Cigarette smoke hung like a see-through magic carpet over the room. The were no desks, no partitions, and no phones. In the 40 X 40 foot windowless space were eight bare banquet tables. Four people, bleary-eyed and smelling of two showerless days, sat at each table.
Half the room was on C&P duty. The other half, the more experienced and educated of the group, were on RP.
Mikail stood on an elevated platform at the end of the office with a filterless cigarette dangling from his lips.
Speaking in English, as all workers were required to do, Mikail shouted. "It's 3pm Eastern. Ten dollar time!"
Roman hit the keys on his key board with disgust. Just two weeks ago, he had been on RP. He was good at it. Mikail had even told him so.
"Three offices," Mikail had said in between drags, "and you are the most productive RP of the Syndicate."
Roman, not normally a prideful person, had taken some satisfaction in the distinction. He had enjoyed a profitable month and the bosses had been looking at him favorably. Roman knew that if he could maintain his earnings for another five or six months, he would be promoted to group leader. That is where the money was.
It had taken Roman six months to work his way up from C&P to RP. He worked double shifts, worked double stations, and worked faster than anybody in the room. At night, he would go home with arthritic fingers, bent and twisted, calloused on the ends. It would hurt to even dial a phone.
His output and earnings were superb. He had so many plans for RP. He'd created a folio of interesting characters and back stories. One was a 70 year-old man who was on a fixed income.
"My son just took away my credit cards," Roman had typed.
Another identity was a 33-year-old mother from Anderson. She loved sex, but she loved the game more. She promised pictures and web cams.
"Back to $5!" Mikail shouted, then returned to his skin mag.
Roman minimized his screen, pulled up the one marked "Five Dollars," and again slammed his fingers on the keyboard.
It had been so easy for so many months. He'd stuck to his plan. He'd been disciplined. He was creative without straying from policy.
Four nights ago, though, he'd gone too far. He'd pushed too hard. He had stayed too long.
Suddenly, Mikail stood over his shoulder.
"Roman, there is a problem with your accounts."
And that was that. The 70-year-old man was dead. The housewife was gone. All of Roman's Real People, the ones he loved, the ones he lived were now no more than sheets of paper in his three ring binder.
Now, Roman was back in the trenches. The chances of being on Real People again before the end of the year were slim. The chances of making Group Leader were gone.
Roman was back, like more than half of the other Syndicate pawns, to being on Copy & Paste.
Roman scanned the Five Dollar Page and picked the first template he saw. Frustrated fingers pushed Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V in time with the tapping of Mikail's foot. When Roman pressed enter, he saw the same words in the chat box.
SourBaby33 (Observer): hi all. may someone help
with $5, it be more then appreciated, i note to pay
back, if you can thanks so much, be greatful.
It was going to be a long winter.