It was pay day.
My hands twisted around each other, moving and rubbing. I stood in line, one of the thousands waiting for their weekly check. Only five left in front of me. I shook my arms out and contemplated where I would go first.
Two weekends ago, I joined a mining party bound for Lintelash. Upon tunneling to the core of the planet, our crew uncovered a wormhole and, unable to resist the pull, were sucked into a battle against another crew of Center Loders. Barely scraping a win, those of us that survived flew back to Lintelash and hunkered down for the fortnight.
Two years ago, the government started restricting access to Planet Basket. Now, game players were only allowed to log in on the weekends and not for more than 12 hours at a time. After the game was released, one in four PB gamers were hospitalized for starvation and exhaustion. One in 10 were killed: death by neglect. Game addiction rehab centers sprung up and were just as rapidly consumed: “Under New Management”. Everyone knew it was The King Gamers. They called themselves the King Gamers’ Bureau and were just as violent. It didn’t matter how public and illegal their work was, they had the resources to smooth it over, every time. The group that publicly opposed them, The Dolls, had succeeded in curtailing their power somewhat. Their victories were frequent. They would murder a key KGB leader or pass a tax law that cut into KGB profits. Some believed that The Dolls were founded by the KGB as a PR move. If so, they were a genius invention. The general public loved The Dolls and after every victory they announced, PB membership shot up.
I was at the front of the line now, and here, pressed into my palm, the key. My 1,000 dollars. A week’s salary and the cost of one weekend pass to Planet Basket. Working in construction (of sewage stations) afforded me a decent salary. I could just afford to buy a pass every other weekend.
I sat down at the nearest PB Station with the paper clutched in my hand. My chest rose as I took the deepest breath I’d taken week. The helmet slid down over my head and I was immersed.