Chapter 27

The “Archmage Tea-Time” afternoon shift employees managed to find each other fairly quickly in the mess hall, congregating together at a table. Steve was the last to arrive, approaching as the other employees were all at the table.

“Hey Steve,” Alan greeted her as she set her tray down and took her seat.

“Hi guys.”

“So,” Zap asked, “who’s your roommate?”

Steve looked at Zap and said, “She’s from the 11th street store.”

Zap froze.

Steve gave him a small smirk. “Her name’s Violet.” Zap relaxed. Steve then turned to To’mas and gave him a pointed look. “And from what I can tell, she’s basically a female version of To’mas.”

“Ooh,” To’mas said, grinning. “You should introduce us.”

“I’m sure you don’t need my help,” Steve quipped. “Anyway, you look stupid happy as it is.”

Alan rolled his eyes. “To’mas already has his sights on his roommate.”

“He really thinks he’s straight,” To’mas said. “It’s adorable.”

Steve laughed. “Who’s everybody else rooming with?”

“I’m with an older gentleman by the name of Arden,” Zap said, sounding pleased by the fact. “He’s a veteran of the 8th street war. I’m looking forward to hearing his stories.”

“I’m rooming with a ghost,” Click said. He seemed unsure of whether the idea delighted or unsettled him. “Named Hollow-Eyes.”

“A ghost?” Steve asked, raising her eyebrows.

“An honest-to-goodness ghost,” Click confirmed.

“I’m rooming with a fellow named Marlon,” Loren said. “He seems okay.”

“Matt?” Steve asked.

“Yeah?” Matt responded, looking up from his food.

“Who’re you rooming with, man?”

“Creepy Don Stiles,” Matt said. “He works at the Malachi Park store. He’s an unconvicted rapist.”

Everybody stared.

“Did … he tell you that, Matt?” Alan stammered.

“Nope,” Matt said, prodding at his food with his chopsticks.

“Are you planning on just ignoring it?” Steve asked him.

Matt looked up, annoyed. “Don’t be fucking stupid,” he said. “This asshole’s not going to make it through the employee concert.”

The table breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Steve looked over at Alan. “Do you have a roommate, Alan?”

“Nope, supervisors get their own room in a suite,” he said. “I’m in a suite with the other two shift supervisors. Should be interesting living with a shadow mutant and a quarter-dragon. This’ll be a learning experience.”

“No kidding,” Zap said.

“So, okay,” Alan said, smiling. “You’ll hear about most of this from Paru in an hour, but I’d like to give you the synopsis of these retreats that you’re not going to hear.”

The employees all sat at attention.

“This is a hard retreat,” Alan said. “But just as we work hard, we play pretty hard too. If you take some time to review your schedule and map, you’ll see that there’s a facility bar where you can blow your account creds and hard-earned actual creds, if you have them to spare. Don’t go too crazy. There’s also an arcade and a nicer restaurant than the mess hall if you feel like spending money. There’s an employee mixer tonight and on Friday there’s a concert, and there’ll probably be some smaller suite parties in between. Again, don’t go nuts. You need to be in fighting shape.”

He smirked. “That said, this company was founded by a traditional warrior. He believes in working yourself ragged then drinking yourself stupid. If you can keep up to that schedule, fine. Just try not to go overboard or start too much drama.”

The employees all looked pleased by that, particularly To’mas and Click.

“That said,” Alan said, standing and lifting his tray. “I need to go get ready for the next event. Enjoy your meals.” He walked away with the tray.

“Soo … Matt,” Steve said after a pause. “You want any help setting up your creepy roommate?”

Matt smiled. “I knew you’d ask.”