THE

LEAGUE

OF

LEGENDS

OR

The Extraordinary Adventures of Eight Heroes on Planet Nintendo and Their Fight Against Villainy and Corruption

Vol. 1

Jonathan S. Cromie

The greatest scientists of the planets had dreamed, and their dream had come true. It was (it must be confessed) not a dream born of idealistic musings. It was not thought of by men and women struggling to make a better existence, putting their heads together, letting their idealism flow freely from receptive mind to receptive mind and solidifying into the magnificent construction that now stretched into the heavens. It was a dream born of necessity, and one that had to come true if all was to be well with the world (using the word "world" in its loosest possible sense). But it was a dream, nonetheless.

Earlier that week, the scientists involved had gathered upon the planet Mobius in preparation for the great unveiling ceremony.

Earlier that day, he whose dream it had originally been had thrown a switch. He had been watched by many thousands of people, millions if you included the televisation of the event, and there had been fireworks and confetti and champagne and people cheering and sobbing.

But it was those who had turned their eyes skywards that had witnessed the really impressive sight. They had seen the massive telescopic creation unfold, its loops circling out from each other, the spiralling runway moving slowly into position, a massive accomplishment of science and technology.

Earlier that hour, the runway had finally sealed itself in place. At the end nearest the planet, the person (for want of a better word) for whom the whole construction had been dreamt up and established was receiving a briefing from one of the InterPlanetary Assistance Force (IPAF, pronounced "eye-paff" or, more commonly, "those buggers who poke their nose in when they're not wanted") on what he was supposed to do. Said person was tapping his foot and looking out of the window at the construction's base. He knew what to do.

Earlier that minute, the person was running at high speed, oxygen supply around his body, down the runway. This is why the construction had been built for him – as the only entity able to reach supersonic speed on foot, with his specially developed rocket-powered footwear he was racing along at a phenomenal pace, the artificial gravity and centripetal force keeping him fixed to the path as the gravity of Mobius got weaker.

Earlier that second, the person had reached the conclusion of the track. His left foot touched the red strip marking the end and propelled him forwards, towards the target planet, still far out of reach of the spiral. By virtue of his own foot speed (and the miniature rockets attached to his feet), he was about to travel as no human has travelled before and, in all probability, as no human would ever travel.

For the "person" was not a human. He was a blue hedgehog.

o o o

Sonic the Hedgehog rolled up into a ball as he sped from the track, his heart pounding from the sheer exhilaration of it all. There was not a little fear in there, but he would never admit it, not even to his best friend, Miles "Tails" Prower (whose dream the whole idea had originally been). He would just put the accelerated heartbeat down to the natural excitement that his own pace gave him.

He span through empty space, barely breathing into the respiratory apparatus, for what seemed like either seconds or months. In reality, it was somewhere in between. Nintendo was not a very distant planet, but it was far enough, even at the speed Sonic had reached (far beyond that of any modern-day rocket ship). Once every revolution, from the safety of his spiky ball, he saw the planet Nintendo getting larger and larger, the purple force field around it looming ever more ominously.

His fingers curled possessively around the seven objects in his pocket. This was a one-time event – after he used them, the objects would frazzle and die as their energy was burnt. For years they had remained on Mobius, being protected from the copious evil forces that had tried to gain use of the "limitless" power they contained as scientists dreamed up ever more improbable uses for the objects that inevitably failed, sometimes quite spectacularly.

Sonic sighed as he thought of this. Only a few people actually knew how to access their power, and he happened to be one of them.

Nintendo filled one side of his vision now. That Eyepaff idiot had told him to act when this happened. Pah. What did he know? Had he ever used the Chaos Emeralds? No. He would act soon, but not too soon. He knew exactly when he was going to… Well, almost exactly. Almost.

He listened to his heart thumping, and the first traces of Nintendo's atmosphere tearing against his azure fur.

1… 2… 3… Wonder how Tails is now… Even Shadow had shed a tear at the launch party. 4… 5… 6…

He could see the force field crackling now, and he wasn't dead yet. Good good. The time to act is now. We should do this again some time.

"Now I'll show you!"

There was a small ripple in the field as a yellow hedgehog passed through.

o o o

Not so very different to yours, actually. Same creation process – explosion, rapid expansion from a point, cooling, more complex particles forming, becoming more opaque to radiation, the heavier elements form and at some point, the first stars came into being. From there, given the building blocks, it was but a small step to the creation of galaxies, planets and life.

