“This is ridiculous,” said Tom. “Sneaking into Hyrule Castle should totally have counted as a dungeon!”
“Apparently it didn’t,” answered Rick. “It still says you have one more to go.”
“Whatever, I’m up for it,” replied Alli.
“You may be, but I’m certainly not!” yelled Tom. “For the past three dungeons I’ve had to fly around dodging monsters, projectiles, and most notably YOU in order to lead us through all the puzzles!“
“Whiner? WHINER?! I think I’ve earned a good whine, after all I’ve been through. Let’s see. First, you almost strangled me to death, then I was nearly swallowed whole by a giant fire-breathing dinosaur, and then you ‘accidentally’ hacked off one of my wings while trying to beat that jellyfish boss.”
“Heh heh, yeah, I sure did.”
“IT’S NOT FUNNY!”
“Apparently you’ve never seen a fairy fly around in circles for an hour.”
“All right, that is IT! I am OUT of here!” Tom felt bile rise up in his throat as he yelled. “Good luck finding your way through the next level, bitch.” With that, Tom took off into the sky, leaving Alli behind to fend for herself. He couldn’t be sure if Rick was still watching him, but if he was Tom hoped he had the good sense to keep quiet for a while. Where the hell does she get off, treating me like that? Tom thought to himself. If it weren’t for me, she’d still be stuck on that first puzzle, and the game probably would have killed both of us by now. And what do I get for all my trouble? Nothing but insults and injuries. Well I’ve had it. At this point, she’ll probably kill me before the game does.
Tom flew, eventually finding a tree bough where he could rest and collect himself. From the top of the tree he could see over much of the land of Hyrule. The view was beautiful at first, but as he continued watching, Tom noticed that it lacked the vitality that a similar panorama would have in the real world, and for the first time since entering I.D.E.A.S., he felt truly homesick. His life in the outside world was not extraordinary—in fact, it was rather mundane—but the things he saw and felt were real. Colors in the games were always muted or too bright, voices and music sounded like they were coming from a speaker, and somehow the texture of everything was always just a little bit off. More than anything, though, he missed feeling like his life was actually his. Others could complain about being controlled by corporations or governments all day, but, compared to having to borrow the lives of videogame characters with very few choices to make, their remarks seemed rather trivial now. He very much wished he could just go home.
“Tom? Tom, is that you?” Rick’s voice boomed out of the heavens.
“Hey Rick. Yeah, it’s me.”
“No, not really. What took you so long?”
“The game’s focused on Link, so when you flew off my view the system stuck with Alli. I had to manually search for you.”
“So Alli’s not around? Good.”
“Tom, I know all this is hard, but…”
“No, Rick, you don’t know. You’re not the one stuck in here. You’re not the one who may very well DIE if things go wrong in here. You’re not the one who has to put up with Alli.”
“Actually, I kind of do. I have her body out here, and I have to take care of it so she’ll have somewhere to return to.”
“Is she walking around and acting like a total ass?”
“Then trust me, I’d much rather have your job.”
“All right, fine. Those are all perfectly good reasons to be upset. And yeah, in your position I would have had enough of Alli by now, too. But until I figure out a way to get you out of there, you don’t have any choices but to keep going. Not unless you want the game to kill you.”
“I could always just wait for the game to kill Alli.”
“I could just wait for the game to kill Alli. Then I progress to the next game without her. That would solve a lot of my problems right there.”
“First off, we have no idea if that would even work. Secondly, I can’t believe you’re even considering this.”
“Why not? It’s not like she’s doing me any favors by being here, and I was getting along fine before she came along. Besides, she might not die if she loses. For all we know she might just move on to another game and leave me alone.”
“That certainly WON’T happen. Remember her boyfriend, the reason Alli’s here in the first place? He was in the system, and now he’s gone. If he’s not in the system, and if he’s not in his body, he’s dead. D-E-A-D. And Alli will be, too, if you keep being so selfish.”
“Still not seeing your point.”
“For crap’s sake, Tom, get over yourself! Yeah, Alli’s been a bitch to you, but from what I’ve learned about her, maybe she hasn’t had the best life so far. Does that make it OK for you to just let her die? Last time I checked, that’s called murder.”
Tom had never heard Rick talk to him like this before. Rick had always been meek and rather unassuming, more concerned with whatever puzzle he was working out in his head than asserting himself. This Rick was like an entirely new person, one that was willing to tell Tom what he needed to hear and didn’t care how blunt he needed to be to do so. Tom was impressed, and it was Rick’s bit of common sense that finally helped him remember his.
“You’re…you’re right. Alli’s mean, rude, and thoroughly infuriating, but she doesn’t deserve to be killed by some machine.” Tom now felt ashamed of himself as he considered the things he said before. “Hell, she’s probably feeling a lot of the same things I am, which makes her the closest thing I have to a friend in this infernal device.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that.”
“Yeah, me too. So where is the battle-axe, anyway?”
“Well, she got tired of waiting for you, so she went through the Temple of Time so she could finish up the last dungeon.”
“Oh, well, without me, I doubt she could have gotten too far.”
“Actually, according to my system, she’s already at the Forest Temple, and is almost at the boss.”
“How the hell did she manage that?!”
“I…don’t know. Honestly, I’m as surprised as you are.”
“All right, I better hurry, then. Without knowing what she’s doing, that boss is liable to kill her.”
With that, Tom hurried to the Temple of Time, hoping he was not too late.