Chapter 4: Contra and beyond
"Oh wow," Steven said, pulling the upper half of his body out of the box, "I've played this one before, a really long time ago."
All of the Gems sat on the couch, waiting patiently for Steven to bring out the next game. He'd decided to take it back to some of the older ones in the box and had dug for a good minute.
"This one's a classic." Steven said, holding up the cartridge for everyone to see, "It can also have two people playing at the same time."
"Well that sounds fun." Lapis said.
"Yeah, by the looks of the picture on the front, it could be pretty intense." Amethyst said.
"You guys go ahead," Pearl said, looking down at her game, "I'm pretty interested in this now."
Everyone looked to Pearl, who was engrossed by the small device in her hands. She had been playing that game for a good while, probably the most out of all of them. Steven didn't pay it much mind, instead focusing on getting the game set up.
"Why don't we do a two player run." Steven suggested, "Who wants to go first?"
"I'll go." Lapis volunteered, "It was pretty fun playing with others last time, maybe this will be just as good."
"Well, if you going, then I'm joining you." Peridot said, "I didn't play that much yesterday, and I think a game that doesn't have an overly elaborate story might be good for me."
"Great!" Steven said excitedly, "Let's get this going then." Steven handed the two gems the controllers, then went to hit the power button.
The title screen to the game popped on to the TV, and the first thing that all of them noticed was how much different it was from the last few games they were playing. No overly fancy options or elaborate menu's, just 1 or 2 player.
"Well this doesn't look like it will be too bad." Lapis said.
"Well you'll mostly only be dealing with left or right," Steven told the two, "but this game is known to be pretty hard."
"I think that if we're only dealing with two directions it'll be no problem." Peridot said, selecting two players.
As the two little sprites appeared on-screen, Lapis and Peridot quickly learned the simple controls and began moving to the right. Along the way, the two of them easily started to get to know the ins and outs of the power ups in the games.
Surprisingly, the two seemed to be working well off each other. Even managing to make it to the first boss without losing a single life.
"Wow," Steven said, "you guys are doing pretty well."
"I'm surprised myself." Lapis said, "I thought for sure that Peridot would be freaking out again."
"You wouldn't be saying that if you went through what we did a couple of days ago." Peridot said.
"I wish I was around for that," Lapis said with a smirk, "I could have used the laugh."
"When do you not need a laugh, oh mighty queen of depression?" Peridot retorted. Lapis furrowed her brow and grumbled.
"Hey, come on guys." Steven said, "We were having fun yesterday, and you were just having fun now."
Lapis and Peridot just looked from Steven, to the screen and then back at each other. After a short stare off, the two simply nodded and got back to the game, intent on making it at least enjoyable.
"I bet you a pizza that Peridot flips out." Jasper whispered to Amethyst.
"I bet you two that they both flip out." Amethyst responded.
"You're on." Jasper answered.
*10 minutes later
"Will you stop doing that!" Lapis shouted at Peridot, watching her character die as the screen scrolled up.
"Well maybe if you moved a little quicker, you wouldn't have to worry about the screen killing you." Peridot said, and then watched her own character get killed, "Dang it!"
"Maybe the real problem is that you keep trying to rush without looking!" Lapis said in a snide.
"Right, and your snail pace didn't get you killed in the hallway?" Peridot said, "You lost all of your lives because you spent so much time planning and not acting."
"You lost all of your lives at the boss because you didn't take time to see the pattern." Lapis said, "You just charged in with out any thought of what's to come."
"At your pace it wouldn't even matter," Peridot said, venom slipping into her tone, "You go so slow that you get hit before you can even come up with a plan."
The two looked away from the screen to look at each other, giving seething glares. Only to realize that they had not paused the game, causing both to lose their last lives. After the familiar death noise sounded, both of them looked back to the screen in mild surprise.
After seeing that they would have to start at the beginning of the level, the two of them looked back at each other with the same angered glares. Before they could resume their arguing, they heard loud snickering.
"You owe me two." Amethyst informed Jasper, unable to contain her giggles.
"I don't even care." Jasper said, desperately trying to not burst into laughter, "It's so worth it just to see these two loose it on each other."
"Guys come on," Steven said, "let's not have a repeat of the first day."
