“Anarchy” Chapter 14 – The Vanishing Law

anarchy c 14

Jade Tourney fourth round
It wasn’t until after the battle that I finally got some sort of notification from Perry as to his condition. A concise: “Fine. Just blowing off some steam. Sorry about the temperamental half-time show.”

I didn’t bother to respond. It was enough for him to simply answer my question. If Jordan was being salty about his loss, then Perry had been the salt mine. A salt mine laced with low-yield explosives.

Though, I’m not sure if you could really call Jordan ‘salty’ or not. ‘Depressed’ was a surprisingly accurate term, I found. Why? Not sure. All I know is I need to have a serious conversation with somebody about who this ‘Micah’ person was. The theatrical parts of me were already combing up every type of unrealistic circumstance to answer my anticipation. Maybe it was an exiled twin brother who’d made beef with the wrong sorts of people and was excommunicated from their household…who also happened to be running undercover as one of the Anarchy Sovereign.

Man, that would be freaking sick.

“Joel, want some pizza?” Comet broke my reverie. I spun to face her. The girl’s shirt was intentionally half-tucked, and embellished with assorted black and grey webbing over white. Not a Spider-Man shirt like usual, but not too far off. It’s a wonder how she doesn’t main Arakid considering, you know, he’s a spider.

GG had cleared space on an old fold-up table in the back room and christened it with the duty of bearing the weight of our pizza. Two boxes were drawn open, insides of the lids stained with grease, fumes of cheese and calories exuding in glory.

While I’m not proud to say it, I found myself longing for them so badly it made the root of my tongue hurt.

I made my way to the table. “I’d love some. Who got it?”

“It’s on the house,” GG said, “From me to all of our Riotwing buddies.”

Pursing my lips, I leaned in closer, “Are things always this, um, emotionally-charged? I really wasn’t expecting this.”

GG shook his head and I felt relief flood through me.

“We see our share of saltiness. That’s a given. But there aren’t usually bouts of anger and sadness like what you’re seeing now.”

Perry and Jordan, respectively. I sighed.

“That being said,” Perry slipped his hand beneath a slice of pepperoni pizza, “This is not the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last.”

“Noted,” I retrieved my own pizza slice and pulled up a chair. It would be a few minutes before the next matches were underway. Only four combatants remained, and two of them were from the same crew. Jordan had been cut, so our only representing member was Merc, who would be tossing up with iso in the upcoming round. He was going to get slaughtered and he knew it.

Because he still had a showdown ahead of him, Davis had keenly decided not to indulge himself just yet, and asked us to save him a couple slices for after he got his butt handed to him. Didn’t want to make his fingers slick with grease and such. Napkins can only save you from so much trouble, so it was best to abstain altogether for the time.

While we were chowing down, Perry surprised me by returning to the tournament. It didn’t take being finely attuned to small things to notice his blatant avoidance of R3M1X, but that was probably wise. All things considered, he seemed better than when he left, his anger having given way to a general sense of disappointment. I suspected it was disappointment in himself, for having let things get so out of hand.

Growing pains.

“Would you mind if,” Perry gestured helplessly at the pizza, “If I had some?”

GG pushed one of the boxes in Perry’s direction, “Never give up, never surrender.”

Perry snorted. “Galaxy Quest, hm? Nice.”

“Really,” GG said. “Don’t let it get to you. R3M1X situation aside, this has been a successful day of Anarchy for all of us.”

Comet promptly raised her hand and smiled ruefully. “Not all, thank you.”

Davis whacked Comet on the back, aghast. “What do you mean? You faced MiiKii with valor and vim. He’s not an easy foe. The only reason he didn’t make it farther is because he was fated to go through the iso grinder after your match.”

“Davis, you know I’m not actually upset, right?”

“Still.”

I chewed on my pizza, absently processing the conversation around me. It was delicious. “So,” I started, “iso is pretty much slated to win this no matter what, right?”

GG nodded with most of his body, since using just his head would have ruined the perfect bite of food he was taking.

“And there’s no hope for a freak victory from anybody else? M-80? R3M1X? Our man Merc, here? None of them?”

Davis crossed his arms on the table and rest his chin atop them. “Well, of course there’s a chance. It’s just slim. Have you ever heard of the Vanishing Law?”

“The Vanishing Law?” I said, cutting through my memories for anything related to that term. I came up short.

