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Sunday, January 30, 1994, 3:30 PM
"No!" Kevin jumped in front of Lana. Luckily, the Grand Moff waved the guards to stand down. "We're telling the truth!" Kevin panted, out of breath from the shock. "We've never encountered the New Republic. Only Rogue Squadron, who said they weren't official." Grand Moff Arisan smiled wryly. "So,...your benefactors are Wedge Antilles' little band of would-be heroes. How did you find him so deep in space? I was not aware anyone on this world had a hyperdrive system." "We don't." Rick answered, solemnly sitting in the corner. "We warped into your galaxy." He could tell by Arisan's unsettling interest that he had just made a mistake. "I guess your pilots should be told not to fly into black holes." "The black hole jump? It's real?" "You didn't use the warp?" Mike asked. Arisan scoffed. "The hyperdrive system on all of our long-distance vessels can send us between two points in less than a second. I assume these warps are fixed locations?" No one spoke, and so Arisan nodded to his guards: "So be it." "They're fixed." Simon admitted. "Permanent stable locations capable of transporting numerous items or passengers from one fixed point to another, usually a game world located within the realms of Videoland." The rest of the N Teamsters looked in shock at the vampire hunter's explanation. He shrugged. "I was bored! I read a book! Forgive me!" "Okay," Mike said to Arisan, "maybe your pilots aren't that bad." "And the boy?" Arisan motioned to Rock. "He qualifies as a pilot?" "Actually, - " Rock began, just before Kevin broke in as not to reveal one secret too many. "Actually," Keene whispered, standing close to the Grand Moffed and shielding his mouth with one hand, "he's very sick. It was a wish for him to fly in an actual mission." "And you let him?" Arisan disbelieved. Kevin shrugged. "Well, we are the good guys, right?" Arisan frowned as Kevin returned to the bench. "There are no 'good guys' or 'bad guys' in this battle, young man. The Empire's purpose is to spread order to wherever it may reach. Strong. Powerful. Militant." "Racist?" Rick asked. "Isn't it true the only non-humans employed by the empire are actually slaves in captivity?" Arisan's frown increased. "I will allow you one hour of peace in this cell, at which time I shall return. If you do not answer my questions, or if you disrespect me in any way, I will kill each and every one of you." The Grand Moff nodded once again to his guards. All three left the room. "How'd you know that?" Kevin asked Rick. "A few books came out after the movies." "Ahh." Rock turned his wrist over and opened a hidden compartment. Quickly, he withdrew a communicator. "Rock to Blue Team." he spoke. "Mandi here. Go ahead." "We've got problems." "We know. We're working on it." "You are?" Rock asked, surprised. "Okay, so Mark's working on it. Matt and Nick went to finish up your job. The rest of us are stuck here planting charges." "Better than being shot at." a second voice, Andres', noted. "We did that too." Mike added. "Guys! Pipe down!" Mandi ordered. "You have approximately one hour. Just sit tight until then. We may be cutting it close, but we should be able to get you out of there." "Don't worry." Rock forced a smile. "We'll make it." He deactivated the comlink and deposited it back into his forearm. "We're doomed."
"Matt?" Mark whispered into his communicator. He had been sitting in the vents for fifteen mintues without any sort of contact. "Nick? Mandi?" No answer. "Anyone?" Just a hiss of a closed channel. "Great." He returned to his portable viewscreen. As things began to quiet down around him, he decided being silent himself was the best thing to do. He chose the function marked 'TYPE'. The screen was replaced by a touch-sensing keyboard. "STINKY" he typed. The keypad momentarily disappeared, except for the lower-right corner's enter key. Red text flowed along the screen once more. "Designate R2-D2 currently unavailable." Mark sighed. He hadn't been expecting this. "It's gonna be one of those days."
