“Tami,” Dawn whispered into my ear. “Wake up.”
“How about no,” I grumbled, cuddling in closer against her.
Her chuckle rumbled oddly, the sound carried just as much by her body as it was through the air. “Tami, you little shit, life is knocking at the door.”
“Tell life to go and fist its own asshole,” I said, tilting my head back to look up at her.
Her carefully woven braids had become fuzzy slugs on the left side of her head, while the bun she’d tied the rest of it into was in serious danger of coming apart. Her eyes were all puffy from sleep, with her already dusky skin coming in even darker.
She looked absolutely gorgeous, so naturally I kissed her. A little gasp of surprise escaped from between her lips, then a hum of amused contentment. With a gentle hand, I pushed her onto her back and shifted to straddle her lower stomach. She was so tall out of CORA, not to mention firm in a number of tantalising places. It made me so damned horny.
Unfortunately, that firmness hid a whole lot more strength than you might think, and she used it to push me away.
“Tami,” she grinned, nodding sideways.
I followed her gaze and found a holopanel with a call on hold. Oh… god damn it. Who was calling my girlfriend at this hour? Wait, nevermind, it was like ten in the morning.
Giving Dawn a glare, I shuffled off her and made myself look a little less tousled. My life was nothing but one long cockblock… or whatever. Beaver dam? Nevermind, doesn’t matter.
“Who is it?” I asked, unable to keep my frustrations from my voice.
Reaching out with a hand, she ran her fingers through my hair for a moment, then used her finger to brush my cheek with loving tenderness. “Izetta Ferrera.”
“Who is th—” I began to ask, but my eyes widened in shock when a memory bounced to the fore. “Wait, Izetta Ferrera? As in, from the Ferrera Foundation? As in, the eternal thorn in your parents’ side?”
“The Ferreras, arch enemies of the Bridges family?” she asked, eyes sparkling with mirth. “Yes, that one. And no, I don’t know what she wants.”
“Well, only one way to find out, I guess,” I said, and leaned over to press the button to continue the call.
A woman appeared on the screen. She was young, not much older than Dawn and myself, but she had an air of success and maturity that we definitely did not. I didn’t know her personally, other than that her name vaguely rang a bell. I could tell a few things about her just by her last name though.
The Ferreras were originally a family that were heavily involved in organised crime, back in old New York. They were the type of white collar criminals that laundered money and dealt in larger scale operations, rather than boots on the ground style drug dealing.
They made the switch to a more ‘honest’ form of living when they bought out the failing SpaceX company. Apparently the founder, some dude I forget the name of, he went a bit crazy in his old age and well… the board practically begged for the takeover. From there they turned the company around and turned it into the imaginatively named Ferricorp of today.
These days they had their hand in everything, but especially up in the dark of space. Why was one of them stooping so low as to speak to the estranged daughter of one of their rivals, along with her nobody girlfriend? Beats me.
“Izetta, sorry about that,” Dawn said, giving the woman her best socialite smile. It was perhaps a little less effective with her being in bed and all. Worked on me though, her smiles were great.
Izetta Ferrera gave Dawn a smile of her own, along with a nod accepting the apology. “Not a problem. My sources had you logging out of CORA last night, so I figured you’d be sleeping in. Not quite this late, perhaps, but you’re a free woman now, so who am I to judge?”
Dawn gave a shrug. “Sorta. Free from my family, yeah. That’s whatever though. Why are you calling?”
“Straight to the point, as per usual,” Izetta laughed, and turned her eyes on me. “And you would be Tami, the lightning demon girl.” She said the last part with a sort of gently humorous tone.
“That’s me,” I said with a smile, the real kind that they only made in the residential towers. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, that’s a bit of a story,” she said, leaning back into her expensive leather chair. “Your story, actually.”
“Uh…” Dawn and I shared a look.
“See, you’ve made celebrities of yourselves within CORA,” Izetta continued, gesturing offhandedly. “Now, initially I wrote it off as just another pastime for those on UBI, but it’s gained some serious popularity. So much so, that fortunes are being lost and made within its virtual realm.”
Dawn made a low sound of understanding, one that was echoed by a similar lightbulb moment within my skull. This was a money thing, she wanted to cash in on our ingame shenanigans.
“I see you understand the direction I am going,” the businesswoman said with another smile. So many smiles. When I opened my mouth to speak, to shut her down, she held up a hand to forestall me. “Let me sell you on it, please.”
A frown crinkled my brow, but I nodded for her to go on.
Her eyes switched to my girlfriend and she asked, “Dawn, are you aware that your family has a shared stake in several media brands that have taken on associates within CORA?” Dawn shook her head. “Well then, they do. Many of which coincidentally have backing from a certain church as well. Almost all of these associates make content from the Pagutum Empire’s point of view.”
