My chest bone was starting to ache, but I couldn’t move without being spotted. A greenie on the stronghold on the opposite side of the street was pretty sure he noticed something, just barely not sure enough to call for alarm. He gave up eventually as I stared at him through the binoculars, trying to keep my breathing from changing my profile too much, silhouetted against the evening sky.

“Too many,” I mumbled as I traded my binoculars for my silenced mp5.

Gypsy didn’t respond, but instead took a shot at a lonely soldier walking the west street. Instant kill. I grinned at him. “You are an arteest with that thing. I’m gonna have to call you Da Vinti from now on.”

Gypsy laughed, nearly giving us away. “We make a good team,” he agreed, lining up for another shot. He missed this time, as the greenie sprinted along the fortress wall. He couldn’t try a second time now that his mates had a clear line of sight on him, and we watched as the low-ranking officer jumped into the driving seat of an APC further down the road and radioed for people to jump in.

Gypsy lowered his VSS Vintorez and produced a handful of grenades. They would do minimal damage to the armored vehicle and alert the whole base to our presence, and I considered them a terrible idea. I had a better one.

I flung myself over our cover, darting to the edge of the roof. Throwing myself onto my elbows painfully, I managed to dodge incoming fire through sheer luck. Gypsy took care of the single alerted guard by means of lead through the skull, while I armed a pack of C4 and threw it in a wide arc onto the street.

Half scrambling to my feet, I crawled back to safety, away from the 100mm gun on the APC that was turning towards me. A single bullet hit the concrete before I disappeared from view and the gunner gave up.

Now that his vehicle was fully loaded, the driver floored the gas and the thing accelerated briskly. It drove over my bomb just as I landed next to my colleague, pressing the button on my remote as I grinned stupidly at him.

The fireworks were nothing short of beautiful.

The explosion went through the weak underbelly of the tank like butter, exploding it from the inside out. Bodies flew out of sight, and the APC veered and crashed into the fortress.

We were both royally screwed, but when they eventually found us, they found us laughing on the floor. Firing our guns at them.

”Go ahead and turn,” SCI says, as we clear the nebula on our way to another. On screen, I see our vessel bank left. I frown.

-“Follow my orders only!” I snap, and I see both men wince.

-“Fair enough,” SCI offers, but instantly I regret being so short with my friend. He takes it like a champ.

-“Bearing… 1-6-6, warp 2,” I say, and watch HEL push his joystick. I consider him our weakest link.

We keep our speed down to minimize power consumption. Our available energy is finite but I haven’t yet worked out which behavior is more economic. I make a mental note and begin to hypothesize, but the best I can make is a poorly educated guess.

“Our guest is getting impatient,” COMM relays and I nod absentmindedly.

-“Make some reference to his mother, if you will.” Chuckles all around. “Impulse speed. Let’s assess the effects of the nebula as quickly as possible as we enter it, and take it slow so we don’t get jumped like last time.”

Impulse speed is, on a galactic scale, painstakingly slow. And so, we sneak in, all but HEL watching the main screen as the clouds envelop us.

“Any effect?” I ask ENG. He checks and shakes his head.

-“No… Maybe- Oh.” I see it too: Our shields begin to drain energy faster than we can compensate. “Shields are down. Completely! We have no shields! Pass me the chips.” He munches on ghost-shaped salt snacks as he stares in disbelief.

-“Alright, guys. No shields, so it’s essential that we stay out of range-“

-“Woah!” I hear somebody say, and as I bring up my tablet, see several grey triangles appear. SCI is already scanning the closest, and I don’t like the results: Several types of battleships.

My WEP officer is better trained than on our last adventure, and easily intercepts a suicide drone shot in our direction. I know he has an EMP and a nuke in the tubes, and I order him to fire both. Little dots zoom across the map and after a second or two, the icons are updated: One ship gone the others damaged but repairing.

The phaser ship in front has half their shields gone, too bad it’s their rear half. “Load torpedoes,” I tell WEP.


-“Obviously. Back away, impulse speed. Fire when ready.”

And just like that, the warship icon turns yellow and begins to angle itself away from us. They have surrendered, courtesy to COMM. Cheering and clapping. But the other ship won’t give up, and is outrunning us.

“Target PR-05 and fire.”

-“Almost in phaser range,” HEL advises. If our enemy intercepts us, we’ll be shot to hell.

