“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.

“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?

“Anarchy” Chapter 12 – The Blunt Relationship Between a Hammer and a Nail

Chapter 12

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.

Jade Tourney third round

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.

“Anarchy” Lexicon and Informational Reference 08/26/15

This is a go-to reference page for understanding the terms and technical details of my web-serial “Anarchy.”  Herein, I’ll provide a little more exhaustive detail that might have been otherwise left out of the story for sake of not encumbering the narrative.  There is also a museum with basic character details, including both the ‘anarchists’ and the in-game characters such as Brave.  Details will be added and modified as the series furthers.

Firstly, to those familiar with the Super Smash Bros. game series, it should come as no surprise that the fundamental mechanics of Anarchy are practically a rehash of that IP with new terms so as to avoid copyright issues.  In particular, it is supposed to have the look and flow of the most recent iteration: Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U.  I can hear the Melee diehards from here.  That’s okay.  You guys are welcome, too.

In other words, if you are not familiar with Super Smash Bros. and want to have a visual reference for what I’m trying to explain in the course of the story, Youtube some of the gameplay.  “Smash 4 ZeR0 versus…” should be enough to get you started.

Moving on.

General Knowledge

Like Smash 4, “Anarchy” is a game which is processed at sixty frames-per-second, which means it is a highly detailed and fluid experience in regards to the precision of movements and actions.  Fine motor control and cognitive proficiency are both required to be an excellent anarchist.  Easy to pick up, difficult to master, it’s fundamentally a sandbox fighting game.  Unlike other 2D fighters, you come up with your own combos, using an understanding of the game’s physics.

‘Damage Debt’ (commonly referred to as ‘DD’) is the number which tracks accumulated damage on characters.  It is ever present beneath the character icons, just beside the remaining stock (‘life’) count.  The maximum possible DD is 1,000.  As Debt accumulates, characters receive more knockback and fly further with each consecutive damage point taken.  If a character flies too far off the stage and outside of the screen, they hit the ‘blast zone’ and lose a stock.  There is a small gap of space between the limits of the screen where the player may see the character and the blast zone known as the ‘borderlands’, where the character accumulates rapid sums of Debt and cannot be seen.

Competitive “Anarchy” is played in one of three modes.  The first is ‘Classic Anarchy’, which pits both players against each other in old-fashioned one-on-one combat.  The second is ‘Unity’, which divides players into teams of two-on-two or three-on-one.  The third is ‘Crew Attrition’, which also incorporates team strategy, albeit in a different way than Unity.  During Attrition gameplay, each team creates a line-up of players who will face off in one-on-one matches.  As players are beaten, an individual from their side will replace them with a fresh slate and character, while their opponents maintain the same number of lives.  The idea is to think of each team as one large-bodied machine that must be broken down piece by piece before finally destroyed.

While there are over twenty-five playable arenas in Anarchy, most tournaments select from only eight regarding competitive play.  These arenas are comparatively flat and devoid of obstacles that could interrupt or dynamically alter the flow of battle, making them decidedly the most ‘fair’.

Anarchy has a roster of thirty playable characters, thirty-four if you count the few with transformative abilities.  All of these characters are officially divided into three classified tiers, which act as a cornerstone for understanding the quality and effectiveness of each character.  These three tiers are, in descending order: A-tier, B-tier, C-tier, D-tier and E-tier.

The Controls

There are many technical words and phrases throughout “Anarchy” regarding the in-game combat.  Knowledge of what these mean or how they function are unnecessary to understanding the narrative at large, but help detail the course of the action for those who are familiar with Super Smash Bros.

I will help translate some of these phrases so a larger audience may understand them, as well as put simple terms into scope.  You do not need to memorize these to follow “Anarchy,” they simply add substance.  First know, there are only three primary buttons used to deal damage in Anarchy: a standard attack, a special attack, and grapples.  Each of these three buttons can then be used independently, or in conjunction with a directional input to activate a different technique.  Special attacks for example can be referred to as “Down-special” or “Neutral-special,” the latter being a special attack without any directional command.

Standard attacks have more room for variety, as they account not only for changes in directional input, but how far the analogue stick is pushed in that direction.  Slight adjustments in direction while pressing the standard attack button bare something known both in Smash and Anarchy as a ‘tilt,’ which is generally weak, but good for combos.  If the analogue stick is pushed to its fullest, it results in what Anarchy calls a ‘buster’ (Smashers would simply call this a ‘Smash’).  Busters can be held for a short time to increase damage and knockback on the ground.  When standard attacks are used in the air, they create yet more techniques and cannot be held for busters.  Three examples of different standard attacks are as follows: “Up-tilt,” “Up-buster,” “Up-air.”

It will be impossible for me to outline every single technical maneuver and vernacular of Anarchy (Heck, I’m still learning them for Smash), but here I will give several of the most prominent and noteworthy terms for your reference.  If you are familiar with Smash, you’ll notice many of them are shameless copies of the original source material:

“Hitbox” – The area of an attack where damage is dealt to the opponent.  If somebody uses an attack that’s a kick, typically the hitbox is the direction and length of the leg doing the kick.

“Hurtbox” – The area of a character where damage may be received.  If somebody kicks at your character and it connects with that characters chest, it’s that the hitbox of the kick infiltrated the hurtbox of their chest.

“Sweetspot” – The point of contact between a hitbox and a hurtbox where the most damage and knockback can be dealt.  A very precise location must be hit in order for an attack to sweetspot.