Some life forms survive; some perish and fade into nothing. The majority will do the latter. The little insects that scamper around, full of the importance of themselves and their race, will be swept away by the ever-rolling stream of time and space and movement. The chance that a species will actually make a difference to the development of an entire universe (an ironic name given the truth of the matter) is so infinitesimally small that it is almost worth ignoring. Mathematicians would rightly set the probability of such an event at zero. Yet the probability that, upon choosing a number between zero and one inclusive, zero should be chosen is also zero, and that is a very important case.

So it was here. Granted, this verse (I omit the "uni-" prefix, for it is woefully inaccurate) had existed for a longer time than yours (two billion Earth years, more or less), but that is a small amount compared to the total existence time of either, and it was at around this time that this verse gave forth its most (one might say only) important species. Pure chance, of course, that such a people should be created, happened upon by a series of random processes each with probability of almost zero, but considering how many verses there are this was not an unlikely outcome in one of them.

Beings born of pure energy. e=mc2 shows how inefficient matter is compared to energy. From a tiny amount of uranium, even your scientists know how to create enough energy to level entire cities. Those consisting only of energy can convert that energy easily into other forms – light, heat, movement etc. It removes the necessity to breathe or consume, allowing for easy travel through space, and the only problem is finding more energy to supplant that which they use up.

Even these beings could not achieve that physical impossibility, perpetual motion. When they flew against space, that minimal resistance from space junk or gas molecules used up the energy they used to create their forms. Much more was lost when they created fires, or ripped apart stars for their own amusement. A certain amount was converted even by existence. And so they roamed through the galaxy, making huge progress in science and mapping out the heavens, but at the same time tearing asunder matter and destroying stars to create the energy they required to exist.

Thus the greatest race the verse had ever known became the most feared. Proudly viewing all other races as small and unimportant (as, in comparison, they were), they devoured them and the planets on which they stood, the stars around which they orbited, to satisfy their insatiable greed. None survived the passing of these figures through their solar system, and yet somehow the legend remained – the legend of the Great Destroyers, creatures of blue light that would ravage entire galaxies to satiate their gluttony, the Death Angels, the Harbingers of Doom.

If there was one thing these beings sought as much as energy, it was knowledge. Thus sometimes, they would leave a civilisation alive, solely for the ability to research their primitive cultures. For a being of energy to travel among those of matter undetected was simple, and to draw out the information contained in their basic mental workings almost as much so. It was one such being who, upon researching a certain culture, found the name it would spread among them, a name it found interesting. Translated into their language, it was a signal so powerful it would destroy the mental workings of a human exposed to it.

Translated into yours, it is best expressed as "the Forbidden".

o o o

The atmosphere built up in a red-hot cone as Super Sonic, powered by the seven Chaos Emeralds, shot towards Nintendo's surface like a small spiky rocket. The power that the Emeralds had given him had allowed him to break through the barrier that someone had somehow placed around the entire planet about five months ago (although his breathing apparatus had been burnt to a crisp on entry), but that had used up most of their strength already. He could feel the protection and flight they gave him ebbing away, and prayed to the gods he worshipped that they would hold out until he hit the earth.

The roar of the wind nearly deafened the hedgehog as he fell/flew. Clouds passed in a blink and became green fields, rolling below, as Sonic furiously applied his airbrakes in an attempt to avoid an extremely painful meeting with the ground if the Emeralds did not quite hold out.

As it happened, they gave in about thirty metres above sea level. The stones dropped from his hands, their powers spent, now completely indistinguishable from any other moderately shiny stones that might be dug out of the ground. They fell towards the earth noiselessly. Sonic, his fur blue once more and his powers of flight and invulnerability gone, followed suit.

All eight of the falling objects embedded themselves in soft soil. Sonic hit the ground somewhat less forcefully than his ex-fuel cells, as he had spread his body in an attempt to give air resistance to act upon, although he did not think it through in such scientific terms. Curling into a ball as he collided with the bright green grass further reduced the damage done upon landing, although he still felt sore all over as he prised his spikes out of the earth.

The same bright sun that shone out over Mobius illuminated a beautiful sunny countryside. Everywhere Sonic looked, he saw perfectly green trees and pristine fields, marshmallow clouds in a bright blue sky, small birds chirruping merrily as they pecked happily at a landscape so saccharine sweet it could have been made by Willy Wonka.

