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Fuck it, dude, let's go bowling.
August 3 - Skinner
Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#1
Thursday nights only ever meant one thing to the stranger in the cowboy hat. Thursday night was bowling league night. Oh, Virgil didn’t play much, not very often. He’d been known to take up his hand once in a while if one of the teams playing was missing a player, if the teams were imbalanced. He took all teams impartially, and played reasonably well, but not outstandingly. His average, when people had kept track, was somewhere around 200, he knew that, but mostly when he played, he talked, he mingled with the people. There was something comforting to the sort of people who gathered at the alley. By and large, they were an easygoing lot, from all walks of life, though generally not the noble caste. They respected their own little code in the bowling alley, and the rivalries, while obviously present, were friendly. Virgil liked that. With all of the places he’d been, this was the one place he could come and always feel at ease, be able to count on hearing a happy story from someone, even if it was as simple as hearing how they got an extra day off from work.

The barkeep set his beer down on the counter, and the cowboy gave him a pleasant, engaging smile, tapping his fingers easily against his breastbone before he picked up the drink. “Thankee sai,” he drawled, before taking a drink from the bottle. “How’s the missus doing, Al?” He gave a little chuckle as the barkeep gave the subject of his wife the exasperated sigh it deserved, then turned around to survey who was bowling tonight at the Hollywood Star Lanes. There were Walter and the Dude, laid back as always. There was Jesus, who insisted on pronouncing his name the way the Man Jesus did instead of like they did in his home country. There was that new balding guy who’d shown up a few weeks ago… Omar? He hadn’t talked to him yet, he hadn’t really caught his name properly, but he would eventually. He worked with nuclear power, he’d heard, which made the Gunslinger nervous reflexively, but here, in this center of all worlds, he supposed there wasn’t anything to worry about about that. There hadn’t been much lately to worry about at all… and for that, Virgil found himself very appreciative of this place.
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#2
Skinner had been in the Hub for a couple of months now, and after the last world he'd been to, the one with the giant talking alien robots, he was just as happy to be in the Hub, where things were weird in a relaxing sort of way, and most of the time no one was trying to kill him.

He'd been checking out some of his former haunts, sharing a drink or three with old friends, catching up on the latest scuttlebutt, and today he'd decided to check out the bowling alley. He wasn't a huge fan of the 'sport', but there were worse ways to while away an evening. Of course, some things were more fun to do drunk, and bowling was one of them, so he headed to the bar. And, as he'd half expected, Virgil was sitting there, fitting in better and more comfortably than a cowboy should, sitting in a bowling alley.

Skinner ordered a beer, and once he had it in hand, sat down on the stool next to the cowboy. With anyone else, he'd have waited to make sure they remembered him but this was Virgil. He never forgot, well, much of anything. "How've you been, Virgil." he asked "Its been awhile."
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#3
Virgil turned his head, shooting the balding man an easygoing smile. “Well now, I haven’t seen you in an age. Long days and pleasant nights, Walter,” he said, raising his beer bottle in the other man’s direction. Walter was a wanderer, the sort who always made his way into a different world, time after time, something of a restless spirit. He sought out worlds to make his own, lives to make his own, and had been through several that Virgil knew of, but Virgil wasn’t one to pry into things that weren’t spoken of openly.

“It’s been, what, ten years, now? How’s the road been treating you, traveler?” The length of time was something that Virgil tried to make careful count of. It was mostly a habit from his memories as a host… or rather, the fact that he couldn’t mark out the years in those memories. When life was a repetition, when your memories never lose their vividness, no matter how much you want them to, when you were never built to be able to remember the previous day, you clung to anything that helped you keep their sequence in order. Mid-world, and then the Hub after it, had been much easier, but sometimes still he found himself not realizing how much time had gone by between one vividly-remembered meeting and the last. He supposed that someone could make a comparison to how perfectly a computer stored its files… but that wasn’t true, was it? Computer files even degraded after a while, didn’t they? “His drinks are on me tonight, Al. Don’t let the man grow thirsty.”
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#4
"Long days and pleasant nights." Skinner echoed, raising his beer in a matching salute. Virgil was the only person in the Hub-or anywhere else, for that matter, who called him Walter. He'd always hated his name growing up, but there was something about hearing it said by a old cowboy like Virgil made the fusty old-man name sound like something from a dime novel. So Skinner didn't object when the cowboy called him Walter.

