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Saturday, January 22, 1994, 10:23 AM
Kevin wasn't in the mood to be pulled away from a good book. He wasn't in the mood to be pulled out of the living room of the N Team's home on Megaland. He certainly wasn't in the mood to be pulled out the front door. "Hey!" He finally shook Simon and Kid Icarus off of his arms. Straightening his letterman's jacket with a single tug, he stared down the vampire hunter. "Simon, just tell me what the problem is!" "Well,...it's,...um,..." Simon pointed a gloved finger towards a crater in the front yard. The damage went about three feet down, but the real concern was the vehicle that caused the crater. "...it's that. Whatever it is." Kevin stepped to the edge of the crater, but stayed a good distance from the mysterious machine. The dark gray metal was a severe eyesore in the midst of the lush garden of vibrant flowers. The main part of the vehicle, a sphere, had a circular window in the front. Through the window, Kevin could see a chair and some control boards. Stemming off of the sphere, like two flattened, dreary blooms, came a octagonal-shaped wing on each side, standing vertically. As he examined all sides, Kevin found two large exhaust ports behind the sphere cockpit. "I know this..." he whispered. "No way..." "No way what?" Lana asked, stepping off the front porch. Behind the Princess of Videoland stepped proud members of the N Team. Mike Vincent: Kevin's equal in terms of skill, but otherwise a rather unique individual. Mega Man: a product of Dr. Right's laboratory. A robot, once fully-mechanized, now half-human thanks to the Warp of Life. Rick Walker: A relative newcomer, but core member of the team. "This is a TIE fighter." Kevin answered. "But I have no idea where it came from." "From the size of that crater, a long way up." Mike assumed. "But since when has there been a Galactic Empire in Videoland?" "Maybe it's New Republicland." Rick suggested. "No, it's definately Imperial." Kevin decided. "This is from Star Wars, isn't it?" Lana asked. Kevin smiled. "Yeah. This is a TIE fighter, one of the ships used by the Empire. I think there were a few video games, but I never assumed any incarnations existed here." "I never knew." Lana admitted. "As far as I know, the highest point in Videoland is Mount Icarus. All of our maps end there." "No one's explored past it." Mike realized. "I guess there was no way to get there." "There is now." Kevin pointed to the TIE fighter. "Only one problem." "Which is...what?" Lana probed. "Don't leave us hanging." "TIEs are short-range fighters. They don't have a hyperdrive, or anything like that. Hell, as far as I know, these are zero-gravity fighters! Who knows if it can take off from here?" "How does it work?" "Well, if I remember correctly, the TIE stands for Twin Ion Engines. Powerful, but they burn a lot of fuel. They normally don't travel far from a transport ship." Kevin carefully eyed the cockpit window. "Lana, why don't you and Mega Man make a call to Doctor Right? We'll need to speak with him." "Umm,...sure." Lana returned to the house with Mega Man at her side. Kevin sighed once she had reentered the building. "Mike, Rick, help me get the dead pilot outta here, okay?" The two immediately began assisting the Game Master, dragging the charred body from the cockpit and quickly burying it under the now-loose soil. "So what's the plan, Kev?" Rick wondered. Kevin stepped inside the cockpit and sat uneasily in the chair. He noted the still-active monitors, some displaying simple information, others more complicated data. He smacked a staticy screen, causing it to clumsily reclaim its lost information. "I don't believe it..." "Good news?" "Great news! This thing had a specific flight path! But it deviated from its course!" "Wasn't too great for the pilot." Mike winced as he remembered the body. "How's it for us?" "It recorded the path it did take. We know where it started." Kevin squinted at the readings. "Corsucant?"
Doctor Right slid out from under the TIE fighter. The vehicle had been moved to the home of Megaland's most reknowned scientific mind for further study. "Very interesting." "Anything to report?" Kevin asked, still gazing over the object. "Well, anything new I mean." "That depends." Right sat up on the wheeled bench. "Do you want to go to Corsucant?" Most of the N Team fell silent. Traveling through the warp zones to different game worlds was one thing; using a clumsy spacecraft to get there was another. "Break the boundaries of Videoland." Lana contemplated. "Sounds tempting. But we can't all go, not in that little thing." "I have a six-man transport I've been keeping in storage for just such a task." Dr. Right said. "Now that Mother Brain is gone, and Wily's attacks aren't as regular - " Kevin turned to the Princess. "How 'bout it, Lana?" "Guess there's no way of getting out of this one." Lana realized. "Doctor Right, get the shuttle ready. Kevin, Mega Man, Simon, Mike, Rick, and I will make the run. If you could please notify Kid, Romeo, Julius, Stacey, Gameboy, and Duke that we'll be departing - " "It's all taken care of, Your Highness. The shuttle will be ready in fifteen minutes. And I've even called Riff to assist the remainder of your team during your absence." Lana glared at Kevin. "You knew I'd say yes, didn't you?" "Yeah. It was just a matter of when."