As angry as Peridot and Lapis were, they decided to heed Steven's words. So, they gritted their teeth and started up the game once more. After finally managing to beat the level's boss, they managed to get just a bit farther before Peridot lost all of her lives.
"Oh, what the!" was all Peridot said.
"I told you to slow down." Lapis said, before she was hit with a projectile.
"Yeah, and it looks like that got you in the same place." Peridot retorted.
With both of them having lost all of their lives again, they assumed that it meant they were going to have to start the level over once again. As they both let out long huffs of annoyance, they were surprised to see what came up on the screen.
Both of them looked on as the screen immediately went back to the main title.
"What happened?" Lapis asked, "Did you press something?"
"No," Peridot said, "I'm just as confused as you."
"Uh, yeah, that's something I forgot to mention." Steven said, getting everyone's attention, "With these older games, it's usually three lives and three continues, then you have to start all the way back at the beginning."
Upon hearing this, both Lapis and Peridot went wide-eyed. They would not be able to keep going. Lapis was the first to react, slamming the controller down on the couch and then crossing her arms in anger.
"Well forget that!" Lapis fumed, "I am not going through all that again. Not with Ms. I-can't-stop-to-think."
"Well I don't wanna go through that again either!" Peridot said, "Ms. Slower-than-molasses."
The two of them glared at each other once more, about to go back at another round of name calling, before they heard Amethyst break out into a fit of laughter.
"Even after you two have stopped playing you don't quit," Amethyst chuckled, "I love it!"
"Seriously, it's hysterical!" Jasper added, "I don't know what made you think that you two could work off of each other, but I'm hardly complaining after that show."
"Well, if it's so funny, then how about you two play?" Lapis said, pulling her attention away from Peridot, "We could use a laugh after all that."
"Sure, fork'em over." Amethyst said without hesitation, "You two have completely different chemistry, but the two of us at least have similar tactics."
"What's that?" Peridot asked as she levitated the controllers over to them, "Proclaiming your greatness and then being surprised when you get beaten?"
"Make jokes now," Jasper said, taking the small controller in her hands, "You won't be so smug when we make it farther."
"I'm not doubting that you'll get farther," Lapis said, crossing her legs as she leaned back into the couch, "I'm questioning how long it will take for the two of you to lose your tempers."
"Can't speak for my comrade," Amethyst remarked, "but I wouldn't be placing bets on me. After yesterday, I'm feeling good-"
Amethyst was interrupted when a knock at the door was heard. Pearl called out that the door was open over her shoulder, not taking her attention away from the small screen in her hands. The door opened, revealing it to Greg.
"Hey guys," he greeted everyone, "Sorry to pop by unannounced, but I haven't heard from anyone in a while."
"Hello Greg," Garnet greeted him, "Sorry for not checking in, we've been a little preoccupied."
"So I heard," Greg said, rubbing the back of his head as he recalled all the shouting that everyone in town could hear, "But uh, I also wanted to ask if you guys know anything about the weird noises coming from my- Hey, I haven't seen that game in years!"
"You've seen this game before?" Pearl asked, managing to pry herself away from her own game.
"Yeah, it's a classic." Greg said excitedly.
"Well pull up a seat," Lapis offered, "we're about to see how long these two can last."
"A lot longer than you two." Jasper said, as Greg went to get one of Steven's bean bags, "I can say with certainty that we will not have the same problems."
*10 minutes later
"Hey, I needed that!" Amethyst yelled, watching Jasper take the power up.
"Ya snooze, ya lose!" Jasper said.
"You didn't even need that, you already had an upgrade!" Amethyst said, anger clear in her voice.
The two of them had managed to get to level four without needing to use any of their continues, but it had proved to be a very rough ride. While the two of them had managed to be on the same level when it came to strategy, everyone quickly saw that they couldn't work out who got what when it came to power ups.
"Alright," Peridot said, now wear a green visor, holding a small notebook and having tooth pick in her mouth, "Greg, you had Amethyst on level four. You put down a bag of chips, Steven and Lapis put down a donut and a bottle of cola, respectively. Pay him you two."
The two of them let out groans of disappointment, but they did what they were told and gave the stuff to a very happy Greg.
