“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” – Chapter 8 – Into the Fray

anarchy c 8

Jade Gaming couldn’t have seen this much traffic in months. There was no way. I’d never seen so many people in the building at once. The turnout was nothing remarkable – Western Grand Rally had to filter through several pools, hundreds strong, before it had anything resembling an official roster- but I was taken aback all the same. As planned, I immediately set to the task of remembering faces, as these would be my many rivals for the foreseeable future.

“Joel,” Perry stifled my shoulder, “Look.”

I followed his eyes to a long table where three stations were already retrofitted with Anarchy. The tournament hadn’t begun, so I figured these were just social matches (a.k.a. “friendlies”). Didn’t stop me from some exploratory action as Perry and I drifted over to watch.

It was no surprise when I studied each player and found them all quite formidable. One in particular caught my attention, a man whose tag read ‘iso’. He mained Lynx, a predatory feline battle-cat. He was a force of nature.

My eyes turned down to his opponent, who was muttering low-yield curses as he received damage debt at an extraordinary rate.

Iso played with a certain, how should I say, industrial efficiency. Every read and judgment was precise. Lynx didn’t move without certain reason. Even through his posture all of these traits remained. Iso was straight-backed, yet poised, and the controller was nearly mute in his hands.

But iso was not the only noteworthy thing in the room. Jordan and Comet had taken to discussion with a young lady to whom they were obviously familiar. What’s more, she had a controller, so I memorized her face, knowing we might be throwing down some time in the next couple of hours. Davis pitted ten dollars on a money match with somebody who could have been his brother. This seemed a tradition between the two, and drew in a small group of spectators to bare witness.

GG had found himself before a large screen with over two-dozen names scripted in symmetrical balance.

“Oh, the roster,” Perry made quick to study its contents more closely. Not like I didn’t.

Jade Tourney first round

Perry tapped an idle finger against his lips, “Trapanese?”

“Weird name,” I said, though truth be told, most of the names seemed weird. If not weird, then lazy.

Like, seriously. Legolas? Really?

“Could have been worse,” GG said in an arid, disconnected sort of way.

I lodged an authoritative finger at the screen, “What about this Dougie fella?”

A few lethargic seconds passed and he shrugged, “Never met the guy. Probably new, like you two.”

That was reassuring. My first opponent was coming from clear out of left field. No pre-emptive strategizing to be done. A completely unknown variable.

“And what’s gotten into you?” I asked GG, eyes folding.

He was looking papery, “A few things,” he directed our attention to different names on the screen, “First there’s R3M1X. He hasn’t been around for a few months because of family issues, but he’s claimed two grand prizes at the monthly tourney in the past. He’s very good, and he’s in my bracket.”

“I see.”

GG continued, “Comet is facing Miikii, so she probably won’t advance beyond the first round, and even if she did-”

“There’d be iso standing in the way after that,” I finished. GG gave me a look. “I saw him playing friendlies. He’s like a machine.”

GG nodded, “He beats Jordan most of the time.”

I swallowed.

“Davis looks like he should be fine, at least until the quarter-finals. Perry might also be able to push that far, at least until he faces R3M1X. I don’t know about this Dougie guy, but M-80 plays a mean Commando Raptor, so be careful.”

Perry shared a look with me. No, it didn’t slide past anyone that GG had glossed over his own matchups. He needn’t speak his mind in order to convey the message: he wasn’t expecting to beat R3M1X in the second round.

“Other than that, I don’t see any huge threats, here. I’m not familiar with these ‘Solomon’, ‘Dot dot dot’ and ‘# of Beast’ people though, so we’ll see. Zinky didn’t show up like we’d anticipated, but we’ll have our hands full with the competition as is.”

Breathing out my puffed cheeks I turned to examine my battlefield a little more thoroughly. I’d seen tournament venues online before and Jade Gaming was not weighing in very well with its competition. Then again, it was a family-owned business which had been struggling against larger corporations for a while. The main area was for retail, so we were occupying the back of the store. I would never have guessed they had so much space, but I suppose they used to house an arcade back here before financial issues demanded they sell everything, so it made sense. Now they use the space for tourneys such as this one.

The paint job was crap. The upper half of the walls were a faded white, with matching blue coating the bottom. Christmas lights generated about half the rooms light, the rest being provided by sunlight filtering in through ceiling-high windows. Each Anarchy station was set up on mismatching tables and filled in with equally displaced chairs. A brushing of dust kissed the edge where wall met floor, as if all of it had been swept there without any intention of actually removing it. In fact, it seemed like this had been the protocol for a long time.

I slowly assimilated myself into the scene, and even indulged in a few friendlies to pass the time. I went up against Oopsie daisy, Trapanese, and Vuture, all of whom wanted to play without their mains so as to hide their hand.

