zone, and my Mom's got a thing for setting me up with smart, attractive ladies. I'm here to have fun."
  • You call her smart and attractive and it's her turn to blush, which she does, looking down at her plate, turning it just so. At the mention of fun, she looks back up, her smile returning. "Fun it is. We have a deal, Raleigh."

    She finally takes a bite, then makes an animated face of joy, "Mmmn!" She swallows, then dabs at her mouth with a napkin. "Wow, Raleigh. This is great! I tried cooking this dish, but the mix of curry and milk didn't come out this great!" She nibbles a few more bites, really enjoying the food.
  • I smile and follow her lead when she starts eating. I love spicy foods, so this is a walk in the park for me — so flavorful and aromatic! When she comes up for air, I nod in agreement, "I don't have a lot of time to cook, and when I do I usually just end up sharing it with my dog Ray, but I'm sure whatever you came up with was better than what I could do. Do you cook a lot?"
  • Erin nods, finishing a bit of the chicken.. She picks up the napkin, wiping at her mouth, and nose, too. Seems like the spice got to her a bit, but she's not coughing or anything. She swallows some tea, nods in appreciation and answers, "I love cooking. I had to buy one of those seal thingies for my iPad because I found so many recipes and I just loved using it on a little stand right by the stove. It's great." She takes another drink, like maybe she gushed a little much.

    Then, "What about you? Do you cook? Or like... do you, I dunno have a cook?" She grins, it's a joke.
  • I nod along enthusiastically when she explains her love for cooking. Why's she so self-conscious? Is this tied into why she hides her social profile? She's big on cleanliness too... What's that about?

    I wave my hand modestly in a "so-so" gesture when she asks if I cook, and smirk when she implies I "have a cook" — as if small business owners are rich enough to have cooks. "Would it disappoint you if I said there's a void in my life where a chef should be? I've been the subject of a few interviews that paint me to be richer than I actually am. I can cook, for the record — I've taken a class or two online — but I'm a big foodie, so I like going out to places and seeing what other people dream up." One of the perks of owning a $5M company, I guess — eating out is easy to budget for.

    I finish up some rice, "what else do you do for fun?"
  • She grins at the void in your life comment, even laughs a little. "A class or two? Well, you're ahead of me. I graduated from the school of hard woks." She grins at her pun, not like she puns all the time, maybe that one has some meaning to her.

    "What else for fun?" she asks, buying herself time. You can practically hear her sifting through her life trying to figure out a good answer. "Is spinning fun? Reading of course. I have a well-worn Kindle. What, uhm, what about you?"
  • Heh. Hard Woks — that was clever! I grin and chuckle lightly as she turtles on the details there, and then carefully starts scanning her life for whatever is a good answer. Is she trying to play it safe? What's going on here?

    I lean back in my chair when she asks me what I like doing, "a bunch of stuff... I'm an avid member of the VR community, and a culture buff — food, movies, reading... I occasionally travel when our old colleagues hit major milestones — I saw Emma a few months ago, with her farm, and got myself a dog... So that, my dog, and my work eat up a lot of my time."
  • Erin listens, but there's something she seems to have missed. She cocks her head, "The VR community? There's a community? Like a chatroom with people in it and stuff?"

    But then you mention Emma, and her mouth hangs open for a second (no food in it, of course). "Emma! Oh wow. I haven't seen her in years. A farm? Where? And you went to see her for a milestone? Like what?"
  • ... Ok, so Erin doesn't know about the VR community — that's not unheard of, but that's kind of surprising. I'm about to explain it all when she breaks off about Emma, "Oh... Well... She got married, and they just bought their farm together. He's a nice guy, and the place is pretty fantastic — it's out in the Okanagan valley, and they've got a good little business going for themselves. I drive out from time to time. It's quiet out there — private."
  • Erin nods along, interested in hearing about Emma. "I need to friend her again, dangit. Does she have pics up of the lucky hubby? She's so sweet."

