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The Happy Submarine

Utopie Arcade

Switzerland

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017, 1:20 am

 

      Michelle, Tara, Zoe and Sarah continued playing the pseudo-gambling games that gave tickets for prizes. Michelle liked the games with tokens that involved either shooting the token into a hole or making a section of coins fall. 

      Tara liked the basketball, Skee-Ball, and shooting games.  From her practice at the range, she had become a better shot.  Unfortunately, the shooting games at the arcade weren’t based on a player’s skill.

      Zoe played all the games. She wanted to try them all and did not even stay at the ones she decided she liked.

      Sarah stuck to the computer ticket redemption games.  Many of the games she played were card games that rode a gray-area very close to the black of gambling, especially games like hearts and poker that allowed multiple players.  It was rather odd to play poker on the computer against strangers in the same room.

      After almost an hour, Michelle went back to the café to check on her husband.  When she got there, he was still sitting with Spencer, who was sleeping peacefully.

      “You OK, Honey?” she asked Jared.

      “Yeah, I’m fine.”

      “You want me to take care of him for a little while?”

      “No, I’m OK,” he said.  He was enjoying sitting with his son and did not want it to end until the nap was over.

      Michelle seemed worried that Jared was uncomfortable.  “Are you sure?  I can hold him until he wakes.”

      “Yes, I’m sure.  Please, go play.  We’re OK.”

      “But you look so unhappy.” At this, he frowned and wondered why she would not just leave him alone.

      “I have him, Honey. I’m fine!  Go play.”

      She frowned back, but left, probably in hopes of avoiding a real argument that would wake their son.  Ten minutes after she left, Spencer woke up.  At first, Jared thought she had been the cause and it was too early, but then he looked at his watch and realized it was time for Spencer to wake up. 

      Spencer looked wide-eyed up to his father and said, “Da-da.”

      Jared smiled, “Hi, Spencer.”

      “Fencer,” Spencer replied.

      He brought Spencer back to the play area.  Spencer played in the infant area that was supervised by two women.  Meanwhile, most of the other kids were playing on the huge slides and climbing area.

      He put Spencer down on the cushioned floor.  Spencer said, “Da-da play?”

      Jared nodded, “Yes, you can play.”

      “No, Da-da play!”

      “Oh, you want me to play with you?”

      Spencer giggled, “Da-da play.”

      “OK, I’ll play with you.”

      Spencer crawled to a cushioned mini-seesaw-like rocker.  Spencer climbed onto it and went to the edge.  He rolled off with a laugh, then went back to do it again.

      One of the women working there said, “He’s cute.  How old is he?”

      Jared smiled and said, “He’s a little over eight months old.”

      “Wow,” she replied.  “He’s big for eight months.  What are you feeding him?”

      Jared blushed because his only reply was, “Well, mostly he breastfeeds.  We give him some baby foods, too, and bananas.  He loves bananas.”

      The woman looked about thirty and was dressed in the same uniform as the other arcade staff.  The uniform was a big yellow jumpsuit with a red collar and a nametag over the right breast.  This woman was also wearing flat-soled sneakers.  Her crimson hair was tied back in a fancy bun.  She was a little shorter than Jared was and a bit on the thin side, possibly bordering on anorexic.  She wore no make-up, or at least no noticeable makeup.  Without makeup her face was pretty, certainly not a face for radio.  Her only noticeable piercings were in her ears, with two emerald-like jewels.  Some of the staff had big hats, but none of the workers in the children’s area seemed to wear them, probably because they would be stuck during the hopefully infrequent emergency tube crawls.

      Jared wanted to stay longer to watch Spencer, but he actually was too bothered by the fact she was talking to him so personally, and so he left saying only, “Take good care of him.” Jared said to Spencer, “I’ll see you later.”  He picked Spencer up and gave him a kiss and hug. 

      “Bye, Da-da.”  Jared put Spencer down, and he quickly crawled to a pile of soft blocks.

      The woman smiled and gave a cute girlish wave saying, “I will.”

      Jared headed back to the location-based games and saw Samuel waiting in line for the submarine game. The submarine game was popular, so even on an early afternoon weekday you had to wait to play.  The submarine game was one of the few English exclusive games.  The only reason it was English was because it had been built in the U.K. and it was too much of a bother to localize it for Switzerland.  At this point in the day, teenagers were starting to appear throughout the arcade.  The game required five players: one for steering, one for communications, two for defense/weapons, and one for command.  Minutes after Jared joined Samuel in line a teenage couple also got in line.  A few minutes later, another teenage boy got in line.  Within seconds of the fifth player arriving, the current players exited.  They did not seem too happy either! 

