Posted on October 18, 2020 at 12:21 pm by Conor Fuse

September 26, 2020
Refueled XL

“I had him…” Conor’s voice is heard but all that’s visible is an empty hallway. “…dead to rights, I had him.”

There’s some time before a figure is seen in the far off distance, making his way into the quiet white brick hall. Conor Fuse, freshly showered and sporting his lime green Adidas track pants and HOW branded “8-BIT BADASS” t-shirt, stomps his way through, beet red face, about to burst at the seams. Conor walks alone, without The Game Boy behind him, an image that hasn’t been seen since The Vintage made his HOW debut.

“Had him. Dead to rights.” This is all Conor is saying, over and over again. Clearly disgruntled, Fuse is on a beeline towards the back door exit. In an otherwise abnormal move, Conor has left all his items behind. The only thing Fuse cares about is leaving the building, furious he was screwed out of the Icon Championship and a chance to send major shockwaves through the HOW system.

Upon arriving at the exit doors, The Vintage closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“Dan didn’t know what hit him.”
“I showed Dan who’s Boss.”
“Jatt cost me a Life!”

…are just some of the many ideas flowing through Conor’s head.

BANG, Conor kicks the back doors open and storms into the alleyway. It has just finished raining, too, which signifies to Conor his night is getting worse.

“Dammit.” Conor sees puddles on the ground and sticks his hand out, feeling no raindrops against it. It’s almost as if The Vintage wanted to get soaked, allowing him a greater chance to wallow in self-pity.

Fuse motors through the alley, not avoiding the puddles as he does. He figures kicking up rain and soaking his pants will make him feel better (or worse, which is better). Conor’s about to head into the parking lot area but stops upon reaching the opening to it. The Vintage puts a hand to his chin, strokes it and decides to take another route. He abruptly turns around, about to take the path in which he came-


Conor stumbles back. Once he shakes his head, the gamer realizes there’s a kid standing there in front of him, around the age of 15-16, with messy brown hair, a dark blue jacket and faded blue jeans. The kid, in some ways, resembles a younger version of Conor… at least in the sense his hair is unkempt and the clothes he’s sporting is something Conor can dig.

“Oh, sorry about that.” Conor stumbles. Meanwhile, as Fuse continues to clear his head and eyesight… he sees the boy is staring at him in ‘awe’.

“Can I help you?” Conor’s taken aback. “Look, kid, I’ve had a hard day’s night. That’s no Beatles ploy, either. Tonight has been the pits. Awful. Garbage. Almost Big Riggs quality, if you even get what I’m throwing down but you probably don’t…”

Fuse’s voice trails off. He’s certainly creeped out by now because the kid still hasn’t moved or changed his facial expression. The boy’s jaw is dropped, his eyes are wide open and he’s as still as can be, completely frozen in time.

“Great.” Conor rolls his eyes. “Did I hit you with my Time Stopper [power-up]? I swear to God, I didn’t think I packed any of those for HOW. I figured this system wasn’t compatible and I wasn’t going to take my chances… I-”

Conor’s finally cut off, as the kid speaks while pointing a finger at the HOW newcomer. “You’re… you’re Conor Fuse, right?”

Conor nods. “All 16-bits of me.”

“You’re… you’re… you’re…” The boy is having a difficult time finding the words. “You’re awesome!”

The gamer tries to get a word in but a taste of his own medicine comes his way. The kid keeps on going and Conor can’t say a thing.

“I love you, man! Ohhhh, all my friends think you’re the coolest! You’re so different from the other guys, with all this gaming stuff you do! And the Kool-Aid and the Fruit Roll-Ups! It’s like… you’re funny and shit!”

Conor presses his thumbs together while mouthing the words “funny and shit” to himself like he doesn’t understand. The kid continues speaking.

“Yeah, my friends and I love watching you. You’re super fast in the ring and can hit all these awesome moves! I just started tuning in to HOW but you’re one of my favorites!”

The boy is taking a much needed breather so Conor can chime in with some thoughts.

“Oh, well…” Fuse is not overly hyped to have heard any of this. To him, he’s still caught up in the L to Dan Ryan. “Thanks. See ya.”

Conor turns around, in an attempt to head back to the end of the alleyway and the parking lot area. He’s given up on his alternative direction.

“Oh, wait!” The kid shouts as The Vintage stops cold in his tracks. It never dawned on Conor the conversation would continue. The former challenger to the Icon Championship spins back once more and takes a few steps towards the star-struck fan.

