Monday, August 15, 2011

Spanner 12.5: Showdown at Game Wars

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Chapter 12: Bad Girls Can’t Win
Part 5: Showdown at Game Wars (Revision 2)

29 september 2014.
Game Wars.
They called places like this video arcades back in the late twentieth century. But when PlayStation and Xbox conquered the videogame world, the arcades went extinct and their games, which devoured millions of quarters during their lifespan, now circulate as emulated bootlegs on the Darknet. Gamerooms only thrive when they can offer something not possible on the Xbox at home. Once this means the full-body virtual reality controllers that cannot fit in a home living room and which wags compare to giant hamster balls. When they found their way into the last surviving arcades in Japan, the industry bounced back from certain doom by offering live tournaments that eventually achieved massive ratings on national television in Japan and Korea. Now they have ditched the “manster wheels” and gone full-blown antigrav. The dominant game genres there are fighting and dance. The name of Aya Shibata reached the lips of everyone in Japan last spring when Shira used that character to defeat 2013 champion Nenene Sasakawa in one of the most spectacular dance fights ever.

Shira has a strong suspicion that her victory provoked millions of angry gangsters and racists to overthrow the democratic Japanese government and enthrone Japan’s most notorious eugenicists as dictators to protect their tribal ego from further humiliation by gaijin such as her. The Yakuza-dominated régime is flirting with the destruction of their nation by baiting the much larger rival master race in China, but right now she does not concern herself with things like that. She’s back in America now, and the videogame arenas now disappearing from doomed Japan are now proliferating across the Pacific. A new one is holding its grand opening tonight in downtown Bremerton, and she intends to steal the show. After she finishes her underhanded business with Gar Smith, she hops on a bus downtown in hopes of getting there early enough to get in.

The crowd at Game Wars is huge. Most of the people there are vidgame fanboys who camped out all weekend and skipped school today just so they can be the first to get in. But when one of them spots her, he cries out “Aya’s here! It’s really her!” The name of Aya Shibata overcomes the crowd, and Shira finds herself being sucked through the mass of gamers toward the front door. If Aya herself is here, they reason, she needs to be the first one in. And when the doors finally open at 7:00 sharp, they push her in.

They try to get her to play first, but she declares, “No. I take winner.” Immediately, the management and the elite gamers organize a Virtual Tournament; within half an hour, the Tournament is on and the fighting is being projected over the mid-air players by the arena’s huge holovid system. The flying fighters use nearly every character from every fighting game ever released and dozens of original characters from various MMOs and unleash superhuman wushu and atmosphere-scorching magic attacks against each other to earn the right to become Aya Shibata’s next victim. Meanwhile, Koji spots the rapidly growing crowd outside Game Wars and tries to push his way through, while Nenene curses the ferry’s slowness as it snakes through the narrow Rich Passage on its way back to Bremerton.

The packed Game Wars crowd gets so involved in the holographic pyrotechnics that the end of the Tournament hits them unexpectedly. By then, Stan Green arrives with a horde of Jesus America-loving bullyboys, and they’ve started fighting with the crowd outside. Beyond the crowd, a stretch Stryker parks mid-street and opens; a man in a MIB suit and a top hat steps out like a king; he vaguely resembles a young Steve Jobs with his black mop top and round John Lennon glasses. This is Byron Scofield: he is the real leader of the crackdown attempt, and his primary target is the primary object of his hatred, Shira Thomas.

Inside, Shira steps in front of the camera and her image appears on all the huge vidscreens lining the Game Wars walls. The place erupts in thunderous cheers. Outside near the door, Koji squees in helpless adoration like a fangirl and Nenene screams in helpless rage. Shira absorbs the crowd’s adoration. At this moment, she is a goddess. She will use the power they bestow on her to transform herself into their anime superheroine. For an endless moment, she simply stands there with a smile and makes them suffer with anticipation. Then with deliberate suddenness, she violently discards her yellow school uniform and everything else she’s wearing to reveal skin that is — blue-gray? The crowd grows quiet with disappointment. But then she holds out her arms in a gesture of victory and her painted skin lights up with images from a thousands pirate television shows, and once again Game Wars explodes with a deafening roar as Shira’s fans witness her apotheosis. She throws her head back and lets out a long fierce howl. When she feels she’s given them enough, she climbs into her form-fitting datasuit that extinguishes the diode light, zips it up, and launches herself into the air cushion of the Game Wars arena. Circuit-lit flesh is replaced by a giant figure of light, with her skin and hair but the long ears of a dark elf, wearing a loincloth and strategically decorated with luminous body paint. The assembled masses scream and roar and worship her like a rock star as she completes her transformation — and Aya Shibata is reborn!

