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The Game of Cat and Mouse

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When Rhys' alarm chimed at five in the morning, a groan escaped from his lips. He rolled over and slammed his hand over his ECHO device and silenced the cursed technology. He looked around the room, forgetting exactly where he was for the first few minutes of consciousness. When he saw his best friend laying beside him, he smiled. Vaughn had his back turned to Rhys as he laid in a fetal position and hugged his pillow.

Rhys sat up and looked down at his pillow. There was a giant puddle of drool, which encouraged Rhys to blush and flip the pillow to hide the evidence. He stretched his long legs against the side of the bed and used his fingers to brush his hair back. A yawn escaped his lips and he closed his eyes yet again for a brief second before letting his feet touch the cold linoleum tiled floor. Rhys made his way to the bathroom to get ready.

Vaughn had also had the courtesy to leave Rhys out an outfit. The amount of clothes Rhys left at Vaughn's apartment left him a whole new wardrobe. That was one of the many qualities Rhys had admired about his friend since they were kids. He always kept Rhys' things just in case.

For the haircut, he left Rhys his infamous Hack-A-Thon T-Shirt with a pair of black denim jeans. Next to the casual attire was a blue striped button-up, a hexagon patterned vest, a red tie, and black slacks. It was the official uniform for middle managers. When Rhys picked up the official uniform, he saw his identification card fall from the folds in the shirt. That made him aware of what was going on today. Orientation.

Quickly, Rhys undressed from his clothes from the previous night and got into his haircut garb. He grabbed a plastic bag from underneath the sink and neatly put all of his work clothes into it. He looked over at the sleeping Vaughn once he walked out. He looked so... peaceful. Rhys found himself staring for a moment before his ECHO rang to signify it was a quarter until six. He scurried out into the space station.

The halls of Helios weren't as filled as Rhys had anticipated. A few employees and janitors here and there, but nobody in the mainstream offices. That unexpectedly came to Rhys as a relief. He didn't want to have to deal with people quite yet. He made his way down to the barbershop.

In a sense, Rhys wasn't ready to say goodbye to the hair he'd been trying to grow out since his Sophomore year of college. All that hard work being cut from his scalp. On the bright side, his shampoo and conditioner costs would surely decrease!

By the end of his haircut session, Rhys had lost at least three inches of what he desperately tried so hard to grow. He examined himself in the mirror and sighed. At least he looked somewhat presentable. The only problem now was the fluff that was evolving back into his curled locks. When the barber suggested it, Rhys patted his hair back with the gel that was provided to him. He got his bangs out of his face and exposed his very arched widow's peak. This he liked.

When Rhys had finally managed to leave the shop, it was half-past six. In an hour, he'd be working his first shift at Hyperion. This both excited and frighted the poor, ambiguous man. To distract from both, he returned to his friend's apartment.

The smell of pancakes automatically hit Rhys like a freight train. God, it smelled so sweet to him. When he closed the door, Vaughn was standing in front of the stove in his pajamas, barely awake and cooking the sweet homemade batter.

"I see you're awake." Rhys observed out loud, "How're you feeling about today, bro?"

Vaughn shrugged. The man wasn't awake enough to give a typical Vaughn response. When he turned around to look at Rhys, Vaughn's eyes widened.

"Does it look okay?" Rhys asked, rubbing the back of his neck, "I tried to get something long, but something short too."

Vaughn gave a nod. "Bro. It looks great." That response surely boosted Rhys' confidence. He wore a proud smile as he lingered over to the kitchen. Rhys' eyes fell onto the pan, his stomach responding in a loud growl.

"Do you think I can have some? I haven't eaten yet." Rhys' voice sounded a little pathetic, but his smile signified his joking manner. All Vaughn did was give a nod and flip some of those sweet, sweet pancakes. After what felt like an eternity to Rhys' stomach, Vaughn presented Rhys a stack of three thick pancakes. Syrup and butter placed on top almost aesthetically. It didn't take long for Rhys to dig into the dish.

Vaughn laughed and sat next to his best friend with his stack of cooked batter. "The accountants uniform is tacky." Vaughn laughed, biting onto the pancake onto his fork. With his mouth full, he added: "At least blue is your color."

Rhys shook his head. "I bet it'll look great on you, dude. I don't know what yours looks like, but it's sure to set you straight for orientation." They both sat in silence for a moment, eating their breakfast. It wasn't until Rhys' ECHO chimed once again to tell him that it was almost seven-fifteen. "We'd better get going."

They both got up and went to dress in their uniforms. When Rhys saw his shorter friend come out of his room, he flashed a smile and said "Looking sharp!" The favor of the smile was returned to him.

Partially nervous, partially enthusiastic, the two soon-to-be Hyperion employees went to voyage into the great company unknown. They walked beside each other, watching the employees currently working flood the hallways and push past one another. It didn't look like they had time for manners. Most held stacks of paper, some had their finger on their Bluetooth communication device and were yammering about business meetings or telling their wives they'd be working another long night. Rhys looked around in excitement when they entered the Hub of Heroism- the place where orientation was taking place for all the fresh Hyperion lackeys.

There were groups of people separated into their departments. The two best friends gave each other a concerned look. Rhys' Adam's Apple bobbed in anxiety as he parted from Vaughn and made his way to the managers' table. Yvette's table was right next to his. She looked very professional in her orange button-up and black pencil skirt. She even had the courtesy to buy herself one of those Bluetooth earpieces as well.