“Trump” – Known as a “Spike” in Super Smash Bros, a trump is any attack where the sweetspot results in sending the opponent downwards with exponential force.  This is most commonly seen in the form of a down-air, since the point of a trump is to send opponents downwards into the blast zone beneath the stage, but there are other interations of trumps as well (For the record, I learned after introducing the term ‘trump’ into “Anarchy” that the same term is used to describe another trick in Smash 4.  I am not going to amend this in the narrative and shall continue referring to trump as I have thus far).

“Fastfall” – When airborne, if a player taps downwards on the directional pad, their character will descend at twice the regular speed.  Used heavily in conjunction with “Short-hopping.”

“Short-hopping” – A light tap of the jump button to generate a jump which barely leaves the ground, rather than extending to the full height of a normal jump.  Primary usefulness lies in giving more versatility to characters who have better standard air attacks than standard ground attacks.

“Edgeguarding” – The attempt to prevent an enemy from returning to the stage after being knocked off by attacking them.  This can be done either by remaining on the stage and sending attacks outwards, off the stage towards the opponent, or by “hunting” the opponent down.

“Hunting” – The attempt to proactively eliminate an opponent after they’ve been knocked off the edge of the stage by chasing after them and killing them outside the safety of the stage.

“Flighty” – A term used to describe an opponent who primarily runs away in a battle, either because they are playing as a character who is better from a distance, or because they have realized they are outmatched and are trying to play defensively to the point most would consider it obnoxious.

“Lag” – The number of successive frames used to measure a character action.  If a character jumps from the stage and lands again, there will be a handful of frames in which no new inputs from the player will be registered.  A better example might be this: Commando Raptor has a notorious move called the Genji Fist.  In “Anarchy” it is said the Genji Fist takes a full second to execute, which is a long time in gameplay standards, since the game runs at sixty-frames-per-second.  So Genji Fist takes the first 30 frames (half a second) to wind up, releases the hitbox forward to damage from frames 31-45 (quarter second), and then has 15 whole frames of animation afterwards in which the character is simply recoiling back into his default position.  These final 15 frames (again, quarter second) are the lag for Genji Fist.  There’s lag for rolling, recovering, dodging, and using every single attack.

“Invincibility frames” – When a character dodges on the ground or in the air, they sort of ‘step out’ of the arena physically for a moment.  Any attack that would have otherwise hit them continues its course without ever making contact.

“Authority” – Known in Smash as “Priority”, authority is the variable which determines which attack takes precedence when two opposing attacks meet simultaneously.  A full-power up-buster is likely to have authority over a down-air in most cases.

“Tech” – A term I wish I didn’t have to copy from the original source material, but couldn’t come up with anything better as a substitute.  Teching is the action of pressing the shield button in the correct frames after being hit and making contact with the stage to nullify all momentum.  This is opposed to not nullifying momentum, and bouncing off the stage like a fish, leaving your character vulnerable for punishment.

The Anarchy Roster

(Every character bullet contains their name, a brief description of the character, their game of origin, their specialty within “Anarchy”, their weight and their tier.  Weight in “Anarchy” *generally* determines how hard it is to kill a character, as well as that character’s movement speed and strength.   Heavier characters are less prone to knockback and thus harder to shoot into the blast zone, but have slower frame rates and greater strength, and vice-versa for light weights.  Tier is divided between A, B, C, D, and E within the competitive community, with A-tier generally being regarded as the most esteemed and formidable tier of characters.  Likewise, E-tier is home to the weakest characters and have the lowest potential for competitive function.  However, because of the nature of “Anarchy”, any character can be good if the human behind the controller is skilled enough.)

Brave – A cybernetic, half-human swordsman from Seeds of Anarchy.  Excels in air-based close-quarter combat.  Medium weight.  A-tier.

Wingull – A bounty hunter who opposes Brave in Seeds of Anarchy.  Excels in grounded close-quarter combat.  Medium weight.  C-tier.

Dax & Petre – The titular monkey and his pet bird from Dax & Petre. Excels in spacing and keeping the opponent at a distance.  Heavy weight.  E-tier.

Shiva – A mystical moon-maiden from Tribute the Truth.  Excels in spacing and keeping the opponent at a distance.  Light weight.  C-tier, though argued to be B-tier.

Bluffy – A clown shinobi from Knuckle Sammich.  Excels in air-based closer-quarter combat and unconventional moves.  Medium weight.  B-tier.

Commando Raptor – A reptilian hunter from Raptor Unit.  Excels in grounded close-quarter combat.  Medium weight.  B-tier.

Solar & Luna – A pair of fraternal, psychic twins from The End and Back.  Excels in all areas and unconventional moves.  Light weight.  A-tier.  Considered one of the most technical and difficult characters in “Anarchy.”

Tu’Vashi – A breakdancing monk from Ravios Drive.  Excels in grounded close-quarter combat.  Medium weight.  A-tier.

Arakid – An arachnid child hero from Arakid.  Excels in air-based close-quarter combat, spacing, and keeping the opponent at a distance.  Light weight.  D-tier.

Lynx – A feline warrior from Knuckle Sammich.  Excels in general close-quarter combat.  Medium weight.  B-tier.

Lady Thrice – A zombie empress from Tales of Otherland.  Excels in spacing and keeping the opponent at a distance.  Heavy weight.  A-tier.

Shiner – Interstellar warlord from Seeds of Victory.  Excels in spacing and keeping the opponent at a distance.  Light weight.  B-tier, some argue A-tier.  Considered one of the most technical and difficult characters in “Anarchy.”

(Dozens of “Anarchy” warriors are yet to be revealed through the narrative).

