The GameCola staff must band together if they want to survive Zero-Two’s most dangerous game.
(Inspired by the hit DS visual novel 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.)
* ~ * ~ *
Paul, Jeddy, Jeff, and Diana made their way down the center passage, which was well lit with a soft golden glow. The walls were covered with polished wood paneling and the floor was carpeted in a dark green.
“This looks sort of familiar. Not like I’ve been here before, but like I’ve seen something like it…” Jeddy mused as they walked.
“I know what you mean,” Diana agreed.
“It kind of looks like… a pool table,” Jeff offered. The other two nodded in relief. They’d obviously been thinking about it for a bit.
Paul, leading the group, seemed to be completely oblivious to the conversation occurring behind him. He stopped as a door blocked their way, the others halting right behind him.
The door was made of polished wood, just like the walls. It had a polished gold plate on it reading Game Room.
“Game Room, huh?” Paul muttered, turning the handle. To his surprise, it was unlocked.
The room was bright and cheerful, still with the same wood-paneled walls and green carpet. Lamps hanging from the ceiling lit up the room with a warm, friendly feel. Various tables and chairs were spread around the room.
“So what are we supposed to do in here?” Jeff asked.
“There’s another door over there, let’s try it,” Diana replied halfheartedly. They all knew that the door would be locked. Nevertheless, the four trooped over to it. Paul jiggled the handle. Nothing.
“So now what?” Jeddy said, frowning. They turned around, moving to stand in the middle of the room.
“There’s gotta be a way out,” Paul told them. “Look around and shout if you see anything out of the ordinary.”
They spread out, Diana filling in the chatroom on what was happening as they searched.
Joe Reviewer: So what exactly are they looking for? Can we help?
rizziman: I don’t think so, I mean, we can’t exactly see.
“Hey guys, come over here,” Paul called. Everyone converged near the right wall. “I found this on this table,” he said, holding up a note on thick parchment written with flowing blue ink.
“Well, read it!” Jeff said impatiently.
“Okay, okay…” Paul cleared his throat and began.
Welcome, Group Two. Since you are the bigger group, your challenge is slightly more… complex.
No one looked particularly happy about this.
Each player must select a table and complete the game on it. Upon completion, each player will receive a key to unlock the final game. More instructions will follow. So, Group 2, are you ready to begin? If you are, take your place at a table.
“Well, let’s get started, I suppose,” Diana said, making her way over to one of the tables and sitting down. As she set the iPad down next to her, she noticed an indentation in the table that looked similar to the top of her bracelet, so she pressed it into the hole. The others followed suit, each at a separate table. As they did this, a screen on each tabletop flickered to life, bearing words in that now familiar blue font.
Are you ready?
Two buttons, bearing YES and NO, appeared beneath the words. After exchanging slightly nervous glances, the four all pushed YES.
Very well. Good luck, Group Two. Seek a way out.
Instructions began to scroll across the screen in front of her.
Miss Gray, your game is blackjack.
Diana grinned. She’d played blackjack all the time with her dad as a kid. As she was thinking this, three sets of blue digital cards flickered into being in front of her. Each set had one card (a nine of hearts, an ace of spades, and a king of clubs) and two places where a card was clearly meant to go. Across the table from her, two facedown blue cards formed, clearly the dealer’s hand.
Your goal is to make all three hands in front of you beat the dealer. Don’t be nervous; it is possible with one combination. However, you do not know what the dealer has in his hand.
Five cards appeared in front of her in a line. They were a seven of diamonds, a nine of spades, a queen of hearts, a six of clubs, and a four of diamonds.
You may choose either one or two cards to place in the slots beside the cards you already possess. All the cards must be used. Think carefully: Once all the cards are put into place, there’s no going back. Good luck.
