"Watch... Come on, Alexis. Watch this. See that? That's all they do all day. Program and reprogram their lives. If it's not acceptable, they change. Aren't they shallow? Aren't they so... Disgusting?"
In life, you can play safe. You can watch the rest of the world pass by while you sit on the sidelines, and if that becomes too out of place, you can join the crowd and go by unnoticed. It's not about being popular, it's about being so incredibly mediocre that no one can tell the difference between you and the person sitting next to you.
In life, you can stick by the philosophy that the nail that sticks up is the nail that'll be hammered down. You can stay down, keep your head low...
"Yes... Yes, Brandon... Disgusting..."
...or you can be the hammer.
The flickering lights danced across her skin, turning porcelaine to bright yellows and reds, while the glow of the screen reflected off her pale face, turning her nose blue and her red lips purple.
Alexis closed her eyes for a second longer than a standard blink, thinking more about how tight her ponytail was than what was being said to her. A single strand of black fair fell directly between her eyes just as soon as she opened them, and it took all the willpower in the world for her not to reach up and bat it away like a cat.
Expressionless eyes turned to her, just as blank and void of emotion as the person behind them. Brandon pushed the glasses up further on his nose, the single childish trait he'd let himself show. Eyes narrowed now, cold and fradgile as ice.
"You're not paying attention," he commented blandly. "Alexis." And this time, a bit more exasperated. "Alexis, look."
And she looked this time, just to please him. The screen before her, no larger than a standard computer screen and yet with more depth than a high-definition television, displayed nothing more than numbers. Stats.
She cocked her head to one side, pretending to be interested for as long as she could manage, before a frustrated sigh came from somewhere to her left and she had to tear her attention away from the meaningless pixels.
"No, Alexis. Over here."
So she looked at his screen, but not before letting her focus drift around the room while she had the opportunity. It was dark, save for the glow of their two screens. Tables, rows upon rows of sleek countertops, enough to seat at least a hundred people, and yet not a chair in sight. At least, other than the ones she and Brandon were sitting on.
From behind a door at the far end of the room, light trickled in, staining the darkness almost menacingly, like you really didn't want to know what was behind that door at all. Alexis breathed out through her nose and finally looked where she was directed.
Brandon's screen showed a man and a woman, both clothed in shapeless white pants and button-up shirts of the same colour. Their faces were the type that weren't easily remembered. Just another face in the crowd. Just any average man and woman. Late 20's, maybe, Alexis guessed. They were nothing special.
The lady had her hair swept up into a bun, the man looked like he hadn't touched his with a comb in years. More statistics flashed across the screen, yet this time she understood what they meant. There were eight of these players out on the board right now, five of them men and three of them women.
"Pitiful," she commented, her lips barely moving. Brandon jumped a bit, she noticed with some amusement. Too easily startled. She enjoyed these little moments of power more than she should.
He nodded quickly, raising his eyebrows in a very un-Brandon-like fashion.
"Isn't it funny, Lexie, how we rule them all?"
"Continue..." she prodded, not liking his slow pace. "You've shown me pawns before."
"Moving on." The screen flickered for a moment, shifting instead to a more recognizeable couple.
"Rooks," Alexis immediately said, liking to feel as if she was being useful. Brandon rolled his eyes, and she tried to ignore it.
The next two screens were the same. She named them off as they appeared. Knight, bishop. At the bishop's screen, however, she noticed something.
"He wasn't there yesterday..."
A single manicured finger gestured vaguely to the man on the right of the screen, clothed in white robes and relaxedly gripping a wooden staff in one hand. Brandon nodded, seemingly confirming her observation. "He's a replacement. Former bishop 1, Kane, was taken at exactly..."
He leaned forward, his eyebrows scrunching together, as if he couldn't already see the brightly-lit numbers well enough.
"05:00 hours yesterday morning."
Alexis leaned back a bit, her hands gripping the arms of her chair just a bit tighter.
The screen changed again, this time revealing a very familiar picture. A single young woman, partnered with no one but the rather imposing-looking wand in her right hand. A slender white dress wrapped around her narrow frame, the faintest look of pride in her eyes. The thing that amused her most was how important she looked, displayed like that.
The line at the very top of the screen read 'Alexis Grandel', and below it, a list. The first (and most important, in her mind) reading 'Postion Played: Queen'.
"Personally, I like it. It makes you look powerful, Lexie."
"Yeah... That's nice."
Alexis stood, finally getting a chance to brush that annoying strand of hair from her eyes as she did so. Hands on her hips, she nodded, almost approvingly.
One of little words, she was. Before turning on her heel and weaving her way through the endless rows of chairless tables, she caught a glimpse of the screen switching once more.
This time, the title read 'Brandon Ray-Howarth'. Below it, 'Position Played: King'.