Chasing Alpha: Chapter Eight

Chasing Alpha – Chapter EIGHT

Oh geeze and Louise, where to start. Looking back I knew a lot of people. A LOT really. But I maybe never did get to really know anyone too awfully well. Because that’s the thing. Sometimes the more you know someone, the more awful they can be. That’s the little play on words. But that’s how living together makes people start hating each other. A little distance and mystery can go a long way for me. Not that I was really a play favorites type of guy. I was just there do my thing and tell it like it T I is when my opinion was called upon. I knew the way the chain worked. Life on a chain, and I respect it. Because I would want the same respect. I may have a big mouth, I know it, but I also wasn’t the one to mouth off. I wasn’t into the grab of power. I saw stuff like that happen even just in games and it was very uncool.

I played a lot of games when I probably shouldn’t have. But I also maybe shouldn’t have. It was in private. I had an older brother and, well he and I did not get along too well all the time. And I used to sneak and play games but he never knew about it. We’d even play each other but he was never one the wiser. Or else I’m sure I would have caught the wind of hurt. He was older by a few so even if he wasn’t as tough now as I am, he could have still given me enough of a pounding.

I am not a guy who knew a lot of the tech stuff. I am kind of against technology in some ways. I am into the tangible. It’s the right word from language arts class. Thinking of a tangerine is the trick. A tangerine is tangible. It’s able to be held, smelled, eaten. Physical. I like my life as tangible as possible. A gun is tangible. The little friendlies it sends out after a target. Hot lead is tangible. It slices through you and it’s like touching the glass on the front of grandma’s oven. It’s white and blinding for the receiver. No fun.

But I saw things fall apart, especially in games. Games are the same as life in a lot of ways. Just cutting through all of  the malarkey and trying not to count it pound for pound and it shows through. People are going to be pretty much the same in general. There are jerks in life, there are petty people and pity parties. Same in games. I don’t invite no pity to my parties. Those guys just gotta get packing. There are backstabbers and the most loyal of loyal in games. And everything else in between. A whole rainbow of emotion. Usually a game is not able to show it all. But good and evil are about right. Always able to boil something down into being either black or white. Gray is not a trusted color when trying to deal. A knife should cut one way or another. A two way blade can just a person right back, sure as sugar is sweet.

When I played stuff it was usually doorway games, I think. I just played the stuff, I didn’t really try to learn why something was or any of the thingamabobbers. I know a modem makes the internet work as long as those blinky lights are firing off in their own pattern. It’s like the word SCUBA. I know it lets you breathe underwater but I don’t give two shakes what that word breaks down into.

What I know is when I started using the internet it was the phone kind and a BBS system. It meant that I called a phone number and dialed into someone else’s computer. Like I said I was already using someone else’s computer to start with since it was my brother, usually when he was at work. So while in the BBS I could check out messages, download pictures or play games. The games were my bread and butter. Actually I had one favorite place but I’d go to a few because often there would be the same game but different stuff. A lot of games could be customized by whoever it was who owned the BBS.

There was this Red Dragon game. One of the places would let you have more turns than the others. Usually in that game you had ten or twelve turns. And for that game some had extra stuff you could two, they were like early versions of add ~on modes. One was a kissing booth and another was something to do with a cave. There was one of the places with the game that let you cheat which made it a lot more fun sometimes. Another one had the same game but rewrote a lot of the text to make it dirty in a lot of areas. The game was all about fighting and fighting until you were rich enough to have the best gear to slay the red dragon and then it started all over again. Part of the fun was being able to attack other people too stingy to spring for a room at the inn to stay safe. Bring up a list of napping knights and there was most times someone to give a sword’s edge some practice

The thing about the BBS world was how there were a ton of portals to use, doors to different games or activities. I know one had ninety nine but it was open in a lot of areas. I would mostly just go to ones my brother would be at since I had no idea how to find new ones. My favorite was the Twilight Zone BBS.

Twilight Zone had a lot of different things but it was the only one to have a certain game. My brother would be the same name everywhere but I covered my tracks. He would have probably caught on if I was the same guy. I hid my info in the back of an old NES manual. He never read any of them and I was the only one playing them usually. He had the Sega system since he thought those were more advanced. Nobody I knew ever played that thing except one game and my brother didn’t have it. He was into the boring ones.

