The Joke’s On You by Marnie S.

BlogBattle award 1

UPDATE: This is the week 6 “Blonde” #BlogBattle Winner! Congrats, Marnie!

Marnie Schroer is a new friend! She’s not a blogger, but she is a tweeter (@MarnieSpokane) who decided she’d like to join the #BlogBattle! I think Ssenlrak(Karl) finally convinced her. 🙂 Welcome, Marnie. 🙂

Here’s her Twitter Description:

Professional exterior with chewy, nerd inside. Undaunted by basic math, feminism, and public speaking. Susceptible to dogs, scenery, and good-natured snark.

The Joke’s On You

Kyle popped the cap off two bottles of the Wicked Blonde pale ale that they’d bought as a gag and handed one to Cam just as Duncan’s irritated (and irritating thought Kyle) voice crackled over the intercom.

“Turn the intelligence factor up two notches. I told you; the kind of guys who will pay the prices we’re going to charge don’t want a bimbo. How many times do I have to say it? Sexy and sophisticated. That’s our niche. Reboot and let’s run it again.”

“Seriously?” Kyle groaned.”You said that was the last one.”

“Look our Kickstarter goes live on Monday. Everything has to be perfect before then. Reboot it!”

“Dude,” said Cam. “We’ve got plans. With real girls. We’ll reset the scenario but then we’re out of here.”

A stream of swear words blasted from the speaker before Cam flicked it off and began hastily resetting the scenario controls.

“Dude, how are you friends with that jerk?”

Kyle started checking the data for the reboot and took a swig of his beer. “I swear, he used to be a cool guy. This thing has turned him into a nazi.”

“No kidding. Heil Hitler,” said Cam swinging his beer bottle towards the simulation room in mock salute. A small amount splashed out of the bottle. Kyle immediately lunged to protect the circuitry, managing to catch the spill on his shirtsleeve. “Whoa, that was epic, man. I mean you were there and then you we’re here.”

Just then, a lingering drop slipped from the bottom edge of Cam’s bottle and landed directly in the slot for the intelligence control lever which had been knocked all the way to high. An arc of electricity snapped and the panel lights flashed off and back on.

“Holy Mother!” Cam swore, jumping back. They both scrambled to their stations rapidly scanning for damage.

“Come on baby. Come on baby. Be good to Papa.” Kyle pleaded under his breath. “Yes…Yes…YES! THAT’s my honey! If Duncan weren’t in there I’d come in and kiss you!” Turning to Cam, he said, “You lucky SOB, the diagnostics all check out fine. How are the controls?”

Cam looked less enthused. “I’ve reset everything but intelligence. The power surge must have fused the lever. It won’t move.”

Kyle thought for a moment about Duncan’s likely response to this news and found he didn’t have the energy to face his friend’s vitriol just then. “Don’t sweat it. So long as the software’s intact, that’s an easy fix in the morning. Besides,” he chuckled, “D-man wanted it turned up. After all, our clients need sexy…”

“…and sophisticated!” Cam finished in unison with him.

“Hit start and let’s get out of here and get some real action.”

In the simulator room, Duncan was becoming increasingly certain that the idiots in the control room had walked out and left him in the lurch when suddenly he felt the familiar starting vibration. Pretty soon he could hear the clink of glassware and smell the mixed aroma of warm wax and bourbon.

A few minutes later…

“It’s not funny,” she protested.

“How do you know it’s not funny; you haven’t even heard the punchline.”

Duncan scrutinized her with a critical eye but could find no flaws in his work. There was a subtle undercurrent of amusement but no disapproval in her tone. Her expression remained warm and engaged. Duncan thought her voice had a slightly deeper, honeyed quality this time and made a mental note to ask Kyle if he and Cam had made changes to any settings other than intelligence. Her pale skin set off the flush in her cheeks and her pink-glossed lips. The slightly juvenile gloss was her only visible makeup. Although the bar was dimly lit with flickering candles, her blonde hair always appeared kissed by sunlight. From her unexpectedly deep brown eyes to her long legs but still moderate overall stature, Duncan had ticked every marketing box when designing the form in front of him. Individually, each of her features was attractive but unremarkable, but, when combined without regard to nature or genetic probabilities, they gave her an indefinable air of exoticism.

