Part 66

Plastic and Paper Mache Is More Painful Then You Think

"Yes, I believe I remember him. He was one of the last to sign up," said the man who had been signing up people. His name was Allen Alfred, and he got tasks like these because he didn't find them boring. He handed the picture back to the PP Head Guard.

"Ok, where is he?"

"In the maze sir."

"Ok, bring him out."

"I'm afraid I can't do that sir. He's part of the game. If I just try to bring him out I could disrupt it for everyone. That would be annoying, and possibly have even worse consequences."

"OK then, where is he?"

"I don't know."

"WHAT? Why?"

"Well, the computer is designed that way. We had cases of robots and such hacking while in the middle of the race to figure out their position and such. So it was set up so we don't know where they are. Only if they're in danger, or if they're moving to another area."

"Blast!"

"Wait sir, I may be able to do something…let me see if I can find his ID number…ah, this is it."

"What are you doing?"

"This competition is usually for adults, but we have one at the same time for children which is basically a much smaller and less dangerous game. If I can catch him when he's moving, I can alter his path and dump him into the children's race. Since it only has a few dozen "rooms", per say, you would be able to find him much easier. However, you had best move fast. If he manages to complete the task in the room, he'll be moved on, and his device will put him back in the adult's game. And I won't be able to move him again, or the computer will read it as potential sabotage and that would be bad for me. Here, my assistant will give you devices that keep you from being "absorbed" into the tasks as our competitors are."

"Thank you!"

"What about the girl sir?" asked one of the guards who had been given the task by O'Conner. Phil's ceremony was starting soon and he and his companions were unavailable.

"I can only do this once. Otherwise the computer…well, it's touchy." Allen said as he typed at his monitor.

"Sigh. Ok. Chad! Timpa! You go into the race and try and find the girl! I know it won't be likely, but that's no excuse not to try! Goof off and you won't be getting any break time for a while!"

"Yes sir…" Chad sighed. It was just his luck. He and Timpa had just started with the ping-pong and then they had gotten roped into this little mess. All for a vigilante. How annoying.

"Ok, I have him! He's moving…" Allen said as he rapidly typed. "There! I altered his path successfully! He's in the children's race. I suggest you hurry."

"Will do. Move out men!"

Erik landed successfully and observed his new surroundings. It looked like an empty mountain range. Another battle. Ok, bring it on.

"Hey, what's HE doing here?"

The child's voice snapped Erik out of the battle state of mind he was about to enter. He glanced over at the group of four children. Two looked human, but the third had blue skin, and another had pointed ears. They let kids play this? Is that smart? Some of these games have been really tough and dangerous.

"A grown-up? SPEW! They said this was just for children!" one of the "normal" kids said. Erik blinked. Ok, this is…odd. Better ask what's going on.

"Um…are you children supposed to be here?" Erik said as he walked the several steps to them. "Where's your parents?"

"You shut up!" one of them said, and to his surprise, kicked him in the shin.

"OW! What was that for?"

"They said this was just for us! No grown-ups! But they lied! This is our game! It even says so!" Pointy-Ears complained.

"Your game?"

"Yes! The 3rd Annual Child's Game La…lab-er…"

"Labyrinth?" 

"Yeah! Why are you here?"

"Um…I'm not SUPPOSED to be…I was in the other one…methinks there's been a mistake…um, hello? I seem to be in the kid's game…hello? HELLO?" Erik said into his "watch". He vaguely heard the kids talking behind him.

"All right! We got one of the Open ones!"

"Let's do it then!"

"Aw man, we need five of us to do something like that!"

"Just add in the grown up! We can use him as a shield…"

That caught Erik's ear, as he turned around as the kids pressed something on their own "watches".

"Game beginning."

As Erik was about to find out, these four children were good friends who had entered and were going through their race together. They had many things in common, but they all loved one thing above all. And in an Open Match (which Erik would find out later, allowed pretty much anything to happen per the children's requests), they were going to live out a dream.

And Erik was going to get dragged along with them.

The first thing Erik felt was something appearing on his back in some kind of holster. The second thing he noticed was the arrival of what looked like several men in ludicrous green costumes and green make-up on their faces that gave a half-hearted appearance of a monster. What the heck?

"Oh no! The Slimies! Get 'em guys!" yelled one of the kids (apparently the leader of the group). The Slimies? What the heck…

One of the "Slimies" tried to attack Pointy-Ears, and Pointy-Ears kicked in retaliation. It was one of the worst kicks Erik had ever seen, a kick that a child imagined a martial artist would do. However, the "Slimy" acted like he had been hit in the chest with a sledgehammer, flying away in a spiraling twist. And just to make it even stranger, sparks flew off his chest. OK…

It was the same for the other kids, as they went through a weird sort of dance that they thought passed for martial arts, kicking and punching the "Slimies". The Slimies didn't give up though, getting kicked and punched again and again.