“Okay…” Diana muttered to herself. Her first instinct was to immediately pair the ace and the queen, but it was too obvious. She soon figured out why: It would force her to bust one of her other hands. After about ten minutes of adding in her head, she had her answer. She selected the six and the four and paired them with the ace. “That’s twenty-one,” she whispered. Then she tapped the nine and put it with the other nine. “Eighteen,” she breathed. Finally, she picked the seven and put it next to the king. “Seventeen.” She could barely breathe as the dealer’s cards flipped over.
Nine… and seven. Sixteen.
Diana exhaled loudly. She’d been afraid the dealer might have seventeen, which would have caused a push, and therefore, a loss.
Congratulations, Miss Gray. Here is your reward.
There was a small click and a drawer slid out of the bottom of the table into Diana’s lap. Something was lying in it, cushioned with red velvet. “You have got to be kidding me…”
Instructions began to scroll across the screen in front of him.
Mr. Day, your game is dice.
Jeff realized that he should have figured that out: The holes on his table were more deep and square. There were two columns of three.
As you may or may not know, some dice rolls have special names, specifically in the game Craps. Your challenge is to put these dice in the proper order (top to bottom) according to their names: 1. Snake eyes 2. Boxcars 3. Hard Eight. Think carefully: Once the dice are set, there is no moving them. Good luck.
Digital dice appeared in front of Jeff. He picked one up and examined it. It felt just like a regular die, except it was clear and the dots glowed a bright blue. He turned it to a one and placed it in the top left spot. The dot immediately turned red, indicating that it could not be moved. Jeff picked up another, turned it to a one, and inserted it next to the other one. One row down, two to go.
He looked at the next row. “Boxcars, huh…” he mused. He was pretty sure that boxcars were double sixes. He could only hope that he was right.
Soon, two rows were glowing red and Jeff was moving on to the third and final row. “Hard eight…” He ran through all the possible ways to make eight in his head. “Four and four!” he decided finally. The final die almost slipped from his fingers, but he managed to insert two fours into the last row.
Congratulations, Mr. Day. Here is your reward.
A drawer slid open, revealing something surrounded by soft blue velvet. “What the…?”
Instructions began to scroll across the screen in front of him.
Mr. Jedraszczak, your game is War. In War, you and your opponent both have half the deck. Place down cards, and whoever has the higher number takes both cards. Your goal is to get the entire deck. If you both play the same number, lay down three cards and flip over a fourth. Whoever’s card is higher takes all the cards on the table. Good luck.
“Great, a luck-based game,” Jeddy muttered sarcastically. Half a deck of blue digital-looking cards appeared in front of him and he picked them up. In front of him, a blue seven of hearts appeared from his invisible opponent. Jeddy laid down his first card. A four of spades. The two cards disappeared and Jeddy told himself that it was fine. Only a four.
A few minutes later, it was going about the same. Jeddy would win one, then his opponent would win one. Neither seemed to be gaining or losing ground. Then it happened. Both cards were aces: Jeddy’s an ace of diamonds and the other an ace of clubs. “This could be a gamechanger,” Jeddy whispered, putting down his required three cards and flipping over his fourth. A three of hearts. He would need a miracle.
Three cards slowly appeared on the other side, then the fourth revealed itself. A two of spades. The cards swept toward Jeddy and he picked them up with shaking hands. It didn’t take him long to realize as the game continued that he had somehow ended up with all four aces. It went by quickly after that. Soon Jeddy held the entire deck in his hands, grinning in triumph.
Congratulations, Mr. Jedraszczak. Here is your reward.
A drawer in the table slid open. Jeddy removed an object from its light green velvet lining. “This is…”
Instructions began to scroll across the screen in front of him.
Mr. Franzen, your game is poker. You already have three cards. Choose from among the five other cards to create the highest possible hand.
A jack of clubs, an eight of clubs, and a ten of clubs appeared in front of Paul as he tried to remember any poker knowledge he might have. Behind those, in a neat line, appeared a queen of hearts, a ten of diamonds, a seven of clubs, a ten of hearts, a nine of clubs, and an ace of spades.
