Toy Soldier

by Paul Jutras


 Chip Johnson jumped in place and made motions like he was running. Ever since Mr. Archer had added the new virtual games, Chip had been spending all his free time at the arcade. His friend Al, who managed the place for Mr. Archer had told him that his brainwaves would control the movements of an action figures on a second story platform. Chip threw a punch and so did the soldier.

 "Hey, look at the score he's racking up." Becky said. She looked at the electronic score displayed above the male action figure.  The numbers just went up as the toy soldier ducked, rolled and threw a punch. "I think he's going to break the game's high score this time."

 Al looked down to the first floor and watched the real Chip in a cage that gave me enough room to move freely about. By now Chip was down on one knee with his hands strangling an enemy only he could see.

 Becky made a face. Her brother was the only kid in town who could beat her at the Action Commandos video game. He had already passed her score on Mr. Archer's new virtual reality version.

 "I just have to get back at him for this," Becky persisted. She glanced over at a motionless female commando among the platoon a player could choose from.

 Both Chip and Becky used the same  figure whenever they played.  Even though there were several to choose from.  Some were dressed in camouflage clothing. Others wore ancient fighting outfits. It was their belief to pick one character and make it the best fighter it could be.

 "Al, can I see you for a moment?" Becky asked eagerly.
 It was hard to hear Becky over the cheers of the other video players. Every time an enemy soldier was stomped, they cheered again.  Becky pulled on his arm and dragged him away from the others. "I think I can become better than Chip if  I had more time to play. Do you think you can let me in after hours?"

 "I don't know," Al replied.
 "Oh, come on," Becky pleaded. "I know if I just had a little more time at the game, I could really cream him. I mean, you let Chip on it so much that hardly anyone else gets to even play!"

 "Yeah, I know that," Al replied. "That's why I'm getting a second game delivered to the arcade this evening. If you feel like you can challenge him; drop by after I close the place."

 Becky twisted her fingers in her long hair and smiled.  "I can't wait to play tonight," She said eagerly. She walked over to the change machine and watched as it gobbled up a five dollar bill. She wanted to make sure that she had enough quarters for the ultimate match.

 She decided to play one game of one of Al's other videos.  She dropped her quarter into a machine and watched a two-dimensional tank moving along a rocky surface and fired flat missiles at even flatter targets. With his virtual reality game so popular,  Mr. Archer hadn't updated the rest of the games he carried in over a decade.

 Suddenly Becky stopped. She watched an enemy missile take her final life and the screen flashing Game Over.

 It wasn't much fun playing the antique games - when the most high-tech game ever was sitting right beside her.  She spun around to see as Mike, Chip's best friend, had replaced him in the virtual reality unit.
 "Way to go!" Chip shouted with the knowledge that his friend was nowhere near his skill level. The rest of the audience cheered just to make Mike feel better.

 "I talked Al into letting us compete against one another when the second game is set up this evening," Becky whispered as she walked up to her brother.  "We'll just see how well you do against a live opponent. Especially without an audience rooting you on."

 "All right!" Chip replied. He and Becky started smiling at each other.


 When they got home, Becky checked the answering machine.  As usual, their parents were working late and would prove no problem when it came to sneaking out to the arcade.

 "How about some supper before our matches?" Becky asked as she rummaged through the microwave dinners their parents had bought.

 "No thanks." Chip replied with a grin. "I need my reflexes at their best."

 "Suit yourself." Becky said as she put in the dinner and started the microwave. She then quickly did a little light housework to help her mother out while she waited for the microwave bell to go off.

 A short time later, Becky had finished eating when the phone rang. "The new equipment is ready." Al said as the two kids smiled at one another. "I have to go out, but the back door will be unlocked for you."


 The two kids quickly grabbed their coats and headed on back down to the arcade.  The predicted storm had caused it to already start to rain. They rode through puddles and saw a flash of lighting between the trees. Most of the neighborhood was deserted due to the storm, so the two made it inside without anyone seeing them. Like Al had promised, the door was unlocked, but they didn't want to get Al into trouble for doing them the favor of giving them first crack at the game.

 "You ready, Chip?" Becky asked as she put on the virtual reality helmet.

 Just then, a bolt of lighting hit a dish on the roof and surged into the building.
 "AAAAAAAAGHHHH!" Both Chip and Becky screamed at the same time. The two found everything went black for a second. When the lights seemed to come back on, the two were staring up at their own bodies. Way up.

 "We're Free." Becky heard her own voice say in a weird tone. "Soon our friends will be too."
 "I- It can't be." Becky thought, unable to speak. She turned to see the male game doll staring back at her. She looked down at herself and saw her plastic Barbie Doll's body dressed in a camouflage outfit. She then drew her weapon and fired up at herself.
 "Destroy our former bodies!" The Former Chip said as they returned fire.  The former Becky ducked behind a video game as the former Chip rolled to one side.

 The real Becky and Chip didn't have to hide. At their present size, they had no problem avoiding being hit. "We can't destroy our own bodies!" Becky exclaimed able to read her brothers thought.  "It's our only way back."
 "I play to win." Chip grinned. "Winning is everything."

 "You're insane."
 "Chip's mine!" Chip thought, shooting his own body in the leg. The giant human body toppled backward into a video game. Electricity surged through both Chip' and Becky's human bodies.

 "Nooooooooooo!" Becky's thought cried as the power in the doll's bodies began to wind down.

 When Al returned, he stared in shock at the sight of his best friends' bodies laying on the floor. He called the police and get them over here. Lucky for Al, it was ruled an accidental death. But Al had to pay out of his salary to repair the virtual reality game, never knowing that every time a quarter was put in sparked the souls of his best friends for length of the game.

 The two competing against each other for all time.


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