"About that." Skinner agreed. Hopping between worlds made it hard to keep track of things like that, since different portals could open up into different timelines. And he'd spent some time just plain wandering, after his wife had been killed. "The road's been treating me good." Skinner replied "Getting off the road is harder, but you know that, Virgil. Hell, you taught me that." when Virgil offered to pay for his drinks "You don't have to do that, Virgil. Thank you, though."
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#5
“The wind blows you where it will. Last year I rode straight into one of those worlds of ships in the black and guns that shoot lightning instead of bullets. There was fighting on red worlds and paradises straight from hell, and enemies that looked like a demons sired on spiders and wrapped in a nightmare. I found the strangest people there, like people grown from reptile cats on a world enslaved, desperate, beaten down.” He took a drink from his beer, remembering those days on that red world, helping to teach those strange people to fight, helping train those few who listened to him the way of it, the path of the gun and the path of the White. “But they remembered the faces of their fathers, they remembered them very well.”

He returned his attention to the other traveler, the one who traveled for very different reasons than he did. “But tell me true, Pilgrim, I beg you… have you found what you’ve been chasing after yet?” Which, of course, would require him to know what he was chasing after… but that was all part of the question, wasn’t it?
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#6
"That sounds like a world I'd like to see." Skinner replied. He'd avoided universes with aliens when he'd come to the Hub, he'd gotten his fill of them on his original Earth. After his wife had died, though, he'd sought them out, never staying long, but focusing on the new and the strange, to keep him away from his past, from his mistakes. "Is the portal still up?" knowing that Virgil would warn him if the fight had been lost, and the world too unsafe. Not that he doubted Virgil's abilities in a fight, but some wars simply couldn't be won.

"I thought I had." Skinner said, taking a long pull from his beer. "Nice little town, a quiet life with a good woman. The man who's life I stepped into, he was a worthless son-of-a-bitch, before he got himself killed in a stupid accident. I did some good just stepping in, and shutting down his shitty, pathetic drug dealing wanna-be Nazi gang. Then things when to shit, and..." he let out a short, bitter laugh "assholes couldn't even set a bomb right. I wasn't even home." he'd killed the men who'd done that, killed them and run back to the Hub.
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#7
“It was an interesting world,” he answered, considering it. “One of those future places, but people are always people. Even the aliens were just more people. Strange people, but, I’ve met aliens more human than humans, if you ken it,” he said, smiling that lazy, easy smile. “Portal was there last time I checked, but I wouldn’t worry if it disappears. There’s always a way to get to where you need to be.” Ka would provide, after all.

He was slightly amused at the story, in that dark way that people found videos of outrageous car crashes amusing. “You can start life after life in someone else’s name,” Virgil pointed out, “I think that you might not be happy until you have one that’s yours, not one you’re borrowing.” He could, of course, recommend his own world to him, anyone could start a life there as themselves, in that mish-mash land that collected the remnants of other worlds like driftwood on a beach, but when you were meant for Mid-World, you just found yourself there.
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#8
"I haven't seen the future" or rather, a possible future, since he was pretty sure there was no way his timeline would lead to some of the things he'd seen "in a long time. Maybe I will check it out. And yeah you're right about people being people. My last job, I ran into some robots who were people, no matter what they looked like. Big bastards, they could turn into cars, if you can believe it. Apparently they decided it would be a good way to hide out on Earth."