Paul ran through all the possible hands in his head. “Three of a kind of those tens, straight…” His hand hovered over the queen. “Wait, wait, wait. Which is worth more, straight with a high card or straight of all the same thing?” He thought about it for a second, then decided to go with all the same. He selected the seven and the nine and waited with baited breath.
Congratulations, Mr. Franzen. Here is your reward.
A drawer slid open. Something lay in it, nestled in gold velvet. “Huh…?”
* ~ * ~ *
All four people met in the center of the room, all clutching the objects from the drawers. “What does this mean?” asked Jeddy aloud, but no one knew the answer.
Suddenly there was a loud sound from the wall to the right of the door, near the table where they had found the note.
“What in the world?!” Jeff exclaimed for all of them. The paneling was falling off the wall, revealing a huge screen. Words scrolled across it.
As I’m sure you’ve realized by now, Group Two, this is your final challenge. Mario Kart to the death.
Everyone grew noticeably paler, looking with horror at the wheels and Wiimotes clutched in their hands.
Well, not exactly to the death, but it could be close to it. This is how it’s going to work. Each of you will play Mario Kart against each other and three computer players. After each race, the human and computer player who comes in last will be eliminated. The human player will be sent through the door into the other room, where some kind of…grave peril awaits. I won’t say what; that would be spoiling the surprise now, wouldn’t it? This will happen until there is only one person and one computer left, and they will keep racing until the human wins. Once the final human wins, the door on the other side of the ‘peril room’ will be unlocked, and you can all escape. Just remember, time will be of the essence, as the longer one stays in the ‘peril room,’ the worse it will be, of that I can assure you. And also, I will be the final player. I look forward to racing with you. Good luck.
The giant screen lit up abruptly as their Wiimotes flickered to life. Paul was player one, Jeff was player two, Diana was player three, and Jeddy was player four. All their characters had been selected for them. Yoshi, Koopa Troopa, Rosalina, and Toad were all ready to go.
Before the four human players had time to react, the screen changed to their first race, Moonview Highway. The four human players were starting in the back, of course. It was odd to see only eight racers on the Wii, but there was no time to question.
It was immediately clear which racer was Zero-Two. They were a Mii-looking character (the only one on a bike) with large glasses covering its face. But before they could think about anything else, Latiku appeared with his little stoplight.
“Three, two one, GO!” The racers shot off, avoiding oncoming cars with precision. A few chose to take the higher road with the speed boost right off the bat, but all went well. Paul was winning, with Jeddy, Jeff, Diana, and Zero-Two just behind. Paul sent three green shells back and both Jeddy and Diana were hit, falling back into fourth and fifth.
On the second lap, Diana made the first major blunder. A muffled curse sounded from the end of the line as she took a turn a little too wide and slipped off into the trees. Her eyes were wide as Rosalina was lifted back onto the track and she accelerated, but the damage was done. She’d fallen into sixth.
An incoming bullet knocked Jeff into a wall and he groaned as Zero-Two and Jeddy zoomed by him. A red shell soon took care of Jeddy and Jeff took third.
Going into the final lap, Paul was still in first, fingers tight on the wheel. He wasn’t as familiar with this version as he was with the one on the N64, but he was relieved that it was working out in his favor. Right behind him was Zero-Two, practically on his tail. Jeddy and Jeff were battling it out for third and fourth, and Diana was sweating in fifth.
As they approached the first turn in lap three, there was a stifled scream. Diana watched in horror as Rosalina plummeted to certain death in the exact same place that she’d failed last lap. “No…” she murmured as she was set back on the track in seventh. There was no hope for her now. She made a split-second decision and smirked. If she couldn’t win, she was going to make it a hell of a lot harder for Zero-Two.
The other three were just entering the tunnel as a kart came barreling out of it in the opposite direction, slamming directly into Zero-Two’s bike. It was Rosalina.
