I don't own Harry Potter or Virtue's Last Reward.
A series of images flashed through Harry's mind. A castle, a building in the middle of nowhere. Graves, lots of graves. Then a white gas. Stretching, Harry forced his eyes open and looked blearily around the empty room. His head was about to explode.
"Where am I?" Placing his hands on the floor, Harry pushed himself to his feet then stared at the watch on his wrist. It was big, bulky and showed a 3 and solo, both in black. Pressing the two buttons on the side did nothing. Neither did any amount of twisting, pulling or anything else Harry could think of. "What is going on? The last thing I remember, it was 1991 and I was looking forward to Hogwarts."
A memory hit him. A part of a conversation.
"You know why you're doing this."
"Yes. To provide a random variable and so I can project back into the past as well as guide Phi and Sigma. I may not like the danger this project is putting people into but it concerns the fate of the world. It's their comfort or allowing the extinction of humanity. Nos fortuna nostra"
"What the hell?" Normally, Harry wouldn't swear but he felt the situation required it.
Pressing the buttons on the nearby panel did nothing.
"Is this elevator broken?" The screen lit up. "Finally something's happening."
"How're feeling Hattie? Woken up yet?"
"Lagomorph." Harry grabbed his head as he stared at the rabbit. "How do I know that?"
"Hattie, I'm Zero III, the king of this kingdom! And I'd appreciate you not telling anybunny about what you've heard. Otherwise I'd have to kill you. Anyway, you have a game to play. The NONARY GAME! AMBIDEX EDITION!"
"You always had a weird sense of humour. And did you have to shout that last bit?"
"And this elevator is going to fall in a few minutes. See ya around."
The rabbit disappeared causing Harry to grumble about rabbits and being too impatient.
"What is going on around here? Why is this happening to me?"
Looking around, Harry tried to open the fire extinguisher to see if he could try and bash the door down but it was locked. Taking the ends of the rails and the picture of old men and babies, Harry squinted at the small pictures above the railings as he grabbed the pin from the fire extinguisher before counting the number of the image on the poster and pressing the buttons.
Turning back to the panel with the screen, he pressed zero and a card came out. Collecting it, he pressed 3 and another came out. He opened the case with the pin and took the sockets before combining them with the handles and taking the grate off the wall. Pulling the box out, he guided the green box to the exit and got another memory card. Placing them in the machine at the back, he received two codes. Inputting the codes into the safe, he received a key and some files. Flipping through the doors, Harry frowned at the information.
"What is happening in the world?"
Placing the key in the panel at the front, Harry pressed the button and prepared to clamber up through the hatch at the top.
"Huh?" Harry frowned back to the screen. "Zero?"
"Don't forget. Whatever you see or hear that others can't, don't say. If you keep quiet, more of your memories will unlock. Are they really memories or figments of your imagination? And keep close to Siggy."
"Right. Might as well. Otherwise you'll just kill me, right?"
"See ya Hattie. I'll be watching."
Harry clambered out and jumped down to the floor of the warehouse.
"No one else here. Lagomorph, were you screwing with me?"
People started coming out.
"Anyone know what's going on?" Harry turned and looked at the man and the white haired girl from his position atone of the coloured doors. They both seemed familiar.
Phi and Sigma. Wait, how did I know that? I've never seen them before.
"No, we don't," said the Egyptian woman. "I haven't been out here much longer than you. Maybe that kid knows."
"I don't know any more than you do. Sorry." Harry hated lying.
"They grabbed you too?" asked the old man as Harry walked over.
"Grabbed? Oh... I got in my car then there was this white smoke."
"I think we all got that particular experience," said the red haired woman. "Like a general anaesthetic. I woke up in one of those rooms."
I didn't. I just walked into the AB room and got given a mild sedative as well as something to make me forget. Or was it something worse that I was unaware of?
"All of you were in one room?" asked Sigma.
"No," said the boy. "Me and Mr Dio were in the same elevator but..."
"Who's Dio?" asked Sigma.
