The Quantum Leap meets Captain N story of a gamer literally sucked into videogames.
(To catch up to speed with the story and read the previous editions of “Quantum Geek,” click here.)
The first thing Tom noticed as the light subsided was the faint sound of steel drums, followed shortly by the smell of salt being carried on the wind. Opening his eyes, he realized he was at the top of a large cliff overlooking an island. A town below was lit by glass lamps, and from it rose the sounds of many men drinking and generally having some raucous fun.
“Hunh,” said Tom, “I don’t recognize this game. Do you, Alli? Alli? Alli?” Alli, however, was nowhere to be seen.
“Rick, are you here?” Once again, silence. “Great, just great. So I’m all alone, I have no one to guide me, and I don’t have any idea what game I’m in. Guess I better go find Alli, and see if she knows anything.”
Tom followed a small path that wound down the side of the bluff and led straight into the town, hoping that someone there could give him some clue as to where his reluctant cohort was located or what he was supposed to do. Spotting one of the locals Tom made his way up to the man, seemingly some sort of sailor, and struck up a conversation.
“Um, hello. I’m looking for my friend. She has a bit of a temper and likes to swear a lot.”
“Well if she’s into scrappin’ and cussin’, you might try the SCUMM Bar on the other side of town.”
“The Scum Bar?” asked Tom.
“No no no. The SCUMM Bar. You’re saying it wrong.”
“How did you…right, whatever. Either way it sounds positively pleasant. The other side of town, you said?”
“All right, thanks.” As Tom turned to leave he noticed a woman staring at him from the doorway of one of the houses, seemingly beckoning him inward. She disappeared, however, almost as soon as he saw her, leaving Tom wondering if anyone had been there at all. The house was an ominous sight: a large carved skull adorned the top of the doorway, and various potions and curios could be seen in the window. Under normal (i.e. not being trapped in a videogame) circumstances, Tom would have given the building and its resident phantom a wide berth; but the situation being what it was, he realized entering such a unique edifice was probably going to be beneficial to his current goals, whatever they were. Putting the search for Alli aside he strode to the door and, as he prepared to knock, watched unsurprised as the door crept open of its own accord.
“Yeaaaahhhhh, saw that one coming,” muttered Tom as he stepped inside.
“I’m sorry you find my welcome so cliché,” said a deep woman’s voice, heavily accented with Jamaican, from somewhere within the room.
As Tom’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw the woman from the doorway seated across the room. She was in a large, ornate chair, which was conveniently just big enough to house her large frame. She was adorned with all sorts of trinkets, feathers, and jewels and looked like, to Tom, the game’s token mystical character.
“Well, you know, when you’ve been around as much as I have you tend to see these types of things a lot. Anyway, I don’t suppose you can clue me in as to what exactly I’m supposed to be doing, or where my friend is?”
“Patience, Guybrush Threepwood. Your destiny as a mighty pirate will come, but first–”
“Whoa whoa whoa, let me stop you there. I’ve heard some WEIRD names in my time, but Guybrush Threepwood? What the hell kind of name is that?”
“You would prefer Tom, perhaps?”
A chill ran up Tom’s spine. “What did you call me?” So far, nothing inside the machine besides Alli had addressed Tom by his real name, and only the Tyrant and the possessed Pokémon trainers had been able to tell that he was something more than the character he had been playing.
“It doesn’t matter. What does is that you find your partner, and I’d suggest you do it sooner rather than later,” said the woman, with a hint of caution to her voice. “Check the governor’s mansion above the town; I believe you will find her there.”
“Um…OK,” stammered Tom, still not knowing what to make of the situation.
“And one more thing: this world is a strange place, and you never know what you might find useful. Keep your eyes open for any strange or unusual objects; they just may prove helpful.”
“Yeah, sure.” That was pretty generic videogame advice, thought Tom. Her using my name must have been a fluke. After all, it’s a pretty common name, so the original programmers could have just thrown it in there.
“Now, off with you,” said the woman authoritatively, “there’s much to do.” Tom turned and walked out the door, but as he did he thought he heard the woman say, “and be sure to take care of Alli.” As he turned back the door slammed in his face, stuck fast against any and all attempts to open it.
“Ha ha, OK, I get it! It’s you, Rick!” yelled Tom to the skies. “You went incommunicado for a bit, but now you’re back and you’re having some fun with me, right? C’mon, own up to it—I know you’re there.” Tom’s calls were met with odd glares from people on the street, but no response from Rick.
Tom no longer knew what to think. As he saw it, there were a few possible explanations. One, Rick really WAS messing with him, but Tom seriously doubted he would keep the charade up this long. Two, Alli was messing with him, but this was not very likely, as Alli preferred a more direct, physically painful approach to her pranks. Three, I.D.E.A.S. knew who he was and was trying to help him, but considering the system’s earlier attempts to kill him, this seemed as unlikely as the other two possibilities.
Tom felt very confused, but one thing he knew for sure: when in doubt in a game, always follow the creepy mystic’s advice. With that he started making his way toward the grand mansion overlooking the town, hoping that he would find a few answers there.