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A note from Balr0g

This chapter takes place from Aaron's point of view as an introduction to the character and his backstory.

Chapter 2

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Nerd Within the Jock

 

Aaron Johnson - Barbarian, Warrior, Jock

20 years prior to launch

  

  “Johnson!”, yelled Coach Jones.

  “Here”, Aaron said as he bounced on his toes.

  “You’re up”, he responded.

  “Yes!” Aaron hissed as he rushed onto the field at the oppositions twenty-yard line.

  His team faced their rivals in the regional championships and the clock ticked closer to zero. The score was 20 to 14, and they were down 6 points. There was enough time for maybe two or three plays before the quarter ended and it was Aaron’s time to shine. He’d been on the sidelines for ten minutes as the opposing team ran the clock down. His team had gotten lucky on the last play, which resulted in an interception. This set their offense up for a short run to the goal line.

  Aaron moved into the backfield at the running back position. His coach often moved him around the formation due to his speed and agility. The design of the current play meant he would drop back into an option read for the quarterback. First, they would attempt a hard snap count to pull the defenders offsides and move them closer to the goal line.

  “Blue 42, set hut, hut, hut…,” his quarterback intoned.

  Their opponents weren’t fooled and waited until the center snapped the ball. After the ball went into motion, Aaron dropped back into position looking for any defenders that broke the line of scrimmage. The opponents secondary scrambled into man coverage at the last second. Three wide-receivers careened down the field on the right, the tight-end slanted left, and Aaron swung to the left to fall in behind the tight end. Because the defenders switched to man coverage that left Aaron open as the defenders backpedaled down field to cover the wide-receivers.

  His quarterback sent a bullet pass to him and he rocketed downfield. Two defenders stood in his way, one of which abandoned his coverage on the tight-end. The first defender attempted an open field tackle and received a stiffer right to his faceplate. The second defender played more conservative and went for a low tackle around Aaron’s legs. Just as the defender lunged, Aaron launched into the air escaping his clutches. Two steps later he dove into the end zone which tied the game at 20 vs 20.

  With only a few more seconds on the clock their kicker jogged on the field. The game hinged on the next play. If the extra point succeeded, the game was over and Aaron exited middle-school as a regional champion. With bated breath, he watched from the sidelines as the ball hit the hands of the placeholder.

  "No…," Aaron breathed. The snap was a little off and the ball holder almost fumbled.

  He got the ball under control and slammed it into the ground, just as the kickers foot arced through the air and connected with the ball! The ball tumbled end over end and veered to the right as a gust of wind threatened to knock the ball off its course. Aaron’s breath caught in his throat. For a split second it looked like the ball would bounce off the upright and leave the game tied. When it hit the upright it ricocheted, but had enough momentum it carried the ball through the posts for the extra point. They'd done it! They won!

  "Woohooo...," Aaron yelled. The entire football team ran onto the field and hoisted Aaron and the kicker into the air as they celebrated the victory. Festivities and awards ensued and once all the activity had died, they made their way into the locker rooms. Right before Aaron headed into the locker rooms he looked to the stands and saw his foster parents and three best friends, Tristen, Natalia, and Tyler. They cheered and waved at him in congratulations.

  Aaron changed and rushed out to join his friends and foster family. He and his friends planned to convene at the local pizza joint. Truth was, they didn’t need an excuse to eat pizza. There were teenagers after all and everyone knows teenagers live on pizza and ramen noodles. Regardless of a victory or a loss, they had planned to hang out at the pizza join afterwards. They needed no excuse to hang out and Aaron was forever grateful to his friends for accepting him as he was.

  His foster parents waved goodbye, and he heard his "fifth" dad yell out, "don’t stay out too late, it’s still a school night."

  “I won’t, see you soon,” he called back.

  Aaron turned back to his friends and said, “let’s go eat pizza!”

  As they walked to the pizza joint, Aaron felt at peace and happy. This new foster home was the only place he’d ever felt wanted, and he loved his friends. His friends didn’t see a foster kid with next to nothing; or a broken kid messed up at the loss of his parents. They liked him for who he was despite his background.

  Over the last two years they had become his adopted family, and it helped him cope with the loss of his parents. Aaron's parents died in a freak plane crash just after his dad earned his pilots license. His parents rejoiced at the accomplishment and used all of their life savings to buy a small twin-engine plane to start a charter business. It was the day after he received his license when his dad took his mother on a celebratory flight. They hadn’t come back from that flight and when Aaron had gotten back from school a social worker was there to greet him.

  The explained what had happened, but it didn’t sink in at first. He was only six years old and didn’t understand that his parents weren’t coming home. After the social worker had taken him home to pack and then dropped him off at what looked like a third-world shanty town he understood. His parents weren't coming back and now he would have to live in this cesspool of a trailer park, complete with some grimy, two-bit low-lowlifes as parents.

  The state hadn't spent long looking for any family he could stay with. Even now, he didn’t know if he had any extended family. When he was old enough, he planned to look for them. For now, he had his friends to confide in and keep him going.

  His friends supported him at school, in sports, and keeping his nerd life a secret. Most people didn’t know he liked to lose himself as a barbarian or dwarven paladin on the weekends. He’d had to make up a lot of excuses to his teammates when they asked him to weekend events. It didn’t happen often, and even less frequent now because he always turned them down. He kept his game life secret because he knew they would laugh and ridicule him at school. None of his teammates were into board games. They all got together and played the latest sports games on PlayStation or Xbox. All his teammates would call him a weirdo if they found out.