“It’s Brandon.” The kid now known as Brandon remarks. “Anyway, you got screwed out of the Icon Championship! Sure, Dan Ryan is twice your size but you showed so much heart out there! YOU had HIM beat! You’re already the Icon in my eyes!”

Either this struck a nerve with Conor or it changed the entire way he’s processing the championship outcome, it’s hard to tell given The Vintage is keeping his emotions in-check. However, his left eyebrow twitches, signifying these words meant something…

“Hmmmmm.” Conor mumbles, alongside a pause. Brandon is looking at Fuse like a reply would mean everything. “Well if it wasn’t for ‘Jatt Moto’ getting in the way, I would be the Icon. What the hell did I ever do to him to begin with!?”

Conor continues to ramble on, no longer in the direction of Brandon but to himself. Maybe, if this kid wasn’t so star-struck, he may have noticed by now Conor wasn’t the person he thought he was…

“Hey, Mr. Fuse…” Brandon interjects as Conor is still trying to work out the details as to why Jatt Starr chose to get in his way, copy him with The Switch and ultimately screw him over. “Is there any chance at all you’d be willing to sign this for me?”

Brandon holds out a sheet of lined paper, half crumpled from the rain after sitting in his pocket. As Conor lifts his head slowly, he eyes Brandon for the first real time in this discussion. The gamer can see greater detail of Brandon’s appearance. The kid’s faded jeans are more tattered than faded. His dark blue jacket is meant to be light blue but has been heavily damaged over the years. The jacket also has holes in the sides of it. Additionally, Brandon’s messy brown hair isn’t, perhaps, done by design or a lack of effort, unlike Conor’s own unkempt head… but rather, out of necessity or lack thereof. Overall, it doesn’t look like Brandon has a lot of money or comes from a good home. This off-chance interaction was something that’s clearly meant the world to him.

“Sure, kid.” Conor says with a short smile. “I’ll sign whatever you want.”

Brandon takes a few steps towards The Vintage and hands him the sheet of paper and a pen. Conor puts it up against the brick wall to his left, ensuring there’s a dry enough space for him to not damage the paper anymore. “I’d sign something else if I could…” Conor mentions. “But I don’t have anything on me. Sorry about that.”

Brandon’s still gleamy-eyed. Not until he gets the autograph in his hands is Brandon in a frame of mind to process what Conor’s saying.

Finally, Conor hands him the pen and paper, complete with his autograph and a smiley face underneath it.

“Thank you! Oh my gosh, thank you!” Brandon says, folding the sheet of paper slowly into his jacket pocket. “You made my year!”

“Yeah, well… shucks…” Conor’s voice trails off.

“Say, where is The Game Boy, anyway?” Brandon mentions, starting to look around. “He’s awesome, too! I’ve never seen you guys… separated before.”

As Brandon says this, a shadow slowly looms behind him. Becoming a little uneasy, Brandon laughs it off, assuming the clouds have covered the moon or something along those lines.

“Well.” Conor’s demeanor changes to a somber tone. “He’s never too far behind.”

A sinister smile crosses Conor’s face. By now, Brandon isn’t sure what’s going on. Instead, he closes his eyes and reaches his hand back… running right into a brick wall… or a chest chiseled out of stone.

Meanwhile, The Vintage nods ever-so-slightly.

“Take him down.” Conor states, as The Game Boy snatches Brandon by the head and hurls him into the dumpster nearby. Brandon cries out… falling into a puddle and soaking his clothes completely in the process, along with the autograph. While more emotionally hurt than physically, Brandon isn’t going to be picking himself up off the cement any time soon.

The Game Boy marches towards him with Conor by his side, slithering around the hulking henchman as the two of them get a closer look at “Conor’s biggest fan”.

A tear slowly rolls down Brandon’s face… his world has been shattered at the hands of the person he was looking up to. And now, Brandon is literally looking up to him too, as Conor crouches down, overtop of the fallen superfan.

“Jatt ruined my game.” Conor states very methodically, cold and calculating, without much anger. He’s trying to make a statement to Brandon and perhaps… to himself. “I was undefeated. I had everything going for me. I had HOW on notice. Level Eight Boss DEFEATED right then and there. Why did Jatt get in my way? Why? WHY!? Does he want to pick on me, thinking I’m an easy target? Does EVERYONE think I’m an easy target here!?”

SNAP… … … … back to reality (and moments ago).

“Say, where is The Game Boy, anyway?” Brandon mentions, starting to look around. “He’s awesome, too! I’ve never seen you guys… separated before.”

As Brandon says this, a shadow slowly looms behind him. Becoming a little uneasy, Brandon laughs it off, assuming the clouds have covered the moon or something along those lines.