When Yvette saw Rhys, she signaled him a thumbs up. It was probably for the haircut, Rhys told himself. His attention turned to the woman walking in front of all the departments. She was holding a clipboard and her hair was put up nicely. It worked with her deep magenta pantsuit.

"Greetings, new Hyperion employees!" She began, "My name is Meg. I am will be your superior and advisor. Unfortunately, Handsome Jack could not attend, but he has sent his blessings and welcomes you into the Hyperion family. Today is going to be a very simple day. I will call your name, you will state your department, and afterward, we will take a tour of the facility. Once your lunch break is over, I will give you all the opportunity to explore within your departments and get familiar with the working environment you will be subjecting yourselves to. After today's orientation, you will all begin your jobs in a week. You will be paid for this period of orientation. Are there any questions?" When nobody raised their hand or spoke out, Meg smiled. "Well then, let's get to it."

Handsome Jack's assistant began saying names in alphabetical order by last name. It took a while, considering the company had hired at least a good six hundred employees. Just this process took about an hour and a half. That surely bored most of the attending parties. Once that was all said and done, she urged everyone to stand. In a sense, Meg was acting like a preschool teacher and all the new hires played the role of the overwhelmed toddlers. They all got up and crowded around the assistant and began out for the tour.

The tour all in itself took a good hour in explanations and history. It only totaled out to three hours because of the stuck up or starstruck employees asking questions about their lord and savior Handsome Jack. One of the people in customer service even dared to ask Meg if Handsome Jack loved them, to which she gave a firm yes- though her expression was showing signs of that question coming off as uncomfortable.

Once lunch was beginning, the three mates met up again at their table. Yvette gave out a sigh and put her head on the table once she sat down. The other two gave each other a look before looking back to their other friend. "Is everything okay, Yvette?" Vaughn asked, reaching a hand out to her head.

Yvette shrugged, groaning softly before sitting up. "Some of these people are idiots." Yvette replied, "I mean, did you hear the questions being asked?" She changed her tone of voice to a mocking tone, "Oh, Miss Meg! Do you think I'll be like Handsome Jack? Miss Meg, is Handsome Jack a god?" She gagged and went back to her normal voice, "It's fucking annoying if you ask me. There are a time and a place for that nonsense. They gave me an actual migraine."

Rhys kept quiet. He had the same questions for the tour guide but was glad he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted today was to hear Yvette bicker and bitch about him.

"Let them have their fun, Yvette. We won't be around them much longer." Vaughn gave an exciting squeal, "I can't wait to see the accounting department! All the numbers and all the excel worksheets! It's all so exciting!"

Rhys looked at Vaughn and smiled. His excitement was adorable to the lanky middle manager. Yvette laughed at Vaughn's reaction. "Alright. Now that we know that... Who's buying lunch?" A devilish grin appeared onto her face.

"No! Not me. I paid for the last two times!" Vaughn protested, looking at Rhys, who rolled his eyes.

"Fine... But you owe me." That one earned an in sync laugh from his friends. They never paid each other back.

Once the food was ordered, eaten, and the bill was paid, the gang decided they were going to look at their new workplaces and meet up at Yvette's place for their previous raincheck. Since Rhys and Yvette's departments ran down the same corridor, they left Vaughn to explore on his own. There was an awkward silence between the two colleagues.

"What's the deal between you and Vaughn lately?" Yvette asked, poking her slender finger into Rhys' shoulder. When Rhys looked at her in a fake raise of a brow, Yvette squinted. "Oh, don't play dumb with me, Strongfork! I've seen the way you've been looking at Vaughn. You were more concentrated on him than that dumb video game y'all were playing. I also heard you asked to stay the night."

"Well, Yvette, I was trying to see what he was doing- observing him if you will. He's good at that game. Secondly, Rebecca won't stop stalking me. It's not unusual for women to resist my charm but, damn."

"Funny. Rebecca has a new boyfriend and she transferred to Eden-5 two weeks ago. Try again, Rhys." Her arms folded as they walked. Rhys was surely in the dog house.

"I'm just... trying to build his confidence, okay? It's nice seeing him think good about himself, especially since he's been shedding all those pounds. It's nothing more."

Yvette shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Alright. Say those are your actual intentions, Rhys. What happens if he finds out you're playing some charade?"

"Why would it matter? He doesn't even notice half the time. That's how incognito I am."

"Or how stupid you are." She corrected, looking around the corner, "This is my stop. Give me a holla when you want to tell me what's going on. I'll see you after work." With that, Yvette was off. That was a temporary relief for the salaryman.

He went into his place of work and grimaced at the sight. It was a little overwhelming to the fresh meat of a businessman. He walked around the office flooded with cubicles and people. Posters of Handsome Jack, advertisements, and job offers surrounded the heather grey and pastel yellow office walls. At the end of the section was a giant fax machine and a half operational coffee pot that looked like it was leaking from the bottom. He gazed around at the people working with amusement. As his anxiety dwindled, he was becoming more confident in his ability to be able to do this job. After an hour or so of getting familiarized with his surroundings, he called it a day and decided to go back to his place to change.

When he got home, he looked around. Rhys never realized how messy he was until after he came back from Vaughn's house. There were clothes draped around his couch, empty leftover containers littered the carpet, and the pungent smell of body odor wafted from the bedroom. Quickly, he ran to his room, got dressed in the freshest clothes he had available to him and was off to Yvette's to celebrate with his friend