The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

by cosmicPostman

Part 34: Chapter 34 (Intermission) - The Bet

Harlow, behind their mask, rolls their eyes as Rin comes over to sit with them in the kitchenette, two drinks in her hands.

“I still can’t believe you’re making the effort to hang out with me.” they say. Rin beams at Harlow without a hint of dissatisfaction.

“I enjoy it! You’ve got a very dry sense of humour, which is nice. I mean, sometimes it sounds like you’re making fun of me, but I’m guessing that’s just how you are.”

“I’m prickly. People usually get pricked once and then stop poking me.” Harlow replies.

“I’ve never been good at keeping my distance from people.” Rin says, smiling. “Is that why you have the mask? Not for hiding your face from others, but hiding other people from yourself?”

Harlow falls quiet, completely taken aback. Rin looks at him evenly for a few moments, her eyes shining with a mixture of pity and happiness.

“...You pick up more than people think, don’t you?” Harlow says. They shake their heads. “The mask, huh..? How long have I been wearing this? A while. People back home were pretty OK with me being non-binary, you know? Some slip-ups here and there, but it was never malicious.”

“I understand.” Rin says. Harlow heaves a sigh, and places their hand on their mask gently.

“But I wanted to join the army, and do something useful with my life. Give back to my country, I guess. And I knew that the army wasn’t going to be as forgiving. You’ve seen the kind of meatheads the army attracts… I was worried that if I came in as myself, I’d just be labelled as a gender and get stuck with it. The only way I could hide that was with this mask, and these gloves.”

“Oh, I see…” Rin murmurs. She nods sadly. “I can see why you’d think that.”

“And then I met her.” Harlow says, sitting up straight. “I came in expecting meatheads, but I got a whole bunch of genuinely cool people - though you’re not allowed to tell anyone I said that. And I met a woman by the name of Quincy Pinella.”

Rin grins widely. “Quincy! Yeah, I remember her!”

“Then you know what she’s like - a bit irreverent, always says what’s on her mind, consequences be damned. She’d harass me about my mask and gender, but it was mostly done in good fun. Still, she was a hard person to put up with, and that didn’t make her many friends. She and I, we ended up as the army’s outcasts, and for a good number of years, we stuck together.” Harlow explains, shrugging as if the story means nothing to them. “You might wonder why I bothered to put up with Quincy if she was so difficult. But… well, early into our first deployment together, some rough soldier decided he wanted to know who I was, and tried to take my mask off.”

“No!” Rin gasps, fully invested in the tale. “What happened?”

“What happened? I’ll tell ya. Quincy damn near broke the poor fucker’s arm. I’ve never seen someone go feral like that, but people kept away from me after that.” Harlow replies. “Figured anyone who’d do that to protect what I care about was worth keeping around, even if she speaks without thinking most of the time. We kept each other in check, I suppose. Kept each other sane.”

Rin places a hand on Harlow’s arm. “I can understand that. Here in the army, we’ve all got to look after each other, so I’m glad you had someone like that!”

“Had, yeah… I’ve not seen her since I left Green Earth. But I guess we’re about to meet up with the Green Earth COs, aren’t we? …Wonder if she’ll still remember me.”

“I think you’re pretty memorable, Harlow. I bet she’s been looking forward to seeing you again!” Rin replies. “I always looked forward to seeing my friends on the battlefield. Aren’t you excited, too?”

“I guess it’ll be nice.” Harlow says. “...Man, I can’t believe I just opened up that much. I gotta stop talking so much.”

“Oh, no, it was nice to hear a bit more about you!” Rin says. “And of course, your story is safe with me. I hope you and Quincy enjoy catching up soon!”

“Me too. Uh, thanks, Rin.”


A voice cuts through the dull roar of conversation in the main barracks room. “Hey, Lucy! Nice to see ya!”

Lucy looks up in surprise, as she’s sitting with Ingo and a few of her Orange Star friends, but brightens up when she spots Peregrine waving to her. She hops up and walks over.

“Peregrine! Hi! You doing OK? You flew amazingly in the battle today!”

“Aw, fuck, that was just a copter. Wait until you see what I can do in a goddamn fighter jet!” Peregrine replies. “Besides, you’re the one they call the Queen of the Skies, right?”

“I don’t call myself that, you know!”

“Mm, true, but I gotta admit, it’s a cool title.” Peregrine says wistfully. “And, y’know… I was fuckin’ thinking: we’re both a similar age, both talented pilots… who’s to say which of us is more deserving of the title?”

The mood at the table changes subtly - a challenge has been laid down, and all eyes are on Lucy.

“I see! You want to see which of us is the better pilot, huh?”

“I’m after your title, is all.” Peregrine says, grinning. “Besides, I love a thrilling challenge, and there’s no better pilot than you to test my skills against! Whaddya say?”

There’s a moment of silence as Lucy closes her eyes and muses for a moment. She opens her eyes, then nods. “Sounds like a plan! When we’ve got a free day, we can have a race and settle this for sure!”

“Excellent.” Peregrine replies, her eyes flashing. “The whole army’s got a bit of time off in about two weeks, so we can do it on that first weekend when the weather’s supposed to be good. I’ll see you then!”

As Peregrine walks away, she gives a grin. That title’s as good as mine!

“Hold on.”

Peregrine stops and turns back. “Mm?”

Her face changes as Lucy fixes her with a manic, sly smile. “Peregrine… a race isn’t as exciting if only one person’s risking something. What are you going to offer me if I win?”

Peregrine lets out a laugh. “Hah! Fuck me… you might be happy-go-lucky, but you’re not dense, are you? Alright, alright… if you win, I’ll give you Clyde.”

“Clyde?” asks Dave. Vanessa, listening to the conversation nearby, gasps.

“Yes, Clyde! It’s Peregrine’s finest bomber - the one that destroyed the Deathray! You can’t possible bet that, Perry!”

“Hey, Lucy’s right, it’s more thrilling if we both risk something.” Peregrine replies. “I know what I’m doing, Van. It’s on, Lucy!”

“I’m looking forward to it!” Lucy replies, beaming as Peregrine makes her way out of the barracks room. The moment she’s gone, the hushed conversations about the race begin.