The anarchists

(The anarchists are the human players of “Anarchy.”  Every character bullet will contain their tag, real name if available, main if available, current status as an anarchist if available (crew association, if any, will be in italics and the five active Anarchy Sovereigns will be underlined).  Details will continue to develop and be revealed throughout the narrative.  Not all characters in this lineup will make a direct appearance in “Anarchy”, but may have an outlying influence.  If a character appears in the story which is not on this list, it is because they do not yet contain enough significance to be catalogued.

Sm0ke – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Active Anarchy Sovereign, American & World Champion, Gunpowder Brotherhood
boss – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown Status: Active Anarchy Sovereign, Anarchy Yakuza
I Am – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Active Anarchy Sovereign, Gunpowder Brotherhood
<3Villains – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Active Anarchy Sovereign, Australian Champion
trueNOVA – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Active Anarchy Sovereign, Silhouettes
Styx – Real name: Unknown, Main: Brave, Status: Retired Anarchy Sovereign, Retired American Champion
Phaaroh – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Gunpowder Brotherhood
Double J – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Chaos Penguin
Spade – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Gunpowder Brotherhood
Lollipop – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional
Master Thief – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Chaos Penguin
Oh Yugi – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Gunpowder Brotherhood
Hanshotfirst – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Chaos Penguin
Captain Derp – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Silhouettes
xprophetx – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Anarchy Yakuza
Yuki Yuki – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Anarchy Yakuza
Ninja lady – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional
The Shire – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Chaos Penguin
Billyboy – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Silhouettes
Sunday Funny – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Expert professional, Silhouettes
The Clansman – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional
Fractal – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional

Myth – Real name: Joel, Main: Brave, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
Od!n – Real name: Perry, Main: Lady Thrice, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
Burndaddy – Real name: Jordan, Main: Brave, Shiner, five unknown, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
Comet* – Real name: Comet, Main: Dax & Petre, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
Merc – Real name: Davis, Main: Shiva, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
GG – Real name: “GG” Garrison, Main: Solar & Luna, Status: Amateur professional, Riotwings
Famine – Real name: Sid, Main: Bluffy, Status: Amateur professional
Zinky – Real name: Unknown, Main: Unknown, Status: Amateur professional
iso – Real name: Unknown, Main: Lynx, Status: Expert professional
R3M1X – Real name: Scott, Main: Tu’Vashi, Status: Amateur professional, Hour of Helix
M-80 – Real name: Unknown, Main: Commando Raptor, Status: Amateur professional, Hour of Helix
Dougie – Real name: Douglas “Dougie”, Main: Wingull, Status: Amateur professional

“Anarchy” Chapter 11 – Every Frame Counts

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M-80’s vague philosophical agenda was doing nothing to console my salty nerves.  Sure, he’d beaten me fair and square, but the added course of arbitrary advice sort of ruined the entrée.  Still, there was nothing I could do about it, so I holstered my controller and bowed out of the tournament, having officially been axed.

But I had no interest in leaving.  No, there were still teammates to support and opponents to study.  Plus a shallow side of my human heart really anticipated M-80 getting his butt rolled by the next opponent.

Perry was in the midst of taking Skullfoot’s final stock and what I believed was his second set of the match.  I observed as his opponent shuffled Lynx around the stage, applying a lot of pressure, but in the wrong ways, leaving too many opportunities for Perry to avoid with Lady Thrice and make distance between the characters.

I moved away from Perry to assess the others.  Jordan was locked in mortal combat with Miikii, but seemed to have an upper-hand.  Honestly, it could still be anybody’s game.  I made a quick mental note that Jordan was using Brave again, suggesting that even among his top seven, Brave was one of the favored.  Davis ‘Merc’ was putting the final nail in Yugi-ah!’s coffin when I passed by, though that was also a close match.  I grimaced, feeling the weight of my defeat more intimately as my comrades continued to succeed where I had failed.

But in the larger scheme of the tournament, the match I wanted to see most was GG’s struggle against R3M1X.  I shuffled to their station and tried to flick the switch in my brain that allowed it to analytically record every minor detail of the fight.  I’d nearly taken out my phone to record the match, but it struck me as a gaudy thing to do.  I mean, nobody else was recording anything.  They were simply tracking it in their heads.

By the time I’d settled into a sublime state of focus, the set they’d been playing ended and GG was left to soak in defeat.  The Riotwing Vice-Captain steadily released air and drew it back in, opening his lungs, peeling the anxiety off his nerves.  Was that the last set?  Had GG lost?

R3M1X licked his lips and smiled with something I could only label as obnoxious self-satisfaction.  The man behind the tag was nothing remarkable, but nonetheless was immediately carved into the halls of my memory.  Five-o’clock shadow, lip stud, low-caliber gauges in each ear, some lighter strain of Aryan descent, and grey eyes with the menace of a wolf’s coat.  He was slouching forward, but I could still make out the words on his shirt when he braced his chair to twist and crack his back: Eat ‘em Alive.

He looked at me and promptly dismissed my existence.

“Okay, let’s go,” GG said, coals of resolve cooking beneath his voice, adding a subtle harmonic.  R3M1X turned back to the screen and idly rubbed his mouth.  He nodded.

My fists tethered into fine coils, strands of electricity jumping around my heart.  GG had claimed the first set!

I blinked.  So they were entering their tie-breaker.

Excitement, misery and anticipation flooded through my core, and I could only pity GG, who I’m sure had the same symptoms plaguing him ten-fold as he began that final set.

Right as the game started to load, the rest of the Riotwings siphoned into place, having completed their matches or, in the case of Comet, finished watching from the sidelines.

“Joel?” Perry said, looking back at the tournament roster projected onto the wall, “You lost?”

“Yeah,” I swallowed.

“M-80 must have been good,” Perry bit his lip.

