…is the re-titled 3rd draft of the story that started out as End Game. Here is the new opening scene…
It costs Spaceman one long summer to crack the game’s top twenty. Sweltering nights hunched behind a screen at Harvard’s Bookmakers and Game Emporium. Harvard’s is the nastiest game boutique on the strip, a bare bones retail unit packed full twenty four seven, stinking of dope and sweat. But its where the hardcore gamers hang, where the true game is played.
He takes first place at the dog end of an all night session. His ear piece and screen flood with coms, screams and tags from a hundred thousand plus gamers world wide. Spaceman looks up from the screen into the dirty light of a city sunrise filtered through the emporium’s windows.
Harvard catches Spaceman on his way out, calls him over with an uptick his fat chin.
‘How much you think you made tonight nigga?’ Harvard grins from over the counter, solid gold teeth shining.
‘Ain’t about the money.’ Spaceman tells the bookie.
‘It all be about the money. Speaking of…’ Harvard rolls his eyes wide. Spaceman pulls out a roll of notes with reluctance.
‘Keep your money son.’
Spaceman ignores the man and counts five notes onto the counter.
‘I said keep it. There’s another thing you can do for me.’ Harvard pushes the money back across the counter.
‘This is all I got for you.’ Spaceman says, pushing it back. Harvard sniffs.
‘How many them did you beat?’ The bookie nods at the rows of glass eyed gamers, slouched in front of their screens.
‘I beat all of them fools.’
‘And this all you got to show for it.’ Harvard nods at the roll.
‘I told you already, it ain’t about the money.’
‘No. You a big shot in the game, I know it. But out here in the real world you just another fool. But it don’t have to be that way.’
‘What you got in mind.’
The bookies top lip ticks, fat fingers tap against the counter top.
‘You come back in one hour, pick up a package from the counter that will be waiting for you. Won’t be me giving it mind. Take that package to the address you’ll be told. Then forget about it. Next week you come in, play for free and I put a roll twice the size of that one in your hand.’
The bookie grins again. Spaceman should take a walk up Main Street, get lost in the plate glass maze of store fronts and rich women, never step back through Harvard’s, he knows it. But Spaceman looks Harvard in the eye, then nods his head.