Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Talked to my brother today. He was telling me about his three-year-old. Apparently one of his acquaintances asked the kid what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said, "A pickle."

My response was, "Exactly."
The main event that evening, the steel cage video death match between Greyghost and Mr. Scarab, was of course cancelled. We all knew they weren't going to do it, I guess. So instead the eight of us who had put money down decided to settle the bet with a single-elimination tournament. Whichever one of us could win three games of Bonestorm collected the money.

A word here. This tournament was basically me and seven superheroes - Cassie, Liz, Billy, Bob, Scintilla, Daylighter and Wildthing. Of the eight of us, I am the slowest. I am the weakest. I have the slowest reflexes. And I may very well be the least intelligent. And I knew I was about to kick everybody's asses.

See, one thing about superheroes is this. They're all Type A personalities. They're motivated. They know what they want and they're effective at achieving it. Even people like Bob and Cassie who come off as laid-back. They aren't laid-back. They're low-key and relentless, and they don't turn aside from their goals. All of which implies that these aren't the sort of people who will, say, spend two hours in an arcade every day after school for several years.

I, on the other hand, was. Am.

Now, when you're playing video games like Bonestorm (an older game that I know very well indeed), it does help to be faster than your opponent. But only up to a point, because the game itself only moves so fast and it doesn't help you to be any faster than that. And anyway, it's even more important to know the game, and especially for your hands to know the game. You have to have the muscle memory, and there's enough of a learning curve with almost any video game since about 1990, that you need a lot of practice to get it. I have had that practice, because I am something of a loser.

Bob hasn't. Bob couldn't care less about video games. Cassie hasn't been in an arcade in her life. Daylighter's been saving the world since he was fifteen. Billy was too busy supporting his parents since he was twelve to have any quarters left over. Scintilla lived in a castle in Italy until four years ago. Wildthing lived in the Cytherean jungle until three years ago. And Liz was too much of an athlete to bother with anything where you were in a darkened mallnook instead of out in the sun. I was looking forward to this.

As Liz was figuring out who the opponents were going to be in the first round, I figured it was only fair to warn everyone what was about to happen, and said, "I just thought I'd let you know that I am going to kick every ass that passes in front of me, I am going to make it look easy, and I am going to collect one hundred sixty American dollars."

Six superheroes smiled at me condescendingly. (Cassie was the exception.)

In my first game, I was playing Daylighter. Daylighter is capable of flying at the speed of light. But as we started on the first room, he said, "How do you make the guy shoot?" The game didn't last long.

Bob, Billy, Liz and I made it to the next round. I played Liz. This was actually a bit of a break for me, as Liz's powers--the ability to build, maintain and drive a giant robot suit--don't really give you much in the way of extra speed or reflexes. On the other hand, she had clearly played this game, a little, sometime before tonight. I revised my estimate of her; she was an all right player. She clicked her tongue at her obvious mistakes, and even at a couple of her inobvious ones. But I won.

I was up against Billy in the final round. I had been watching him play, and he was definitely getting the hang of it. Like Liz, he had definitely played this before, but he was much faster than Liz, and in this context he was even faster than Daylighter. But I had had an idea this might happen, so I used my secret weapon.

See, if you hit both fire buttons while slamming the joystick a certain way, you can shoot backwards, which is often helpful. Only the real experienced players know that trick, and I hadn't used it in the previous games. I was saving it for this round.

I figured that even without the backwards-shooting I knew enough Bonestorm strategy that I'd be able to edge Billy out even with all his speed, but I didn't want to edge anybody out; I wanted to make them my bitches. It was funny. He kept saying, "What the hell are you doing?" and I ended up outscoring him by more than I outscored Liz.

Once the game was over, I ambled over to the table to pick up my envelope of winnings. I was trying to keep the smirk off my face, but I guess I kind of failed, because Scintilla said, "You know, Dennis, just because you won a kid's game doesn't mean we're not superior to you in every way that actually matters in the world."

Well, there is that, of course.

She was kidding, of course, or at least thought she was, but it's exactly the kind of thing that pisses me off to even think about. I sputtered a couple of times but let it pass. Then Billy, who had been studying the controls, said, "I want a rematch."

Oh, no. That's the other thing about superheroes. They learn stuff fast. A guy like Billy could easily become good enough to beat me in an evening, and I definitely wanted to quit while I was ahead. "No, no," I said. "It's going to take me the rest of the night to count my money."

"If you don't want to play him, what about giving me a try?" said Lana, who had been cleaning up around the perimeter during the tournament.

"Yeah, okay," I said, and we stepped up to the console. And she beat my brains out. I was hopelessly behind and down to my last life after three screens. I strung it out after that for a couple of minutes but there was nothing.

"Good game," she said, even though it hadn't been, and we retired to our separate quarters. There were many congratulations for Lana, and Bob and Billy mocked me a little, but that's okay; it's not like she was a superhero.

The seven of them wandered across the room to join Greyghost, Mr. Scarab, Whitecap and Glory, who were relaxing and telling superhero war stories. I could think of nothing I'd rather do less, so I turned on one of the TVs and flipped around until I found the Pioneers game. The Pie were winning 7-0 in the second inning, which never happens. Even that lamo Garcia had an RBI double. I sat down happily to watch. If the Pioneers hung on to win they'd only be five games out of fourth place.

Two and a half hours later, the Pioneers had triumphed 16-3. I turned off the set and looked around. The place was almost empty and almost dark. Lana was finishing putting everything away as I was finishing my Coke, and we fell into conversation. The two of us eventually agreed that there was no point in Lana driving for an hour back to the city tonight and then drive back out for breakfast early the next morning, when it'd be so much easier for her to stay over in my room. So that's what we did.

Which is why I was able to get extra blueberries on my pancakes the next morning.

Driving home with Greyghost, I did some thinking, and realized that I had finally ended my half of my relationship with Cassie. Even before Lana. Saturday night, at dinner, Cassie and I had been sitting together, and getting along great like usual, but with no thing hanging between us. We were done. It was over. I'm glad we still like each other, though, because she's still cool.

It worries me a little bit that the last two women I've been to bed with have been ones I've met at superhero conventions.

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