Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 184: Captain Anthony: The Game Master

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Captain Anthony: The Game Master

Still hard to imagine I’ve been gone for a month, but the evidence to support it is there... I wonder what else has been going on. Luna said the kids were missing me, might as well go cheer ‘em up or whatever.

But where to find them? Given their antics they could be just about anywhere really. I decide I might as well wander around town listening for the sound of things breaking rather loudly. Not many indicators of their presence work quite as well as that one.

I’ve searched about half the town and still no loud crashing noises or anything. I’m wondering if they’ve all gone somewhere or something... Idunno.

Who knows, maybe they’ve gotten sick or something. I doubt anything contagious that one of them gets would take much time to get to the others. That clubhouse is so small and drafty... Eh, I’m not their parents or anything. After continued meandering, I decide to ask around.

The first few answers are laced with shock, and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m actually trying to get closer to whatever they’re doing, or because I’m the one asking. Not sure how much the ponies of this town trust me with children right now.

After a while, though, one of the mares tells me that last she saw, they were hanging out in or near the bowling alley. Apparently, it’s very popular with the foals.

I didn’t even know this place had a bowling alley. Huh... Nevertheless, after a bit of direction, I find the place and it’s quite obvious what with the large bowling ball sign on top and the door sandwiched between bowling pin statues... How do I keep missing landmarks like this?

Either way, though, I’m absolutely blown away when I get inside. Past the multiple bowling lanes, there’s a medium-sized arcade. Like, with the cabinets and such. Hot damn! I look around for a ‘House of the Dead’ machine but quickly realize that ‘shooting’ games aren’t exactly the pinnacle of pony entertainment. However, the cabinets are definitely more advanced than the Hearts and Hooves ones, probably because they don’t need to be away from a wall. I can see something that looks like Centipede, an Arkanoids style of game, something that looks like Pac-Man, and a table-setup for a Pong game. They all have shockingly better graphics than the ones I saw previously, too, with full colors and something like Mega Drive level graphics instead of Atari-style graphics.

Definitely the arcade setup used to fight off the rise of home consoles... but I don’t think they have those. They don’t have TVs for sure. Oh well, I’m still in my element here. Time to break some high scores...

There aren’t any shooting games, or anything with the corded peripherals like guns or steering wheels, but they definitely have bigger and fewer buttons and shorter, wider joysticks, clearly intended for hooves over fingers.

Doesn’t change anything. I find a cabinet for a game that resembles pac-man and begin. The only major differences is that instead of pixels, everything seems to be little circles, which I guess could be some sort of LEDs, and that ‘Pac-Man’ seems to be blue, and has eyes.

Nevertheless, the gameplay is the same for the most part. The ghost replacements are reduced to just three, but the maze is a bit more convoluted. Not a challenge, but certainly more time consuming to eat all the pellets. Everything also moves a bit faster than I’m used to.

After a while I eventually die, and enter my initials. Second top. Eh, not bad. Moving on I look around for something else to play. Hmmm... notable lack of driving or fighting games kind of narrows down the variety. After some time I find an ‘Asteroids’ clone and go for that. By the time I die, I actually managed to last twice as long as the last person to hit high score. I seem to have gathered a crowd in this time. I enter my initials again, bumping the last winner down to ‘2nd place’ in the rankings and a few of the kids are whispering amongst each other.

One kid taps me. “How’d you do that?”

I shrug. “Well, the point of the game is to shoot the rocks and avoid them to-”

“No, I mean... you beat Loosehoof’s score. Nopony has beaten Loosehoof’s score. At anything!”

“Sorry to burst his bubble, but from sheer amount of experience, I’m just better at video games than anyone I’ve met.”

More whispering. One kid tells me to stay here while another rushes off. Apparently they are going to get their ‘champion gamer’. Whatever, wasn’t here for this anyway. I pick the Crusaders out of the crowd of children. “Hey girls, how’ve ya been?”

“Anthony! You’re back!” Sweetie yells, and I feel a fuzzy orange missile impact my gut.

“Hey there, you’re certainly happy, Scootaloo.”

“I thought I- I mean we’d lost you!” She says, her voice kinda muffled by my stomach.

“I’m not going anywhere, and if I do, I’m gonna be coming back. Just remember that.” The other Crusaders huddle around me. Oh god why can’t I hold all these fillies?

After a bit more of the Crusaders being glad I didn’t leave or die or whatever, and general hero-worship from the other kids I decide I’m done for the day. The high-pitched voices are getting a little much. But before I get up I see an older-looking colt, like a pre-teen or something. He’s being backed by a group of colts and fillies.

“Hey there.” I say, assuming this is Loosehoof.

“You think you’re good at games?”