Yet something, somehow, was not quite right. The whole area felt ersatz, unreal, as if it was in fact designed by Willy Wonka. The trees were perfect blobs of green on top of cylindrical trunks with perfectly even grains. Grass was a perfect layer of green (except where things had just landed on it), with perfect little tufts. The whole design of the place was like an illustration out of a children's book – perfect for small minds, observing the landscape from a distance, yet with conspicuous brushwork marks when analysed up close.

The only thing that felt real to its new observer was the out-of-place black car, which emitted puffs of brown fumes from its exhaust into the cyan sky and made the blue birds cough wretchedly. As it pootled towards Sonic, creating sounds that no car in mint condition would be expected to make, it screeched to a halt. After a bit of fumbling from the inside, a door handle tilted, a door opened and the driver stepped out.

"So, another of the LOVE come to stop me?" he sneered.

The man was everything that his surroundings were not. While the countryside he stood in was sickly sweet, the bulging biceps and pectorals, crammed into an altogether too tight lycra suit, put one more in mind of a sizeable steak than of lollipops and sherbet lemons. While the black car behind him was a remnant of a bygone age and moved at about the top speed of a lethargic snail, its driver's shiny wrist device and belt were distinctly futuristic in tone, while his powerful leg muscles and racing helmet, emblazoned with a bird of prey, spelled "speed" as clearly as any racing car. A sculpted nose poked from beneath the helmet's visor, and below that a commanding sneer addressed Sonic in the above manner.

A lesser mammal might have been somewhat cowed by the tone of voice, the manner of address and the imposing figure, even if the vehicle they rode was not a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini. Sonic had just flown from a neighbouring planet using his own feet and the Chaos Emeralds. He looked the man straight in the visor.

"LOVE? Who's that, your boyfriend?"

"Don't you play the chump with me, chump. I know who you are, and you know who I am, so let's see your moves!"

Sonic paused for a minute. Did he? He'd been given a full briefing by Eyepaff on heroes and villains of his destination world, but the small portable computer containing all the data on them had been in a pocket of his breathing apparatus, which was now floating in molten specks somewhere in the ionosphere. He inwardly cursed this oversight and tried to recall what information he could.

"Captain… Sparrow?" he tried.

"Falcon, you dumbass!"

"Well, I was close," shrugged Sonic, trying to remember anything about the man.

He was the top racer in the F-Zero Grand Prix, a triennial race that accepted participants from all across the galaxies. The ships used travelled very fast and the competition was very dangerous, and therefore very popular. There is nothing so fun as watching a driver one does not know sail into a wall and have her car explode, taking another three drivers with her.

Sonic remembered nothing about it outside the name of the competition. He did remember that in addition to being an accomplished driver, Falcon's foot speed was pretty impressive and he was in possession of a massive ego. Both of these were qualities that Sonic admired, since he possessed them himself. He also remembered that the Captain was the owner of a pretty sleek vehicle, the Blue Falcon, which was certainly not the old banger the man was currently driving.

His musing was rudely interrupted. "You trying to insult me, LOVE scum? I said, show me your moves!"

"In a minute," said Sonic, with a nonchalant shake of his spikes. "I'm just trying to work out what happened to your real car."

The change in the man was visible. The self-confidence seemed to seep out of his chiselled nose. His burly figure sagged, as if his muscles had been inflatable and someone had inserted a pin. The sneer was replaced by a hopelessly depressed expression.

Sonic had some idea about what had occurred. "You lost it."

"I have not lost it!" yelled the broken man. "You stole it, you prick!"

"Well, I'm very sorry for your loss, Captain Sparrow, but I'm afraid that I have bigger fish to fry right now. Could you tell me…"

Suddenly, he was being picked up by a muscular arm, and the Captain's face was inches away from his and spraying him with spit.

"My car is very important to me!"

"Ew."

"That car is the most beautiful, the most wonderful thing in existence! I've spent ten years tuning her systems to perfection, and now she's been taken from me. So no, you do not have bigger fish to fry! I'm gonna beat your sorry ass to a pulp, then wipe the whole of Dreamland with what's left of that ass, and then…"

He stopped, and looked past the hedgehog he was holding. Sonic noticed that everything had suddenly got a little darker.

The Captain was shouting again. "You can't be! I killed you! I fucking killed you, you bastard! How the fuck are you still alive?"

Then he turned back to Sonic. "Your little mecha-bitch friend saved you this time. Think yourself lucky."

