On the twenty-minute tube ride from the Muizenberg Communes to central Cape Town – the Kid chose to take the hook route past the old townships instead of the direct Southern Line and I didn’t object – we played a quick game of Location Conquest.
“Let’s see if you’re as sharp as your tongue, old man,” he jeered and slipped on a pair of AugReal glasses, “Setup?”
“Youth’s choice,” I said, hitched the earpieces of my own pair and ran my hands through my fast-thinning mane as the augmented reality transformed the train car and its passengers into a game board.
I had not played this exact setup before – a bastard vision of the Middle Ages with undertones of magic – but the general concept was familiar to me so I judged the board’s division somewhat fair. The Kid’s and my own castles were evenly positioned, with equal attack and defense routes, a tribute, perhaps, to the minimalist and angular furnishings of CapeRail’s trains. The other passengers were also evenly divided, three went to the Kid – a young woman, an art student by her public profile, and two Japanese businessmen; and three to me – two crew-cut youths, also students of sorts, and a dried-out coloured man that smelled strange and was listed as unemployed.
The two young idiots yielded me two solid battalions of footmen, whom I immediately threw in tandem at the Kid’s forward castle while the unruly mob of peasants that was the game AI’s interpretation of the reeking man’s limited broadcasted profile was held back as defense. The Kid’s two kumi of samurai, each with its own archer contingent, split up, one taking up defense in the first castle while the other pulled back to the second, linking up with the art girl’s section of cleric-healers.
The passengers themselves paid no heed to our drunken game and the train buzzed past what used to be the Flats and townships of old Cape Town, now neat sprawls of multi-storey housing complexes, green and lush, that the Council provided free to any registered citizen of the Southern African Prefecture. In the decades since the Bet Wars V-Day and the following Unification, the poverty, crime, disease and rampant inequality that once plagued the African continent have all been near eradicated. The world basked in a Pictabet Golden Age and only jaded bastards like myself found any quarrel with it.
My battalions meanwhile charged the first castle, my setup leaving me with little tactical options but to throw my men at the walls with ladders and watch their numbers thin under thick samurai arrows. Quickly though, my boys were on the walls, broadswords clashing with tachi in vicious hand-to-hand. Here my numbers did the job and, despite the fierce samurai resistance, the entrail-soaked ramparts were mine and, soon, so was the rest of the castle. I pushed the haggard battalions on, up the steep slopes surrounding the Kid’s second stronghold, moving the peasants to the captured castle where they immediately set about washing the blood off the stone parapets with sand and water.
“Think you can take it?” the Kid giggled, sipping from the worn metal flask I had passed him, “I’ll bleed you dry and then rout your peasant trash without ever having to bare any blades.”