001: The Beginning
Tim jerked his hands away from the arcade machine. He had just beaten Bubble Bobble with a modest score of 3,027840 points. This was not a great score on Bubble Bobble, but considering it was after only a period of 25 minutes it was a great score.
Behind Tim stood another person who held a stopwatch. He pressed a button, turning it off. "Time trial over! Twenty-five minutes, eleven seconds. That's a great time!"
"Not a bad time," Tim said as he rubbed his hand back through his gray hair. "But I should have done better. I'll have to get it down to twenty-two minutes next time."
"Tim, that's less than 15 seconds per level on average, and half of that time is waiting to be transported to the next level! I don't see how you can do it!"
The gray-clothed teenager tipped down a black pair of sunglasses. "Yeah, so? Twenty-two minutes... no more."
Ralph, a tad more colorful in his selection of clothes, sighed and shook his head, not understanding why Tim pushed himself so much. He then realized that Tim had begun moving toward the arcade's exit and began to follow him, catching up when he got to the doors.
"Sorry, Tim, I got lost in a thought and didn't see you had already begun to leave."
"Well, at least you didn't daydream quite so much as you normally do. You have to stop keeping so many thoughts in your head at once that you blank out on the rest of the world, Ralph. Being five percent in reality is enough, a half dozen less thoughts at a time will keep you there."
"Oh, and by the way, you missed an NES game on the way to the arcade. Remember that rummage sale we stopped at?"
"Yeah. What did I miss?"
"You've been looking for it for awhile." Tim held up a black cartridge above his shoulder.
"Hmm... unlicensed... Tengen... Marble Madness!"
Tim smiled. "You're getting to know your NES games. Jackpot." With that Tim flipped the cartridge to his friend, who caught it with a little bit of trouble, but not much.
Ralph grinned widely. "Thanks!"
"Welcome. Enjoy it."
The two walked toward their home until the reached the intersection where they had to part or go to Ralph's house, since Tim never allowed anybody, even Ralph, to go to his. Tim had always kept that element of mysteriousness around him, and that was one thing that made Ralph like to be around Tim so much.
"Will you be at the arcade again tomorrow, Tim?"
"Of course... it's a Sunday... have to go to my place of worship, don't I?"
Ralph laughed. "I guess so!"
"Tomorrow we play Mario Brothers... the original arcade game, not Super Mario Bros. I'll meet you here then." Tim pointed at the ground as he finished, indicating the corner they were presently at.
"Kay. 10:10 AM sound good?"
"Yeah... that'll give us forty-five minutes to get to the arcade and five minutes to use the change machine to get enough quarters for the day."
The next day Ralph awoke at 9:30 AM and got ready to go to the arcade with Tim. Ralph definitely wasn't as good as Tim at video games, but he definitely excelled at getting ready to go somewhere when he wanted to. By 9:55 AM Ralph was out the door and walking towards the corner where he was planning to meet Tim.
Eventually Ralph reached the corner, and said hello to Tim, who was watching a handheld television.
Tim looked up at Ralph. "Some mental case just took over the airwaves and is declaring that he's created a huge marble and, unless he is given two billion dollars worth of valuables within twenty four hours, will destroy the city."
"That's not the worst part, Ralph! He's starting with Nintendo of America Headquarters!"
Ralph screamed. "No!"
"Yes. But I think I know who he is... and where he lives."
"You do? Then we should tell the police!"
"Wrong. We're going to take him out ourselves." Tim pointed to a monitor that could be viewed in the background of the room that the insane broadcasting. "Look... right there... Marble Madness."
"So Mr. Crazy likes Marble Madness? I don't see what you're getting at."
"Yeah, Mr. Crazy likes Marble Madness... and it's Dr. Crazy... or rather Dr. VonMarcus."
"No, Dr. VonMarcus. He's also known as the Marble Madness Maniac on the Marble Madness newsgroup. He was talking about how he was planning to create a huge marble... and I know where he lives."
"You want us to go there, don't you?" Ralph sighed.
Tim nodded. "Of course!"
"Think about what might happen to us, Tim! We might get ourselves killed!"