Human nature dictates that whenever one senses that there is something horrible behind one that one really should not look at, the thing one wants to do more than anything is to turn around. Hedgehog nature is not so very different. Therefore, the first thing that Sonic did when Captain Falcon's hand released its iron grip and he felt the soil beneath his red trainers again was… yes, to turn around.

"It's a cloud."

Sonic was partly right. It was a grey cloud-like blob, hovering in the air and blotting out the sun. Metallic yellow spikes protruded from the gaseous body at odd angles.

Captain Falcon, already a good twenty metres away, looked over his shoulder at Sonic, staring incredulously at the heap of metal and condensation. All at once, it struck him that maybe the blue rat thing was not actually here to get him after all. Maybe he did not have a clue what this was.

"Run, you idiot!" he bawled. "Why aren't you running?"

Good question. That would be the first response of most sane people. Sonic was not mad, but he was very confident in his own abilities, and not (it must be said) without reason. His recent trip aside, he had on countless occasions saved his home planet from those who fiends who wanted to capture the Chaos Emeralds, and in some cases succeeded. In most cases, this was Dr. Ivo Robotnik, a reclusive genius with a fine line in evil robots (as his name suggested) and a less fine line in moustaches. Therefore, he felt himself well equipped when it came to fighting off metallic bullies.

That was why he stood still and stared at the robotic cloud. The cloud opened one malevolent eye and stared back. Sparks clustered around its spikes and hummed threateningly.

Suddenly, it gave forth a blast of electrical energy. The pulse was released without warning and travelled fast, ionising the air slightly. Sonic was caught off guard, and for a moment could only stare at the approaching 200 kV shockwave. It was only a split second, but by that time the thunder was on him…

…or would have been if something had not slammed into his side like a comet. Sonic rolled away from the crater left by the bolt of energy, extinguishing the flames that the Captain's life-saving rush had ignited on his fur, and lay on the grass, slightly winded, as his rescuer jumped up and towards their mechanical adversary.

"Falcon PUNCH!"

Sonic watched from his position on the ground as the Captain's fist seemed to burst into flame and hurtle towards the cloud. The cry of a bird of prey was audible, and indeed the flames seemed to take the shape of a falcon in flight. The punch hit the eye with a sharp clang and bounced off, the Captain yelling as his fist registered pain.

Sonic was by his unexpected rescuer's side in an instant, looking with a mixture of admiration and mockery as the man clutched his hand and moaned softly. Admiration won out, because Sonic was not a complete git and the Captain had just saved his backside.

"Wow. That's quite a punch you have there."

"Move it!" said the Captain, jumping to his feet and barely dodging another kilovolt-strength shock. He rushed away from the storm, leaving Sonic to spin into a buzz saw-like ball and make his own escape route. The universe's fastest hedgehog quickly moved out of his assailant's range, meeting the wounded Captain halfway.

"You afraid of a metal cloud, Sparrow?" he said with a wink.

"Afraid? Me?"

"You heard me."

"Fucking terrified!"

The duo screeched to a halt, observing the approaching construct from a safe distance. Around it, the make-believe turf blazed merrily.

"We can take him," said Sonic, smiling broadly.

"You crazy?" screeched the Captain. "Look, I've fought this thing before it got itself an iron core, and it nearly killed me then. Now, my strongest attack just bounces off! What makes you think I can take it now?"

The single eye was fixed resolutely on Sonic. Static collected about the yellow prongs.

"Because you've got me."

o o o

The beast was called Kracko. Well, actually it was called Mecha-Kracko now, and had been ever since its upgrade three or so months ago. Robot core or otherwise, its purpose remained the same – search Dreamland for undesirables and take care of them. It was also, using the camera cybernetically inserted into its eye, able to beam images of them directly back to King Dedede.

King Dedede's name sounds funny. There is no way around that simple fact. He also looks funny. Anyone who had been told that a fat penguin, dressed in a Father Christmas-esque red robe with white trimming and a bobble hat, was a king might have believed that they were being told a joke. They would then receive a blow to the head with a 100 kg mallet – and that is no laughing matter.

Ever since certain events had taken place about a year ago, King Dedede had been put in charge of the part of Nintendo called Dreamland, a position he had lusted after for a long time. Size and population-wise, Dreamland was somewhere between a country and a continent, and it was characterised by the same ersatz look that Sonic had seen on his arrival. Although its landscapes and terrains ranged from green fields to rocky outcrops to pools of bubbling lava, the whole place looked… well, like something out of a dream.

