Previous chapter: 5. MvR
Dinner was uneventful. About an hour later Mia and I were hanging out in the loft upstairs, like we used to do in years gone by. The place is pretty well-furnished: we've got a couple comfy armchairs, a decent flat-screen TV, a couple box speakers hooked up to one of those big radio consoles from the eighties, tubs of Littlest Pet Shops and Legos stockpiled from years of birthdays and Christmases. There was also plenty of carpeted space, perfect for tumbling and practicing cartwheels and flips and the like when the floor was clear. However, I think we can both agree that that the best part about the loft was that it was a place where we could hang out together.
And so we were. I hogged the couch while she took the shorter, orange-flowered chair off to the side. She was telling some anecdote about her time as a Fossil Center staff member back on Vivosaur Island- her colleague was following her and got stuck behind a rock or something. I wasn't really paying attention, and as long as she didn't call me on it, I was okay.
She had just about finished when I stood up and made like I was going to get up and pour another cup of juice. Then, just as suddenly, I leaned forward and faceplanted into the sofa, arms outstretched.
"Flying squirrel," I said.
She. Cracked. Up.
For those who haven't heard my sister belly-laugh, I can only hope to describe it as a wonderful sound, an infectious salvo of delightful, almost un-ladylike squeaks. I very nearly joined in myself, if only to keep the moment going.
She eventually did regain her composure. After making a note of the time she suggested we listen to the radio for a little bit. I accepted, snatching the remote from the top of the small television and pointing it towards the eye of the 80s speakerbox. The Outdoor★Joe Vivosaur Wrangler Radio Show had been on for about five minutes. I dialed it in.
"…HELP US GUESS THIS… MYSTERYYY!"
Mr. Wildwest paused in mid sentence and the music cut. Feedback rang as another voice joined in on a mic. A cocky, prepubescent male voice rang out, challenging Joe to a duel. "I’ll wager your Ptera that you can’t defeat me in a battle… ONE-ON-ONE!"
Joe recovered quickly. "Alright pard. We got a half-hour timeslot to fill. Sure ya want just the one on your end? I’ll let ya pack up to three. My Ptera has more grit than an aficionado on th’ back of a fully grown bull."
A brief pause. "Uhh, sure? I accept your offer." The general battle theme started playing. Over the top of it I heard the soft flash effect of three vivosaurs being sent out, then the declarations. "Raja! Tanstro! Krona!"
Joe wasted no time in hamming up his act. "Ptera! I call ya forth from the wide-open skies to battle!" The Ptera gave a determined "CAW!" "And ya know kids, it just so happens that Krona is the mystery vivosaur of the day, so let’s all give a warm hey-howdy-hey to our guest star today!"
The audience roared in delight. Joe continued: "We’ll be demonstratin’ the new CHAMPIONS battle system today, so let’s get ready to roll out!"
An agitated grunt came from the other end of the stadium.
"First move in the old system would go to the feller with the lower LP, but we've fixed that. It now goes to the player with the faster team. Normally the fighter with the number advantage would start out with this advantage to press, but our competitor here seems to think he can do just fine with three slow, lumbering titans. Thinks he can take speed with power it seems. He should really consid-"
"Alright already! Make your move!"
"Hold on now. You’ve interrupted me once, and this is my show you’re on. Now, where was I… oh yeah, zones. I set my Ptera in the rear SZ, where its defensive and offensive standing are the best they can be. Because I’m a Rank 20 Master Fighter I have access to 230 FP to strike with, and I’ll target your Raja 'cause your Tanstro’s asleep and your Krona’s too low a rank to worry about. Great VORRRTEX! YEEEEEHAH!"
Some squawking, flapping of wings and an impact could be heard, followed shortly by a raging roaring from the Raja. "Yep, definitely Gold Enraged now. Well, since that was my only vivosaur I yield to your rambunctious herd."l-
"About time. Let’s see… Tanst- nope, still sleeping. Copro. Uhhh… Raja, Raja Fang the Ptera!"
The Raja lunged, and a whiff was heard, followed by dead air.
"Aw shucks. Ya missed, pal."
"NO DUH I MISSED IT WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE."
"Gonna end yer turn? All ya can do is rotate two with 10 FP…"
"FFFFFFine. OH SURE, NOW YOU’RE UP, TANSTRO. WELCOME THE WORLD OF THE LIVING YOU STUPID LAZYBUTT FROG."
Joe chose to ignore that. "Okay. So, the Raja missed ‘cause I slapped a gold enrage on it from my Great Vortex. Enrage ups attack power at the cost of accuracy. Now, my turn again. I’ll string a combo together and strike Raja again, same time, same trail, GO!"