I wonder how long Doctor Right's been planning this. Kevin pulled the zipper on his flight suit halfway up his torso, over his yellow t-shirt. Suspicion came naturally with the design of the suit. It was mainly a bold red, with white sleeves, much like his letterman's jacket. Two black pockets on the front took the place of the bold "N" that would reside on the left breast. The red suit legs were tucked inside a pair of tight, black boots, and his hands were clad in a pair of short black gloves. I hope this wasn't another one of those talking prophecies that predicted my arrival. Never heard one, but I still get a severe case of the willies whenever I think about it. Kevin made one final check on his Zapper and Power Pad, making sure the suit didn't fold over the items. Approving his attire, he stepped out of his dressing room. He looked over his friends, noticing each team member wore an identical suit, with minor alterations. Mike's suit also had his Power Pad and Zapper, but underneath he wore a black t-shirt. Rick had a black tank-top, obvious because the top part of the suit was unzipped. He also wore his Power Pad. Simon had removed his goggles, and wore a blue shirt underneat his suit. His brown gloves remained. His flight suit was pulled tight by a thick brown belt. Lana, for a change of pace, had also elected a t-shirt, only white. She, too, wore her Power Pad and Zapper. Perhaps the oddest change of clothing was Mega Man's. From what they could observe, while each of the team members were in their individual changing rooms, the cyborg's body had been altered to match the colors of the flight suits. His forearms and lower legs were a flat black, the upper arms were a glossy white, and the remainder of his body had become a metallic red. His standard green and blue helmet had been replaced by one of gray, with an orange visor. Lana placed one hand on her hip, the other nervously on the back of her neck. She scratched at it. "Everyone ready?" she asked, receiving a series of nods. Her tone became that of a mother. "Everyone charged?" Kevin, Rick, and Mike examined their Power Pads, all with bright lights indicating full power. They nodded. "Hey, Rock." Mike called Mega Man by his newer name. "Nice paint job." Rock smiled. "Thank you, but it's not a paint job." "That's right." Doctor Right quickly broke in. "Rock's files have been transferred to this new body. It has all of the same abilities, but it is much more durable than his previous one. I had originally designed it for him in case Pak ever returned." Kevin shuddered at the name. Pak, a rogue Game Master, had quite a record. For all the team knew, he was ruling the lands of Gargoyle's Quest, Fortified Zone, Power Blade, and others with an iron fist. But I doubt that, Kevin told himself. That's Wily's style, not Pak's. Although it was not above Pak to use extreme violence. Kevin was actually glad he never saw Riff carrying Rock's crumbling body into the lab he was now standing in. From what he was told, it was not a pretty sight. "And the flight suits?" Lana snapped Kevin from his memories. "A coincedence. I thought them up when I created the ship four years ago." "Kinda snazzy." Rick commented happily. "Can we keep 'em?" "I'd be happy to give them to you." Right smiled. "You make an old scientist feel proud." "Great." Kevin said with mixed excitement and anxiety. "Let's get to the launch site."
"...and it seems as if everyone in Videoland has turned out to see the N Team off. What will their journey reveal? What new wonders will we - " Cathy Bennett fumbled her microphone as the reflection of white metal caught her eye. "Ladies and gentlemen, speaking of new wonders! Excuse me, Mister Riff,..." The taller, younger brother of Mega Man slid his Lennon-style glasses below his eyes. "Just Riff, no Mister." he harshly corrected. "Riff, what do you expect your brother and his friends to find beyond our known boundaries?" He could've given any answer. But there was only one word circulating in his gut. "Trouble." "Trouble, Riff? How can you put such a dark cloud over this - " Riff whistled loudly, gaining the attention of many. However, only one was meant to hear the call - the only one who's accompanied Riff on his journey to hunt down Pak. The white metal falcon emerged from the skies, transforming into its sled-mode on an almost collision course with its trainer. "Chord." Riff instructed the sled-falcon, leaping onto it as it swooped by. "Home!" Riff's appearance was not intended to be so gloomy. He had a mission. Mega Man glanced out the window of the small shuttle just as the white streak passed by with a familiar winged cry. The shorter older brother smiled faintly, knowing his sibling would somehow wish the team good luck. "Thanks, Riff. I'll need it." "N Team, this is Doctor Right. Do you copy?" Kevin flipped a communications switch. "We copy, Doc. What's the low-down?" "Ignition of engines will commence