Paul started walking away. “I think anyone who’s ever said that never had a lot of interaction with the painful side of the rod.”
He pointedly ignored Dorny’s last comment, assuming it was some sort of statement regarding Paul’s eternal doom, which Paul figured was already a certainty. It was so strange! Nothing Dorny said seemed to line up with how Nobody acted or spoke. Sure, he’d quote scripture, but Nobody had always guided Paul to the Bible rather than using verses to win an argument.
Even as he made an effort to avoid thinking about it, he couldn’t stop himself from being frustrated by the inconsistencies. This place said one thing was bad. This place said it wasn’t. This place said Jesus was a person. This place said he was God. This place said he was both. They all called themselves Christian churches, and they couldn’t even come to an agreement.
By the time Paul got to the arcade, he’d managed to work himself into a bit of a temper he intended to take out on pixelated aliens.
Jordan was outside waiting for Paul as he approached Game World. Arcades weren’t common since most people could download and play together online, but Game World had so many different games that covered all the genres and ages. It was, to be honest, the coolest place on earth.
“You all right?” Jordan’s eyes scrunched up when he saw Paul.
Paul shrugged. With how easily he let his feelings show, there wasn’t much point in trying to hide his anger. “That guy was there again.”
Jordan let out a sigh and gave him a conciliatory slap on the shoulder. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“Should you say that? I mean, you’re like, Christian, Christian,” Paul said. He couldn’t really explain it, but if Paul was asked what a Christian acted like, he’d point to Jordan. It’s not like Paul could rely on Nobody to pop into existence when he wanted.
“There’s nothing wrong with speaking truth.” Jordan laughed as he said it. “Sometimes people don’t like it, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”
Jordan smiled and pointed through Game World’s glass wall. There was Paul’s favorite game: Invasion. “You wanna kill some aliens?”
Paul smiled. He’d be willing to do anything to keep his mind off that jerk and his self-righteous rants, but he loved that game. They approached, and the sliding glass doors opened to allow them in. Beeps, whirrs, and plinks seemed to hit them like a wall of sound. The chaos was wonderful.
They sped over to Invasion, ignoring all the other games. Each of them reached into their pockets to pull out their pre-charged game cards. They inserted their cards and logged onto the game.
Invasion was essential nothing more than an excuse to use a plastic pistol to shoot aliens. There was a story to it if one paid attention, but the premise was simple. Shoot whatever the game threw in front of you except your teammates and any unfortunate humans who may be in the way. If you didn’t shoot the aliens soon enough, they’d kill you, and the game would end.
The game started with a cinematic sequence that only made Paul impatient, but the clip eventually ended, and the pair started shooting. The game reeled players in slowly. At first, there were only one or two monsters to shoot, and with two players, it felt boring in a way, but it was also exhilarating. Paul liked trying to shoot aliens from as great a distance as possible. Eventually, creatures started popping onto the screen as if coming from around a corner or leaping from the ceiling.
Before a player realized it, he was surrounded. That’s when it got fun!
Paul and Jordan defended one another. They shouted and warned each other. After a while of playing this game on a near daily basis, they had a lot of the game memorized. That knowledge allowed them to progress farther and father into the game.
They cleared another level and the screen seemed to pan to look at a burning sky scraper. They called it The Tower. Paul glanced at Jordan. “You ready.”
Jordan pulled back the plastic gun’s slide as if clearing the chamber. The gesture activated the reload action in the game. “This time we beat it!”
A part of Paul wondered if The Tower was the end of the game or not. Regardless, no amount of knowing where the critters were coming from or when they’d jump at you made a difference if there were simply too many to shoot. The screen continued to pan and zoom as if they were walking into a burning building that also had what must have been thousands of aliens crawling all over it.
A scream echoed through the speakers. It sounded huge. Last time Paul and Jordan played, they caught a glimpse of a creatures that had at least twenty-two hit points, spots a player had to shoot to damage an alien. They died and ran out of credit on their game cards before they even had a chance to get a good look at the thing.
Beating this game was second only to figuring out how Nobody teleported through space in Paul’s list of life-goals.
They entered the tower. There wasn’t time to think. Creatures of all shapes and sizes flooded toward them, and there was nothing to do but shoot as quickly as possible. By this point in the game, Paul’s hand started to feel numb and his forearm was sore. Occasionally, a different sort of gun or even grenade would appear on the screen, which let Paul or Jordan upgrade their weapons for a short time. The problem was a bullet spent on upgrading your weapon let some ten aliens get that much closer.
They came in waves. Jordan managed to upgrade to an automatic rifle, which allowed him to hold his trigger down and wave his weapon back and forth like a flame thrower. The weapon gave Paul precious seconds to pick off whatever monsters Jordan’s wild onslaught didn’t hit. Jordan probably took out a third of the aliens in the initial wave.
Come on! Paul tried to force his eyes open even as he carefully shot the closest aliens. His efforts took another third of the invader’s front line.
Come on! Paul watched as Jordan’s automatic rifle ran out of energy and converted back into a pistol. Jordan’s wave bullets became a pitiful series of shots that weren’t nearly enough to account for the remaining third of the enemies.
… to be continued …