“Good? I’ve been playing video games since you were crapping your diaper, kid.” This gets a chorus of naughty laughter and shocked gasps from the kids.

“Well if you think that score was hard to beat, you got another thing coming. You got lucky for one round, but I can still beat you on any machine here.”

“Yeah, except for the one I’m sitting at, second-placer.” He’s gonna talk smack, I’m talking back.

Apparently this doesn’t phase him or his followers. One little filly walks up to him, practically swooning. “Will you be my very-special-somepony!?”

Loosehoof quirks an eyebrow. “You’re only ten.”

“Omigosh, he knows how old I am! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The filly faints and Loosehoof just ignores it, as if this was a regular occurrence.

He pulls out a large case, and sets it on the table. It's a little beat up around the corners, but it opens smoothly, revealing... a nintendo controller attached to a hoof-sock. "I use the PowerHoof™. It's so bad." He stops for a moment. "Like, really bad. I've had to basically handicap myself to bring me to a point where I actually lose games."

Oh god, the Power Glove? Oh... oh man, I have to laugh. “You’re definitely handicapped if you think that thing’s is worth the dirt on my shoes. I’m sorry, but fancy toys aren’t a replacement for real skill.”

“Quite the opposite, old colt, I use it to make sure others have a chance.”

“You won’t be needing it if you’re against me. You and I know better than the rest of these kids that numbers mean nothing.” I look around for a 1v1 game, but it seems the only multiplayer game is Pong. I sit down on one side. “You think you can beat something other than a machine?”


It seems the rules are the same. First to get the ‘ball’ past the other person’s panel ten times wins and the other loses. “You know there’s no chance for a tie on this, you either win or you lose. You can still back out now...”

“Try me.” He moves his paddle and the game starts, all the kids around us paying rapt attention to the screen.


“Ha ha!”


“Right back at you!”


“I have you now!”


Man this is such an exhilarating game!

“Oh my aaaarm!”

“I think my hoof sprains have hoof sprains.”

“I’m gonna let it pass, just so we can finish this.” I let the digital puck slide into my goal. The score changes, now at 0-1.

Goddamnit, we’ve been at this for hours!

“But don’t think that’s a win for you, nobody hit ten.” I feel another cramp run up my arm like a lightning bolt. It’s hard not to cry out from the pain. “Whaddya say we call this a draw and say we’re equal... for now?”

“Yeah... we might wanna try again another day, when neither of us is so sore... oh, I don’t think I’ll be able to refresh my high scores for a month...” Loosehoof replies, holding his own limb just as I am.

“Good show though. I can respect that.” We shake with our non-gaming arms and stand, a few of the fillies grouping around Loosehoof.

“Yeah. When we’ve recovered, let’s try settling this again.”

“Same game?”

“Nah, neither of us were in our real element with just moving some stupid sliders up and down. I’ll see if I can get a real competitive game going.”

“I’ll be waiting, don’t chicken out.”

“Funny. Was about to say the same to you...” With that, he leaves the bowling alley, the fillies still following after him.

“Well, he seemed nice. Kinda.”

One kid though, points out something that seems pretty important to this little clique. “Loosehoof... well he didn’t lose but... he didn’t win! He always wins! Nopony has ever gotten Loosehoof Wizardly to stop playing before he beat them!”

Apparently I’m a contender for the title ‘prince of games’ now. “Well, I’m wiped for now, so I’m gonna go.” The Crusaders follow after me, apparently not done mildly celebrating my return.

Along the way, Scootaloo climbs atop some boxes, and decides to launch herself into my arms, but mostly gets caught by my ‘exhausted’ arm. Oh gods the pain is terrible why is this happening I can’t even be angry with those adorable eyes!

I smile through the pain and move her to my left arm and carry her that way. “So, what’s the plan for the rest of the afternoon? I’m down as long as I don’t need both hands.”

“Well, since you’re back and you’re not dead, you can help us become Cutie Mark Crusader Swordfighters! You’ve got a sword, and I’ll bet you can teach us! We wanna be able to do what you and Clark do, with the whoosh-clang and stuff!”

I just realized that the constellations didn’t ask for Gladius’ sword back... huh. Now that I think of it, she wasn’t even there as far as I recall. Oh well, guess it’s mine until further notice. “Alright, but swords take a lot of practice to use right, I don’t really know how to pass anything I know onto a quadruped, so you four are gonna have to figure it out some other way.” I pass the Sword to Scootaloo. “But you’re welcome to try, just be careful where you swing.”

I figure it’ll be alright, since it can’t do any more damage than a normal sword, unless it turns out one of these girls have a star core too. But what are the chances of that?

Next Chapter: Chapter 185 Estimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 47 Minutes

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