"Why are you wearing that?" Jasper asked Peridot.
"I'm what the humans call a bookie." Peridot answered, taking the tooth pick out of her mouth, "Just figured I would look the part."
"Where did you get all that stuff anyway?" Amethyst asked, only to see her character get killed, "That was my last life!"
Jasper let out a short chuckle, only to see her character get killed as well. Unfortunately, that was her last life as well. The two exchanged angry glances before starting the level up once more.
"This time, don't go hogging everything for yourself." Amethyst said to Jasper.
"This time, don't go complaining when you're not able to get the fire power you need." Jasper retorted.
"We wouldn't have that problem if you just learn that you don't need to snatch everything up." Amethyst said.
"Well maybe if you-" Jasper went to argue, but was cut off when she felt a hand on chest.
"That's it, I'm stopping this." Garnet said, taking the controller from Amethyst.
"Aw come on." Greg complained, "I had Jasper on the same level."
"Sorry Greg, but this is getting more dangerous by the second." Garnet told him, attempting to reach of Jasper's controller.
'I don't think so." Jasper said, grabbing Garnet's arm, "Like I said before, you don't tell us we're being ridiculous without trying it for yourself first."
Jasper held the controller out to Garnet, giving the fusion a smug look. Garnet simply stood there for a few seconds, looking between Jasper and the controller, contemplating what she should do. After a short while longer, Garnet gently took the controller from Jasper.
"Alright" was all Garnet said, before taking her place in front of the TV.
"Should I start-up a new list?" Peridot asked to anyone, readying her pen and paper.
"Sure." Garnet said, hitting the start button.
*20 minutes later
Garnet was on the last stage, mowing down the aliens and puff balls that chased her. After taking out a few more enemies, Garnet finally arrived at the last boss; A big heart.
"So that's the red falcon?" Greg questioned, "I can see the red, but not the falcon."
After only a few seconds of consistent fire from the spread gun, the heart exploded, giving off that familiar jingle of victory. Everyone watched as the short cinematic played, leaving Garnet with a grin on her face.
"Well," Garnet said, looking at everyone, "That was fun."
Everyone looked on at the screen, completely wide-eyed at what happened. Jasper shook her head, managing to herself out of the trance.
"You only got that far because you saw all the levels before hand. I'm willing to bet that, if you went into all of this without knowing what was going to happen, you wouldn't have lasted anywhere near as long." Jasper said.
"I guess we'll never know." Garnet said, a hint of smugness in her voice.
"Well, maybe we could." Steven said, getting everyone's attention, "They made a sequel for this game, but I don't know if-" He was interrupted when Jasper grabbed him and pulled him to her face.
"Find it." she ordered, tossing him into the box.
"Jasper!" Pearl scolded, "Be careful, you could have hurt him."
"He's fine." Jasper assured her.
"I'm fine." Steven reaffirmed from inside the box.
"Well you didn't know that when you threw him." Pearl said.
"Here it is." Steven said, managing to crawl out of the box, "A lot of people don't know about this one, but I've heard people say it's harder. Oh, and there's something I forgot to tell everyone."
"What's that?" Garnet asked, as everyone looked over to Steven.
"There was a code for the last game that would give you thirty lives." Steven said softly, watch the former players go wide-eyed. He could feel the anger coming from Lapis, Peridot, Jasper and Amethyst.
"And you didn't think that it would be a good idea to tell us that?" Amethyst asked, clearly trying to bite back her anger.
"Cheating will get you no where." Garnet said, before Steven had to endure everyone's wrath, "Besides, I just proved that it can be done without it."
"Let's see if that statement holds any water." Jasper said, anger clear in her voice, "You playing this next one without a code and you're playing it first."
"Fine." Garnet said, calmly taking the controller as Steven turned the game on.
Everyone watched as the games menu rolled on to the screen. As Garnet began the game, the first thing that all of them saw was that the game was almost exactly like the last one. Garnet seemed to be doing well at the start, but it was only the beginning.
"Okay," Peridot said, readying her notepad, "Who's in on this one?"
"I'm in." Greg said.
"Alright, we got Greg in," Peridot said, doing her best impression of a betting clerk, "Come on people, what are you putting down, we may not have much time."