And then Erik got a faint recollection of an afternoon in a hotel, lying on the bed, trying to rest up and heal from an ambush that had gone bad, barely able to move and hence unable to even change the TV channel he was watching, of the show that had come on then, and had made him laugh at it's sheer badness and absurdity…

NO. Please, NO.

One of the Slimies ambled over to Erik in a weird, jerking gait, and Erik, reacting on instinct, kicked him, a proper kick. The poor Slimy flew 20 feet. They were just computer simulations, but Erik felt bad all the same.

"Whoa! Look what the grown up did!"

"Cool!"

Erik didn't get to enjoy the children's new approval much, as two more "Slimies" attacked him. Erik fended them off easily. The children went back to their idea of fighting. It kept working. Then again, Erik couldn't really figure out a way to have an attack NOT work. Not only did the "Slimies" walk like they were trying to avoid stepping on any ants, their only mission seemed to be to get as close to one of the kid's faces and make weird noises until they got kicked in the chest.

"AHA! Well done! But you can never defeat me!"

Erik, not really worried at whoever was speaking, finished off the last "Slimy" that was attacking him with a punch with his metal arm. That Slimy flew nearly 40 feet. Then he turned, even as the kids finished off their "foes" and did likewise.

"AHHHHHHHH! IT'S THE PINEOCTOPUS!" one of them screamed.

All Erik could see was what looked like a reject from a Godzilla movie. It really was a god-awful costume. Ok, Erik could understand the "Octopus" part, it had a bunch of yellow tentacles growing out of its head. And he supposed some of the "monster" looked enough like a plant to warrant the "pine" moniker. But really, the only threat it posed to Erik was that it might make him die laughing.

However, he hadn't created it. The kids had, from their many sessions of playing, and much like when kids went to see Santa (or the men dressed up as Santa), they were terrified that their crayon drawings had become flesh and blood.

"Beware children! You have angered me, the Pineoctopus! Now, I will turn you all into cardboard cutouts!"

He'll do WHAT?

"Huh? Who are you? Oh no matter, I'll turn you into a cardboard cutout too!" the Pineoctopus (from now called the PIO) said to Erik, and waddled over, swiping at him. Erik just dodged aside and retaliated with a kick. Sparks flew off the monster's chest.

"Ow! That's it! I'll definitely turn you into a cardboard cutout now!" the PIO said, and attacked again. Erik dodged, and this time pulled out the Redemption blade and slashed it. He expected it to be cut in half: all he got was more sparks and another yell to indicate the PIO didn't like getting slashed. Erik looked over to the kids, who were still huddled together, scared.

The PIO hit him. It wasn't that hard, and it didn't hurt, but for some reason Erik still found himself being thrown through the air. And sparks came off of him too. Oh god, it is this. Please no. If I get seen in this…

"Hey, we can't let the grownup fight for us! This is our game! Let's do it guys!" Leader Boy said.

"Right!" the other three said at the same time, as they spread out behind him. Erik looked at them. It COULD still be something else.

"IT'S MORPHIN' TIME!"

That cinches it. I'm actually in a Power Rangers episode! Worse, a bunch of kid's ideas of what an episode is! If anyone sees me in this I'll never recover my rep!

"Crimson Brave Ranger!" Leader Boy yelled as he pulled a device out from behind him. There was a flash and he was in a red spandex suit with a helmet. He did some poses.

"Turquoise Brave Ranger!" Blue Skin said. He got a blue outfit.

"Nocturne Brave Ranger!" Pointy-Ears said. He got a black outfit. Erik was amazed the child knew such a big word, ultil he realized he had probably played this game many times and had probably looked the word up to impress his friends.

"Emerald Brave Ranger!" said the other "human", the only girl. She got a green outfit.

"We are the Brave Rangers, courageous defenders of earth! We will defeat you!" Red said, taking the leader role.

"Ha! Try to stop me Rangers, cardboard cutouts you will turn into!" the PIO retorted. Erik sighed. Ok, maybe it could need a little more insight, but then again, it's pretty amazing that a rubber octopus plant could talk to begin with.

"Let's go Brave Rangers!" Red said, as the kids pulled weapons out of nowhere. Worse, they all looked like they were made of plastic. They ran and attacked the PIO, and he immediately smacked two of them. It resulted in the "SPINNING FALL WITH THE SPARKS OF DOOM!" as well. The kids cried in pain. Erik felt a faint stirring of anger. Well, I'm sure as hell not using this device on my back, but I can still fight!

"Ha ha! Now you will feel that…ARGH!" the PIO yelled as Erik charged and connected with a beautiful jump kick. More sparks.

"You annoying man! Take this!" the PIO said, and shot a bunch of lasers from somewhere. The ground exploded, but not in the way Erik was expecting. This explosion was more akin to someone setting off some pyro techniques. However, it still somehow caused Erik and the four kids to get tossed to the ground. This game's preset perimeters are starting to annoy me!

