Because it was requested: Links to all the blog posts for this story.
Intro and Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 8.2
Part 9 Part 10 Part 10.2 Part 11 Part 12 and Coda
Since the final doc will have changes here and about I'm including a Google Doc link too. Yes I'm going to go through the links and add a table of contents to each in case people want to go through.
A New Challenger Appears
"Hello?" Girlvoice. Familiar but I probably didn't know the person it belonged to.
I took a breath and tried to calm down. "Blackbird?" Felt weird saying her board handle out loud. There was a pause. "Copper said it was alright to call. I'm Max."
"Oh," Pause on the other end and some other noises. "Fruitboy. So, what do I do to prove to you airheads I'm actually the girl on the other end of the keyboard." Less than amused voice. Also, fruitboy is not my handle. Seriously....
"Why wouldn't you be? This's the number that matches the name and-" I was cut off.
Her voice had a tinge of annoyance to it. "All it would take is me getting some girl I know to lurk around or read printouts to get a good idea of what goes on, then have her do the phone work while I laughed my head off at suckering everyone in."
I hadn't thought of that to be honest. "Oh. Well," I tried scrambling for some kind of response so I wouldn't sound like a total idiot. "Well it kinda works both ways doesn't it? You get girl to pose as 'you' then you have to make sure she won't make her own account and spill the beans. Plus Copper has something planned on the Fourth so you'd miss out if you were using somebody else as a puppet."
"Well hey. You do have a little common sense." And what was THAT supposed to mean? "Granted you spend way too much just to get an apple when you could've put down a couple hundred for a Commodore and put the rest away for other stuff." Something of a teasing quality to her voice. Guess she was trying to tease, but it just got on my nerves.
So, being the ever-enlightened and levelheaded fourteen year old, I started mouthing at her. "I didn't buy it, my dad did. Plus I've got software going back years, and I've got all kinds of expansion down the road. Your little breadbox, what's it got?" I tried toning it down so tried winding up. "Plus I've got something compatible with school systems. I get an assignment. Boom. I can do most of the work at home, and goof off with wolfenstien or Zork or whatever."
Laughter. Musical and joy filled laughter on the other end of the line. "Wolfinstein? I've got Vice Squad."
"Yea. On a download off some BBS with a lame crack screen." I pulled a disk out of my collection and smiled at it. "Bet you don't have the real thing. Complete with the foldout map of the city and files on the gangs you're hunting down hmmm?"
[note=feelies]That's something I sorely miss from gaming today. Sure not everything came with maps, files, interesting cases, or the like. However the stuff that did just kinda stands out. Plus it acted as a sort of anti-piracy since as often as not you'd need something from the bundled material to get through the game.[/note]
"I've got high score on Space Paranoids at Jon's." Calm voice. No pride to it or snark, or whatever. Just a simple statement.
I couldn't let it stand though. Sure I wasn't a nova-hot gamer, but to let some /girl/ have the high score? "Saturday. Noon. Jon's. I'm going to annihilate whoever's high score. Be there."
More laughter. "Many have tried. All have failed." Singsong voice. "But it'll be fun watching you try. "Byyyeeee." Click.
So I've got a date. No not a date. I've seen that score taunting me for months now. EBC. Those three letters hanging there Just under FLN. Then again FLN had what's been generally agreed on to be the hard-limit score for the game. Then again there's so much of a gap between those two sets of initials that I could scoop little miss EBC and there'd still be room to stack the loser on top and have a little wiggle room before even touching Mr. FLN.
I'm not even sure if Space Paranoids has a killscreen or not.
Game Day's come and gone. I'm... not in love. Have to keep reminding myself it's probably just the fact she's got a killer bod and was being a bit of a flirt.
Jon's is pretty crowded. Sure you have the usual half-pints and parents that're there just because they don't trust their kid unsupervised but the Space Paranoids Cab was a ghost town. Strange, but then I looked at the person playing.
Girl. Dark skin. Short hair. I grinned, nolonger caring that the usual crowd of watchers weren't there, before changing out a few bucks for tokens. She wasn't paying attention to anything but the recognizers filling her screen. Would've been rude to intentionally break her concentration so i put my token down on the control surface and went to get a couple drinks. Figure if this's Blackbird then she'll want to stay and watch. If not, then it's just courtesy really. I had extra money to blow so why not be nice?
So I get back and it's still just the girl but she's about to get her last life crushed. I offer her my spare drink and pick up the token I'd put down to call dibs on next game.
"Blackbird?" I was somewhat unsure if it was her or not. When the girl smiled and stepped aside I smiled back. "Now. Watch the maestro work."
You know. It's almost like I was tempting fate there since I promptly got smished.
I glowered over at the girl, who was all smiles and innocent cuteness. Then I focused back on the game. Joystick with some buttons on it for the turret. Trackball for general movement. I'd heard they wanted to name this one something else like 'Space Paranoids: Revenge of the Recognizer!' or something like that. I'd seen some of the older units and I personally like the new control layout. Kinda takes getting used to, but as I slid around a corner firing at recognizers chasing me, I had to admit it had it's uses.
Couldn't afford to pay attention to it at the time, but I'd already beat my old high score by the time I'd passed through the fake wall in the middle of stage nine and hit a secret warp.
"Well I'll be dipped in cornflakes." Again, didn't pay attention at the time. I'm going off memory, which probably means Blackbird said something far less family friendly. To be honest I'd known the warp was there, but got killed by a rouge tank that'd followed me through. Guess they go in secret areas if they're already targeting you, but otherwise can't, because the one on level three seemed completely empty save for a couple recharge stations.
This one took me to level ?4. Guess that means there's at least three other ? levels. Oh well, not breaking Flynn's score today. This level... destroyed me. I got a couple of the tanks but it's one giant open pit and even with infinite ammo it's thirty on one.
Then it spat me back out at the 'proper' level after the one I'd warped from. It even credited me the kills I got in there how nice.
Long story short I couldn't beat her score. I came inside of spitting distance, but still no dice. She wooped and did a little dance. "You're good boy, but I'm still the best."
"Aside from Flynn you mean?" Didn't mean it to be insulting just. Yea. Pride I guess.
She snickered. "Well he /wrote/ the game didn't he? Nobody'd be as good as him. I'm happy with taking the number two slot if he's the only guy ahead of me. Oh and... pay up."
"Que?" I was caught off guard. No bets were made after all.
Still, she held her hand out as if expecting money. "Pay up. You lost, so you're buying me lunch."
Ooooh. "Lunch I can do." I grinned. Lunch wit ha cute girl. Might be Blackbird, probably was to be honest, might not. "Oh, you said you were looking for Challenger Deep?"
"Yea. Hadn't seen a copy floating around. No word on if it's because the game sucks, or if it's new copy protection."
I pulled a disk out of my backpack and held it up. "Tada!"
She made a face a me. "Apple Two software won't work on a Commodore genius."
That's when I turned the disk so she saw the other side.
"Oh wow, didn't know it's a flipper. Gimme!" She made a grab for it. Seemed playful, but I kept it just out of reach. "C'mon that just ain't right. Tease a girl with new softs and not gonna share." She punched me in the shoulder.
"I'll give it up on one condition." This caused an eyebrow. "You help me figure out a way to get Steve to stop being such harshing everything." Only after she'd nodded did I hand the disk over.