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Sunday, January 30, 1994, 10:30 AM
The desk shook. A sudden tremble ran through the office of the CFCC library. A pair of hazel eyes narrowed onto the bottled iced tea. The contents rippled with each miniature quake. Quickly the slightly pale hand reached for the container, grasping it moments before it would have tipped, spilling over onto the rather expensive phone system that had been installed oh-so-recently. The quakes grew stronger, and the young man at the desk only said two words once they had ceased. "Hi, Mark." "Hi." Mark dropped his bookbag and pulled up a chair next to Matt. "What's up?" "Nothin' much." Matt turned from the computer monitor to his friend - and jumped at Mark's attrocious selection of apparel. "Damn, Mark! Where do you even find a shirt like that?!" Mark shrugged, examining the fluorescent pink shirt he wore with a pair of purple pants, creating a painful contrast. "I dunno." A quick blue light flashed through the room, its source directly blocked from view by a cheap metal cubicle wall. "What the - ? Mark, go check to see if one of the terminals blew up, would ya?" Mark complied, sneaking around the makeshift wall. He poked his head back into the cubicle. "Umm, Matt?" "Yeah?" Matt asked over a swig of his iced tea. "Kevin Keene and Mike Vincent just warped into the library." Perplexed, Matt stood with drink in hand, and stepped around the corner. Sure enough, before him were two young men, both in Northridge High letterman jackets. "If you're looking for 'Zen and the Art of Automotive Maintenance', it was just checked out." Kevin gave a questioning look and shook his head. "No, no. We came to see Mark. Well, both of you, actually, but mainly Mark." Matt took another sip of his drink. "Slight bit of a location problem, isn't it?" Kevin nodded. "Well, we didn't know where we'd end up. We followed the energy signature in Mark's warp zone opener." "Which is in my bookbag." Mark announced. "What's the problem?" "We're having a bit of trouble in Videoland. The Galactic Empire is starting to invade." "I never knew about a Star Wars world." Mark said. "It was off our maps. We ran into some freelance fighter pilots, for lack of a better term, and they've helped us all they can, but - " "But?" Mark prodded. "But we're a little undermanned this time. This mission requires everyone to be able to fly a hi-tech ship." Mike said. "Half the team can't do that for various reasons." "We'll help." Mark said. "And we can get the others." "Oh, yeah, nothin' we'd love to do better than put ourselves and our friends in mortal danger." Matt announced with lack of enthusiasm. Kevin smiled. "Great. We're on a bit of a scheduling problem, so we'll take care of getting everyone together. Get whatever you need and meet us in Videoland in fifteen minutes." "Got it." Mark waved as the two N Teamsters stepped into a return warp.
Mark and Matt stepped through the warp, quickly relocating from their college on Earth to Doctor Right's lab in Megaland. Matt sighed, examining his now-animated form. "Man, I hate that." Mark grinned. "I think it's cool!" Suddenly, the black-haired man's eyes grew wide as a streak of white tackled his friend. "Whoa!" Kevin and Mike pulled Riff off of the young man, allowing him to climb to his feet. "Well,...that was fun." Matt spat. "Man, you gotta stop designing characters that resemble you." Mark chided. "Tell me about it. Remind me to write in a buzz cut for Pak when we get home." Mark chuckled. "Okay." It was only then he noticed his internet friends - Mandi, Mike, Andres, and Nick - standing along with the N Team. "Hey, guys." The four offered greetings. "Is everyone here then?" Doctor Right asked, waddling between the two groups of friends. "Good. Let's get this underway." "What's this all about?" Nick asked. "You haven't told us much." Right smiled. "Forgive me. The Empire has set up a headquarters in a secluded area of Videoland. The N Team and yourselves will, with your permission, confront the Empire." The six young visitors agreed. "Excellent. Once you have changed into your flight suits, I will familiarize you with your aircraft." "Aircraft?" Nick smiled. "I didn't know we get aircraft!"
