Employer observed the nervous-looking, pink-clad ghost that was taking position on the other side of his desk.
He refrained from sighing, as that would have been unprofessional.
Hiring proper guards for the Maze was turning out quite harder an endeavour than he'd suspected it would be. The previous candidates had been… disappointing.
This one didn't seem to promise any better, but at least it had indicated some experience in the field when applying. Not to mention that it had already worked with another prospective guard, whom he was scheduled to interview later that day: if both proved suitable, their teamwork could become a great asset.
Why did it have to be so nervous, though? He bit back a scathing comment and hoped against hope that its jumpiness wasn't detrimental to its efficiency.
He tried for a friendly, businesslike attitude in the hopes of putting it at ease: "So, Mr…" he glanced down at the application form, "Pinky."
Riiight… He reminded himself that an Interviewer must not make any personal comment that might be constructed as offensive and forged on: "How did you happen to become interested in our organization?"
The pink-clad ghost's huge eyes darted frantically left and right, as if it was searching for a spot to hide in.
"I… Blinky told me… said there was an opening, that we might work together again…" it mumbled.
Employer checked his files quickly: yes, Blinky was the other candidate. One point for teamwork, minus ten for jitteriness. He had his doubts this 'Pinky' could be up to the task. Still, it had a right to a proper interview.
"Very well, Mr. Pinky. Before we start, let me give you some idea of what I'd like to cover today. I want to review your background and experience so that I can decide whether the job is suited to your talents and interests. And after we have covered your background, I will give you information about our organization and the job, and answer any questions that you might have."
The huge eyes stared at him unblinkingly.
"A good place to start would be your work experience," he prompted with just a hint of impatience.
Quick dart of the eyes around, but no other reaction. It did have prior working experience, did it not?
Perhaps a bit of prompting was in order…
"I'm interested in the jobs you've held, what your duties and responsibilities were, your likes and dislikes, and what you felt you may have gained from them."
"Huh, right, well… I did some work, 'tis true…" it trailed off.
The subsequent silent prolonged until it was clear nothing else was forthcoming. The eyes were still glancing back and forth nervously.
Employer stifled another sigh.
He tried some prodding: "I see here that you've mentioned 'Speedy' as a nickname you earned on your previous job. Can I assume that you're particularly apt at reaching great speed in your wanderings, then?"
Pinky fidgeted, making soft rustling sounds. It kept darting its eyes here and there. Employer found it rather unnerving.
"Well… well, you see…"
Employer narrowed his eyes: "I see…? What, exactly?"
"Well, the nickname… Speedy, I mean…"
"Yes?" Employer asked leadingly.
"Well, I'm not exactly fast, that is, not compared to others, it's not that, you see?"
Employer didn't see at all, but refrained from pointing this out.
The sad truth was, this was the best applicant he'd interviewed so far. Provided that the information on the application sheet was correct, that is. So if the qualification of 'Speedy' was somewhat misleading… perhaps it was better to ignore the fact.
He had to fill that Maze somehow and there was much worse than this Pinky around. Pathetic, but undeniable.
"I, I like the other one better. Nickname, I mean. Hmm. 'Ambusher', that's more me, like, more the way I am. You see?"
Employer just stared blankly.
"Yeah, 'cause, well, I kind of, well, I don't give chase, right? I lay in wait and catch what's coming to me. Mostly. Hum. Ambush. You see? It's… I…" it trailed off.
There was an awkward moment of silence, but Employer remembered that one of the Job Interviewer's rules was to always resist filling in every lull in the conversation and instead wait to see if the applicant will do so.
Case in point… the pink shape deflated suddenly.
"Look, I need the job, all right? What with half my family gone 'cause of that damn Space Invaders Update business and so few opportunities around, well, I just need a job, ok? Gotta feed the lil' ones somehow. Blinky is great, he's letting us stay at his place and everything, but I don't want anymore charity, I want a job. I want a role. I'm good. I promise I'm good. I know I'm not Player material, 'm not a Hero or anything, but I can be a great opponent. Totally great. A true Enemy. 'Specially if I work with Blinky… Just try me out, you'll see…"
"Well, huh, ah, hem…" Employer rearranged a few papers hurriedly to cover his shock.
That was… unexpected. Not entirely unhelpful, but certainly unexpected. He would never have guessed the fretting little thing could have such an outburst…
Pinky was getting rather desperate. "Look, the nickname? It's like this. They call me Speedy 'cause I can make split decision, I'm quick like that, things change, I change too, that's what makes me good. I tell you, I can do well on this job… I don't want to end up in a Shoot'em up, being blown up all the time…"
Employer finally got himself together again. Prompt decisions, eh? Good. That was pleasant news.
"So you would say your decisional skills are a strength of yours? How would you say you handle the unexpected?"