"And try this too!" the PIO said. This time he threw some energy bombs. Erik and the kids got tossed to the ground again. Well, I suppose it's a good thing he can do that too. Monsters who want to take over the world would have a hard time of it by turning people into paper one by one.

"We will not fall! We will defeat you instead!" Black said, and hit the PIO with his weapon, which appeared to be an axe made of plastic. It worked anyway, with the usually sparks.

Inspired, Red hit the monster with his plastic sword. More sparks. Erik figured he'd done enough and stepped back to allow the kids to take care of it.

"Aha! I found him! He's in one of the Open Forums!"

"Which one?" asked the Head Guard.

"Uh, I can't tell…"

"Argh! Well, there's only three! We'll check them all!"

"You fools! You-ARGH!" The Pio yelled as Green and Blue shot the monster with their weapons. Even more sparks and even a few explosions indicated it had been very successful.

"Yes! Now I will finish you with my Brave Blade!" Red yelled.

"No! I get to finish him with my Brave Blasters!" Blue complained, holding up his plastic guns that looked more like the gun Erik had used to play Duck Hunt then a serious weapon.

"No! Boys always win! I get to finish him with my Brave Bow!" Green whined. Indeed, it was just a bow: she seemed to pull arrows out of nowhere.

"Forget it! I get to finish him with my Brave Battleaxe!" Black said. Erik smacked his head.

"WHY DON'T YOU ALL JUST SHOOT HIM AT ONCE!"

"……..hey, we can do that! Get ready Brave Rangers!" Red said, they all lined up. Fortunately, the PIO just stood still, as if transfixed in awe.

"Now! Brave Barrage!" Red yelled. And all PIO could do was yell as the four kids shot him with energy from their weapons before he fell over and blew into a million pieces.

"Thank god that's over with. Now maybe I can move on to something that actually…" Erik said as he looked at his watch. He stopped when he realized it wasn't blinking, which meant he couldn't move on yet. Which meant the game wasn't finished.

Another old memory flashed. What usually happened when the monster was beaten in these shows…

And then a staff flew from the sky and hit the ground, and suddenly Erik was looking at the PIO again. Except this time, the PIO was 150 feet tall. Oh yeah, they super-size them.

"AHAHAHAHA! Now I will squish you! As flat as a cardboard cutout!" the PIO said. The kids were screaming again, terrified. Huh? Why are they scared? Aren't they supposed to have a bunch of robots waiting in the wings for something like this?

The kids kept screaming, clustering together and holding each other. The PIO just kept laughing, and then raised a foot. UH OH.

Erik threw a special blast that did a big twist and exploded on the side of the PIO's head, and it surprised the monster enough so that he could run over to the kids.

"What are you waiting for? Call your robot-things, put them together, and kick some butt!"

"Our Brave Zords?" Red said, fearfully.

"Yes!"

"We don't have any Zords! We couldn't think up any, so we would just play the first part! We never played the giant monster part! I'm scared! He's gonna squash us!" Green wailed. Erik looked up. Damn. They need giant robots, but the game won't give them any unless they specifically ask for them, and they can't think any up! Crap!

"No, he's not going to squash you!"

"Oh yes I am!" the PIO said as he raised one huge foot.

"Damn. RUN!" Erik yelled, and he and the kids did so. They finally managed to hit in a forest while the PIO looked for them and made more threats, mostly about cardboard cutouts (what, you were expecting something different?)

"What are we going to do?" Red asked.

"Here's what." Erik said. He was always good at thinking on the run, and carefully explained his plan to the kids in terms they could understand, even giving them an idea what to say.

"Think you can remember that?" Erik said after he was done.

"Yeah!"

"Ok then, it's up to you. I'm gonna get out of the way." And hence not have to participate in this farce. Erik thought as he headed off in the opposite direction of the children. I thought up ideas for robots for them, they can use them to win.

"Aha! There you are! Now I will finally turn you into cardboard cutouts!" the PIO said as the kids ran out.

"Let's do it guys! WE NEED BRAVEZORD POWER, NOW!"

"I call apon the many-headed monster, the Chimera!" Black yelled. And sure enough, a second later a robot Chimera came out of nowhere. But it didn't look like a dumb plastic contraption, oh no. Apparently the game recognized it came from Erik's mind then Black's, and instead of a clunky puppet it was more of a well-drawn anime mech.

"I call apon the fiery legend bird, the Phoenix!" Green called. And a few seconds later out flew a brightly painted robot phoenix.

"I call apon the black wings of the night, the Raven!" Blue  beckoned. A robot Raven joined the Phoenix. That one was for you, Sweetie. Erik thought as he finished climbing up the hill he had decided to watch the fight from.