Mike exited from his changing room. He double-checked the fit of his flight suit. It was almost identical to the N Team's suits, except the red was replaced with blue. He observed his two friends, Mark and Matt, bickering over something. Quite unlike either of them to carry a grudge to a shouting match. Mike nudged Andres. "Hey. What's going on?" "Oh. Your friends here are arguing over who the leader of this group should be." Mike sighed. "Matt, for God's sake, Mark should lead!" "Well, duh!" Matt shot. "That's what I'm trying to tell him!" "No way!" Mark protested. "You're leading!" "It's your web page!" "You know more about Star Wars!" "You lead us here!" "Enough!" Mike cried. "I'll lead!" The bickering ceased. Matt came to a conclusion. "Okay, okay, I'll lead. Happy now?" Mark smiled. "Quite." Right returned to the group of new cadets. "Well, now that everything is settled, I will give you a basic overview of your equipment. On the shelf over there," Right said, gesturing to a shelf filled with various items, "is your standard weaponry. Each of you will take a belt. You will have a Zapper and a tool pad." "Tool pad?" Mandi asked. "What's that?" "You overlooked that Zapper thing pretty quick." Nick commented. Mandi shrugged. "Saw it coming." Right continued: "Anyway, the tool pads consist of various instruments that will assist you in your mission. The ones on your belt are standard. You will have more extravagant items underneath the seats of your ships, contained in wearable 'Power Packs'. As for the ships, Matt, Mark, and Mandi, you three shall have X-Wings. Mike, you will pilot a Y-Wing. Nick and Andres, you two will use A-Wings. You will find your R2 units inside, ready to go. If I've gotten your design specifications right, you should be ready to go. GS-Red - that would be Kevin's half of the squadron - will be leaving shortly for their frontal assault. You will be following them, preferably with your own strategy." Right turned to his newest creation. "What is the situation with Simon's ship, Riff?" Riff leaned back from out of the cockpit and glared at the vampire hunter. "You put this thing on full power, didn't you?" Simon nodded. "How could you tell?" "Cuz you didn't clean up." "Never mind that, Riff!" Right ordered. "How does it look?" "Looks like Simon had waffles for breakfast." Right huffed. "Enough. Red Team, please take your ships while I give a - ahem - crash course to these young fellows." "Right." Kevin said as he jumped into his X-Wing. He lead the way out of a dark tunnel, which Right had constructed for the specific task of exiting aircraft, and into the heavens of Videoland. "You're next, Blue Team."
"You had to volunteer, didn't ya, Mark?" Matt asked, starting the line at the weaponry table. "I thought we could help. I didn't know we'd be facing a galactic threat." "Actually, that was the part where Kevin said 'the galactic empire is starting to invade'. How could you miss it?" "Look on the bright side." Mandi chirped, third in the line. "At least we get to kick Vader's butt." "He's dead." Mike followed. "Remember?" Mandi frowned. "Then who do I get to blow up?" she asked, strapping the belt around her waist. "Other Imperials?" Andres suggested from the end of the line. "Must be plenty of 'em if they're invading Videoland." "True." Nick agreed. "Plus they can't hit the broad side of a barn, if the movies hold any weight here."
"Okay," Matt said to the scattering team, each member approaching their own ship, "according to Right's information," he said, displaying a rather thick print-out, "the unabridged version," he muttered, "the Imperial Headquarters is a dome in the far west of a deserted game world. Section," he continued, flipping a few pages, "alpha-one-one-eight." "Where the heck is that?" Mark asked with an understandable right. Matt sighed. "Just - just follow the big red blip. Let's get moving." Mike was the first to board his ship, a Y-Wing that he had custom-requested to be tie-dyed. He saw Doctor Right flinch at the request, not knowing if the task was possible, but, with some quick programming, his service 'droids managed to create a pleasing design for the young man. As he flipped the start-up switch, a small black monitor filled with red text. "'Sup, foo?" Mike read. He scanned the screen, finding the handle his R2 unit had been appointed. "K-Dawg?" He waved his hand outside the cockpit. "Umm, Doctor Right?" "I was feelin' funky." the scientist unexpectedly replied. Nick hopped over into the cockpit of his A-Wing, testing the feel of the craft. He chose perhaps the second-most-complicated design, an eagle of blue, gray, and jet black, with a seven pointed star positioned appropriately at the front of the craft. The bird consumed the entire ship - even the framework of the sun-repelling cockpit, which quickly closed around the pilot. He felt the engines come to life after he flipped the ignition switch. The second A-Wing greatly contrasted with its other, unlike those belonging to Rock and Simon. Andres' craft was decorated in black and purple, with a huge Decepticon symbol on the left side. Seated in her fushia X-Wing, with a diamond pattern that faded from purple to magenta, Mandi quickly familiarized herself with the mechanics of the ship. "Oh-Dee?" she pronounced the R2s designated handle. "What's that mean?" Her small screen became overrun by wild, freeflowing text, accompanied by a voice. "O.D. [Oh-Dee] Abr. Overdose: refers to constant inability on this unit's part to condense information to a more user-friedly, readable, simpler response. Counter-acting this effect is difficult, narrowing all requests to extremely specific statements. Unfavored but recommended course of correction: Complete surface memory wipe, installation of new software." "My head hurts." Mandi complained. "Common humanoid compatible health-enducing substance located - " Mandi sighed. "Shut up." "Compliance." Just as Mark was preparing to close the cockpit of his X-Wing, which was fashioned after his fierce attire (dark purple wings and a painful bright pink), he became aware of a stench. "Hey, Matt," he called to his friend, "y'smell that?" "What is it?" he asked, climbing into the cockpit of his solid gray, checkered, and solid blue X-wing, the design controlled by the location of the cockpit's beginning and end. Mark turned to see a cloud of black smoke coming from his R2. "Doctor Right?" The scientist waddled over. "Oh, do not worry. Stinky simply has a bad coolant system, and the only way he can keep from burning his system is to vent all heat and flammable gasses. The only downside is it creates quite a stench." Matt's R2 shot an electronic Rasberry to Mark. "Quiet down, Spunky." Matt ordered, closing his cockpit.