“The idea of being the best is an arbitrary one. It’s difficult, once you get on top, to stay there. All champions must lose eventually.”

I shrugged. “Sounds like a fancy way of saying ‘there will always be somebody better than you.’ I don’t think that’s called the Vanishing Law…or anything so cool as that.”

This time it was Davis who shrugged. “That’s just what I’ve heard it called in Anarchy circles. The point is, everybody must lose eventually.”

“Sure,” I said, “But I doubt it’ll be today.”

Davis laughed. “I doubt so, too.”

Phone in hand, Jahn, this tournament’s T.O., approached to let us know that Davis would be at station 1 to duke it out with notorious local champ, iso. Around this same time, Jordan finally decided to join us and partake in GG’s generous offering. Thankfully, whatever had been bothering him before seemed to fade into the background. He was laughing and smiling with his regular enthusiasm.

Davis and company migrated over to his station. I took the opportunity to become a conscious presence in iso’s world.

I reached out my hand to him, cutting him off in the process of unwinding his controller. “Sorry, I saw you earlier, but never really introduced myself. I’m Joel. My tag is Myth and I’m kind of new here.”

Iso looked me in the eye and smiled. He took my hand. The shake was firm. “Hello, Myth. Name’s Andrew. I watched some of your match with M-80. Not bad.”

I cringed, but didn’t make a fuss about it. “Not my best performance, but thank you, anyways.”

“We all have our days.”

Iso –Andrew– was some part Native American, but mostly your staple white male. Probably Irish. He was short and meager, but kept his back straight and held a composure that was two parts confidence, one part lazy. I studied intelligence behind his eyes and was instantly able to tell what type of player iso was in Anarchy. He did not play with his gut, but his mind. He’d spend hours breaking down the fine points of the game: how far did each attack reach, which directions would those attacks send you if they connected, how soon can I fast fall after short-hopping, after long-jumping? Every technical mechanic was his playground. He played Anarchy like most people would read a textbook.

I let iso finish his preparations alongside Merc. In the next station over, R3M1X and M-80 were preparing for what was probably a very common event between them. I mean, as I understand it, they likely played Anarchy together at least a few times a week. Both of them belong to local crew ‘Hour of Helix’, which I suspected was about to become a sort of rival team, at least for me and Perry.

Iso and Merc, selected their characters and settled on a stage. In his usual bro-ness, Merc offered a fist bump before the game. Iso took it casually and sincerely.

“Hit me with your best shot, Merc,” iso settled into the game.

“Somebody’s going to beat you someday,” Merc grinned. “I’ll try to make it sooner rather than later.”

Iso nodded with a playful smugness. “Do try.”

I stood back and watched in silence as their match unfolded. Vanishing Law or not, iso showed no signs of giving up his reign at the top of our local scene any time soon.
Still, Merc was right. Eventually, every Goliath must fall.

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“Anarchy” Chapter 13 – Brothers In Arms

Chapter 13

Now that the tournament had begun entering its final stages, many of the stations which had been preoccupied with match-ups were now available for friendlies.  A few players had taken some of the spots for themselves and toss up, but most bystanders made themselves comfortable at stations three and four, where quarter-finalists ‘burndaddy,’ ‘Merc,’ ‘iso,’ and ‘Jahn’ had taken center-stage.  Two of my Riotwing brethren were still competing, though I suspected both of them were going to be pushing up daisies, soon.  Like, they were both about to get destroyed.  Especially Jordan.  There was no hope at all.

Some people have adequately described me as a pessimist.

I tried texting Perry to check up on him and let him know that his blow-up wasn’t as big of a blow-up as he thought.  I mean, it was as big as he thought, but he didn’t need to know that.  Pretty sure he read between the lines, because he didn’t respond before the first sets were underway.

Begin! Each of the screens said in a slightly off-harmony, one beginning just a moment before the other.  The four combatants leaned into their respective zones, exiling outside distractions.

Jahn was first to move, a blitzkrieg assault against Merc being his initial course of action.  Merc kept low, to the bottom portion of their arena, as per the conventions of wisdom.  If he stood any chance against a hyper-aggressive Solar & Luna, he’d need to create as much distance as possible and weaken them with Shiva’s assorted projectiles.  Fortunately, I knew first-hand that he was no slouch in close-quarters if push came to shove, but it still wouldn’t be in his favor.

