You and Everything After(8)By: Ginger Scott
“You’re weird,” she says with a slight eye-roll, turning her focus to the rowdy crowd of guys piled on the couch in the living room. Nudging me to follow, she leads us closer.
“Oh shit!” one of them yells, leaning to the side with his controller in hand, as if his body movement actually had an effect on what his character was doing on the screen. They’re playing Battle Wound. I recognize it immediately.
“Dude, you suck at this, Cash! Give your turn to Preeter; he’ll save your ass,” one of the other guys playing yells.
“Fuck no, man! I can save this shit. Just move out of my way…” Cash starts, and then we all watch as his guy on the screen flies through space and gets absolutely ass-hammered with alien bullets.
“Shit,” his friend says, tossing his controller on the table. “I’m out. Cash, you suck!”
“I don’t suck. I just need the right partner,” he fires back at his friend, who just flips him off while he leaves to get another beer.
I don’t even hesitate, grabbing the open controller off the coffee table and flopping myself onto the old couch cushions between two very large guys. “You’re right, Cash,” I say, giving him a wink. “Your partner bailed on your ass. Let’s go again. I got your back. Who wants a piece?” I ask, instantly realizing the sexual innuendo I just threw out there. A few of the guys seem to have picked up on it, and they chuckle. Back home, that would have mortified me. But I let it roll off of me now, especially tonight, because I’m Adrianna!
“You’re on, princess,” one of the bigger guys next to me says, pulling his body forward and leaning his elbows on his knees. Paige has found a spot near me along the sofa arm, and she’s already surveying the room for some guy to hit on. There are a few here that are typical Paige targets—I’m pretty sure the two I’m stuffed between are football players.
“Okay, watch my tail,” Cash says, biting his lip and leaning, just like he did last time; we run our guys through the dark corridor of the space ship. He has no idea what he’s doing, and I would venture to guess he hasn’t played this game before. That’s okay, though, because I’m about to make him look like a bona fide video-game nerd. I’ve played every version of Battle Wound at least a hundred times, and I know all of the surprises. I’m shooting milliseconds before the bad guys attack, leaving in our wake a digital hallway full of carnage as our soldiers run through the various scenes on the screen.
“Cover me!” I yell, surprising Cash, who almost fumbles his controller out of his hands.
“Oh, uh…okay,” he says, looking from me to the screen, not really sure what to do. It doesn’t matter. I know where the explosives are hidden in this level. It’s one of those secret weapons only people who read Gamer magazine know about—one of those tiny tips printed in the margins of a recent issue. My fingers work the controller, pushing my guy into a roll with his weapons drawn. I barely miss the bullets flying at me—Cash is clearly no use as a backup—and fire away at the barrels stashed along one of the walls.
“You’re so dead, peaches,” big guy on my right says. Peaches, I like peaches. Not sure I like the nickname, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love kicking this guy’s ass. But I don’t really have anything against the fruit. Just three more seconds. Two. One.
The explosion is the best part. They really upped the graphics on version eight, and the way it melts everyone when the pod explodes is cool as hell. I know Cash is going to be pissed, because he thinks we’re dead, too. But he’ll know soon enough.
“Shit, Cash! She’s worse than you,” my peaches friend says.
“You are so taking that back in about ten seconds, Marcus,” says a voice from the other side of the room. It’s the guy I saw at Sally’s yesterday—the one who laughed at my conversation with Paige. He’s still in a wheelchair, and I’m not sure what that means. I didn’t mention him to Paige yesterday, because I’m not sure how she’ll react. She isn’t what I would call…well…nice. He’s really cute, and I can tell he must work out like crazy, because his shoulders actually have that cool dent that runs along the entire length. He smirks at me now, just like he did at the restaurant, and I can feel my blood pump just a little faster from his stare.