"And I call apon the unstoppable blade of the Warrior!" Red finished. He got a humanoid mech in armour with a sword. And with that the kids jumped into their robots and started shooting and slashing the PIO with various weapons.

"HAHA! Your stupid robots are no match for me! I (Co-Writer's Note: The follow threat has been deleted by Bobcat, because if I hear the words "cardboard cutout" one more time, I'm going to beat Ash to death with my mouse)" the PIO said, and shot more lasers and bombs. It turned out even Erik's robots spewed the SPARKS OF DOOM.

"Quick! We must combine them!" Red said. Fortunately, Erik had told them how they did that as well.

The Chimera split up into pieces, parts of it locking onto the Warrior's legs and arms. The Raven, somehow continuing to fly even as it changed, locked onto the Warrior's chest. Finally, the Phoenix swooped down and landed on the Warrior's head to form a fancy helmet.

"Yeah! Brave Megazord, activate!" the kids yelled in their new command center, which they had all been teleported to when their robots had combined. The Brave Megazord pulled out a new fancier sword it had gotten from somewhere and commenced a new attack.

Erik watched as the giant robot and the PIO beat on each other, with all the effects he had seen before. However, one thing struck him as odd: the PIO kept coming out on top of the fistfights, even though the kids kept slashing him with their sword and shooting him with various laser weapons.

"WHOA!" Erik yelled as the giant robot got knocked down again and nearly landed on him. "What's going on? I thought when the giant robot was formed we were t minus six seconds away from a monster exploding!"

"Fools! You can't beat me alone! I will destroy you!" the PIO said, and knocked the giant robot down again.

"We need more help! HELP!" Red said.

Erik looked quizzingly at the battle, and then what the PIO had just said came back to him.

You can't beat me alone…

Remembering the sense of receiving equipment at the beginning of this whole mess, Erik reached back and found what he was looking for: one of the devices the kids had used to…

"……………..NO. I will NOT. NO." Erik said, wondering if he should just throw the device away, turn into Redemption, and hit the PIO with an enhanced Last Judgement Blast. Let's see if THAT just produced sparks.

The PIO knocked the robot down again, and now Erik could hear all the kids calling for help. How he could hear them considering they were in a giant robot hundreds of feet away was a mystery, but hey, that's the story of, that's the glory of…

"No. I refuse! I will not!"

"Help! We need help!"

Erik's innate instincts to help clashed with his reluctance to do so in a situation that was ultimately just a game and he wasn't going to subject himself to fighting in a spandex suit with a monster that only seemed to be able to…well, you know. (BobCat! Put the mouse down!)

But the kids needed help…

Erik glanced around. He couldn't see any cameras. Good. If anyone saw this…He sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Ok, but I didn't want to do this!" Erik said. Well, if he was going to do it, he might as well do it well.

"IT'S MORPHING TIME! VENGEANCE!"

FLASH!

To his surprise, Erik didn't find himself in a spandex suit. Instead, he found himself in his usual outfit, except it was now white, had blades running up the arms, and had a helmet that looked more like ninja headgear then the space-suit like helmet the kids were wearing. Huh. I guess it reflects on how you want it! Ok, I need a robot!……Ok, got one!

"I call the Vendetta…Zord." Erik said, saying the last word as quietly as possible.

And a few seconds later, his new robot arrived, a giant war…dove. Erik couldn't help but stare for a few seconds. His fighting robot was a DOVE!??!?!?! WHOSE DAMN IDEA WAS THIS?

"Oh hell with it! Get me up there!"

And Erik suddenly found himself up in a cockpit. He blinked and then began looking around for the controls. Uh steering…brakes…weapons…combine? What…oh yeah. Well, let's get this over with as quickly as possible!

"He wasn't in any of the others, sir! He must be in this one!" one of the guards said as he and his companions ran down the hallway.

"Ok men! Get ready!" the Head Guard said, as a door opened and they ran out onto the mountain range.

"HUH?" the PIO said as he saw the giant dove robot fly out. A moment later Erik popped up in the command center.

"Heya kids!"

"What are you doing here?"

"Helping you out! Let's take this guy down!" Erik said. His dove robot was already splitting up and locking onto parts of the Brave Megazord to make an even fancier robot.

"All right! Brave Ultrazord, activate! Activate Brave Bladestaff!" Red said. The robot pulled out the new bladestaff and sliced PIO twice, and from his yells, it was clear he didn't like it.

"Ok, I know this thing has some sort of really big attack! So let's cut to the chase and use it!" Erik said.

"OK!"

The robot held his bladestaff up and it locked onto his chest, even as Erik's dove robot's wings turned into cannons that aimed over the robot's shoulders. More weapons appeared on the chest and arms.

"Ok, let's go! Brave…uh, what should we call it?" Red asked.