R3M1X cast a moment’s glance at us, “Yeah,” he nodded, turning back to the screen, “He is pretty good.”

Both R3M1X and M-80 were in cahoots with the crew known as Hour of Helix.  They refined one another, made their independent cutting power stronger through sharpening each other’s edges.  I couldn’t argue with the effectiveness of having strong teammates to push you towards further growth, but that couldn’t have been the only reason they were so good.  There must have been something more.

Solar & Luna, GG’s character of choice, breathed onto the stage with a tide of perfect angel-light, dancing around, announcing their entrance: ‘Brother’ one said, ‘Sister’, reflected the other, and then together, ‘Let’s show ‘em what we’ve got!’  GG settled into the zone and I grinned, knowing I’d been forgotten for the time, a victim of superior focus.

As for R3M1X, he’d started some music for himself and placed in a pair of earbuds, shoving off the world around him.  He closed his eyes and rocked quietly as his character formed upon the stage.  His main of choice was a notoriously formidable one, a breakdancing monk named Tu’Vashi.

Tu’Vashi was the protagonist of one of RequiaTek’s most popular franchises, a side-scrolling platformer called Ravios Drive.  In Ravios Drive, the player was charged with ‘restoring all music to the world’, accomplished only by traversing various musically-inspired levels and defeating the ‘Genres’, boss-monsters with the ability to eat the essence of music.  Student of all music’s and a breakdancing extraordinaire, Tu’Vashi wields a wild fighting style and gloriously braided goatee in his efforts to save the world from those who’d otherwise try to burn away the soul of music.

I freaking loved that game.  Platformers have always had a home in my heart.  They practically owned the keys.

But who would win in Anarchy?  Both Solar & Luna (remember, these two are technically ‘one’ character, like Dax & Petre) and Tu’Vashi are some of the strongest characters in the game.  It wasn’t as if one player was using Arakid, who had been established as relatively inferior choices and thus more likely to lose.  No, both of these characters were good, and the hands behind the controllers were exemplary in skill.

The in-game countdown sounded and they were off.  Solar & Luna made first contact, but could not finish their combo before Tu’Vashi maneuvered into splits, which functioned as a kick in Anarchy, separating the twins.

GG’s expression was firm and unrelenting like a mask of tungsten metal, eyes thrashing across the television screen like a rodeo bull kicking up dirt.  R3M1X was much the same, a focus staining his features so strongly you’d swear the sheer force of it would somehow make him bleed if he held it long enough.

Their game was a marvel.  It was neck-and-neck the entire way, each of them trading stocks until only their final lives remained.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I could be as good at Anarchy as these two, given enough time, but watching their adeptness in its fullness, there were moments of doubt.

Solar & Luna: 14DD

Tu’Vashi: 18DD

Trace sweat had compromised GG’s temple, entrenched at the roots of his curly hair.  R3M1X was leaning so far forward I imagined he might assimilate straight into the TV screen.

Solar & Luna played off one another, throwing around their opponent, throttling him with a miasma of psychic powers, carving damage debt into his digital body…32…38…43…51.

Tu’Vashi swam, dunked, and played with his footwork in a stream of seamless fury.  Grapple Luna, jab her in the gut, throw the weight into Solar when he approached for the rescue and windmill kick them both to high heavens as the debt grew ever higher…39…42…50…60.

I found myself mindlessly pressing my teeth into one knuckle, stomach forming knots.

GG made an excellent play off one of the platforms, Solar trumping Tu’Vashi straight into a consecutive side-buster provided by Luna, launching the monk horizontally off the stage and into the borderlands.  He quickly made it back to the ledge, where GG went for the kill.  If he timed it perfectly, GG could attack at the tail end of R3M1X’s moment of invincibility which came with grabbing the ledge.

Solar fell and thrust out his arm like a spear, misty with telekinetic force.  But the attack passed through Tu’Vashi, who released the edge and back-aired the brother into oblivion.  If Luna had died, the match would continue without the twin, but Solar was the primary character and thus, with his destruction, Luna burst into colors as well, a signal flare of mutual defeat.

Winner! The screen lauded, Tu’Vashi spinning around the victory screen, hurling kicks with the ferocity of a tornado.  Tu’Vashi!

GG leaned back in his chair, golden hair pulled by gravity, eyes burning into the ceiling, “Dang.”

“Dang,” I parroted, spittle forming on my knuckle as I finally thought to be mindful of my hands.

“Aw,” Comet groaned, “You were so close, too!”  She scuffed at the floor with the heel of her boot.  I watched as her eyebrows tented and then furrowed, upset at GG’s demise and entry into the team of Riotwing losers.  That was half of our squad, now.  The only ones left were Perry, Davis, and Jordan.

Jordan exhaled, smiling.

GG’s eyes navigated to our captain and back to the ceiling, “Every frame counts,” he said, as if reciting an old pledge.

Jordan nodded, “Every frame counts.”

Anarchy was a game designed to run at sixty frames-per-second.  This meant at high-level competitive play, if you made even slight mistakes in timing such as when GG attacked maybe one or two frames too early for R3M1X’s ledge invulnerability to have worn off (read: possibly less than one-thirtieth of a second), you could open yourself to punishment afterwards.  This is why Anarchy is so heated and considered a video game of such demanding skill.  That sort of reflex, precision, and intuition are paramount to separating yourself from the crumbs of the scene and actually being a feared opponent.

R3M1X wrapped up his controller and took to his feet.  He reached out a hand to GG, “Insane sets, man.”

GG laughed softly, “You’re one crazy good player, Scott.”