Andres firmly secured the round charge, a metal device about the size of a smoke detector, to what appeared to be a key support for the section of the complex. A green light flashed when he turned the front dial. The light turned solid, and a small digital display, only an inch-and-a-half wide, awaited programming. He pulled a small remote control-styled item from the front pocket of his flight suit and connected it to the charge. "Hey," Andres asked Mike, "was it arming code, then time?" Mike shook his head. "No, first the time, then the arming code, and then we use the master remote to synchronize them." Andres nodded and began entering the timeframe. "1:00:00" appeared on the charge's display. He searched his mind for the arming code. "8 6 7 5 3 0 9" he typed. "Our arming code is 'Jenny'?" he asked, most likely to himself. "You guys done yet?" Mandi asked, brandishing her enhanced Zapper. Her purpose was look-out, but the weapon intimidated the two young men enough to keep them on their toes. "I don't want more guards coming up here. The old ones are beginning to stink." She kicked one of the dead armored troopers on the ground. "This'd go a lot faster with six people." Mike informed her, completing another charge. "How many more do we have left?" Mandi gestured to her Power Pack. Mike opened the equipment case on her back and removed the final three charges. "Well, we're just about set, and I'm not sticking around to watch these things go off." "We'll warp out at the five minute mark." Mandi reminded. "I hope everyone else will make it out, too."
"Yes?" the central operator asked, storm troopers before him. "What is it?" "Sir, the Grand Moff wishes to speak with you at your earliest convenience." the first storm trooper informed him. "Very well. I will be with him shortly." "He asked that your earliest convenience be immediately." The operator's eyes widened as the man stood, tugging at his shirt. "Remain here until I return." he ordered as the door shut behind him. "Yes, sir." the first storm trooper responded. The second removed his helmet. "I can't believe that worked!" Nick all but laughed. "He fell for it." The first storm trooper removed his helmet, glancing at the controls in the room. Various monitors showed activity within the dome. Matt smiled. "Bonus!" "How so?" Nick asked, reaching out the door to fetch the Power Packs they left outside the room. "This is also where all the video feed goes for the security cameras. We don't have to worry about any visitors." He punched at some keys. He removed the viewscreen from his Power Pack and scanned it. Finding the R2 units' frequencies, he input the data into the computer. The upload began. "Twenty percent,..." he said, "forty-five,... eighty-two,...done!" Matt instantly returned the terminal to its previous screen and typed on his personal viewscreen. "STINKY" he typed. He hoped the unit wasn't already in use. "User of this terminal is not authorized. Please enter password." "*********" echoed on the screen as Matt ferociously typed. ENTER. "Access granted. State request:"
A beeping caught Mark's attention. Frantically, he looked to his watch. He sighed. "No. Still got forty minutes." Maybe more. Mark had set his watch before the charges were installed. He may have up to another twenty minutes, but he didn't want to bet on it. Where was the noise coming from. He picked his viewscreen up from beside him and noticed a flashing, yellow wire frame drawing of an R2. He touched it, and a green text flooded the screen. "Request from remote user acknowledged:" To Mark's delight, a detailed diagram of the entire dome was presented to him. "Stinky, pinpoint my location." Nothing. "Oh. Right." Mark brought up the keypad once more. A yellow dot appeared in one of the air vents. Mark typed: "PINPOINT DETENTION CELL" The image rotated slightly to fit both locations in the same view as clearly as possible. An entire room flashed yellow - not far from the other destination either. "I'm almost right on top of them." Mark realized, as he once again began his crawl through the air ducts, this time using his viewscreen as a compass. "Won't be long now."
"Last one." Andres told his two friends. "We're all set." Mandi nodded. "Mike?" The second young man cradled the master remote in his left hand, his thumb pressing over a large red button. After a brief buzz, the lights on all charges turned red, and the beeping countdown began. "There. The only way they can be stopped is with this remote." He sent it sliding along the ground. Mandi aimed her Zapper and fired, turning the device into a burnt, charred pile of black dust. "Not any more. Okay, Mike, lemme see your warp zone opener." Mike winced. "I don't have it." "What?" "I didn't take it with me. Kevin warped into my room, and I didn't think of taking it with me." "Andres?" she asked. "Same here." the other young man replied. "No opener." "Who does have one?" "Mark, I think." "Wonderful!" Mandi removed her communicator. "Mark, ya hear me?" Static. "Can anyone hear me?" "Yeah." Nick answered. "What's up?" "Nick, do you have your opener with you?" "'Course. Who doesn't?" "I don't." Mike answered. "Me neither." Andres added. "Silence!!!" Mandi insisted. "Well, as you can tell, we have a bit of a problem." "So it seems." "Can you get up here with your opener?"