“Diana?! What are you doing?!”
“Go!” she yelled, turning her wheel quickly in order to block the bike. “If he’s the last computer player, he’s out too!”
The guys finished, Jeff in first due to a lucky mushroom, Paul barely scraping second, and Jeddy with an easy third. All eyes were on Diana’s corner of the screen as she expertly blocked Zero-Two into a wall. “Have you done this before?” Jeddy asked.
“Maybe,” she replied, grinning. But before she could react, an item box hit Zero-Two from behind and lightning struck them all, rendering Diana useless. The biker raced for the finish line, just barely beating Daisy, the last computer player.
“Sorry guys. I tried,” she said, getting up and picking up the iPad. “But I guess that’s it.”
Miss Gray, please proceed into the next room. Mr. Day, Mr. Franzen, and Mr. Jedraszczak, prepare for your next race.
There was a click of the door unlocking and they all looked toward it, Diana’s eyes a little nervous. “Good luck,” she told them. “And you’d better hurry. I don’t want to spend too long with whatever’s in here.”
“We will,” Paul said firmly.
Diana disappeared through the door to their left. They heard it lock again as the screen faded to black and their next race appeared: Dry Dry Ruins. They were starting in the front three spots, but from the sixth place spot, they could hear Zero-Two’s engine revving behind them.
“Three, two, one, GO!” All three of them tried to stick to the inside, but Zero-Two somehow managed to sneak up from behind and take first place.
“What?! How did that happen?” Paul muttered, twisting the wheel sharply to the left to cut off the other two. But he was too quick. Going over the bridge, he carelessly ran into the Pokey, allowing Jeddy to take second. Jeff was right in front of Paul. It was a close race for the top four.
Going into the ruins on the second lap, Jeddy and Jeff encountered Zero-Two stuck in the falling sand. They wasted no time in zooming past him. Jeddy hit a banana peel, giving Jeff the opportunity he needed. He did a trick off a jump, securing the lead for the time being. Paul passed Zero-Two with a carefully aimed green shell and took third behind Jeddy.
Third lap, Jeff hit a fake block that Jeddy had carefully mixed in with the real ones on lap two. Jeddy and Paul quickly caught up with him, but Jeddy got stuck behind Jeff somehow. “Move!” Jeddy hissed at the karts, finally turning the wheel harshly in irritation, almost hitting Zero-Two, who’d been making a move on second. He instead took third, with Jeff trailing behind.
“No!” Jeff groaned. Then his face lit up. Blue shell.
Paul was on the final jump. The finish line was in sight, but he knew Jeddy, Zero-Two, and Jeff were all right behind him. Then the blue shell began to circle above him. A strangled yell escaped him as it hit. Jeddy and Zero-Two skirted the explosion and crossed the finish line in first and second, respectively. Paul recovered just as Jeff was passing him. He roughly twisted the wheel, cutting Jeff off and slamming him into the left wall.
“Hey!” But it was too late, the damage had been done. Paul crossed the finish line in third, Jeff in fourth.
“I don’t approve of that,” Jeff grumbled.
Mr. Day, please proceed into the next room. Mr. Jedraszczak and Mr. Franzen, prepare for your next race.
“Hurry up guys.” And with that, Jeff left, the door closing ominously behind him. The screen lit up. Bowser’s Castle. With only four left now, it was clear that the stakes were getting high.
“Three, two, one, GO!” And they were off, zooming toward a bridge over the lava, the computer player already lagging behind. Both human players were concentrating intensely. They knew that whoever won this would be playing Zero-Two one-on-one.
The first lap went without incident, but in the middle of the second lap, a well-placed bomb by Zero-Two knocked both Jeddy and Paul back. The figure on a bike zoomed by them both. They tried to get back on track. Paul was able to speed on without a problem, but right in front of Jeddy was a mud pit. After slowly making his way through it, he tried to catch up.
