|Max Castle ☾ Máni (manen) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2012-01-09 18:17:00
|Entry tags:||ares, mani|
boys and their toys
Who: Samuel & Max
What: A little friendly advice asked for and given during an intense gaming session
Where: Each is in their respective apartments; the conversation takes place over microphones on the PS3 gaming network.
When: This evening.
“And that, gentlemen,” Max drolled out as his assassin dealt a final blow to a courtesan, “is how you execute a perfect kill.” Perhaps his words were a little dramatic, but the grin on his face gave the truth of how well he was performing in the game. One of his nightly gaming sessions had taken the place of patrolling the dark streets of Newport, mostly due to a rather nasty bruise he’d earned on his side and wanted to take it easy for one night. Of course, Batman never took a break (except when Bane broke his back, Max silently reminded himself, though that only made him feel worse since his injury was no where near that bad) but he wasn’t trying to hold himself up that high just yet. Batman had all that gadgetry on his side; Max just had invisibility. He made a mental note of looking up instructions on how to make a grappling hook through the power of the internet.
“How you doin’, Sam? Where are you?” His eyes swept to the map, trying to locate his comrade in arms.
“Can’t tell you,” Samuel said. “I’d have to kill you.”
On screen, his pixellated counterpart - a broad shouldered bombardier - slipped through a crowd, following a casual and almost ambling path as they stalked toward his prey. Judging by the jerking, obvious motions of the character in his sights the other player had not yet realized how close they were to figurative death. It came swiftly, and with far less blood than Samuel had hoped: a quick shove and they were down, his bombardier’s mace slamming into their skull. Almost immediately another marker lit up on his HUD, signaling yet another assassin whose target was Samuel himself.
“And if that’s you on my ass now, I’m definitely not tellin’.”
“Then you totally just gave yourself away,” Max jibed back, though he was no where near wherever Sam’s character might have been. He couldn’t resist the smack talk along with the fight, and his gamer comrade could certainly give just as well as take. For a moment he took to scaling buildings, checking out the layout of the city, looking for any sign of the face Sam had taken up for this particular round. Given the clues he had, he narrowed the possibilities down to three who were being stalked by fellow player assassins. In the quiet that had fallen over the airwaves, Max pondered over a few questions that he had been dying to ask of Sam for some time. Mainly due to his security position; but the first was more of a personal nature.
“So...have you talked to Fee lately? Last I heard from her was the forum post about her sister.” He couldn’t deny that he both missed and was worried about the young woman. When he’d realized who Fee’s sister was, the shock was even greater -- the woman who he’d saved from the mugger. All of that, only to not be there when she truly needed help. Saved her, only to deliver her to a much worse fate. Max knew that there was nothing he could have done, but the feeling of responsibility (especially with his newfound powers) still weighed heavily on his young shoulders.
Samuel sighed, the sound carrying easily over their channel. He guided his avatar around a corner, walking headlong into a trickster’s knife. “Fuck.” That single word seemed to apply to so much, he thought, that it was an apt reaction even to Max’s question. As he waited for respawn he sat back on the couch, reaching for the beer close at hand.
“We talk,” he said. “She’s pretty fucked up over it.”
In truth Samuel was worried. Since Karin’s death she had fallen into a clear pattern, a cycle of vicious self destruction he recognized quite well. He had seen it in his brothers, his fellow soldiers, in himself; he did what he could to pull her out of it, but it was clear that as yet she had no interest in his help. Like any addict, until she was ready to come out on the other side, she would continue to wander through her self-made maze. This was, however, no convincing reason for Samuel to stop trying, or to stop him winning other people to aid in the cause.
“You should give her a call.” He skulked up behind the hooded assassin assigned as his mark, suspecting Max was behind the wheel of this particular character. “She could use the kind of company that won’t enable her new coping mechanisms.”
“Yeah...I’ll definitely try.” Max would just have to find the time to; his mouth fell into a grimace, berating himself for not making time for anyone except himself and his sudden, selfish desire to play the super hero. He’d reached out before, but she’d seemed less than interested in anything he’d offered, which he could understand. The loss of a family member bit deep, was something that would always be difficult to overcome. Having been too young at the time of his own mother’s death, Max couldn’t necessarily contest to such pain, but he’d seen it in his sister for too long to not recognize the condition. And now with the reappearance of their father, well, he would do anything to insure that she didn’t fall into such emotions again.
Ramping up a building, he came down in an arc on a particular target, taking them out with the element of surprise. It earned him a series of cuss remarks on the screen within the game’s chatbox, making him smile faintly at the person’s poor losing skills. Instead of waiting around to see who else might show up, he took back to climbing up the buildings, which made him wish he had such an ability when he was out and about in his other personage. Grappling hook, he confirmed to himself mentally.