Pinky froze in mid-tirade, its eyes darted rapidly up and down, then he answered a bit hesitantly: "Well, depends on the task, right? Like, if you need to go somewhere or get someone or whatever. But at the end of the day, it's all the same, really. Something startling comes up, you gotta change your mind quickly 'bout what to do. I can do that. I promise I can…"
Employer nodded thoughtfully: "This might be useful… both for your safety in the unfortunate event of the Player finding a Power-pill, and to optimize the switching times between the periods of high alert and the scheduled rests… if you can reverse direction quickly, you would probably be able to speed up the scattering and regrouping…"
"So… so you're giving me the job?" it asked hopefully.
"Do you have any questions you wish to ask…?" Employer trailed off when Pinky started shaking its head frantically.
"Right then." Employer nodded: "You may start tomorrow."
Employer contemplated the confident, red shape opposite him. Having hired Pinky, he was inclined to get this Blinky as well, for the teamwork options, but it was always better to be cautious nevertheless.
He had to admit, though, that this red guy looked like the job suited him to a t.
"How did you hear of the opening, Mr. Blinky?"
It blinked rapidly, proving himself true to its name, then shrugged, making its red blanket flop carelessly around. "Heard it somewhere. Don' 'member."
Well, it wasn't important anyway.
"You have already worked in tandem with a Mr. Pinky, who is also applying for this position, am I correct?"
Employer was rather impressed that the red guy managed to produce a fierce grin despite not having a visible mouth.
"Called us 'The Deadly Duo', they did!" it shouted proudly. It looked mighty smug about it. Then it leaned in a bit, as if to talk in confidence: "See? It's all strategy. I go clockwise. Speedy goes anticlockwise. You get it?" It looked delighted: "We reach the opposite side of the block to wherever the prey is, then we go for it from opposite sides. It's the perfect trap!" it cried triumphantly.
Employer fought the sudden urge to laugh. The strategy was admittedly good, but the way it related it was amusing. Laughing, though, that would be most unprofessional!
To try and show some dignity, he cleared his throat and said: "Let's move on to education. I'm interested in both schooling and any specialized on the job training you may have had…"
Blinky looked at him with hostility. "Didna go to no stupid school," it snarled. "School's for sissies. Rich, spoilt sissies. Me, I got a job straight away. Wasn't much more 'an a kiddie, even. Who needs the stupid school? I didna need no stupid school for sissies ta get a job! A proper job, scaring p'ple lika good ghost oughta do!"
Street Urchin promoted to Hired Muscle, translated Employer in his mind. Then he thought ruefully: probably the best background for this kind of job.
"All right. What would you say is your best skill?"
"Weeeelll," it made the word roll with at least three syllables. "I start off slow, all right? But once I get going… I really get going. There's no stoppin' me then. Hah! I can speed 'round like a pod-cruiser, I can!"
Pride was clearly a strong character trait, thought Employer dryly. The skill was undeniably useful though.
Blinky seemed to think on something a bit, then added, with less bragging and more determination: "Also, when I'm on someone's tail, I don' giv'em up. Like, never. Dog wit' a bone, that's me. 'The Chaser', they call me. When I chase you, I get you!" it nodded proudly a few times.
Employer leaned back, pleased. "That is most welcome news. I think you'll do well, Mr. Blinky!"
"So I'm in?"
"You may start tomorrow.
Employer sighed looking over at the orange-clad ghost he was interviewing. 'Clyde'.
Clyde was… slow.
It was terribly unprofessional to say so, but it was also the truth. Employer was hard-pressed to find another adjective to describe it. Except, perhaps, 'stupid' – which was even worse in terms of professionalism.
On the other hand, the work experience listed was… remarkable.
"What do you remember about your very first job?" he asked kindly.
"Eh…" it thought on it. It looked like hard work. "Eh. First job… that was in one of 'em chasing games. Exidy company, ye heard of it?"
Employer hid it well, but was rather interested. Not much was known about that now-bankrupt company.
"Me Dad, he'd been workin' in Spacewar! fer years, an UFO ya know, so he got me that job no problem," Clyde went on. "Only 'twas bloody hard, it was. Had to be one of the ghosts the Players chased in Super Death Chase". It sighed. "Always on the run… Not a moment peace… Could ne'er keep me mind straight on where to go…"
Employer nodded sympathetically. "So you chose to leave?"
"Eh… I got called by Taito. One of 'em Space Invaders games."
Employer's eyes widened. He was impressed. Space Invaders games certainly made for good references!
"I was one o' the First Level monsters, ya know?", the orange-clad ghost elaborated. "Pretty boring. Go up with the line, go down with the line. Ne'er on screen fer long…"
It took a deep breath and went on: "They got me moved to the colour update too, Deluxe what's-it, same role. 'Tis when I got this uniform here," it looks down at the orange blanket pleased. "Only 'twas really boring. So then I quit that too… Better off without me anyway, I figure… told me once I am short-sighty-ed," it stumbled on the last word.