*25 minutes later
The ceiling started slamming down just above the head of Garnet's character. Even with the endless hoards of monsters following her, she kept moving forward, only taking out the enemies that she absolutely needed to.
After she managed to get past that, she reached the last level. As the boss appeared, Garnet kept herself stoic, ready to end it once and for all. She was quick to figure out the weakness, and it only took a few seconds before she took down the boss. As the ending tune played and the credits began to roll, Garnet relaxed and smiled to herself.
"Again, that was really fun." Garnet said, calmly, "So who won that one?"
Peridot shook off her blank stare, looking down to her notepad. Garnet look to everyone else, who were staring at the screen in mild shock. Even Greg seemed to be impressed with the skill Garnet showed off.
"Uh, that would be Steven." Peridot answered, receiving collective groans from everyone.
"Pay up." Garnet told all of them, then looked over to Jasper, "How was that?"
"It was too simple," Jasper said to her, "You were only working with two button. I still think that, if you hadn't taken the controllers away, Amethyst and I would have beat the game."
"Let's put that to the test than." Garnet said, who then looked to Steven, "Any other ones in there?"
"Well, they made a third one. It was on a different system though-" Steven was cut off when he was picked up and tossed into the box again.
"Find it," Jasper called out to him, "I'm not letting this go."
"You know, I could have sworn I told you not to do that." Pearl said, looking up from her own game.
"No you didn't," Jasper retorted, "You said to be careful, and I was."
"How on earth was that careful?" Pearl questioned.
"He didn't say he was hurt, so he's fine." Jasper said.
"I found it." Steven called out, before Pearl could scold Jasper.
"If you keep it up, something will happen," Pearl told Jasper, "and I'll be right here to say I told you so."
Jasper just gave her a smug grin as Steven began to set up the new console. After he was done setting up, Steven gave the controller to Garnet, who readily accepted it. As the game started up, the main menu presented itself. Before anyone could get a word out, Garnet went into the options and switched the game into hard mode.
"Don't want you thinking that I'm trying to cheat on you." Garnet told Jasper, as she gave a coy smile.
"Creepy." Jasper commented in a dry tone, "That being said, let's get to it."
*30 minutes later
As the now armored brain chased after the helicopter, Garnet kept herself ready. Using the crusher missiles she still had with her, it only took a few blasts before the alien started exploding, ending the last boss once and for all. As the screen faded, everyone watched as the text appeared on-screen:
'Way to go! You've conquered the toughest Contra challenge yet. Your heroic deeds have restored peace to a war-torn world. The Alien Forces have been destroyed by a gaming champion! Your efforts will not be forgotten...'
"Well... that was fun." Garnet said, her face still stoic and unaffected, "Can't say I cared for those top down levels, but it was still good."
"Yeah..." Peridot said, the tooth pick hanging on the edge of her mouth, "Well no one put anything down on that out come, so no winner."
"Should have known." Amethyst said with a sigh, "You'd think after two games, someone else would have known too."
Everyone looked to Jasper, who simple looked on wide-eyed. However, that blank look soon began to shift into a more angered one. Jasper visibly clenched her teeth and began grinding them so hard that they looked ready to crack.
"I've got your angle now." Jasper told Garnet.
"What are you talking about?" Garnet asked.
"There has to be another one." Jasper said to Steven, picking him up once more.
"Yes, there is another." Steven sighed before stopping Jasper from rearing him back, "Allow me."
Before she could ask what he meant, Steven stood on Jaspers hand and jumped into the box on his own accord.
"OW!" everyone heard Steven shout from inside the box, "Okay, that one hurt!" Pearl looked up from her game, glaring at Jasper.
"Don't look at me, he did it to himself." Jasper said defensively.
"Why are you still hung up on this?" Garnet asked.
"Because I now know why you've got by so easily." Jasper told her.
A few moments later Steven came back out of the box with another system in his hands. He went to work setting it up, popping the cartridge in.
"I've never played this one," Steven said, "but I've heard some people say they like it more than the last one."
"Well does it still have two player?" Jasper asked him.
"Yeah, why?" Steven said.
"Because I'm making this next one interesting." Jasper said, an evil smile growing on her face.
"What do you mean by that?" Greg asked.