in ten,..." The team collectively swallowed the lumps in their throats. "nine,..." Simon wiped the sweat from his forehead. "eight,..." Possible final thoughts ran through Rick's head. "seven,..." Mike struggled to fight a wave of nausea. "six,..." Rock glanced out the window for last-minute luck. "five,..." There was no turning back now. "four,..." Keep a light on for us, Kevin thought. "three,..." Lana reached out for Kevin's hand. "two,..." She squeezed. "one,..." He returned. "ignition!" The walls pulled back on the shuttle, revealing convenient bay windows. There was a unified compliment regarding the surroundings of the ship. Suddenly, the N Teamsters and their ship changed from animation to live-action. "Whoa!" they all said in surprise. Then a red light began flashing, and a buzzer sounded. "What's wrong?" Lana asked, panic in her voice. "What's going on?" Mega Man read the data from one of his monitors. "We're being pulled into something." All searched around the ship. The only visible approaching object was an old, beat-up freighter-type craft. Lana leaned in close to Kevin. "Is that one of those Imperial ships?" "Actually no. It looks like an ordinary independent freight runner. But I can't understand why it'd be pulling us in." A crackle came over the com-unit. "Attention personal vessel. This is Rogue Squadron. Please identify yourself!" Kevin flipped the switch from 'receive' to 'transmit'. "This is Kevin Keene, leader of the N Team. We mean no harm to anyone." "What's your purpose?" "Our purpose? Exploration,...I guess." He looked to Lana for assistance, but the young woman shrugged. Kevin continued: "We wanted to break the boundaries of our universe." "And that would be?" "Videoland." There was a pause before the reply. "Keene, our sensors show you're low on fuel. You're welcome to fill up on our ship." Kevin looked at the gage panel. "I'm pretty sure we have en-" "That wasn't a request. We'll be pulling you in shortly." Kevin flipped the switch back to its original position. "That went well." Mike spat. "What's this Rogue Squadron?" "We'll find out shortly. I say we've got about five minutes before we get pulled in. Mike, Rock, how are your trigger fingers?" Rock grinned mischievously. "Itchy. Let's kick some butt." "Only if we have to." Lana chided. "Let's not give the wrong impression. Treat this like a diplomatic mission." "Is it a diplomatic mission?" Rick asked curiously. "Looks like it now." The ship shook briefly, and the cargo hatch slid open. A raven-haired woman stepped halfway through. "You, N Team. Out here now." The team complied, stepping onto the floors of the freighter. "Five minutes, 'eh?" Mike asked. "Hey, I didn't know." Kevin remarked. "How was I supposed to know how quickly a tractor beam could pull us in?" The raven-haired woman leaned in to a young man on her left. "So, wadaya think?" The man stroked his chin. "I don't know. They're human,...and from Videoland." "What's going on here?" Lana finally asked. "I demand answers." "And you are?" the man returned. "Lana Deschain, Princess of Videoland." Kevin eyed the group of humans before him. Actually, once he had taken his eyes off the two interregators, none of the others on the ship were actually humans, but definately humanoid. They were indeed a team. Each wore a matching flight suit, much like the N Team's. The suits were a forest green. The sleeves were gray with a black stripe down the side. The front pockets, belt, and heavy boots were black as well. On the left breast pocket, a twelve-point star of blue, with a red flur de'le, was embroidered. An older man, in his late thirties, entered the room from a back entrance. "Corran, Mirax." The man nodded. He stood next to the young man. "What've you got here?" "I don't know." the young man replied. "Mirax and I pulled these guys from space. They say they're from Videoland. This one," he said, gesturing towards Lana, "claims to be the Princess." "I see." The older man stepped carefully towards the N Team. "Princess Lana, welcome to the Pulsar Skate. I am sorry if we frightened you. I am Wedge Antilles, leader of Rogue Squadron." "Y-you've heard of me?" Lana asked. "How? I didn't even know this world existed." "For the longest time, no one knew the rest of Videoland existed. Scientists were able to change the appearance of warp zones to look like black holes. It kept our Imperial friends from running off to other worlds." He looked to his squadron. "You're all dismissed. Except for you, Corran and Mirax." Roughly a dozen aliens exited the room, leaving the N Team with the three Rogues. "I'm confused." Rick said. "Why aren't we cartoons anymore?" "It's probably due to different physical properties in this galaxy." Lana suggested. "It makes this region of Videoland look like Kevin's universe." "Princess, if you and your team would accompany me - " "Is something wrong?" Rick asked. "Nothing of your doing. All will be explained."