Burndaddy on the other hand, was using a completely asinine tactic.  Dax & Petre?  Against iso?  Either Burndaddy was pulling some serious mind-games on the best player in the tournament, or he was an idiot.  Dax & Petre were not tournament viable.

At least, not usually.  Then again, Arakid was also not tournament viable by most standards, yet I’d lost to one before.  So you never know, I guess.

While he was still losing the match, Burndaddy was holding up rather well considering his character choice.  Like Merc, he was staying close to the main arena, but that was more because D&P’s strong-suit was being grounded, and less because he needed to make distance between him and his opponent.  In Anarchy, there’s a meta-game concept called “The Neutral,” where both players try to make use of their character advantages and gain strategic placement on the stage and create an edge-guard situation where they can apply pressure.  Somehow, Burndaddy had become very good at this particular trick with Dax & Petre.  It was…unusual.

Then, suddenly, he started winning.  Iso maneuvered up and down the stage in a mechanical fashion, dashing and reflexing with exceptional dexterity.  He dodged around Jordan’s moves, and traded hits with the Riotwing once, twice, thrice.  Jordan was using Dax and Petre remarkably well; far better than I’d ever seen the character used before.  The monkey-bird duo was holding their own, walling out iso and his Lynx.  Petre would fly out in a ribbon pattern, and Dax would use his slingshot to strike at his opponent after the feline adversary dodged the bird. Basically it was a matter of predicting the cat warrior’s evasions, and hitting him during the recovery lag.  But iso was no pushover, and quickly becoming more and more difficult to anticipate.  I could see it on Jordan’s face that he was struggling to keep up.

“It’s insane, isn’t it?” Comet said from my right, like a ghost materializing out of the air, “His Dax & Petre is so good. Much better than mine.”

“Is Dax & Petre…Jordan’s best character?” I said, low, so as not to distract the anarchists still in combat.

Comet shuffled her feet and tapped a finger to her lips, “Hard to say.  Most people think so.  Davis disagrees, and so did Sid.  Jordan has another character of almost equal skill, but D&P definitely runs more shock value.  Not many people expect to come to a tournament and get bodied by a bottom-tier.”

A pulse of excitement strummed through the crowd when, on the other station, Merc pulled out a brutal two-stock comeback by trumping Jahn on his last stock at a low-percentage.  I caught the exchange just in time to watch him trump the twins Solar & Luna again as they tried to recover from the first spike, plummeting them both into the blast-zone.  The excitement morphed into a clamor, with several oooohhs saturating the noise and complimenting scattered, staccato applause.

About twenty seconds later, Jordan met his end when iso breached Dax & Petre’s safety bubble and ravaged the final stock, claiming the first set.

“God,” R3M1X said from a ways to my left, leaning idly against a support beam, “He just cannot be beaten.”

Jordan spun around in his chair and cocked his pointer finger at R3M1X.  “I don’t appreciate your negativity, sir.”

“I don’t appreciate that you haven’t put this chump in the ground, sir.”

Iso chuckled lightly to himself.  He seemed a pretty reserved person.  I might have heard him say a total of ten words all night.  Before I left for the evening, I’d have to try and talk to him.

“Good win, Merc,” Jordan nodded to his fellow Riotwing, “What happened?”

Merc grinned.  “Back-to-back tumps.  On the same stock.”

“Nice.”

Being the victor, Merc decided to strike his two least favorite stages from Jahn’s choice for the next stage.  Jahn selected a stage with several rotating platforms from the remaining options.  They began round two.  Iso and burndaddy followed closely behind, with Jordan striking two of his least favorite stages, ones with functional platforms levitating above the main stage.  Again, D&P is a very ground-oriented character, it was only logical to capitalize on his strengths.

As the matches readied, I checked my phone to see if Perry had responded.  Instead I found a few messages from his girlfriend, Serah.  She seemed…testy.  I needed to scroll through multiple texts to piece together the whole message.

“Joel, did something happen? I asked Perry how the games were going and he hasn’t responded in almost twenty minutes.”
“He never forgets to check his phone.  Is he in a really long match or something?”
“Joel, work with me, here.”
“I know you guys aren’t purposely ignoring me.  That would make me sad.”
“Joel, Imma wreck you if something happened to Perry and you guys won’t tell me.”
“That’s it. Prepare for smacktown, kid.”