Third lap, Jeddy managed to catch up to the two in front with the help of a golden mushroom, and it was a three-way battle for first as the finish line came into view. They each got a final item box. Zero-Two dropped a fake block, which the two quickly dodged. Jeddy threw a banana ahead on the track, but everyone effortlessly maneuvered around that as well. Paul’s item box finally stopped spinning, revealing three mushrooms. “YES!” he exclaimed, using them all at once and zooming over the finish line. Jeddy was right behind him, but it was too late.
Mr. Jedraszczak, please proceed into the next room. Mr. Franzen, prepare for your final race.
“Good luck, Paul,” Jeddy told him as he exited the room. “You can do this. Just do it fast.”
“Thanks Jeddy,” Paul replied as the door locked again. This was it.
A noise from the screen broke him out of the zone.
Anna: Paul! Can you see us?
“Yes…” he said aloud in confusion.
smallgirl23: You have to win, Paul. Win fast.
Joe Reviewer: We don’t know what’s in there, but Diana’s in bad shape.
“After what, six minutes?” Paul muttered. Whatever was in there, it must be bad.
The screen faded into the race, but the chat was still on the side.
rizziman: Hey, we can see the race!
Anna: Go Paul!
The race revealed itself, the best for last. Rainbow Road. The two hurtled down the steep slope, Zero-Two gaining just a bit of an edge. As they bounced over the wavy path, Paul got a red shell, which he strategically waited to use until the bike in front of him was rounding a curve. Zero-Two faltered and Paul got a lead going into lap two, with the chat cheering him on.
As Paul was carefully turning around the holes in the floor, something began beeping. “A bullet?” Paul said aloud incredulously, then he was knocked back by Zero-Two speeding by him. “What?! Unfair!” He could see the bike rounding the curve ahead of him as he seethed with anger.
The third lap continued much the same way, Zero-Two always one turn ahead of Paul. In the final stretch, Zero-Two skipped the item boxes altogether, choosing to go for speed, but Paul took the risk. And it paid off.
Paul abused the heck out of the golden mushroom he received, crossing the finish line milliseconds before Zero-Two. He let out a yell of triumph as the chat went wild.
smallgirl23: He did it!!!
Joe Reviewer: Congrats!
rizziman: That was amazing!
Anna: So cool!
The screen faded to black and words appeared.
Congratulations, Mr. Franzen. The doors leading into and out of the next room are now unlocked. I would hurry.
Paul rushed into the next room. It was made of metal, with imprints of face cards staring down at him from the walls. They looked stern and disapproving, but that wasn’t the main feature of the room. It was HOT. The metal walls made it like an oven, at least 150 degrees. Paul was sweating already.
Jeddy and Jeff were crouched next to Diana on the floor. Jeff’s face was very red and Jeddy had beads of sweat on his brow. Diana looked very pale and dizzy.
“P-Paul,” she stuttered, grinning and standing up shakily, still holding the iPad. “You did it!”
“Was it like this in here the whole time?” he asked.
“No, it was bearable when I was in here alone, but I could feel it heating up. Then Jeff came in and I thought I saw Jeddy… and then I don’t really remember anything else.”
“The doors are unlocked; let’s get out of here,” Paul said quickly. “Can you walk?”
“Y-yeah, I’m okay. I just don’t do heat,” she said, starting to move to the door.
“Don’t you live in California?” Paul asked. Diana turned and gave him a sarcastic look.
“Does this feel like California-level heat to you?” she asked. She threw the door open and gave a sigh of relief as cool air hit her flushed face. The others practically trampled her in their rush to get out of the room themselves.
“Well, let’s keep going,” Jeff said, pointing to the end of the hall, where a pair of double doors awaited them. They walked down to them and paused before them.
“Ready?” Paul asked. They all nodded, and Paul threw them open and they entered the next room, where they found…