Skinner shrugged, Virgil might have a point, but "I didn't do so great with the life that I was born with." he pointed out "Besides, this asshole was me. Or someone who I could have been, if my life had been different. Few chances and shittier choices. It was worth living there, even if it turned out to be another step on the journey, and not my destination."
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#9
Virgil just smiled, taking Walter’s points. “I could’ve taken the place of another me,” he said. “Sort of did, I suppose. Came face to face with him, reached out to him, and then suddenly we were both up here,” he said, tapping the side of his head, “And the old bag of bones I’d been walking around in was just an old pointless carcass. Could’ve took his place, gone on like before I’d left. He liked my life better, so we decided we were going to be me.” He considered his beer, then took another drink. “Not at all the same, I suppose, just an old yarn that came to mind. Comes to mind so damn vivid…”

“One thing I’ve learned… you can be yourself if you move to another town, but if you break into your neighbor’s bedroom, you’re going to damned well have to pretend to be someone else, especially if you both look the same.” That easy, lopsided smile returned to his face. “’Course, I’m just an old gunhand, never was much for schooling, so maybe I’m just liking the sound of my own voice. It’s good to see you again, Walter. I’m glad the next step you had to take took you back here again.”
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#10
Walter sat, drinking his beer while Virgil told the story of how he'd merged with another version of himself. He'd heard it before, but he liked the poetry of the way the cowboy told the tale. "I did something like that when I came here." Skinner replied "I found a version of me who wanted a new life. By all accounts he's happy, and doing better at it than I ever did. So there is that."

"I was stepping in to a dead man's shoes, so I hoped that I could make a few changes with no one noticing." Skinner replied "But you're right, Virgil. If I'm going to step into someone's shoes, it should be the shoes of someone who has a decent life." he looked over at the cowboy "I suppose that I'll have to remember that for the next step on my journey. And yeah, its good to be back here. Sometimes I think this is where my real home is, and all those other places are just dreams."
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

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#11
“Well, my friend,” he drawled, “Maybe this is your home. I knew a man, more than one man, really, who was never so happy as when he was on the road. He’d settle for a few weeks, feel the call, and move on. In a lot of ways, this place is nothing but the road. Around every corner’s something new, with just enough familiar that you don’t feel lost.” He gave the man a little shrug. “There’s worse things than being somewhere that everyone knows your name, partner. Well… depending on what you’ve done, I suppose.” But then, that shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Walter might be a little aimless, but he was a good man, all in all.

“So what’s the plan, partner? Any grand quest you’re looking for? Any sight you’re lookin’ to see? Any harriers you’re runnin’ from?” He doubted that last one, if he was trying to lose a tail, the last thing Walter would want to do was come to a bowling alley. Too many people would see him here, this alley got a strangely high draw, even for the Hub. He set his bottle in, and turned a moment to wave a negative at a questioning look he saw coming from one of the lanes. “Can’t fill in tonight, Dude, I’m a little busy catching up, here.” He felt a little bad not helping, they still hadn’t found a third bowler after they lost Donnie, but they’d manage. The Dude abides, after all.
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#12
"Maybe it is." Walter Skinner said with a shrug "Maybe I should get used to that. I don't know, I keep thinking of finding a little place out of the way, letting the sun soak into my bones, go fishing, maybe find a woman who likes her men old and crotchety. But you can't always get what you want, as the poet said." he sighed, thinking of his lost Maria, and took a pull on his beer.

"Not running from any trouble, which doesn't mean it won't find me here." he replied "I don't know what I'm looking for next. An adventure sounds good, it'd be a nice change of pace from what I've been doing lately." which was nothing worth mentioning, just a lot of small jobs on world's he'd never heard of. Something big, something he could be proud of doing, maybe that was what he needed to shake himself out of this funk.
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Westworld/The Dark Tower-Westworld-1

14 Posts
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#13
“You find a lady like that, you let me know if she has a sister, partner,” Virgil answered with that same easy smile. It wasn’t like anyone had ever actually seen him with a lady (or a man, for that matter). He’d always seemed quite happy to let everyone else have their relationships and live vicariously through them. The idea of being with a woman now, let alone a man, after the things he remembered… well, he just couldn’t see it. Didn’t mean he had to be a downer, though, and for some reason he couldn’t not make the little jokes about it.

He knew that aimless feeling, he supposed, he’d had it once or twice. “Well, you’re home now, my friend. We might not all know your name, but the ones that do really know you. Enjoy it. Probably won’t take long and something’ll come your way. Ka works like the wind, they used to say. You’re sitting there, then you get swept up in it like a dry leaf to wherever it wants to blow you.” Virgil put back the rest of his beer, then nodded to the bartender who reached for another one to bring the old cowboy.
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