                I grinned.  Jeez this girl could talk.  Another message popped up in the middle of my snarky retaliation.

“Really, though.  It’s kind of freaking me out.  At least tell me he’s okay.”

                For a moment I weighed the exact amount of truth worth sharing.  I mean, it’s not like anything had really happened.  Perry was just pissed off, not wounded or dying.  But saying that he stormed out of the room because of a video game might paint the portrait of childishness.  Which, to be fair, it kind of was.

I deleted my original message and replaced it with something succinct and distinctly non-retaliatory.  “He’s fine.  Just raging a little.  I’ll let him know you’re worried.

Almost immediately, she answered back.

“Thanks, Joel.  You’re still going to smacktown for taking so freaking long.”

                I sighed and put the phone back in my pocket.  May Serah’s wrath find me later.

Meanwhile, in the midst of my distraction, Merc was gunning down Jahn with the drive of a Spartan elite.  Fearlessly he plugged forth, blending together strategies of close, middle, and long-ranged artillery.  Bolts of frozen light swam from Shiva’s finger tips, painting sections of the stage in a crown of ice like glass.  The moon maiden broke across the stage, dashing onto the ice and stealing her opponent’s purchase with a glissade and kick.  Momentum carried by the ice, she ran an up-buster, a glorious pillar of heaven energy cutting through the platforms, and scored a solid hit on both Solar and Luna.

After recovering, the twins weaved among themselves, spinning and dashing faster and faster until they nearly became a blur.  Davis played it safe and made pot-shots, forcing the psychic twins into action.  Luna thrust out a destructive wave of miasmic energy, breaking apart Shiva’s shards of frost.  Solar rushed beneath the few remaining projectiles and grabbed Shiva by the shoulder, pummeling her twice in the gut before driving her face-first into the ground.  She bounced into the trajectory of a vengeful Luna, who tore several psychic slashes into their opponent, raking in damage debt.

For a moment it seemed Merc was going to be juggled by Jahn’s craftsmanship with the psychic twins, but he dodged and predicted assaults in perfect counteraction to his opponent and kept the fight alive.  When I stopped focusing on the screen, each player still had all of their stocks, with Merc clocking in at a DD of 81 and Jahn respectively holding 123.

Keep it up, Davis.  At this rate, you’ll be the only Riotwing in the semi-finals.

My heart sank a little when I assessed Jordan’s performance.  Not too bad, but… No, he was not doing well.  Second stock, 88 DD?  While iso was sitting pretty at a young 50 DD for his first stock?  Burndaddy was getting gutted, and shed a few choice words in lieu of his mounting frustration.

“Jordan,” Davis said, still running his match with Jahn, “Don’t give up on me, man.  You’ve got this.  You can beat iso.”

The Riotwing leader idly shook his head without responding.

“Don’t give me that,” Davis said, his performance fading just slightly, “If you can’t beat iso, you’ll never catch up to Micah.  You hear me?  I thought you promised to catch up to Micah?”

“Davis!” Jordan roared loud at first, then caught himself and lowered his voice.  “It’s not…it’s not that easy.”

Davis nodded.  “I know.”

Jordan lost another stock, his Dax & Petre being laid to pitiful waste.  He was down by two stocks now.  There was no hope.  Lynx skipped fluidly between platforms, ready to eat the meat of another stock when Jordan’s character returned to stage and the momentary invincibility wore off.

“I can’t beat him,” Jordan resigned, “Still.”

“Yes,” Davis growled, “You can.”

Burndaddy lowered his head almost imperceptibly.  A small thing I wish I hadn’t noticed.  Then, on screen, as soon as his character made it to the field, Burndaddy promptly ran off the ledge and plummeted to the blast-zone, costing him the last stock out of self-destruction.

“Damn it, Jordan,” Davis tore at his opponent, ridding the twins of existence, claiming the set and the match.  He’d be moving to the semi-finals alone.

“Damn it is right,” Jordan wrapped up his stuff, smiled, and shook iso’s hand.  Then he slowly left his station, with a distinct weight of defeat mantled about his shoulders.  It was the sort of defeat that had been longsuffering, endured so frequently that it was becoming less of an event and more of a rule: “iso, by no stretch of my power, can be broken.”

Everyone seemed to be wearing their heart on their sleeve today.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was common, coincidental, or a performance everyone decided to play just for little ol’ me.

Oh, and who the hell is Micah?