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Author's Chapter Notes:
the Two-Fisted Rambo Challenge
During their first visit to the Hang Ten Bar & Grill, Shades had noticed several arcade games, but of course hadn’t exactly had the chance to check them out that evening. Since then, he had dropped by a couple times, finding both a couple familiar games, and a sense of nostalgia. Had to admit he was a little nervous about bringing Justin over after what happened last time, but at least Rude Bones was busy fishing this afternoon. He had also wanted Max around for this little event, but he had gone off looking for Ma’Quiver for their afternoon training session.

Now, the two of them stood before a cabinet labeled Extreeeme Jaake!! with a pair of Uzi-shaped light-guns holstered in front. Loud, bombastic 16-bit chip-tune cycled, along with an occasional voice shouting “Extreeeme Jaake!” at intervals, as Shades recalled how, only a couple years earlier, it was rare for the voice FX to even be intelligible in games. Even the graphics, he noted, looked right at home in any arcade he left back on Earth, unlike some of the more futuristic machines he had seen at Club Positronic, or even in the other corner here, for that matter.

“So, you just point those and shoot at the screen, right?” Justin asked, looking over the unit.

“Yup,” Shades explained. “Normally, back in my world, you’d have to pay quarters or tokens to keep playing, but things are a little different here…”

Due to the fact that both the quarters and the tokens it was designed for were foreign coinage, combined with there being no one consistent currency passing through such a remote locale, Dagmar had arrived at a somewhat different arrangement. Instead of paying for credits, people paid for time. She would open the coin slot, allowing players to repeatedly flick the switch that the coins would ordinarily trigger, allowing for unlimited play for a specified time.

“I’ve already made arrangements,” Shades told him as Dagmar came over and unlocked the machine, “so let’s see how close this thing comes to the real deal! Let the Two-Fisted Rambo Challenge begin!”

“What? You’re not gonna play?”

“Of course not!” Shades laughed. “I’ve always wanted to see how somebody’d do at shooters using both guns, and you’re better at that than anybody else I know.”

“You asked for it!” Justin declared, arming both light-guns as Shades started the game.

Though he got off to a rough start, as Justin took a couple stages to adjust to the differences between light-guns and energy weapons. Once he hit his stride, though, he started blasting through levels, Shades occasionally ducking in to flip the switches for more continues. And found himself doing so less and less, until the last couple levels, whose manic pace taxed even Justin’s itchy trigger fingers.

“Dude!” Shades remarked triumphantly, “You did it! And in less time than I thought!”

“Damn straight!” Justin laughed, noticing for the first time what his friend already had: that their Challenge had attracted quite a crowd among the Hang Ten’s patrons, and Kalika found himself rushing around trying to keep up with fresh orders.

“Looks like you won the bet, Shades,” Dagmar told him. “Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t have any money ridin’ on it!”

She then closed up the machine and started helping her partner pick up the slack.

The two of them, meanwhile, took a seat near the exit, and Justin opened his bag, taking out a couple candy bars. “Check this out!”

Shades read the label, and even mirrorized lenses couldn’t hide his mixed reaction.

“Here, have a Dookie!” He handed Shades chocolate bar, then paused, asking, “Um, did I say something weird or somethin’?”

“Dookie?” Shades cocked his head, looked at the wrapper as if he expected it to be some kind of practical joke.

“Yeah, I got ’em at Lamar’s earlier. Said they just showed up in a shipping crate a while back… What’s the matter? I thought you liked chocolate.”

“I do,” Shades tried to explain, “it’s just, how can I put this…”

“But they’re really great!” Justin insisted, turning the wrapper over and reading the back label: “Melted fudge nuggets, covered in milk chocolate, for a smooth, creamy texture, with peanuts and almonds mixed in…”

Shades, meanwhile, was trying desperately not to laugh out-loud at what he was increasingly certain had to be some kind of joke product.

“Hey, what are you laughing at?” Justin demanded, unwrapping one. “Lamar recommended them, even sold ’em to me for half price.”

“I’m sure he did,” Shades concurred, snortling in spite of himself.

Justin then took a bite out of what, to Shades, looked like a big, lumpy turd, with bits of peanut stuck in it, and started chewing with much gusto.

“Dude, I’m gonna be blunt,” Shades finally replied. “You see, where I come from, ‘dookie’ is a slang term for shit. And that candy bar… I never would’ve thought chocolate, of all things, could ruin my appetite. Still, at least you didn’t find it in a swimming pool…”

“I ate scarier things in the alleys of Benton,” Justin informed him, “and hope I never have to again. But if you don’t want it, that’s just more for me.”

“Lighten up. I didn’t expect you to take it so personally,” Shades replied as he got back up, “but if you want to make a good practical joke, offer Max one without telling him anything about it. Anyhoo, I just remembered, I told Rod I’d hang out with him before the show.”

And with that, he took off for Bankshot.

And Justin finished eating his Dookie Bar.

Then someone else sat down next to him.

“You’re the one who beat that game, aren’t you?” she remarked. “That was so cool!”

“You think?” Justin turned to see who he was talking to.

Golden curls, framing a lively face, and green eyes that beamed with something he was fairly sure was admiration of a sort. And a glimmer of something else he couldn’t place, as he couldn’t recall a girl ever looking at him quite like that before. Even wearing clothes that had seen better days, she wore them well, with poise and a breezy grace that spoke of more civilized places than any he’d ever been to.

“I’ve never seen anyone handle two guns like that!” she went on. “Are you that good with real guns?”

“Of course!” Justin laughed. “That was my first time with a video game, but I’ve been practicing my quick-draw since I was a kid.”

“Really? It definitely shows! So, what’s your name anyway?”

“Justin Black,” he answered, wondering how he had become so talkative after being annoyed by Shades anyhow.

“Justin Black…” she mused, sizing him up. “This should be fun. I’m Felicia Cass, and after a long, boring trip, I’m just looking for some place to hang out and relax. So, know any places on this island to have a good time?”

“Well, there is Bankshot,” Justin told her. “They even got a live band…”

He wondered why he found himself wondering about Eleanor, the girl he vaguely remembered from his childhood aboard the Skerry, what became of her, what she might be doing now. It struck him as odd, since she was nothing at all like this Felicia. Yet it was closest he could recall to how he felt right now.

Clearing his head, he recalled the candy bar Shades turned his nose up at.

“So, uh, want a Dookie?…”

As he got up, they headed off for Bankshot.