R3M1X shrugged, “You’ve come a long way since your first weekly.  I was actually really scared there for a minute,” he scratched his eyebrow, one earbud still in, “Especially with that nasty trump into buster combo you pulled at the end.  Where did that come from?”

“I’ve been practicing it for a while.  It’s tricky because I need Solar to be at the bottom, so I can only use it when my opponent has sent Luna skyward.”

“Keep it up, at this rate, you’ll be one of the best in the state in no time.”

“What are you sitting at right now?  Fifth or something?”

R3M1X paused for a second to think, “Technically, I’m not even in the top ten anymore since I haven’t been on the scene for a few months, but once I’m done here and with the next couple weeklies, I’ll probably be sitting around seventh.”

GG nodded.  “I appreciate your faith in my ability to grow.”

R3M1X shrugged again, “I appreciate that you actually try,” he looked at Jordan, straightening his back a little, “Burndaddy.”

“R3M1X,” Jordan acknowledged.

“Are we going to be duking it out in the finals?  Not gonna let little ol’ iso stand in your way, are ya?”

The tournament roster glowed against the wall, a master of fate overseeing its subjects.  Jordan huffed and shed a toothy smile, “Yeah, and when was the last time you beat him?”

“Outside of friendlies?”  R3M1X looked around the room, as if dodging a question, “Ehhh, never.  I do believe it was never.”

Davis chuckled, “I almost beat him a couple weeks ago.”

“We’ve all almost beaten him,” R3M1X smiled and clenched his open fist, “It’s that last push nobody ever seems to reach.”

“Wait, none of you have ever won against iso?”  I said, aghast, “At any point?”

R3M1X looked at me and I couldn’t help but feel like he thought I was an idiot, “Have you played the guy?”

“Well, no.”

“He trades back-and-forth for best player in Nebraska.  He beat Phaaroh once, in pools for last year’s Western Grand Rally,” he paused, “Who are you?”

The way he asked the question irked me.  It wasn’t a ‘hello, what’s your name’ or ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met.’  The tonality of his voice was more severe, a jeering ‘What significance do you have?’  Considering the casual way he’d been talking with the others –I mean, GG even knew his first name– I thought he’d be less…scalding.

“New recruit,” Jordan placed a hand on my shoulder, “This is Myth.  OD!N is also one of ours.  You’ll be facing him in the next match.”

If I’d thought being in Jordan’s good graces would garner me some respect, I was wrong.  Perry got the same stink eye I’d been receiving, too, so at least I wasn’t alone.  What was this guy’s deal?

“Don’t mind me if I put them through the grinder,” R3M1X said to Jordan, glaring at Perry.

“Do it,” Jordan said, “You have my permission to give them both hell.”

“You seem like a bit of a selective prick, you know that?”  Perry said to R3M1X, irreverent.

R3M1X smiled, “You’d be right.  I’m not like these other guys.  I’m not a Burndaddy or an M-80 or Zinky or Longsword.  I don’t really get along with people for the sake of it.”

At long last, GG checked out of the tournament, withdrawing his controller and slowly winding the cord, “No, you definitely do not.”

“But then,” I tried to cut in.

“Earn it, kid,” R3M1X held a flat expression of superiority, “Earn respect.  Fight for it,” he made a passive gesture pointing at Perry, “This one will have a chance in a couple of minutes.”

“I don’t want the respect of somebody like you,” Perry said plainly, “I’m not very fond of people who arbitrarily demand respect and give it prerequisites.”

“And I don’t care if you want my respect,” R3M1X redoubled, “I don’t care at all.  That’s not the point.”

The T.O. found us in the middle of our conversation, which was rapidly growing too molten for my taste.  He was a stocky fellow, with a patchy beard and collared shirt.  “R3M1X, you’re going to be at station four against Od!n.  Burndaddy, you’ll be facing iso on one.  Merc, I’ll be your opponent on three once I’m done letting everyone know where they’re going.”

“Thanks, Jahn,” R3M1X said politely as the tournament organizer shuffled off.

“What is the point, then?”  Perry asked, jaded.

“You’re thinking too small,” R3M1X ushered Perry move to station four, “Not everyone is going to be your friend just because, or rely on you out of good faith. Might as well get used to it as soon as possible, it’s an important lesson.”

“You know, I kind of hate you,” Perry looked down his nose at the man.

I swallowed.

“Guys,” Comet skirted into the conversation, “Are you really making this big a deal of this?”

“I’m the enemy.  I’m the bad guy.  Do you understand?” R3M1X traded glances between Perry and myself, “Now sit down so I can teach you another lesson, one I learned a long time ago.  The difference between being a hammer and being a nail.”

“Anarchy” Chapter 10: On the Subject of Lord Helix

After the initial shock of victory and inevitable despair of realizing I’d only crossed the first hurdle, I was in the business of wanting to check out the remaining competition. GG had already cleaned house against ‘25 Tanks’ (for the record, I hate stupid names. This is one of those), R3M1X was apparently done within the first seven minutes, which might have made the hair on my arms stand. Though, as I understood it, that result was due only in part to his immense skill and the rest of it was chalked up to his opponent being an absolute pushover. I caught the last few seconds of Skullfoot’s win over Drops. It seemed like a solid victory, so Perry would have to be careful. As GG had warned me, M-80 apparently played a strong Commando Raptor, because he’d obliterated Flickersnitch. I knew this not because I witnessed the decimation, but because they left the statistics screen idle after the match, and M-80 was recorded to have dealt nearly twice as much Damage Debt. Longsword lost to Oopsiedaisy without luster, and Carlos took a smooth two-set win over Nuke’em. I figured out Longsword was the girl Jordan and Comet had been talking to when we first arrived, and Flickersnitch was the kid who played a money match with Davis. Both of them were down and out.