Wedge remained standing as the N Team, the young man named Corran, and his close friend, the raven-haired Mirax, sat at the conference table. A hologram projected from the center of the table. "Whoa!" Simon remarked. "We've got to get one of those!" "Why, so you can watch it while you eat breakfast?" Mike smirked. "This is a diagram of the boundaries between the rest of Videoland and where you are now." Wedge said. "As you can see, there is only one warp zone to the world called Megaland. According to your statement, we've concluded it lies about one mile directly above your front lawn." "Actually it lies about one mile directly above the crater that used to be our front lawn." "Well, I'm sorry, Mister Vincent. We did not forsee a TIE fighter breaking from its fleet and heading into what it thought was a black hole." The image shifted to a cloaked, elderly man. "This was Emperor Palpatine. He was the backbone of the Empire before his prize student, Darth Vader, turned on him, ending his reign." "And so Vader returned to the good side of the force, once again becoming Anakin Skywalker." Wedge stared down Kevin. "You sure know a lot about our Republic's history. Something you're not telling us?" Kevin gulped. His confession would not be believed. Mike nudged his friend in the arm. "Looks like you gotta fess up, Kevin." The Game Master sighed. "Okay, okay. Rick, Mike, and I are from another dimension, where all this stuff happened in a trilogy of movies." "Oh." Wedge accepted. "Nothing new." "Nothing new?" Kevin double-checked. Wedge nodded. "Twenty years ago some guy named George stole about twelve hours of our security footage. Anyway, - " Kevin checked to see if the rest of his team shared the same feeling of awkwardness. " - we've received reports that, in the time it took you to discover the warp, some Imperial forces had already made their way to the rest of Videoland. We fear they may be trying to accumulate new allies and lay claim to any world they please." "And you're trying to stop them?" Kevin asked. Wedge shook his head. "No. We don't have any jurisdiction over the rest of Videoland." "Plus we're not even official forces anymore." Wedge gave Corran a fierce stare. "Thank you, Mister Horn. I was getting to that." The older man regained his composure. "In order to liberate the world of Thyferra from Imperial domination, Rogue Squadron was all but forced to resign from the New Republic. We are, in effect, rogues." "And if you go into the rest of Videoland," Lana said, "you run the risk of creating a very complicated incident with the New Republic and the government of Megaland." "We've been hoping someone from outside our territory would do some exploring and find us - specifically us. Had you appeared before the council, you would've been asked to approve free passage to the rest of Videoland, creating a war in a home of innocent third parties. No. We need you to stop the empire." "Us?" Lana asked. "We're hardly an army." "Hey," Kevin interrupted, "we did take out Mother Brain." Lana nodded his correction. "But she's right. There's six of us here. Against how many Imperials?" "Who built your ship?" Wedge asked. "A man named Xavier Right. Why?" "It's a nice ship. How long would it take him to build six of them?" Kevin glanced at Rock. The cyborg shrugged. "I dunno, 'bout a week? Maybe less if he's got 'droids to work on 'em." Mirax shrugged. "That's a lot better than we could do. He happy where he works?" "Miss Terrik!" Wedge snapped. "Sorry." she apologized. The older man sighed. "Kids." "I see what you're saying, Mister Antilles." Lana continued. "But still, Doctor Right's ship isn't equipped for battle. It's an exploration vessel." "He won't build that ship. He'll build these." Wedge hit several buttons, and the image over the table changed. "These are the top three ship designs in our fleet. The X-Wing, the Y-Wing, and the A-Wing. You're lucky. Since we're not an official force anymore, I can feel free to give you this information." Wedge tossed a compact disc at Kevin. "That disc contains four sets of schematics, each one - " "Three." Simon corrected. "Pardon?" "Three. You only showed us three ships." "Ahh. Yes, Sorry, Mister Belmont. The fourth set of schematics is for various R2 units. Without R2 units, the Y-Wings and X-Wings have no navigational systems. So make sure your mechanic keeps enough of those little pests around." Wedge cleared his throat. "I have to warn you, if you come into contact with the Empire, it will not be pretty. There's a reason they have a reputation for being a blood-thirsty murdering force of evil." "Why's that?" Simon asked, receiving odd looks from all around the room. "Oh,...right."
Wedge walked the N Team to their craft, giving them final instructions on the way. "Remember, the coordinates are 57343-29533-03854-35674. Otherwise, you'll end up in an actualy black hole. And unless you want another crater in your lawn, hang a sharp left once you enter Megaland." "Thanks, Wedge." Kevin extended his right hand to the man. "We're grateful for this. If the Empire is there, then I think we wanna be able to battle those fighters." "Fighters?" Wedge snorted. "Be lucky they don't have a Star Destroyer."
As the ship lifted off, and Mike piloted the team through the secret warp, thoughts entered Kevin's mind. What if the Empire had already established an army in secrecy. What if they were ready to attack Videoland's royalty? What if they've already attacked?
TO BE CONTINUED...