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Waiting sucks, even in the most minimal capacity. Your bar, your livelihood has only two occupants, both of whom are passed out. You adjust the shell on your head a bit and decide to turn on the bar’s only screen, hoping that something is on.

You grab the remote from the shelf next to the register and hit the power button. The screen begins to glow and you get static. You flip through streams until something clear finally shows up: Battleball. The Blassna Quakes versus the Korba Firehawks. Nice. You crank up the volume. The Quakes are in the lead, but then again, a game of muscle against a Blassnaught is usually no game at all for the Blassnaught. You considered what it would take to be a battleball player as a Kem. You always found that answer to be that spears and staves would need to be allowed for mobility purposes. A spearless Kem, while not slow, per se, wouldn’t exactly light up the galaxy’s stadiums. Kems were fast through vaulting and swinging. Something that wouldn’t fly in a battleball arena. Though you always wondered if your mucus trail could be of use?

Oh well, that was the dream of another you, from another time.

You notice the arcade machines seemed to be off. Probably one of Jef’s cost-cutting initiatives. You hope off your stool and make your way to the Geo table. You hear the machinery within hum to life, and from your height-challenged vantage, while impossible to see, you know the table itself is cycling through its array of bumpers, walls, and ramps. You check the cue rack to see all four the bar’s cues are still in place and in good condition. In a jam you know how valuable one of those cues would be in your capable mitts. You consider taking one off the rack and practicing a bit, but what would be the point of that, really. You even consider a solo game of Geo, but quickly shake that idea off. You never enjoyed the math involved. Truthfully, the game always struck you as random. The Grey seemed to favor it quite a bit, but they were walking brains anyway.

From what you could tell watching the odd game here and there, the key to the game was to decide how you were going to win. There were always two paths. The standard path would be to get the ball through all of the holo-gates in order, anywhere from 12 to 18 depending on the game size. That was the reliable way. The riskier way seemed to revolve around hitting the gates in any order, as long as you took a third as many turns as there we gates. So in a low-key 12 gate game you’d need to hit the 12 total gates, in whatever order, in 4 turns, without hitting the same gate twice. It all seemed reasonable enough, but there was also the fact that the table would be variable every game, with a variety of ramps, bumpers, and dividing walls. It just seemed like far too much work to you and not in the least bit a form of relaxation. You eye the cues one last time, and proceed to turn on the second game.

You make your way to the jousting machine. One of those most obnoxiously large arcade games you’ve ever seen. The game consisted of a screen mounted to a wall, and 5 feet away was a simulated sled, complete with a mount for the 6 foot, foam-tipped lance. You’ve enjoyed the game every now and then. It was no comparison to true rocket jousting, but it is a pretty solid experience. It required a surprising amount of arm control because your score would immediately be cut by half if you did not have a grip on the bridle of sled as the grip had an internal sensor. Your free hand would be used to stabilize the lance, which you’d then strike at the screen with. Compounding things was the fact that the sled would rock. Overall it was an approximation of the actual skill of rocket jousting but something was lost in translation. Even so, some nights the game was incredibly popular with all sorts of amateurs lined up to give the game a stab. Jousting was one of the most popular sports in the galaxy, acting a headlining event in both versions of The Great Games. The only other sport with a similar honor was, of course, battleball.

Finally your trek takes you back to the corner of the bar near the entrance to the PaiFan machine. It sits against the wall, on the bar. You place yourself on the stool and start to play a quick round of tile-matching. You quickly grow bored, though, and hop off the stool, taking your towel and wiping down the seat to avoid leaving any mucus. As you make your way back to the area behind the bar, you hear the automatic door open.

You see a massive Mallowmarg try to squeeze himself through the door, he manages to finally enter, and you hear an audible “sloop” as his girth is released from the doorway. You see outside that a local bus has dropped off a few people who begin to scatter. For now though only the Mallowmarg has decided to enter.

You greet him, and he looks downward and smiles.


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