002: The League
Tim ran through the Mega Marble as the self-destruct alerts blared, telling him of the little bit of time he had left.
Tim thought to himself, "I'm not going to make it this time."
He would have given a cheer of relief if it were not atypical of him and if he had the time, but he did not. He pressed a button and opened the last escape pod, entering it and having it start moving toward down the tube that was the exit of the Mega Marble.
As Tim exited the Mega Marble and started going down the path that Ralph had earlier taken, he began to decelerate. With a light thumb he fell out of the building and onto the ground. He moved his black, marble-shaped escape pod toward a thick grove of tree as an explosion sounded behind him, indicting the destruction of the Mega-Marble.
As he exited the escape pod he looked at the two others near him. The first, completely destroyed, him surmised to be that of Dr. VonMarcus. The second, which was fortunately intact, he believed to be that of Ralph.
He smiled and returned to the pod. Preparing to make an exit as he so wished to, the display in front of him suddenly changed into a picture of a man in a chain mail-like fabric of black with a set of green-tinted glasses.
"Hello, Tim," said the man calmly. "3,027840."
"Who are you?" asked Tim, brushing his hand through his gray hair as he spoke, having noticed the number.
"I am known as Gamemaster Jenkins." He smiled as he said this. "We've been watching you, Tim. This, although a real situation, was not known to the public until just a few minutes ago."
Tim gave the so-called Gamemaster a queer look. "So you sent me a broadcast that didn't exist then to my handheld?" he inquired, patting the small TV that was in his pocket.
"That would be incorrect, Tim."
"It existed but no longer does. Maybe this will make sense to you in time."
"So. Why you interrupting my planned crusin' of this nice little object that I found?"
"Nothing, Tim." He then smiled. "Unless you wish to really have a challenge."
Tim's eyes perked and he removed his sunglasses, leaning forward and smiling. "What kind of challenge."
"Fortunately, this incident will make it seem as though you are dead, as there are no genetic records for you or Dr. VonMarcus."
"Mm hmm. So?"
"So, Tim, when you are ready, proceed to the point instructed on the map that you are now being sent. I hope to soon welcome you to the League.
"Sounds like fun."
Tim got out of the pod again and looked at Ralph's pod. He smiled as he walked slightly closer to the pod. "Someday, Ralph, you could be just as good at video games as me. Remember that."
"He walked back to the trees and climbed up high into one. Over the next half hour he watched police and medics arrive. They found both the destroyed pod of VonMarcus and the whole pod of Ralph as well.
Tim watched from high in the tree as a policeman opened Ralph's pod.
Ralph shielded his eyes as the light entered his escape pod. "Tim?" he asked.
"Sorry, kid, but no. There was another vehicle like this one but it was destroyed and covered in blood."
"No!" screamed Ralph. "Tim can't be dead! He just can't!"
"Kid," replied the policeman, "it'll be okay. Come on, we better make sure that you're not hurt and then you can tell me what happened in there."
As Ralph walked away with the policeman Tim gave a slight smile. "Don't worry, I'm not dead... I just need to seem to be right now."
With that said, Tim hopped into the black marble-shaped escape pod and sped off toward the point where he had been instructed to go.
As Tim closed onto the point, thoughts went over him. "Gamemaster Jenkins, eh?" he said to himself. "Sounds like I'm about to encounter one or a bunch of video-freaks."
Tim slowed down the marble and eventually stopped it. Opening the cover and getting out, he noticed a woman a few feet ahead of where he was that he hadn't noticed before.
"Greetings," replied the person. "I am Gamemaster Karen."
"Karen. Not a very masculine name, but then again you're not who sent for me."
Gamemaster Karen laughed. "Grey hair, not exactly suiting either." She motioned her hand. "Follow me, Tim."
Tim shrugged and followed her as she began walking.
"So," Karen began as she and Tim walked, "Why does Jenkins want you?"
Tim shrugged. "I'm a gamer. I play games."
Karen laughed softly at that. "Most of us are. I mean: Why in particular?"
Tim spoke with a straight face, seriousness being shown by him. "Because I'm the best."
Karen's eyes opened as she heard what Tim had said. "That's more than a bit of an ego, Tim. I suggest you stop that at once. It's frowned upon at the League."
Tim turned his head towards her and removed his sunglasses. "I wasn't being egotistical."
Karen shook her head. "Whatever."
"So, why you come and get me?" asked Tim, putting his sunglasses back on.
"Two reasons. One: I am commonly sent to get new recruits. Two: I am going to be your teacher."
Tim chucked. "Sounds like fun."
The door opened and Tim stepped into Gamemaster Jenkins' office.
The man whom Tim had seen before turned around and looked at the gray-haired individual before him. "So, you're Tim?"
"You should know. You saw me before while I was in the pod."
"Ah, that I did. That I did." He sat down at his large black leather chair behind a desk of oak. "Dr. VonMarcus was someone you knew. That's why we sent you after him through that broadcast. We knew you liked games and challenges. That was a test to see if you were ready for a much bigger challenge: this one."
Tim yawned. "Sure. Sounds like fun. Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it."
Gamemaster Jenkins frowned. "Tim, this is a serious matter. The League of Gamemasters is not known to the outside world and it is not a group of gamers that play games. Incidents like that of Dr. VonMarcus's Mega-Marble are not as uncommon as you may think. There are also threats that are even worse that you are not aware of at all."
Tim nodded. "Continue."
"Tim, it would mean leaving everyone you knew in the outside world behind, but I think you may be willing to do this." Gamemaster Jenkins stood up and went over to a door. Opening it, he motioned for Tim to follow. "Come on."
Tim shrugged and followed the man.
Tim emerged into a room of gray. Inside it there was very little besides himself and the man that he had followed.
Gamemaster Jenkins pressed a few buttons. "Tim, prepare yourself."
Tim shrugged. "Kay."
Tim spun around to see a fireball coming toward him from what appeared to be a piranha plant. He ducked to the ground, barely avoiding it. "What the heck is this?"
"SMB test simulation," said Jenkins calmly.
Tim jumped as a koopa troopa bit at his leg. He jumped again and stomped on it, forcing it into its shell.
"Good." Jenkins smiled.
Tim threw the shell at the piranha plant, hitting it dead on and causing both of the enemies to disappear.
"Excellent. Level one completed."
Tim tapped the pipe that the piranha plant had been in. "Let me guess."
Jenkins smiled. "You're catching on." He pressed another button. "But no!"
Tim felt his body fall as Gamemaster Jenkins pressed the button.
"Level two: Bayou Billy. Gun at your side. Prepare for moving targets that fire back."
Tim removed the gun from the holster that had appeared at the side of his body. "Fun."
Tim turned around slowly, looking for the targets that Jenkins had mentioned. Seeing a person from behind a tree, he fired his gun and hit the man.
Tim smiled. "This the best you got?"
Jenkins shook his head. "No, but it's what you're going to have to pass to see if you have what it's got."
Tim fired at another person, hitting them. "Trust me, I do."