It was my fault. I mean, of course was was my fault, because I had the maturity of a five-year-old with the world experience of the nineteen years I'd spent on this planet. That combination always leads to trouble.
Of course, one could argue that it was technically Ben's fault, since he was the one who brought up modifying ordinary objects to make them deadly. Or perhaps an argument could be made for it being the professor's fault, since we were supposed to be taking a Machine Component Design class and he was late.
Alternatively, you could just say it was God's fault for designing my brain the way it is and leave it at that.
"I'm just saying, you could get a lot of damage out of a pocket knife with a catapult attachment," Ben was arguing. There were seven of us engineering students in the room, the other five listening to Ben and me debating with a moderate amount of amusement.
I was dismissive. "Meh, you could get a lot of damage out of anything when you give it enough speed. I knew an Army guy who modded a Nerf dart gun so that the freaking foam dart could leave bruises." I thought for a moment. "I mean, it's probably broken by now--he had four bungie cords and something like five internal springs in it. You'd need metal components to avoid inevitable rupture."
...and then came the seven words that started it all.
"Kinda like I did with my Longshot."
Ben perked up. "You modded a Nerf Longshot?"
"For range and stability, yeah. Not knockdown power," I admitted, silently cursing my big mouth. Now, of course, would come the inevitable teasing that always followed when I accidentally admitted to doing something that childish, like playing with toy dart guns--
I'd forgotten my audience. "Seriously? Did you bring it to campus?" Ben demanded.
"Yepp," I admitted.
Ben grinned. "Man, you should see my Nerf gun. I painted it to look like one of those old mobster tommy guns."
My jaw dropped--partly because that sounded cool, and partly because he'd just publicly admitted to modding Nerf guns.
Mike chimed in. "I didn't do anything that cool. I just removed the air restrictors."
One by one, the other engineers admitted to at least owning, if not modding, Nerf guns. Ben bemoaned the stigma of playing with said guns, which is when I got my Big Idea.
"We should come back here tonight and have a war!"
"Here, where--here, Westerman?" Grant inquired, a little disbelievingly.
Westerman Hall was four stories tall, set into a hill so there were entrances on the first and third floors. A half-circle wraparound knocked off one corner of the building, and the inside was a maze of classrooms, hallways, and stairs. It was perfect for war, and I knew it.
"Darn straight, Westerman," I confirmed. "We have four floors of this--" I waved my hand at the oddly-shaped classroom, "--and no one's ever here on Friday nights."
"We should probably stay off of the second floor, though," Nate offered.
I frowned. "Why?"
"That's the biology and chemistry floor," he explained.
"What's that mean?"
"Biology is the study of life, and chemistry--" Ben started mischievously.
I rolled my eyes. "Shut up, I know what they are. I just figured all the labs would be locked up. It's not like we'll be releasing viruses or acid or something." I grinned. "Although that would give Humans versus Zombies a whole new level..."
"Have you ever been on second floor?" Mike demanded.
I shrugged. "Nope. Why?"
"Snake, lizard, and fish tanks that we definitely shouldn't break," Ben explained emphatically.
"Ah. So, three floors of awesome, then. Unless fourth floor has a nuclear lab that I don't know about?" I asked, a little sarcastically.
Chris sighed wistfully. "I wish."
"Me too. We could make glow-in-the-dark darts!" Mike wisecracked.
All of us were laughing when Professor finally bustled through the door. "Sorry I'm late. What did I miss?"
"We need a nuclear lab," Ben offered.
"Ah. Yes. I wish. Unfortunately...ah, the department doesn't have that kind of budget," Professor chuckled. "Now, let's get down to business..."
The rest of the day passed awfully slowly. Finally, however, it was 8pm, the agreed-upon meeting time. I lugged a few choice Nerf guns up the hill to Westerman, including my Longshot in the mix. Surprisingly, Ben had beaten me up there and was already laying out his gear. To my amusement, he was also wearing a trenchcoat.
"I figured I would be fashionable," he explained when I gave him a quizzical look. Snapping open a saxophone case, he began putting together his tommy gun. "What do you think?"