The engines lit, and all six ships left the hanger, all following preset coordinates. The two A-Wings raced closely along the ground; meanwhile, four ships flew high overhead. Mike's Y-Wing couldn't compete with the speed of the A-Wings or X-Wings, but it wasn't meant to. The craft carried the most impressive firepower out of the squadron, and Mike could easily blow any selected teammate out of the water if he felt tempted. K-Dawg often corrected his course settings so that he wouldn't go speeding into a mountain or such. To Mike's forward left, Mandi's X-Wing strayed from formation occasionally. The young woman was not prepared for such a task, much like her friends, but Oh-Dee provided adequate instructions and then some. Had the 'droid relayed anymore information, the poor girl's brain would surely have exploded. Mark's X-Wing zoomed ahead obnoxiously, showing off his mediocre piloting skills. Matt followed close behind, praying Mark wouldn't suddenly cut his throttle. "What's the plan?" Andres asked over the communication system, which was incorperated into an open-channel headset for the ships, as opposed to a small hand-held device that would cause problems during flight. "Yeah." Mike followed. "What's the deal, man? Are we just barging through the front door?" "We can't do a full-on frontal attack!" Nick advised. "That's a pretty stupid idea." Andres commented. "Not too bright." Mandi added. "Matt," Mark chided, "how could you send us to our deaths like this?" Matt sighed. "Listen up. No one's dying...except maybe Mike." "Hey!" Mike shot. "You'll do as you're told." Matt cracked. "The N Team's heading through the Empire's front door. We're sneakin' 'round back. While the others take out the sentries, we plant a few charges, and boom. No more empire." "Too easy." Mandi said. "You were saying?!" Mark cried when several TIEs came into view. "What do we do?! We didn't have any combat training!" Matt returned to the comm-channel. "Stay calm and keep moving!" The team broke formation. The A Wings left the guidance of the ground but continued to stick close. The twelve TIEs followed suit, two on each of the Blue Team's ships. Mike frantically pushed the throttle of his Y-Wing to the limits. All the while trying to outrun the TIEs unsucessfully, K-Dawg repeatedly flashed messages across the translation screen of the cockpit for tactical suggestions. Taking the frank hints, Mike finally ceased ninety percent of his throttle, laughing as the TIEs zoomed past him. He waited for the targeting sensors to flash green, and, once they had, his thumb shifted over the trigger for the dual-ion cannon system. The two beams of blue light left his view and were quickly replaced by two sequential explosions. "Oh, hell, yeah!" Mike cheered over the blast. The two A-Wings stuck side-by-side, doing surprisingly well for their first outing. The Eagle utilized its unique shape by slipping between a teamed pair of TIEs. Andres took the oppurtunity to blast the coupled fighters from behind, while Nick moved on and easily made short work of the next pair. Nick sighed. "Six down." "Oh, I'm lovin' this." Mandi laughed, pursuing her designated targets. In a relatively brief time, she had actually adapted to her new surroundings remarkably. She pulled back on the throttle, letting her targets settle into view, and pulled the trigger. "Woo-hoo!" Meanwhile, the final two pilots were having (understandable) problems. A single knock echoed through Matt's cockpit. He looked out his left window. "Mark, you're too close!" he called into the headset. "Sorry!" Mark apologized as he attempted to turn away, but in doing so caused damage to Matt's left wing set. Mark winced. "Sorry again!" "This is great." Matt said as he unwillingly glided his ship down to the ground at Spunky's request. "I'm down." he announced, his targeting system scanning for the nearest ally. "Mark, you've got double duty, man. Think you can take the last four?" Mark shook his head in disbelief as he tried his lasers. "No. I damaged something." "I got 'em." Mike announced, launching a pair of proton torpedos. Unfortunately, he only took out three of the four, the final running back to its base. "Oops."
