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Loser

Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. Her most recent book is the compelling urban fantasy Daughter of Fire. Additionally, she is a writer, editor, and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.

Tad managed, barely, to restrain himself from punching the wall. He punched air instead, anger and frustration on his face.
Then he looked at his phone again.
The red flashing letters had not changed. Would not change. They would come for him before the morning.
The way they came for everyone who failed as thoroughly as he had. There was no way to get his score back up overnight.
Or was there? He walked back over to the phone. It still said the same thing.
Unapproved Activities Over Final Limit.
For too many days. Too much time spent doing creative things instead of what the government approved for peons like him.
It was that stupid video game. One game causing him to lose another would be irony if it was not so serious.
But who could not get addicted to the idea of making and building worlds. Who could not love a game that was about creating an entire planet, rather than the puzzle games that were Approved Activities, the games that were in some cases so old nobody remembered who made them. Arcade games, they called them.
He was surprised the person making it had not been arrested yet, their servers shut down. Unless they had intentionally left it there as a honeytrap.
A temptation.
He could do nothing. He could not sleep, even though that would have pulled his score back up a little more. Instead, he sat on the balcony in the cold, the snow falling out of the darkness.
They had achieved that much with the Game, with the way it got everyone in line, sometimes literally. There was snow again.
There was snow again and it fell on him. And he did not care if he froze, although it was not cold enough for that.
Maybe if he took off his jacket.
No. He was not a coward. He would face what they did to him. They came before dawn, a banging on the door. His neighbors would hear.
His neighbors would know.
He opened the door, stepped inside, not caring about the snow he tracked into the living room.
"Thaddeus Lennon."
He nodded.
"You will come with us."
He thought of fighting. He thought of jumping off the balcony.
But there was something in the officer's face. Was that a smile?
Did he enjoy his job? Tad wanted to punch the expression off his face. He even raised his fist.
"Oh, don't do that. You aren't going to jail."
He lowered his hand slowly. "Then a concentration camp. Or..." Would they simply kill him?
"I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Come."
And he did.
And he was.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 13th, 2019
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