"Very mafia," I complimented him. "Especially the music case."
"I wanted to do violin, but it wouldn't fit," Ben said regretfully.
I eyed my bandanna (I was going to use it as one of the Humans versus Zombies, or HvZ, games), and decided what the heck. I tied it around my forehead. "There, now I feel ready."
The hallway was quite dim, which it probably why Mike was able to sneak up on us. "Boo!"
We both shot him. "How's it going?" I asked, slinging my foam sword across my back and dropping my six-shot Maverick into the thigh holster on my right leg.
"Great," he said. "Sorry I'm late. Were we supposed to dress up?"
Ben grinned. "Encouraged, but not mandatory. Wonder how many people are going to show?"
The answer was ten. The engineers had managed to convince a few friends to come, and one of them brought his sister. So nine guys, and one (reluctant) girl. Needless to say, Ben couldn't resist.
"Okay, rule number one!" he said loudly, getting everyone's attention. He paused, for dramatic effect. "We can, under no circumstances...tell anyone we've been doing this or we'll never get any dates."
Everyone burst out laughing. Darts were loaded, and the war began.
It was a rousing success. Even Anna enjoyed it. We played for hours, mixing up teams, running free-for-alls, and stopping about every fifteen minutes to collect darts and count the dead. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough people for a round of HvZ. Ben was impressed with my Longshot modifications; I could put a dart between someone's eyes from almost seventy feet away (and for something that started with a range of 20 feet and an accuracy that was barely good enough to hit the broad side of the barn, it was an impressive improvement). When we stopped, Ben insisted on taking pictures--overruling my protests and my subsequent offers to "be the photographer"--and leaving everyone with the admonition to, once again, not tell anyone.
Also, we were going to do the same thing next Friday.
The next week went by quickly; until Friday, anyway, which dragged like a cow in a mud patch. Despite Ben's orders, word apparently got out of what we were doing--I only found out when Betsy accosted me in the caf with a request to join us. Given that Betsy was about as normal as the rest of the gang, I said sure. I figured she'd invite a few of her friends to come, and maybe we'd have fifteen or so.
My estimate was way off. I arrived to find OVER FORTY PEOPLE gathered in Westerman.
"Whaaa--?" I squeaked, sounding not unlike Shorty (who was also present--I didn't know her very well at the time, though).
"Word got out!" Mike said gleefully. Judging by his face, it wasn't hard to tell by whose mouth the word got out.
I did a quick head count. Definitely had something like forty-three people, but it was hard to keep track. To my continued astonishment, over half were girls.
"This might make Nerf wars hard," Ben muttered. "How are we supposed to divide up the teams?"
"We could play Humans versus Zombies," I suggested. "That's easier."
"Good idea. LISTEN UP, EVERYONE!" Ben yelled. "MIDWAY'S GONNA EXPLAIN THE RULES!"
Everyone shut up and turned to me expectantly, promptly giving me a heart attack. Stage fright NOW?? What to do, what to do...I needed some thinking time. A distraction.
"So, Ben, how's it feel to actually be doing something with girls?" I demanded, teasing him (and kinda throwing his declaration last week back at him).
He took it in stride. "I'm an engineer. What are girls?" he asked innocently.
That went over well. While everyone was laughing (and Ben was offering to collect telephone numbers), I took a moment, composed myself, and got ready. After explaining the rules, we all tore off in small groups; three "starter" zombies, and the rest of us humans.
The zombies won, hands down.
As did Ben.
I wish I'd been around to see this, but I was off hunting zombies with Brad and Rach and missed the whole thing. As he was walking back to the "gun drop off" (he'd been tagged by a zombie and now had to be one), he found himself walking down with Ginny, one of the new girls there. After making a little awkward small talk, he found himself casting around for ways to carry on the conversation when someone popped out of hiding and shot him. He casually and subtly flicked his glasses off his face, as if the dart had knocked them off, and requested Ginny's aid in their retrieval. Apparently that was enough to break the ice.
...must have been, anyway, 'cuz they're married now...
Humans versus Zombies with Nerf guns, bringing people together since 2011. And Ma wonders why I refuse to chuck my Longshot.