      Jared’s group entered the submarine.  The submarine looked somewhat like some of the many artistic renditions of the Nebuchadnezzar from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  In the front were two seats side by side for weapons.  The seats behind them were navigation and communications.  The rear seat was for the captain. 

      Jared said, “I don’t want command.”

      Samuel agreed, “Neither do I.”

      The last of the teenagers to arrive said with an Australian accent, “I’ll command, unless one of you two wants to flip for it,” meaning the other couple.  They both shook their heads no.  The teenager said, “OK, I’m Tom and I run a tight ship . . . just kidding.  Who’s played before?”  Feeling a bit like teenagers themselves, Samuel and Jared raised their hands.  The boy nodded and said, “OK, one of you should drive; the other can be on guns.  You two,” he said pointing to the teenage couple, “take the remaining stations.”

      The Aussie took the command chair, which was, just a chair.  It was made up to look like a chair in one of the old-fashioned space operas. 

      Jared took the navigational seat.  It had a steering wheel like a plane that could be moved back and forth.  In front of the wheel was a map.  Also on his left side was a giant lever that simply said ‘Ballast.’

      The teenage girl took the communications chair and her boyfriend took the left weapon’s control.  The communications chair was the only seat with a headset.  The headset included a headphone on the right side and a tiny microphone.  She sat and put it on.  Besides the headset, she also had a radar screen.  The screen showed several radar blips.

      Samuel and the teen boyfriend took their seats.  They both had VR-style glasses that they put on.  The glasses had buttons above the lenses on the frame.  When pressed, the button would toggle on and off the lens.  With the lenses on, the player saw the exterior of the craft from the position of the weapon they controlled.  With the lenses off, they saw it was clear, allowing a view of the interior of the ship, which was mostly a screen currently projecting a window lattice and surface level water.

      After they were in position the center of the screen changed to play an introductory video, which started by showing the controls of the submarine.  Once the tutorial information was finished, another video was played.

      A voice said, “Gentlemen, welcome to the finest underwater sub ever to be built.  I’m sorry to call you in on such short notice with so little preparation, but an emergency has come up that you need to address immediately.

      “As you know, the United States has become an international nuisance.  Their despotic dictator will do anything to get his hands on more money and power.

      “Deep in the Atlantic Ocean, near the Atlantic Ridge, we have been testing prototypes for top-secret weapons.  These weapons are now in danger of being stolen by the US.  We have information from a reliable source that the US knows of our experiments and will be sending their own submarines to steal the weapons.

      “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s of the utmost importance that for British security as well as international security, you stop them with whatever means necessary.  You have your orders.  Good luck, Sailors!”

      The movie ended and the glass lattice reappeared where the screen had been.  In addition, the map and radar changed.  The map now showed the location of the weapons, which was marked as ‘Top Secret Weapons.’  The radar was completely clear.

      Jared could not help but think how funny it was that when this game was made, the US could actually be considered a threat outside of its borders.  At this point, the government was at best a threat to its citizens and it was unlikely it would survive, at least as it was, any longer.

      Tom, their commander, said, “Men, we have our orders.  Take us down.”  He turned to the girl and said, “Keep your ears open for other subs.  If you hear anything unusual, let me know.”

      Jared turned to Samuel after catching his attention; Jared rolled his eyes as if to say, ‘This guy’s taking this way too seriously.’

      Jared used the ballast control to bring the ship toward the bottom of the ocean.  When they arrived at the bottom, he started using the controls to head to the ‘Top Secret Weapons,’ but Tom said angrily, “I didn’t say to go anywhere but to the bottom of the sea!”  Before Jared could say anything, Tom said to the girl, “Do you hear anything or see anything on radar?”

      The girl replied, “No, Sir.”

      Tom said, “Thank you.” Speaking again to Jared he said, “Now you can continue toward our destination.”

      Jared used the wheel to head to the base.  When they were halfway to the base the girl said, “Sir, I have something on radar.  Should I try hailing them?”

      Jared noticed that her boyfriend ground his teeth together every time she said Sir.  He felt bad for the kid and wondered if the boy could contain his anger and avoid a mutiny!

      Tom replied to the girl, “Good idea.” 

      This caused the boyfriend to dig his fingers into the sides of his seat.  Jared thought, ‘Oh boy, this kid’s gonna lose it!’

      Tom continued, “Tell them this is restricted water space and ask them to identify themselves.”

      The girl nodded then said into her microphone, “Attention, unidentified vessel, this is restricted . . .” she paused, seeming to think of how Tom worded it, then continued, “water space.  Please identify yourself.”  After a moment of silence the girl said, “The voice says they are Russian, but it sounds like an American accent.”

      Tom said, “Prepare for battle.  Bring us behind that sub.”