"I don't care! The Supreme Mountain Heavenly Ascension Brave Blast!" Erik said sarcastically.

"OK! SUPREME MOUNTAIN HEAVENLY ASCENSION BRAVE BLAST!" all the kids yelled. The robot charged up and fired off a really big gigantic laser blast.

"OH NO!" PIO yelled.

BOOM! The monster blew up again, and that was the end of him. Erik sighed in relief.

"We won! Thanks mister!"

Meanwhile, out on the ground, the PP re-emerged from behind the rock they had hidden behind when the giant robot had fired the laser cannon.

"He must be in the robot! Quick, get inside it!" the PP Head guard said as he lead the charge towards the robot.

Erik looked at his watch and found it was blinking this time.

"You're welcome. But I must be going now…"

"Awwwww, c'mon! Watch our victory pose first!"

"Ok, but just that."

The Head PP Guard was just about to reach the foot of the robot when it moved slightly. Unfortunately, that slight move caused the foot to come right down on him.

"OH NO!"

STOMP!

The Brave UltraZord raised it's staff triumphantly.

"Ok, that's all."

"Ok. Good luck kids. That wasn't too bad actually." Erik said, and pressed his watch. His outfit disappeared, and then he did.

"Ok guys, it's been fun, but we still have to try and win the race! Let's go!" Red said.

The robot vanished as the kids went on to the next part of the game, revealing the Head Guard up to his neck in dirt.

"What are you waiting for? Dig me out!"

*************

Phil cackled evily as he lowered young Peter Parker (who was tied and gagged) into a tank full of radioactive spiders.  Over the past week (as time passed in that universe, anyway), he had tried many variations of his plans to get Peter bitten by a spider, and but all had failed miserably.  During the course of the week, Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, the family dog, Scruffy, and basically everyone in the series EXCEPT Peter Parker had gained the proportionate strength, speed etc. of a spider. 

Phil looked the descending teen in the eye.  "So, you think you're SOOO clever, not getting bitten like you should have.  Let Mary Jane run off to become the Scarlet Spider, or let Flash become the best football player in history, period!  You just can't allow yourself to take hold of your destiny, you little twat!"  Phil removed Peter's gag.  "So, any last words before you become a super hero?"

Peter cried out, "Please don't do this!  I'm deathly allergic to spider bites!"

As the enraged radioactive arachnids swarmed over the doomed young man, Phil could only cry.

***********

Celeste appeared in a hallway of doors. Puzzled, she looked around for instructions, but none were forthcoming. She went through a door, and was surprised when she re-emerged in the same hallway through another door. She tried a different door. Same thing happened.

"Hmmmmm, curious."

Celeste opened one door and examined it for any possible hidden things, when there were more sparkles and suddenly a man and a Namek appeared at the end of the hallway much like Celeste had.

"Man, this is becoming tiresome." Timpa said, as he looked at the hallway of doors, all closed except one. "How do we get these jobs?"

"Just lucky, I guess." Chad said as he looked down the hallway. The door closed.

The two's eyes nearly bugged out of their heads, and Chad and Timpa looked at the picture they were carrying.

"It's HER!"

"Uh oh." Celeste said at the reaction. It was clear they weren't people who were just playing the game.

"Get her Timpa!" Chad said, as he prepared to whip up a spell to slow the girl down, just in case she had enough speed to outrun his alien companion.

Unfortunately, the spell never even got off the ground, as a weird buzzing noise suddenly sounded in his head, interrupting his concentration. Timpa also didn't get off the ground, literally, as he leapt off to flew and landed on his face.

"Hey, WHAT'S GOING ON HERE!?!??!?!" Chad yelled in his game watch.

"Current game seals all possible inhuman powers. Must go with only your body has."

"No no, I'm not part of the game! I have this device! We both have them!" Chad yelled, unclipping the device and waving it in front of the watch as if the device had eyes.

"Please read code."

"Uh, 650-96-GUC-12!"

"Code accepted. Will verify. This will take ten minutes." The watch said.

"NO NO NO! NOT NOW!" Chad yelled, but the watch wasn't talking any more. "Ok Timpa, we're on our own for ten minutes! But no sense in just standing around, get her!"

"Huh." Celeste said, as the Namek ran at her. She looked around and then opened the door she had been examining. A few seconds later Timpa reached it and went in after her.

Chad's mages robes were not designed for running, and hence he reached the same door several seconds later, after it had already closed. He reached out to grab the handle.

And then another door opened down the hall, and Celeste ran out of that one, reaching for the door across from her and opening it, fleeing as Timpa ran out of the same door and followed her.

Chad ran over to that door, but no sooner did he put his hand on the handle again that another door opened and the process repeated itself.

Chad ran over to the new door, and another door opened. This time Timpa ran out first and ran through another door with Celeste chasing HIM.

