It’s been ten years since the Brood Wars, and my shrink just got through convincing me that it was all just a war simulation video game set in space, a game that Shawn and I got unbelievably, shockingly addicted to until we lost all track of reality.
You ever dream a video game? When you do that, it means you were playing it too much.
When I was a kid Atari was enough to keep us glued to the television for eight hours at a stretch. Little blocks shooting smaller blocks at each other – that says something about our feelings toward the real world, doesn’t it?
Starcraft is like playing Risk and Halo at the same time. If you can play it well, then really, you are qualified for a job and that’s where you should be, working.
In fact, in Korea, it is a job. People play Starcraft professionally, in concert halls. Crowds show up and buy tickets to watch them play on giant screens. They have three television stations – STATIONS! – devoted entirely to professional, competitive Starcraft.
What you want to do, Tom, says my shrink, is make a choice for yourself right now. Just decide to take a pass this time, now that Starcraft 2 is out. Choose life over digital crack, that’s what you want to do.
Easy for you to say, Doc. You’ve never lost control over the perimeter during a flanked air strike, watched helplessly while hordes of alien war machines swarmed over your base. You’ve never had to listen to the screams of your men, burning alive or shrieking madly as the Zerg showed up, to do something worse.
You’ve never had to look your wife in the eye when she comes down at seven o’clock in the morning, finds you and Shawn still sitting there with an empty thirty pack assembled on the coffee table beside you, and had to admit that no, you didn’t get any sleep, and yes, it is time to go to work.
But Jim Raynor’s unit isn’t something you just clock out of. He’s right there on the front lines, and when he pulls your ticket, you got to show up. It’s not about your shrink or your wife or your kids or your sanity, not about being productive or career-minded.
Which one of these pills makes you forget about the real world and believe the simulation again? The blue pill?
Okay yeah, give me three of those and a Diet Coke, please.
When my boots hit the deck on the Hyperion this time around, I have a bad feeling. I wander the ship for a few minutes, feeling the fingerprints of Shawn’s command all over everything. He’s a hyper-efficient leader – if you have time to lean, you have time to clean. One thing drives Shawn crazy is when he looks up and finds his guys standing around.
One of the grunts outside the Bridge doesn’t know me. He runs my tags and gives me a snort.
“Embedded blogger? What in the Sam Hill is an embedded blogger?”
Not the kind of question you want to even try answering; just get the hell out of my way, Johnson.
“You’re not a blogger! You’re a killer!”
“Okay, buddy, just settle down.”
I’ve done my share of killing. If Shawn’s signature is efficiency, mine was always a cold-blooded detachment – these aren’t your pals, they’re not your friends. They’re your men, and they know what they signed up for.
Shawn’ll spend a half an hour trying to save three guys after a raid – risking a whole fleet of combat and transport ships, trying to pluck them from behind enemy lines.
I’m more likely to wait until they’re cornered by half the Zerg army, and then drop a nuke on them. That might be why I’m the embedded blogger, and Shawn’s in charge this time.
When I step onto the Bridge, he’s got a Protoss Commander on the screen. We’re in orbit around the planet Haven, where Zerg activities have drawn their attention.
The Zerg are like the aliens from the movies with Sigourney Weaver, and their spores detected on the planet mean the same thing they’d mean on screen.
Right now I’m inclined to agree with the Protoss Commander when it comes to Zerg infestations in human colonies – the only cure is purification by fire.
But the pretty scientist girl from the lab has some pals down there on the surface of Haven, and she’s giving Shawn the puppy dog eyes. Please don’t let them incinerate my friends, she implores. I just know I’ll be able to find a cure in time!
I know the situation – I’ve seen this sort of thing before. When the Zerg take over a colony, it’s all tentacles and slime and creepy voices. Pretty soon everyone’s walking around with their eyes glowing yellow, spitting venom at you and chanting about the Overmind.
I’ve never seen anyone get cured of a Zerg infestation, unless getting blown up by me or Shawn really is a cure.
Sure, but tell the girl with the puppy dog eyes you’re going with the Protoss Commander on this one, and then try getting anything done for the next month. You’ll never hear the fracking end of it.
The Protoss Commander doesn’t like to hear “No” either, but he’s in orbit and the pretty scientist girl is right here. You want to fight with him for a couple of hours, or listen to her cry about her dipshit buddies all month?
I don’t think my shrink is going to like it, and I’m sure that the blogosphere’s going to like it even less, but I owe it to Shawn – if he’s putting the old unit back together, I can’t just leave him hanging.
Our methods might not have agreed with each other, but our genetics do, and the last time the Zerg came after humanity, the only thing that stopped them was the two of us, working together.
Shawn says, “What do you think, TC? The pretty girl or the Protoss Commander?”
I sit down at tactical with a grunt, and take pull from my flask, then pass it on over.
“That’s not even a choice,” I tell him. “Let’s get this over with.”
“You got any ideas?”
“Plenty of ‘em. You got any nukes?”
Shawn tells the Protoss Commander to go screw, and doesn’t look at me as he takes a pull on the flask. He says, “May God have mercy on our souls.”
I look at the screen and mutter, “I don’t think God’s got anything to do with it.”