“Hey, I’ve got an unrelated question, if that’s all right,” he started, then barrelling forward without waiting for consent from Sam; he knew it would be given, regardless. “What would you do about a stalker?”
Samuel found himself grateful for the change in topic. It was enough that he had gained Max’s buy-in; perhaps together they might work to pull Fiona out of this hole before it was truly too late. The particular point to which Max jumped, however, did more to merely shift the cause of his concerns, rather than put them to rest entirely.
“Me personally,” he asked, “or professionally?”
He swivelled the camera upward, watching Max’s avatar as he slipped across rooftops. It seemed to him a fitting choice of behavior for the conversation at hand. He kept his own character walking at a steady pace, weaving in and out among the shifting throngs.
“Personally, kiddo, I carry two very pretty guns I don’t mind usin’. And I don’t mind stalkin’ back, particularly if I think my family or anybody else I care about is in trouble. Or, hell, if it’s just me and said stalker is just pissin’ me off more than usual that day.” His bombardier lumbered up a nearby wall, swinging up onto a rooftop just behind the avatar in his sights. “Professionally, you call the PD the second you think somebody’s on you, as often as you have to. Document the fuck outta everything: dates, places, names of witnesses who can corroborate, pictures if you can, even just from your cell phone. Post to the forum if you’ve got a description, so everyone else can have eyes out. Don’t go anywhere alone if you can help it. Get a big fuckin’ dog to keep with you.” He smirked; slipped closer behind his intended victim, and pressed the button.
“Why’re you askin’?”
Max heaved a sigh; both that gesture and the pause that followed Sam’s question giving truth to his discomfort with the subject. But he had brought it up, and it was moreso for Lily’s sake that he was even asking.
“It’s a long story,” he started, the momentary thought that Sam might not want to be burdened with the information wavering on the tip of Max’s tongue passing through his mind. He would keep it brief, he decided.
“We have a restraining order against our father. My sister and I - my aunt put it into place, when we were younger. He’s shown up again, and... Well, we’re just not sure what to do. I guess calling the cops would be the simplest answer, but for awhile we weren’t even sure it was him.” His character leaped the distance between two roofs, landing hard on the edge and needing to grab it for balance. Disclosure of such details were making him lose his concentration.
“I know you don’t count as telling the police, but next best thing, huh?” The joke fell a little flat; what would he tell the cops if they showed up, and what good would it do? Maybe they could start a patrol around Pax. But the apartment building had been a haven of safety thus far -- Mr. Castle hadn’t yet penetrated their home, instead choosing to show up when they were out and about in the city. But Max didn’t want to feel like they would have to stay indoors forever just to be safe.
Samuel laughed, strangely flattered by the compliment that wasn’t. He bit his tongue against what wanted to slip out: That telling him was better, in some ways, than telling the cops, that from then on he would be forever on the lookout, keeping a weather eye on both the Castle siblings and on anyone who so much as appeared a threat. Due diligence could hardly be a bad thing, even outside the specific threat to them; after Karin’s death it seemed to him that the sanctuary their shared home had once been now seemed flimsy at best, and at worst, utterly useless. He wondered what had ever made him think otherwise.
“Yeah...” He trailed off, having successfully dispatched one target, moving on to the next. “I’ll be watchin’ for him, Max. Send me a few pictures of him if you’ve got ‘em. But you need that paper trail.”
Max gave a nod, then followed it up with a grunt of acknowledgement. “He’s, uh, tall and lanky. Hair like mine, or I guess I should say mine is like his. And every time we’ve seen him, he’s kind of looked like a bum.” It wouldn’t be surprising to know that Arthur was having a hard time of it, but that was the least of Max’s concerns. Telling the police seemed like the easy answer, give someone else the problem and they’d have it all taken care of with a nice little bow on top. But something told Max that it wouldn’t be that simple.
“Did you hear anything about animals escaping from a zoo? Wolves, in particular?” It was an odd segue, but it did still relate to the issue of Max’s father. He just hadn’t gotten around to connecting the two, and didn’t realize that it could be potentially confusing for Sam until after the words had left his mouth.
Samuel’s head adopted a curious lilt. The gesture scratched his earpiece against one broad shoulder, sending the painful scrape of white noise across their shared channel. Further obscuring his thoughtful hum of consideration was the sound carrying across their speakers, that of Samuel’s target screaming obscenities into the in-game general chat, his character falling off a roof limp as a ragdoll after a well-placed strike.
Samuel, meanwhile, was more preoccupied with the twin curiosities of his friend’s father and his sudden interest in wolves. An odd segue indeed. “Wolves?” he asked. “Uh, can’t say I have, but I’ll ask around. Your dad have an interest in exotic pets or somethin’?”
“That’s what we’d like to know, believe me,” he replied, a half mutter underneath the motion of him wiping his chin on his sleeve, carefully minding the mic.