"She's been getting off easy up until this point." Jasper said, "She's only been doing one player while the rest of us have had to do it with two players. So for this next one, she has to play through the whole thing," Jasper made a motion of pulling apart with her hands, "unfused."
There were several gasps heard, and everyone looked to Garnet. She simply stared at Jasper, not conveying any emotion at all. Jasper stared right back, giving that same smug grin. After a few moments longer, Garnet gave an answer.
"Fine." Garnet said, reaching for the two controllers.
"Hold it." Jasper interrupted, "How about we make this a little more interesting?"
"How?" Garnet asked.
"If the two of you can't do it," Jasper said, "you have to spend the rest of the day unfused."
Everyone's eyes went wide, and they all looked to Garnet. Again, she was doing her best not to convey any emotion, but several of them did notice a small twitch come from the underside of her face.
"What happens if they do win?" Garnet questioned.
"Your choice." Jasper said, only to immediately regret saying that.
"You can't saying anything for the rest of the day, unless it's something nice."
Jasper gave a shocked look, cringe at the circumstances of the bet. Not one to be a coward, however, she knew she had to take the offer. She stretched her hand out, meeting with Garnets. They both shook hands.
"Alright, a real bet!" Peridot said, "Do I have anyone else on this? Come on people we gotta move quick, the shows about to start!"
After everyone was done putting their bets down, Garnet burst into a flash of light. Ruby and Sapphire sat next to each other, looking over to Jasper with peeved looks. Jasper simply grinned at them.
"Lets see how well this perfect fusion does when they have to rely on their own skills." Jasper said.
Before either of them could retort, Steven handed Ruby and Sapphire the controllers. It had less buttons to deal with, but they knew it wouldn't mean less difficult. The menu appeared before them, and Ruby immediately went to pick the two player option.
They then saw something that the last games didn't have: character choice. After a few seconds of deliberation, the two of them picked their characters. Ruby would be using Fang the wolfman, and Sapphire would use Browny the robot.
"Remember how we practiced." Sapphire said to Ruby as the cut scene played, "When I say something, don't hesitate, just do it."
"Got it." Ruby said in an energetic voice.
"Practiced?" Jasper said.
"Oh you'll see, slag brain." Ruby said, giving Jasper a half smirk, "You will see."
The game began, an armored truck came careening into view while plowing through several enemies. It crashed into another vehicle, releasing the two characters.
"Keep your shots ahead, I'll take the ones up high." Sapphire told Ruby, who simply did what she said.
With two of them now playing, things didn't go as fast, but they did manage to keep themselves alive while taking out all enemies. The entire time Sapphire was saying clear and concise orders to Ruby, who was able to execute what she said within a moments notice.
"Stay where I am, keep firing up." Sapphire said, as the two of them kept shooting at the large robot. Mere seconds later, the mini boss collapsed.
"I need these two power ups," Sapphire said, "They're going to be more useful to us, and you have your strongest weapons already."
"Go ahead." Ruby responded without a second thought.
Everyone looked on in partial amazement at how easily the two communicated with each other. They kept at a pace that both could keep up with, and both were making sure that the other had what they needed.
As everyone looked on, Jasper tried to keep her calm demeanor. They couldn't keep this up forever... could they?
*30 minutes later
"Get all the way over to the left pod, the others are going to collapse." Sapphire said, trying to keep herself from getting overly excited.
From the way things seemed to be going, the two of them were approaching the end of the game. Things had got slightly heated a couple of times, with Sapphire making wrong predictions, costing both of them a few lives. Now they were both down to their last ones.
"Climb," Sapphire said, as the two sprites jumped on the rocket, "don't worry about anything else. Just get as high as you can."
"Are you sure?" Ruby asked, questioning her for the first time.
"Trust me." Sapphire assured her.
"I do trust you." Ruby said, making her character climb.
Eventually, the two of them made it to the top of the rocket, where the last boss finally revealed itself. A gigantic pulsating head monster.
"Do as I say, exactly when I say it." Sapphire said, her voice becoming serious.
"Understood." Ruby said, only being slightly dramatic.
The battle began, but the two of them were ready. While Sapphire took up the job of attacking the boss's weak point, Ruby had the task of making sure nothing got to two of them. Several times the two of them had to slide to dodge the on coming attacks. Finally, after a short while, the creature erupted into a fiery explosion.