Basically I skunked my brother in a lot of games. The high scores. I didn’t do anything actually bad to him. It would be sinful to be brother vs brother in even the game world. Especially keeping it secret. Wouldn’t be right to K-5 my own flesh, despite if I liked him or thought he was nerdy. They say to love family, even if they aren’t exactly liked.

This all comes down to a specific game. It taught me to watch my own six whenever I can and not trust anyone just because of a sob story they’re trying to front. On the Twilight Zone BBS there was a game called Usurper. It was door number twenty three. It was basically a gang type game but it was in a different type of world. Most of those games seemed to be a lot of that ‘ye ~olde’ garbage. Knights kings, queens and squires. This comedian I heard said the only queens and kings he liked were the ones next to jack. Or Jack as I would say it, but don’t let old Acey hear that.

Usurper was a team game. It was played all in text, just like most of those games, the Dragon one or Shadowrun. There were player turns and gang turns. Everyone could use his own character to fight small computer thugs or gangs, whatever they call bad guys in the renaissance festival or in Shakespeare times. Kill those guys for money and items. Get more power and trade stuff in for better gear. Then when strong enough there were gangs to join. These gangs were really people who played and had their own groups they formed. Those guys would be on the leader boards. There would be a top ten when getting into the game’s start screen and then a more detailed one. Sometimes it was like the Dragon game where killing people not locked safely away was part of the process. It was accepted if they weren’t in a gang. The game wasn’t supposed to be for lone wolfing it.

When a player was confidant enough or impatient enough then he could try to join a gang. There were two kinds of gangs: ones to get approval and some to get straight jumped in. The more careful players didn’t let it be automatic. They made someone have to sign off. The bummer of it was rolling the dice and not knowing. Sometimes a guy could fight and fight only to find out it wasn’t an auto win situation. Anyone who took the time to examine the teams to figure that out, but some were too stupid or impatient to figure it out.

I got myself cattywompussed many a time just by playing it safe and not joining any gang right away. What I didn’t know was there were ways to sneak into rooms and basically bribe an innkeeper and then breech the room and stab whoever was inside. Yeah it was hardcore like that. But sometimes brutality motivates me even more. But I didn’t care since I had a plan.

There were a couple other guys I knew in school. I was a mover around kind of guy. A bob and weave. Sooner or later a man might need any other kind of man so I liked to keep my options over. I wasn’t some sort of nerd pounder. Sometimes I needed help in my studies and I wasn’t too proud to get help here and there. Usually I’d do a favor or whatever it took, then I’d be cundelá with them. Just how I rolled it. So every now and then I could hype something. Swap music or whatever. So I found out who had a modem and then I ended up telling a few of them about this board. All of that.

Eventually there were three or four of us in this game. I was able to take out the lowest rung gang all on my own. Then when I got the chance to join them I was able to eject them from the game. They basically had their gang bust apart and then all ended up freelancers while I was able to form my own crew. I called it a crew since I wasn’t into a gang thing really. I may listen to some rap and hip hop mixed in with my Cds, but it doesn’t make me a gangbanger. Icing on the tippy top of the cake was all the news from the day. It showed I overthrew the lowest rung all on my own. So I got those two or three guys in with me and we rocked it.

I’d always be sure I was about equal with the person two rungs above and then I unleashed, meaning rumbling with one of the real gangs or crews. The problem was sometimes there would be a member who had a backstab move against the aggressor, so even if one of my crew was above their level it could still spell doom for us. Methodical was the way to be, since I was the method man. Always a plan as leader.

We would be one of the few groups active at that time. Everyone else just lingered or didn’t see any point to playing the game once they were at the top I suppose. Me and the guys changed all that. Once we started creeping up, all of a sudden that game blew up. It was full out ubes once we got into the mix. Who knows how it spread, but it became wildfire. We would get a lot of people coming after us.

These guys were loyal to me since they saw I had a plan in motion. There was a mail thingie inside the game itself so we would eventually talk there. Before I knew that I just met them fast towards the end of lunch.

It cramped my style for a while, but I stayed on campus for lunch. I altered my schedule really and I ended up with more time in the long run during that. I was in it for the marathon anyway, not a silly sprint. I’d find the guys since they were usually hanging out in the same spot talking about whatever stuff it was. I think it was usually one of those dice games or science fiction. I made one of our guys the defense and one of our guys the offense. Then I would change my style up depending whatever was out of wack at the time. I was basically utility or the anchor guy. So one had a  backstab that would basically take almost anyone out. Then another would be able to go all offense. We were climbing the boards like a ladder.

