Prologue"Not again!" Lana screamed. "That's the fifth string I've broke!" "Calm down, Lana," Kevin said, his voice suggesting that he thought Lana was freaking out, which she was, "I'll put on another one for ya!" "No." Lana said, shaking her head and sighing in frustration. She put her bass down on its stand, then looked up at Kevin. "Kevin, we've been at this for three hours. It's almost noon. Time to eat lunch. We'll try this again in the evening, okay?" Kevin smiled and nodded. "Okay." Kevin shut off the amplifier, and the two of them left the room, which was the same room that Kevin always gave Lana dance lessons in. Every time they entered that room, they were reminded of the first time Kevin taught Lana how to dance, and how Duke ran in chasing the robocat Dr. Wily built to lure Kevin into Bayouland. Kevin had been giving Lana guitar lessons today at her request. At breakfast she told him she wanted to pick up a new hobby. Maybe an instrument. Kevin suggested a bass guitar, Lana agreed, they went out to a music store and bought one, and he began to teach her. She was pretty awful, actually. "Don't worry," Kevin said as they walked down the corridor, "you'll get the hang of it." Lana nodded, but she wasn't very certain about that. Just then, Simon walked by. "Phew! Great, you're finally done! Another five minutes and I would've lost what little hearing I have left!" Lana lowered her head, sighing. "Gee, Simon, you're a fountain of encouragement, aren't you?" Kevin asked.
Chapter 1"Mike!" Dr. Wily's voice boomed over the intercom. Mike Vincent was standing in his room in Skull Castle, throwing darts. He stopped in frustration. Nobody interrupts him when he's playing a game! If they did, they would get their ass kicked. "What?" he asked calmly. "Come to my lab at once." the evil scientist ordered. Mike sighed loudly, threw down his darts, and left his room. "What?" Mike asked, walking into the lab. Dr. Wily walked up to him. "I have a plan on how to get rid of the N Team forever!" "Oh?" Mike asked. He didn't like the sound of this. "You're going to call Captain N and tell him that you wanna leave me and join the N Team. But you're scared to leave the castle, because you're convinced you'll be killed by my robots while trying to escape. You'll ask Captain N and the N Team to come here to rescue you. When they get here, I'll have a little welcoming party for them!" Dr. Wily laughed the classic mad scientist laugh. "Sounds like a plan." Mike commented. Dr. Wily nodded. "Call him." They both went over to a control panel, and Mike called the Palace of Power. Instantly, an image of Lana appeared on the monitor. "This is Princess Lana. We're having lunch right now. If you have something important to say, please leave us a message. If you don't, then don't waste our tape on it." "Charming woman." Wily said sarcastically. At the Palace, Kevin and Lana were walking down a corridor, with Lana on Kevin's left. "Maybe we can play at a party sometime." Kevin suggested. They walked into the Conference room. Mega Man, Kid Icarus, and Simon were sitting at the table. Gameboy and Duke were standing off to the right. Mega Man had a remote control in his left hand. "What's going on?" Lana asked. Mega Man turned to face them. "We received a message during lunch. It's from Mike." "Calling to say he's gonna kick our ass?" Kevin asked. Mega Man shook his head. "No. I think you better watch this." Kevin and Lana went and sat at the table, with Lana on Kevin's left. They turned and faced the viewscreen. Lana nodded. Mega Man rewound to the beginning of the tape and played it. The screen was black for a moment, then Mike appeared. "Kevin, I don't wanna work for Dr. Wily anymore. I wanna join the N Team." "Huh?!" Kevin and Lana asked at the same time. "But I'm afraid to leave Skull Castle." Mike continued. "I'm sure Wily's robots will kill me before I make it out! Please come and get me out, you guys!" Mike then slapped his right cheek with his left hand three times in rapid succession. He then paused for a moment, then did three more slaps quickly. The message ended, and Mega Man stopped the tape. Lana looked at Kevin. He had a worried look on his face. "What's wrong, Kevin?" Kevin turned to face her. "It's a trap." "What do you mean?" Lana asked. "How do you know?" "He signaled me with that slapping sign he did. When we were little, we used to steal video games every so often. I would swipe 'em off the shelf, while Mike would stand guard by the counter. He'd signal me like that when the store owner or an employee would come by." "You stole?!" Lana asked, shocked. Kevin laughed. "Yeah, well, kids will be kids! And we never once got caught!" "So, what do you think is going on?" Lana asked, changing the subject. "Dr. Wily's probably trying to lure us to Skull Castle to destroy us. Mike warned us about it. Now we gotta figure out what to do." "You can bet Dr. Wily's preparing his robots for battle. We should expect some serious opposition." Mega Man said. Kevin nodded. Lana got her laser rifle from her closet. She checked it to make sure that it was fully charged, then handed it to Simon. "Here, Simon, use this." Simon nodded. "Thanks." They walked out of her room and into the corridor, where the rest of the N Team stood, waiting. "Kid Icarus, Gameboy, Duke, you three look after the Palace while we're gone." Lana ordered. "Aye-aye, Your Highnicus." the archer replied, saluting with his right hand. "Compliance." Gameboy responded. Duke barked in agreement. The others went to the warp to Megaland. Lana opened the door, and Kevin jumped through, followed by Lana, Mega Man, and Simon.
Chapter 2The four of them exited the warp and ended up right outside Skull Castle. They all looked up at the tall building. "How do we get in?" Lana asked. "Same way I do in the games." Kevin said, looking at her. He drew his Zapper. "We fight our way in!" Lana drew her Zapper. Simon got the rifle ready. The four N Team members then walked up to the castle. Some small robots attacked them, but Mega Man took care of them all. Eventually, they came to a door. Mega Man touched it, it opened, and they walked inside. "Perfect!" Dr. Wily said as he watched the N Team enter the castle on a monitor. "They're heading right into my trap!" Mike was standing right behind the evil scientist. He was secretly rooting for the N Team. They were walking down a long corridor, with Mega Man in the lead. All that attacked them were some Mets and Bladers. Mega Man shot them all, so the others wouldn't have to waste their power. They were saving it for the Robot Masters they were sure they were gonna meet soon. Mega Man did collect all the energy crystals he could, however, so they could be used later to power up the others' weapons when they ran out of juice. Simon put them all in his backpack. The N Team members walked up to a door. Mega Man touched it, it went up, and they went inside. They found themselves in a long corridor. They started to walk forward, when a Robot Master came out of an adjacent corridor and took them by surprise. "Bomb Man!" Mega Man yelled. The two of them immediately began to fight. While that was going on, Guts Man came into the corridor. "Guts Man!" Simon yelled. Another Robot Master followed. "Cuts Man!" Lana added. Elec Man followed. "Oh, man!" Kevin yelled, not realizing his joke. Mega Man defeated Bomb Man, taking only a few hits himself. Kevin turned to the others. "I'll handle Elec Man. Simon, Guts Man. Lana, Cuts Man." "Right!" the Princess and the vampire hunter agreed, nodding. Kevin and Elec Man immediately went at it. Lana and Cuts Man fought each other. Simon and Guts Man were trading shots also. Just then, Ice Man and Fire Man walked in on the fight. "Great!" Mega Man groaned, and began fighting both Robot Masters at once. Lana was dodging Cuts Man's blade simply by running and ducking. She didn't want to waste her power on her Power Pad. Every time she moved, and knew she had a good opportunity, she began firing at the Robot Master repeatedly. Kevin was using his Power Pad to dodge Elec Man's blasts. He was firing at the Robot Master when he was hit by one of the robot's electric blasts. "Aaaahhh!!!" Kevin yelled, falling to the floor. Lana defeated Cuts Man. Kevin was backing away from Elec Man, who was walking up to him slowly and ready to kill the Game Master. Elec Man was defeated by a laser blast. Kevin looked up and smiled. "Thanks!" "No problem!" Lana said cheerfully, and helped Kevin to his feet. The two of them looked at Mega Man, who was still doing battle with Ice Man and Fire Man. With one shot each, the teenagers defeated the Robot Masters. Kevin, Lana, and Mega Man looked at Simon as he defeated Guts Man. When the four of them were all together again, Kevin, Lana, and Simon used some of the energy crystals Mega Man had collected to bring their weapons back up to full power. Kevin looked at Mega Man. "Where to, Mega Man?" Mega Man looked towards the end of the corridor. "Over there. I think we turn right." So, they all headed in that direction. When they turned right, two more Robot Masters were waiting for them. "Metal Man!" Mega Man yelled. "Wood Man!" Simon added. Mega Man and Metal Man started fighting, while Simon handled Wood Man. Two more Robot Masters walked into the corridor. "Flash Man!" Kevin yelled. "Crash Man!" Lana rhymed. The two friends looked at each other and smiled. The Robot Masters came at them, and Lana fought Crash Man, while Kevin fought Flash Man. Mega Man was hit by one of Metal Man's metal discs. Simon stopped fighting Wood Man to help the little robot. He pulled Mega Man to his feet while shooting at Metal Man. Wood Man used the opportunity to fire at Lana. Lana saw the attack coming and fired at Wood Man, destroying him. She then turned back to fight Crash Man. Meanwhile, Simon and Mega Man had worked together to defeat Metal Man. Kevin and Lana had defeated the two robots they were fighting. They and Simon brought their weapons back up to full power using the energy crystals. Heat Man and Air Man came into the corridor. Simon fought Heat Man, while Mega Man handled Air Man. Bubble Man and Quick Man walked in on the battle. "I'll handle Quick Man." Kevin told Lana. Lana nodded. "Right. I'll handle Bubble Man." The two teenagers began to fight the Robot Masters. "Aaahhhh, my hair!" Simon yelled as he ducked down, frantically patting out the fire with his left hand. He pulled out his mirror and looked at his reflection. His hair was now flat and had black burn marks in it. "That does it!" he yelled angrily, standing up straight. With a fury, he fired at and defeated Heat Man. Mega Man defeated Air Man, and then assisted Lana with Bubble Man. Lana got in the final, destructive shot. She turned to Mega Man. "Thanks!" Mega Man nodded, and then he, Lana, and Simon watched as Kevin defeated Quick Man. When the four of them regrouped, Kevin, Lana, and Simon repowered their weapons. Kevin looked at Mega Man and asked: "Okay, where do we go now?" Mega Man looked down the corridor. There was a door at the end. "I think that door leads to Wily's lab." Kevin smiled. "Then let's go knock and see if anybody's home!" The four of them walked up to the door. Mega Man touched it, it opened, and they went into the room. The door closed behind them. Kevin and Lana turned to look at it for a moment, frightened. Then they turned back to face Dr. Wily and Mike.
Chapter 3"So, you've made it this far, huh?" Dr. Wily asked. "All to rescue Mike?" "We know it's a trick, Wily! Mike let us know!" Kevin revealed to the evil scientist. Dr. Wily looked to his left to face Mike. "You traitor!" he yelled angrily, standing up. He pulled a laser gun out of his right lab coat pocket and was about to fire at Mike. A laser beam knocked the gun out of his hand. Dr. Wily turned in the direction it came from and saw Kevin pointing his Zapper at him. "How would you like to go for a third round?" the evil scientist asked. The N Team members heard a door open. They turned to see Top Man walk in. "Great!" Kevin said. "I've never played this game back home, and I've only fought these guys once here!" The Game Master went up and started to do battle with the Robot Master. Then, Shadow Man walked into the lab, followed by Magnet Man, Gemini Man, Hard Man, Spark Man, Snake Man, and Needle Man. "Great!" Mega Man yelled sarcastically. "More of Dr. Wily's newest Robot Masters!" "And all at once!" Lana added, frightened. "I'll handle Shadow Man and Spark Man." Mega Man said. "Princess, Hard Man and Snake Man. Simon, Needle Man - " "And I'll handle Magnet Man and Gemini Man." Lana, Simon, and Mega Man turned. "That is, if you want my help." Mike added. Lana smiled, then nodded. Mike walked over to them. Mega Man, Lana, and Simon ran into battle, and Mike drew his Zapper and joined them. Mega Man was the first to defeat his chosen Robot Masters. Lana used up the last of her power, but had only defeated Hard Man. Mega Man ran over and started shooting the Search Snakes Snake Man was sending at Lana, and then he defeated the Robot Master. Simon hadn't defeated Needle Man before he ran out of power. Mega Man ran over and defeated the Robot Master. Mike had defeated Magnet Man and Gemini Man, then ran over to Kevin, who was still fighting Top Man. "Need some help?" he asked, smiling. Kevin smiled. "Sure!" Kevin ran out of power, and Mike defeated the Robot Master for him. "Thanks!" Kevin said sincerely. Mike smiled at him. They all regrouped, and Kevin, Lana, Simon, and Mike used the last of the energy crystals to repower their weapons. Then Kevin looked over Mike's shoulder and saw Dr. Wily grab his laser gun off the floor and point it at Mike. "Mike, look out!" Kevin pushed Mike down to the floor, landing on top of him. The beam flew over them. Mike rolled out from underneath Kevin, then turned and shot Dr. Wily. The scientist fell to the floor, unconscious. Mike got up and ran over to a machine. Kevin and Lana recognized it. It was Dr. Wily's new Warp Zone Shifter. "I'm outta here!" Mike yelled. He activated the machine and opened the doors of the chamber that he had appeared in when he was brought to Videoland. A swirling blue warp appeared. Mike ran through it.
Chapter 4For a long moment, everybody just stood where they were, watching the warp. "Close it." Kevin told Mega Man. "We don't want anyone from the other side coming through." "Aye-aye, Captain N." Mega Man said, and walked over to the control panel. "And check the coordinates for the warp." Kevin added. "I wanna know where he went." "Roger." Mega Man added. He closed the warp, then he read the map on the screen on the panel. "According to this, he warped back into his bedroom." "So, what do we do?" Lana asked. Kevin thought for a moment. He looked over at Dr. Wily, still lying unconscious on the lab floor. Then he turned to face Simon. "Simon, tie him up. We don't want him to escape." "Yeah, right, like he'll really try with me watching him!" Simon laughed. "Simon," Lana said, shaking her head, "this is no time for boasting. Shut up and do what he says." Simon nodded and placed Lana's laser rifle on the control panel. He then went over to Dr. Wily. He knelt down on the floor next to the scientist and pulled a rope out of his backpack. While Simon was tying Dr. Wily up, Kevin looked at Lana. "I'm going after him." "What?!" Lana asked, even though she had a feeling that's what Kevin was planning. "Kevin, your memory will be erased!" "I don't think so, Lana." Kevin said, shaking his head. "The Ultimate Warp Zone purposely wipes memories of trips to Videoland, just so people from Earth won't find out about this universe. I don't think Wily's machine does that. But just in case," He looked over at Mega Man, "Mega Man, could you check?" Mega Man quickly did a diagnostic of the machine. He turned back to face Kevin. "Affirmative. There are no memory-erasing mechanisms in the Warp Zone Shifter." Kevin looked at Lana. "Then that settles it. I have to go back." Lana nodded. "Right. Mike still has his memories of Videoland. If he tells anyone, who knows what will happen?!" Simon rejoined them, smiling. "All tied up!" Kevin nodded, smiling. "Good job, Simon!" He looked back at Lana. "Well, . . . here I go." Then the two of them hugged. "Good luck, Kevin!" Lana cried. The two of them stared at each other for a moment, and then kissed. "Oh, please!" Simon said, turning away in annoyance. They let go of each other. Kevin turned to face Mega Man. "Open the warp." He started to walk towards the chamber. Lana walked up and placed her left hand on his left shoulder. "Kevin, wait." Kevin stopped and turned around to face her. Lana turned to face Mega Man. "Mega Man, contact Princess Zelda on Hyrule." Mega Man nodded. "Okay." Kevin had no idea why Lana wanted to talk with Zelda right now. A few seconds later, Princess Zelda appeared on a monitor, with Link standing to her left. "Lana, hi!" Zelda greeted cheerfully. Lana smiled. "Hi, Zelda!" "What can I do for you?" Zelda asked. "Need us to slay some monsters for you?!" Link joked. Lana laughed and shook her head. "No. Actually, I need to ask you a big favor." "Name it." Zelda said. "I need you to take over for me as Ruler of Videoland." This took everybody by surprise. "What?!" Zelda asked. "Just temporarily." Lana added to eliminate any misunderstandings. "For what reason?" Zelda asked. "I'm taking a little trip." Lana answered, then shook her head. "I don't know when I'll be back." Zelda smiled and nodded. "All right." Lana smiled. "Great! Tie up whatever unfinished business you have on Hyrule and appoint a temporary ruler. Then report to the Palace." Zelda nodded. "Understood." "I still would rather slay monsters!" Link complained. Lana laughed. "Report to the Palace for guard duty. You can help Kid Icarus, Duke, and Gameboy." "Great!" Link said happily, then nodded. "Good luck, you two!" "Good luck!" Zelda repeated, nodding also. "Thanks!" Lana said. Zelda smiled once more, then ended the transmission. Kevin looked at Simon. "Stay here and look after Dr. Wily, Simon." Simon nodded. "Good luck." Kevin nodded. Lana turned to face Kevin. "Where do you think we should arrive, Kevin?" Kevin thought for a moment, then walked over to the control panel. "I'm setting the coordinates for about ten miles away from my house." He turned to face Lana, smiling. "So I can give you a little tour." Lana smiled. Kevin turned to face Mega Man. "Open the warp at the same coordinates at 8:30 PM a week from next Monday. We'll be waiting." Mega Man nodded. "Why so long?" Lana asked. Kevin turned to face her and smiled. "Hey, this isn't all business! I wanna have some fun, too!" Lana grinned, then turned to face Mega Man. "Open the warp, Mega Man." "Yes, Your Highness." "It's just Lana for a while." she reminded him. "Yes, Lana." Mega Man corrected. Kevin and Lana looked at the chamber and saw the warp open. Kevin looked at Lana. "Ready?" he asked, nodding. Lana looked to her right to face Kevin. "Ready." They joined hands. The two of them looked over their shoulders at their friends one last time, then they looked straight ahead and ran through the warp.