"True, but it'll be a great game if we don't! Let's go!"
With that said, Tim ran off, with Ralph following a few feet behind, wishing he could stop Tim but following him to make sure he didn't get himself into too much trouble.
"You're insane, Tim, you know that? You're going to make me have an aneurysm someday!"
They arrived in front of Dr. VonMarcus's laboratory. Tim looked up, tipped his glasses back, and whistled.
"It's a big lab, isn't it?"
Tim shook his head, trying to focus. "Yeah, but it could be more menacing. Come on, let's get in there.
Tim waved his hands as a motion for Tim to follow and walked to the door. "Hmm... a keypad... I bet I know the password." He pressed a few buttons and the door opened, allowing the two in.
Ralph couldn't help but ask. "How did you know the password?"
"Logic. It was marble." Tim gave a small laugh then went into the door, with Ralph following close behind.
The door suddenly slammed shut automatically.
"Umm, Tim, I don't like this."
"Don't worry, it'll be fine. Follow me, I bet he's at the top level, we'll use the elevator."
The two of the entered a small elevator and Tim looked at a listing of what was on each story of the building.
"Hmm... strange. The top level is labeled one. Oh well, let's start there." He pressed the button and the elevator began to go up quickly.
Suddenly, as the elevator reached its peak speed, a metal sheet slammed down in the middle of the elevator, separating the two teenagers.
"Ralph, don't worry. Just go out of the elevator when it opens and we'll meet when we can."
Ralph sighed and responded. "Okay."
The door opened and Ralph stepped out, going into a darkened hallway from the lighted elevator. His footsteps were loud against the marble floor, but after a few minutes of stumbling he reached the end of the hallway and began to search for a way out.
Tim suddenly felt something push and something else close. He felt behind him. "No! I'm trapped!"
As Tim said that he heard a motor start and realized that he was on a platform moving up. He felt something against his head and began to duck, eventually having to squat to stop from being squashed. Slowly he felt around his new surroundings, which he determined to be spherical, and found a button and pushed it. Lights turned on as well as a screen, which showed the area around him.
He then heard a familiar voice. "Hey, nice to see that you made it."
"Yep, and VonMarcus is even more maniacal that I thought! Look around you by turning your joystick, it's Marble Madness!"
Ralph swerved his joystick around. "Hey, you're right! It looks exactly like the video game would if it were real!"
"Yep. Shall we play a game?"
"Umm... Okay, but let's be careful."
The two moved the marbles that they were in around the area. They soon reached the finish line for the level and were transported, by way of small lifts, to the next story of the building. They quickly passed the other levels and were at the final one in no time. Here the real challenge would begin.
"This is the ultimate race... the last level of the game... and probably the last thing we have to do until we get to the Mega-Marble"
"Yeah, I know, Tim. It's home to dangers that are completely foreign to the other levels. A tube that you have to launch yourself into... frictionless terrain... and finally the disappearing bridge, which is the hardest thing in the whole game!"
"Good job. You basically covered this level. Now, have you ever beaten it?"
Ralph shook his head. "Nope. I rarely have enough time by this point to launch myself into the tube. I know all of this from reading and watching you."
Tim nodded. "Okay. Well... let's hope watching me helped you a lot... because we're going in."
Ralph nodded and sighed. "I hope so too."
Tim began to position his marble behind the ramp to launch himself into the tube, with Ralph close behind him. "This'll be fun- an actual challenge with no replays. Switch to fast mode or else your marble'll never make it over the gap between the ramp and the tube.
As Tim went forward Ralph adjusted his marble for the jump and began to roll. They both launched off the ramp and made it into the tube, both coming out of different exits.
"Next challenge: frictionless terrain."
"Right, Ralph, and avoid the black marble by turning quickly and go straight across the frictionless stuff to avoid getting knocked off of this place and getting trapped down below."
Tim looked ahead. "Here's the marble. Turn!"
Tim turned sharply to the right and so did Ralph as he got to where Tim had been. They fortunately both missed the black marble, with Ralph nearly scraping it, and made their way across the unusual terrain safely.
