Disclaimer: I do not own Zathura or any of its characters. I watched it one night when I was sick with a migraine and couldn't sleep. My hyperactive imagination then spawned the Game Masters, Zöe, and the Penalty Box, and this story only exists because they kept badgering and poking and interrupting my work until I'd plotted out this story. Now that it's plotted, I have to finish it. Because I'm compulsive that way. Grrr... I don't know how long it'll take, but I hope you enjoy my story! :)
The title of this story was inspired by the ST:TNG episode "Hide and Q," in which the powerful entity Q sticks Security Officer Tasha Yar in a "Penalty Box" for refusing to compete in his "game."
The Penalty Box
By Rowena Zahnrei
Sound waves from the laser blasts reverberated silently through the vastness of space, audible only within the contained atmosphere of the rambling wooden house. The Zorgon battleship made another pass, firing its laser cannons into the upper floor bedrooms, which exploded in a rush of flame and escaped air.
"They're trying to kill us!" Walter shouted, frantically turning the silver key to reset the counter on the clockwork game that sat between him and his younger brother, Danny. "We're going to get blown up by aliens, and it's all your fault!"
"How is it my fault?" Danny shrieked, joining Walter under the kitchen table as plaster hailed down from the ceiling.
"You're the one who spun those Zorgon monsters!" Walter yelled over the blasts and splintering, rending sounds overhead. "You're the one who started playing this stupid game in the first place! If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be in this mess!"
The red 'Go' button popped out and Walter pressed it, setting the game counter spinning even as a fresh explosion sent the boys sliding across the ravaged floor. They slammed against the brick oven with a grunt, and Walter grabbed for the game.
"Nine!" he exclaimed as a little blue starship started moving across the metal board with a grinding of clockwork gears. After nine spaces, it stopped and a game card popped out of a slot.
"Hey, it's gold," Walter said, and snatched it. "I bet that means I'm winning!"
"So what?" Danny said. "You always win at everything!"
"Only when you don't wreck the game by cheating!"
"I don't cheat!" Danny screamed.
"You do so!" Walter retorted, rising to his knees to ride out another house-rattling blast. "You cheat at everything, Danny. You're such a dumb baby, you could never beat me if you played fair!"
"I'm not dumb, and I'm not a baby!" Danny cried.
"You're a baby!" Walter screamed back. "A whiny, selfish little baby who cheats and cries and wrecks everything you touch!"
"That's not true!"
"It is true!" Walter roared, shielding his eyes with his hand as a cold white light started pooling into the ruined kitchen. "Just look around! Your stupid game trashed Dad's house!"
"That's not my fault!" Danny cried. "I didn't know the game would send us to space!"
Walter ignored him, too angry to notice or care that the mysterious light was getting steadily brighter.
"It is too your fault! Everything's your fault! You wrecked this whole family! Mom and Dad got along fine before they had you. They only fought a little bit. But after you were born, they fought all the time, always blaming each other for you fussing and crying. And then they got divorced and it's all your fault! I hate you! I wish you'd never been born!"
The blinding light blanked out the kitchen, and Walter cringed away from it. When it passed a moment later, Danny was gone.
"Danny!" Walter shouted. "Danny, get back here and take your turn! We have to finish this stupid game before the Zorgons destroy the whole house! Danny!"
There was no answer. Walter sighed and slammed his back against the chipped and peeling wall. Only then did he think to look at his golden card.
"Shooting Star," he read. "Make a wish as it passes."
A strange chill washed over him, and he recalled the blinding light. He'd half-assumed it was the Zorgon ship, but what if…
Walter ran from the kitchen, his heart pounding in something approaching panic. He stared around the chewed up living room, his Dad's ruined office. Broken toys, toppled furniture, and dusty bits of wall and ceiling littered the floor, but Walter saw no sign of Danny.
"Danny? Danny, answer me! Danny, if you're hiding somewhere, I swear…"
The stairs were broken and splintered, but Walter managed to climb to the upper floor. He burst into the room he and Danny shared. The outer wall and window were gone, obliterated by Zorgon laser blasts, but Walter barely noticed. He tore the sheets and blankets off the beds, pulled the clothes and games out of the closets, all the time beating back a horrible certainty he couldn't bring himself to acknowledge.
"Danny, I know you're here somewhere," he shouted. "You better come out now, because if I have to come find you I promise you'll regret it!"
Getting no response, Walter ran to his big sister Lisa's room. A previous spin had trapped the teenager in cryonic sleep, but Walter was too panicked to think.
"Lisa," he cried, pulling at his sister's frozen arm. "Lisa, you have to wake up! Danny's gone and…and… Lisa, I think I did something terrible. Please, Lisa, I need your help! Lisa!"
The house shook violently and dust rained down, skittering across Lisa's floor. Walter ran to the window.
"Zorgons…" he gasped, and scrambled back down the crumbling stairs to the kitchen.
The game was half-buried under a clump of rubble and kitchen debris. Walter dug it out and slammed it on what was left of the kitchen table, turning and turning the silver key.
"Come on," he urged as more Zorgon blasts slammed into the house. "Come on. Just a few more spaces and I win the game. Danny will be back, Lisa will be unfrozen, and this whole stupid nightmare will be over!"
The key kept turning, feeling disturbingly loose in its housing. Desperate to roll, to get another card, another wish, Walter pushed the red 'Go' button, jabbing at it again and again and again, but it didn't budge. Zathura was a two player game, and Walter already had his turn.
Walter roared and hurled the game across the room.
"No!" he shrieked, his eyes stinging with frightened tears as the Zorgon attack grew more intense, tearing huge chunks from the beleaguered house. Soon the place would be little more than sticks and splinters, and Walter would find himself exposed to the airless vacuum of space.
"Please, I can't die here," he sobbed, then yelped in terror as the ceiling collapsed all together, bringing with it a rain of rugs, books, and furniture from the room upstairs. He huddled as close to the wall as he could and shouted into the star-studded blackness.
"I didn't mean to make that wish. I'm sorry. Danny, I'm so sorry!"
The wall behind him blew out and Walter was yanked violently backwards, the kitchen, house, even the Zorgon ship fading to impossibly distant specks as the mouth of a wormhole opened wide to swallow him whole.
To Be Continued...