Chapter 5They exited the warp as they had so many others. It closed behind them. At first, Kevin didn't recognize the difference. Lana did, however. She felt like screaming, but held it in. Because Kevin had lived on Earth for fifteen years, he was so used to what he now saw, that at first he didn't think anything of it. After a few moments, however, he realized what had changed. They were no longer animated. Kevin looked at his hands, then his arms, then his jeans, and finally his sneakers. He looked just the way he did before he came to Videoland, except now he was a few years older. The two of them were, as people on Earth say, 'real-life'. Lana was busy looking at herself. She was still amazed, and the initial shock still hadn't worn off yet. She looked up at Kevin. That made her even more amazed. He was so handsome. Kevin was looking at Lana. She was absolutely breathtaking. They stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, Kevin managed to speak. "Welcome to Earth. I'm Kevin Keene." "I'm in love." Lana said, then blushed. "Uh, I mean, I'm Lana." They both laughed. Kevin shook his head in amazement. "Wow, you look fantastic!" Lana shook her head as well. "You, too!" And then they kissed. It felt different this time. It was a lot better. More enjoyable. After fifteen seconds, they let go of each other. Kevin and Lana looked at their surroundings. Lana looked at Kevin. "An alley?" Kevin nodded. "Yeah, I didn't want anyone to see the warp." Lana nodded. "So, where to?" "The first place we should go by is Mike's house. See if he's home." Lana nodded. "Let's do it!" Kevin said cheerfully. Lana nodded, and the two of them walked out of the alley. Lana kept looking around, amazed, as they walked down the street. Eventually they stopped in front of a house. Kevin looked at it, then read the mailbox to be sure. The name 'VINCENT' was on it. Kevin looked at Lana. "This is it." The two of them walked up the path to the front door. Kevin rang the doorbell. About ten seconds later, the door opened. Mike's mother stood in the doorway. She was tall and had short brown hair. "Yes?" Mrs. Vincent asked. "Hi, we're Mike's friends. Is he home?" Kevin asked. Mrs. Vincent looked upset. She shook her head. "I'm sorry, but Mike disappeared a few months ago. No one has seen him since." "I'm sorry." Kevin said, then nodded. "Listen, I hope you find him." Mrs. Vincent nodded. "Thank you." Lana nodded to her, and then she and Kevin turned and started walking back to the street. "Do I know you?" Mrs. Vincent called after them. Kevin and Lana stopped and turned around. "I haven't been here for a few years. I just got back." Kevin said truthfully, careful to not reveal too much. "If Mike ever comes back here, just tell him that his old buddy from school stopped by." Mrs. Vincent nodded, and Kevin and Lana turned and walked away again. "So, he's not at home." Lana said as they walked down the street. "He must've climbed out the window or something if his mother didn't see him." Kevin nodded. "Yeah." "Where do we go now?" Kevin shrugged. "Home, I guess." Lana looked at him with an expression of confusion on her face. "My home." Kevin clarified. "Ah." Lana said, nodding.
Chapter 6"Have you thought about what you're going to say to your parents yet?" "No, I haven't." Kevin replied. Lana smiled. "They'll probably be very happy that you're all right." Kevin smiled. Then he stopped in front of a house. He stood there looking at it. Lana looked at him, then at the house. "What is it?" "This is Stacey's house." Kevin answered, still looking at it. He checked the name on the mailbox. The name 'ANDERSON' was on it. "She still lives here." Lana looked at him with a frown. She remembered Stacey. Kevin walked forward. Lana walked after him. "Kevin, wait!" Kevin was the first to see Stacey as she walked out the front door. Her hair was the same long blonde that he remembered. She wasn't wearing any earrings at the moment. "Stacey?" Kevin asked. Stacey looked at him. "Hi, I don't know if you remember me. My name's - " "Kevy?!" Stacey asked excitedly. She ran up and hugged him. "You're back! You finally came back from Videoland!" Kevin broke the hug, surprised, but before he could speak, Stacey placed her hands on his cheeks, pulling him into a deep kiss. Lana folded her arms in front of her and turned away angrily. Stacey finally let Kevin go. Her face was beaming with excitement. Kevin had to take a moment to catch his breath. "How do you know about Videoland?" he asked finally. Stacey shook her head. "What do you mean? I was there, you silly! Me, Rick, and his, uh, acquaintances." "Huh?!" Lana turned to face her in surprise. She stepped forward. "How do you remember that?!" Kevin thought for a moment, then slapped himself on the head with his right hand. "Of course, no memory-erasing mechanisms on Wily's Shifter!" "Oh, yeah." Lana said, remembering. "Hi, Lana!" Stacey pronounced the first 'a' as a soft vowel, which slightly annoyed the former Princess. "You came too, huh?" Lana forced a smile. "Hi, Stacey." "Come inside!" Stacey offered. She led the way up the path to the front door.
Chapter 7When they walked into the living room, Kevin looked at Stacey. "So, uh, I guess you wanna hear everything, huh?!" "Hang on, I gotta make a phone call." Stacey said. She walked over to the phone and picked it up. Kevin and Lana watched Stacey as she dialed. "Hi, Rick!" Stacey said to the person on the other end of the phone conversation. "Listen, call the guys and set up a meeting at your house. Set up your video camera and get everything ready! Have the camera trained on the front door of your house from the inside of the living room. I'll be over shortly. Start recording when you hear the doorbell ring. I've got some big news!" She hung up. Stacey turned back to face Kevin and Lana. "What was that all about?" Kevin asked. "You'll see." Stacey said, smiling. "Was that Rick Walker you were talking to?" Kevin asked. Stacey nodded. "Uh-huh." Kevin smiled. "Wanna show us off, huh?!" Stacey grinned. "Something like that." "Well, why the big hurry?" Lana asked. "Can't we sit and talk for a while?" "Don't worry, Lana," Stacey said, and Lana felt annoyed again. "you'll understand once we get there. C'mon." She walked back to the front door. Kevin and Lana looked at each other and shrugged, then followed Stacey. Stacey locked the front door. The three of them walked outside, and she closed it behind her. They walked back down the path and onto the sidewalk. As they walked down the street, with Stacey leading the way, Kevin asked her: "Stacey, what was all of that stuff about a video camera and setting up a meeting? Do you wanna get Rick's expression on tape when he sees us?" Stacey turned her head to face him, smiling. "Yeah, you could say that!" She saw that they were looking all around. "Oh, quit looking around at everything!" Stacey whispered. "Look straight ahead!" "Yeah, good idea!" Kevin said. "If anyone recognizes me and tells everybody else, we won't get a moment's privacy!" So, for the rest of the walk, Kevin and Lana looked straight ahead. When they got to Rick's house, Stacey led the way up the path to the front door. She rang the doorbell. After a few moments, the door opened. Rick Walker was standing there. Like Stacey, he had also been brought to Videoland. He was tall, black, and somewhat muscular. "Hey, Stacey." Rick said. "Hi, Rick!" Stacey said, barely able to contain her excitement. "What's this 'big news' you have?" Rick asked. Kevin and Lana were standing behind Stacey. Rick could see there were people behind her, but he didn't know who. Stacey grinned and stepped aside to her right. "Keene!" Rick yelled, jumping back into the living room in surprise. Kevin smiled. "Hi, Rick! What's happenin'?!" Rick ran over to Kevin and hugged him. "Man, what are you doing back here?!" They let go of each other. "Lookin' good, man!" Kevin said, shaking his head. Rick laughed. "You, too! Man, I got a ton of questions!" "Me, too!" Kevin said. "Come on in!" Rick said, excited. He walked back into the house, with Kevin, Lana, and Stacey following. Rick quickly checked the digital watch he wore on his left wrist. He looked at the video camera, which he had set to record when he heard the doorbell ring, as Stacey had instructed. "2 PM exactly, and Kevin Keene, the man, is back!" Rick then quickly ran back over to the door and slammed it shut, locking it. Kevin and Lana watched in curiosity. Rick then ran back over to them. "Duh, what's going on here?" a huge guy asked, walking into the living room from a hallway. Behind him was another guy. "Hey, you remember the guys, right?" Rick asked. He turned to face them. "Romeo and Julius." "Of course!" Kevin said. Romeo had blonde hair and was of average build. Julius was huge, fat, and had short brown hair. Julius' shoes were untied, and his shirt was too short, revealing his navel. "And you remember Lana." Kevin said. "Of course!" Rick said. "Welcome to Earth, Your Highness!" Lana nodded. "Thanks, Rick. Actually, I turned rule of Videoland over to Princess Zelda of Hyrule while I'm here." "Wow!" Rick said, amazed. Kevin and Lana smiled. "Well, have a seat!" Rick said, motioning to a couch. Kevin and Lana went and sat on the couch, with Lana on Kevin's right. Stacey sat down next to Kevin, on his left, causing Lana to frown. Rick went and adjusted the video camera, so that it focused on the area where they were all gonna be sitting. He then went and sat in a chair. Romeo and Julius sat on the couch on the opposite side of the coffee table. So, they all were seated in the following places: Rick Stacey Romeo Kevin Lana Julius "Can I get you guys something?" Rick offered to his guests. "Uh, yeah, do you have any Pepsi?" Kevin asked. Rick nodded. "Yeah, sure. Lana, Stacey, Pepsi okay?" Stacey nodded. "Yeah." "What's a Pepsi?" Lana asked. Kevin turned to face her. "It's a drink. Trust me, you'll love it!" "Okay." Lana said to Rick. Rick turned to face Romeo and Julius. "Pepsi?" They nodded. Rick got up. "Six Pepsis comin' right up!" Rick went to the kitchen and came back a short while later carrying six cans of Pepsi. He handed one can to each of them, for which they all thanked him, and he sat down. They all opened their cans. Rick raised his can of Pepsi. "I'd like to propose a toast." They all raised their cans. "To Kevin's safe return home." he said. "To Kevin's safe return home!" they all repeated. Kevin took a sip of his Pepsi. "Man, I forgot how great this stuff tastes!" Lana also took a sip from her can. She smiled. "Wow! I gotta take some of this stuff home with me!" Everyone laughed. "I'm glad you like it, Lana." Kevin said. "Like?!" Lana asked. "Like is an understatement! I love this drink!" Kevin nodded, then looked at Rick. "So what's this all about, Rick? I mean, almost as soon as Stacey saw us, she wanted us to come over here. Why?" "Well - " Rick started. "Uh, Rick," Stacey interrupted, "first you gotta, like, call the meeting to order." "Oh, oh, right." Rick remembered. "What meeting?" Kevin asked. "The weekly meeting is now called to order." Rick said. "Thanks, Rick." Stacey said. "What meeting?" Kevin asked again. "What is this?"
Chapter 8"All right," Rick said, "let me bring you guys up-to-date. Remember when Dr. Wily brought us to Videoland a few years ago?" Kevin nodded. "Yeah." "Well, after we got back to Earth, we decided to form the Videoland Club. We got heavily into video games, and what we do is we try to find out as much as we can about Videoland." Lana shook her head worriedly. "You didn't tell anyone else about Videoland, did you, Rick?!" Rick shook his head, trying to calm her. "No, no, Lana. This is top-secret. Only the people in this room know. No one else." Lana nodded, calming down. "We hold a meeting every weekend." Rick continued. "We even have our own website." "Website?" Kevin asked. The term wasn't familiar to him. "Yeah," Rick explained. "It's a site on the Internet where we post text, graphics, sounds, and other things about games. Don't worry, we don't mention anything about you guys, or about Videoland being a real place. We only post stuff about games, so that other people can get it - to help them out, ya know? And, in turn, they send us info we don't already have." "Man, I wish they had something like that a few years ago!" Kevin said. Rick laughed. "Yeah, the Internet is a great way to learn stuff! You can also use it for fun! You can play games online, chat with other people, and even create a tribute to your favorite TV show and write your own fan fiction! I'll show you it later!" Kevin nodded, excited. "I can't wait!" "Let me ask you something, Rick." Lana said. "How come your memories weren't erased?" "I think I know, Lana." Kevin said. "It's as I said earlier. The Ultimate Warp Zone wipes your memory to ensure that no one on Earth finds out about Videoland. Dr. Wily's Warp Zone Shifter doesn't." "Oh, yeah." Lana said, remembering. "Don't worry, Lana," Rick assured her, "we didn't tell anyone." "Yeah, about that, Rick." Kevin said. "You hold the meetings here?" "Every weekend." Rick answered, nodding. "Well, what if your parents walk in on us, or something?" "It's okay, my parents aren't home." Rick said. "They go golfing every weekend. They won't be back 'til Monday!" Kevin nodded, grinning. "Ah, sneaky!" "Anyway, you guys can definitely help us in filling in the missing pieces." Rick said. Kevin nodded. "Sure! Where do we start?"
Chapter 9"Well," Rick said, "first of all, did anyone see the two of you? Were you recognized?" Kevin and Lana looked at each other, then looked back at Rick. "Mrs. Vincent thought she recognized me," Kevin said, "but I managed to avoid giving her a definite answer." "Mrs. Vincent?" Rick asked. "As in Mike Vincent's mom?" Kevin nodded. "Yep, that's her! We went to Mike's house." "Why?" Rick asked. "Mike's back." Kevin answered. "He disappeared a few months ago." Rick said, nodding. "He was in Videoland." Kevin added. "Videoland?!" Rick asked, surprised. Stacey, Romeo, and Julius were also greatly surprised by this. "Why?!" Rick asked. "How?!" "Dr. Wily built a new Warp Zone Shifter. He brought Mike there to kill me." Kevin explained. "What happened while he was there?" Rick asked. "And how come he came back? There's so much I wanna know!" "Okay," Kevin said, "this may take a while." Rick nodded. "It's okay, I love long stories!" "All right," Kevin began, "after we defeated Mother Brain - " "You defeated Mother Brain?!" Rick interrupted, surprised. Kevin nodded. "Yeah. I'll get into that later." Rick nodded. "Okay." "Anyway," Kevin continued, "we decided to have a big party to celebrate Videoland's freedom. Well, actually, it was Lana's idea. Anyway, everyone in Videoland was invited to the party - except for the bad guys, of course!" Everyone laughed.
Chapter 10Mike had been walking around town this whole time. He went to his favorite video arcade to play some games. Videoland was a cool place, but it was also great to be back home. Finally, Mike decided to go home. As he walked down the street, he wondered what to tell his parents. They'll probably freak out! he thought. He went up to the front door of his house and rang the doorbell. He stood there, nervous, waiting for the door to open. Finally, it did. His mother was standing there. "Mike!" she yelled, surprised. She hugged him. "Son, you're back!" Then she looked at him, smiling with joy. "What happened?! Where have you been?!" "I was kidnapped." Mike said truthfully. "I never saw it coming. It took me all this time, but I finally escaped!" "Oh, Mike, I wanna hear all about it!" "Uh, mom, I really don't wanna relive it." he said, trying to avoid the subject. "You're right." his mom agreed. "Let's just put this all behind us!" She just looked at him for a while, then spoke up again: "Oh, I just remembered something. There were two people here to see me earlier today. One of them told me that if you ever came back, that I was to give you a message." "Oh?" Mike asked. "What?" "He told me to tell you that you've been followed. Strange, huh?" A disturbing thought came to Mike. "Yeah," he said, "strange. Uh, mom, what did these guys look like?" "Well, one of them was wearing a Northridge High jacket, almost like yours. He had a yellow shirt on, and blue jeans and sneakers. The other one was a girl, and she dressed really strangely! Why, do you know them?" "They sound familiar." Mike said truthfully. "Well, I'll start making dinner. Did the kidnapper feed you well?" "Yeah." Mike said, nodding. "Well, sounds like he was a very nice kidnapper." his mom said. "Now, come inside. Your room is exactly the way you left it." She let Mike go into the house first, and then she followed.
Chapter 11"And I think she's getting pretty good, too!" Kevin finished. Kevin and Lana had told them everything about how Mike came to Videoland, beginning with the party and ending with Kevin giving Lana Power Pad lessons in the Courtyard. They hadn't left out a single detail. Lana smiled. "Well, I have a great teacher." "So, what happened next?!" Rick asked anxiously. "Well, nothing for about four months." Kevin answered. "Then, - " He broke off and turned to Lana. "Uh, do you wanna tell this story, Lana?" Lana nodded. "Sure. Anyway, Mike and Dr. Wily hadn't given us any problems. Mike just called every once-in-a-while to taunt us." She told the whole story, from the walk up the hill with Kevin that morning to the walk up the same hill that evening. At times, Kevin had to comfort her. She started crying at some points. Rick, Stacey, and the others were very moved. Rick stopped her to change video tapes at one point, and then she resumed. Finally, after she was done, everyone was silent for a moment. "So," Rick said finally, "why did Mike come back?" "Well," Kevin began, "this afternoon we received a message from Mike during lunch. Mega Man played the tape back for us." This time, Kevin and Lana both explained everything, and Stacey contributed as well. They ended their story with Rick meeting them. "And that's it!" Kevin finished. "Can you tell us more about how you came to Videoland?" Rick asked. "That quick explanation you gave us last time has a lot of gaps in it." "I'd love to, Rick, but I think I'd better get home." Rick was disappointed. "Aw, c'mon, man!" "Listen, I wanna see my folks, ya know?" Kevin explained. "Listen, I know you're anxious to hear everything. Look, tomorrow's Saturday. We can tell you everything tomorrow, I promise. We'll talk all day." "Looking forward to it!" Rick said, smiling. "I guess it's for the best, anyway. I'll be busy all night adding the info from the tapes to our records!" Kevin smiled. "All right," Rick said, checking the time, "this meeting of the Videoland Club is officially adjourned at 5:00 PM." Kevin stood up. "Can I use your phone, Rick? I wanna call Mike's house and see if he's back yet." Rick nodded. "Sure." Kevin picked up the phone off of the coffee table and dialed. Lana stood up and watched him, as did the others. At Mike's house, Mike was in his bedroom when the phone rang. He picked it up. "Mike's Mortuary. You stab 'em, we slab 'em!" he said cheerfully. Kevin looked at everyone. "Yep, he's home!" He spoke into the phone: "Uh, hey, Mike! What's shakin'?!" Mike grinned. "I got your message!" Kevin smiled. "Excited to be back?!" Mike nodded. "You know it! You?" Kevin nodded. "Yep! Uh, Mike, you're not planning on telling anyone about Videoland, are you?" Mike shook his head. "Nah, don't worry. Hey, listen, Keene, thanks for saving my life back there!" "No problem!" "Bye." "Bye." Mike hung up, and Kevin did the same. "So, what are you gonna tell your parents?" Rick asked. Kevin shrugged. "The truth, I guess." Rick nodded. "Do you think they can handle it?" "I hope so!" Kevin said, laughing. "Can they be at the meeting?" "Sure." Rick said, nodding. He held out his right hand. "At ten, then, at your place?" Kevin shook it. "Sounds good to me!" Rick then shook Lana's right hand. "Lana." Lana nodded. "Rick." Kevin and Lana walked over to the door. Everyone waved to each other and said bye. Then Kevin unlocked the door and stepped outside, with Lana following him.