"That's me." The blond man rose his hand. "And the midget is Quark."
"Nice to meet you," said the kid.
"Uh, nice to meet you too. What about the rest of you?"
"Tenmyouji, Alice and Luna wrote up in different rooms," explained Dio.
"As did I," added Harry. "I'm Harry."
"That's correct," said Tenmyouji.
"So, you're Tenmyouji."
"And Alice is?"
"Me," said the Egyptian woman. "And she's Luna."
"Hello," said the red haired lady nervously.
"And you're?" asked Dio.
"I'm Sigma and this bundle of laughs is Phi."
"What did you say?" asked Phi in a dangerous tone of voice.
"And this malnourished harpy is Phi. Better?"
"Stop arguing you two," said Harry as he shook his head. "You're like a married couple."
"Can I see your bracelets?" asked Tenmyouji. The three held out their arms. Harry looked at the red threes and pair. "I thought so. Quark and Dio, show them yours."
Dio and Quark had a blue pair.
"They're different. You have a blue pair and we have a red pair."
The others showed their hearts. A red, green and blue solo.
"There's no other blacks. Have they come out yet?" wondered Harry.
"What does all this mean?" asked Sigma.
"I think Zero will tell us," said Harry with a shrug. "That rabbit. It could be for that game of his."
"Oh yeah... You saw him too?"
"He said something about the elevator falling," added Quark.
Harry closed his eyes as the others explained that they'd tested all the doors and we're about to test the one with nine in when Sigma and Phi assisted. They tried to open it but nothing happened. The mechanism came up with an error when Sigma tried it.
"There's still someone in there," said Harry as he looked back at the elevator. "The left one."
Alice nodded and spelled out Harry's reasoning, explaining that that there was only one room that hadn't been opened. They ran over and made some noise.
"Ambidex room," read out Harry from the sign at the top of the room. "There's a plaque with that name on all of them. Are they the same things? Like having multiple copies of something."
"Is that some kind of card reader?" asked Luna as she looked at the device on the wall. "That's one on all of the rooms."
She knows. Better keep an eye on her.
"Looks like one but I don't think we have the cards," said Harry as he searched his empty pockets. "That would be too easy, I think."
"What do you think an Ambidex room is?" asked Dio.
"Something to do with the game," said Harry with a shrug. "It has to be otherwise it wouldn't be here. I think everything that's happening here has to do with the game"
Everyone searched their pockets but came out clean. The hatch opened and a man with armour jumped out, carrying a pink haired girl.
Kyle and Clover. This is Clover's third Nonary game that I know of. Harry shook his head to clear the confusion but said nothing.
"What the... who the hell?" asked Sigma of no one.
"Cover!" Alice ran over and shook the girl violently as Harry watched in a bemused confusion. "Are you ok? Cover! What did you do to get?!"
"Nothing probably. She's like we were," said Harry with a shrug. He was shrugging a lot today.
"She was like that when I woke up," agreed the man. "I wouldn't worry. She'll be fine. Get breathing is steady so I believe she's only sleeping."
"Then she hasn't woken up since she was kidnapped?" asked Tenmyouji.
"Kidnapped?" asked the man in confusion. "I don't understand. Where are we? Who are you?"
"That's what happened to us," said Harry as he stretched and shook the sleep out of his eyes. "And we could ask you the same. You might have an idea."
"I think you owe us an explanation," added Sigma. "You jump out with an unconscious girl and we only have your word that you didn't do anything to her."
"Who am I?" The man gave an air of confusion. Everyone started. "I don't remember anything. I don't know where I am, what day out is out who I am. If you know, please tell. It's rather vexing to not know who I am."
"Oh, very original! The amnesic routine!" growled Dio. Harry shivered as everyone fell silent. There was something wrong with that man. It was like was out to get them. "Please. How are we supposed to take you seriously when you're wearing this? The robot suit. Are you telling us that someone forced you into that thing?"
"I assume so. It's a reasonable explanation. When I woke up, I was wearing this."
