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"BOOBIES, BIG, GIRL, TITTIES." Max typed while looking at Neil's computer with a straight face. He didn't know what to expect from his input, but he knew that at least something interesting would come out of it. After all, Neil had bragged about his latest discovery more than usual. "A new tool that will eliminate the burdens of drawing from the shoulders of mankind!" Max recalled Neil's introduction to his presentation with a snicker.
Several seconds passed and nothing happened. Max began clicking and moving the pointer in the hopes of triggering a response from the computer, yet it remained awfully silent until after two minutes of sending his query. A faint and high-pitched whirring noise was the signal he had been waiting for, so he relaxed and slumped into his chair with his arms crossed behind his back, watching as lines of numbers and characters manifested in the screen. Although he had no idea of what they meant –that was Neil's job-, Max figured it was better than a blue screen of death. "Everything's going great. I'll just wait until it finishes before saving that image, then I'll shut it down and Neil won't even notice at all."-Thought Max, already feeling the excitement of a well-executed plan before doing a twirl in his office chair-"I'll finally know what do boobies look like!"
As he leaned on his chair, Max wondered about what he would do the rest of the day. It was a Saturday, so no David nor half-assed camp activities thrust upon them by Gwen. Also, Nikki had taken Neil to an 'adventure' –her code for losing a day doing annoying quests just to come back without winning, or scamming, something from someone- after telling him and Max a weird tale about a creature in the forest.
Despite Nikki's insistence and sad-puppy face, Max rejected her offer and excused himself to their shared tent. Everything about that morning bothered him, from Nikki's naive liking of nature (Max couldn't help but wonder if by the end of the summer, he'd have to deal with two Davids) to Neil's pathetic squealing and cowardice that completely blocked him from saying no to Nikki. Max was glad to be all by himself with an entire day of leisure, away from useless activities and people… but, as he returned to his tent from where he left Nikki and Neil, he figured that it would be better with some boobs to look at.
However, a sudden increase of the computer's noises put a halt in his celebration. He got closer to the machine and inspected it, noticing a surge of heat around it. The cooling fans grew louder and electronic beeps became worryingly common. Within a minute, the quiet and calm of the tent had turned into a mix of threatening machine sounds and the noise of hot air gushing out from the side of Neil's computer. "Shit, stop!" Exclaimed Max while clicking all over the screen in the hopes of retaking control of the situation. A cold drop of sweat traveled down his armpits as the heat engulfed the little tent, and the cooling fans accelerated even more, sounding like a pair of jet engines. Max let out a little yelp when a sudden flash left the computer's screen black for a couple of seconds, though it turned on again but with a strange tinge. The usual dark background and orange code was distorted and dim, as if the machine could barely display anything.
"What is going on?" His question was answered by a small bang coming from the side of the computer, and the smell of burnt circuitry made him facepalm. Max rushed to the computer's power cable and unplugged it, hoping that it wouldn't be too late to salvage the machine. Even though the machine was left without energy, it still, somehow, managed to print a small report in a sheet of paper before finally turning off. Max reached for the warm, receipt-like message and read it.
SYSTEM CRITICAL ERROR: system operated above safe temperature for 5:21 minutes.
Please contact with manufacturing support at 1-8000-8000-XXX, or send a fax stating the nature of the error.
APPLICATION ERROR REPORT: response time for process 'cool ai art generator' exceeded 32-bit integer limit.
Campbell Business Machines, XXX-XXX-United States.
Just as Max finished reading the error log, another mini-explosion rocked Neil's computer, leaving a nasty blast mark on the floppy disk port.
"Fucking excellent! That's totally what I needed today"-Max said while kicking some dust off the ground-"I should better hide this thing before Neil…" Max was cut-off by the sound of someone stepping inside the tent.
"Before I what?" Neil asked. His tone was dead serious even with his usual squeaky voice. Max instantly, and hastily, tucked the report in his hoodie's pocket.
Max waited a bit, unsure about whether he should face Neil or not. He kept silent with his back turned at Neil and looking at thew ground, pondering his options and trying to come up with an excuse that could save his day. Neil moved his feet, making an awfully loud rustling noise before clearing his throat. Not wanting to drag the situation for any longer, Max turned to face Neil, who glared at him with narrowed eyes. "I… I saw something weird going on in our tent and I wanted to check it out. And it turned out to be Quartermaster… He was looking at some weird, eh, fish women and I, uh, told him that it was disgusting, but h-he didn't take it seriously and clicked in an ad about hot singles in your area… and then the computer exploded?" Max shrugged after saying the last sentence, already aware that he had been caught in fraganti.