Twice, the launch of a torpedo shakes the ship, and we turn our attention to the main screen. It compensates for the bright flash by darkening the whole nebula, and when it clears, we see only debris.

We all breathe a sigh of relief and make our way further to the center of the nebula, so our scientist visitor can do his job. We have one more to clear after this, but I plan to let our shields recharge first.

”I see you!”

-“Yeah? Where are you?”

-“Dude, right in front of you. You don’t see anything?”

-“My graphics suck, man. I had to turn them down to make the game playable. Oh there you are.”

-“About time.” My friend swings his sledge hammer menacingly. “Sup?”

-“I was just about to search these buildings. you do this one, I’ll go over to the next.”

I felt my pulse in my throat as the door opened. The house was deserted, just like the rest of the city. The only ones here were scavengers, and the zombies. And if I could help it, I would encounter neither while looting what I can.

I found a baseball cap and put it on. Empty cans, a copy of the bible, a rotten apple.

“Oh sweet, a motorcycle helmet. Want it?”

-“Yes, please. I’ll come to you, this place is empty.”

As cautious as I was before, I carelessly stepped out of the house. Happy that I no longer had the sun in my eyes, not that it made a difference.

I froze. A man stood in the doorway of the house opposite mine. I thought of making a run for it, but the excitement of meeting another soul after all this time was too great.

“Friendly!” I called out, loud enough for my friend to catch. On intercom, I heard him freaking out.

The guy stepped forward and I noticed he carried a baseball bat. “Friendly,” he parroted me. A children’s voice, sending chills down my back. But it was a comforting word and as a gesture, I lowered my aggressive stance and let him come closer. There’s two of us here, after all.

But he kept coming, him and his weapon. My friend’s warning came too late, I tried to back away, but he was all over me. in a fit of giggles, he swung twice before hitting me in the face. I blacked out instantly, enveloped by darkness. But I could still hear my friend, cursing as he stepped forward to my defense.

A short, frantic struggle ensued and I saw none of it. I could only listen, to the whooshing of wood and metal, the footsteps around my head, and the long string of insults from my partner. And then, a sickening crunch, and a cheer. We won.

Reflecting on the recent past as I laid on the asphalt, I decided that our superior numbers might have won is the fight, but I was probably still going to die. I had been too confident, and was now paying the price.

“I have a medpack here but how does it work?”

-“I dunno man… I’m bleeding to death, I don’t think there’s much you can do about it.”

-“Well I found an IV kit in the house and I think it fits on here… One sec. There! It turned into a saline kit! Should I use it on you?”

-“I mean, I got nothing to lose, right? Damn man, just as we finally found each other. I really don’t feel like-“

Light blasted me in the face. Blurry at first, but quickly sharpening to a blocky image I could work with. Damn my lousy graphics.
I was on my back, in the middle of the street.

“Holy shit, it worked!”

I play video games. A lot, in fact. War games, strategy games, city builders, so-called sandboxes, metro management. One moment I am a soldier on the frontline, screaming for help after taking a bullet, the next I am a scientist trying to escape a complex where an experiment went terribly wrong.

Games these days are no longer the cartoony children’s entertainment they were before. Some of them are true works of art, or life works of a single developer. They narrate a gripping story capable of making you cry or having your jaw drop.

I play games, I take photos, I tinker with computers, I solder, and I have a fascination with orbital calculations. I am a nerd, and a pretty big one.
I hear it a lot, especially when I get excited about stuff. I generally don’t project the image of being a geek so when I get hyped over some code or equation, people tend to smile and coo, “Aww you’re such a nerd.”

That is seriously the best they can do. They see me fall into some category, and they must tell me that. I can’t just be passionate about something, no: That must be because of something that I am. White lower-class male doesn’t cut it, so they look for another word and easily find it: Nerd. That’s as far as their logic reaches.

It annoys me to no end. It’s derogatory. My interests are not funny, or cute. They are part of me, and don’t define me in any way.

If you read books, if you like a good story, if you have a healthy vision, if you enjoy a movie, if you write, you know why I play games. It sweeps you up into another world with different rules and allows you to explore the possibilities within. It sparks the imagination, trains the brain and contributes greatly to your intelligence. Not to mention, it’s just fucking fun. You should try it some time.


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