We’re here today to share the start of a StarCraft inspired short story by resident TApro Captain and writing enthusiast Jay “Raze” Whipple. Please clap.


            Michael stared at the loading screen, absentmindedly tapping away at his keyboard. When the game finally loaded, he typed out “good luck,” the standard greeting message. No response. He clicked on the chat log, trying to remember who he was playing against.


            Oh, that explains it. His opponent’s name was a barcode, twelve I’s in a row. It was a common tactic to hide one’s identity.


            Michael continued with his normal build, which delayed infrastructure to give him an economic advantage. His first scout began to harass the barcode’s workers, but he tried too hard to kill one and lost it in the process. Sloppy. Still, he hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. Michael started building his third base and tried to forget about it.


            He frowned in confusion as a robotic voice relayed “Your forces are under attack.” Back in his main base, a slimy biological carpet was spreading towards his production as his workers evaporated. Somehow his opponent had snuck in a drone and built a hatchery, his main production facility, in an unseen corner of Michael’s base.


            His forces were already returning from defense at his front, but more and more army units were appearing from the barcode. Michael pulled most of his workers into the battle in desperation, but it wasn’t nearly enough. He used one of his radar scans to check his opponent’s natural second base, finding nothing at all. Of course.


            Michael reopened the chat. “try that again rofl. so lucky.” He exited without waiting for a response. The digital clock stared back at him, painfully bright in his pitch-black room. It was “so much better than our old apartment, don’t worry Michael” but the lights still hadn’t been installed.


            11:06. Just under four hours left to stay in the top 16 nationwide if he wanted a free flight to Poland. That loss cost him 21 points, bringing him dangerously close to the cutoff at rank 14. With the amount of people trying to get a spot in the Katowice tournament, he had nowhere near enough points to rest easy. Michael opened another energy drink and clicked “Play Again.”


            Same opponent. Michael offered no greeting this time, and dutifully scouted the corners of his base. Almost the moment he knew he was safe, a one-base attack hit the front of his base and rolled through his paltry defenses. The barcode typed out “easy” and Michael left the game. Rank 15.


            He queued up immediately, determined now. Once again, the familiar barcode was matched against him. This time, Michael chose a safer build, making a bunker before scouting. He held off a similar attack with ease, and made sure to dance his units several times before marching out to claim victory.


            Game after game, Michael was only matched against the barcode, trading wins and slurs.


            After eight or so games, he checked a few websites to see if anyone knew who it was. This was a fresh account though, with its first game barely a week ago. It was physically impossible to improve that fast, so he must have a second or third account. Michael played for the next two hours, queueing into the barcode more often than not.


            At 3:30, Michael realized he was so consumed by this anonymous rivalry he hadn’t checked his rank since midnight. He had gone 12-7 against the barcode and beaten all but one of his other opponents, but since the system considered him “favored” he had ended up losing more points than he won. Michael’s rank had slipped down from eleven to sixteen, and the barcode’s had risen from the mid-forties to nineteen.


            Michael queued into the barcode once again. Another loss, fourteen points down the drain. He was now at 18, and the barcode at 16. 3:47 AM. No no no nononono.


            He frantically searched again, but with a sinking feeling saw a very different name on the loading screen. This was Relic, a Terran and one of the few Koreans playing in America. He was a full-time professional and decorated champion, easily holding Rank 1 with over a 90% win rate. Michael chose a coin-flip reaper hellion attack, knowing his opponent liked to expand early. The all-in killed almost all of the Korean’s harvesters, and Michael continued with a massive advantage. Left with a broken economy and a minimal army, Relic typed out the symbols for “good game” in Hangul and conceded. +21 points, 3:58 AM. He pulled up the barcode’s profile, noting he had lost his most recent game, putting them… at rank 17 and 18 respectively, with less than a minute before the lock. Michael slammed his fist into the computer desk and slumped into the unfamiliar bed.

Let us know if you enjoyed Part 1! Part 2 will be posted this Friday.