The five ships landed, and the pilots stepped out and gathered around Matt, who was examining his left wing set. "Good news?" Mark prayed, most likely for his safety. Matt shrugged, shuffling back to his cockpit. Leaning in, he withdrew the blue and white Power Pack from underneath his seat. He set it on the ground, underneath the wings, and opened the multi-compartment device. "Not too bad." he said, retrieving a knife and a roll of black electrical tape. "It's mainly surface, and some cut wires. It'll take me a few minutes." he said, pointing out the dozen or so wires that were fraying or already broken and sparking. "But it'll be airborne. Mark, what about you? How's your ship?" A beeping came from inside Mark's cockpit. He leaned in to look at the translation monitor his R2 used to spew instructions. "Ummm, lasers down. Everything else checks out." "Good." Matt breathed as he pulled a piece of the tape from the roll. "Are you a qualified mechanic?" Mandi asked, logically. Matt smiled. "No, that's why these wires are color coded." Matt frowned again at the multitude of broken strands. "This may take a while." Mike looked at his hands, noticing the subtle textures in his skin. "Oh, great, we're live-action again." Nick smiled. "To some extent." "First we're live-action, then we're cartoons! And now we're live-action again! What's the deal?!" "This area seems to mainly support the less-animated." Andres noted, scanning over the Badlands. "And why the hell isn't there anything out here?" A spark from Matt's ship caught the team's attention. Mandi smiled. "Whoa. That was a big one."
"Where are they?" Kevin asked as his team snuck from room to room inside the Imperial dome. They managed to find a secluded spot where they could await transmissions. "They were supposed to check in an hour ago!" "Relax." Lana insisted. "They've never done this before. We managed to sneak past defenses. Maybe they didn't." A crackling came over Kevin's portable communication system. "Kevin?" He pulled out a small, fist-sized object from his pocket. "Kevin, here. What's up?" "Sorry we're late," Mandi apologized, "but our great leader here had to do some quick repairs." Another voice came over the channel, but more distant. "Hey! I wasn't the one who was flying too close!" "I said I was sorry!" a third voice cried. "Would you two please shut up!" Mandi demanded. Kevin was worried about how the mission would work. "Where are you now?" "We're in the catwalks. We're prepping the charges. How's everything going down below?" "We're making our way to the central computer room. We want all the information we can get. After that, we're using the warp zone openers to get outta here quick." A sudden realization struck him. "Any trouble getting here?" "We got into a little rumble with some TIEs. Unfortunately one got away, so they may know we're here." There was a detectable harshness in her voice. "Hey! I managed to shoot down five of those things!" Mike defended. "Don't blame me!" His voice quieted. "Lesse, which wires? White to red, right?" "No!" Andres' voice entered into the conversation. There was staticy hiss. "Ummm,...do we have any extras?" "Yeah, here." Nick offered. Kevin wiped his face with his free hand. "This can't possibly work." "It's still on." Mandi informed the Captain. Kevin blushed and believed to have finally deactivated the comm system. "Like I said, - " "Freeze!" Kevin shook his head. "No, I didn't say that." He lifted his head and turned around, finding a trio of white-armored storm troopers in the doorway. "But something else does come to mind right now." The lead trooper watched the entire group raise their hands, and sent his soldiers in to search the team. "Who are you?" No answer. "Who sent you?" He examined their attire. "You're part of that new squadron that shot down Black Squad today." The soldier came to a decision. "Take them to the detention cells. The Grand Moff will want to interrogate them."