"Oh, really? So, why is there a piece of paper hidden in your hoodie?" Neil asked while pointing at a small, white edge peeking out of the blue pocket.
Max wasn't in the mood for questions, so instead of answering he began walking towards the tent's entrance. "I don't have time for your dumb detective games, Neil. Computer's broken, sucks for you!"
Neil's face became bright red and he blocked Max's path using his superior height to his advantage. "This is bullshit, Max. Hand over that paper, now!" Neil tried to grab the sheet from Max's hoodie, but Max pushed him back.
"Neil, get a hold of yourself! You are being an idiot. If I don't want to give you this is because I don't have to nor want to. Why don't we get over this and focus on annoying David? Or, I don't know, throw Space Kid into the lake." Said Max, trying to avoid the subject and make Neil back down.
"No, don't you tell me to get over it. You… you ludite, have wrecked my machine, haven't you? Why else would you try to hide an error report? What were you doing on it?" Asked Neil, dreading that the work of his summer could've been lost forever.
"And so what? Do you want me to fix it or what? I don't have to give you any explanations of what I do." Replied Max, looking for a way out of the mess he created. But it didn't happen, as his friend advanced towards him and subdued him with unexpected strength. "What's going on with you? Let me out!" Max's yell went into deaf ears, as Neil placed a hand in his chest to control his squirming and used another hand to reach into Max's hoodie's pocket. Neil grabbed the crumbled piece of paper before standing up and letting go off Max.
Max looked at Neil. The crimson blush in his cheeks faded when he read the report, his eyes filled with concern as they rapidly darted across the printed data, and a slight trembling in his hands be it from anger or disbelief. Neil sighed once he was done with the report. "Why didn't you tell me about what you were planning to do with my software?" Asked Neil. His voice sounded tired, defeated.
"I knew you wouldn't let me do what I wanted. I jumped at the opportunity once Nikki took you out of the equation. Look, I am sorry that you think this is my fault, but I won't apologize for crappy software. I am, however, willing to say that I am sorry for taking your stuff, yet I invoke my right to take your stuff since we are friends. So, yay, I'm innocent! Let's sneak into David's cabin and smuggle some candy out." Max let out a small laugh and began whistling a tune while moving to the entrance. The sound of a fist slamming into wood stopped him in his tracks.
"Why are you like this, Max? Do you know how many hours I dumped into this project... I wanted to show it to you guys once it was finished, maybe with COOL PACMAN as a prompt, but it wasn't ready yet. I didn't think you'd be willing to take my stuff without my consent, though I should have known better."-said Neil while staring at the remains of his computer, which laid dead with some smoke coming from its top-"Apologize and I'll consider overlooking this transgression to my property."
Max let out a snicker before saying, "nah, I think I might have done that if you hadn't gotten physical over a shitty computer. You really have to work on those anger issues, nerd. Otherwise, you might get into pretty serious problems with people who are less tolerant than me." He waited for Neil's response, but he got none and the threat of violence still irked him a bit, so he headed out from the tent, leaving Neil to watch over his wrecked computer.
The could air outside was a relief. Max was sweating like he had run a marathon and his hair was messier than usual. He looked around but didn't see anyone nearby, so he chose to go get some snacks at the mess hall. In the meantime, Max wondered about Neil's untimely arrival and about what could've possibly made Nikki bail out on an adventure that involved monsters. Whatever it was, he would soon find out, as morning was close to an end and noon's lunch was approaching. There, Max reasoned, he would be able to improve things with Neil or convince Nikki to vouch for him. Food put everyone in a better, easier mood, even if said food was even worse than anything in a public school's cafeteria. Max shivered at the thought of having to eat whatever Quartermaster came up with at that day. Maybe his improvised plan of stealing David's trail mix reserves had potential... Soon, a plan had taken form inside his mind and a sly smile crept up his face.
Two pocket knives hit the white edges of a target practice. In the middle, a frightened Preston shivered and begged, dramatically, to be released. Preston's wrists were fixed to the target with a lot of tape and some ropes for his ankles. His pleas were only met with disgruntled groans made by a deep, nasal voice. Nurf got up from his chair and went to the target, which was placed upon one of Dolf's easels. Once there, he looked at Preston with a neutral and bored expression before pulling the two knives from the white canvas. After a slow walk towards his chair and mumbling something about angles, force of the wind, and being annoyed by 'a shitty actor who can't work under pressure', Nurf got ready to take another shot at the target.
