“What did you do?” Miranda asked.
“Me? Why do you think I did anything?” Wallace replied.
“Because who else could it be?” Miranda asked.
“I hope you guys aren’t ignoring me. That’d be so dumb,” King Hooligan said.
“I don’t… I don’t understand,” Wallace said, rubbing his head. “I guided you to the right place. I… told you everything you needed to get through this. Is it because you didn’t get your 4th team member in time? Did you miss an important item? Oh god, did you break the game? You got the Semanto files from the library, right?”
“I… oh yeah, I did! What did I do with those?” Miranda wondered.
“Yeah, I don’t care about any of that. Time to die, mofos!” King Hooligan declared.
“Hiyaa!” Emmanuel cried.
<King Hooligan used Fire Dance. Fire Damage increased!>
“We have to beat him. What do we do?” Dartanian asked.
“You can’t beat him. I thought you could, but you need your fourth man. I think… I think I broke the game,” Wallace said.
“Are we going to die?” Dartanian asked, freaking out. Wallace stroked his chin.
“Maybe there’s a way to trigger a new scene. You can’t fight an unbeatable boss but the rules still apply. Maybe an unbeatable boss… but not a mandatory one.”
“I’m burning up in here, baby!” King Hooligan crowed.
<King Hooligan used Fire Dance. Fire Damage increased!>
“Um, hiya?” Emmanuel asked.
“I don’t know, Manny,” Miranda began. “Maybe if we…”
“That’s it!” Wallace exclaimed. He ran into the woods.
“Uh, should we follow him?” Dartanian asked.
“Eh?” Emmanuel shrugged.
King Hooligan started glitching out, like a bugged computer program.
“L-l-l-l-l-le-le let’s light it up! Up-uu-u-u-u-u-up!”
“What are you doing? Come on!” Wallace called from the edge of the forest arena.
Miranda, Emmanuel and Dartanian looked at each other. Then they bolted.
“Hey! You can’t leave. Come back h-h-here!” King Hooligan screamed.
<Escape the Burning Woods!>
“We did it now. A mini-game to run away from certain death. Man I’m a genius,” Wallace grinned.
“We’re still getting chased by certain death, though,” Dartanian remarked.
“Shut up and run!” Wallace snapped.
They dodged falling logs and exploding trees, all on fire of course, as they wound their way out of the forest. More helicopters had appeared in the sky by then, mostly news choppers. Others were carrying great big containers of water to fight the fire but there weren’t as many of those and they were hopelessly outmatched by the flames.
“Maybe we can use that,” Wallace reasoned.
“What are you talking about?” Miranda asked.
“Let me work my magic real quick. And… voila!” New tokens began to appear in their path. “Grab enough tokens and you’ll trigger a help command which will get the helicopters to clear a path for us,” Wallace explained.
“We can’t do that! They need that to fight the fires,” Miranda protested.
“Do you wanna die? Cuz if not, this is how we don’t do that. Now keep running!” Wallace cried.
“Cha!” Emmanuel roared. He grabbed five coins in a row. His body lit up.
<Help Command active!>
A helicopter diverted from its course and dropped its haul on the path in front of them.
“It’s a straight shot!” Dartanian observed.
“Not so fast, kiddies!” King Hooligan said. He threw a massive fireball over their heads.
“What’s he saying? He’s, like, the same age as us,” Miranda griped.
“Forget all that! Run!” Wallace screamed.
They dodged the last of the fiery logs and did a full leap out of the edge of the burning woods.
“We did it! We’re alive!” Dartanian cheered.
“We are. Great job everyone,” Wallace coughed.
“I can’t believe it. We made it!” Miranda cried, hugging Emmanuel.
“Wahoo!” Emmanuel cheered.
“Yeah! Yeah. Wait, what do we do now?” Dartanian asked.
“Whatever you guys want. The adventure opens up once you clear this first hurdle,” Wallace said.
“But the fires are still going. Our town is still in danger. We have to do something,” Miranda said.
“Like what?” Dartanian asked.
“I don’t know. Wallace, what should we do?” Miranda asked.
“I told you what to do from minute one. Start your adventure. Save the world. Bing bang bip,” Wallace said, dusting his hands.
“It’s not as easy as you make it sound, Mr. Speed Runner,” Miranda said. “If you hadn’t been trying to rush us and actually gave us good advice, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I messed up. But that doesn’t change the fact that all of this doesn’t end until you beat the Final Boss and Save the World, kiddo. It’s happened three times before and it’s happening again.”
“But then… why does any of this matter?” Dartanian asked.
“If this is going to keep happening anyway, then what’s the point of saving the world? We should be trying to figure out how to stop this once and for all,” Dartanian said.