The projected roster modified to reflect all of these changes and our little band of anarchists looked over the results.

Jade Tourney second round
I clenched Perry’s shoulder and rattled him a little, “You turd,” I shook harder, “I almost lost because of you!”

Comet giggled, “You both did great.”

Perry was playfully indignant, “Because of me? Oh you mean my glorious battle cry of victory? Get used to it, you’ll be hearing that a lot.”

“Nice spunk,” Jordan rubbed a finger along the end of his nose, “Comet’s right, though. They might not have been pretty wins, but you both pulled through. Perry made a dramatic comeback and Joel adapted like a pro.”

“Well,” I countered, “Except the second set.”

Jordan didn’t even throw me a bone, “Except the second set.”

At least he was honest.

“I’d played against that Trapanese guy during friendlies. He was pretty good. I don’t know anything about your next opponent, though.”

Perry nodded, “I watched a decent chunk of his game. He was running Lynx, just like iso.”

“Not half as good as iso,” GG said, transfixed on the screen.

With half of the competitors eliminated, the number of available stations reached a fitting number. I was glad some people seemed to be sticking around for friendlies after the tournament ended. That way I’d have a chance to practice against some of the players I would never get to face in the competition.

I really wanted to step in the ring with iso, even if it meant I’d be reduced to porridge.
A part of me was sad that I had to play at the same time as everybody else. Honestly, sometimes it was more fun simply watching, but it couldn’t be helped.

No rest for the weary, our Tournament Organizer (T.O.) began delegating players to their respective stations for the next match-ups.

I was at the furthest station, with Jordan and Dot,Dot,Dot bunkering down in the adjacent. I plugged in my controller and input my ‘Myth’ tag. M-80 showed up and immediately addressed me with a handshake. Unlike Dougie, M-80 was much easier to label as a gamer. Lazily drawn hair, glasses, dirty white shirt, and thin as a nail, kind of like me. He took a seat after plugging in his own controller, “How you doing, guy?”

“Not bad myself,” I answered, “You?”

“Pumped.”

“Pumped why?”

He shrugged, “Just because. I don’t know, I just am. I get excited really easily. Also, I watched some of your last match, you seem pretty good.”

“I guess we’ll find out how good in a couple of minutes.”

“Ha,” M-80 established his tag in the game and selected Commando Raptor, “Nervous? Do you come to these tournaments a lot? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

My hands opened as if I were carrying a large tray, “Nope, but I’m hoping to make a habit of it. Just joined a crew.”

“Oh nice, with who?”

“Burndaddy here,” I nodded sideways to Jordan at the next station, but he wasn’t paying attention, “He’s our captain. The Riotwings.”

“Nice. Crews are great, I’m glad you were able to find one.”

“Are you a part of a crew?”

“I am. I’m with the Hour of Helix.”

I chuckled, “Nice TwitchPlaysPokemon reference. Me and my friend Perry refer to that event all of the time. Who’s is in your crew?”

M-80 pressed start, moving us into the stage selection screen, “You can have first pick on stages. Um, well, half of my crew isn’t here today, but I’m with MiiKii, Oopsiedaisy and R3M1X.”

My tongue abandoned ship into my throat. This motherfricker trains with R3M1X? The guy who’s got GG all in a fuss? Great.

Not having an opportunity to see his playstyle, I opted to a stage with a lot of platforms so I could work my air-game hard. It was a nice default for me to work with. Unfortunately, I’d seen some good high-level C.Raptor players. They were pretty solid air combatants as well, but really shined when planted on the ground. He’s a super flashy character with a gallery of dramatic moves. I’d never actually played his origin game, simply titled Raptor Unit, but I knew it was pretty over-the-top. Commando Raptor and his teammates must hunt down creatures which eat these things called sun crystals. Whatever. The point is, apparently there’s a lot of slapstick humor and things blowing up needlessly all of the time, which sounds awesome.

Two of Raptor’s moves in particular have garnered infamy in the Anarchy forums. His forward-air, if landed properly, deals an excessive amount of knockback and even makes the screen stagger slightly. Thus it has been communally dubbed the Lizard Laser, even though it’s technically a double drop-kick. The other comes with its own name, his neutral-special, the infamous Genji Fist. So listen to this. Genji Fist takes a solid second of wind-up after being initiated before it can actually make contact, so it’s incredibly easy to avoid. If it connects, it’s a bad day buffet, but that’s not going to happen against most competent opponents. This one is easy to quote, as the character literally yells “Genji Fist” with a Japanese sling as he releases the technique.

So basically, if I ever let M-80 land a Genji Fist, I was opening myself to the ridicule of all my peers, especially since Brave is considered a fast character and can easily avoid such a telegraphed move.

“Hey,” M-80 said, “I hope you have a good game.”

“Ditto.”

“Praise Helix.” He settled into form, back slouching, eyes making like twin lighting upon the game.

Seriously, if you’ve never heard of TwitchPlaysPokemon, google that crap. For all intents and purposes, it was a landmark in the annals of internet history, and you’re going to hear me talk about it a decent amount during this retelling, so you may as well get it over with.

3,2,1…

Our respective characters took form. Brave the cyber-soldier versus C.Raptor, the anthropomorphic, reptilian bounty hunter.

Begin.

M-80’s combo game was real. He immediately charged, pulled off a pivot-grapple, twisted that into a down-thrown to neutral-air combo, fast-fell past me and up-bustered my character into a whopping 52DD out the gate.