Ptera squawked again and a gust of wind again struck the Raja. An extra impact sounded this time and its cries echoed, indicating it returned back to its medal.
"What ya just heard was the beautiful ringing sound of a critical hit. Raja’s off the battlefield, meaning I only have to contend with two water types. And as y’all know…"
The audience shouted together: "AIR BEATS WATER!"
Ray took a deep breath and tried desperately to collect his wits. "It’s still two-on-one. I can press this. With my new 160 FP I have enough to fire off… a CREEPY LICK!"
The Tanstro extended its tongue almost the length of the field and struck Ptera squarely, but from the sound of its indignant squawks, it was mostly unharmed. It was also not scared in the slightest. Ray yielded his turn.
"Mmm, that was a smart move on yer part actually. Using yer strongest attack from yer strongest vivosaur is a surefire way to win against a weaker opponent. Too bad for you I’m no spring chicken. I’d mention how you could’ve rotated your Tanstro back to the rear SZ for maximal range damage, but that would’ve locked you out of yer move, so good choice. Yer not a total basket case."
"Now… I suppose that Tanstro’s my next big threat ‘cause yer Krona is only Rank 2. Pick that up today did ya?"
"Would you quit stalling and take your turn already?" Dang, he’s so testy. I thought to myself. I hope he comes back.
"Alright then. Let's have us another Great Vortex.” More Ptera cries could be heard in the background. “I’ll also add in the wrinkle of sending Ptera up to the front AZ to defend it better. Now that yer Raja’s out of the way I don’t have nothing to worry about."
"Good, that was quick …Hang on. What’s… HEY! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FP TO ATTACK THIS TURN!"
"That's a dern as-tute observation. Since yer a rookie you prob'ly should've chosen some lower-cost vivos…"
"I like power. Is there a problem?"
"No problem, but… ya gotta make sure ya can use it effectively. Brute force is great in its arena, but there's always more than one way to solve a problem."
"But isn't that what you've been doing all this time? Spamming your best attack and dodging damage? I'd hardly call trying different ways."
"Oh, I know of thousands of ways I could handle ya, but since the situation leaves me alone with Ptera, I'm making do with what I got. Frankly, this is the best tactic I can use."
"I have experience, son. You're outranked and overmatched. Go on home."
Silence again. I was on the edge of my seat to hear the kid's response. The audience was too, judging by the amount of time they gave him. What would he do next?
With what I can only assume was a death glare, he said "Not… just… yet. I yield only my turn."
Joe didn't even bother saying anything. He must've pointed at his Ptera's intended target, 'cause the next thing I heard over the radio was one last whoosh, flapping, squawk and an echoing ribbit-like grunt. A slow, building, rumbling noise followed shortly thereafter, like a train coming in from less than a mile away.
"Good game, kid. I know ya won't be able ta take down my Ptera with that low-rank shark, so…"
"gggrrrrRRRRRAAAAAH!! CAN IT, YOU TWO-BIT FRAUD OF A COWBOY!" The accusation rang out like the sharp staccato of a bullet.
"Hey now, them’s fighting words."
"NO. I’VE HAD IT WITH YOU AND YOUR STUPID MIND GAMES. I SHOULD BE WINNING THIS, WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE!?!"
"Son, if ya don’t calm down I’m gonna call security."
"THEN DO IT. YOU CAN’T PUSH ME AROUND. I AM RAY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!? I! AM! RAY! I DESERVE THE BEST. I DESERVE THAT PTERA!"
"Alright. I hate to have to do this, considerin’ we were havin’ such a great and educational battle, but since ya’ve insisted so hard… Terry! Carl! Get this rookie off my field, please!"
The clomping march of security boots ran over the beaten track led to the sounds of a brief struggle. “I’LL GET IT, JOE. I’LL GET YOUR PTERA IF IT’S THE LAST THING I EVER DO!”
Struggling could be heard alongside the victory anthem. What a ride. …Why do I feel as though I know that person?
Joe fumbled with his mic for a second before finally returning to the script. "Guess that concludes our mystery and battle lesson segments for the day. Let's review: Champions battle system is a bit of a headscratcher at first but everyone should be able to adapt. After all, it's the same sport. Always consider elemental types and advantages and please, be a good sport. Regardless of team strength or quality you're not gonna get anywheres if ya can't treat your allies and adversaries with respect in a friendly match. That's all. Be safe, and happy battlin'!
Mia chose exactly then then to turn down the volume. "Well, I guess that's that. …Is that Pop*Central station still running here?”
I took a moment to answer. "Uhhhh… yeah, I think so. Unless you’d rather listen to smooth jazz?"
"Hahaha, no. Pop*Central please."
"Alrighty." I nudged the dial to the appropriate tuning length before sliding the volume back up.