“That’s a nice thought to have, and trust me, everyone in group three had the same thought, but the fact is there might not be a way to stop this once and for all. The only thing I know for sure is that the world needs saving and you three are the ones to do it. Well, y,” Wallace said.
“Can’t we figure out how to make it stop too? We have to try. Nobody should be forced to be heroes,” Miranda said.
“Maybe. Maybe you can,” Wallace replied, sounding very tired. “But at the end of the day, all anyone’s managed to do is defeat the Final Boss and restore order to the world, thereby bringing peace. For the next decade or so, anyway. Going beyond that is just going to lead to misery. And suffering.” His eyes grew heavy with the weight of years of experience on the matter.
“There has to be a way,” Miranda pressed him. “This cruel game has to stop. There has to be a way to save the world once and forever.”
“I hope so. God I hope so, but I don’t know,” Wallace said, rubbing his face.
“So… what are we doing now?” Dartanian asked.
“For the last time, you have to find the fourth member of your party,” Wallace sighed.
“Who?” Emmanuel asked.
“What about you?” Miranda asked.
“What? No! I already went through this shizz. It’s up to you kids now.”
“Fine. Got any ideas who we should recruit?” Miranda asked.
“Anybody. Literally anybody other than me,” Wallace declared, exasperated. “Preferably someone your age, but it doesn’t have to be, I guess. I don’t know, just pick someone and get this show on the road. The more you resist the call, the more this world will throw at you until you leave.”
“Wait. What are you saying?” Miranda asked.
“What, kid?” Wallace asked.
“You said the more we resist, the more this world will throw at us. Are you saying… does that mean that the forest fire… was that because of us? Because we didn’t leave in time?”
Wallace began to reply, but when he saw the horrified look in her glistening eyes he cleared his throat. “That is… uh, I mean. Probably not. This kind of scenario tends to be pretty scripted so… no I don’t think you… um…”
“We have to keep saving people. We have to get people out of town or fight the fire or, I don’t know. Something!” Miranda said, starting to hyperventilate.
“You okay, Miranda?” Dartanian asked.
“I’m freaking out, okay? I can’t let something like this be my fault. I can’t!” Miranda cried.
“Yeah!” Emmanuel said, pumping his fist.
“Then find the last of your party and get out of here. Trust me, you’ve done plenty for this town,” Wallace said.
“There’s really nothing else we can do?” Miranda asked, trying not to cry.
“Yes. Absolutely nothing else,” Wallace lied.
“That still leaves us with one problem. Who are we supposed to recruit?” Dartanian asked.
They thought hard for a long moment.
“Does anyone know any prize fighters or MMA enthusiasts?” Wallace asked.
“We need to find Madison,” Miranda said flatly.
“Madison?” Dartanian blurted out, surprised.
“Eh?” Emmanuel also blurted.
“Why her?” Dartanian asked.
“Yeah! Why!” Emmanuel concurred with Dartanian.
“Because she’s tough and she’s a healer and we need both of those right now.”
“Good luck. I don’t think she’ll bite,” Dartanian said.
“We have to try. Wally, where can we find her?” Miranda asked Wallace.
“Wally? You know what… ugh. I don’t know. I don’t keep track of high school girls. How big a weirdo do you think I am?” Wallace asked.
“Quit being snarky and help us! You’re a grown up, act like one for a change!” Miranda snapped.
“Geez. Harsh. Okay. Um, I guess try accepting the 4th Man quest and then look on your map?” he suggested.
“Map? What map?” Dartanian asked.
“The map. Your map. You know, the one I gave you,” Wallace vaguely gestured in their direction.
“You never gave us a map,” Miranda said.
“I didn’t? Huh. You sure? Okay okay. Hold on.”
Wallace reached into his pocket and pulled out a large rolled up yellow parchment. He handed the map to Emmanuel. It felt brittle in his hands. He unrolled the map and a huge drawing of town appeared before them. Emmanuel closed his eyes. Then his body flashed gold for a second and an icon appeared above his head.
A little triangular arrow on the map blinked, showing their position. A golden circle, showing their destination, glowed near the town’s center.
“That’s gotta be her. Over by Shopping Lane,” Miranda said.
“Okay. Okay cool. Well… okay. Let’s go recruit us a mean girl,” Dartanian nervously swallowed.
Because their bikes had been glitched out of existence, they were forced to run into town. By the time they got to Shopping Lane, the roads were packed with honking cars and screaming people. Dogs barked. Babies cried. People choked on the smoke as it blew in from the West. Everyone was having a terrible time.