“Figures,” Dawn grumbled, sneering off to the side in the general direction of where her parents’ house was.
“Indeed,” Izetta replied. “Now, I’m not usually a betting kind of girl, but I have a feeling that you two might be appearing on a number of high profile streams and vid shows for a while into the future. Including those backed by the church and the Bridges family.”
“Wait,” I said, holding a hand up to stall her. “You don’t want us to like, stream for you? Because that’s where I thought you were going.”
“I already know your policy on filming your adventures,” she replied with a disappointed shake of her head. “No, my offer is for a pair of digital sponsorships. We will send you a top of the line pod from one of our companies, a few other peripherals, and an apartment in one of the domes. The full package. In return, you give us the rights to digitally tag you whenever you appear in content.”
“Uh…” I turned to Dawn in the hopes of understanding what that meant.
“Digital Tagging, that’s the copyright thing, yeah?” she asked of our potential benefactor.
“It is,” Izetta nodded. “It was originally intended to allow owners of brands, products, and the like to tag those various things they had the rights to. If a soda shows up in a show, the owners of said show are required to add the tag associated with that trademark or product.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about us being your product,” I laughed, my girlfriend nodding in agreement beside me.
“Ah, it has evolved since then,” she said quickly, waving her hands in a placating gesture. “Nowadays you can sell the rights to tag you or things you own to others. In our case, every time you appear on someone’s stream vidshow or other media, you would be tagged with ours. Say for example that someone is watching your sister’s stream and you appeared on it. That viewer would find a small tag at the side of their viewing window.”
“Clicking on that tag would reveal information about you, whatever personal information you wish, or none at all. It would also display that you are sponsored by us, along with the products that you use and endorse from our companies,” she continued to explain. “The idea is that we could turn any appearance of your character within CORA into a small advertisement. One that might appear within the streams and vidshows of those who are sponsored by our competitors.”
As she finished, Dawn began to laugh and in a sing-song voice she said, “You’re leaving something ouuuut, Izetta.”
The businesswoman’s lips gave a twitch and she looked away from the camera for a moment with a smile. When she turned back to the camera, her put-together business attitude slipped away, and she leaned forward with an evil gleam in her eye. “It also gives us the opportunity to sue the piss out of them whenever they inevitably try to display you alongside that ridiculous hateful bile that they call a religion. Can’t let our brand be associated with enemy propaganda, after all.”
“Why would they try to show me beside their weird propaganda?” I asked in confusion.
“Tami, my dear sweet bimbo,” Dawn sighed, brushing a thumb across my cheek lovingly. “You look like a literal demon in the game. If they can show their people fighting and beating us, then they might try to use it in something.”
“Ah.” I had to laugh at that one. Plus, bimbos were supposed to be like, hot and stuff, so I was taking that as pure compliment. To Izetta, I asked, “I’m still not sure about this though, how can we know you aren’t trying to screw us over?”
“I can send you the contract if you like, we’ll be bound by it, you’ll be bound by it,” she replied with a shrug. “Oh, and one last thing to help convince you… I suggest you check your email.”
My eyebrows rose at that, and I turned to the side to summon a holo-window to take a cool. God I loved the full-house holographic suite that my parents had in their place.
When my email popped up, I felt like my eyes had just fallen out of my head. What the fuck? Even Dawn let out a fuck of surprise and went for her own email. We both had dozens and dozens of emails from various agents, organisations, and companies. There were offers to sponsor a stream, offers for us to have a vidshow of our own. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of us. Jesus christ, this was nuts.
Izetta let out a tinkling, boardroom-appropriate-volume laugh, “I had a suspicion.”
“Okay… how about you send the contract to Dawn. She’s way smarter than me when it comes to this kind of thing,” I said slowly, turning away from the dizzying number of emails marked ‘important’. “I’ll probably say yes just based on the fact you can save us from that bullshit.”
“Yeah, I can look over the contracts,” Dawn agreed. “Assuming that the second sponsorship is for me?”
“It is, you might not have the same flash and ah, shall we say thunder as Tami, but you have definitely gained the attention of a great many fans,” Izetta said, and dropping her businesswoman mask for a moment, she continued, “Oh, and Dawn? Congratulations on getting out of there. I hope it isn’t overstepping to say that your parents are absolute scum.”
“Nope, not overstepping,” Dawn grinned. “They’re awful.”
“Good,” she breathed, rubbing the arm of her chair absently. “Good, okay. I’ll get those documents to you soon, Dawn. In the meantime, I have a meeting to get to. Thank you both for your time.”
“Good luck,” I said with a wave as the call cut.
“Good luck?” Dawn queried with a bemused laugh.
“Yeah, because meetings suck.”