“Well.” Conor’s demeanor changes to that of a somber tone. “He’s never too far behind.”

A sinister smile crosses Conor’s face. By now, Brandon isn’t sure what’s going on. Instead, he closes his eyes and reaches his hand back… running right into a brick wall… or a chest chiseled out of stone.

Conor’s face lights up with a “gotcha” smile. “Hey, Game Boy! Didn’t I tell you it’s rude to sneak up on people? Jeez!”

The Game Boy cautiously steps around Brandon, as if to make sure he doesn’t startle the kid any further. Once The Mini Boss arrives beside his partner, The Vintage tussles the top of The Game Boy’s head, as if he’s a puppy dog.

“Game Boy, this is my new friend, Brandon. Brandon, this is The Game Boy. Really sorry about all that. He does that to people… sneaking up and all. Game Boy is a super stealth bad-ass. Nobody can hear or see him coming sometimes!”

A little doubtful, considering the sheer size of the hulking man’s build but Brandon doesn’t care. He lets the comments roll right on by.

“Hey, no worries.” Brandon says with a laugh. “It’s really cool to meet you both. Wow, Game Boy is massive up close!”

Conor agrees and pats his puppy dog again. “Hey kid, listen… it’s been nice meeting you. Sorry I was in such a bad mood earlier. This ‘Jatt Moto’ stuff has really got me rattled. I don’t get why he’s decided to pick on me. This is grade school all over again!”

Conor’s about to head into the parking lot but Brandon stops him.

“I understand. Maybe it’s because Jatt feels threatened by you.”

Conor’s ears perk up, repeating the words “threatened by me?” softly to himself. The gamer turns back to Brandon once more and listens intently.

“You know… with Jatt being this Hall of Famer and all. Like I said, I only started watching HOW a few months ago so I didn’t really know who Jatt was. Maybe that’s part of the problem. He sees you, he sees all this cool stuff you’re doing in a land of angry men and he’s threatened you’re taking some of that fun for yourself. He either wants to claim what he feels like he’s lost or he simply wants to join in on the fun. Either way, you started it and I think that’s awesome!”

“I- I-” Fuse can’t get a word out. He’s still processing.

“You’re a better man than me, Mr. Fuse. You’re a good guy!” Brandon continues. “If I were you, I’d have been so mad I lost that Icon Championship match I don’t know if I could steer my focus in another direction! I’d be stuck on that loss… forever! But you, you’re different… I don’t see that in you. I see a fighter! I see a guy who goes BEYOND gaming slogans and strategies… with so much more depth and determination than others give you credit for! I see a guy who has heart and he’s going to embrace these ups and downs, roll with the punches and ultimately beat this HOW game!”

Brandon shrugs, unsure if he’s making any sense. “That’s how I see it, anyway. But what do I know? My mom always says I’m thinking too much…”

Conor’s entire world (or at least the last few hours) has changed completely. The interpretation of these recent events has been flipped upside-down.

“My mom says that too…” Is how Conor starts. He slowly makes his way back to Brandon, digging into his pocket as he does. “I never thought of it like that. What a unique perspective you have. There is more to me than gaming, even though I love it. I’m not an easy target, I’m a force! And maybe… maybe Jatt isn’t out to ‘pick on me’… I mean, I’m sure a part of him wants to pick on me… but maybe he is feeling threatened. Maybe he does want to get in on the fun…”

Conor tussles Brandon’s hair.

“You know kid, you’re alright.” Fuse pulls out a Fruit Roll-Up. “Here. Even in my rush to get the hell outta the arena tonight, I didn’t forget to take one with me. I never do.”

Brandon’s eyes go wide. “Wow. They say Fruit Roll-Ups are going out of style but you make them ‘In’ again! Thanks Mr. Fuse!”

Conor simply nods to Brandon before turning away for good this time. “You’re very welcome. It’s a citrus blast Fruit Roll-Up, too. Lime green, the best kind.”

Right before Conor enters the parking lot with The Game Boy, he shouts one final comment towards the young fan. “It’s a good thing I didn’t go with my first instinct and beat you up…” Conor mentions, waving a cheerful hand goodbye to the kid. “I never would’ve received that incredible insight and, after all, who am I to do something like that? As you said, I’m not a bad guy. Oh no. Not in HOW. Not anymore.”

Brandon is standing there in the alleyway a little confused at the “beat you up” comment but figures it was just a passing joke from The Vintage.

“Okay, ‘Jatt Moto’…” Conor and The Game Boy have vanished from sight, although Fuse’s voice is still heard. “I’mma coming… the two of us CAN and WILL play this game! Let’s have fun together!”