"Ah man, I don't need this loony toons shit!" Chad cursed, and waited. Another door opened and Timpa chased Celeste through another door. Then another door opened, close to Chad this time, and he managed to get over as Timpa ran through the door and follow the Namek.

Another door opened, Celeste ran out, then Chad, then Timpa, out through another door.

New door. Celeste, Timpa, Chad, and then Celeste again.

New door. This time Celeste opened the door in front of her and hid behind it. Chad and Timpa ran out and through the open door, and then with a sudden yell of realization Celeste slammed the door and ran back through the previous one.

Two doors opened on each side of each other, and then Chad and Timpa ran into each other, falling to the floor in a heap. A second later Celeste ran out of the door Chad had run out of at top speed and tripped over the two, flying into the open door Timpa had come out of. The two cursed and followed her in a half run half stumble from getting up.

New door. Chad and Timpa ran out being chased by Celeste.

New door. Timpa ran out, stepped to the side of the door, and stuck out his foot. A second later Chad ran out and tripped, his hand catching the door handle opposite him as an attempt to break his fall, at the same time pulling the door open. A second later Celeste followed and leapt-frogged over Chad and out through the open door. The two cursed some more and followed.

Two doors opened opposite each other. Two Celestes ran out. They looked at each other, screamed, and ran back through the doors they came from.

Two doors opened, at different points in the hallway. Chad and Timpa emerged, looking at each other, and then a door opened between them and Celeste came out.

"We got her! Sandwich her!" Chad yelled, as the two men attempted to corral the girl.

And then, suddenly, Celeste's watch chirped.

"Game successfully completed. Well done."

And then Celeste vanished into a flash. The two men roared their frustration.

"WHAT THE HELL! WHAT DID SHE DO!!??!?!?!?"

"Identity verified. Powers unlocked." Chad's watch said.

"It's too damn late for that you stupid device! Now how does this game work?"

"Test of patience. Player is left in room without being told what to do. To get best result, player must say in room for maximum of ten minutes without complaining or asking what they are supposed to do. If player does so, they are placed upon worse route depending on how long they waited."

"Yeah, and she didn't complain. Why? Because we were too busy chasing her." Timpa stated. Chad sighed.

"Well, at least we tried."

"And got some exercise."

"Still gonna complain about the system when we get out?"

"Damn straight."

****************

As Phil observed the progress of the alternate Spider-verse, he knew that someone was going to kill him over this.  With Peter Parker dead, Uncle Ben blamed himself, dedicating his new Spider-powers to the pursuit of justice. 


"It's like I always say: with great power comes even greater responsibility!"

On that note, Phil was going to count it as a victory.  There were no less that twenty spider-people running around that universe, and two of them fought crime.  That should have been more than enough.  Right?

"PHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIL!  OFFICE!  YESTERDAY!"

Phil grumbled, "It's never enough for O'Connor…"

***************

Erik appeared sitting at a table.  In front of him was a bottle of alcohol of some kind, but he ignored it as he absorbed his environment.  It looked to be a nightclub of some kind, with soft, almost unnoticeable light.  The people around him were looking intently upon the stage, upon which stood some "underdeveloped" redhead with an apparent love of capes and leather.  And she was singing.  Erik got the impression that she was winding up what must have been a very spirited performance. 

            "I did it… MYYYYYYYYYYYYY WAYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

Erik winced as her voice obviously left its natural range.  Spirited doesn't always mean good.

  She gave a grandiose bow, obviously expecting a massive wave of admiration from the mortals that she had just blessed with music worthy of the gods themselves.  One could literally hear the crickets as the final reverberations of her ending note died long and painful deaths.  Then the booing began. 

The redhead fumed at the people beneath her.  "You uncultured swine!  Make fun of me, will you!?  I'll show you!  Dragon… oof!"  The spell was ended in mid sentence as a pair of men in battle armor tackled her.  She dragged off the cage, kicking and threatening the guards as she went. 

A man dressed in a suit that screamed, "Lounge Lizard" stepped out.  "Well then, so far the Labyrinth Karoke contest has come to a very… unique start!  Are there any other Labyrinth contestants in the audience?"  There was silence.  "Now c'mon, don't be shy.  Remember, until you sing a song of our choice, you can't proceed to the next level."

Erik walked up on the stage.  "I'm in the contest."

The man clapped his hands together.  "Splendid!  Here's your microphone, and… begin!"  Before the confused vigilante could stutter a protest, he had been shoved into the center of the spotlight.  Off to his right, he saw a small screen, and a upbeat song began in the background.  Erik decided to just bite the bullet and go along with it.  Sooner I finish this song, the sooner I'm out of here. 

Erik: I'm a lumberjack,

And I'm OK,

            I sleep all night

            And I work all day.