They found Madison sitting in a little cafe, sipping an iced latte, still wearing her bunny mask and black outfit from earlier. She barely registered the crew’s approach until they were right on top of her.
“What the hell do you twerps want?” Madison asked, nursing her latte.
“We, um, see the thing is,” Dartanian struggled to say.
“We need your help,” Miranda cut in. “Something big is happening and we have to stop it.”
“Bad. You mean the forest fire?” Madison asked. She made a sound that sounded like a chuckle but filled with hate. “Who cares. Let it all burn down.”
“Madison! This is our home. How could you say that?” Miranda asked.
“Yeah. Our home. A home full of criminals. Solicitors. Litterers. Drug addicts and homeless people and worse. Don’t you get it? This world is broken. These people are making life worse for everyone, but you all just rush to defend them instead of realizing they’re eating our slice of the pie. You think they care? No! They think the rules don’t apply to them! If they don’t care, then why should I? Let it all burn,” Madison mumbled.
“Maddy, as horrible as what you said is… whatever, I’m putting a pin in that for later. I’m talking about something bigger right now. We need your help. Your… healing… skills.”
“Bigger? Bigger how? Help with what?” Madison asked.
“We need you to help us save the world!” Dartanian blurted out. Madison took one look at him, then burst out laughing.
“Save the world? What the heck are you dweebs even talking about?” Madison howled, tears in her eyes.
“Cut the crap,” Miranda shot back.
“And the name calling. Sheesh,” Dartanian mumbled.
“I think maybe you’re right. I think the world is broken,” Miranda said. “But not in the weird class warfare way you’re making it out to be. I’m talking about the powers and lights and sounds and, you know, magic.”
“Maybe this is the way the world has always been and we’re only now realizing it,” Madison said, making her hand glow with a healing light. “You ever think of that? Anyway, who cares? It’s all B.S.”
“This is serious, Maddy. Whatever is doing this to our world is probably responsible for the fire too. This isn’t going to stop until we make things right. How many people are going to get hurt? How many are going to die if we don’t try to stop it?” Miranda asked. Madison shrugged.
“Probably a lot. You know, maybe if the city had privatized the fire department like my dad tried to do years ago, this fire would have been put out by now instead of, whatever these tax payer funded doofuses are doing.”
“Really? The ugly-hearted rich girl? She’s the one you’re picking?” Wallace asked, huffing as he turned the corner.
“Who are you calling ugly? Who is this guy?” Madison asked.
“That’s Wallace. He’s our guide,” Miranda introduced him.
“He’s the one who told us about this whole save the world, business,” Dartanian added.
“And you believed him? He looks like a bum,” Madison flipped her hair in disgust.
“It took a while, but we’re convinced now. You should be too before it’s too late,” Miranda said.
“Are you listening to yourselves? Save the world. What, are we gonna hold hands and sing Kumbaya now? I tried fixing things and you three beat me up. So, there. Whatever.”
The winds shifted. The helicopters in the sky turned and began to fly in a northerly direction.
“Eh?” Emmanuel said, pointing up.
“Where are they all going?” Miranda asked.
“North. The fires must have changed course with the wind,” Wallace said.
“North? That’s not… Wait. Oh no. Oh no!” Madison dropped her latte and booked it down the street. Everyone looked at each other before scrambling after her.
She led them on a chase through town until they reached the northernmost edge of Commencement’s limits.
“No! Oh god no!” Madison screamed as she bolted past the front gates of her family estate.
The Wilson Residence
A massive blaze consumed the hedge garden and was working its way inward toward the main home.
“Holy mackerel!” Dartanian exclaimed.
“Oh no,” Miranda said, covering her mouth.
“What do we do? We have to do something! Do something!” Madison cried.
“I can’t… I don’t know. There’s so much. There’s too m-much,” Dartanian stuttered.
“Is anyone home?” Miranda asked.
“Um um, no. Dad’s at work and mom was at the salon. The housekeepers are off today,” Madison wracked her brain. The flames licked up against the edge of the mayoral mansion, melting the siding off. “Someone do something! Please! Oh my god!” Madison cried. The fire leapt, almost mischievously, over the hedge toward her home. She collapsed to her knees in the front lawn. She sat there for a long while. The sound of firetruck sirens wailed in the distance but they wouldn’t come in time. Only the helicopters above and the losers around her would accompany her viewing of the hungry flames consumed her home.
“Maddy. I’m sorry,” Miranda said.
“Go away. Just go away,” she sobbed into her hands.
“We can’t do that. We need your help,” Dartanian interjected.
“I don’t care! I lost everything! My clothes! My shoes! My make-up! Everything!” Madison screamed.