The two watched as the final cut scene played, their characters flying away from the exploding rocket. It was only when the credits began rolling that the two of them knew it was alright to relax.
CONTRA: HARD CORPS - see you next mission
"YEEEEAAAHHH, that's what I'm talking about!" Ruby shouted, tossing the controller into the air.
"That was certainly invigorating." Sapphire said with a broad smile, placing her controller down.
"All thanks to you, Sapphy!" Ruby said, embracing Sapphire.
"Well I don't think we would have made it that far without your lightning reflexes." Sapphire complemented.
"Only because you were there, making sure I knew where to shoot." Ruby said, giving her partner a kiss on the cheek. Everyone else looked at the two, both impressed and only a tad bit uncomfortable.
"Well," Peridot said, trying to sound some what professional, "with all that done, lets take a look at who gets what from this bet. Amethyst, you had them beating the game without losing any lives, sorry but they did lose a couple."
"Aw man." Amethyst complained.
As Peridot started reading of the list of the bets placed, Jasper simply looked at the screen, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. The expression didn't last long, as her face slowly contorted into a more furious look. She bore her teeth, clenched so hard that one tooth actually started to crack. Her face began to go crimson, and if she had any veins they would have bulged out. A few were looking at her, slightly terrified of what was to come.
"FFF-" she began, but was cut off by a flash of light.
"Don't tell me you already forgot our agreement." Garnet said, tilting her shades down and giving Jasper a little wink.
"-FFFFFFfffffine job, Garnet." Jasper said, desperately trying to keep the anger out of her voice, "That took... a lot of patience. You two really... knew what you were doing."
Everyone looked at Jasper, all trying to contain their laughter. Jasper looked around as everyone sniggered at her, try her absolute hardest to not go ballistic.
"I'm so glad that all of you can enjoy this." Jasper said in a forced tone of happiness, "Hopefully, one day... I'll be able to laugh right along with you."
"EH, not bad." Garnet said, the only one of group who wasn't laughing, "But there's something I don't get."
"What's that?" Jasper answered half-heartedly.
"Are you really that slow that waited until the fourth game to place this bet?" Garnet asked, a smirk appearing on her face.
"I guess..." Jasper said, giving a big forced smile, "I guess I just didn't think about it at the time. Now, if you will excuse me, there are a few things I must take care of."
"Why don't I give you a hand?" Amethyst said, as she watched Jasper try to leave, "After all, we wouldn't want you getting confused with more than one thought."
"I appreciate the offer," Jasper said, clenching her fists, "but I'll be just fine... thank you."
"Nonsense," Amethyst said, getting up from the couch, "I insist. What are friends for, right?"
Jasper wanted to make another attempt to argue, but she couldn't figure out another polite way to say No. So, begrudgingly, she walked off with Amethyst in tow.
"Oh man," Lapis said, after the two left, "it is always a treat to see her taken down a few pegs."
"Not gonna lie," Greg said, "I thought she was going to go on a rampage there for a second."
"She might have," Garnet said, smiling to herself, "but even she has to respect a commitment."
"Hey Garnet," Steven said, tugging her arm, "This is for you."
Garnet looked to see Steven holding a shirt up to her. She took it and held it up in front of herself. On the front it read "No Code Needed". She smiled again, slipping the shirt over her head.
"Thank you, Steven." she said, musing up the boy's hair, "What do you say we got get something for dinner?"
"Yeah!" Steven said, excitedly.
"Greg, would you like to stay for supper?" Garnet asked Greg as she got up from the couch.
"If it means I can see Jasper be forced to be nice some more, I would be honored." Greg said with a smile.
Well hello, my very patient readers. First off, I would like to thank you for waiting for this. I'm sorry it was such a long time, but was in need of a vacation from everything. That being said, the next chapter shouldn't take as long. Provided life does not get in the way.
Also, just a little notice, the poll for chapter 6 will be up until chapter 5 is posted. After that, the poll will be closed and I will be starting on the second fan requested game. Okay, I think that covers it for now. Thank you for your support, thank you for the suggestions, and thank you for enjoying this.
Have a good one.