But for King Dedede, what he now saw on "Kracko-Cam" was nothing short of a nightmare. He hastily moved his bulk over to a nearby computer, slumped down in the swivel chair in front of it and typed the following message:

Captain Falcon spotted in cahoots with large blue rodent. Possible threat. Sending out Paint Roller.

He rattled off a few e-mail addresses into the "To:" bar and hit the send button, sweating ever so slightly. Then he slid his swivel chair, creaking slightly under the penguin's weight, over to yet another computer and prepared to press the button marked "Paint Roller".

But as his mitten hovered over the button, another idea came into his head. It was the idea that Paint Roller alone might not be fast enough to catch up with Captain Falcon and the large blue rodent, who was darting around the increasingly flickery screen at incredible speed. He didn't want to send it out of Dreamland after them. PR and Kracko were his own "pets", and especially if Kracko needed to be taken in for another upgrade (as was looking increasingly likely) he needed PR to remain in the country and keep the peace. This was not a nice idea, and it caused him to sweat even more.

He gobbled down a few kilogrammes of fruit to calm himself down and help him think. The King ate in order to facilitate his thought processes. He also ate to celebrate his successes and to forget about his failures. And sometimes he ate because he was bored, or because he wanted to eat. None of this reduced his prodigious waistline, or the difficulties for the servants that carried his sedan chair.

As he chewed on a bunch of grapes, the juices running down his beak, the sweet sugars seemed to galvanise his thought processes into action. Once again shifting the poor swivel chair, he typed the name "Wario" into the "To:" bar and composed another message, getting fruit juices all over the keyboard.

Behind him, "Kracko-Cam" went black.

o o o

"Too easy! Piece of cake!"

The fact that Sonic was panting these words between gasps for breath somewhat undermined the effect they were meant to convey. Nevertheless, the fact remained that what was once Mecha-Kracko now lay on the grass, its one eye closed, its cloud part dispersed and the metal core non-functional.

"Once again, my Falcon Punch saves the day," gasped Captain Falcon, similarly exhausted.

"What? I did most of the work! If I hadn't been distracting him with my spinning attacks, you'd never have had time to punch him in the eye!"

"Yeah, thanks. Next time I need a distraction, I'll let you know."

Sonic did not have the time or the energy to argue. "Look, we're getting sidetracked here. My name's Sonic, you're Captain Falcon, and if we work together we'll have a much easier time getting what we both want."

The Captain did not answer, so Sonic pressed on.

"I know this might sound stupid, but I'm from another planet, not so different to this one. About a year ago, we received two distress signals from Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom, and despite repeated attempts to contact this planet we've had no success. So about half of one of your years ago we sent down an operative, name of Solid Snake – hugely capable guy – to have a look at what's going on here and to report back."

The Captain gazed at Sonic with a melancholy look in his eyes, but said nothing, so the latter pressed on.

"We had one message from him, confirming his safe landing. Then nothing. We tried to send someone else down – me, as it happens – but there was an all-but-impenetrable barrier around the planet. So we spent the past five months or so coming up with a system that could get me through the barrier, and here I am.

"I'm on this planet to find any traces of Snake I can, and to help you guys out in any way possible. Like I said, I know this sounds really stupid, but…"

"It doesn't sound stupid. Did you forget that I'm an F-Zero racer? I go all over the galaxy to take part in races. I'm guessing you're from Mobius?"

Sonic nodded, seriously impressed. Not because he was modest enough to think his home planet unimportant (he was not), but because he had thought that Nintens were too stupid to know about anything outside their planet.

The Captain continued. "I'll help you out. I'll tell you everything I know. But you gotta promise me one thing in return."

Sonic scratched his ear. "And what's that?"

He felt the Captain's hand at his throat once more, felt the hot breath and drops of spittle on his face.

"PLEASE HELP ME GET MY CAR BACK!"

o o o

Time passes.

Sonic and Captain Falcon travelled in Captain Falcon's replacement car out of Dreamland and into Hyrule, one of the two biggest nations over all of Nintendo. The border controls along the Hyrule-Dreamland border were non-existent, because border controls had disappeared from almost everywhere a year ago for reasons that will shortly become clear.

As they journeyed in the cramped, slow little car, the Captain told Sonic the story of what had happened to Nintendo, planet of heroes. The lucky reader gets to read the abridged version. Sonic had to make do with the Captain's account, which dissolved into how great his car was and how much he missed it every few seconds.

And time passes.