People were getting devastated from all our action since the top guys would be in this five way scramble for first place. So the boards would be whatever our crew was up to and then the one through five groups who were basically just wearing each other down without knowing it. Better for us since we had the plan of the hour. We came we saw we conquered. Just like the Hizo.

Maybe we could have taken first place in one big old swoop but I didn’t think there would be any fun in that. Dominating isn’t going from sixth to first. It’s moving all the way up the ranks and showing everyone else there’s nothing to be done about it. In the game people would try to jump my crew to get an invite to join the gang. Most of the time people couldn’t knock out any of the members anyway, so there wasn’t much in the way of pickings. But people would get through and I would pick more and more people up. I was the leader so I was the only one to launch an offensive on another group so it was good enough. Five, four, three, two, one and blastoff! We were the number one team. People wanted to hitch their wagon to a winner, and I proved it was possible.

Then the script got flipped on me. I was paying a little less attention since we were riding high a few days. Someone slipped through the cracks. It was deadly. I hopped into the game only to see some seriously bad news. I got killed. Not forever but it sure as smack whapped me upside the head. Someone took me out from within.

That is when I actually cracked a dictionary and looked up the word usurper. To usurp is basically to take over and usually in an underhanded kind of way. So usurping is a fancy word as to take over but in a non honorable way. I never forgot that word once I had it put in effect towards me. I’m not really the kind of guy into knowing big words since I don’t have to really feel the need to fall back on that jive to look like a smartie. But I’ll never forget it.

The rest of the core members all scattered. It did peeve me but we did what we needed to. I never expected them to be a stick it out kind of group. Heck, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to have stuck around as long as I did but I was conquered. And I don’t take getting conquered lying down.

When I set my mind to something I usually get my way unless the laws of physics or the law in general doesn’t let me. Chain of command, I respect that. Plus I expect it to be respected when it comes to me at the top of that chain. I stuck it out in the Usurper game. I didn’t have a plan like before but I ended up shucking and jiving my way through. It was more like a slalom. I pounded a team down and then offered them to align with me. Jumping ship to me. I didn’t let anyone in from the top ten. I wanted an infrastructure, a solid foundation. I got us all back to the top in a more cautious way. It was slower, but also I knew they were gunning for me too. People were conspiring against me and I knew it. Shake a game up like that and people take notice. Especially since it was what seemed to be the only scrap of fame some of them had. I learned a very valuable lesson about the online world. People there often have very thin skin or a fragile ego. So best not to get too sucked into the culture.

When I got that team back to the top I posted an announcement saying they didn’t have to worry since I was leaving that game and turning all the control over to the dedicated teammates who stuck it out and rode this horse to the top. I basically won the Derby twice. No need to keep on loitering there. I know I was supposed to be talking about my land of the eastern sun but the idea was I know what works and what don’t. I instill confidence and then lead confidently when I am given the reins. Never a moment too soon. But maybe a person needs to be alongside me before being able to agree. I know I don’t come off as prince charming when I am confronted, even if I do think I have the chin for it. Ha ha ha.

Only one who can really vouch for me if Ubu and there’s nothing he can even say right now. We would both follow each other into Hell if it meant we got to reach Heaven in the end. Or at least to give the rest of our guys a shot at it. But I’ll get back to him. There is someone else on my mind and I would get stuck on the Ubmeister all day. I know it. Some men can’t fill a page and sometimes there aren’t enough pages in the world to cover a man. If it’s my story I know it would only take one book’s worth of pages. Or maybe half a bible. But Ub would be a Bible and counting. Not to be spitting blasphemy. That’s just for showing how thick and hearty the tales would be. A good and thick chili. Easy on the beans. Ha ha ha.

The guy I maybe most was compatible with was Acey. He went by a lot of names. Ace and whatever other thing that could be made up from that. Eventually he would just be Acey or plain old A for short. He was an even type of guy but he had this thing in his eye. He would try to see what would happen. He wouldn’t start anything  up usually but he was the dogpile type. See a crowd of people and then hop on top of it. That’s the best way I remember him.