Well, thought Employer, that might not be too bad. Short-sightedness can be offset by outside directions, for instance… the lack of experience with teamwork might prove a problem, but then again, it seemed like a steady sort of ghost, not prone to anger or rashness…
There was no denying the slow guy's know-how, after all. That sure counted for something…
"So then I heard of this job here," concluded Clyde. "And ya know, I thought… me buddies are always saying the Dot Eaters are the future… and I've heard good 'bout this maze and I thought it might be the right place fer me, ya know?"
It lacked enthusiasm perhaps, but that might come once it was more familiar with the maze and had a good reason to put its heart in it, reasoned Employer making his decision.
"Very well. You will be hired as guard for the Maze, more specifically assigned to the lower left corner, though you will have the roaming of the whole screen. Do you understand what the job entails?"
"Do you know what to do?" Employer patiently reformulated.
"Eh… go to the lower left corner of the Maze? And move randomly there to keep guard?"
Employer sighed. "Not exactly. The goal is to prevent the Player from eating the Dots, and more importantly, the Fruit," he patiently explained. "There will be three other guards to help you, so you can work together or take turns."
The orange-clad ghost had a look of deep concentration. "So… go to the lower left corner of the Maze and keep guard until I see the Player, then go after the Player if the others aren't around?"
Close enough, thought Employer. If the Players really hired Pac-Man as the rumour said, poor Clyde would have no chance except through sheer luck… but it was clearly dependable and might well turn up to be the most efficient of the four at the end of the day. Yes, it would do.
"Indeed, Mr. Clyde, I expect you will do well."
"You mean I'm hired?"
"Yes, Mr. Clyde. You may start tomorrow."
Well, the blue-clad ghost was certainly excitable. It was practically bouncing in place – quite the achievement for someone who was floating.
It was also very… stylish. It gave off that well-groomed feel of trend-followers, despite being clad only in a blue blanket.
Employer knew from the application sheet that the ghost hadn't had any job before – in fact, it hadn't even been in the field for long. Discussing work experience was clearly a moot point.
He decided to start off with a fairly standard question: "What would you say are some of your qualities that make you a good prospect for any employer?"
It looked down, almost bashfully.
"I… I'm good at roaming. I can keep up a steady speed for as long as you need me too. I've got good eye-sight too. I could totally spot the Player then catch it…"
"That's good to hear." Employer paused. "Is there something you wish to ask, about the job conditions perhaps?"
The bashful routine of casting the eyes downward was repeated.
"Hum, I, well… I've heard… that is, are we really at risk of being… being eaten by the Players?"
"Well," Employer knew he had to tread carefully on this one. "It is true that certain items, called Power-pellet, grant the Player immunity against you and in turn weaken the guards to its attacks… however, there are two point to keep in mind about this fact: one, those items are precisely what you're hired to protect."
Inky was nodding along anxiously.
"Two, if you do happen to be eaten, the Maze is provided with a centre box that is perfectly equipped to act as sick bay, and regenerate any casualty among the guards with no added expenses."
The blue-clad guy seemed to relax at this.
"Very well, Mr. Inky. You've given me some real assets, and now I'd like to hear about areas you'd like to develop further: all of us have qualities we'd like to change or improve after all. What are some of yours?"
The eyes were suddenly up and staring excitedly at Employer.
"I want to become like Blinky!"
Employer kept himself impassive; avoid either verbally or physically giving the applicant a clue as to how you regard their answers, remain neutral, and you'll see the patterns of behaviour emerge more clearly.
"It's just so cool! Totally awesome! I watched it a lot! It's great! Great, I tell you! And it's going to apply here, too, I heard! So we might work together! Can you imagine that? Me, working with Blinky! It could give me pointers on how to be more like it! And imagine! We might even become friends! Then we might work together! Like, really together! Not like just in the same place, really as a team! Me, a team with Blinky! Oh, we might even become the new Deadly Duo!"
Oh, dear. Hero-worship. Now, was that good or bad, Employer wondered?
There was a good chance that this Inky's behaviour would wound up depending heavily on his proximity to Blinky. Like some people who never go to a cinema by themselves, so to speak.
The blue guy was certainly… Employer cast about for an appropriate word… eager.
It was also fickle though. Likely unreliable.
Then again… its very unpredictability made it dangerous. It was the kind of guy who, given the same choices,will often take different turns at different times. No rhyme or reason to its behaviour…
In the end, Employer decided to reserve judgement until further evidence could be obtained.
"Do you have any specific questions or concerns before I give you information about the job and the opportunities here?"
"Oh man, oh man! I'm really going to work here, aren't I? Oh, wow!" It was back to bouncing.
Employer felt the beginning of a headache stirring. Best to close this Interview quickly.
"Yes, yes, congratulations, and welcome to our company."
Employer closed his eyes. Had it been the right choice?
"So when do I start?" it cried eagerly.
Employer sighed: too late for regrets. Besides, it might still prove good at the job.
"You may start tomorrow.