“Last time we saw him, well, Lil was out by herself, shopping. Dad cornered her, and she ran. Then she ran into some wolves and I...found...her.” He realized that he’d almost stumbled into a corner there, and though Sam could easily try to ferret out the truth of what he’d been doing, Max would do his best to throw him off the scent. Having his sister know about his nightly crusade of justice was one thing - having everyone in the building find out was quite another.
“I don’t know if they were with him, or trained by him, or whatever, but they were huge. I mean, I don’t know what they feed those things, but it was unnatural.” His character came to a dead stop in the middle of the roof he was standing in as Max relived the moment when he realized that the creatures had been trying to eat them. Eat wasn’t even the right word - devour. As his silence fell across the chat, another player came up behind his character and delivered a death blow with a blade through his back, straight through his heart.
“Shit,” he muttered, leaning back in his beanbag to wait for a respawn.
“Shit is right, kid.”
From his own screen he watched Max’s avatar crumple to the ground; in his own living room he shook his head, sighing softly as he did. The question of the wolves was a strange one indeed. Animals of such size should have come up on the police band, or at least in idle chatter around the station. Animals who would turn on a human would have involved much of the force; any creature that would attack a person, especially without provocation, were killers to their core, and often the first victim the police were made aware of was not the first at all. This had all the makings of a bloody hunt - one on which he might find himself called. This seemed to bear more looking into than Samuel had thought at first glance.
“You think he could train animals like that?” Samuel asked. It would be good to know precisely what they were up against, if these were feral animals or if they answered to the whims of a master. It was possible there were bigger fish to fry than runaway wolves. “I mean I know it’s a kinda... supervillainy idea, I guess, trainin’ wolves. But he sounds a few bricks short of a load, so I figure it’s worth askin’.”
A chuckle escaped from Max’s lips, moreso one of disbelief at the situation than any actual humor, despite the fact that he was the one involved. “I really wouldn’t know. My dad lost custody of us when I was like...four or five. I barely remember the dude.” As his screen changed to show him back in the game, he quickly maneuvered his character up to the rooftops and took a few minutes to both scout out fresh prey as well as clear his head.
“I could ask Lily, she knows more than I do,” his voice inserted abruptly into the sounds of gameplay. “But I think that might either upset her or piss her off. She doesn’t like talking about Dad.” And, he slowly realized as the conversation continued, neither do I. But there were things that needed knowing. Especially if anything were to happen to either or, God forbid, both of them, someone should know what the possible cause was. He wondered for a moment if it would be smart to let Sam in on his other secret, to just say what he was up to on a regular basis. In case anything happened to him. Lily knew, but the way she’d been unreceptive to the changes in them, it didn’t bode well for her dealing with something happening to her brother. On the other hand, Sam was already dealing with Fee and her loss -- it was unfair of Max to ask him to shoulder more.
“It’s something to look into, that’s for sure. I don’t know about you, but this place just seems to get weirder and weirder.” The last comment was an offhanded remark, nothing more.
The round was steadily counting down toward its close; Samuel made a note to vote for a Manhunt session next, and end up on Max’s team. They could better converse were they not on the prowl for one another, easily the two best and most dangerous avatars in the session. Building upon their in-game scenario, Samuel’s thoughts wandered easily to how much time they had in the real world. The building’s weirdness, as Max had aptly put it, did seem increasingly stronger. Where before one had almost to seek it out, now it bled into their daily life, coloring all their being with something distinctly abnormal. He had seen it before, this cursed strangeness, but never so strongly as in Karin’s death; now it seemed it longed to call again.
“Ask Lily if you can, and lemme know what she says,” he added. “But don’t bug her over it. We’ll figure it out, Max.” He wished he felt the confidence and certainty he projected in his voice. But feeling it or not made no difference; he knew what had to be said, and he said it, knowing just as well he would stand by his words as best he could. Nothing more, nothing less. “Anything you need from me, you just ask, and you got it.”
“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” The true depth of his words was certainly made clear, even over the somewhat white noise laden mic. Truth be told, Max felt a weight come off of his shoulders in just talking about what had been bothering him. Moving swiftly, he took down another opponent, and in the act of winning he found even more relief. There were some things that just weren’t going to change, like his gaming prowess, even as everything else around them seemed to go to shit.
“You want last kill?” He asked casually, moving on as though the topic of discussion had no lingering effect.
Samuel could appreciate the gesture; it was a tactic he himself favored and employed quite liberally. It was enough that they each understood one another’s intentions. So he moved on, immersing them both in a world of fictitious blood, unconsciously hoping it might distract them both from the very real dangers lurking ever closer to their doors.
“Now what kinda question is that,” he laughed, and sent his avatar out into the fray.