    The meal seems to breeze along. Erin eats maybe half her plate, but it's obvious she enjoys every bite. Any work-related stuff you share? She talks about re-reading Pygmalion, enjoying it immensely.
  • Friend her again? Did they have some sort of falling out? "Yeah, they've got a bunch of pics... Here!" I take my phone out and show her a few pics of the time I spent out at the farm from my public profile... If she asks, I'll give her the public-friendly overview of our new product, and all the work we've been up to. I've never read the Pygmalion, but I'm happy to get her sale's pitch on it.

    Eventually, when the meal is dying down, I ask, "so do you have a public profile? It'd be good to keep in touch... Maybe do this again some time."
  • Erin hesitates. her smile falters, and then she answers while looking at your chest, "Uhm, well... yes, sort of. It's totally not first lunch territory, though."

    She looks up, frowns a little, "I'm sorry. It's... it's, uhm, baggage."
  • My head cocks unintentionally, and I lower my voice sympathetically. "Baggage? Is everything alright?"
  • Erin nods, "Yeah. I'm great. Just... history. Old relationship baggage. I'm okay. Seriously." She offers a smile, trying to reassure you with sincerity.
  • Hmm... Part of me wants to do a little prying into this baggage of hers — but it's none of my business at the moment. I smile warmly and nod, "Sure, no problem. I happen to be a pretty big proponent for online privacy — so if ever you have any problems, you just let me know... OK?"

    I take another sip of my tea, and add, "I'd sit through a few more lunches just like this regardless, mind you — your company is enough of a carrot for me!"
  • Erin smiles bashfully, but answers, "Okay. Well... maybe next time I have you over for dinner?" She swallows, like maybe she wasn't sure she'd actually say that out loud. But yeah, she did. "I can't really brag about cooking if I don't put my money where my... well, my food where, uhm. Your mouth is?" She huffs a nervous laugh, "This sounded soooo much better in my head."
  • I'm chuckling softly as she tries to salvage the metaphor, and I nod reassuringly. "That sounds awesome. Let me know what to bring for drinks, and I'll be there with bells on."
  • She nods, figuring the talking bit didn't go too well and you did say yes, so why push it. Baraba arrives with the check, which she quickly snags, and slips a credit card down after giving it a quick glance. Baraba takes the card to ring her up.

    "Do you need a ride back to... to work?" Erin asks helpfully.
  • A ride? "Sure! I'm not far — so I won't drag you too far off course, I hope."
  • Baraba brings Erin's card back, and the slip, which she signs. She looks up, then away as she stands, saying, "I bet you're not so far off course, Raleigh." Then she's heading out, not making eye contact, but there's this nervous energy.

    She walks with you a half block to her little Mini Cooper. It's a royal blue, in really nice shape. She pushes the button on her keychain, it chirps and the doors unlock.

    "Hop in!" Erin calls as she opens her door and gets in. The interior is damn near spotless, she has a shoulder bag and a gym bag in the tiny backseat. She starts up the car, it purrs to life, and the radio comes blasting on, some pop song. She quickly turns it down, pauses, then turns it off. "Sorry."
  • I'm trying my best to counter her nervous energy with a little bit of nonchalance — but I'm beginning to get a little concerned by her demeanor. It's a far cry from the cheerful young lady I remember from chem back in university — she needs to smile more.

    I'm impressed that she's driving a Mini Cooper — they're neat little cars. I hop in the car after her, and smirk when the radio comes blaring on. "You must think I'm some kind of monster," I tease, looking at her with a big grin, "to think I'd think less of you for listening to music loudly in your own car."
  • She pulls the car out slowly, "What? Oh, well, it's just vanilla pop." She gets in traffic, starts heading to your work after you give her a direction. "What kind of music are you listening to now?"
  • I list off a few bands and artists that have my attention lately. "I could send you my playlists if you're interested — in exchange for a few good book recommendations."
  • That gets her grinning again, genuine and big. Infectious. "Deal, Raleigh. Prepare to have you mind blown. And no cheating and audio-booking it. The classics deserve only the voice in your own mind, you know?"