      Jared got them behind the sub, but when it came into range, it had the hammer and sickle.  After a moment of thought Tom said, “It’s probably bad voice acting.  Ask them to leave.  Then we’ll continue.”

      As Tom said that, Jared thought, ‘What if the ship was a captured Russian submarine from the Cold War,’ and just as Jared was about to say something Samuel said, “What if it’s just marked to look like a Russian sub?”

      Tom replied, “This is a game.  They wouldn’t put that much thought into a game.  Continue on our previous heading.”

      Jared continued to pilot the sub toward the ‘Top Secret Weapons.’  After passing the Russian ship, the girl said, “Sir, there’s something else on radar.  It might be a torpedo from the sub.”

      At this point, Samuel and the boyfriend, without Tom’s order or consent, turned their lenses on and aimed at the sub.  Jared turned the boat toward the sub and torpedo.

      Tom said, “Stop.  You’re going to get us all killed.”

      The boyfriend finally lost it, “SHOVE IT, YOU COCKY AUSSIE, this is a mutiny!”

      Samuel and the boyfriend began shooting what looked like bullets toward the torpedo.  The torpedo exploded from the shots and the room, or sub, shook.  A woman’s voice said from a hidden speaker above them, “WARNING: Shielding reduced to 75%.”

      At this point, the player’s sub was perpendicular to the ‘Russian’ sub.  The girl said, “Another torpedo . . . Sir.”

      Her boyfriend scolded, “Don’t call him Sir.”

      She said, “Actually, I meant you Billy.”

      “Oh, well, OK then.”  He sat a little straighter with a grin on his face.

      Samuel and Billy shot at the torpedo and this time got it to explode a little further away but the ship still shook and the voice announced, “WARNING: Shielding reduced to 55%.”

      At this moment, they were pointing 10 degrees west of the Russian ship.  Two torpedoes were shot from the Russian sub.  Tom and Samuel stopped them much farther back but the ship shook and the voice, which only seemed to bring news of impending doom, said, “WARNING: Shielding reduced to 40%.”

      The player’s ship was now pointing directly at the ‘Russian’ sub.  Billy and Samuel both fired a torpedo.  The first torpedo was shot down by the opposing submarine, but the next one hit the sub and the voice of doom announced, “Enemy ship destroyed.” To this, everybody but Tom clapped.

      The jubilation was interrupted by the girl saying, “Something is coming toward us.  It’s almost as fast as the torpedoes, but I think it’s a sub.”

      Jared asked, “Where?”

      She replied, “Northwest.” As Jared turned the ship she said, “I think two torpedoes are coming toward us.”

      As soon as the torpedoes were within visual range, Billy and Samuel started firing at them.  They exploded only feet from the submarine.

      This time when the room shook most of the lights went dim and a fine mist of water sprayed down on them.  The voice of mostly doom said, “WARNING: Shielding reduced to 10%, water pressure at critical levels.”

      As they continued to turn, they saw the attacking submarine, which this time was clearly marked with a US flag.  The girl said, “A voice is saying to surrender.”

      Her boyfriend, the new captain, said, “Tell them we’ll think about it.  We’ll stall to get a shot in.”

      It was a good plan, which was an amazingly immersive idea for a location-based game.  As they continued to turn she said, “My captain is considering your offer.”

      Billy smiled again because she said ‘my captain’.  When they were in position Samuel and Billy fired torpedoes.  In response, the US sub fired its own torpedoes.  Both ships shot at the torpedoes.  As the torpedoes closed in on the player’s sub, a huge burst of light appeared soon followed by the greatest shakings yet.  The voice of mostly doom said, “WARNING: Shielding gone.  Hull rupture imminent.”

      As the voice cut off, the glass started to get spider-web fractures that rapidly spread until the whole glass looked like it was overwhelmed.  The girl let out a shrill shriek.  As the ship appeared to implode with glass and water shooting toward the passengers, the lights made a crackling noise then went dark.  They felt a splash of water then heard a male voice say, “Mission failed; game over. Better luck next time.”

      The lights then came back on and the ship appeared exactly as it had, except a bit wetter, than when they had arrived.  As they all started to get up to leave Tom said, “This wouldn’t have happened if you had obeyed my command.”

      Billy walked right up to Tom, whom he towered over by at least a foot, and got into Tom’s face to say, “If you had listened to my fellow gunner we wouldn’t have been in that mess.”

      After a moment of silence, Billy walked to his girlfriend and they left holding hands.  Samuel and Jared walked out next.  When they were out of range Samuel said, “Now that was surreal.”

      Jared nodded, “Don’t I know it!”

      “That wasn’t a bad way to lose though.  I bet the ending if you won would be boring in comparison.”

            “Probably, well, on to the next game.”

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford

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