  Aaron worked hard to keep his social life and hobby separate from his sports passion. The team already alienated him on account of his background and being a foster kid. Kids always snubbed him and acted all high-brow around him. His whole team wasn’t like that, but it was enough he avoided hanging out with any of them outside practice and football games. Because they already treated him as an outsider he was cautious to keep his geek-life separate. He needed every advantage he could get to stay an integral part of the team. Hard work had paid off, but he knew if the team spurned him, he wouldn’t see the play time he needed. If he didn’t get the play time, then he wouldn’t make it far in high school and would fail to impress college scouts.

  “Hey guys, let’s grab that booth in the back by the arcade,” said Tyler which jarred Aaron from his introspection.

  “I can’t stay out too late guys, you heard my foparents,” replied Aaron. Foparents, meant foster parents. Tyler decided foster parents needed an abbreviation and shortened it; the name had stuck.

  “Just a few games while we wait for the pizza,” placated Tristen.

  “All right, all right… just make sure you get me a pizza with some meat on it, not those nasty veggies you all seem to like so much,” cajoled Aaron.

  Aaron and his friends spent two hours playing games and eating their pizza before he excused himself and told his friends he needed to head home. His home was in the “ghetto” as some called it. As far as he knew that was where he’d live until he turned eighteen and moved off to college.

  The small room he slept in held two beds and two dressers with a two-foot gap between them. Another foster kid shared the room. His foster parents, Tasha and Rick, pulled him aside and told him the kid had come from an abusive home. Whatever the poor kid experienced, it made him awkward, and he never talked to Aaron.

  Though many called it the ghetto, it was a significant upgrade from the past few homes. Tasha and Rick tried their best to care for them. They wanted to invest themselves into the kids they fostered and they didn’t just do it for tax breaks or a stipend from the state.

  In all the previous homes he lived, the bottom-feeders that took in foster kids only wanted the money. The paycheck was small, but what little they received went towards booze or drugs. Most of the time Aaron ended up wearing clothes several sizes too small and going to bed hungry. The last home was a train-wreck and the foster parents ended up going to prison. They took in three foster kids and used all the money on themselves. There was one week that Aaron remembered they didn’t eat a single meal at home. It was only thanks to being in school they had any food at all. His teachers and principle reported the obvious malnutrition and disheveled state of his clothes to the state.

  Social services pulled him out of the home and he’d ended up with Tasha and Rick. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt wanted.

  “Rick, Tasha, I’m home,” called Aaron.

  He made his way to his bedroom and collapsed on the bed, pausing only to remove his shoes before he passed out. The next day at school, kids all patted his back and congratulated him. He swelled with pride knowing that his hard work and long hours of practice had paid off. No matter what else happened, he resolved to make his dream a reality. After high school, he’d get into college on a full ride football scholarship, he would wow professional football scouts, and join a professional league.

  “Hey!” Exclaimed a quiet female voice, but it was too late. Aaron collided with..

   “Natalia, S-s-sorry!” he stammered, and helped pick up the books he’d knocked out of her hands. He always felt weird around her at school. It was much easier when they played Dungeon Quest when they both impersonated other characters that displayed their inner desires. Here, their facade was in place and he felt awkward.

  Ask her to homecoming! he yelled in his mind. Don’t punk out!

   Natalia stared at him for a moment before she said “you played great last night.”

  Aaron felt his chest swell with pride, but he couldn’t get any words out to express his thanks and ask her out.

  Ask her you dimwit!

  He opened his mouth to ask her to homecoming when the bell rang. Aaron glanced at the speaker in the corner wished he had his trusty two-handed ax so he could reduce the dang thing to bits of metal and plastic!

  Without another word Natalia scurried down the hall to her next class. Aaron stood mute, dejected and outraged at the universe for ignoring his plight and not halting time.

  Noooo!

  I’ll never have a better chance than that, he thought. Aaron went through the motions for the rest of the day and wished he’d just had the courage to ask a few seconds earlier. He didn’t think there would be another chance to ask her until Saturday.

  Two days, he thought. Maybe I can ask her while playing Dungeon Quest?

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About the author

Balr0g

Bio: This is the section where I'm supposed to write how I have always dreamed of writing books and that there are dozens of five star books out there with my name on them. Reality? I am brand new to writing, and worse, I'm not a creative writer. Most of the stuff that I have written is technical, cyber-related stuff. So, how in the world did I start down this path? The best way to sum it up is D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. These two Russian authors created books in a new genre called LitRPG, which falls under a more broad category called Gamelit. I devoured any and every book created by these two authors and quickly realized they were not alone in their endeavor. The series they created were translated from Russian to English, but it wasn't long before American authors started pushing their own series. Since starting with the Play to Live series (D.Rus), I've read hundreds of books and dozens of stories on Royal Road. I started posing questions and conversations about plots and book directions in various groups and forums. Eventually, I got the idea to start keeping track of my ideas and instead of giving them away, write my own story. Herein, is born a writer (or at least a wannabe writer)... not a writer to grab a paycheck, and not even for the sake of a job. I am putting this first story together purely for my enjoyment and it has been a fun ride so far.

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