Inside the operation room, Nick looked to the storm trooper armor he had just shed, revealing his blue flight suit. "Not without getting caught. We're a little noticeable at the moment." "I see." Mandi sighed. "What about Fearless Leader?" "I'm a little busy." Matt said, in the process of transferring information from the Dome's network into a portable data cartridge. "Well, we need a way out of here." Mandi stated defiantly. "Can you handle this?" Nick asked. "You have your own opener, right?" Matt displayed the item in question. "Brought it from home." he said with a half-smile, his eyes glued to the monitors. "Go on." Nick headed for the main door. "Not that way." "Huh? That's the way we came in." "And that's the way storm troopers will be headed once the operator realizes that he wasn't asked to speak with the Grand Moff." Matt pointed to a ladder in the far corner that appeared to lead up to another level. "If the blueprints I checked were right, that should take you up to the catwalks. You should be able to find your way from there." "How are you gonna get out?" "I'll be right behind you, right after I wipe the hard drives out." Matt pointed at Nick. "Remember, five minutes, you're gone." Nick nodded and began his climb up the ladder.
"Pssst!" Lana lifted her head. "What is it, Kevin?" Kevin blinked. "I didn't say anything." "Hey!" the voice whispered. "Up here!" A pale face was stuck behind a metal ceiling grate. "Well, I'll be!" Mike cried. "He did it!" "Can you get down?" Kevin asked. Mark nodded and forcefully removed the grate. To his surprise, an alarm sounded. He sighed. "Of course." Quickly, he dropped through the small opening, landing as ungracefully as possible. Climbing to his feet, he withdrew his warp zone opener. "Next stop: Megaland." He pressed the proper button, opening a warp. "Climb aboard and have your tickets ready." he joked as the team leapt through the vortex almost immediately. He followed soon after. The warp closed seconds before storm troopers plowed into the room. "Oh, man." the lead trooper spat. "Arisan's gonna be pissed."
The time passed as slowly as possible, seconds seeming like hours in themselves. As the trio was about to give up hope, a voice rang happily in their ears. "Let's move!" Nick suggested, running into view. He opened a warp only feet in front of him, not even stopping as he ran into it, followed by Mandi, Mike, and Andres. Voices echoed as the warp closed in on itself. "Six minutes left." Mike noted. "You're early."
Mark and the N Teamsters watched as almost two warps opened simultaneously in Dr. Right's lab. Out of the one on the left emerged a quartet; from the other, the team leader. "Ahem." Right said before anything stopped him. "Would you folks care to see the fireworks?" He pressed a button on a remote control. A monitor lit up. The countdown displayed in the corner ticked down to zero. The entire squadron watched the dome explode into countless pieces. "Not my best work." Mike Rohm criticized, still uncomfortable that he had again changed from his normal form to that of a cartoon. "Blow up many buildings?" Andres quipped. "What about the ships?" Mark asked. "Are they okay?" Right nodded. "I recalled them to my repair garage via remote as soon as the twelve of you entered the dome." Rock raised his stubby arm. "Doctor Right? Not that I'm ungrateful for the added protection, but this thing weighs a ton. Can I switch back to my old body? Please?" Right nodded. "It's in the storage closet." Rock jumped for joy, or as much as he could in his current form, and ran to the closet. Upon opening it however, he let out a disturbing cry. Right, along with the Squadron, ran to his side. Before them, melted nearly beyond recognition, was Mega Man's green body. "Whoa." Kevin said. "Major crispage." "Looks like a sabotage by Dr. Wily." Dr. Right guessed. "Don't worry, Rock, I'll construct a new one immediately." "May I make a suggestion?" Mandi asked, raising her hand. She knelt in front of Rock, examining him. "I see you in something a bit more...grown-up."
