One of Le Rétro’s human servers brought Dex his glass of rum and water, setting it on the table in front of him with a smile.
“Not meeting anyone today?” the waiter asked. Dex was a regular and usually sat in the main bar area with one or more friends or colleagues. Tonight he took one of the small one-person booths along the wall which catered to people who intended to log into the ’nets. Thanks to the everywherenet backbone that a consortium of the largest companies maintained, there was hardly anywhere a person couldn’t log in, so most places expected at least a portion of their customers would be only partially present.
“Had to get out of the house for a while,” he answered, “but my date’s waiting for me online.”
The waiter gave Dex a knowing smile and said, ”I’ll leave you to it, then.” Dex took a sip of his drink, unfocussed his eyes from the bar in which his body sat and linked into Three Card Monte’s.
From one ginmill to another, he thought as the M City bar and his longtime hangout seemed to materialize before him. His avatar instantiated at a table, and not long later a virtual drink, ashtray and pack of cigarettes appeared. It was all an affectation, no different from his avatar’s charcoal suit and the felt hat he dropped onto the table. He’d just lit a cigarette when Annabelle walked into the bar.
Her avatar was a reasonable replica of her physical world appearance, without the tiredness. She made a bee line for Dex’s table, and in contrast to her greeting at the apartment, favoured Dex with a long, deep kiss. She settled in to the bench seat next to him and snuggled close.
“What a shit of a day,” she said once she’d had a deep draught of her own virtual drink.
“What happened?” Dex asked but Annabelle shook her head.
“Nothing special, just the same old crap.” She turned to look at him. “Was there really ever a time I actually liked my job?”
He laughed, though it wasn’t particularly funny. She had liked, maybe even loved her work at Omnitrack once. But in the last few years things had gotten more and more difficult, not just for Annabelle, but for everyone who worked for the major firms.
The worst part was that Dex was entirely certain that it was because of him.
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