He wasn’t even giving me time to breathe. But I eventually started reclaiming my nerves after landing a successful counter-attack. Old habits die hard, it seems. Now thoroughly intimidated, I immediately fell into the tendency of abusing this ability, which gave M-80 a floodgate of openings in which to punish my idiocy should I misread his actions. Which I did.

I was completely out of my league. I’d lost my first stock and was quickly losing hope. Before long I was two stocks down and my fingers had become little more than nubs of chalk.

Swallowing through a dry throat, I decided it best to die with honor. I wouldn’t just roll over for this guy. So as it were, I cranked it up to the eleventh, as the old trope goes. I managed to anticipate his movements in time to pull off a gorgeous trump and claim his stock, but all of the glory burned away when he trumped me just as badly twenty seconds later, stealing the set.

I leaned back, eyes wide, “Goodness.”

“Your pick of stages again,” M-80 said before addressing somebody who’d come up on his left. But I was too busy having my mind blown and cleaning up the mess. Cycling through all of my options and strategies, I tried to think of anything I could do, and came up with a handful of empty dreams. I thought back to Styx, the Brave player who’d won the very first Western Grand Rally. Most aspiring Brave enthusiasts tried to mimic his playstyle with laughable success. I mean, they were able to get a hold of the concepts, but his execution was otherworldly. Technically, I used Styx’s playstyle, but he was a god, one of the original Anarchy Sovereign. Comparatively, I was a peon trying to kill pigeons with a shovel.

Still, I racked my brain for something, anything that might help.

Not wanting to waste time, I selected the next stage and braced for the worst.

“Do you like this game?” M-80 asked.

It was hard not to give him a sardonic expression, “Of course I do.”

3, 2, 1... “Maybe you need more than that.” Begin.

What was that supposed to mean? Didn’t matter, needed to focus. Focus didn’t matter, he’d already taken a stock.

Fury boiled me through my core and back. No. It was not going to be this easy for him. I could not let that happen.

I abandoned all of my natural conventions with Brave, focused on being dodgey, and capitalized on openings in my opponent’s pressure. But that pressure was crazy, like the furthest reaches of a black hole, reducing all to naught.

My second stock was taken when M-80 Lizard Laser’d me off the stage, into the corner of the stage, and blasted me at an acute angle into oblivion.

Though I doubt anybody would say I didn’t fight valiantly, I was hopelessly outmatched. I lost the third stock and the set when M-80 ran me through a gauntlet of combos and gracefully grappled me into an up-air for the win. The only consolation I received was that I’d avoided his only attempted Genji Fist, but that was no more remarkable than a grown man having the wisdom to not walk blindfolded through traffic.

I was out of the tournament before even making quarter-finals, “Sweet Helix,” I said, “Good game.”

“Hey now. Language,” M-80 smiled and started wrapping up his controller, “Good games to you, too.”

“You don’t actually believe that,” I simmered.

“I do,” M-80 reached out to shake my hand. I looked at the gesture as if it were a cat bringing me a fish. “What?”

“What was that you said about how I ‘need something more’?”

M-80 looked at me, amused. Eventually he dropped his hand when it was clear I wasn’t going to take it, “Aspire for more than to just be good at the game. There are more reasons for being here,” he openly gestured to the dimly lit room full of bystanders and competitors, “Than mere improvement.”

“Like what?”

“Maybe now that you’re out of the tournament, you’ll be able to see for yourself,” he lifted his hand again. I took it, still sullen.

“I look forward to facing you in the next tournament,” he said, turning away, “Helix guide you.”

“Next time, M-80,” I answered, “It won’t be so easy.”

I could feel his grin as he walked away.
his hand again. I took it, still sullen.
“I look forward to facing you in the next tournament,” he said, turning away, “Helix guide you.”
“Next time, M-80,” I answered, “It won’t be so easy.”
I could feel his grin as he walked away.

“Anarchy” Chapter 9: Mind Games 101

anarchy c 9

First understand, I was still pretty confident I was the better player.  My precision and adeptness with Brave outclassed Dougie’s skill with Wingull, his charged-shot gimmicks aside. But I walked head-first into a very gutsy snare as soon as that second set started and ended up losing all three of my stocks, putting us at an even 1-1 score for our match-up.

You see, this punk had baited me into adapting to the wrong playstyle. He made it seem in the first set that he was overly reliant on Wingull’s charged blast, and considering the nearly two dozen times he fired the attack, I was inclined to believe him. But once that second set started, he charged the attack once and held it.  Not unusual. He often held the attack for a few seconds before launching it, so I waited for the discharge.

Still I waited, and of course I waited some more.

Next thing I knew, I was down a stock and he hadn’t yet fired the attack.  But the mere anticipation of the action was making me antsy and defensive, especially once my DD rose above 50 from taking Dougie’s sudden pressure. Brave and Wingull are both offense-oriented characters which thrive on close-combat maneuvers, but Dougie had made my offense leak out through anxiety and thus opened several windows for him to punish my reluctance to get near him and risk taking the full force of his charge attack to my face.  I was eventually able to start adapting, but by then, it was too late. He had enough of an upper-hand that it was a smooth rest of the set for him and our playing field was levelled. What’s more, he took my final stock by at long last blasting the move into my core, completely dismantling Brave and shooting me into oblivion.

Out of good sport, I forced myself to compliment Dougie, while the gremlins in the back of my mind wished him twelve shades of death.

“Holy crap,” Dougie said, “You were coming back hard.”

“Thanks,” I said, tasting the fake crook of my smile.

Somehow it’d escaped me before, but Jordan, Comet, and Davis were all watching my game, as well as a few others.  Davis consoled me and I took a moment to gather myself. I really  didn’t want to be put on the chopping block so early in the tourney. Plus, what if I was the one who lost, while Perry advanced? I couldn’t let him go alone. That would be boring.