Recorded Chorus: He's a lumberjack

            And he's OK

            He sleeps all night

            And he works all day

Erik: I cut down trees,

            I eat my lunch,

            I go to the Lavatory

            On Wednesday I go shopping,

            And have buttered scones for tea!

Have I heard this before? Sounds vaguely familiar. Was it written by some comedians? What were they called? Montgomery snake or something…

            Chorus: : He cuts down trees,

            He eats his lunch,

            He goes to the Lavatory

            On Wednesday he goes shopping,

            And has buttered scones for tea!

Erik: I cut down trees,

            I skip and jump,

            I like to press wild flowers

            I put on… women's clothing

            And hang… around in bars…

Erik made a time-out motion.  "Hold it!" 

Lounge Lizard said, "Is there a problem?"

"YES, THERE'S A PROBLEM!  There is no way in hell that I'm singing the rest of this song!  Pick a different song!" 

"Oh, all right."  Lounge Lizard pressed a button on his control panel.  "But you only get one redo before you're disqualified!"

Erik mumbled something as yet another bright and happy tune came on. Argh, what the heck is this?  Once Erik figured out how words ran with the song, he began to speak. (Words in brackets denote Erik's thoughts)

Erik: Some things in life are bad, (Definitely)

            They can really make you mad (Yeah)

            Other things make you want to swear and curse. (And maim things)

            When you're chewing on life's gristle, (Done that…)

            Don't grumble, give a whistle! (What? I can't whistle…)

            And this'll help things turn out for the best…(What?)

            Aaaannnnd…(Oh dear.)

            Always look on the bright side of life… (whistles, or the best whistle Erik could do, which wasn't very good)

            Always look on the bright side of life…(whistles)

            If life seems jolly rotten, (Change it)

            There's something you've forgotten (Oh and what's that genius?)

            And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing (As long as it's on some Corrupt graves)

            When you're feeling in the dumps, (Dumps smell)

            Don't be silly chumps. (I admit standing in dumps is silly, but needed sometimes)

            Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing! (No it isn't)

            And… Always look on the bright side of life… (whistles) (Whoever wrote this is an idiot)

            Come on now! 

Chorus sings, Erik looks as though he's going to suffer from a stroke from the OOC-ness of it all: Always look on the bright side of life… (whistles)

            Erik (regains control of stomach): For life is quite absurd, (And so's this song)

            And death's the final word, (Definitely)

            You must always face the curtain with a bow (Or a few explosive devices)

            Forget about your sin- give the audience a grin (I think the stars would burn out before I finished all those grins)

            Enjoy – it's your last chance anyhow! (Tell that to Agony)

            All: So always look on the bright side of death (Death is rarely bright)

            Just before you draw your terminal breath (Isn't that an oxymoron?)

            Erik: Life's a piece of shit,

            When you look at it (Finally! It reflects how I feel!)

            Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true (No, that's a lie)

            You'll see it's all a show, (A tragedy)

            Keep 'em laughing as you go (Darker then Macbeth ever could be)

            Just remember that the last laugh is on you (No one's laughing at me for that, but plenty would be for this.)

            And always look on the bright side of life… (whistles) (I'm gonna vomit)

            Always look on the bright side of life… (whistles)(Someone kill me now)

            Erik (spoken): Come on guys, cheer up!  (It's not like your empty pointless lives will mean anything in the long run anyway. Argh, now I'm getting cynical. Damn song!)

            Chorus: Always look on the bright side of life…

            Always look on the bright side of life…

            Erik: Worse things happen at sea, you know! (Drowning is a bad way to die…maybe burning is worse though…)

            Chorus: Always look on the bright side of life…

            Erik: I mean – what have you got to lose? (Your life, your sanity, your innocence, your sense of self, your reason for being, all you love, shall I go on?)

            You know, you come from nothing

- you're going back to nothing. 

What have you lost?  Nothing! (Ok, now I'm upset. My parents and sisters were not nothing! If I have to sing one more line I'm gonna hit someone!)

Chorus: Always look on the bright side of life…

(Song ends)

The Lounge Lizard nodded proudly.  "Now see, wasn't that better?"

As Erik faded away with special effects reminiscent of Star Trek, he raised a single finger to the Lounge Lizard.

The suited man snorted.  "How rude."  He addressed the audience.  "Anyway, while we wait for another Labyrinth contestant to arrive, next we have the rap stylings of Darth Vader!"  The Dark Lord of the Sith walked on stage.  The Lounge Lizard had difficulty stifling his laughter.  Suddenly, he found his windpipe being crushed. 

"I find your lack of faith disturbing." 

**************

Erik wasn't the first to arrive, and in the end it didn't matter. He took a look at the sign that described the final challenge.

"It turns you into something? If you get splashed with cold water? Is that why BugMan turned into a woman? Well, I just have to avoid it…" Erik said as he began hopping across the poles. Around him, competitors with less grace and patience were falling into the water. That must be the punishment for failing to win.

