When I was younger and still spent the majority of my time outdoors, my father and I took the liberty to construct a treehouse in our backyard. While the final product was a fantastic example of how inept both of us were at woodworking, the little hideout held up longer than my interest in the outside world did, in spite of the hands that made it. While I did love this new home for child-friendly escapades, the whole experience was dampened by the swollen thumb I’d earned when I introduced it to a hammer in motion. I didn’t break any bones, though I probably should have. Thankfully, my thumb was not the only thing I abused in our building process. I planted my fair share of nails into their respective places, too.
I share this, because when R3M1X alluded to the difference between being a hammer and being a nail, this memory jumped to the forefront of my attention. These two objects had a distinct relationship. A nail was made as an accessory to the hammer’s authority. One was subject to absolute power, the other was power absolute. A hammer will always beat down the nail, putting it in its place.
Unfortunately for Od!n, R3M1X didn’t seem interested in breaking stride on this metaphor. In a demonstration of superiority surpassing even M-80’s dominance over me, R3M1X wielded his character, Tu’Vashi, and veritably hammered Perry into oblivion. Seriously, it was disgusting. The gap in power was so vast that it seemed almost like a mistake for Perry to have made it this far in the tournament. He was strung up, immolated, and seared until nothing remained but defeated, crumbled chaff.
As I watched, I noticed a small thing. R3M1X fought with a fanged brow, his grey eyes burning on the screen, intensity painting over his face. No, not only intensity, but enmity. Despite neither Perry nor myself having ever met this man before, he was fighting with the severity of a man personally offended. He masked it with some bullcrap jargon about ‘respect’, but that wasn’t it, at least not entirely. R3M1X played Anarchy with vengeance, and I was dying to know why.
In a swift, final combo that Perry could not escape, Tu’Vashi carried Lady Thrice through a flurry of kicks that ended in her expulsion from the screen, last stock of the last set crucified against R3M1X’s rage and skill.
R3M1X started wrapping up his controller before the game even announced his victory.
“And there you have it.” R3M1X said, a stamp of finality emblazoned on each word. With that, he promptly left his seat, pulled a cigarette out of his back pocket and departed through Jade Gaming’s back door. The only person he bothered to acknowledge on the way out was Davis, with whom he traded the most subtle of nods.
Perry seemed to be taking it hard, sitting quietly in himself. I took one step towards him when he erupted from his chair, teeth knotted and eyes like fire.
“What the hell is his problem?” He thrust an indignant finger at the exit door. “What. The. Hell.”
“Perry,” I assuaged.
“Seriously,” Perry continued, “What’s the deal? It’s one thing for him to beat me. Fine, whatever. But he doesn’t need to be such a childish prick about it.”
Jordan stepped forward, a placating hand held before him. “You’re right,” he said, “Scott has some issues he’s working through.”
This only stoked the coals. A blade of light glistened in Perry’s eyes and I might have stepped back slightly, like recoiling from a loud noise. Instead, Perry spoke slowly and with an edge. “Issues? No. He’s just mean.”
“Then why does he treat me so well?” Jordan countered.
“I don’t know. And I must ask, why is that? You don’t seem to be upset that he’s a complete–”
“Do not get angry at me because you aren’t patient enough to figure it out for yourself,” Jordan said, cutting through Perry’s anger, “It’s not a trick, and he’s not evil, so wait. Do not be brash.”
Now I recoiled even further. That was the first time I’d ever heard Jordan speak with anything even vaguely related to contempt.
Understandably, Perry slowed down. He shuffled his feet, pursed his lips, and never let his gaze leave Jordan’s. But Jordan held steady and confident.
“I,” Perry said, before eventually cutting eye contact and turning his back to us. He quickly began to pack his stuff.
I tried to break in again, insert my voice as a sort of medium to balance all of the turbulent emotions, but Perry wouldn’t respond to me. Instead, he grabbed his controller, stuffed it into his backpack, and left the building without a word.
Part of me wanted to chase him of course, but another part of me just wanted to let him go, so the situation could diffuse for a time. If I was going to help sort this out, I’d need to think things through a little more. Plus, Perry wasn’t likely to turn his mood around anytime soon, so there was no point. He needed to sober down on his own.
Needless to say, we’d caused quite a scene. Perry left through the front door, and the surrounding crowd gazed at Jordan and I with anticipation.
Jordan chuckled. “Weird day,” he said, off-handedly.
“Is this, like, the second coming of Sid?” Harked somebody from the crowd, “What’s up with your team, Jordan? You find all of the exciting people.”
Jordan chuckled again, unwrapping his controller and strolling over to the third station, “It’s all for your benefit. Might as well get a show to go with your gaming.”
“If that’s all it’s about,” Jahn perked up, at station four waiting for Davis, “Keep it up, you’re doing great.”
“I try my best.”
Boom, conflict dissolved. As if it had almost never happened, the tournament resumed like normal. I mean, we were short a member of our crew, and R3M1X returned a few minutes later with his nerves balanced from a quick cig, but otherwise normal.
And now Jordan was preparing for war against Iso.
I took a second to glance at the bracket, an emissary of destiny against the arcade wall. It hadn’t yet updated to reflect R3M1X’s victory against Perry. Nor did it show M-80’s devastation of Oopsiedaisy, which had been taking place unperturbed by the heated showdown. Jordan and Davis had yet to begin their matches.
Davis took his place at station four and plugged in, ready to duel Jahn, the tournament proctor.
Jordan cracked his neck, his back, and finally his knuckles. Meanwhile, Iso was resting back in his chair, controller in his lap, fingers pressed together loosely in some sort of meditation or prayer.
I knew nothing about Jahn besides the fact that he was obviously formidable, but Iso was another story. If rumor was to be believed, he apparently stood on par with Pharroh in last year’s WGR. Not an easy feat. On top of that, both R3M1X and Burndaddy revered him as an exceptional anarchist, both of whom were considerable greater players than myself.
Jahn selected Solar & Luna, the same character as GG preferred to main. It would be interesting to see how their playstyles differed. Considering the dual character usage on the field, there was a lot of room for diversity in tactics. Iso selected Lynx, of course. I’d watched him play during some friendlies prior to the tournament, where he minced his opponent like a sausage. His skill with the battle-cat was nothing to scoff at, if you catch my rhyme. Naturally, Davis ‘Merc’ decided to run the gauntlet with Shiva, the moon maiden, and Jordan ‘Burndaddy’ selected…
Dax & Petre!
“Wait,” I staggered, “What?”
Jordan cocked his fist laterally, meeting Davis on the other end, knuckles connecting.
“Riotwings?” Davis nodded with a vicious grin.
“Here to bring the pain,” Jordan rested both hands on his controller, “See you in the semi-finals, Merc.”
Iso smiled after that. He smiled like somebody familiar, in his career as an anarchist, of very frequently being the hammer.