Chapter 12Kevin stopped on the sidewalk and just stared at his house. It had been a while since he'd been home. Then he walked up the path to the front door, with Lana following him. Kevin took his house key out of his left front jeans pocket. He placed it into the keyhole and turned. He let out a sigh of relief when he found his key still worked. Kevin opened the door and stepped through. Lana followed, closing the door behind her. Kevin placed the key back in his pocket as he and Lana looked around at the living room. Lana walked over to the fireplace and picked up a picture off of the mantle. It was a family portrait: Kevin, his parents, and Duke. Judging by Kevin's age in the photo, Lana guessed it was taken shortly before Kevin came to Videoland. She looked at it for a moment, then put it back. Kevin, meanwhile, was in the kitchen, looking at various objects. He finally rejoined Lana in the living room. "Let's go up to my room." Lana nodded. "Lead the way." Kevin led her up the stairs and down a hallway. They stopped in front of a door. Kevin slowly placed his right hand on the doorknob and turned it. The door creaked open. Kevin turned to his left to face Lana. "Sounds like it hasn't been opened for quite a while." Then he faced forward and walked into his room. Lana followed him in. The room was a complete mess. There was stuff all over the floor. "It's just as I left it!" Kevin said, amazed. "Maybe your parents wanted to leave it that way," Lana suggested, "just in case you ever came back." "Yeah." Kevin answered. A short distance in front of Kevin's unmade bed lay a set of steps. Near them were a video game controller and a gray Zapper. Lana walked over to them. "So, . . . this is where you were sitting when the Ultimate Warp Zone pulled you into Videoland, huh?" Kevin nodded. "Yeah." Lana reached forward to pick up the steps. "Hey, uh, don't touch that." Kevin told her. "Don't touch anything! I want the Club to come over and see this exactly as it is now. Exactly as it was then." Lana stood up straight. "Gotcha." "My parents should be home from work soon." Kevin said. "What are you gonna do?" Lana asked. Kevin grinned.
Chapter 13At 6:00 PM, the front door opened, and Mr. Keene came inside the house, followed by Mrs. Keene. "That's odd." Mr. Keene said, looking at the doorknob. He closed the door and looked at his wife. "I could've sworn I locked the door this morning." Kevin's dad was of average height and build, and had thick, curly, black hair. He wore glasses. He was carrying a brown briefcase in his right hand. He stuck his keys back into his front left pants pocket with his left hand. "Well, it doesn't seem to be locked now." Mrs. Keene answered him. Kevin's mom was also of average height and build. She had long, straight, brown hair. She was carrying a black briefcase in her right hand. Then, they heard footsteps. The two of them walked over close to the staircase. Kevin walked downstairs. "Don't worry, mom, I'll take out the trash right now!" he told her, managing to contain his excitement. "Sorry it took me so long. I kinda got a little hung up upstairs!" Lana was watching from the top of the stairs, and she laughed to herself. Kevin's parents gasped. "Kevin?!" his mom cried. Kevin then began to cry as well. He walked up to her. "Yeah, mom, it's me!" Kevin's mom grabbed her son and hugged him. "Oh, Kevin! You're home!" "Yeah, . . . yeah, mom, I'm home!" Then they broke the hug, and Kevin turned to face his dad. "Son!" his dad yelled, and the two of them hugged as well. "Hi, dad!" Kevin cried. Lana smiled. Seeing Kevin reunited with his parents made her feel all warm inside. Kevin and his dad broke their hug. "Where have you been?!" his mom asked, still crying. "It's a long story. I'll explain later." "When did you get back?" his dad asked. "Around 5:30." Kevin answered. "About a half hour ago." Kevin's dad placed his hands on his son's shoulders. "Well, it's great to have you back, son." Kevin smiled. "Thanks, dad. Listen, there's someone you guys should meet." He turned towards the staircase. So did his parents. Lana walked downstairs, smiling. "Mom, dad, this is Lana." Lana walked up to them. She offered her left hand to Kevin's mom. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Keene!" Kevin's mom looked Lana over. The fact that she was dressed oddly, plus being left-handed, made her not trust this newcomer. She uneasily took Lana's left hand in her own and shook it. "Nice to meet you too, Lana." Lana then offered her left hand to Kevin's dad. "Hello, Mr. Keene!" Kevin's dad shook her hand with his left. "Hey, what's up?" "Kevin, who is this?" his mom asked. "A friend." Kevin answered. "A good friend." "A girlfriend?" his dad asked. Kevin and Lana smiled at each other. "Yeah, yeah, she is." he answered. "Well, congratulations!" his dad said. Kevin's mom turned to face her husband. "Ned! We don't know this girl!" "Oh, come on, Cheryl!" he argued. "I'm sure she's nice!" "Yeah, Lana's okay, mom." Kevin assured her. "Well, . . . okay." his mom agreed. Kevin smiled. "Now, can you please make dinner? I haven't tasted your cooking in a while!" His mom laughed. "Okay, dinner for three." "Four." Kevin corrected her. Kevin's mom looked at Lana. "Four - right. Well, um, just let me change first." Kevin nodded, and his parents went upstairs.
Chapter 14At 7:00 PM, Kevin and Lana were seated at the kitchen table, with Lana to Kevin's left. Ned sat to Kevin's right. Cheryl was putting the food on each of their plates. "Pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, and chocolate chip cookies for desert." "Mmmmm, sounds delicious!" Lana said. "Have you ever tried video chip cookies, Mrs. K?" "Uh, no, I haven't." She was about to ask what video chip cookies were, but then decided that she really didn't want to know. "They're yummy. You'd love 'em." Lana said. "And you'll love my mom's chocolate chip cookies, Lana." Kevin said. Cheryl sat to Lana's left. They talked while they ate. "So, where have you been?" Kevin's mom asked him. "Videoland." Kevin answered simply. "The movie rental place?" she asked, confused. Kevin laughed, lowering his head and beating the palm of his left hand on the top of the table. Kevin's parents just stared at him. Kevin finally regained his composure and looked up at them. "No, it's another universe. One where all the characters from video games live." Cheryl nodded. "Uh, . . . okay." "Really!" Kevin insisted. "Lana is the Princess of Videoland!" "It's true, Mrs. K." Lana said. "Really?" Ned asked, believing it somewhat. "Ned!" Cheryl said, not believing her husband would believe such a silly story. "Look, mom, dad, I know this is hard for you to accept," Kevin said, "but just do so for now. We'll explain everything tomorrow." "Why tomorrow?" his mom asked. "Some friends we met today that were brought to Videoland a few years ago have formed a club." Kevin explained. "They're coming over tomorrow at ten for a meeting, at which time we'll tell the full story. The reason we don't wanna tell you now is we don't wanna have to repeat everything all over again tomorrow. Just take our word for it right now." Kevin's parents nodded, and the four of them finished their dinner in silence. "That was great!" Lana said when she finished, and reached for one of Kevin's mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. "Glad you liked it." Cheryl said, smiling. "Mmmmmmmmmm!!!" Lana moaned as she savored the taste of the cookie. "Mrs. K, can I have the recipe for this?!" she asked with her mouth full. "Now Lana, no talking with your mouth full." Ned informed her. "This rule applies to transdimensional visitors as well as our native Earthlings." Lana laughed, spilling cookie crumbs on her plate. She picked them up and stuck them back in her mouth. "Kevin, you can sleep in your room." Cheryl said. "Lana, you . . . uh, well, . . . I'll prepare a guest room for you." "Thank you." Lana said, stuffing the rest of the cookie into her mouth. Cheryl turned her eyes away. "Don't mention it." "Uh, mom, I'll crash on the couch." Kevin said. "I want the guys to see my room exactly as I left it." Cheryl nodded. "Okay." "Oh, Kevin, where's Duke?" Ned asked, remembering the canine. "Helping to guard the Palace." Kevin answered. "You mean you left him in Videoland?" "Yeah." Kevin said, nodding. "I mean, I didn't know I was coming home today! If I did, I'd definitely bring him along to visit!" "Visit?" Ned asked. "You mean - " "I'm not staying." Kevin finished for him. "What?!" Cheryl asked, dropping the plates that she was carrying over to the sink. They landed on the floor, but didn't break. "Look," Kevin said, "Videoland needs me. I have to go back. I'm just, well, . . . on vacation." "After all this time?" Cheryl asked, picking up the plates. Kevin nodded. "Yeah. Listen, I'm sorry. I wish I could stay, but I can't." Ned nodded, understanding. He patted his son's back. "I understand, son." But Cheryl didn't. She kept her complaints to herself, however. Kevin and Lana helped themselves to a few cookies, munching in silence. Finally, Kevin stood up and stretched. "Well, I think I'll turn in." Lana stood up, also. "Yeah, me too. We have a big day tomorrow!" So, Cheryl showed Lana to a medium-sized guest bedroom and put some new sheets on the bed. She gave Lana a new toothbrush and some towels. After Lana took a shower and got ready for bed, and Kevin did the same, the two of them kissed goodnight.
Chapter 15When the doorbell rang the next morning, Kevin ran to the door excitedly, unlocked it, and opened it. Rick was standing there, filming Kevin with his video camera. Stacey was standing to his left. "What's up, Rick?!" Kevin asked, smiling. Rick quickly checked his watch. "9:55 AM, and we're at Kevin's house." He stopped recording and shut off the camera. Kevin laughed. Rick came inside, followed by Stacey, Romeo, and Julius. After everyone said hi to each other, Kevin introduced his parents. "Can I get you guys something?" Kevin asked as he went into the kitchen. "Pepsi, please." Rick said politely, and everyone else agreed. Kevin and Lana went into the kitchen, and the two of them came back with eight cans of Pepsi. Everyone gave their thanks as they each took a can. "Let's go sit in the dining room." Kevin suggested. They all went there and sat at a long rectangular brown table. The Keene family hardly ever used the dining room. The only exception was when they had family and friends over for the holidays. The rest of the time, they ate in the kitchen. Rick set up his video camera on a stand that Stacey was carrying in her right hand. He turned it on, started recording, and they all took their seats at the table: Rick Kevin Ned Lana Cheryl Stacey Romeo Julius Kevin and Lana were both wearing the exact same clothes they wore yesterday - Kevin because he didn't want to disturb his room, and Lana because she simply didn't have any other clothes to wear. "Okay, the weekly meeting of the Videoland Club is called to order," Rick said, then checked the time on his digital watch, "at 10 AM." He looked at Kevin and Lana. "Okay, I want you to tell us all about Videoland." Kevin laughed. "You sure you got enough tape there, Rick?" Rick smiled. "I went out last night and bought six!" Romeo took five video cassettes out of a white plastic bag and placed them on the table. Kevin whistled. "Whenever you're ready." Rick said. "Well, Videoland is a broad subject." Lana said. "What do you wanna know first?"
Chapter 16"Okay," Rick said, "I can dig that. First, explain to us what Videoland is." "All right," Lana said, "Videoland is another universe, another dimension if you like, different from this one. In that universe, all of the places and characters from the games made in this universe really exist." "And how is this accomplished?" Rick asked. "You ever hear of parallel universes?" Lana asked. Rick nodded. "Yeah." "There are an infinite number of universes." Lana explained. "An infinite number that are the same, and an infinite number that are different." "I think I understand." Rick said. "Go on." "The universe I'm from mirrors the events of the games made in your universe." "So, whatever games come out here," Rick said, "there's a video world for there." Lana nodded. "Yeah." "Well, what happens when a completely new game, the first in a series, comes out here?" "Then a new video world comes into existence in Videoland." "So, you're saying we created it?" Rick asked. "Looks like it." Lana answered, smiling. "But it's just the nature of the universe I come from. Whenever a new game is created, a new video world comes into existence, or more events are added to the history of an existing video world. You see, time and physics work differently in Videoland." Ned shook his head. "This is unreal!" "Nothing unreal exists." Kevin told him. Ned nodded. "Philosophy." "Star Trek." Kevin corrected. "When a new world comes into existence, the native population is usually unaware of other video worlds." Lana continued. "When and if they do learn about them, they have a choice of staying on their own or establishing relations with other worlds." Rick nodded. "What happens when a new game adds more history to a story that already exists?" "Then history is automatically altered to include the new information." "So, a game can only exist for like a year, but the worlds and events can exist for ten billion years in Videoland?" "Right." "How many worlds know of other worlds?" "It's not a question of how many worlds know, but how many people." "Meaning?" "There are worlds where everyone knows of other worlds, and worlds where only a few people know." Lana explained. "What's the function of the Ruler of Videoland?" "To settle disputes. Usually, if it's an internal matter involving only one video world, the people don't ask for our assistance. We mainly settle disputes between different video worlds. However, when Mother Brain began her attack on the Palace of Power ten years ago, trying to conquer Videoland and bring it all under her rule, we had to help each world individually in order to ensure their survival." "I want you to see something." Rick said. Romeo took a small booklet out of the bag and handed it to Rick, who passed it to Lana. "'Videoland Instruction Manual'." Lana read off the front cover. "I want you to read it." Rick said. Lana opened it and read the inside front cover. "Out loud." Rick clarified. "Ah." Lana said, understanding. "'Thank you for choosing Videoland, the latest adventure game from Konami. We hope that you enjoy - '" "Uh, Lana, you can skip that part. Get to the story." Lana looked at page one. "'The Videoland Story: It was a dark day in Videoland. For seven years, Mother Brain's minions have laid siege on the Palace of Power. One day, Videoland's Ruler, Good King Charles, mysteriously disappeared from his bedroom. His daughter, Princess Lana, reluctantly ruled in her father's absence. She has always believed that Mother Brain was responsible for the King's abduction, so she sent the Palace's best warriors to Metroid to search for him and bring him home. After days of waiting, two of Mother Brain's minions came to the Palace with a message from the evil Metroid Queen: King Charles was gone forever. Along with this message were brought the severed heads of the warriors the Princess had sent out, which were dropped at the young ruler's feet. She began to cry in dismay. The Princess rapidly lost most of the Palace's army. As a last resort, she sent out a distress call, asking for help. Those that came were Simon Belmont of Castlevania, Mega Man of Megaland, and Kid Icarus of Mount Icarus. But even with this new help, things were looking grim. Outmanned and outplayed, the little band of defenders known as the N Team was no match for Mother Brain's minions, and fell into her clutches. Princess Lana has been kidnapped by Mother Brain's minions. Now, it is up to the rest of the N Team to rescue her. Good luck, brave warriors!'" Lana turned the page. "'Getting Started: Step 1: Insert the game cartridge into - '" "Uh, you can stop there. Thanks." Rick said. Lana closed the booklet and handed it back to Rick. "Now, all that's true, right?" Rick asked. Lana nodded. "Yep." Rick looked at everyone. "Okay, so basically, in the Videoland game, you can choose to play as either Simon, Mega Man, or Kid Icarus, and the object is to rescue Lana." He turned to face Lana. "Now, tell us about this Ancient Prophecy, 'cause it's not mentioned anywhere in the game or manual." "Well," Lana began, "the Prophecy is as old as Videoland - a few trillion years." Everyone else gasped in awe, including Kevin. "What does it say?" Rick asked. "Uh, that'll take a while." Lana said. "Just the part about Kevin." Rick clarified. Lana smiled. "I memorized that part after Kevin was brought to us. Part 12, Section 14: 'When the forces of good are near defeat, the Ultimate Warp Zone shall open, and a young warrior, from another land, known as Earth, shall warp into Videoland and lead the forces of good to victory against the forces of chaos. He is Captain N: The Game Master'." At that point, Stacey smiled at Kevin, and he smiled back at her. "How old is the part dealing with Kevin?" Rick asked. "As old as the rest of it." Lana answered. "As old as our history." "What is this Ancient Prophecy?" Rick asked. "Where's it from?" Lana shrugged. "No one knows. One interesting thing is that the Prophecy is also known as the Legend of Videoland." "Do you worship it?" Rick asked. "Is it like some kind of god to you or somethin'? Part of your religion?" Lana shook her head. "No, not a god. It just tells us what'll happen. We don't worship it." She paused and thought for a moment. "Well, at least the people on my world don't. There are probably some video worlds that do worship the Prophecy, though. But my world doesn't even have a religion." "Where is this Prophecy stored?" Rick asked. "The main copy is in the Palace's computers." Lana said, looking back at Rick. "Hand written copies are in the Kongoland Library, Hyrule Library, Dragon's Den Library, and Faxanadu Library." "Only five copies?" Lana laughed. "Believe it or not, not many worlds in Videoland actually know the Legend of Videoland! It was originally passed down spoken, then someone wrote it all down. My father typed it all into the Palace's computer fifty years ago." "Has everything in the Prophecy come true?" Lana nodded. "Everything." "Do you know how it ends?" "It ends with Part 12, Section 14." Rick shrugged and shook his head. "So now what?" "Now," Lana said, pausing for a moment, "we're in uncharted territory." "Who knows what'll happen, right?" Lana nodded. "Right."