Erik hopped to another pole and quickly realized it was every man for himself as a Jedi tried to use the Force on him. Too bad for the Jedi that Erik still had the ysalarmiri. The alien warrior tried to keep himself away from the water with the Force, but Erik hopped on him ala Mario and moved onto the next pole while the Jedi went into the lake.

"Eeeeekkkkkk!"

Erik recognized his wife's scream and quickly pinpointed it as another alien lifted her above its head and tried to toss her off her pole.

Erik brained it with the Redemption blade (as in, he hit him really hard, but not with fatal intent), and then he and his wife simultaneously kicked the thing off the pole.

"Care to split the prize?" Erik said.

"Yeah right! Last one there gets tossed into Spring of Drowned Rotten Egg!" Celeste said as she took off, hopping across the poles.

"Great. As well as dealing with Phil, my wife has to get competitive." Erik said as he hopped over to another pole, bounced off a group of struggling beings, swung on the legs of a weird alien bug creature, and then landed on a new pole. Suddenly, a creature that looked like a man wearing a diving outfit was suddenly in his face.

"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?"

"Nope." Erik replied as he calmly punched the being off the pole.

Celeste had just kicked two midget-creatures into the air and was tossing her dagger at another weird robot thing as Erik caught up to her.

The robot ducked.

"Hah! You missed!"

"He don't know you very well." Erik said in his best Bugs Bunny voice.

The dagger swung around and slammed into the back of the robot's head. It staggered forward and both Erik and Celeste spun and once again delivered a twin kick. This one was so strong the robot flew through the air and knocked another ten creatures off another pole like a bowling ball.

"Thanks sweetie!" Celeste said.

"You're…"

And with that Celeste stomped on her husband's foot. As he yelled, she took off again.

"Oh no you don't!"

And the race began again, as Erik and Celeste leapt from pole to pole, no so much concerned with the other competitors as they were with beating each other.

A few other creatures, mostly small and quick, had managed to make it to the other end by the time Celeste arrived first. Unfortunately, they let their guard down now that they had made it all the way across and hence were all tossed back into the cursed pools when Celeste landed with an energy attack explosion.

"Sorry. Nothing personal." She said, and ran. Erik arrived half a second later and sprinted after her.

"Aha! I see it! The prize is mi-ARGH!" Celeste squawked as her husband tackled her from behind. She rolled with it and used her strong legs to throw Erik over her. He landed on his feet even as she was getting to hers. She tossed a Raven's Beak blast at him, but he dodged it easily and threw a Piercing Strike blast in retaliation. She dodged it in turn.

"That prize is mine!" Celeste said, snapping out her daggers.

"Only if you get through me first!" Erik said, snapping out his claws as he materialized the Redemption blade. He was quite prepared to fight Celeste seriously: they did it all the time in training.

Another Jedi ran past them. Erik turned from his wife as he fired a grappling hook that wrapped around the Jedi. Erik threw the alien warrior back the way he had came, and then his wife took advantage of his distraction by punching him in the face. He staggered back…

And tripped the tripline. He blinked as he saw the shadow fall over him, and looked up.

And then the sixteen ton weight landed on him with a crash.

"ERIK!" Celeste shrieked, totally forgetting about their "friendly" competition as she ran over to the weight. She didn't even notice the guy in the pink outfit running past her as she furiously tried to lift the weight.

Which, to her surprise, lifted easily. She blinked, and then punched it. It broke inward. Ah! It's just made of papier-mâché!

Still, having a large construct made to look like a sixteen ton weight fall on your head wasn't exactly pleasant, and hence Celeste found her husband sitting on the ground looking rather dazed.

"Erik? Chris?" Celeste said, letting her husband's real first name slip out. "You OK?"

"If I was a comedian, I'd make some comment about stars or pretty colours, but I'm not, so let's just say my head hurts." Erik said. There was some triumphant music in the background, and Celeste, feeling curious, broke open the other end of the weight to see the man in the pink gi with his hand raised and a trophy.

"The winner of the 7th Annual Survival Labyrinth Competition, DAN HIBIKI!" An unnamed announcer said.

"FOR DADDY!" the pink-gi clad man named Dan said. Celeste sighed.

"Looks like we lost, hero."

"Sorry, I can't hear you. My ears are still ringing." Erik said, shaking his head. Celeste sighed again and helped her husband up. He could walk, but it was a bit unsteady, and Celeste helped him as best she could as they went towards a large exit in which other dejected competitors were leaving through.

"Well look on the bright side hero. At least I won't turn into a poodle every time it rains."

Erik just mumbled something.

"C'mon hero. You need some rest."

End Part 66

Announcer: Will Erik ever receive his rest?  Will BobCat ever manage to update more than once a month?  WILL THIS CROSSOVER EVER END?  I dunno.  I'm just the announcer.