<Emmanuel achieved Maximum.>
“No!” Emmanuel shouted. Madison’s eyes shot to him, equal parts surprised and offended. “You lost your home. But that’s not everything.”
“You still have family. You still have friends!” Emmanuel declared.
“What friends? I don’t have friends. They just hang with me cuz I’m rich. And my family doesn’t care about me at all. They barely pay attention to me. They haven’t called or texted once to see if I’m okay. I’m alone. And now, I have nothing,” Madison started sobbing again.
<Emmanuel used Persuasive Slap. Critical Hit!>
“Ow! What the frick, dude?” Madison rubbed her face.
“Don’t cry over mere stuff. You’re alive. Your parents are alive. Be thankful for what you do have. Because you never know…” Emmanuel pulled his collar down, revealing the full extent of his throat scar, “…when you’ll lose it!”
Madison eyed him with confused and mournful eyes. Then, unexpectedly, she started laughing.
“Um, is she okay?” Dartanian asked. Miranda didn’t reply.
“You think you understand me, just because you got nicked in the neck?” Madison asked, still chuckling. It was a hoarse and unpleasant sound. “We come from two different worlds, loser. If you lose your home, you barely lose a thing. I had millions of dollars worth of ‘mere stuff’ that just went up in smoke. My family is ruined. Don’t you get it? We’re not going to recover from this. We were already losing so much money before dad got in bed with those Semanto jerks. That home, those cars, those clothes, that was everything we had left. Now we’re going to be…”
“Poor. Just like us,” Miranda finished her thought.
Madison bitterly bit her lip. “I bet you think this is some kind of karma, huh?” she said, between sobs.
“I don’t think that,” Miranda replied.
“Liar. You’re enjoying this. I know it.”
“Not everyone is like you, Madison. You got karma enough when I splashed you with vitamin water. And when we beat you and the rest of the President’s Club fair and square.”
“Heh. You really don’t have a mean bone in your body. Even your revenge is lame,” Madison said, slowly shaking her head.
“That’s just who I am. So answer me this. Is this the end of the road for Madison Wilson?” Miranda asked.
“What do you mean?” Madison asked.
“I mean, is this it? Are you all done now? Is this how the story of Madison Wilson ends? Poor and homeless and alone? Or is this just the start of a new chapter?” Miranda asked.
“How should I know? I’m not a wannabe hero like you four.”
“Hey, don’t lump me in with those three,” Wallace said. “I’ve got my own deal going on.”
“Maddy. I don’t know how, or why, but we’re a part of something a whole lot bigger now. I thought the world didn’t make sense before, but now I get it. There’s a way to get things back to normal. But, more importantly, there’s a way to get payback.”
“Payback? What are you talking about?” Madison asked.
“Yeah, what’s going on?” Dartanian asked.
“The world is the way it is because someone is behind it all,” Miranda said. “That’s the only thing that makes sense. I mean, everyone sees how much like a video game this all is, right?”
“Well, yeah,” Dartanian replied.
“Yeah. Obviously, right?” Miranda asked. “This wasn’t an accident, this was someone’s lame idea. ‘Turn the world into a videogame’. And they’ve done it before. And they’ll do it again. So we have to beat the ‘game’ to fix things. But, we also have to figure out who’s doing this so we can stop them once and for all.”
“So it’s revenge. That’s what you’re offering?” Madison asked.
“And why do I need to join you? I can get revenge all on my own.”
“Well, for one thing, there’s strength in numbers. And for another, you’re apparently a healer type, so that means you’re going to be no good on your own. You need a team. A wizard, and a fighter, and a… actually I’m not sure what I am.”
“Can I guess?” Madison asked.
“No,” Miranda snapped. Then a smile creeped on her face. “So? What do you say? Join us and help us Save The World!”
Madison shook her head, tears staining her face and her ruined school uniform.
“Fine. I’ve got nothing left to lose. I guess I’ll join you losers,” Madison said, her voice as hollow as her soul felt.
(Madison joined the party.)
“Great. Now that you’re all together, you have to figure out who to save first,” Wallace said.
“First?” Emmanuel asked.
“This will be your first quest as a group. That means, unless you’re going for the annihilation run, you’re going to be saving some peeps. So, who are you saving first?” Wallace asked.
* Officer Rowinski
+ Mr. Ellis
# Mrs. Applegate
(Who should the team save first? Find out when the full version of Save The World! comes out this July!)
Thanks for playing the Demo Version of Save The World!
Esteban’s jaw dropped to the floor.
“Wait. This was just the Demo version? Damn it!”
He threw himself under a mountain of blankets in protest and stayed there until he heard a gentle knocking on his bedroom door…