The Loneliness of Command

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Gunn-Pres(OS-Leader) smiled as he reviewed his troops on-screen. For a practise session, six clan members was a pretty good turnout, and, standing waiting by the triple strike pedestal in the Luna Arena, they looked pretty impressive: Wes times six, all sturdy, wearing blue shirts just like the one he had gotten Mom to buy him last Saturday.

He hit "F1" for the listing. He was there himself, of course; he stroked the "H" key, and gave himself a friendly wave. And there was Impaler, and Mustard, Oopsmissedagain, Sugarhips, and Eggsistense. A fine body of men. Except Sugarhips, of course. He picked up a chocolate fudge bar absent-mindedly, bit the top third off, and spat the paper into the bin with the ease of long practise. "OK", he typed briskly. "Each of you get a triple strike."

They all surged forward towards the one weapon, knocking into each other and bouncing off. The victor backed away, and waved his trophy overhead with an "H" gesture. Two other players faced off, gesturing slit throats at each other with a "K".

"Viper has entered the game" - GunnPres groaned. The smirking face of a Ted appeared on the roster down the side of the screen, with 750 points to his name already. "GO AWAY VIPER!!!" he typed. "LEAVE THIS SERVER OR WE KILL YOU - OFTEN!!!"

"Is Clan Training Session", Mustard added helpfully. "OS Clan only, sorry." What a wimp! "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT VIPER!!!"

A new triple strike phased in, and one clan member darted forward, and was armed. He waved the shooter about, and accidentally shot a clan-mate, who sank to his knees in frustration and then vanished. The guilty party (Eggsistense, he noted from the screen) scooped up the bonus points, as if to get rid of the evidence.

"Hey, that hurt!" Mustard complained from somewhere far away. "Oh, hi, Viper..."

Now, who was who? "Jump up when I call your name", GunnPres typed. "No, wait for your name, all of you - STOP JUMPING, UNTIL I CALL YOUR NAME!! STAY STILL!!" He pushed the last of the fudge bar into his mouth, and bounced the wrapper off one speaker onto his bed, where it joined four others. One advantage of computer games like this, you could always "speak" with your mouth full. "Okay, Impaler, jump now."

"But you said to stay still," Impaler complained, and then made a rather hasty and unenthusiastic jump, followed by a "H" wave. Another triple strike spawned right in front of him, and Impaler grabbed it eagerly.

"You jump now, Eggsistense."

Eggs waved his triple strike in the air. GunnPres sighed, and nodded.

A door slid open, and the whomper sphere came in fast - GunnPres moved with a speed belying his girth and managed to dodge behind a wall, but all of his clan vanished in a flash of light. After a moment, he remembered to close his mouth, and then licked at a trickle of chocolate fudge that had tried to escape...

Viper: "HEHEHEHEHEH! GOTCHA ALL, BUNCH OF WIMPS!!" The Ted player came into the room, and he still held a loaded whomper...a gold-glowing, double-size whomper. GunnPres couldn't be sure, but Viper seemed to be making the "K" cut-your-throat gesture.

"GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT, WE ARE USING THIS SERVER!!!" He wished he had grabbed a triple strike, but had a nasty suspicion that Viper would be shielded and megapowered. He trundled for the gap in the floor, to jump down and escape, picking up some entirely useless ballammo as he went, but the whomper whomped again, and he could only watch as his Wes sank to his knees, fists clenched in frustration. And to think, he could have been watching a Star Trek re-run on Fox...

He didn't re-spawn immediately, and so was watching as one of his clan, his brave boys, started to creep up behind Viper - with just his pistol? The Wes fired, missing with his first few shots, but then one hit, as Viper strafed and jumped and turned, but they were too close, Viper must have known that if he fired he would take himself out too because, just as the golden glow finally faded, the whomper was gone from Viper's hands, replaced by the good old, humble ballzooka.

GunnPres checked F1, to see who was scoring the 25s - oh no, it was Mustard! The boy might be keen, but he would never have allowed him into the clan if he had tested him properly, instead of relying on Impaler's say-so. Give him points-targets to aim at and he was happy, but he knew as much about dodging missiles as...as...well, something that was not any good at all at dodging stuff! He couldn't watch, and pressed the button to re-spawn.

He emerged by the pulsator, just as a couple of his men came in; he could swear that they looked anxious. He grabbed the gun, and clicked "J" quickly, hoping they would understand the gesture. "Follow me", he typed, and led the way. Mustard was, for a miracle, actually still there, and hopping wildly to avoid most of Viper's fire, though GunnPres was sure Mustard's health would be in single figures by now. The triple strike was just phasing in, and one Wes moved past GunnPres to try to reach it, but Viper saw him, and caught him with a splurt of alternate fire green goo, grabbed the triple strike himself, and despatched him with a single rocket. GunnPres brought the pulsator to bear, and used rapid fire, trying to shoot the launcher out of Viper's hands...

Viper: "STUPID CLANS, LOAD OF WUSSIES!"

Impaler: "GET HIM< PRES!"

Mustard: "You in for it now, Snake..."

GunnPres growled to himself, and pressed every button he could reach. His health was down to 43 now, but Viper had to be hurting, too. The pulsator fired its last bolo and faded from his hands, but he hardly noticed. He tried to circle Viper, who was trying to circle him - he saw a power-up arrive, but Mustard was nearest to it, and pounced, before pausing to fire through the gap in the floor. Points-shooting at a time like this? GunnPres made a gesture of despair, almost knocking his can of Jolt over.

Viper shot Mustard with a flight of three rockets, and he was gone; the Ted turned on Impaler now, but Impaler was just quick enough to dodge. He might not have a triple strike, but he'd got a hypershot, and he knew how to use it, catching Viper once despite all his leaping and jinking. GunnPres managed a few shots from his pistol, then saw Viper grab a power-up, which at least meant his health must be below 100 now.

Viper: "YOU COULDN'T EVEN SHOOT THE BREEZE!!"

Mom: "Westerville, honey, you ready to eat yet?"

Oh no...he glanced at his watch. "Five minutes, Mom, I need to finish this last bit of homework before I come down!"

Mom: "Good boy! You remember to wash up, y'hear?"

"Yes, Mom." It was always the way - so much to do, so little time. He ran straight at Viper, then crouched, almost feeling the heat of the rockets as they zoomed above his back. His suit began to beep warningly, while he watched Impaler aiming, firing...

Viper vanished, and GunnPres snatched up the points, just as the server ended the session.

Viper: "I'LL BE BACK, GUMSHIELD!!"

Eggsistence: "GG"

Mustard: "GG!"

Impaler: "Hey, those were my points, Pres!

GunnPres sighed. "Nice one, guys. Cya tomorrow, same nerf-time, same nerf-server. We are definitely getting better at this!"

And, with a flourish, he ended the connection.


This was the story that won the contest that Slam ran in June on his website - an achievement that would have been more impressive if there had been any other entrants. While Slam has had the story posted on his site, the last time I looked it scrolled waaay over to the right as, on my browser at least, the line returns didn't work, only the paragraph breaks! Some small changes have also been made as I was typing. I should mention that Clan Destiny has never tried to run training sessions like that, although the story was inspired by online experiences with a different clan. Not that its leader was anything like GunnPres, and there was never a Wes in sight, I should hasten to add!