Dustin exhaled deeply, and cracked his neck. As excited as he was for the chance to whup someone's ass at Galaga, he had to remember that there was a point to all this... The memory of the marred face were still fresh, and that app will surely speard if he didn't do something. He smiled.
And this was his way of doing something.
Dustin leaned towards the computer, his hands ready and in position on the keys. He tapped the '5' key to put a coin into the virtual machine, and slapped the '1' key to start. Time to get serious, he thought.
The ultra-iconic start music beeped and blooped from the speakers, better than anything Mozart or Bach could come up with, to Dustin at least. His red and white starship appeared at the bottom of the screen, and the immortal words flashed: "Stage 1"
Dustin used the arrow keys to move left and right, and control to shoot. Galaga was a spin off of games like Space Invaders, you moved your ship left and right, dodging the bullets of a squadron of alien ships at the top, and shot back to blow them away, winning the stage. An ancient shooter, before it meant games like Call of Duty or Halo, and they gave a different kind of thrill than those games. Three lives, and its Game Over. No regenerative health, no health at all for that matter. Three lucky shots, and you'd be digging your pockets for an extra quarter.
There was a moment of silence on the game, and then the waves of insectoid alien ships flew in from the sides of the screen to get in formation. Dustin mashed control to blast away a good portion of the menance, but they weren't even attacking yet. The aliens always waited for all of their friends to come before they started fighting back. How nice of them, Dustin thought. But he was here to blast them, not to hang out.
Greg watched, impressed, as Dustin cleared stage after stage, racking up a perfect score on two bonus stages. Dustin smirked as he wiped some sweat off his forehead. No way Greg would beat him, he thought.
The next stage came up, and Dustin realized he'd been doing this for far too long. He cringed at the thought of suicide in a game as engaging as this, but he let himself be captured a few times by the grasshopper-looking boss ships, and mercilessly shot his captive, previous lives, rather than saving them for double fire power.
Dustin leaned back, and sighed.
Hit/Miss Ratio: 87.1%
Final Score: 237,790
Greg clapped, applauding his impressive score. "Good game, Mr. Decker."
Dustin smiled nervously, and typed his initials into the highscore table.
Dustin stopped dead in his tracks. How the hell?.... No way he gets these scores regularly...
Greg readjusted his glasses. "-Yes, well, Mr. Decker, as you realize now, I didn't just make regionals... I was regional champion." He looked down at Dustin. "... And I know exactly why you wanted to face me at Galaga... A competition to set you free, I assume?"
Dustin started sweating profusely. He gulped, and slowly nodded his head. No point in resisting.
"... Well, Mr. Decker, to be honest, I love your guts... And I won't turn down a high-stakes game of Galaga..."
What the crap? Dustin thought. He's still going to fall for it? Really?
"-So, you win, I remove the charges from the mainframe... But I win, and your file-snooping hobby is exposed to Officer Jankins, got it?" Greg said in a surprisingly up-beat tone.
Dustin shrugged, a bit nervous, yet confident if Greg was going to fall for it anyway. "Sure. We have a deal."
Greg smiled a competetive grin, and hit the '5' key to put in a credit. He leaned down at the laptop, and pushed the '1' key for a single player game.
And Dustin bit his lip, because this is where it really started.
Greg breezed through stages 1 through 4 without much effort, and beat the bonus stage perfectly. Dustin couldn't bare to watch, and Greg remained calm with his competetive smirk on. Occasionally, Greg would allow one of his starships to get captured, so he could save it later to get double fire power. A strategy Dustin would've used if he knew a few minutes before what he was up against.
He finally tripped up at stage 12, when a bee-looking ship kamikaze-d straight into Greg's starship. Greg twisted his lip a bit at his mistake, but quickly regained his composure. Dustin glanced at the score.
After the multiplier, that score would be just as high as his, Dustin thought. He had to do something...
Greg annihilated another wave of the alien menance, and he leaned back for a second to relax as the score added up. Dustin nervously bit his cheek. He tried remembering the hotkeys for MAME... Particularly for the dipswitches. Greg came back to the game, so Dustin didn't try anything. Dustin continued to bite his cheek as he glanced about the closet.
It was pretty empty, save the absolute mess of cables and the racks with servers on them. Dustin spotted a pencil, a clipboard, and a broom someone had thrown in the corner. He casually strolled up to the pencil as Greg fired away at imaginary aliens, completely engrossed in the game. Normally, Dustin would respect that, but these weren't normal circumstances.
He picked up the lead side of the pencil, and made sure the eraser was still rubbery and quiet. It was, luckily for him. Dustin strolled back behind Greg quietly. Greg continued his barrage, racking points that would definitely beat Dustin's tally. Not that it worried Dustin, assuming he could pull this off.
Dustin silently and slowly slid the pencil under Greg's arm, trying to reach the keyboard. Greg continued to be unaware.
What does it take to take this guy's eyes off the screen? Dustin wondered, not that he was complaining. This was working perfectly, it was just that Greg had just completely shut down while he was playing. Dustin crouched down to get a better angle, sliding the pencil to the appropriate key.
And, the door swung open.
Greg jolted out of his trance, and quickly pulled his arms down. Dustin jumped, catching his arm in Greg's armpit. Dustin freaked out, trying to act as non-chalant as he could about the situation, nervously looking the other way and whistling as his arm was stuck firmly at Greg's side.
"-Dustin?!?" A familiar voice called.
Greg shot up, pulling Dustin with him. "-Who the- How the-?!?" He looked down at the dead weight by his feet that was Dustin, and Dustin nervously waved back. "-What the-?!?"
Dustin looked in the doorway, and to his surprise, someone he wasn't expecting was there.
"-Tracy?" Dustin tried wiggling himself free of Greg's pinning grab, and Greg lifted his arm, releasing him. "-What are you doing here?"
"What do you think? Helping you get out... Not like busting out, see, but like... uh... A witness?" Tracy rubbed her neck at the absurdity of the situation, and grinned.
Greg readjusted his glasses. "... Umm... Well, 'Tracy', we're in the middle of something here. I will not be inturrupted by... 'witnesses'. It would be dishonorable... I gave Mr. Decker my word."
Dustin heard an electronic explosion, and smirked. Greg stood there for a moment, and calmly lifted the screen of the laptop back up.
The game had been running the entire time.
And Dustin had managed to set it to hard mode.
No score multiplier.
Hit/Miss Ratio: 89.4%
Final Score: 229,110
Greg stared at the screen for a second.
"... What?" Tracy asked.
"-Shhh -shhh -shhh..." She was silenced by Dustin.
Greg let out a long, deep sigh. He readjusted his glasses once more, and stood up straight.
He turned to face Dustin.
"... I did give you my word."
Dustin's eyes lit up, like a child being told he can finally get that one toy. "... That means-?"
Greg sighed once more. "-Yes... But only because I respect you. You got guts, kid. And good taste." He looked at him and smiled.
Dustin bowed. "... Domo Arigâto, Aprils-san." He looked up, and returned the smile.
Greg waved his arm. "... Now get out of here, Mr. Decker, before I change my mind..." He leaned over to the computer and exited MAME, and opened the command prompt.
Dustin scampered through the door, and Tracy followed him. "... What's going on?"
Dustin smirked. "... We're making friends in high places. Now come on, we still got a murder to solve."