The sad and good thing was people just assumed he was named it because of the obvious. At first it was slang he would just toss around. Kind of like when someone biffed it on a curb or something and then someone would call out “Way to go slick.”  That’s what we’d use instead. “Nice shooting Ace” when someone had a gun jam up or if they missed a chow time then often someone shouted out “Glad to see you on time Ace.”  For a while it was him who caught the most of that flack somehow. So the Ace name waned a while from others since we were used to calling him it. He was cool about it though and didn’t care.

A lot of people didn’t know that’s how it started. They thought it was gambling that got him into the handle. Somehow this guy was always getting some sort of card game going. Often it was fun and he’d teach people how to play. But sometimes he’d get some rip roaring games going. Stuff was very off the hizzy. Most times it wouldn’t be much in the way of stakes. But he would often take a small piece from people to get in since he said it was to buy a new deck of cards for next time. That was some serious pucky. No way someone would have a weekly deck of cards. They were usually something pretty scarce anyway due to high demand. I did hear a rumor that Acey bribed someone at the canteen to not sell the cards for a couple weeks. No idea if that’s how the rascal started building his card empire but that sure would be a push in the right direction if it was cool. Sometimes when it was a smaller crowd like more of the core of us, he’d try to teach us different games. Broke up the monotony and at least there was something else to focus on. I know one time he was trying to teach us the game James Bond was famous for playing. Baccarat, with the nines and elevens. At the time a few of us were getting pretty good at it. Was kind of nice to chill and play a  social game since it’s a lot less stressful, especially just betting on the house if it’s done the real way like at a casino. He would say something about it being the only game you can play in a casino where you can tear the cards, but he always made it clear he’d kill us if any of us tried tearing his cards. One time I did it though. His face was priceless. I was all “Is this how they let you tear the cards in the casino?” And I just made a  pull. Everyone could hear it, and Acey got all sawed off until I showed him it was a joker and from my own deck. It was face down so he was none the smarter on it, and I made sure it was an exact  kind of backing like the ones he had. The cost and time going into that practical joke was definitely worth it. Everyone laughed, even Acey. I tossed the whole pack of cards at him and told him it was his. He got all red from thinking I was really going to disrespect him like that and he  ended up giving me a hug. Hugging it out beats slugging it out. No getting the brig or the hoosegow on a hug.

It still wasn’t the reason why he’s got his name. But those who were in the know all knew it the same. I remember it being called one-upsmanship when there was sibling rivalry in my house. I liked to try to outdo my brother. Maybe at the time it was just because I was being a petty bastard but I never had a hankering to do in or humiliate my brother. I just had this thing where I was always looking for some sort of way to prove myself. My brother was older and he was the benchmark. It was like seeing a high jump. I see that bar staring me down and I’ve got to try to launch over it. Our mama’d get on him about it but that’s just what happened. My bro-bro was always supposed to get yelled at to cut me some slack. But then we’d get along right after it. We really weren’t allowed to stay on the outs for long, and that was for the best. I learned a lot about respect because of it. Loyalty too. All of that shebang.

That was what I liked in Acey. We basically just added a tag to his name so it wasn’t like we were making fun of the guy. Acey wasn’t getting called “Ace” in the bad way anymore, and that wasn’t so long anyway. But the one-up was the origin I always remember for getting his handle.

Whenever anyone was doing something, Acey got curious. He wasn’t the one who’d coin a prank or whatever, but he’d be ground support for any sort of funny idea. Good utility guy for that. And that guy could play it straight. Nobody saw it coming even if they knew he was usually being a joker over this or that. He never hurt anyone or put them down. Just funning.

A lot of the time there would be some sort of contest or friendly pissing match. Not all of them were directed at anyone. It could be a some kind of a foot race around the perimeter or even a relay race if stuff got extra boring. Acey would always be the last guy even if he wasn’t such a great runner, but we all could count on him as a good sport. He didn’t even care about any popularity, he’d just like to see everyone laughing their asses off and having a good time when there was nothing much to do that day.

Another one was tub scrubbing. Now it wasn’t very glamorous at all. And I feel almost like horking to talk about it, but it was just one of the things that went on. I’m all about the unvarnished truth. The name was the nicest part of it. It all started out as I heard it from a couple people who got stuck with doing something and neither ratting the other out. So they ended up having to clean a whole line of the commodes. Latrine duty is pretty darn demeaning so most people try to keep their head down and just do it. Whoever the two guys of legend were, I have no clue. But One of them was supposed to have done something bad. Was one or the other so whoever the C.O. was made them do the muddy deed.