"What's taking so long?" Stacey asked. The squadron had returned to the N Team's home for greetings - and the unveiling of Rock's new form. "Duh, maybe it's like those button-fly jeans. I never could work those." Julius shamelessly admitted. Mandi and Dr. Right exited from the Warp Zone Shifter's room and caused a hush among their friends. Right bowed to Mandi. "You may have the honors, Ms. Paugh." Mandi smiled. "Why, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages - " "Get on with it!" Riff expressed his hatred for suspense freely. "Rock, get your olive-colored butt out here!" The team's jaws dropped. Lana smiled. "No way!" "This was unexpected." Romeo revealed. They had expected a slightly-varied design of the old, short green machine they knew as Mega Man. That is not what they saw. He stood tall, at about 5'3", in a light blue body armor, with dark blue gloves and boots. A dark blue helmet was tucked underneath his arm, revealing short black hair on his head. "Well?" he asked in a less scratchy, more natural voice. "What do you think?" "Electronic puberty." Rick dubbed the change, drawing some small laughs, but essentially getting the point across. A smile spread across his face. "I like it." The others added in their opinions, all positive. Mark pulled Mandi aside. "Did you tell them the design came from a television show?" "Does he need to know?" Mandi asked her Internet friend. Mark cocked his head in thought. "Guess not." Matt handed a heavy gray box over to Doctor Right. "What's this?" the doctor asked. "Everything you need to know about the Empire," the young man replied, "downloaded straight from their own computer core." Right smiled at the box. "Ohhhh,...I'll have fun with this." "You need a hobby, Pop." Riff cracked. Dr. Right turned to his youngest and shook a finger at his 'son'. "Don't make me send you to your room, young man!" "You always liked Rock best." Riff mock pouted.
It didn't take long for a party to ensue at the N Team's house. All were back in their civilian clothes, and most of the squadron had kicked their shoes off in order to achieve the next level of comfort. "So," Kevin turned to the Blue Team, "can we count on you to help us out all the time?" He should've expected the fury of pillows to fly at him from several couches. "I'll take that as a 'no'." "Only thing I wanna do is sleep." Mike admitted. "Same here." Mark agreed. "I'm beat." Mandi yawned. "Viva la siesta!" The only remaining member who could stay awake was Nick, and he was not any better off. He threw his feet onto the coffee table and sighed. Andres and Matt simply sat motionless in easy chairs, greeting the sandman with open arms.
"Can we send them home sleeping?" Lana asked as she assisted Kevin in cleaning dishes inside the kitchen. Kevin shook his head. "I don't think it's safe. Let them sleep for an hour or so. You were right; they weren't used to this stuff. While they didn't do much physically, it must've taken an emotional toll on them." Rock carried an armful of dishes into the kitchen and set them down in the sink. "This is great! I've never been able to reach over the counter!" Lana smiled. "I'd love to see Wily's face the next time he sees you." Kevin grinned. "Be careful, Mega Man. If that one's destroyed, the next body may be nine feet tall."
"What?" Andres groggily asked, awakening in the chair. "C'mon, get up." Mandi shook the young man by the shoulder. "We're goin' home." "Already?" Andres stumbled to his feet. "Wadaya mean 'already'? You've been asleep for two hours." "Geez. Felt like only a minute." Eyes focused, Andres noticed his friends packing up several items. "You guys a bringing stuff back with you?" Mark nodded. "The Zappers, toolpads, and Power Packs." "Which reminds me," Nick broke in, "what about the ships?" "Those would go unnoticed." Mandi falsely assured. "Plus nothin' short of a five car garage can hold those things." Mike said. "We're just leavin' 'em here. Like we'd need them anyway." Matt thought about the comment. "We could always start a small-scale invasion of the school." "Nah, no challenge." Mark said.
"Looks like we're all set." Mark said, swinging the Power Pack onto his shoulder. The Blue Team stood before the dormant Warp Zone Shifter. Mark nodded to the stubby scientist. "Doctor Right, would you please open the warp?" Right nodded. "Now, I cannot send you all back at once. Andres, you're first." The young man leapt through the vortex instantly. "Nick, you're next. Then you, Mandi." While Nick stepped through the warp, Mandi waved to the N Team. "Mike." "Just drop me off with these guys." Mike instructed. "Very well." Right agreed. The warp closed, and a new one opened. "Whenever you're ready." Mike stepped through slowly, disappearing into the blue swirl. "Stop by any time." Lana offered. Kevin smiled. "Yeah. We'll do this again next week." "It's a deal." Mark said. Matt pulled Mark by the shoulder. "Let's go, Captain M." "Hmm, Captain M, I like that." Mark said, approaching the warp. "You would." Matt emphasized urgency by physically propelling Mark into the vortex. He waved farewells to the team as the warp closed. Kevin sighed as a thought entered his mind. The Empire had been defeated, but only for the moment. The Black Hole Warp Zone still existed, and, at anytime, new rival forces could invade Videoland. The battle had not ended.