Her opponent is a Navy man from Wyoming who calls himself Harley Davidson and fights semiprofessionally as a Ken so hacked he is no longer recognizable except as what his nonfans call an animated Chuck Norris joke. His manager warned him to always be careful fighting Aya because she is so notoriously unpredictable; he brushed it off by telling him he’s a professional and he’s prepared for anything. She floats in front of him, one leg cocked. The announcer roars “Fight!” and the fight begins.

Davidson launches a series of fireballs at Aya, his customary gambit with which he tests his opponents. He expects her to dodge them, but she deflects most of them in various random directions and three right back at him to score one hit. She flies around him like a whirlwind and lands four punches and three kicks before he hits her with a psychic sword special attack and sends her speeding back toward the wall — but she stops in mid-air. The crowd roars.

She flies past him, bounces off the wall, spins around him. He throws out a series of attacks but hits only air. She pops up right in front of him, then disappears right in front of his eyes. The whole arena gasps. (She disappears from the techs’ view as well; one says in shock, “Where’d she go?”) Suddenly her whirlwind special attack hits him out of nowhere, she follows it up with a brutal combo, and puts him down with her infamous Electric Boogaloo attack that completely disorients him before his energy runs out and he falls. The roar is deafening as she spins around, raises her fist, points down at the crowd, and lets out her victory phrase: “Next victim!”

But soon the fight inside the arena itself begins to overwhelm the crowd. Stan Green and his fighting Americans try to bust up the entire operation with their steroid-boosted fists. In the escalating chaos, Koji manages to claw his way through, dodging flying fists and feet, till at last he climbs up on the platform, grabs the mic, and yells, “Aya-sama! I am your next victim!” He leaps into the arena without changing, manifests his character Tattoo Ryu, and does not wait for the announcer to give the signal before he rushes her.

Aya hits him with a massive spin kick combo. She smashes him against the far wall, then the near wall, and then the floor. He peels himself off the floor and concentrates all his energy into one special attack: he activates his Lightning Force, launches himself at her, and screams, “Aya-chan! Suki daaaaa!

She counters his attack with her Spirit Mirror and then unleashes the full Electric Boogaloo attack on him; Tattoo Ryu disappears and Koji Mizoguchi falls barely conscious to the floor.

Stan finally grabs the mic and declares, “This game is over! In the name of Jesus America and all that is moral, we’re shuttin’ this place down now!

Aya Shibata disappears, revealing Shira Thomas hovering in her place. Her datasuit’s circuit pattern grows bright; two energy balls (real this time) glow in her gloves; she glares down defiantly at the Moral Enforcers and yells back at them with a Challenge in her voice: “Oh no, you ain’t! The fun’s only just begun!”

She spins around and unleashes a barrage of zap balls that hit their muscled targets with uncanny precision. She flies at Stan; he tries to knock her down with a massive hammer strike, but she dodges it and hammers him with a flurry of flying spin kicks from all directions. She flits erratically and chatters like a drunken monkey while he reels and flails and hits only rising air. She grabs the platform railing, spins on it like a gymnast, and lands a double rising kick into his jaw to send him backward, out on his feet, till he slams the wall and slides down to the floor. Staring wide-eyed and slack-jawed, Nenene watches Shira crush the bullyboy with deceptive ease.

Shira’s help allows the crowd of players to beat their attackers all the way out of Game Wars and onto the street. The Game Wars owners call their insurers. The crowd slowly dissipates, realizing at last that the game really is over for the night and perhaps the next few as well, depending on the damage. Shira puts her school clothes back on and exits through the back door into the alley. Nenene shouts at her: “Come back, you chicken! I still beat you ping pong!” — but her voice is lost in the noise and chaos.

Shira looks down the alley to see the man in the top hat staring at her. Shira and Scofield stare each other down for a minute that seems like an hour. Scofield says nothing. Shira goes “Hmph!” She turns away from him contemptuously and walks home.

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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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