Seeing the wisdom, I sparred using Arakid, as I was half-decent with him. I won once, mostly on a fluke, but it was nice to warm up.

Finally the first matches got under way. There was only space enough for eight stations, so we went with the left-hand bracket first. This meant for a short time, I would be playing the role of Riotwing Cheerleader.

Nothing overly exciting happened, but there was a small flicker of hype during Davis’s match-up when during the second set, both combatants mutually K.O.’d each other, dragging the match into sudden death, where Davis advanced without a flourish.
Comet fought valiantly, but was clearly outmatched and lost back-to-back sets against Miikii. This tourney didn’t have a loser’s bracket, so she was conclusively out of the running, turning my nerves into wet clay.

Jordan ‘Burndaddy’ had a good trade-off with ‘pink’, but ultimately won out, if only because his air-game was far superior. I logged away for future reference that he was also good with Shiner, as that was his avatar of choice for this battle. So two of his seven primary characters were Brave and Shiner, with one of his three projects being Lady Thrice.

God, that’s insane.

Iso completely and unceremoniously dominated both sets against FEAR, only losing two of his cumulative six stocks.

Once the left side of the bracket had finished, the right side was up to bat, meaning it was my turn. Willing my hands not to sweat, I took a seat at the station where it was announced I’d be having my first showdown.

Dougie filled in the seat beside me and began unwrapping his controller cord (any serious anarchist brought their own controller to tournaments). The most immediate thing you need to know about Dougie was his size. This guy had to be weighing in at about two-forty, and we’re not talking some fluff-n-stuff. He was a head taller than me sitting down, and all beef. Highly unusual for somebody with any substantial commitment to video games to be that muscular, and I was surprised I hadn’t noticed him in the room until now.

He mained a very balanced character named Wingull, who also heralded from Seeds of Victory just like Brave. Wingull was one of the few characters with an attack that could be charged and held for later use. It was a sort of hadoken-type move with ludicrous knockback and damage. Against Brave, an attack like that at full-power would blow away my stock at 80 DD from nearly anywhere on the stage. I needed to tread with serious caution.

As soon as the battle started, Dougie made distance and started charging the special. If he insisted on a playstyle revolving around that attack, I could use it to my advantage. I closed in on him and resurrected my inner Zoro, wielding Brave’s dual-blades with toned efficiency. Dougie fought back, but it was a very defensive mode of combat, focused on walling me out and preventing my use of grapples. He was good at this, so I quickly abandoned that tact and focused on dancing around the platforms for optimal air game.
He charged and fired that attack four times before I finally took his first stock. He only managed to hit me with the third one, but I was close enough to the far ledge that the knockback almost killed me at 62 DD. My heart and stomach had a reunion in my throat before I was finally able to settle back down.

Betraying conventional wisdom, Dougie was unrelenting in his desire to make use of the charge technique, despite my growing ability to predict and evade each projectile fired. I ran him down for his second stock and he finally killed me with a buster, which is a common term for any character’s full-tilt non-special.

Eh, I’ll explain that sort of stuff later. Basically, it was an easy-to-use strong attack, best utilized when in close-range and the opponent has high DD, as busters deal more knockback than damage. Because this succeeded and his charge attack did not, naturally a player would adapt to capitalize on this strategy.

Dougie did not do this. He turned himself into fodder.

Dougie plugged away at that charge attack a dozen more times before I got him down to the last thread of his final stock and he got a lucky shot and killed me again. I was nervous being on my last stock, but I kept my head clear enough that I was able to destroy him once more and claim the set. I sighed a small hurricane.

I won my first set in a tournament, though not the match. It was best two of three.

Dougie’s face was threatening sweat and he kept wiping down his hands on his pant leg. I noticed the lines of moisture that had formed between my fingers and copied the gesture.

Dougie leaned back and cracked his jaw. “Pretty good,” he scratched his head.

“Nice shot there at the end,” I tried to compliment to keep the big-headedness at bay, but the compliment was cheap. His shot sucked and I had a temporary moment of idiocy.

“That was more you than me. You jumped into it on accident.”

“Still,” I said, trailing off.

Dougie stretched briefly and settled back, “Ready?”

Set two. “Yep.”

We started set two, and guess what? Screw Dougie. Screw that guy.

He totally played me. Like a freaking harp.

“Anarchy” Chapter 6 – Remember, Remember

anarchy c 6
In a gesture of almost divine coincidence, my Advanced European History class was just beginning our unit on the Gunpowder Plot in London. You know, V for Vendetta, Guy Fawkes blows up everything. “Remember, remember the fifth of November”? Yeah, that Gunpowder Plot. The one meant to assassinate King James I of England. There were far more people in on the ordeal than just Fawkes, but thanks to Hollywood and that infamous white mask, he’s the only man people ever associate with the fiasco.