They dared each other instead to see who’d get it done the right way and the soonest. Other had to end up doing the chore next time around for the winner. So they basically had an honorable race. While they were going at the cleaning job, people started to crowd all around and have to peek in at the competition between the two guys. Thing basically ended up as a sporting event.

So now there’s the event of tub scrubbing every now and then, more to stir up a little morale. But it’s just two. Kind of an exposition kind of thing. Maybe a little money on the side every now and then, but nothing in the open. Usually it’s scrounging up some small item as a prize or a small amount of cash. It’s just a taste really, but these fellas are doing it for the sake of whoever watching. Really no way to ever put a price on that. If I got it my way, no man who participated in that contest should ever scrub even a bathroom back in the land of apple pie and baseball. There’s a reason why we call that a tub. To try and make thinks a little less easier.

Often we hold an event like that to break in a couple of the new guys. We’d do it for the sake of fresh meat but it was also a little test. Any guy who can jump in a tub scrub match fresh to the desert I can already have my eye on. I know it’s someone who can take an order or take one for the team even, one of the same. I take a mental not of that, especially if it was one of the guys lumped in with us.

Since I am not a guy to put a spit shine on history, there’s a more advanced version. Only advanced in the intensity and not the maturity, that’s for betting sure. The rules on the real tub scrub…  Well this is like only for the hardcore guys. No way any of this would submit a noob to that kind of thing. This is really a souped up version. Unlike the others that are a little more spur of the moment, this thing is nothing short of an extravaganza. It’s like when Playboy has that Gala Christmas issue. It’s big time.

For the full out competition, it’s a week in advance. I don’t know how it comes about, but someone gets the ball rolling. The difference is a whole week of getting ready for it. This isn’t even something that’s supposed to be done since I guess Uncle Sam frowns on potty humor, so we have to try to keep the thing a little bit low key. So basically two of the latrines are used, side by side for the sake of fairness. Then it’s a full week of waiting for the event. A lot of it is Sundays after chapel since we all know that’s one of the best times for everyone to meet up. We don’t mark the ones that will be part of the competition, but in that mysterious ways things spread around, people just know. What that means is the plot thickens in more ways than one.

There is not a possibility of actually being reckless. That would basically fall along the lines of destruction or vandalization of government property. So there has to be respect. But if there’s not a long line, it won’t keep people from using those two holers in particular throughout the week. More who use it and the less than fantastic it gets. Those things aren’t a bouquet of flowers to start with but by the end of that week it can be downright ornery to put it in the nicest of ways.

After all the waiting and quiet hyping, the scrub off kicks in as a clash of the titans as well as the nostrils. Most of the time it happens, the two guys competing don’t even eat that day just because neither wants to catch a wind change and not be ready for it. If anyone got sick while competing, it still all had to be cleaned up by him. That when it happens is an even worse thing which may be funny to watch, but I never wish that on any of them. I’m nauseous even now remembering it all. Doors open and the two guys duke it out with their cleaning speed and thoroughness.

Acey would always step in if one of the guys was too pussified to compete when it came down to the nitty gritty. So would The Deuce sometimes since we couldn’t always keep going back to the same person every time. Just so much to be asked upon from just one guy. I didn’t say too much about The D since I’m certain Snipey will have plenty to chime off about for that guy. Those two would be pretty thick into  hanging out when it wasn’t D and Acey of course. They were often a hand in hand sort of way when palling around. I know Deuce could always crack up Snipey though. As far as funny buddies went those two would get all punch drunk from nothing. But anytime I saw someone having a good time I was happy, since that was less morale I had to worry about picking up the pace on when trying to help our guys cheer up. Come to think of it, I want to also let some of the others have guys to talk about. Prev would most likely even  want to touch off about Ubes. Since they had more than a few times together. Ubu was a great guy but as they say, a lot of the funny ones have to laugh since there’s nothing left to cry over. Personal demons I mean. Knowing what we all do now, hindsight is twenty twenty. Now we all knew he had a death wish, or a serious form of a gambling problem. Not like guys can try to drink to death when that far out in the desert, so doing crazy stuff can sometimes be the replacement to  getting tanked. Poor Ubes.

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