"Please, Nurf, stop. I didn't mean this when I told you I needed to practice my routines under a stressful setting. I am LOVING! the effort, but I'm scared of your unorthodox methods." Preston said. His legs and arms were too skinny and weak to break the tight tape and ropes holding him in place, so his voice was the only thing that could spare him from a certain visit to Sleepy Peak's general hospital.
"Huh, what was that? I couldn't hear you. I was too focused wondering what would Leonardo DiShakespeare do if he was in your place." Said Nurf while scratching his chin and looking thoughtful.
"For the ELEVENTH! Time, Leonardo DiShakespeare doesn't' exist. And if he did, his acting would be inferior to MINE!" Preston exclaimed, struggling with all his strength to get free from the target.
Only a single knife landed in the target, near one of the red inner circles and Preston's throat. Preston froze and was about to pass out as soon as Nurf had taken his next shot. Yet, Nurf was interrupted from finishing his shot by the sight of a small shadow creeping behind him. He got up to see who was the unexpected visitor. His surprise turned into a sour and annoyed feeling when he laid eyes upon a familiar face; a small, big-headed, smug, little rat stood in the entrance with his hands in his pockets.
"Well, well if it isn't Max who now comes to visit us. Is it, Preston?" Nurf asked, but he ignored Preston's answer.
"Yeah, it's me big surprise yada yada. Look, I came here because I have something that will interest you." Said Max.
"Hard pass, I don't make deals with you anymore. Not since what happened to Scotty..."-Nurf shivered and made a disgusted face at the though of poor Scotty's fate, before pointing with his pocket knife to Preston-"Besides, I am already busy fine-tuning Preston's skills just the way my parents taught me."
Max got closer to him and tugged at Nurf's undersized shirt, catching his attention before taking out a small clump made of a mix of nuts, seeds, and most important, chocolates from his pocket. Nurf lowered his arm and put his pocket knife behind his trousers; Max beamed a small, knowing smile before talking. "David's trail mix has some tasty chocolates. We are close to taking lunch and I'm sure a person of your..."-Max was going to say size, yet he knew that such a word could send his plan and himself crashing into the trash-"...tastes would appreciate a sweet treat before munching on god-knows-what Quartermaster cooked!"
Acting quickly and forcefully, Nurf grasped Max's open hand with his big, baseball glove-like hands, then he grabbed most of the sample of trail mix for himself. "I'm listening." Nurf said after thoroughly examining and tasting one of the chocolates.
"We gotta steal David's stash of trail mix. I know he has it hidden somewhere in the counselor's cabin, but I can't do it alone. It's Saturday and he's going to be there all day, practicing his smiling exercises or watching Korean doramas with Gwen."-Max explained. His cyan eyes met with Nurf's emerald irises, already gleaming with malice-"You know that I'm the plotting guy of my group, so don't ask me if it's going to work, because it will!"
Nurf tried to hide his interest and calmed down. He turned his back on Max and faced Preston, who was in the middle of biting the tape around his left wrist, but stopped and blushed when Nurf sent him a death glare."Say, we do help you, but, first, I have a question for you: where is your group, huh? You three are attracted to each other like flies to shit, so why aren't they here?"
Max felt uncomfortable at the question, as he remembered Neil's sad face back when they argued at the tent. However, he recovered and replied, "no chance. They chickened-out once the word stealing came in. You know, how other people are. It's tough to convince someone who isn't made for this sort of stuff. But we are different and have no such constraints, do we?"
"Look, while I get what you mean, the undertones that you put in your discourse give it a subtext which I don't endorse and oppose in a fundamental level, given my experience with society and its punitive approach towards criminal behavior." Nurf said matter-of-factually and with a sad look.
"So, you aren't going to do it…" Asked Max, beyond confused after hearing Nurf's small diatribe.
"Fuck yes, I am. After all, It's chocolate of what we are talking about!"-exclaimed Nurf before taking out his concealed pocket knife and throwing it towards a terrified Preston, who screamed as it sliced a wild tuft of his hair-"Bullseye!"
Max couldn't help but get into a fit of laughter and bask in the warm sensation of a plan coming together.