    All too soon, she's pulling up to your building. The ride, and the impromptu date, is over. She pulls over, puts the car in park, waits for you. To get out, or keep talking, hard to tell which way for sure.
  • I hold a hand up to my chest, "scout's honor!" Then she pulls up to my building, and I pause as I try to figure out whether she wants me in our out... Seems like both. I compromise. "Well thanks for lunch Erin! This was fantastic. Next time you call, aim for my waking hours — I'll be sure to pick up this time."
  • Erin's grin doesn't falter, she even giggles, "Good notes, Raleigh. I'll test that theory for its veracity... thanks for meeting me. Now I won't die of embarrassment." After you step out of the Mini Cooper, she drives off with a wave.

    You head inside, take the elevator up and return to work, I assume. Jenni and Greg offer friendly waves. Mindy is typing with her tongue slightly out, which means she's stressed. Hitesh is working out something on paper again. Another day at the office.

    Beatriz has already secured VC funding for the new employee. You're good to start the hiring process ASAP. How are you handling that? Through a recruiter, reaching out to a network, what?

    You finish off the meeting post mortem report that you began in the morning and then it's just a review of today's progress.

    You realize the day is technically done when you look up to see Greg and Mindy are gone. Jenni's working on a new set of ads while Hitesh is revising some coding so it will process faster.
  • I wave back to Erin as she drives away, and turn back to the office when she's out of sight. I'm happy to see everyone working away at stuff – though Mindy stresses about her work too easily ... Junior programmers tend to do that. I send Beatriz a quick thank you note for getting that funding locked down so quickly – and put feelers out in the government job database, as well as some of my old university buddies for any prospective hires...

    When the day starts winding down I come out of my office, and take a seat at the main work table to chat for a while, and pet Ray. I don't mean to stay too late, since I'd like to hit the Usenet's tonight.
  • edited April 2014
    Ray pushes his head up to your hand, wagging his tail happily. Hitesh talks shop about some transcoding mess that he found from some archived files. It was handled by an intern who didn't work out. Who was that? What did they screw up?

    Jenni orders some Chinese delivery for Hitesh and herself, asking you, "Raleigh, do you want anything?" She's asking if you're leaving soon, a gentle reminder. If you get food, you have to stay, but if you beg off, you could get home, eat whatever then hop on Usenets.
  • That was Qing, oddly enough — the guy I mentioned two days ago about integrating his headset into our old software. He got his start here, but it wasn't a good fit — he just didn't have the skills we were looking for at the time. Not to say he wasn't successful elsewhere... I just had to convince him to quit. I think he's all the happier for it, frankly. It looks like he botched a bunch of bitwise operations for our communications protocol. Good thing Hitesh caught that.

    I shake my head when Jenni asks if I want some food, "I'm good thanks. I'm going to get a sandwich on the way home. What time are you working until, Jenni? Are you going to hit the mark this time?"
  • Jenni shakes her head, a bit of a shamed grin on her face, "Not this time, no. I'm getting quotes from some tech recruiters and local schools, plus I'm attending a sweet seminar slash tutorial on graphic design, because I want to do a new treatment on the logo and letterhead. I'll be gone by eight, and I'll drag Hitesh out with me. Promise."
  • I nod along, knowing full well I'll probably get an email later on in the evening... Jenni's a fantastic worker. "Don't work too hard." Then I whistle for Ray to come along, and wave to the pair as I make my way to the door.
  • The trip home is nice, weather perfectly warm without being hot, a bit of a breeze. You arrive home with whatever sandwich you picked up.

    Anything you do before hopping on Usenets?

    What are the Usenets like?
  • Once Ray's good and tired I'm just going to hop on my headset and find out what the community's up to. Think of usenets like private internet servers — you need to have a way to connect to the usenet manually, like an IP address, or a phone-line. Ours use IPv6 and existing wireless communication structures to keep things secret, and we have multi-tiered authenticaiton, all protected by cryptography.

    It's kind of like a gated community, but for VR rooms.
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