Anyways, this is appropriate, as these people are some of the most quintessential, real-world anarchists in recent history. Or, relatively recent. While I abide by the identifier of ‘anarchist’, these guys were serious about the term.

Though, Batman’s ‘Clown Prince of Crime’ still has them beat. The Joker is straight up loco.

Since I’m already talking about history (sort of), now is probably the best opportunity to enlighten you as to some historic details that will help in the long run. Is that alright? I’m not going to get stoned or whipped am I? Nobody will threaten to blow up my house?

Okay, cool.

Let’s start with me. This shouldn’t take very long, as there’s not much to talk about. Perhaps the most worthwhile segment of my personal story revolves around the absence of my mother, so I’ll begin there. Her name was Karin, and she was a suicide hotline specialist through the first six years of my childhood. I remember her being gentle and loving, but always with reservation. My father said she had issues in connecting with others and forming relationships. I guess her own son was not exempt from that problem. But she tried, so I cannot fault her for the handicap.

Somewhere around the time I was entering the second grade, she bore witness to a violent crime coming home from work after the evening shift. As I understand it (meaning, from what the authorities hypothesize), she somehow alerted the criminals to her presence. Probably yelped or cried for help or something. The two perpetrators gave chase. She ran, as we didn’t own a car, and only made it a block and a half before they caught her. They bludgeoned her to death.

Both of the culprits were caught on the camera of a gas station across the street and eventually drawn into the iron law. Both men belonged to a local gang and were tying up a loose end in their family. A snitch. Karin was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She needed to be silenced for witnessing an event she never wanted to see. Each of the convicted criminals are now serving time. Life, I believe. For whatever that’s worth.
Worst part? They were no older than I was in the course of this story. A sixteen and seventeen-year-old. I hate that. I hate that for so many reasons.

So for the majority of my life, I didn’t have a mom. Didn’t have a mother-figure of any sort. It was just me and padre, double-teaming the world. Wasn’t so bad after the first couple of years. Financially, we’re actually better off, because he’s since completed the degree he was going back to school for and found work as an accountant. More than enough to support himself and a single child. I adopted his love for hiking and camping when I was young, but steadily grew out of the activity with age. Mostly because I was being indoctrinated by a culture that kept me indoors, but also because my father had a bad back from sitting all day and it started to wear on his health. Just couldn’t make the climb so much after he hit forty. Still, we got along well, and I’d considered him one of my best friends, even if he wasn’t a “friend”, if you hear me.

Next up to bat, RequiaTek. The notorious company which dressed the events of this tale. Originally, RequiaTek manufactured only televisions, radios and other simple electronic products, circa the 60’s. They were known by a different name back then, however I neither know, nor care what it was. Dawning upon the early 90’s, they armed themselves with a new name to address the changing of the times, but had been in the business of producing and developing video games for over a decade by that point. Their oldest intellectual property was a modest (read: awful) little title called Arakid, which followed the titular character, a cartoonish, spider-child, as he tried to find his parents. The gameplay was appalling at best, even for its age, and the graphics could only be cured with fire and holy water. But it was enough to spring-load a new team into better projects, which eventually generated the momentum RequiaTek sees on the gaming scene today.

As I’ve said before, the game of Anarchy is something of a nexus for all of RequiaTek’s established franchises to date. More than twenty IP’s are represented, and as far as marketing is concerned, this move was brilliant. In the first year of Anarchy’s commercial release, it received gratuitous amounts of critical and fan acclaim as a family video game. Not until the initial hype settled did this new franchise pick up steam as a tournament-capable arena fighter like Street Fighter II. This has led its many loyal fans to consider Anarchy a ‘beautiful accident’.

The first Western Grand Rally tournament, largest Anarchy tourney in America, was held in 2009, with Styx as the first reigning champion. Styx mained Brave, by the way. Just throwing that out there. Ever since, the tournament had become a mecca for anarchists and grows in participants with every succeeding year. Nowadays they have to rent out stadiums to fit the masses who come to watch, not even accounting for the live stream of the tournament which draws in countless others to view online. Only one other tournament can compete with the WGR, and that’s all the way over in Japan, from where RequiaTek heralds. Sticking to typical Japanese peculiarity, that tourney was coined ‘Four Corners: The Elite and Thunderous!’ Exclamation mark officially included, of course.

Ready for everything to come full-circle? The WGR is traditionally held on the same day every year. Any guesses as to which day that is? Okay, well technically it’s two days, but it starts on November 5. “Remember, remember the fifth of November. The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.” The largest Anarchy showdown in the country takes place the same day as one of the most prominent acts of literal anarchy in history.

Don’t you just love it when things come together?