I nodded to Dougie, “Ready?”

The hulk wiped his hands across the knees of his khakis, “Let’s go.”

“Good luck,” Jordan said quietly from my flank and we began.

I lost the previous set, so I was allowed the counter-pick for the stage choice. I went with a completely flat playing field and bossed up, tightening my focus to hairpin.

Brave drew his swords as he materialized from flakes of light on the stage, declaring, “It will end.”

Wingull stood in opposition, taking form from light and beating together his vambraces, “None shall be spared.”

3…2…1…Begin.

I’d faced harder opponents. My sanity clung to that fact as anxiety started encroaching upon my mind and sweat glossed over both palms. The world plunged into a strange pseudo-silence, all irrelevant noise falling out of existence. There was only the game, the clicking of the controllers, and the firing of my synapses as I braced myself for each second of adaptation to who was at the very least a worthy opponent.

The two of us were dead-even by the time we reached our final stocks. He’d killed me first, but I took advantage of the momentary invincibility which lasts a few seconds after respawning to deliver a fatal blow and shred his second stock, leaving us each with one remaining at zero DD.

“Oh my god,” I heard Davis chuckle lightly over my shoulder. I took the couple of free seconds as Wingull rematerialized to settle the quake in my thumbs and breathe deep.  The first match of my first tourney should not be so close.  I’s bad for the nerves.

Still, I pressed forward, leaning into the game, being absorbed by Anarchy. Dougie was switching up his attitude with the charged blast, keeping me forever on my toes, but I managed to dodge all of them through the entire match. I was about ready to Trump his final stock, that is to say, hit his character with the sweet-spot of my down-air. Not every character has a Trump, but many do, and Brave was one of them. It was one of my favorite ways to eliminate people, but proved risky. It wasn’t a Trump with a large sweet-spot like the character Commando had. If I missed, I would be incredibly vulnerable. As it stood, I was at 75 DD and Dougie was at 83.

I swept in for the kill move when a clamor blew up from the station three to my right. Perry stood and screamed.  I didn’t even spare a fleeting thought as to the circumstance for the interruption, because now I’d missed my chance.

Then his Wingull back-kicked Brave off the screen, into the borderlands. The ‘borderlands’ was a term for the small gap of space between where a character could die and where the player could see them on the screen. If a character stayed more than five seconds within the borderlands, they died instantly, but that rarely happened. The true problem was the requisition of Damage Debt in this twilight zone of the stage. It only took me one second to exit the borderlands, but it was enough when combined with Wingulls attack to put me suddenly above 100 DD.

Dougie swore swiftly beneath his breath and tried to push me past the borderlands and into the blast zone where my stock would be taken. I managed to avoid this and reclaim some space on the plateau of the stage, but now my nerves were brittle as the crumble from a dry cupcake.

I should be dead, I should be dead’ pummeled my brain as Wingull returned to the stage and began gathering energy for his strongest attack. Torrential blue fire came together between Wingull’s fingers and after a few seconds the character settled into his usual stance, hands saturated with azure power.

“Good job, Perry,” I heard Jordan compliment from my back, “Clutch win at the end, hm?”

“It was freaking nuts,” Perry answered, relief as clear as black paint on white canvas.

Then my anticipation began to burn into something new. My brows furrowed, I leaned in just a little bit closer, a hard line taking my lips. Dougie leaned in as well, preparing himself for what would likely be the last minute of our bout.

I took the gutsy route and sprinted straight toward Wingull, expecting Dougie to back off and make distance. He did, but avoided my follow-up aerial combo. I dodged his retaliation. He dodged mine.

Teeth set like a dam holding water, I wheeled around the stage and dove straight in for the kill again. But instead of attacking when Wingull retreated, I had Brave slide underneath and use his up-buster in the moment after Dougie had anticipated my attack. Wingull shot up into the atmosphere, but did not have enough Debt to be K.O.’d. I followed in force, jumping to the furthest reach of Brave’s ability. When I’d exhausted his second of two jumps, Dougie did something called ‘fast-falling’ in which he snapped the analog stick to prompt his character to plummet downwards at twice the normal rate. When he appeared in front of Brave, his character was already beginning the animation to fire his charged attack.

I couldn’t dodge. So I died.

No. I didn’t die. I…countered?

Without consciously processing the thought, my hands moved in the only way that could have saved me. Down-special. Brave’s counter-attack which absorbed any harm taken and dealt it back with 1.3x the damage and knockback. Wingull launched the fiery cannon point-blank into Brave’s chest. Brave absorbed the attack with a click and twisted his core, slinging blades of metal in a vertical arc, upwards, connecting with his opponent.

Instantly and without doubt, Wingull erupted into color and smoke, final stock terminated.

I was too drained to be excited at my clutch win, so I just fell back into my chair and stared blankly at the screen.

Winner, it read as Brave maneuvered around into a victory pose on the end-game screen, Brave!

A series of windows popped up to show us the statistics of our match. Who dealt and received how much damage, how many air vs. ground techniques were used, etc. I didn’t care about any of that right now, though.

In the corner of my vision I saw Dougie holding out his hand, “Killer game.”

I took it loosely, “Thanks. You too.”

Dougie unplugged his personal controller from the game console, got up, and walked away. In the meantime, I tried to jump-start my heart again with thoughts of excitement and victory, but a cruel outlier shot down all of my good feelings. A lone idea, crippling my aspirations.

I took to my feet sluggishly.

Hell, I was as close to defeat as one could come.  And that was only round one.