Chapter 17"Okay," Rick said, smiling, "now I want you to tell us about your adventures in Videoland, Kevin." Kevin smiled and stood up. "Well, first, does anyone want a drink while I'm up?" Everyone agreed on Pepsi, of course, so Kevin went to the kitchen and got more cans. He came back with them, passed them out to everyone, sat down in his chair, and opened his can. "Okay," Kevin said, "where do you want me to start?" "With the part about cleaning your room." Rick said. "All right," Kevin said, getting up again, "follow me." They all got up. Rick unscrewed his camera from the stand and filmed them as they went upstairs. Kevin opened the door to his room. "Okay, guys, this is how everything looked when I got pulled into Videoland. We haven't moved a thing." "Wow!" Rick said, walking into the room with the camera. The rest of them followed him. Rick filmed the entire room, commenting on everything. Then he pointed the camera at Kevin. "Let me ask you something, Kevin. I've been wondering about this since yesterday." "Shoot." "How exactly does being sucked through your TV screen work? I mean, you told us yesterday Mike was also pulled through his TV screen, but then you said you came back to Earth through a swirling blue warp in an alley." "Okay," Kevin said, "opening up a warp between two universes requires a lot more energy than opening a warp between two points in Videoland, but it can be done! To save energy, you can use an electronic computer monitor or similar device on the other end to serve as the other end of the warp." "Cool. And?" "Well, the screen becomes washed with static, and the person on that end can see what's going on on the other end." "You mean like how you saw the N Team on your TV screen before you got pulled through?" Rick asked, remembering what Kevin had said when they were in Videoland. Kevin nodded. "Yeah. Then the screen becomes phased, allowing someone or something to pass through." "Now what about the blast of electrical energy that pulled you in?" "If you want, you can send out such a blast to force someone through the warp. It uses up a lot of energy, though, and pretty much equals out to just opening up a warp, rather than using an electronic monitor to serve as one. The Ultimate Warp Zone and Dr. Wily used this on me and Mike to pull us into Videoland." "The Ultimate Warp Zone sent out a hologram of some sort in order to scare anyone else that tried to pass through the warp before it closed, but Duke jumped in anyway." Lana added. "Warp Zones instantly transport you from one world to another by just stepping - or falling - through!" Kevin said. "Warp zones criss-cross every world in Videoland, from Kongoland to Hyrule! But they may lead almost anywhere in the other worlds - into a dungeon, onto a mountaintop, or even underwater! Years ago, the warp zones always took you exactly where you wanted to go. But since Mother Brain attacked, warp zones are not so reliable. And if you try to escape through another warp zone, things could get even worse!" Rick nodded. "Thanks." He then started filming the room again. He walked over to the closet. "And now, here's the closet." A disturbing feeling came to Kevin. He stood where he was for a moment, thinking. Then he remembered. He rushed forward. "Rick, no, don't!!!" Too late. Rick opened the door with his right hand and was soon thrown to the floor by all the stuff that came pouring out. Everyone gathered around. Kevin smiled. "Uh, sorry, Rick, I guess I should've warned ya! I forgot about all that stuff." Rick stood up and examined his video camera. "It's okay, no harm done." Kevin nodded. "Okay, let's go back downstairs." When they were back in the dining room, and Rick had set the camera back on the stand, they all took their seats again. "Now, as to what happened," Lana started, "me, Mega Man, Kid Icarus, and Simon were in the Throne room, waiting for our inevitable defeat, when the voice of the Prophecy spoke to me." "Voice?" Rick asked, surprised. Lana nodded. "Yeah. The Prophecy seems to have consciousness, and it's in the form of a fist on a pedestal in the Throne room." "Far out!" Stacey said. "So, anyway," Lana continued, "the lights went out, and the fist started giving off a bright light, and . . . " Lana and Kevin took turns telling the story. When they got to the part of the story where Kevin got his weapons, Kevin took off his belt and passed it to Rick. "The Power Pad's basic functions are jumping to incredible heights, moving around really fast, and pausing." Kevin explained. "When I press the Pause button, everything and everyone around me freezes. I can still talk with them, though. The Zapper has three settings: laser, freeze, and heat." "What do they run on?" Rick asked, looking them over. "Usually on the Sun Stone that powers the Palace." Kevin said. "But they can be powered by just about any sort of energy." Rick passed the belt to Ned. After Stacey looked at it, she handed it to Lana, who handed it back to Kevin, who put it back on. Kevin and Lana resumed their story. After they finished talking about their first adventure together, they talked about their second one - when they met Bayou Billy. When they were done with that story, Cheryl stood up. "Well, it's lunch time. I'll go get something. Don't go on without me!" She went into the kitchen. Ned got up and followed her. Rick got up and went over to the video camera, stopped the tape, ejected it, and shut the power off. Fifteen minutes later, Cheryl and Ned began carrying plates into the dining room, setting them down in front of everyone. Everyone thanked them for lunch, and Kevin's parents sat back down with their own plates. Lunch for each of them was four salami sandwiches with peppers on white bread and a large glass of milk. Rick unwrapped a new tape, went to the video camera, turned it on, placed the tape inside, and started recording. He went back and took his seat. Kevin and Lana told all about most of the N Team's adventures - all from memory. They didn't leave out a single detail in any of them. Everyone was fascinated.
Chapter 18Rick had just ejected the fourth tape and shut off the camera when Cheryl stood up. "It's past six. Dinner time." "Yeah, we really should take a break." Lana said, standing up with everyone else. Rick put the fourth tape in its cover and set it down on the table. "Mmmmm, this is delicious, Mrs. K!" Lana said, then tapped her plate with her fork. "Mmm, I gotta get this recipe!" They were all sitting at the dining room table again. "So, guys," Kevin asked, "what's been happening around here while I was away?" "Well, me, Romeo, and Julius graduated last May." Rick said. "Goin' to a community college now." Kevin nodded. "Other than that, nothin' else. Already told ya about the Club." "What are you guys studying to be?" Kevin asked. "Professional football players." Rick, Romeo, and Julius answered. After dinner, Kevin and Lana finished telling about the rest of their adventures. Rick, Stacey, Romeo, and Julius also talked about the time they were brought to Videoland by Dr. Wily, and about how they were reunited with Kevin and Lana yesterday. No one left out a single detail.
Chapter 19Kevin and Lana finished with telling about going to Kevin's house, seeing his parents, having dinner, going to sleep, and waking about this morning. "That's it." Kevin said. Rick smiled. "All right, this meeting of the Videoland Club is officially adjourned at 11 PM." Everyone stood up. Rick went over to the camera, stopped and ejected the sixth and last tape, shut off the power, and took the camera off the stand. Rick then walked back over to Kevin and Lana. "Hey, guys." Kevin and Lana looked at him. "How 'bout I take you around town tomorrow? Show ya around? After all, you helped me!" "Hey, yeah!" Stacey added. "I can pick you three up!" Kevin smiled. "Hey, that's great!" What do ya say, Lana?" Lana grinned. "Sounds like an excellent opportunity for me to learn about your culture! I'm in!" Rick grinned. "Great!" "We'll teach you everything you need to know to be an average, groovy, California babe!" Kevin promised. "Uh, . . . should I be happy or scared?" "Stop by at ten." Kevin told Rick. "I'll pick ya up at 9:45, Rick." Stacey said. Rick nodded. "Sounds like a plan!" "Uh, so you got everything on tape, right Rick?" Cheryl asked. Rick nodded. "Yeah." She turned to Kevin. "Then you can go clean up your room now, Kevin." Kevin sighed. "Aw, mom!" "Do as your mother says, Kev." Ned told him. Kevin groaned and walked away. Lana laughed and followed him. "Don't worry, Kevin, I'll help you."
Chapter 20Kevin woke up the next morning at 9 AM. When he walked downstairs a half hour later, he saw that Lana was sitting on the couch in the living room, with the remote control in her left hand, watching TV. She was still wearing her royal clothes. "Good morning." Kevin said. Lana looked up at him. "Good morning, Kevin." She moved her feet so that Kevin could sit to her left. "What are you watchin'?" Kevin asked, looking at the TV screen. "I have no idea." Lana answered, shaking her head. "I was flippin' through the channels and found it." On the screen was a man in his thirties. He had short brown hair and was wearing a dark suit, black tie, and white shirt. He was a preacher, and he was putting his own personal spin on the Bible passages while a song called 'Kill Some Pissants For Jesus' was playing in the background. "You have some rather, uh, . . . interesting TV programs on your world, Kevin." Lana commented. She shut off the TV and put the remote on the coffee table. She looked at Kevin. "Who is this Jesus, anyway? He seems pretty popular. Is he a big celebrity or something?" "Uh, yeah, you could say that." Kevin answered. "What does he do?" "Well, Jesus is the Lord." "Lord?" Lana asked. "You mean like a rich noble?" Kevin shook his head. "No, no, no. You see, Jesus is Lord, and Elvis is King." "Elvis?" Kevin shook his head again. "Never mind." "I ate breakfast already. Yours is on the table." "Thanks." Kevin said, and got up and went into the kitchen. Lana followed him. "Where are my mom and dad?" "Uh, they went to something called . . . " She thought for a moment, then remembered the word. "Church." Kevin smiled, sitting at the table, and Lana sat to his left. "Pancakes, wow." Kevin commented, annoyed, and began eating.
Chapter 21At 10 AM, they heard two honks come from outside. "That's them." Kevin said. They went to the door. Kevin unlocked it, opened it, and let Lana step outside first. Then he locked the door, went outside, and closed it behind him. A red convertible was parked in the driveway. The roof was down. Stacey was sitting behind the wheel, and Rick to her right. Stacey waved with her left hand. "Hi, Kevy! Hey, Lana!" Kevin and Lana walked up to the driver side. "Stacey, is this yours?!" Kevin asked. Stacey nodded. "Uh-huh! I got it for my birthday last year!" "Loving parents!" Kevin said, looking the car over in awe. "Hop in, dudes!" Stacey said. Kevin hopped in the back seat behind Stacey. Lana looked uncertainly at him. Kevin scooted to his right and smiled. "Go ahead, Lana, hop!" Lana hopped and landed perfectly to Kevin's left. The two of them fastened their seatbelts, and then Stacey turned the ignition and started the car. She put it in reverse and backed out of the driveway. Then she put it in drive, and they took off down the road. "So," Stacey said, "where do you guys wanna go first?" Kevin looked at Lana. "Shopping." "Hey, check this out!" Stacey turned on the built-in CD player. "What do you wanna hear?" "What do you got?" Kevin asked. "Robert Palmer." Stacey replied. Kevin nodded. "Okay." He looked at Lana. "Lana, here's your first Earth musical experience!" Lana smiled. Stacey selected a track. 'Addicted To Love' started playing. "Hey, Kevy, we danced to this on our date, remember?" Kevin nodded. "Yeah." Lana frowned and looked at him. "The two of you danced?" Kevin felt uneasy. "Uh, I might tell you about it - later." Soon, they arrived at the local Wal-Mart. Quite a few people gave Lana strange looks. Kevin, Lana, Stacey, and Rick made their way to the women's clothing department. "What's your size?" Stacey asked Lana. "Uh, we might have a different scale in Videoland." Lana said. "Just pick something out for me." So, Stacey picked out some basic clothes for Lana: blue jean shorts, a neon green short sleeve shirt, and white sneakers. After a few minutes, Lana came out of the dressing room. "So, . . . what do you guys think?" Kevin nodded. "Cool!" "Really groovy!" Stacey commented. Rick gave her a thumbs-up. "Awesome!" "I take it that means I look good." Lana said. "I love 'em! Stacey, after I change back, we'll pick out some more stuff!" Stacey nodded. The two girls picked out a lot of stuff, filling up a whole cart. Stacey bought matching sunglasses for her and Lana, as well as digital watches, which they wore on their left wrists. They enjoyed looking at themselves in the mirror. Kevin left and returned with another cart. "I'm gonna get some new games, man!" Kevin and Rick went to the home electronics department. Kevin stared in awe at all the new games and systems that had come out since he left. Rick helped him pick out all the best ones. Stacey paid for Lana's clothes, while Rick paid for Kevin's games, seeing as Kevin still had only the $3.85 on him. After Stacey had paid, Lana went to the women's restroom and changed back into the clothes that Stacey had first picked out for her, along with a pair of white socks. She hung her new sunglasses on her neck and put her royal clothes in one of the shopping bags. When she joined the others in the parking lot, they had just finished packing everything in the trunk. Stacey looked at Lana and smiled, then she took off Lana's crown, necklace, earrings, and bracelets and put them in the shopping bag with Lana's clothes. "There!" Lana smiled back, and they all got in the car. Lana put the bag down between her feet. "Where are we going now?" Lana asked as they drove down the street. "Hair salon." Stacey replied. She changed CDs and selected a track. 'I Get Weak' by Belinda Carlisle came on: When I'm with you, I shake inside. My heart's all tangled up. My tongue is tied; it's crazy. Can't walk, can't talk, can't eat, can't sleep. Oh, I'm in love, oh, I'm in deep, 'cuz baby, With a kiss, you can strip me defenseless, With a touch, I completely lose control, 'Til all that's left of my strength is a memory, wo. I get weak when I look at you, Weak when we touch. I can't speak when I look in your eyes. I get weak when you're next to me, Weak from this love. I can't speak when I look in your eyes. I get weak. When they walked into the hair salon, a blonde girl in her twenties greeted them. "My friend here wants to get a haircut." Stacey said, nodding at Lana. Lana didn't actually want a haircut. She loved her long hair, which took her her whole life to grow to that length, but she kept quiet. "Ah, and what kind would she like?" the girl asked Stacey. Stacey shrugged. "I dunno. Make it somethin' tubular!" The girl nodded to Lana. "All right, follow me." Lana sat down on a chair which was in front of a sink. The girl first got Lana's hair wet and shampooed it, then rinsed it. Finally, she started combing and cutting it. "I'm Kristen, by the way." she said. "What's your name?" "Lana." "Beautiful name." Kristen replied. "Uh, how good are you at cutting hair?" Lana asked, concerned. "As good as you want me to be, baby." Lana started to get up in a panic, but Kristen pushed her back to a sitting position. "Stay still." Kristen said, and resumed combing and cutting. "Your hair's so beautiful! Are you sure you want me to cut it?! I mean, I've only taken off a little so far. It won't take long to grow back." Lana looked at Stacey, who nodded. Lana nodded. "Yeah, go ahead and cut it." A half hour later, after Kristen had applied the conditioner to, rinsed, and dried Lana's hair, she announced: "Done!" Lana stood up and walked over to a mirror that took up a whole wall. She was amazed at what she saw. Her hair was short, going down to the bottom of her ears in the back, and down to her eyelids in the front. Most of the hair was combed to the sides, but some hung in front of her forehead. "Well," Kristen asked, "what do ya think?" "I love it!" Lana said sincerely. She turned around, smiling. "Guys!" The others, who had been looking in the opposite direction for the past half hour because they wanted to be surprised, now turned to face Lana. "Wow!" Kevin said, amazed at just how cool Lana looked. Rick gave his thumbs-up again. "Lookin' good!" "Tuburadacious!" Stacey said. "Now, the first two I understand." Lana said, then smiled. "Thanks." As they were walking towards the door, Kristen came up and put her left hand on Lana's left shoulder. "Lana." Lana turned around to face her. Kristen smiled. "Thanks for stopping by. Whenever you need your hair cut, come back here and ask for me. You're always welcome." Lana smiled and nodded, then turned and walked out the door. Once the four of them were driving again, Stacey looked at the digital watch on her left wrist. "It's almost noon. Let's stop somewhere for lunch." Kevin looked at Lana. "Okay, Lana, what do you want to eat?" Lana smiled. "Something I haven't tried before." Kevin smiled. "I know just the place." Kevin asked Stacey to take them all to lunch at Taco Bell. They went inside and stood in line. "What, exactly, is a taco?" Lana asked. "You'll see. They're good, trust me." Kevin assured her. He ordered the same thing for all of them: eight regular tacos, four bags of nachos with cheese and hot peppers, and four large Pepsis. Rick and Stacey paid. When they sat down at a table, Lana unwrapped one of her tacos and looked at it. "Interesting. Kinda like a sandwich, huh?" Kevin nodded, smiling. Lana took a bite. "Mmm!!! Great! It tastes even better than my favorite, er, former favorite sandwich!" "Which is?" Rick asked. "Genetic protein on plankton toast." "Iiwwwhhh!" Stacey said, disgusted. "Like, put me on a roller coaster and watch me throw up!" Lana looked at Rick. "Does she always say weird stuff like that?" Rick laughed. Lana dipped a nacho in cheese and tasted it. "Great!" She ate the rest of the nacho, then swallowed three hot peppers at once. Her friends stared at her in disbelief. "I love hot and spicy food." Lana said. "Always have." "So," Kevin asked Lana as they ate, "what else do you wanna do today?" Lana shrugged and smiled. "I dunno! You're the tour guides, not me!" Kevin smiled at Rick and Stacey. "Video arcade, guys." They nodded. They walked into the video arcade, which was the one that Kevin and Mike always used to hang out at. It was their favorite one in town. Rick took some money out of his wallet and handed it out to Kevin and Lana. "Twenty bucks each. Enjoy!" Kevin and Lana thanked him, and then went over to the token machine. "Now, don't waste all your money on one game." Kevin advised her. "Waste it on a lot of different games! See which ones you like and which ones you don't." Lana nodded. "Gotcha." Kevin began changing all the five dollar bills for tokens. "That used to be my problem when I first started coming to the arcade. The first few weeks, I'd get so into a game that I'd blow all my money for the week on it, and I didn't get to play anything else." He laughed. "I always used to bug Mike, asking him for money, and he'd always refuse!" He handed Lana her tokens. They both played a variety of different games. Lana played for the first time in her life. Kevin played for nostalgic reasons - and he really enjoyed playing the many new games, too! The two of them especially enjoyed beating each other up in the two-player fighting games. The four of them really enjoyed themselves, but eventually they ran out of tokens. Once they were in the car again, Stacey selected another track. 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth' by Belinda Carlisle came on: When the night falls down, I wait for you, And you come around. And the world's alive With the sound of kids On the street outside. When you walk into the room, You pull me close and we start to move. And we're spinning with the stars above, And you lift me up in a wave of love. Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on earth. They say in heaven love comes first. We'll make heaven a place on earth. Ooh, heaven is a place on earth. "Wanna get some ice cream?" Stacey asked. "Yeah!" Lana replied. "All right!" Rick said happily. Kevin smiled. "Sounds like a plan!" When they walked into the ice cream parlor, Stacey pointed at the wide variety of flavors behind the glass. "Pick a flavor." Lana looked at all of them. She'd heard of some of them before, but not all. A brunette girl in her twenties noticed the new customers. "Which one do you want?" Lana shook her head, still looking at the choices. "I dunno." She looked at the girl. "Do you have video chip?" "Uh, . . . no," the girl said, "but we've got chocolate chip." Lana smiled, remembering the cookies, but she really wasn't in the mood for that flavor right now. "In that case, I'll have almond pistachio." "In a waffle cone." Kevin told Lana. "In a waffle cone." Lana added. The girl smiled. "And you?" she asked Kevin. Kevin nodded. "The same." Stacey nodded. "Same." Rick nodded. "Same." "Four almond pistachios in waffle cones comin' up!" the girl said. In about a minute, she handed them their ice cream, for which they thanked her. Stacey paid for her and Lana's, while Rick paid for his and Kevin's. The four friends sat at a table. Clockwise, starting at the direction of the door: Kevin, Lana, Rick, Stacey. Lana licked her ice cream. "Mmmm! Oh, yeah!" "Where to next?" Kevin asked. "I dunno." Lana answered between licks. "Hold on, I'm outta cash!" Rick said. "Ditto!" Stacey said, then looked at Kevin and Lana. "You guys are, like, expensive!" "It's only three." Kevin said. "We have the rest of the day to hang out." "We can go out somewhere again tomorrow." Rick said, then suddenly thought of something and smiled. "Hey guys, why don't you come over to my house? I can show you our records, and you can help me add to them the info from the meeting yesterday!" Kevin smiled. "Great!"