He's worn it every day of his life. Harry turned his head away so they couldn't see his expression and suspect him of anything.
"You look pretty calm for someone who doesn't know who he is," said Tenmyouji.
"Look? How do you know how I look?" asked the man.
"You know what I mean."
"She's waking up!" Cover groaned as Alice called over to them. "Clover. Are you ok? Speak to me."
"Alice... where are we?"
Alice explained everything to Clover as Harry sat down by the wall of the warehouse.
"What? No, that can't..." The blood drained from the girl's face as Alice started to console the girl.
"When did you lose your memory?" asked Tenmyouji.
"Bit of a stupid question old man," said Harry. "He can't remember."
The adults continued to question the man.
"I think he had generalised amnesia," said Luna. "Doesn't affect things like language, coming sense, facts. But anything about themselves is lost. Research suggests that it psychological but it can occur from severe head trauma."
"Bullshit! This guy's faking it!"
"Shut up Dio. I don't want to hear your voice," called Harry as he studied the man's bracelet. The amour sounded it like a glove but as far as he could tell, it worked the same as everyone else's. The text matches Clover's. "Looks like I'm the only black."
Time passed and Harry didn't know how long they'd been there. It could have been days, hours or minutes. There was no way to tell and the wall was getting uncomfortable. Sigma tried a coloured door but nothing happened.
"I just hoped it worked and would open," he explained to Quark.
"Do you think the looking mechanism is like the ones on the elevators?" suggested Luna. "I don't think it's a card reader though."
"What do you think the graffiti is?" asked Quark as Harry fiddled with his bracelet. "The graffiti on the wall."
"I was wondering what that was to," said Luna.
"Two milkmen go comedy," ready Harry as he looked at the red letters. They looked like they'd been written in blood.
"Maybe it means that two milkmen became comedians," suggested Sigma. "Still didn't make any sense though."
"What do you think Phi?" asked Harry to the girl.
"Why do you think I know anything?" asked Phi defensively.
"I don't know. But maybe you have an opinion," said Harry as he attempted to placate the girl. "You haven't said anything in a while."
"I was just thinking about your bracelet." Cocking his head, Harry stared at the girl. "You're the only black. I wonder what that means."
To provide a random variable, project back into the past and to guide Phi and Sigma.
Harry remembered that fragment but out loud, Harry said "I have no idea."
He didn't want to die just yet after all. There was too big of a mystery around and he could tell everyone after the game was finished.
"Hmm." Phi looked suspicious but dropped it.
What is going on here? It's like some kind of, I don't know, conspiracy.
"It could be someone's way of saying hello," suggested Tenmyouji.
"It's an anagram," said Phi out of the blue.
"An Ana-Gram?" asked Sigma.
"Anagram. A word game," explained Harry as he sent Sigma a 'are you stupid?' look. Phi sighed and wrote two sentences in the dusty floor.
"Welcome to my kingdom."
"Someone was expecting us," said Tenmyouji.
"Well, that's obvious. Why all the mystery though?" asked Harry of no one.
"And why don't they offer us a drink?" asked Sigma.
"That's assuming that they're not one of us," said Phi. Everyone went into a state of shook.
"He he." Laughter echoed through the room as a projector switched on to show Zero. "Shame on you Phido. You can't say what I'm about to say before I say it."
"I've got a plan. I can't tell you everything at once. Although things are going to get exciting."
"Sure they are," Harry drawled.
"Oh, be quiet Hattie."
"Where are you, you little bastard?" asked Dio angrily. "Too scared to come out and face me like a man?"
"Selfish," muttered Harry.
"Are you an idiot?" asked Zero. "I'm a rabbit. You really think a talking rabbit is a real thing?"
"Of course I don't!" yelled Dio. "You're sine kind of CG rabbit. That's not what I meant."
"Oh, you meant you want to see the person controlling me?" asked Zero. "I guess God touched this one a little too hard."
"Weren't you listening to Phido? She's clever.
"Wait... You're saying Zero is one of us?" asked Sigma.
