Sid executed a heavy attack combo on the remaining frozen enemy, taking his last block of health and spurting blood everywhere. That ended the duel. He and Helen were victorious again.
"Hah!" Sid said through his headset. "I love cheating. There's no way to lose!"
"There's sure isn't! Feels great to win ten games in a row. Man, before I met you I would never have cheated because I thought it made the victory feel worse. But you taught me a new way of looking at it. It's just our skill at life that we were able to hack the game, right?"
Sid laughed. They had hacked the game so that whenever one of their health was low, enemies near them would experience connection issues. It made it virtually impossible to lose, although that last duel had been close.
They queued for another game. "Man, I remember the day this all started. How Kyle threatened you into taking my device. I was so pissed at you when I thought you were giving into him. It was actually really smart of you to make the punishment something reversible."
"Hey, I knew what I was doing. You're not the only one here with skills." The hacking was mostly Sid's work.
"And I woulda just kicked Kyle's ass if I were you. He so asked for it."
"Would've loved to. He woulda fought back, though. He believed violence was overstepping my authority."
"Heh, 'authority'... what a silly concept. That's like 'righteousness'. Why would you ever do something someone else says if it wasn't for your own benefit?"
"I have no idea. What an idiot he must have been."
Sid paused. "I felt bad for Jane that day. She fought back against authority and got brutalized for it."
"She brought it on herself, picking a fight with someone bigger than her."
"Yeah, but she was just trying to make her team win and Mr. Stoker went all authoritarian on her. If he was getting in my face and yelling at me, I probably woulda slapped him too. No, I know that'd be stupid. But I'd have wanted to."
Sid heard the door upstairs open furtively. It was past midnight, and he couldn't imagine who would be coming in.
There were equally furtive footsteps next. "Hold on," Sid said. "Back us out of queue. There's someone in the house." He took off his headset and went upstairs.
There was a boy his age in the kitchen. He reached for a steak knife and pointed it at Sid. "Quiet or I'll kill you."
Sid wasn't scared. He was more admiring. Breaking in to someone's house presumably to steal food, threatening to kill without remorse... this guy reminded him of himself. Sid hadn't done those exact things yet, but he had definitely stolen before.
"Killing is wrong," Sid said. This was a test, of course, not a real objection.
"Don't care. I'm a criminial and I'm not ashamed of it."
Sid smiled - the boy had passed his test. He came closer, but not close enough to make the boy scared that he would attack. "Cool. You're like me, then. Lawless. Selfish. You are here to steal right?"
"Yeah, of course. I'm on the run from the law. I murdered someone, but I got caught and barely escaped. Now I survive by stealing."
"Neat. I'm not a murderer - yet - but I've stolen tons o' times before. I don't give a shit that it's wrong, I just do what I want as long as I won't get caught. Name's Sid."
"Alex," the boy said tentatively. "This is too good to be true. I get caught, but it turns out to be someone like me?"
"You're not alone, Alex. Tell you what. How about you go to a different house and steal from them instead? I admire people who think for themselves enough to steal, but I don't want them stealing from me."
"... Okay. I'll do that." Alex put back the steal knife, and walked toward the door.
"And let's keep in touch," Sid added. "Maybe the next time one of us wants to commit a crime, we can do it together."
"Why would I help you do something that doesn't benefit me?"
"Because it's fun to do stuff together and because I could help you with something in return. Neither of us will ever want to backstab the other because that would end a mutually benefitial arrangement."
Alex smiled. "Neat. Okay. We'll keep in touch."
Sid went back downstairs. Boy did he have a story to tell Helen... there were three of them now. Maybe Alex could join in their games sometimes.