Chapter 22They all walked into Rick's bedroom, and Rick closed the door behind him. On the wall to the left was a big cabinet with a TV, VCR, and every video game console and game Rick could get his hands on. On the wall opposite the door was a big bookshelf filled with video game books, video game magazines, and a whole bunch of video tapes. On the wall to the right was a table and chair. The table had a computer on it, along with a printer, a laptop, and a scanner. There was a bed, and a lot of sports and video game posters hung on the wall. "Welcome to my room!" Rick said proudly. "Cool!" Kevin said, stepping forward. Rick went over and turned on the TV and VCR. He put a tape in the VCR and played it. "Here's Friday's meeting." They all sat on Rick's bed and watched it. They laughed out loud at the part where Rick got scared when he saw Kevin. Kevin smiled. "Hi, Rick! What's happenin'?!" Rick ran over to Kevin and hugged him. "Man, what are you doing back here?!" They let go of each other. "Lookin' good, man!" Kevin said, shaking his head. Rick laughed. "You, too! Man, I got a ton of questions!" "Me, too!" Kevin said. "Come on in!" Rick said, excited. He walked back into the house, with Kevin, Lana, and Stacey following. Rick quickly checked the time. He looked at the video camera. "2 PM exactly, and Kevin Keene, the man, is back!" Rick got up and ejected the tape. He put it back in its cover and on the shelf. "I already added all the info from that meeting. It was a big task, man! What I need you guys to do is help me add everything from yesterday's meeting." Kevin and the others stood up. "No problem!" Kevin said. Rick lowered the volume on the TV, then went and sat at the table. He turned on his computer and monitor. The other three gathered around. The Windows desktop had a white background. 'Captain N' was written in red and was inside an oval with a white background and a red border. The word 'THE' was written in white underneath. Behind it was a sort of yellow beam. The word 'GAME' was written at the end of the beam in blue letters, and 'MASTER' under that, also in blue. "You like the desktop?" Rick asked. "I drew it myself!" Kevin nodded. "Awesome! If they ever made a TV show about us, that'd make a great title logo!" Rick showed them all the files. There were a lot of text files, covering a wide range of topics, from warp zones to weapons to enemies. There were character profiles of everyone, good guys and bad guys. There was exhaustive coverage of all video games, taken from many different sources. There were a lot of drawings and sketches of everyone. Rick showed them the Internet, which Kevin thought was awesome, but Lana thought was primitive, compared to Videoland's communications system. Afterwards, Kevin, Lana, Stacey, and Rick went through two of the tapes from Saturday's meeting. At 10 PM, Kevin, Lana, and Stacey said bye to Rick and went out to the driveway, where Stacey had parked her car. When they were driving back to Kevin's house, Stacey changed CDs, putting in 'Vital Idol'. They listened to 'White Wedding': Hey little sister, what have you done? Hey little sister, who's the only one? Hey little sister, who's your Superman? Hey little sister, who's the one you want? Hey little sister, shot gun! It's a nice day to start again. It's a nice day for a white wedding. It's a nice day to start again. Hey little sister, what have you done? Hey little sister, who's the only one? I've been away for so long. (so long) I've been away for so long. (so long) I let you go for so long. It's a nice day to start again. (come on) It's a nice day for a white wedding. It's a nice day to start again. When they got to Kevin's house, the three of them carried all of Kevin's systems, games, and accessories, and Lana's clothes, up to their rooms. After that, they said bye to Stacey, and she went home. Then, Kevin and Lana went to bed.
Chapter 23On Monday morning, when Rick and Stacey arrived, the four of them made plans to go to the beach. So, Lana and Stacey put on their new bikinis under the clothes, and Kevin and Rick put on swimming trunks. While they were driving to the beach, Stacey selected a track on the CD that was currently in the player. 'Circle In The Sand' by Belinda Carlisle came on: Sundown all around, Walking through the summer's end. Waves crash; baby, don't look back. I won't walk away again. Oh, oh, oh, baby, anywhere you go, We are bound together. I begin, baby, where you end. Some things are forever! Circle in the sand, 'Round and 'round. Never ending love is what we've found. And you complete the heart of me. Our love is all we need. Circle in the sand. Circle in the sand. They all rented surfboards and had a blast riding the waves. Sometimes, Kevin and Lana would ride on the same board. Sometimes Kevin and Stacey, which Lana didn't really like. They also rented roller skates and raced down the boardwalk, and they played volleyball. They had brought a cooler with them, and had sandwiches and cold cans of Pepsi for lunch. Then it started to rain. They quickly packed everything up, showered, and got into the car. Stacey and Lana put the roof up, and they drove away. "So much for our day at the beach." Lana muttered. Kevin smiled. "Hey, c'mon, Lana, we can have just as much fun at home!" "I guess you're right." Stacey changed CDs and selected a track. Devo's 'Whip It' came on: Crack that whip! Give the past the slip. Step on a crack. Break your momma's back. When a problem comes along, You must whip it. Before the cream sits out too long, You must whip it. When something's going wrong, You must whip it. Now whip it, Into shape, Shape it up, Get straight, Go forward, Move ahead, Try to detect it, It's not too late, To whip it, Whip it good!
Chapter 24When they were all in Kevin's living room again, Rick turned to him. "So, Kev, I guess you're gonna spend all day playing your new video games, huh?" "Actually, no." Kevin said. "I'm gonna take this rainy day as a great opportunity to introduce Lana to more American culture." "Sounds great!" Lana said, smiling. "What's up first?" "TV shows." Kevin went over to select a tape to watch. He turned on the TV and VCR and put the tape in. He sat on the couch, Lana sat to his right, Stacey sat to his left, and Rick sat to Lana's right. "Now," Kevin said, "this is what you've been waiting for." He picked up the VCR's remote control and pressed the PLAY button. On the TV screen started the lost pilot of 'Star Trek': 'The Cage'. Lana grinned. Together, they went through the pilot and ten original series episodes. "Okay, put on something different now." Lana said. "A movie." So, Kevin put on the original 'Highlander', which Lana loved. "That was great!" Lana said after it was over. She looked to Kevin. "Is there a sequel?!" "Uh, yeah," Rick answered for Kevin. "It's called 'Highlander 2: The Sickening'." Lana looked at him. "Hmm, that's an odd name!" Rick shook his head. "Do yourself a favor and don't bother watching it!" "Okay," Kevin said, smiling, "how 'bout some dance lessons?!" Lana nodded happily. "Okay!" They all stood up. "Let's go up to my room." Kevin said.
Chapter 25When they were all in Kevin's room, Kevin turned on the light and closed the door behind him. He looked through his CD collection, picked one, and put it in the CD player. He turned the stereo on, checked to make sure the dial was turned to 'CD', and selected a track. Billy Idol's 'Dancing With Myself' came on: On the floors of Tokyo, Down in London town's a-go-go, With the record selection And the mirror's reflection, I'm a-dancing with myself. Oh, when there's no one else in sight In the crowded, lonely night, Well, I wait so long for my love vibration, And I'm dancing with myself. Oh, oh, oh, dancing with myself. Oh, oh, oh, dancing with myself. Well, there's nothing to lose, And there's nothing to prove, And I'm dancing with myself. Oh, oh, oh, oh. After the song was over, Lana smiled at Kevin. "This is fun!" "I'm glad you like it!" Kevin said. "Love it!" Lana said. "Put on something romantic now." Kevin nodded. "Okay. Uh, guys?" Rick nodded. "Right." He and Stacey left the room, and he closed the door behind him. Kevin put in another CD and selected a track. 'One Year of Love' by Queen came on. Kevin offered his right hand, and Lana took it with her right. The two of them put their arms around each other and danced. Lana laid her head on Kevin's left shoulder. Just one year of love Is better than a lifetime alone. One sentimental moment in your arms Is like a shooting star right through my heart. It's always a rainy day without you. I'm a prisoner of love inside you. I'm falling apart all around you - yeah. Lana looked up, and she and Kevin made eye contact. Then they kissed for the remainder of the song.
Chapter 26On Tuesday, it started raining a few hours before sunrise. When Kevin and Lana woke up at 7:00 AM, it was already a thunderstorm. They each went through their morning routine. They walked downstairs into the living room. "Kevin, are we gonna have a thunderstorms like this every day?!" "Well, it is summer." Kevin answered, smiling. Kevin and Lana were both barefoot, wearing only shorts and short sleeve shirts. It was just too hot during the summer. They walked into the kitchen and sat at the table, with Lana on Kevin's left. They ate the pancakes that had been left on their plates for them - drenched in maple syrup, of course. After they were done eating, Kevin washed the dishes. When he was done with them, he walked over to the phone on the kitchen wall and picked it up. "I'm gonna call Rick and Stacey and ask 'em to come over." Lana walked over to him. "Rick, all right, but - " "Lana." Kevin stopped her. About a half hour later, the doorbell rang. Kevin went to the door, unlocked it, and opened it. Rick and Stacey were standing there, with Rick on Stacey's right. "Hey, what's up, Kev?" Rick said cheerfully. He and Kevin shook hands. "Hey, Rick." Kevin answered, smiling. Rick walked inside. Kevin and Stacey greeted each other and shook hands. Stacey walked inside. Kevin closed the door and locked it. "Hey, Lana!" Stacey said cheerfully. Again that same pronunciation. "Hi, Stacey." Lana said, shaking her hand and squeezing it hard. Stacey pulled her hand away. "Ow!" She shook it rapidly. "So, what's up, Kevin?" Rick asked. "Oh, I just thought we could hang out indoors today, since it's raining." "Sounds super-okey-duper-dokey!" Stacey said cheerfully. "My thoughts exactly." Lana said sarcastically. "Well, at least you got the air conditioning on, man!" Rick commented. "It's hot outside!" "You don't need to tell me, my man!" Kevin said, shaking his head. The two of them laughed. "Can I get you guys something?" Kevin offered the other three. Rick wanted a Pepsi, and the girls agreed, so Kevin went to the kitchen and got an unopened two-liter bottle of Pepsi from the fridge and four large glasses out of a cabinet. "So, what do you wanna do?" Rick asked as Kevin came back. "Well, I figured we could just sit on the floor and maybe talk about old times, ya know?" Kevin suggested. They all agreed it was a great idea, and the four of them went and sat by an open window in a corner of the living room. They sat in a diamond shape. Starting at the window, clockwise: Kevin, Rick, Lana, Stacey. "Do you guys want me to turn on the lights?" Kevin asked. Because of the thunderstorm, it was pretty dark in the whole house. They all said no. Rick and Stacey took their sandals off and put them behind them. Kevin poured all of them a drink and put the bottle aside. "Okay, whoever wants to tell a story can go ahead, and someone else can go when they're done. No interruptions." Rick nodded. "Sounds good. You go first."
Chapter 27Kevin nodded. "Okay, um, . . . oh, here's one. This happened back when me and Mike were still friends. It was 1988, and we were fourteen. Mike was over here. We had just finished eating dinner - lasagna - and we decided to walk down to the Circle K and order a pizza. We planned to have it sent to an old house that no one had lived in for years. We would be waiting there when the pizza guy came, and then we would grab it and just run off!" Kevin started laughing. "Kevin, that's not nice!" Lana said. "Shhh!" Kevin said. "No interruptions!" Lana remembered the rule. "Sorry." "Anyway," Kevin continued, "we were walking along, and we hadn't even done anything wrong yet, when . . . " Kevin and Mike were walking down the street, with Kevin on Mike's right. Kevin was wearing blue jeans, a Beatles shirt, and sneakers. Mike was wearing blue jeans, a Florida Marlins shirt, and sneakers. It was near sunset. Then they noticed a police car pull off the road and stop on the grass. Kevin and Mike stopped and looked at the car. They had been walking on the left side of the road. Two police officers got out of the car. The driver was fat. Well, not really fat. More like kinda porgy. And his partner looked like a rat! The two officers walked up to Kevin and Mike. The rat officer pulled out his flashlight, turned it on, and pointed it directly in Kevin's face. Kevin squinted as his eyes tried to adjust to the light. "What are you boys doing?" the fat officer asked. "Uh, we're just walking." Kevin said. "Yeah, just walking." Mike said. "You boys wouldn't know anything about robberies on the east end of town, would you?" the fat officer asked. "Uh, no, sir." Mike replied. "I live up there, and I don't know anything about robberies." "How about you?" the fat officer asked Kevin. "Nope, I don't know anything about robberies up there." Fat eyed Kevin. "Hey, boy, you look like trouble. Have we met before?" "Uh, . . . no. I've never been in trouble with the law before." "Are you sure? I could've sworn I'd seen you before." He sniffed the air, then asked: "Hey, . . . do I smell garlic?" "Uh, yeah, we just had lasagna." Kevin answered. Fat looked at Mike. "What is your height and weight?" "Six foot three, one hundred thirty pounds." Mike answered. Fat turned to Kevin. "And how about you?" "Uh, . . . I dunno." Kevin answered. "What?" Fat asked. "You don't know your weight and height?!" "Uh, . . . nope, I sure don't." "When you get home, find out that information from your parents and put it on a card in your wallet." Kevin shrugged. "Okay." Fat looked at them both. "Say, are you boys acid rockers?" Rat chuckled. Kevin and Mike shrugged. "I guess." they said together. "You boys know, one of these days, when you're older, your wife is going to say something to you, and you're going to have to ask her 'What's that, Ethel? I can't hear you. I damaged my ears when I was younger as an acid rocker.'" Rat giggled. Kevin and Mike smiled and nodded. Fat looked at Mike. "How old are you?" "Fourteen." Mike answered. "Are you still in school?" "Uh, not really." Mike answered. "I go to Northridge High. You can't really call it a school." "Do I smell garlic?!" "Yes." Mike said. "We just told you - we ate lasagna." Kevin added. "Oh yes." Fat faced Mike. "So, Mike, what do you want to be when you grow up?" "I would like to be a cop, sir!" Mike said, grinning. "Why?" So he can get as many donuts as he wants, Kevin considered saying, but then decided not to. "Uh, . . . I don't know." Mike answered. "Do you have any clue what it is like to be a cop?" Fat asked Mike. Mike shrugged. "No, sir." "Have you ever walked into a room where a man has died, his house stinks from his corpse, and his dog is so hungry, it is eating his flesh?" "Uh, . . . no, sir." "Why do I smell garlic?!" Fat asked at the same time Mike was answering. Kevin sighed. "We already told you two times - we ate lasagna before we left the house." "Do you still want to be a cop?" Fat asked Mike. Mike shrugged, while Fat looked at Kevin. "Oh." One and a half hours passed, with Fat asking stupid questions, and Rat shining his flashlight in Kevin and Mike's faces and chuckling whenever Fat said something stupid. Finally, Fat said: "Well, we need to get a move on. You boys keep out of trouble." He turned to Kevin. "And I am sure we will meet again, young man, and you make sure you make a card with your height and weight on it. Next time I see you, I am going to ask for it." "So, finally, they let us go." Kevin said, ending the story. "It was dark by then." "So, what happened?" Lana asked. "When you got to the Circle K. Did you make the call?" Kevin started laughing. "We didn't have a quarter! Talk about great planning, huh?! Both me and Mike left the house, planning on calling for pizza, and neither of us checked to see if we had a quarter! We both just assumed that the other one would have one!" "But couldn't you have used other coins," Rick asked, "like nickels and dimes?" "Yeah," Kevin said, "but we both counted up what we had, and it wasn't enough." "Great story, man!" Rick said. "You gotta type it up and put it on the Web!" Kevin laughed again. "Yeah! One day, those two officers will be surfin' the Web, and they'll come across my page, and the porgy officer will say: 'Hey, I remember this incident! That was the time we questioned those two acid rockers about the robberies!'"
Chapter 28"Okay, now how about you, Lana?" Rick asked. "Got any great memories you'd like to share?" "Not really." Lana said. "I mean, most of my childhood wasn't all that great. But there was this one time . . . " She told about her fifteenth birthday, when Simon came crashing into the Throne room on the bike he bought for her. Everyone laughed. "That was great!" Rick said when Lana finished. "Okay, Stacey, your turn." "I wanna hear more of Kevy's stories!" Stacey said. "Yeah," Lana said, "c'mon, Kevy!" She shook her head. "I mean Kevin!" Kevin laughed. Rick laughed. "Okay, I got nothin'! It's all you, Kev!" Kevin thought for a moment, then laughed. "Okay, me and Mike were walkin' along the street one night when he was staying over at my house. This is still back in 1988, when we were fourteen. Anyway, there's this kid that lives close to me. If you're facing the front of my house, his is two doors to the left, and the lot to the right of mine just has a bunch of overgrown grass, weeds, and trees. Anyway, me and Mike can't stand this kid! He . . . he had a rectangular shaped jungle gym made out of wood, and it was standing in his backyard. He used to walk out there, like, every two weeks, sit on it for five minutes, and that made it useful! So anyway, me and Mike were walking down the street, and we passed his house, when . . . " The garage door was open. Mike stopped and looked into the garage. "Hey, Kev." He was grinning. "Yeah?" Kevin asked, stopping also. "I'm gonna go in there and steal somethin', man!" "What?! Are you crazy, Mike?! We'll get in trouble for that, man!" "Trust me, man." Mike assured him. "You go back to the house. I'll be along soon!" Kevin shrugged. "Okay." Instead of walking away, though, he backed up and watched. Mike looked around to make sure no one was watching him, then he ran into the garage. He came out with a broom in his right hand. He and Kevin laughed and ran away. Mike threw the broom into the empty lot. Then they walked around the neighborhood some more. When they got back to Kevin's room, they talked for a bit. Then, Kevin turned on his double-deck radio and recorded them as they talked and Mike played 'The Legend of Zelda'. Quite a while later, Kevin had been done recording, and was now listening to some songs by Ozzy Osbourne. He looked at his friend. "Uh, Mike, it's three in the morning. You plannin' on goin' to sleep any time soon?" "No, I'm playin', man." "But it's late!" "Man, I'm at the seventh labyrinth! I'm gonna win soon!" "Who cares, man!" Kevin yelled. "Go to bed!" "No, man, I'm gonna beat Ganon and rescue the Princess, man!" "Man, I gotta get some sleep!" Kevin got up and went down into the living room, where his parents had set up a bed for Mike on the couch, and fell asleep on it. In the morning, Mike was standing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of Pepsi. "Hey, man!" Mike said cheerfully. "Hey, Mike." Kevin replied, walking into the kitchen. "Hey, man, you went out like a rock last night!" "Uh, and how would you know this?" "Last night, I beat Zelda, but I couldn't tell ya! Ya wouldn't wake up! I tried kicking you and shaking you and poking you! Nothing would work!" Later in the day, Kevin and Mike were talking with Ned, telling him they were going to go over to Mike's house for a while. "Hey, I found a broom." Ned said suddenly. "Uh, . . . what?" Kevin asked. "In the lot next to our house. I was out mowing the lawn, and I found it lying there. I don't know where it came from." "Uh, well, we don't know either." Kevin lied. "Someone must've just thrown it away." Everyone laughed. "Zelda's gotta hear that one when we get back!" Lana said.
Chapter 29Kevin thought of something else. "Okay, okay, okay, now this next thing happened on New Year's Eve. We were still fourteen. Anyway, it was almost midnight, and me and Mike decided to go take a stroll outside. We were walkin' down the street, with cans of Mountain Dew in our hands, when we passed by a neighbor's house." "Same guy?" Rick asked. Kevin shook his head. "No, different guy. His house is all the way down the street. Anyway, this kid's family was throwing a New Year's Eve party on their back porch, when we walked by, and . . . " Kevin and Mike stopped in front of the house. They saw lights on the back porch and heard voices. "Stand back, Kev." Mike said. "Why?" Kevin asked. "What are you gonna do?" Mike walked up close to the porch, and Kevin followed him. Kevin ran after him. "Hey, Mike, wait up!" Mike grinned. Then he spoke in his best Jamaican accent, yelling at the top of his lungs: "Having a good time at the party, mon?!!!" Everyone at the party started asking questions, wondering where the voice had come from, but they hadn't seen anyone. Mike and Kevin ran away as fast as they could, laughing. "Now," Kevin said, "try to picture this: two kids, running up a street late at night, spilling Mountain Dew everywhere!" "Movie of the Week, man!" Rick said, and everyone laughed.