"Well, that's one way of putting it," said the rabbit.
"Are you really sure?" asked Quark. "You're responding to our questions right now. That means you're not a video. Wouldn't that mean that Zero would be sending you answers?"
"I think our bunny friend is an AI," said Harry.
"Don't spoil the surprise Hattie. But I am an AI powered by a quantum computer though. Zero is the one who built me. So, that makes one or you my parent! Now, are you a mommy or a daddy? That would be telling. Oh, also Zero's assistant is here to help them out. And I'm not the one who brought you here. I don't even have a body. I'm just the facilitator for this facility. I do what I'm told to do."
"And what do you facilitate?" asked Luna.
"That's obvious," muttered Harry.
"Didn't I say?" asked Zero. "The game."
"The Nonary game, Ambidex edition?" asked Sigma.
"Correct. It's my job to make sure it runs smoothly."
"No," whispered Clover. "It's supposed to be over."
"So, what is the Nonary game?" asked Quark.
"Nonary refers to a base nine numeral system but can be used to refer to sending that is connected to the number nine," explained the masked man. "Nona can be used as a prefix to mean the same thing. The means that the game is one that revolves around the number nine."
"Exactly," said Zero. "Nine is a very important number in this game. After all, nine is your goal."
"I take it that the number on our bracelets had to reach nine?" asked Harry.
"Stop doing it Hattie. I may have to do that something..."
Harry shut up.
"Anyway, that door with the nine? That's your door. If you open the door with a nine in it, you can get out."
"What do we have to do to open it?" asked Luna.
"Let me explain. Look at your left wrists." Everyone looked at them. "You see the bracelet? Of course you do. Now, tell me Phido, what number is on yours?"
"And the rest of you?"
"All the same. All threes."
"Exactly. I'm calling these numbers bracelet points. Or BP for short. Only people who have nine or more points can open the door and escape. See the box on the wall?" Everyone looked at it. "That's how you'll get out. Anyone who had at least nine BP can open that door and escape. However, there are the rules that you can't forget. One, the number nine for will stay open for nine seconds. Two, the door only opens once. It will close for good after that. Three. You may be thinking about sneaking out. That's not lappin. Anyone who tries to sneak out well get a big penalty."
"And what did that mean?" asked Dio.
"I'll tell you later."
"Yes?" asked the rabbit.
"Why did you start saying rabbit puns?" asked Luna.
"Cause I felt like it. I thought it might make me sound cute."
"Never mind that," interrupted Tenmyouji. "You haven't told you how to get more BP points."
"Just use the Ambidex rooms. You can always call it the AB room."
"You mean those, uh..." Quark looked for a word. "Elevators?"
"So how do we use them?" asked Alice.
"You go in. Like you do with any other room."
"You mean through those hatches?" asked Sigma.
"No. I had a hutch that you might try that so I sealed them up. So don't be hatching any hatch plans. I live in the master computer. That means the electronic doors in the whole warren are under my control."
"How do we get in them?" asked Dio. "We tried the door. They're looked."
"There's a card reader next to each one, right?" asked Zero. "Slide a card through and it will unlock."
"Where do we find them?" asked the masked man.
Harry ran through hand signs.
"We don't have them and there weren't any in the warehouse..." Tenmyouji trailed off.
"Well, of course there won't be any there."
"Then where are they?" asked Luna.
"Through the chromatic doors."
"Chromatic doors?" asked Luna in confusion.
"Right hare. The three pretty doors."
"Huh?" Muttered Quark as Everyone looked at the doors. "Hold on... I thought those doors were locked."
"You see those buttons on the side of your watch? Press them at the same time."
"Why?" asked Quark curiously.
"To make boys ask questions. Just press them please. In fact, everybunny should press them."
Everyone did just that.
"Hey, what's this number?" asked Sigma.
"It looks like the time," added Harry. "Like a digital watch. Hours on the left and minutes on the right."
"Does that mean it's ten past twelve in the morning?" asked Alice.
"No." The ten changed to a nine.