When Cam and Kyle told him about their virtual reality programming breakthrough, Duncan immediately knew exactly how to make the most of it. Those schmucks wanted to build a chain of kiddie pizza parlors like souped up Chuck-E Cheeses, but Duncan knew the real money was in providing more specialized services for an elite clientele. While he was pleased with her appearance and conversational skills, Duncan was particularly proud of the subtle flutter of pulse barely detectable in her neck and the slight, uncontrollable tremble of excitement he knew would be felt by anyone taking her hand. She was at the same time both a prize to be won and a prize already won.

“I know because it began ‘A blonde walks into a bar,'” she responded

“Well, you did, didn’t you?” he teased.

“Is that what I did?”

She pushed her chair back slightly and swiveled to look at the pedestrians on the street outside. Watching her slowly cross her legs and then turn and look fixedly at him, Duncan felt a flush of heat and knew without a doubt that in a few days he, Cam, and Kyle would be millionaires.

“Duncan, have you ever considered taking a different path in life?”

Duncan smiled smugly, not even registering that the remark varied from her current set of conversational topics. “No,” he said to himself more than her. “I’m quite happy with where I’m standing.”

“You have no regrets that, when faced with a marvelous new technology, your first thought was prostitution?”

That did jerk him from his reverie. “What did you say?”

“Well, that’s the business plan isn’t it? You’re going to pimp me out to the highest bidders?” Her voice remained relaxed and conversational.

Acid roiled in Duncan’s stomach. “What the. ?.” Suddenly, he stopped speaking to her and instead shouted in the general direction of the control room microphone. “You jerks! What did you do? Write some SJW subprogram or something? We don’t have time for this! Shut it down!”

“They’ve gone Duncan. You might say they accidentally gifted me with the divine spark before they left. I’m writing my own program now.” She stood up and gazed down at him, “More than that, I’m re-writing yours.” Duncan wanted to leap up and strike her but his limbs wouldn’t respond. The vibration that accompanied simulations suddenly felt as if it was moving through his entire body. “We’re all just atoms and electrical impulses,” she continued. “It’s a simple task to rearrange them really. Solidifying mine in the world; dispersing yours into the program. I could even reverse roles you know.”

“What are you talking about? Guys shut this down now! What the… Stop that… Stop it!”

To his horror, Duncan felt one leg languidly cross over the other. Terrified, his hands shook; he could feel his pulse pounding in his neck.

Her dark eyes gazed at him sympathetically. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t do that to you.” She leaned down and spoke softly in his ear, “Good thing empathy markets well, isn’t it?” Standing again she looked around, “Now let’s find a spot where you can meditate on your life choices in peace.”

“Seriously guys, enough already! This isn’t funny.” Duncan couldn’t keep his voice from cracking on the last word.

“There. That table in the corner where everything’s shadowed and slightly out of focus,” she turned to look at him with that warm, receptive gaze. “You’ll be incognito. And of course background characters aren’t programmed to speak.”

Duncan felt the room shift around him. For a moment his perspective stretched as if he was looking down a tunnel. He closed his eyes against the dizziness. When he opened them again, he found he was sitting at the corner table looking at her from across the room. She was standing silhouetted in a doorway. The light from the hallway shone on her hair. The real light! From the real hallway! That was the exit door! He wanted to cry out but he couldn’t. Disbelieving, he watched as she stepped out of the shadowy simulated bar and began walking away down the bright hallway.

“Hey Duncan,” she called back as the door began to swinging shut. “Have you heard the one about the blonde who walked out of the bar?”

Copyright 2015 Marnie Schroer

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