They continued going for a short period of time then Tim stopped his marble and so did Ralph.
"Well, Ralph, we're there."
"The disappearing bridge."
In front of them lay platforms that disappeared and reappeared in a pattern with safe points every few dozen feet. Tim adjusted his marbles controls. "This is going to be hard. I'll go first, you follow when I tell you to."
Tim waited until the right time to launch his marble across then quickly moved across to the first safe spot. After a few more seconds he yelled, "Go!" and moved again, with Ralph moving to the safe spot behind him. They continued going like this until they had reached the end of the disappearing bridge and had thus completed the level.
The lift descended with them on it.
The sounds of machines whirring were loud as the marbles that Tim and Ralph were in were unlatched and had their tops removed by a mechanical hand. The two of them stood up and looked around them. They were in a huge room, at least forty feet high and one hundred feet wide and three hundred feet long. In the center of the room was what they had come to find and destroy: The huge mechanical marble of Dr. VonMarcus... the Mega-Marble.
Tim began to walk toward it and Ralph followed. The gigantic, shiny, black marble was at least thirty feet in diameter, but it was in a depression in the floor to hold it still.
"She's beautiful. I wish I didn't have to destroy her."
"You're right, Tim, but Dr. VonMarcus made it and, unless we destroy it, he'll destroy Redmond with it!"
Tim nodded. "Yeah, I know. Let's go in."
Tim opened up a hatch on the metallic monstrosity and went inside, with Ralph following. The path to the control room, where they determined was the logical place to destroy the marble, was straight ahead of them.
They reached the control room. Sounds of computers beeping could be heard, but there was no one else there. Tim walked up to a control panel and began looking over the buttons.
"This seems too easy, don't you think, Tim?"
"Yeah it... watch out!"
A mechanical arm grabbed Ralph and lifted him up into the air as a monitor turned on.
"Hello, trespassers," said the person on the screen, "Or should I say Tim and Ralph? No matter. Well, you've found my Mega-Marble... now what do you plan to do?"
"I think you know, Dr. VonMarcus."
"Oh no... I mustn't allow that."
"Oh yes, I think you will." Tim pressed a button and released Ralph from the grasp of the mechanical arm. He pressed another button. "You lose, VonMarcus."
A female voice came on. "Self destruction in two minutes. Override commands disabled. Please enter the escape pod."
Suddenly a floor panel in the center of the room pulled apart and a black marble rose up on a lift, its door opening.
"Get in the marble, Ralph. I'm taking out VonMarcus."
"Tim, you'll get trapped and be killed."
Tim shook his head. "I don't think so. I saw him entering another escape pod as soon as I activated self-destruct. There were two escape pods there. I'll take the other one. Plus, the escape pods only hold one. Now get in!"
With that said and done Tim pushed Ralph into the escape pod and closed the door. The lift descended slowly as Ralph pounded on the door, but it was no use. He was locked in.
The voice returned. "Self destruction in one minute."
Tim sighed and began to run.
The marble-shaped escape pod that Ralph was in sped toward the large metal door that hid the Mega-Marble from the outside world. He began pushing buttons, trying to get the marble to stop or the door to open, but it was of no use... the escape pod was on autopilot and would not change its course or respond to commands. As he was being continuously propelled toward the metal door he thought of Tim and hoped that he'd be alright, but knew that was not going to happen.
The marble crashed through the metal door and flew through the air for a few seconds before crashing into the ground, knocking him unconscious.
The door to the marble opened and light blinded Ralph as he began to wake.
"Tim?" he asked with a groan.
"Sorry, kid, but no. There was another vehicle like this one, but it was destroyed and covered in blood."
"No!" screamed Ralph. "Tim can't be dead! He just can't!"
"Kid, it'll be okay. Come on, we better make sure you're not hurt and then you can tell me what happened in there."
As Ralph walked away with the man who had opened the door to the escape pod a person wearing a pair of black sunglasses watched him from high up in a tree.
"Don't worry, I'm not dead... I just need to seem to be right now."
With that the person dropped from the tree, entered a black marble, and sped off toward the distances.