"The numbers are going down," observed Quark.
"It's fine from ten minutes to nine," added the masked man.
"It's counting down to something, right?" asked Luna.
"Correct. I don't need to explain the rest, do I?"
"I'm guessing that's the time until the chromatic doors unlock?" asked Tenmyouji.
"Ding, ding, ding, ding! Very impressive Tenmyoldy. Lettuce review what we've learnt. In nine minutes, the chromatic doors will open automatically. However, just like the number nine door, they went stay open forever. You have five minutes. Once the time is up, they close so I hop you make your decision by then. That's just the primary door."
"What?" asked Alice in surprise.
"Each door in this warren has a twin. Isn't that nice? The chromatic doors aren't any different. You've got one door on this side, one in the other. The secondary chromatic door is locked too."
"Couldn't make it easy for us, could you..." muttered Tenmyouji.
"Of course, you'll have to split up."
"Split up?" asked Quark.
"Yep. Cleaver, can you tell me what the three primary colours are?"
"What are you asking me?"
"You haven't talked to me. I try to communicate to as many people as possible. It helps me improve. I'm trying to get into the rabbit of doing it all the time. Now, answer my question. What are the three primary colours?"
"You mean red, green and blue? You're supposed to make any colour by mixing them."
"So what colours would you mix to make magenta?"
"Red and blue."
"Green and red."
"Green and blue."
"That's right! Now take another look at the bracelets you're wearing. Notice how they come in the vibrant colours?"
"Tech. We get it. The red and blue bracelets open the magenta door, green and red open the yellow door and blue and green open the cyan door. I miss anything?"
"Uh, mine's black," said Harry with a frown. "How did that work?"
"You can go through any door you like. It makes you a random variable. There's something else too."
"To be a random variable." That was what was said in that memory.
"You're taking about what happens if you've got two of the same colour, right?" asked Tenmyouji.
"Yep. What do you think happens?"
"How the hell would I know?"
"Off you want to open a door with just one colour, you can open the door with the complementary colour."
"I see... if you've got a red and red, you can open the cyan door, blue and blue will open the yellow door and green will open the magenta door."
"Right again! Looks like your brain hasn't rotted yet Tenmyouldy."
"What's that meant to mean?"
"Exactly what I said. I was trying for a compliment..." Tenmyouji glared at him. "Let's continue. There's two types of bracelets. Pairs and solos. That means there are two types of players too. Pairs and solos. In this game, the two members of a pair are considered as one so they share a destiny. Isn't that good? You get two for the price of one. It also means they can't split up. Both have to go through the same chromatic door. Solos don't have that restriction. Why would they? They're alone. That means they can go wherever they want. Let's have a look at your bracelet Siggy. What colour is yours?"
"Red," muttered Sigma.
"Pair or solo?"
"Phi is next."
"It's the same," said Phi.
"A red solo."
"Blue, pair," said Dio reluctantly.
"Moony, Cleaver, Tenmyoldy. All at once."
"Blue solo." Luna.
"Green pair." Clover.
"Green solo." Tenmyouji.
"And... who are you?" The rabbit started at the masked man.
"I'm, uh... let's see... I suppose you can call me K."
"I knew it! You were lying about that amnesia crap!" cried Dio.
"I'm not lying. This was just... a flash of insight. I saw the letter K."
"So? What does K have to do with anything?"
"I wish I knew."
"Maybe it had something to do with your name," suggested Harry. "It could have started with a k."
"I'm guessing K's bracelet is the same as Clover's," said Alice as she brought her hand to her face.
"A black solo," muttered Harry. Dio stared at him with a glint in his eye.
"I'm glad we got that out of the way! Now, lettuce return to the subject at hand. How do you open the secondary door? So, Siggy, how would you get through the magenta door?"
"Well, me and Phi can't split," said Sigma thoughtfully. "We could go with Luna or Harry."
"Or you could come with me and Mr Dio," suggested Quark. "We're blue too."