"Did you here that?" Mandi asked. "They got caught!" While sucessfully sneaking into the compound, the Blue Team found themselves in the catwalks, secluded walkways that accessed many supporting structures and areas of the dome. Movement was a bit more sluggish with each of the team carrying the Power Packs on their backs, but luckily they did not act as too much of a hindrance to make a significant difference. "What now?" Andres asked. He and Mike were preparing the charges, assembled from items obtained from the Power Packs. "We free them, right?" "If we blow this place up, they'll be killed." Mike rationalized. "We can't do both." "We'll just have to try." Matt said. Nick raised his hand in the air. "Check please. How are we gonna do that?" "We can't!" Mark said. "We can if we set an extended timer." Matt said. "One hour should be enough for someone to sneak through the vents into the cellblock and warp the other guys home." "No," Mark said, "I mean, we can't!" He pointed over everyone's shoulders as Matt released a curse. "Geez. That was the loudest profanity I ever heard." Five storm troopers had discovered the Blue Team. Weapons weren't drawn, so the incident wasn't expected. However, the rifles weren't idle for long. "Scatter!" Matt ordered over the laser fire. He pulled his own weapon, a blue and gray Zapper, and began a return assault. Behind a convenient pile of metal girders, Mandi opened her Power Pack and scanned the items. "Bingo!" she cried. "Just start shooting!" Mike pleaded from behind the same pile. He quickly raised his head and fired off three shots, missing the advancing troopers. From behind a large metal support beam, Matt did the best he could while Mark struggled to remove a grate from the wall. "What're you doing?" Matt asked. "One hour?" Mark asked, setting his watch. It hit Matt like a brick. "One hour." He gulped. "Don't be late." Mark ducked into the ventilation system and closed the grate behind him. Matt fired once more and found that the lime green laser beam simply singed the armor of the storm troopers. "Oh, this is nice." he spat. Mandi smiled as she attached a strange fixture to the end of her Zapper. "Done! How many left?" she asked Nick. The young man quickly glanced around the girders. "Three." "Cover me, would ya?" Mandi asked. She raised the Zapper over the pile, took aim, and fired. The usually thin beam amplified itself within the new fixture, converting into a powerful blast of bright blue. With two shots, she managed to take out two storm troopers. "Need some help?" Andres asked, taking Mark's place on the wall. "Y'look like you're havin' trouble." Matt banged his Zapper after he felt it die in his hands. "I'm not having a good day." He holstered the weapon. "Take this guy out, okay?" Andres nodded and fired a red beam at the final trooper, who fell to the ground, lifeless. "Zapper problems?" Matt nodded. "It's dead." "Hmph." Andres shrugged. "What's the next move?" "Can the charges be removed once they're attached?" Andres shook his head. "Super-magnetic and plastic adhesive. They're on until they blow. Maybe even after." "Set them - one hour. Find the key supports to this side of the building." Matt began to walk away. "Where are you goin'?" "The team's locked away. Someone's gotta get the information they came for." Walking past the rest of the Blue Team, Matt pointed to Mandi. "You're in charge." Mandi smiled up to the young man. "Nick, you're with me." Matt said. "If we're not back five minutes before the bombs go off, use the warp openers and get out." "Don't need to tell me twice." Mike said. "Your confidence in this situation astounds me."
"I had to volunteer." Mark spat, crawling through the air ducts. "Me and my big mouth. At least the vent is big enough." Mark leaned up against one side of the vent and withdrew a small handheld video monitor from the side of his Power Pack. He flipped the switch and touched a key labeled 'voice'. "Stinky?" Red words flashed across the small black screen, accompanied by a voice. "Connection to designated R2-D2 unit established: State request." Mark smiled. "Can you give me a map of the dome?" "Yes." was all it said. Mark realized the problem. "Do it." The diagram filled the screen. "Pinpoint my location." A small yellow dot appeared on the screen. "Pinpoint the detention block." The computer hummed. "Invalid Request: Additional data required." Mark fished for his communicator. "Matt, y'hear me?" There was a pause. "Go ahead, Mark." "I can't locate the detention block without the blueprints." "Nick and I are on our way to the control room. Once we have them, we'll upload them to the R2s. Just sit tight." "Right. Not much else to do."
The Red Team watched as the cell door slid open. Two guards waited outside, while a highly decorated officer in his mid-forties entered. "I am Grand Moff Arisan. I've been made aware of your intrusion. You have also refused to answer any questions. Keep in mind, if you don't answer to me, we will resort to more drastic measures. So, for the last time, who sent you?" Kevin sighed and looked to Lana. She nodded. "No one." Kevin said. "We came of our own will." Arisan slightly smiled. "Very good. What is your relation to the New Republic?" "The who?" Mike asked. "Never heard of 'em." "Very well." Arisan opened the door, summoning the guards. He pointed at Lana. "Kill the girl."
TO BE CONTINUED...