Chapter 30"Anyway," Kevin said, "soon afterwards, Mike turned into a bully and started beating me and everyone else up, so I have no more great memories of us." "That's too bad." Stacey said. "It seems like the two of you were great friends." Kevin nodded. "Yeah, we were." "Okay, now, tell me about your date with Stacey." Lana said. "Well, I was sitting in Algebra class on Wednesday, September 6, 1989, and I, like most of the other kids, wasn't paying attention to a word that the teacher was saying . . . " Kevin was sitting in his Algebra class, reading an old issue of a video game magazine that was hidden from the teacher's view by his Algebra book. "All right," the teacher said, "your test on this chapter is tomorrow. I expect you all to study for it." The bell rang, ending class. Kevin put all of his stuff into his book bag and zipped it up. He looked up and saw Stacey walking past his desk. Kevin got up. "Uh, . . . Stacey?" Stacey turned around. "Oh, hi. Your name's Kerwin, right?" Kevin smiled, real nervous. "Uh, Kevin - Kevin Keene." Stacey nodded, now remembering. "Ah." "Listen, um, I was wondering if maybe we could . . . go out sometime - like maybe tonight." "Sorry, I'm busy. I gotta study for the test." "Uh, what test?" "The Algebra test that we have tomorrow." Stacey said. "Didn't you hear Mr. King mention it?" Kevin shook his head. "No. I was too busy . . . reading." "Listen, I do need help with my Algebra. Do you think maybe you could help me study?" Kevin's face brightened up. "Sure! Stop by my house at around - uh, seven okay?" Stacey smiled. "Yeah. It's a date." She turned and walked away. Kevin smiled. "A date!" he said to himself in awe. At 6:00 PM, when Kevin's parents came home from work, Kevin was sitting in his room playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and heard the front door open. He won the fight, put down his game controller, and went down into the living room to meet them. "Mom, dad!" Kevin yelled, running down the stairs. "What's wrong, sweetheart?" Cheryl asked. Kevin smiled, shaking his head. "Nothing! Is it okay if I have someone over tonight? I'm helping her study for our Algebra test tomorrow." Cheryl shrugged. "Sure!" She walked away and into the kitchen. Kevin smiled. "Thanks, mom!" Ned walked towards him, smiling. "Ah, a little lady friend, huh?" Kevin laughed and shook his head. "Dad, c'mon!" Ned laughed, too. "Well, what's her name?" "Stacey." Kevin said, nodding. "Ah, I knew a Stacey back in high school." "Don't bring her up again!" Cheryl called from the kitchen. "When will she be over?" Ned asked Kevin. "Seven sharp." "Great!" Cheryl said from the kitchen. "I'll start dinner! You go take a shower!" "Mom, it's just a study date!" "Do as your mom says, Kev." Ned said, patting Kevin's right shoulder. Kevin sighed and walked back to his room. At 6:59 PM, Kevin walked into the living room. He had on another pair of blue jeans, the same sneakers, and a blue shirt instead of the yellow he wore to school. He didn't have his jacket on. Cheryl was in the kitchen, putting food on the table. She was wearing a beautiful long blue dress. Ned was in the living room. He had on a black tuxedo, a white shirt, and a red bowtie. When Kevin saw his parents, he became annoyed. "Mom! Dad! Both of you are taking this way too far!" "Well, we're just tryin' to make a good impression." Cheryl said. "Just please don't embarrass me!" Kevin pleaded. "Don't worry, son. I'm cool. I'm happenin'." Cheryl looked up at her son from the kitchen. "I won't embarrass you, dear!" Kevin smiled. "Thanks, mom." Just then, the doorbell rang. "That's her." Kevin said as Cheryl joined them in the living room. Kevin went to the door, unlocked it, and opened it. Stacey was standing there, as beautiful as ever, looking as lovely as ever. She was velvet-clad - black and brown. Her long, gorgeous, blonde hair looked radiant. She was a sight to behold. "Hi, Kevin." Stacey said, smiling. "Hi, Stacey." Kevin said, smiling back at her. He then stood to the side and motioned with his arms for her to step inside. "Please, come in." "Thanks." Stacey said. She walked into the living room. Kevin closed the door and locked it. "Uh, these are my parents: Mr. and Mrs. Keene." Stacey let out and small laugh, then stepped forward. "Hi!" Stacey said, shaking Cheryl's hand. "It is so very nice to meet you!" Cheryl said. "Thanks!" Stacey said. "Howya doin', Stacey." Ned asked as he shook her hand. "Great! Thanks, Mr. Keene!" "Oh, oh, please, Ned and Cheryl!" "Uh, . . . Mr. and Mrs. Keene is fine, thanks!" Stacey said, feeling uneasy. "Well," Cheryl said, smiling, "we have dinner ready." Stacey was really touched. "Awww, that's so nice of you! Thank you so much!" "Uh, you didn't already eat, did you?" Ned asked. "No." Stacey said, shaking her head. "Good!" He motioned at the kitchen table. "Have a seat!" The four of them walked into the kitchen. "Oh, please," Kevin said, pulling a chair for Stacey, "allow me!" "Thanks, Kevy!" "You never did that for me, Ned!" Cheryl said to her husband, disappointed in him. Ned lowered his head to break eye contact. Kevin was sitting to Stacey's right. Cheryl was to Stacey's left, and Ned to Kevin's right. "So, Stacey, tell us a bit about yourself." Cheryl said. "Well, um," Stacey began as Cheryl filled her plate with food, "I'm an only child, - " "See, Kev, you two have something in common already!" Ned interrupted. "Ned, shhhhhhh, it's impolite!" Cheryl came back at him. "I go to Northridge High, but I guess you already knew that, huh?" She laughed, a bit embarrassed. Ned shook his head. "Nope, first time we've heard of it!" The two of them laughed. "So, you're havin' trouble in Algebra, huh?" he asked. "Yeah." Stacey said, nodding. "So did I when I was in high school." He pointed at Kevin. "But this guy is smarter than Albert Einstein!" "Dad - " "He can teach you things that you wouldn't believe!" "Dad, . . . Einstein was horrible at math!" His dad looked at him. "He was?" Kevin nodded. "Yep." "You sure?" He looked at his wife. Cheryl nodded. He looked back at Stacey. "Uh, I knew that. I . . . was just testin' ya, that's all!" Kevin, Cheryl, and Stacey smiled. Stacey picked up his fork in her left hand. Cheryl noticed, and started staring at her. Stacey looked at her uneasily. "What? What's wrong?" "Uh," She shook her head, smiling, "nothing. I'm sorry. It's just that, well, . . . I noticed that you were eating with your left hand." "I'm sorry, does that bother you?" Stacey asked. "I can switch!" Cheryl quickly shook her head. "Oh, no, not at all! It's just that everyone in my family is right-handed. I guess I'm just . . . not used to seeing people eat with their left hand, that's all. Please, think nothing of it!" "You sure?" Cheryl nodded. "Imm-hmm." Stacey began eating. "Mmm," she said, then looked up at Cheryl, "this is great, Mrs. Keene!" Cheryl smiled. "Thanks. So, . . . what do you like to do for fun?" "I'm a cheerleader." "Really?! So was I!" Kevin smiled, shook his head, and continued eating. After dinner, Kevin and Stacey walked into his room. Kevin closed the door behind him. "So, where do you wanna start?" Kevin asked. "Well, first I'd like to see your room!" Stacey said. She began looking around. "You'll have to excuse the mess." Kevin said, following her. "I haven't cleaned up in a while." Stacey picked up a Snickers wrapper off of the floor. "No kidding - 'Please sell by: August 17, 1988'!" Kevin smiled and shrugged. Stacey went over to the bookshelf. "You like to read?" "It's mostly game books, video game mags - stuff like that." Stacey nodded. Kevin went over to his book bag and picked it up off the floor. He took out his Algebra book. Stacey smiled. "Oops, I forgot mine!" she said, embarrassed. "No problem, we'll just use mine!" Kevin said, walking to the bed. "Have a seat!" The two of them sat on the bed, with Stacey on Kevin's right. Kevin opened up his book to the beginning of the chapter they were currently on. "Okay, now, this one's easy!" Kevin said after some time. "You - " "Kevy, can we please take a break?! We've been at this for an hour!" Kevin smiled. "Sure." He put the book down on the bed. Stacey got up, went over to Kevin's stereo, and looked through his CD collection. She picked one out, put it in the CD player, turned the stereo on, checked to make sure the dial was turned to 'CD', and selected a track. The music started. Stacey went over to Kevin, her right hand outstretched. "C'mon," she said, grabbing Kevin's right hand, "let's dance!" Stacey pulled Kevin to her, and the two of them held each other and began to dance. Kevin and Stacey stared into each other's eyes for a while, and then Stacey leaned her head on Kevin's right shoulder. Then, on the speakers, came Robert Palmer singing 'Addicted To Love': The lights are on, But you're not home. Your mind is not your own. Your heart sweats. Your body shakes. Another kiss is what it takes. You can't sleep. You can't eat. There's no doubt you're in deep. Your throat is tight. You can't breathe. Another kiss is all you need. You like to think that you're immune to the stuff. Oh yeah? It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough. You know you're gonna have to face it - You're addicted to love. After the song ended, Kevin went and shut off the stereo. He turned to Stacey. "You wanna get somethin' to drink?" Stacey smiled. "Sure!" The two of them left the room and went down to the kitchen. Kevin went to the fridge and opened it. "Okay, we've got Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, and Pepsi." he said, looking inside. "What's your choice?" "Uh, . . . I'll have a Pepsi." Stacey replied. "Good choice!" Kevin said, smiling. He grabbed a can for himself, and one for Stacey, then closed the fridge. He handed the can to her. "Thanks." Stacey said. "Sure." Kevin replied. "You're a pretty good dancer!" Kevin said as they went back up to his room. "You, too!" Stacey replied. "Well, I guess that's enough." Kevin said after they had studied for one more hour. "You seem to have this stuff down!" "Yeah!" Stacey said. "Thanks to you!" Kevin closed his Algebra book and laid it on the bed. Stacey then looked at her watch on her left wrist. "It's ten o'clock." she said, annoyed. She looked at Kevin and sighed. "I gotta go." "All right." Kevin said, disappointed. The two of them got up and left the room. They walked downstairs and to the front door. Kevin unlocked the door and opened it. He allowed Stacey to go outside first, because she was his guest, and he followed her. They stepped out onto the front porch, and a cool breeze blew at them. Kevin closed the front door behind him, and then he and Stacey both took in a deep breath of the clean air. "Well," Stacey said, looking at Kevin and smiling, "thanks for helping me study and for the soda!" "My pleasure!" Kevin said, smiling back at her. "Thanks for the dance!" "Sure!" "Listen, if you ever need more help, in any subject, don't hesitate to ask!" Stacey nodded. "Well, . . . good night!" Kevin said. Stacey nodded. "Good night!" She then leaned forward and kissed Kevin, curling her arms around his neck. Kevin put his arms around Stacey. They kissed for twenty seconds, and then Stacey let go. Kevin did the same. "See ya in school!" Stacey said softly, and then turned and walked away. Kevin stood there for the next ten minutes, smiling. The next day, they took the test. On Friday, near the end of the school day, Mr. King was quickly writing on the chalkboard, trying to explain one final problem before the end of class. "Now," Mr. King explained, his back to the class, "x to the third is inside the parentheses, so the entire thing is raised to the second power, which gives us what?" He turned around to face the class, awaiting their answer. "X to the sixth." most of the students answered. Quite a few of them were really bored. "Right." Mr. King answered, and turned to write the answer to the right of the = sign. He then turned back to face the class. "Now, for Monday, I want you to do problems one through seventy-one odd on pages seventy-four and seventy-five. Your tests from yesterday have been graded. They're on my desk. Pick them up as you leave." He then turned to erase the board. In the third chair of the center row, Kevin sat with his Algebra book opened in front of him. Of course, he wasn't reading it. He was reading the current issue of a video game magazine. He had to keep it out of sight, so Mr. King wouldn't take it away. He was so into it that he didn't notice Stacey coming up in front of him. "Kevy!" Kevin nearly freaked. He looked up at her and smiled. "Oh, hi, Stacey!" "Scare ya?" she asked, smiling. "Yeah!" Kevin said, nodding. Stacey looked down and saw his magazine. "Ooh, sneaky!!!" Kevin stood up. "Uh, you wanted something?" "I got an A Plus on my Algebra test!" Stacey said, holding up her test so Kevin could see it. Kevin took it from her and looked at it. "Wow, that's great!!!" "Same to you!" Stacey said, handing Kevin his own test. Kevin gave Stacey's test back to her and looked at his own. "Awesome!" Stacey nodded. "Yeah, ain't it?!!!" She smiled appreciatively at him. "Thanks again for helping me study, Kevy!" "Don't mention it!" Kevin said. "Oh, by the way, could you give me today's homework assignment?" He laughed, embarrassed. "I, uh, . . . I was so into reading, I didn't get it!" Stacey smiled. "One through seventy-one odd, pages seventy-four and seventy-five." "Thanks." Kevin said. He wrote it down in the lower left-hand corner of the page his Algebra book was currently turned to. "Sure." Kevin then put all of his stuff into his book bag and zipped it up. "Walk me out?" Stacey asked. "Sure!" The bell rang, and the two of them walked outside together. "Uh, you busy this weekend?" Kevin asked her, and then he was suddenly pushed forward, landing hard on the concrete. "Kevin!" Stacey yelled, and crouched down to help him. Kevin turned around and looked up at who pushed him. What a surprise, Kevin thought sarcastically. It was Mike. Mike was dressed in his usual attire: sneakers, blue jeans, a black short sleeve shirt, a Northridge High School jacket, and a black bandanna tied around his right leg to show that he was cool. Mike, his hands on his hips, started laughing out loud. "Don't pick on him, Mike!" Stacey yelled angrily. She turned back to face Kevin. She helped him up to his feet. Kevin's nose was bleeding. Stacey pulled a tissue out of her left jean pocket and wiped Kevin's nose. She then used her left hand to brush off some of the dirt that had gotten on Kevin's Northridge High jacket. She threw the tissue into a waste basket. Stacey put her left arm around Kevin, he put his right arm around her, and the two of them began to walk away together, with Stacey helping him. "Hey, Keene!" Mike called after them. "Don't turn around." Stacey said quietly to Kevin. "I'm gonna getcha on the way home!" Mike yelled. "I'll ride home with ya, Kevin." Stacey said. "Thanks!" Kevin said gratefully. Kevin and Stacey went over to the bike rack and unchained their bikes. The two of them got on their bikes and began riding side by side, with Kevin on Stacey's left. When they got to Kevin's house, Kevin and Stacey got off their bikes and leaned them against the garage door. "Your parents aren't home?" she asked. Kevin shook his head. "Nah, both of 'em are at work. They'll be home in three hours." His face brightened up. "Hey, wanna come in?" Stacey shook her head. "Sorry, me and some friends are going shopping." Kevin was disappointed. "Oh, . . . well, if you need help with Algebra, please, feel free to drop by!" Stacey smiled and nodded. "I will! Thanks!" There was a moment of silence between them. "Well, . . . bye!" Kevin said finally. Stacey smiled. "Bye!" They looked at each other for a moment, and then they turned and walked over to her bike. She got on it, and Kevin couldn't help but look at Stacey's beautiful figure. He stared at her admiringly as she pedaled off on her bike. When she was out of sight, Kevin went back to the front door. He reached into his left jean pocket and pulled out his house key. Kevin unlocked the door, put the key back inside his left pocket, went inside, and closed the door behind him, locking it. Kevin went up to his bedroom. He closed the door and took off his book bag, letting it drop to the floor. He jumped backwards, landed on his bed, and began thinking about his study date with Stacey. "The next day I got pulled into Videoland." Kevin finished. "I didn't see Stacey for over a year." "Nice story." Rick said, smiling.
Chapter 31"Hey, ya wanna eat lunch now?" Kevin asked. Everyone nodded and said yeah. "Great!" Kevin stood up, smiling. "I'll make 'The Captain N Special'!" The others cheered, standing up. Kevin looked at Lana. "You'll actually get a chance to taste it this time, Lana!" Everyone laughed. So, they all went to the kitchen. Kevin got out all the ingredients (ie. nuts, nectarines, and nachos) and made the pizza. He baked it in the oven, then they all sat at the kitchen table and ate it. Lana, Rick, and Stacey all commented on how great it was. Then, Kevin decided to try his new games and systems, so they all went up to his room. They unpacked everything and hooked it up. Man, they had a blast! Kevin was shocked at how advanced the new systems were! Of course, some of the storylines could've been better. Some needed storylines!