"Whoops! Oh, celerysticks, I forgot to tell you. You have to have three people in your groups to happen the secondary door."
"How did that work?" asked Harry in confusion and worry. "There's ten of us and ten didn't go into three. There's one left over."
"Well, the secondary do well open when it detects the right colour combination, excluding black. The black bracelet will work only with a group of three."
"Then our only choice is to pair up with Luna," says Sigma.
"Pretty much. And the secondary door will only open when the primary for it is closed. It's designed to keep out cheaters. We don't want extra players running in at the last minute. I may have run a hare too long in my explanation. Any questions?"
Running over everything in his head, Harry frowned.
"You mentioned a penalty. What is it?"
"What's the point of the game? Why us? Where are we? And who is the real Zero?"
"Chromatic doors have now opened. Give minutes regain until doors close."
The doors slid open as the announcement echoed through the room.
"Looks like your times up. You're better get to it and get those doors opened."
"Fuck that. We aren't going to open shit!" Harry raised an eyebrow at Dio's language.
"Fuck you Dio." The words slipped out of his mouth. "We don't have much of a choice."
"If anyone is left outside after the doors close, they'll be..." Zero trailed off, increasing the tension.
"They'll what?" asked Quark.
"What the hell is the penalty anyway?" asked Dio.
"Death." That shut everyone up. "Your bracelets contain two drugs. The first is an anaesthetic called Soporil β. The other is a relaxant called Tubocurarine. Your bracelet also has a bunch of needles. If you break the rules, the needles hop out and inject you. First with the Soporil which puts you to sleep. Nine minutes later, the Tubocurarine is injected and numbs your respiratory muscles. I guess you could say that it will take your breath soporil is there it if the kindness of Zero's heart. I mean the real zero, not me. Zero didn't want to start anybunny suffer. Isn't that so compassionate? If I had a heart, it would be melting. Anyway, you'll be dying pretty painlessly. There's nothing to worry about. If you follow the rules, that won't happen."
"You do have a weird sense of humour." Harry shook his head.
"Three minutes left until chromatic doors close."
"Looks like it's time for me to hop out of here. See you later. Have a nice trap."
The projector turned off.
"What the fuck?" Harry knew it was rude to swear but it wasn't a normal day. First he got stuck in a elevator, then told it was going to fall if he didn't get out in time then he found himself in a warehouse goodness knows where with a death threat then now he had to pay some stupid game. For some reason, he was oddly calm.
Stay with Siggy.
"What are we going to do?" asked Luna desperately. "We have to go. We have to use these doors."
"But how do we know which for to do though?" asked Quark.
"You still don't get it?" asked Phi. "Fine, just pay attention. We don't have much time. Zero's explanation was pretty confusing so I'll put it in small words. There are three possible options for the main groups."
Phi continued to explain. The red pair girls go with the blue solo through the magenta door. The red solo would go with the green pair through the yellow door. The green style would go through the blue pair through the cyan door.
Another option was the red pair going with the green solo through the yellow door. The red solo would go with the blue pair through the magenta door. The green pair world go with the blue solo through the cyan door.
The last option was the reds paring up to go through the cyan door, the blues paring up to go through the yellow door and the greens going through the magenta door.
"And these options don't include Harry who goes where he pleases. Which ones do we choose?"
"I think I'll stick with Sigma. For some reason, I trust him," said Harry truthfully. As well as being threatened by an AI. That was a factor.
"Please Sigma, choose something," begged Luna.
"WHY ME?" The stress was getting to him.
"Alice or Clover could choose," suggested Luna. Harry glanced around as he felt time running out. "Or anyone. When one person chooses, everyone else will be sorted."
"One minute until chromatic doors close."
"Alright! I'll pick!" Everyone listened carefully. "Phi and I will go through the yellow door with Tenmyouji. That sounds good?"
"I don't mind," said Harry with a shrug. The other two have their agreement and they separated.
Grumbling about insane rabbits and crazy plans, Harry stepped with Phi, Sigma and Tenmyouji into the yellow chromatic door.