Chapter Seventeen, War Arts

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"I still don't know why y'all asked me," Bennie said. "I don't even play video games."

"Computer games," Sean corrected, "War Arts is a computer game, and you're playing it with us because we men are very persuasive, and while saying nothing of the convenience that you can travel via Pelanca, I'm sure you have a gamer inside you somewhere that's subconsciously dying to get out and beat the crap out of some newbies."

"I am a newbie, Sean," Bennie said, "I've never done this before and I'm going to get creamed."

"'Pwned' is the correct term," Sean said.

"Pwned?

"When someone beats someone else, completely whips their ass, they'd say "I owned you" or something like that. Well, somewhere someone or several someones made a typo: pwned. And it just stuck, I guess. That's my theory at least."

"Ookaaayy..." Bennie said.

They locked the car and Bennie followed Sean down into the shallow gully around the park. It only filled when it rained, so their feet crunched on the rocks as they crawled into a draining tunnel.

"This entry is new?" Bennie asked.

"It just opened," Sean answered. "Rachel needed a portal within walking distance. Also, the portals on our end get moved occasionally for safety, so they're harder for an enemy to find. You'll notice the one by the school is gone now if you go looking for it."

"I wonder how they do that," Bennie said. Sean just shrugged. "What do we do if it rains and the water blocks the tunnel?"

"Perce will come find us," Sean grinned. "When we have the right clearance we'll be notified where else to go."

They followed the tunnel and quickly came out in the familiar, wide open tunnel to Pelanca. Sean waited for another something-or-other to fly by before grabbing Bennie, jumping into the open space and transforming into the gargoyle in mid-air.

He flew them carefully down into the caverns of Pelanca then around into another tunnel. They went up until they emerged into a bunch of trees on a hillside overlooking a small neighborhood nestled around a lake.

Bennie marveled at how different everything looked here. For one thing it was much greener than anything she had seen before, and the trees were mostly needle-bearing, unlike the live oaks she was used to. The air felt very soft and cool, and Bennie wondered at how this could possibly be summertime.

The sky differed most of all, though. Bennie had heard rumors that around Seattle it never stopped raining, but today the little patch of sky stuck on top of the drastic hills and pines was a true blue, not the remarkable turquoise Bennie knew at home.

"What do you think?" Sean said. "Different isn't it?"

"Where are we?" Bennie said, looking at the absurd amount of green.

"We're in Seattle...well, technically Silverdale, which is a pretty good ferry-ride from Seattle but you'd have no idea what I was talking about if I said Silverdale.

"It's nice," Bennie said, shivering slightly in the oddly cool air. "Smells better than San Antonio, but it's awfully cool for summer."

"Peter thinks San Antonio is hotter than hell!" Sean laughed. "Amazing the difference a couple thousand miles can make."

They scurried down the hill to the curving streets with their homes nestled in the trees. The golden sunlight made them look greener than ever, but Bennie had little time to admire the scenery before she was ushered into one of the houses by Peter and his friends.

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