Chapter 32They were all sitting on the floor in the living room again when the phone rang. Kevin got up to answer it, and the others followed him. "Hello." Kevin said. "Hey, Keene!" Mike said. He was standing in the video arcade. There was still a huge thunderstorm outside, so he was trapped there. "What's up, man?" Mike ripped off a yellow piece of paper that was taped onto the wall he was leaning against. "Well, the Northridge Annual Video Game Competition is this Saturday. Ya gonna enter this year?" "Uh, . . . hold on." Kevin put his hand over the phone and looked at the others. "Mike wants me to enter the Video Game Competition this Saturday." "So?" Rick asked. "So, I always lose!" Kevin said. "Mike has always beaten me!" "Maybe this year will be different!" Stacey said. "But I haven't had much practice on the new games!" Kevin pointed out. "I won't stand a chance!" "We'll help you!" Lana said, smiling. "You've got a while to practice!" "Four days!" Kevin said. "That's not a long time!" "Kevin," Rick said, "you do have an edge over everyone else. You've actually played the games in real first-person perspective." Kevin was still skeptical. "Uh, I dunno." "Do it, Kevin!" Lana pleaded. "Yeah!" Stacey added. "You can show 'im!" "C'mon, Kev!" Rick begged. Kevin was silent for a moment, looking at their faces. Finally, he took his hand off of the phone. "Count me in, Mike!" Mike grinned. "Great!" He laughed. "You already lost, Keene! I've won six years in a row!" He hung up. Kevin hung up as well. "Great! How am I gonna be ready in four days?!" Lana placed her right hand on Kevin's right shoulder. "Don't worry, Kev, we'll help ya!" "That's right!" Rick said. "But remember, for the next four days, you do nothin' but practice, practice, practice, and no slacking off!" "All right!" the others cheered. So, it had begun. Stacey took Kevin down to the building where the Competition was going to be held, called the Gaming Building, to register. Kevin walked into the lobby. There was a brunette woman in her thirties sitting at a table. "Hello." Kevin said, walking up to her. "Yes, can I help you?" "Yes, I would like to register for the Competition this Saturday." "Doesn't everybody?!" the woman asked, laughing. She placed a paper and pen on the table in front of him. "Read this and fill it out." Kevin did and handed the paper and pen back to her. The woman read the paper, then started laughing. "This is a joke, right?" "What?" She looked up at him. "Kevin Keene?!" Kevin nodded, smiling. "Yeah, I'm back!" The woman looked closely at him. "Wow, it is you! Welcome back!" Kevin nodded, smiling. "Thanks. Uh, anything I need to know?" "Oh, uh, be here at least an hour before - at 11 AM. You'll need to sign in." Kevin nodded. "Thanks." "Thanks for registering." Kevin turned and left. Back at Kevin's house, the four of them went up to Kevin's room. Rick closed the door and turned on the light. Kevin turned on his TV, selected a cartridge, put it in one of the game consoles, turned the power on, sat down, and began playing a game. He wasn't doing too well. "Ya know, Kevy," Stacey said, "I think the video game music's distracting you. Whenever I play games, I turn down the volume on the TV and put on a favorite song of mine. It helps me concentrate." "It would!" Lana remarked. "Maybe it'll work for you." Stacey suggested, ignoring Lana's comment. She turned down the volume on the TV, then ran over to the stereo. She began looking through Kevin's CD collection. When she found one she thought would work for Kevin, she put it in the CD player and selected her favorite song. 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' by Cyndi Lauper started playing: I come home in the morning light. My mother says when you gonna live your life right. Oh, mother dear, we're not the fortunate ones, And girls, they want to have fun. Oh, girls just want to have fun. The others looked at Stacey strangely, wondering how listening to Cyndi Lauper could help Kevin's game performance. Stacey just smiled. The phone rings in the middle of the night. My father yells what you gonna do with your life. Oh, daddy dear, you know you're still number one, But girls, they want to have fun. Oh, girls just want to have - That's all they really want, Some fun. When the working day is done, Girls - they want to have fun. Oh, girls just want to have fun. Strangely, it actually did help - much to everyone's astonishment!
Chapter 33So, for the next four days, Kevin did almost nothing but practice. His friends helped him. He read articles and studied gameplay strategies, but mostly he practiced. Of course, Mike also did these things. The two of them stayed up until three in the morning, went to sleep, then woke up again three hours later at six! They practiced at home and in the arcades. Whenever they met each other in the arcade, Mike would tell Kevin to wear protective assgear, because he was gonna be kicked there.
Chapter 34Kevin and Lana woke up on Saturday morning at 8:30 AM full of excitement. It was the big day - the day of the Northridge Annual Video Game Competition! Rick, Stacey, Romeo, and Julius arrived at 9:00 AM. Lana greeted them at the front door and took them up to Kevin's room. Kevin was already dressed and sitting in front of his TV set. Kevin was wearing his "Captain N clothes": blue jeans, sneakers, yellow shirt, and Northridge High jacket. He wasn't wearing his belt, though. "Hey, Kev, what's up?" Rick asked, smiling, as he walked towards him. "Just putting in some extra practice before the Comp." Kevin answered, not looking away from the screen. His fingers were moving rapidly over the Sega Genesis controller he held in his hands. Rick sat on Kevin's bed, Stacey to his left, and Lana to her left. Romeo and Julius stood where they were. All of them watched Kevin beat level after level, boss after boss, game after game. Finally, at 10:30, Kevin beat the game he was currently playing, put down the controller, shut off the control deck and TV, stood up, and faced his friends. They all watched him, waiting. Kevin nodded. "I'm ready." They arrived at the Gaming Building at 11:00. They all went into the lobby. Kevin got in a line to sign in, while the others went into the main arena to get good seats. Kevin wrote his name down on the sign-in sheet. The woman sitting behind the table, the same woman Kevin had met when he went to register on Tuesday, gave him a smile. "Good luck, Kevin." Kevin smiled back at her and nodded. "Thanks." The woman ripped off a white ticket stub from a roll and handed it to him. "Here's your ticket." She peeled off a sticker with his name written on it in marker and slapped it on his shirt. "Go to the Preparation Room." She pointed to brown double doors across the lobby. "Through the double doors." Kevin nodded and went in the direction that she pointed to. A large black man with short hair and a mustache was standing at the doors, taking the tickets. Kevin handed him his. As Kevin was about to walk through the doors, the man turned to him and nodded. "Good luck, Kevin." Kevin turned to face him, smiled, and nodded. "Thanks." He went through the double doors. The Preparation Room was pretty big. All of the contestants were standing there. Kevin was walking along, looking around, when he heard a familiar voice call him. "Hey, Keene!" Kevin turned around and smiled when he saw who it was. "Hey, Mike!" Mike was wearing the same clothes he wore in Videoland, but without the belt. He had a taunting grin on his face. "Ready to lose?!" Kevin grinned. "You're the one that's gonna lose!" Mike laughed out loud. "Save it, Keene! I'm gonna kick your ass!" Kevin groaned. "Ya know, Mike, this is getting rather old." "Keene, there is no way you could've squeezed nearly three years worth of gaming experience into four days!" A tall man with gray hair walked to the center of the room. "All right, gamers, listen up!" Everyone in the room became quiet and gave him their undivided attention. "It is my job to give you the rules. In less than one hour, you will go out there to compete for a title: 'The Game Master of Northridge'. It is the most prestigious video gaming title this town can offer. Because we are looking for the best game player, there aren't many rules. Instead, if you do such things as distract other gamers or get into fights, the punishment is a rematch every time. You can only be disqualified due to your own or your causing someone else's serious injury or death. Thus, the Competition can go on indefinitely. If you want things to go at a smooth pace, meaning approximately only ten hours, then you will behave yourselves. Remember, the whole town will be watching you."
Chapter 35The gaming arena was huge! There were thousands of seats. A metal bar separated the first row of seats from the blue floor. The red carpeted stage was a few feet away. There were two multi-console game machines set on tall tables on the front of the stage, facing a wall. On the wall hung a red curtain. Behind the game machines was a stand with a microphone on it. The cord went to the right, off the stage. Kevin's friends had found great seats: the first row, left side. They, therefore, had a perfect view. From left to right, from the point of view of someone standing on the stage, sat Julius, Romeo, Rick, Lana, and Stacey. Sitting behind Rick and Lana were two boys, each with brown hair. "Hey, man," the one behind Rick said, "you know who I heard is in the Competition this year?" "Who?" the one behind Lana asked. The first kid grinned. "Keene." "Kevin Keene?" the second asked in surprised. The first one nodded. "Mmm-hmm." "That's crazy, man!" "It's the word on the street, man." "But he disappeared years ago!" the second one insisted. "It seems he's back." the first one said. Kevin's friends heard the conversation and grinned at each other. Rick took out his video camera and began recording. "You sure you have enough batteries, Rick?" Lana asked. "I brought twenty just in case." Lana whistled. "Guys!" a voice called. They turned to their right. It was Ned, with Cheryl right behind him. "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Keene!" Rick said with a smile. "Right on time!" "Great!" Ned said, sitting down to Stacey's left. "We had a flat tire on the way here! Good thing I had a spare, or we wouldn't have made it!" He turned to Cheryl, who had taken the seat to his left. "Dear, did you bring the video camera?" "Damn, I forgot!" Cheryl said, mad at herself. "That's okay, I'll make copies of my tapes for you!" Rick pointed his camera at Kevin's parents. "Smile, you guys!" Just then, a tall man with brown hair walked on stage and picked up the microphone. He turned it on. "Welcome to the Twelfth Annual Northridge Video Game Competition! We will begin in a few moments!" "All right," the man in the Preparation Room said, "it's game time!" "Please welcome this year's contestants!" the man on stage said. The brown double doors burst open, and the whole audience stood up and cheered and applauded for their favorites as they ran into the arena. The sound was deafening. "Do you see Kevin?!" Lana yelled to Cheryl. Cheryl shook her head. "No!" When the contestants had all come into the room, the double doors had been closed, the cheering and applause had died down, and the audience had taken their seats, the man on stage announced: "In the first round, two contestants will come up in alphabetical order and play against each other in a variety of games, one from each genre, on different consoles. The person that wins a match in a particular genre will get to compete in a match in that genre in the next round. Each subsequent round will follow the same procedures, until one overall master in each genre is left. Those people will compete in one final round. Whoever wins the most matches in the final round will be declared the winner! Let the games begin!" The audience cheered and applauded. The red curtain on the back wall parted, revealing a huge screen, so that everyone could see the gameplay, as well as scoreboards. The boards had all the genres listed on top from left to right, and the names of all the contestants from top to bottom on the left of each one. There was a light bulb at each contestant / genre coordinate. Currently, all the lights were on. The man that stood outside the doors to the Preparation Room earlier came onto the stage from the right and handed a notebook to the man with the mic, then walked off. When the sound had once again died down, the man announced: "Remember, there will be no distractions from the audience during gameplay. Round One. The first two contestants are Brad Anderson and Tim Anson! Come on down!" Everyone watched in excitement as all the contestants competed in various matches, at various games, of various genres, and on various game consoles. A lot of lights went out.
Chapter 36Finally, the man on stage said: "Keith Kedricks and . . . " He blinked, reading the name over silently. "Kevin Keene! Come on down!" There was a lot of confusion among the crowd. A boy of average height and build and with blonde hair stepped onto the stage and took his place at the first game machine. He received some applause and cheers. Then Kevin walked onto the stage. Most of the audience was in awe. Even the host on stage was in awe. Kevin's friends and parents stood up and applauded and cheered. "I told you!" the boy behind Rick said to the boy behind Lana. Once everyone had settled down again, the host said: "Genre One: Action / Adventure. Game: Mega Man 1. Whoever beats Cuts Man wins." Kevin and Keith started playing, while the audience and host watched on the big screen, which was split down the middle. Kevin beat Cuts Man about a minute before Keith and won the match. "Genre Two: Fighting. Game: Street Fighter II. Two out of three rounds wins." The two machines were linked. Kevin chose Ryu, and Keith Ken. Kevin won the first round, and Keith the second. Kevin won the third by a small margin and won the match. "Genre Three: RPG. Game: The Bard's Tale. First to collect one hundred gold coins wins." Both contestants assembled their parties and began their quest. Kevin was the first to get one hundred gold coins and win the match. "Genre Four: Shooting. Game: DOOM. First to kill the other seven times wins." Kevin and Keith played against each other. Both killed each other six times. Then Kevin killed Keith a seventh time and won the match. "Genre Five: Sports. Game: NBA Jam. First to score ten points wins." Kevin and Keith selected their teams and players. Both played with equal skill for a while, but Kevin finally won the match. "Genre Six: Strategy. Game: Tetris. Whoever completes Level 0 in Game B first wins." Both Kevin and Keith got 24 lines completed, but Kevin completed line 25 about three seconds before Keith and won the match. "Kevin sure is cutting it close!" Lana said to Rick. "At this rate, he won't make it to the third round!" Kevin and Keith shook hands, Keith congratulated Kevin, and the two of them walked off stage.
Chapter 37"The next two contestants are Nick Vianetti and Mike Vincent! Come on down!" A tall Italian boy with slicked-back black hair walked onto the stage. He received some applause and cheers. Mike walked onto the stage and got three hundred times that amount of each. Nick stood at the first machine, and Mike at the second. They both played in the same genres as Keith, Kevin, and the others had, but the games and challenges were different. Mike kicked Nick's ass in every game. It wasn't pretty. Afterwards, Nick offered Mike his right hand and congratulated him. Mike laughed in Nick's face and called him a loser. They walked off stage, Nick feeling very bad. "That creep!" Lana yelled angrily.
Chapter 38As each round and hour progressed, more lights went out on the boards, less contestants were left in the Competition, and the suicide count for young people in Northridge rose to an all-time high. Still, Kevin and Mike both managed to remain in the game. Lana was definitely surprised! Finally, the final round approached. The host picked up the microphone and spoke: "Ladies and gentlemen, gamers of all ages, the final round is almost upon us!" The audience gave a loud cheer and applause. When it died down, the host continued: "For the first time ever, we have only two final contestants, both of which are co-champions of all the genres! The final two contestants are Kevin Keene," A round of applause and cheer, and then he went on: "and Mike Vincent!" Another round. They went up on stage. Kevin stood at the first machine, and Mike at the second. "Whoo!" Lana yelled. "Get 'im, Kev!" "Go get him, Kevy!" Stacey yelled. "You the man!" Rick yelled. "Kick his butt, Kev!" Ned yelled. "Ned!" Cheryl scolded, frowning at him. "Not literally. It's all in fun, dear." Ned said calmly. Kevin and Mike looked at each other. "Why don't you just forfeit and save yourself the humiliation?!" Mike asked with a taunting grin, then laughed. Kevin grinned. "Dream on!" "When you go home, the first thing you'll do is pull that notebook out of your dresser drawer and add one more mark to your losing streak!" Mike said, again laughing. Kevin gasped. How does he know about that? he thought to himself, but he wasn't willing to admit it to Mike. "All right," the host said, "these two final contestants will battle it out. One of them must win in all genres, all in one round. Even if one of them wins in all genres except one, they will go through another round until one of them is champion of all genres. This one person, Kevin or Mike, will be declared the winner of the entire Competition and the Game Master of Northridge! Let the final round begin!" Kevin and Mike competed in a wide variety of games, of different genres, and on different consoles. Sometimes Mike would win most of the genres, and Kevin only one, and sometimes vice-versa. They went through twelve rounds of play this way.
Chapter 39"All right," the host said, "it is apparent to all of us here that the two of you are equally proficient. Therefore, we have decided to let both of you compete in one final round. You will play a new game that hasn't been released yet. Are you ready?!" Kevin nodded. "Ready!" Mike laughed. "Ready to wipe the floor with him!" "All right! Prepare yourselves for - Mega Man 4!" The screens on Kevin and Mike's game machines lit up, as well as the big screen on the wall. The audience went through an "Ooh! Aah!" "Whoa!" Kevin and Mike said at the same time, staring at the big screen. The two of them went to the stage select screen and read the names of the Robot Masters: Ring Man, Dive Man, Skull Man, Bright Man, Dust Man, Drill Man, Toad Man, and Pharaoh Man. Weird names, they thought. Then Kevin realized something. This hasn't happened yet, he thought, not yet, but it will. "First person to clear Ring Man's stage wins the Competition!" the host announced. Kevin and Mike entered Ring Man's stage and began making their way through it. Kevin's friends' eyes were fixed on the huge screen. Kevin's game was on the left, and Mike's on the right. Suddenly, Kevin was hit and fell into a pit. "Oh, no!" Lana said quietly. Mike, meanwhile, was getting further and further in the stage. Kevin tried not to panic. Instead, he imagined that he was in Megaland, and that he was actually going through the Ring Man stage. He treated Mega Man like himself, so he was just as careful as if he really was there. Mike entered Ring Man's chamber and began to do battle with the Robot Master. Kevin entered the chamber about ten seconds later. Mike had knocked Ring Man's energy down to half. Kevin had it down to three fourths, but soon had it down to half. The whole audience watched in anticipation. A lot of them began to sweat. Kevin and Mike had Ring Man's energy down to a fourth, and both had it dropping slowly. Down to an eighth. No one spoke. Suddenly, Mike was hit! At the same time, in Kevin's game, Ring Man jumped. Kevin quickly slid under Ring Man to the right, then turned left. As Ring Man landed, Kevin hit the robot repeatedly. Ring Man was destroyed. Kevin quickly pushed Mike away from his machine, took the controller in his hands, and defeated Ring Man for him.
Chapter 40The big screen went blank. Kevin breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, all was silent. Kevin turned to face the audience, his face expressionless. Suddenly, he raised his right arm into the air, his hand made into a fist. His face beamed with excitement. "Whoooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Everyone in the audience, except for Mike's friends, stood up and gave a massive cheer. Even the man and woman that wished Kevin good luck earlier in the day cheered. Also, the man from the Preparation room. Of course, Kevin's friends and parents cheered the loudest. The host walked over to Kevin's right. He took hold of Kevin's right arm with his left hand and held it in place. "Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Keene is the Winner of the 1992 Northridge Video Game Competition - and the Game Master of Northridge!" Mike turned and stormed off the stage to the right. Almost the entire audience ran out onto the floor. Mike was knocked down, and people ran over him. Kevin kept looking for his friends. "Kevy!" Stacey called. She ran to him, and they took hold of each other and kissed for twenty seconds. When they let go of each other, Lana pushed Stacey out of the way, took Kevin in her arms, and kissed him passionately. They kissed for thirty seconds. Then, the host came by and handed Kevin a huge gold trophy. Kevin's friends, parents, and other excited members of the audience, picked Kevin up, and he began to crowd surf. Kevin raised his trophy up triumphantly with his right arm. "Whoo! Yes!"
Chapter 41On Sunday, the day after Kevin's victory, Kevin, Lana, Rick, Stacey, Romeo, Julius, and Cheryl were all sitting at a table in the Keene's backyard, in the following positions: Cheryl Rick Kevin Romeo Lana Julius Stacey Ned was standing at a grill a few feet away. Cheryl was holding Kevin's trophy, reading it: "'Winner of the 1992 Northridge Video Game Competition, The Game Master of Northridge, Saturday, June 20, 1992'." She hugged her son with her right arm. "I'm so proud of you, Kevin!" Kevin smiled at her. "Me, too, Kev!" Lana said, smiling, and kissed him on his right cheek. "It was close there!" Stacey said. "Yeah, how'd you win, Kev?" Rick asked. Kevin smiled. "I pretended I was going through the maze! Thanks for the advice, Rick!" Rick grinned. "When Ring Man jumped, I slid under him, turned, and did a rapid-fire! It was a trick I learned once in Megaland!" "Cool! And that final disgrace to Mike when you beat Ring Man for him!" Rick started laughing. "That was great!" Stacey laughed. "Yeah!" "And I got it all on tape, man!" Rick smiled wickedly. "Including your liplocks!" Kevin, Lana, and Stacey blushed. Ned came by with a plate. "Okay, guys, burgers are ready!" Each person took a bun from the bag on the table and put it on their own plates. Ned came by and gave them each a burger. They all put barbecue sauce on their burgers. "I'd say it's Burger Time!" Kevin joked. Stacey and Rick laughed. Lana put a whole bunch of onion on her burger. Cheryl and Ned looked at her strangely. Kevin looked at his parents. "She loves hot and spicy food, guys. C'mon!" "Mmmm, this is the best burger I've ever tasted!" Lana said. "I gotta - " "We know!" Ned and Cheryl said at the same time. "Kevin," Lana said, "we should start packing today, so we can just hang out around town tomorrow." Kevin nodded. "Yeah, okay." Everyone began to feel sad at that point. They looked at each other, and finished their lunch in silence. Kevin and Lana were standing in her room. The huge duffel bags Stacey had bought for her were on her bed. She and Kevin began packing stuff for her to take back to Videoland. Kevin was reading off a list. "Video tapes?" "Check." Lana responded. "Comic books?" "Got 'em." "Novels?" "Uh-huh." "Clothes?" "Yepper-dipper." Kevin laughed. "You've been hanging around Stacey way too long!" Lana smiled. "Food?" Kevin continued. "Packed." "Games?" "Yeah." "CDs, records, tapes?" "Yep, yep, yep!" Kevin looked up. "Guess that's everything. I'm gonna go pack my stuff now." "I'll help you." Lana said, and they went to his room. Lana opened the closet door and pulled out a brown duffel bag. She set it on Kevin's bed. Kevin started with his clothes, throwing them in carelessly. Lana sighed and folded them neatly. Kevin's parents came into the room. "Honey?" Cheryl asked. "Yeah?" Kevin asked, looking at some clothes in his hands. He tossed them to Lana. "Do you have to go?" Kevin looked up at her. He nodded. "Yeah, mom, I have to." She shook her head. "Why?!" She was starting to cry. "Why are you leaving us, your own parents?!" Kevin walked over to her, and they hugged. "Mom, I have to. Videoland needs me!" "We need you!" Cheryl cried. "I need you! I need you to stay!" She was crying on his right shoulder now. "Mom, look at me." She didn't. Kevin forced her to make eye contact with him. "Listen, I must go!" "But Mother Brain's been defeated!" She insisted. "The game's over!" "The new game is to defeat Dr. Wily!" Kevin told her. "Mom, dad, you can come with me!" "We wouldn't be able to take care of everything by tomorrow." Ned told him. "Pack, sell the house, give a week's notice before quitting our jobs - you know." "Listen, mom," Kevin said, "I'll come back again. I promise." Cheryl wiped the tears from her eyes. "All right. I know all those people in Videoland need you." She smiled. "Help them, Kevin." Kevin smiled. "I will, mom. See us off tomorrow?" Cheryl shook her head. "We can't. We have to go to work tomorrow. So let's say bye today." "No," Kevin said, "no, let's say see ya later. See ya later, mom." Cheryl smiled, tears running down her face. "See ya later, son!" They hugged for a while, then Kevin went over to his dad. "See ya later, dad." They hugged. "See ya later, Kev!" Ned said. After they finished hugging, Ned held out a small book. "Here." Kevin took it and looked at it. "What's this?" "Photo album." Kevin opened it up and flipped through the pages. There were lots of pictures of him growing up, pictures with family, and with friends. Kevin closed it. "Thanks, dad." He tossed it over his shoulder to Lana, who put it in the duffel bag. "Here, we'll help." Ned offered. "Thanks." Kevin said. After they finished packing the clothes, Lana got the three remaining duffel bags from her room. They packed Kevin's consoles and games, books, computer disks, skateboard, and other personal stuff. "I guess we're all set." Kevin said finally. Lana nodded. "Uh-huh." Kevin looked at his parents. "I can get the rest of the stuff some other time, I guess. It's not that important." "Your room will always be here for you." Cheryl said. "Yours, too, Lana." Lana smiled at her. The four of them had a group hug. "Oh," Ned said, after they finished, "I almost forgot." He reached into his left shirt pocket, pulled out a small brown book, and handed it to Lana. Lana read the title, then looked up and smiled. "Recipes!"
Chapter 42On Monday, the last day of their trip, Kevin and Lana basically just hung out around town. They went for a bike ride in the park, to the movies, and for a run. At 8:00 PM, the doorbell rang. Kevin and Lana went to the door. Kevin unlocked it and opened it. "Hey, Rick!" Kevin said cheerfully. "Hi, Stacey!" He and Lana had been expecting them to come by. They were going to help them take their bags to the warp. All of them greeted each other with handshakes. "So," Rick said, "you ready?" Kevin and Lana nodded. The four of them picked up the bags, which Kevin and Lana had put by the door that morning, and carried them outside. It had been a nice day. No rain. The air smelled nice. A soft breeze was blowing. Rick's yellow truck and Stacey's red convertible were parked in the driveway. Romeo was waiting in the convertible, and Julius in the truck. "Man, you're all here to see us off, huh?!" Kevin asked. "Hey, man, we're your friends!" Rick said. "Of course we're all here!" Rick put the bags he was carrying in the back of his truck, and Stacey put the bags she was carrying in the trunk of her car. "Too bad my folks had to work today and couldn't see us off!" Kevin said, disappointed. "Why not leave 'em a note?" Rick suggested. He got a small notepad and a pen out of his truck and handed them to Kevin. "Great idea, Rick!" Kevin said, and began writing. "I'd like to write something too, Kevin." Lana said, and Kevin handed her the pen and pad. She wrote something down, then tore off the page and handed it to Kevin. She gave the pad and pen back to Rick, who put them back in his truck. Kevin ran up the path to the front door and slid the paper into the door so it stayed there. It read: Mom and Dad, Sorry we can't see each other before I leave. Take care of yourselves, and keep my room the way it is. I love you, Kevin Mr. and Mrs. Keene, Thank you for all that you've done for me in making me feel welcome. You're like true parents for me. Lana After Kevin had rejoined the others, they were about to get into their vehicles when they heard a voice: "Hey, Keene, ya goin' somewhere?" Everyone turned towards the sound of the voice. "Mike." Kevin said. Mike Vincent was sitting in his black convertible. He had just driven by and stopped when he saw them. "What are you up to?" he asked. "We're goin' back to Videoland." Kevin answered. "Oh, yeah? Hey, how would you like to race?" "What?" Kevin asked. "Race." Mike repeated. "A car race. You and me at the wheel." "Uh, why would I want to?" Kevin asked. Mike shrugged. "I dunno. Somethin' new for a change? It can be like a game!" "Oh," Kevin said, then laughed, "you mean kinda like a rematch, to try to even the score after I kicked your ass in the Video Game Competition Saturday?" "Hey, you almost lost, Keene!" Mike pointed out. "So, you game?" Kevin smiled and nodded. "You're on, Mike!" "Kevin!" Lana said. "What are you saying?! We gotta be at the warp in less than a half hour!" "Oh, yeah," Kevin remembered, "sorry, Mike." "Aw, come on, Keene!" Mike begged. "Mike, we gotta be in an alley at 8:30 when the warp opens. You better be there too if ya wanna get back to Videoland!" Kevin informed him. "Tell ya what," Mike said, "we'll race to the alley. That way you know you won't miss the warp!" Kevin nodded. "Sounds good. And you?" Mike nodded. "Yeah, I'm goin'. Just give me directions." Kevin did, and then Stacey threw him her keys. "Burn some dust, Kevy!" "Uh, . . . thanks, Stacey." Kevin opened the front door on the driver side of Stacey's car. Lana placed her right hand on Kevin's left shoulder. "Kevin, they can't keep the warp open forever! If we miss it, - " Kevin turned to face her. "We're not gonna miss it, Lana! I'm a great driver!" "Have you ever raced before?" "Well, I've played racing video games!" Kevin said, grinning. Lana sighed and went and got in the passenger side. Kevin got in the driver side. Stacey sat to Romeo's right in the back seat. Rick walked up to Kevin. "I'll follow you, Kevin." Kevin nodded. Rick went back to his truck and got in. Kevin turned to everyone in the car and grinned. "Better buckle up, dudes! I don't have my driver's license yet!" This scared them, but they, and Kevin, fastened their seatbelts. Kevin placed the key in the ignition, started the car, put it into drive, and drove to position Stacey's car to the left of Mike's. At this point, it was already dusk. "Ya ready?" Mike asked, nodding. Kevin nodded. "Ready!" "First one to the warp wins." Mike said. He started his car and put it in drive. "I'll be waitin' for ya in Videoland!" "Nuh-uh! I'll be waitin' for you, Mike!" Kevin retorted. "Whoever wins is the Game Master of Northridge!" Mike declared. "The real Game Master!" "Deal!" Kevin turned around to face Stacey. "Stacey, you got a CD in the drive right now?" "'Top Gun' soundtrack." Stacey replied. Kevin smiled. "Perfect!" He turned to face the front and turned on the CD player. He turned the volume up to maximum. "We need some racing music!" "Okay," Mike said to get Kevin's attention, "3, 2, 1, - go!" They both hit the gas pedal at the same time. Kevin selected the track from memory. 'Danger Zone' by Kenny Loggins came blaring on the speakers: Revvin' up your engine, Listen to her howlin' roar. Metal under tension, Beggin' you to touch and go. Highway to the danger zone. Ride into the danger zone. Kevin and Mike raced down the street, with Rick following close behind. At different points in the race, they each gained the lead over the other. At one point, to avoid traffic, Mike went onto another street. Kevin and Rick followed him. "What's he doing?!" Lana yelled. "I dunno!" Kevin answered her. "Hey, Mike! Mike!!! What are you doing?!" "Shortcut!!!" Mike yelled back. "It isn't!" Lana informed Kevin. "Driving at a hundred miles per hour this way will take more time to reach the alley than if we drove in traffic down the other street! Kevin, we're gonna miss the warp!" Rick hit his steering wheel in frustration. "Where are they going?!" "Duh, I dunno." Julius answered. "Gee, you're a big help!" Finally, Kevin passed Mike again. "Ha, ha!" he yelled back at him. "Take that, loser!" "Kevin, forget about the race!" Lana yelled. She shoved her watch in front of his eyes. "We've got three minutes!" Kevin looked. Sure enough, the time was 8:27 PM, assuming Lana's watch was correct. "Step on it!" Lana yelled. Kevin turned around. "Rick, hurry!!!" "What?!!!" Kevin motioned with his left arm. "Faster!!!" Rick nodded and put the pedal to the metal. Kevin turned to face the front and did the same. Both of them easily passed Mike. "Hey!" Mike yelled. Kevin made a sharp turn onto another street. "That's it!" Lana said, pointing at an alley. Kevin didn't slow down. He made a sharp turn into the alley. "Kevin, the warp!" Lana yelled. Sure enough, the swirling blue warp was at the end of the alley. At that point, Rick turned into the alley as well. "Kevin, stop so we can get out!" Romeo yelled. "No!" Lana countered. "The warp may close at any second! Then we'll never get back to Videoland! They won't open the warp again! They'll think something's happened to us!" Romeo looked at Stacey. "Stacey, prepare to jump!" "Are you crazy?!" Kevin yelled. "You'll be killed if you get out at this speed!" "Then what do you suggest?!" Romeo asked. "There's no time!" Kevin yelled. "You'll have to come with us!" He turned around. "Rick!!! Rick, follow me!!! Follow me through the warp!!!" Rick nodded. "Kevin, look out!" Lana yelled. Kevin turned to face the front. "Whoa!!!" He hadn't been paying attention to where he was going, and had almost hit the wall to the left! He quickly straightened, going faster than ever, and went straight into the warp. "Hang on!" Rick informed Julius, and he drove his truck into the warp after Kevin.
Chapter 43Stacey's convertible exited the warp and landed in Dr. Wily's lab deep in Skull Castle. Everyone that was there screamed. Kevin hit the brake as hard as he could. The car took a while to come to a complete stop. Good thing the lab was big. Rick's truck followed immediately. Rick also hit the brake. Finally, Kevin put the car into park and shut it off. Rick did the same to his truck. Kevin laid back against the seat. "Whew! I think we're back!" He laughed, and Lana hugged him. "Man!" Rick said. "That was so awesome!" He quickly checked his watch for the time. Kevin unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car. "This is really rad!" Stacey said, smiling and looking at her hands. Yep, they were all animated now. Kevin saw that Link, Zelda, Simon, Mega Man, and Dr. Right were there. Mega Man walked up to Kevin. "What mega happened, Captain N?!" Kevin laughed. "We were running a little late, so we had to pick up the pace a little!" "I'll say!" Mega Man returned. "Your Highness?!" Simon yelled. "Is that you?!" Lana laughed. "Hi, Simon!" The vampire hunter stared at her in disbelief. Zelda walked up to Lana and greeted her with a hug. "Welcome back, Lana!" "Thanks, Zelda!" Zelda made eye contact with Lana. "So, how was the trip? Looks like you had a good time!" The two of them laughed. Kevin turned to the rest of their welcoming party. "Hi, guys, what's up?" Dr. Right stepped forward, interrupting. "Captain N, I'm afraid there's no time for a reunion quite right now! Dr. Wily's escaped!" Kevin gasped. "What?! How?!" The scientist shook his head. "We don't know! We had him handcuffed to a chair. Somehow, he managed to pick the lock, and then he got out before any of us could stop him! It all happened about a half hour ago. There's no telling where he is by now!" By this time, everyone had gotten out of the two vehicles. Then, a third one came crashing through the warp. It was a black convertible. Mike screamed, and he hit the brake. When his car came to a stop, he put it in park, shut it off, unbuckled his seatbelt, and hopped out. "Told ya I'd be waitin' for ya in Videoland, Mike!" Kevin said, smiling. Mike made his right hand into a fist, shook it in front of him, and made a soft growl. "People," Dr. Right interrupted again, "as I said, Wily's escaped!" "I hereby restore the title of Ruler of Videoland and all included powers and responsibilities to you, . . . Princess Lana." Zelda said quickly. "Thanks, Zelda!" Lana replied. Then she looked at everybody else and became serious. "Okay, Wily could be anywhere. We'll have to be careful in getting out of here." "Your Highness," Dr. Right spoke up, "I've brought some more laser rifles from my laboratory." Lana nodded. "Great." Simon handed four rifles to Lana. She took them and went over to her new friends. "We may encounter some opposition on our way out of the castle." Lana informed them. "Just point and fire - and be fast about it!" Rick, Stacey, Romeo, and Julius nodded as they each took a rifle. Lana looked around at all of them. She, Kevin, and Mike had Zappers. Mega Man had his built-in weapon. Simon had her laser rifle. Kevin's friends had laser rifles. Link had his sword. Zelda had her bow and arrows. Everyone had a weapon except Dr. Right. But Lana didn't worry about his safety. She knew Mega Man would defend his creator. "All right, let's go." Dr. Right closed the warp. Rick and Julius got back in Rick's truck, and Simon and Link climbed in the back. Stacey got in the driver side of her car, and Zelda got in the passenger side. "You guys are the experts at shooting. You'll need your hands free." Stacey said to Kevin and Lana. They nodded and got in the back seat, with Kevin to Lana's left. Mike got in the driver side of his car. "Hop in, Doc!" Dr. Right got in the passenger side. Romeo and Mega Man got in the back, with Romeo to Mega Man's left. "Let's hit it!" Kevin said, smiling. He drew his Zapper and twirled it. All three vehicles started up, took off, and left the lab. As they went down various corridors, with Stacey in the lead, Rick following, and Mike at the end, they encountered numerous small robots. No major opposition. All of them, except for Dr. Right, of course, destroyed a few. When they got to Dr. Right's lab, they parked the vehicles outside. Rick, Stacey, Kevin, and Lana all carried the duffel bags. "Come on in." Dr. Right said. "Wow, this is so cool!" Rick said, smiling. He again checked the time. When they all went inside, Dr. Right opened to a warp. "This will take you to the Palace of Power." "Thanks, Dr. Right." Rick said, and offered his right hand. Dr. Right shook it. "My pleasure." he said with a smile. As Kevin was about to step through the warp, he turned to face Mike. "You comin', dude?" Mike shook his head. "Nah, I don't think I'll fit in. Besides, I love competing against you!" Kevin laughed. "You're always welcome to visit," Lana offered, "or even to live there if you change your mind." Mike nodded. "Thanks." "You can stay here with me." Dr. Right offered. "Be my lab assistant." Mike grinned. "Sounds mega cool!" Everyone laughed, then, after saying bye to Mike, went through the warp.
Chapter 44They emerged in the Palace of Power. Rick turned to face Lana. "Lana - uh, Your Highness - " Lana smiled. "Lana's okay." "I need to get to a computer as soon as possible to start making a record of our trip to Videoland." Lana laughed. "This way." Everyone followed her. On the way, they met Gameboy and Kid Icarus, who were still looking after the Palace. "Gee, you guys sure have been gone a long time!" Kid Icarus said. Lana laughed. "Anything to report, Kid Icarus?" "Everything's a-okayicus. What happened to your hairicus?" Lana laughed again. "I got it cut. Thanks, Kid. You two are relieved of duty." The group left Kid Icarus and Gameboy, who went off in another direction. After Rick had made a complete report of their trip to Videoland, taken pictures, video recordings, and every other thing he could think of, he saved it in the newly created Videoland Club directory in the Palace's computer. "I'll have to go back home and get all of the Club's other stuff." Rick told Lana. "Well, that's gonna be kinda difficult at the moment." Lana said. "Dr. Wily's Warp Zone Shifter is still in his lab in Skull Castle." She placed her left hand on his right shoulder. "Don't worry, Rick, we'll figure something out." Rick nodded. "I think I'll unpack." Lana said. "I have to copy a lot of stuff into the computer tomorrow!" "I'm with ya, Lana!" Kevin said happily. "And Rick," Lana added, "I'll give you access to all of the Palace's computer files, so you can add to your records." Rick smiled and nodded. "Thanks, I'd appreciate that." Lana nodded, and then she and Kevin turned and left. After everything had been unpacked and stored in Lana and Kevin's rooms, everyone gathered in the Palace's Throne room for a special welcoming ceremony. Rick, Stacey, Romeo, and Julius were standing in front of the N Team members, Link, and Zelda. The Princess was wearing her crown again, but still had her Earth clothes on. "On behalf of myself, and everyone else," Lana said, "I am proud to welcome you - each one of you - to the N Team. Welcome!" There was a loud round of applause and cheering as Lana shook hands with each of them. Rick checked his watch again. "Can we have Power Pads and Zappers?" Stacey asked. Lana laughed. "We'll see."
EpilogueLater that night, at 11 PM, Lana was standing by a window, looking out at the night sky. Kevin walked by and stood to her right. He looked out also. "Thinking?" Lana nodded. "Mmmmm." He turned to face her. "What about?" She just kept looking up at the stars. "About a lot of things. It's sure been an interesting ten days, hasn't it?" Kevin nodded. "I'll say!" "It's good to be back, though." She turned to face him. "There's no place like home, huh, Kevin?" Kevin smiled at her and took her hands in his. "No, . . . no, there's no place like home." TO BE CONTINUED...