Christmas for Heroes: A Fictional Holiday Story


 

The
following is a work of fiction, culled from the collaborative and creative minds
of GameZone.com writers (in order of appearance) Matt Eberle, Code Cowboy,
Angelina Sandoval, Rob Watkins, Anise Hollingshead, Natalie Romano, Mike David,
Louis Bedigian and Michael Lafferty. It is intended for entertainment purposes.

 


Christmas for Heroes


Chapter 1: The Edge of a Crisis

The dull
clatter of wooden swords striking one another echoed through the dojo. Fierce
battle cries and derisive calls seemed at odds with the festive decorations
scattered around the open room. A tiny tree stood in the corner, its slowly
blinking lights casting a small circle of joy in shades of green, red, yellow,
and blue. Streamers hung from the rafters along with a few stray pieces of
mistletoe. Sitting in a corner, safely removed from any mistletoe, Conan watched
the duel.

Link was
wielding a practice sword constructed of heavy wood. His shield was covered with
a piece of neon pink foam padding that clashed garishly with his green tunic and
the Santa-trimmed hat perched on his head. The young hero took a single swipe
with his sword before being forced back. Link quickly turned to the defensive,
using his shield and blade to form an impenetrable defense. Zero was taking
great swipes with the two-handed practice sword he was using. The Maverick
Hunter’s sword seemed like a flicker of lightning. It shot this way and that,
slashing and thrusting. With both hands on the grip Zero was using his powerful
“muscles” to their utmost to try and get ahead of his mortal opponent.

“You’re
trying too hard,” Link shouted over the clatter of their weapons. “Relax and
just accept things as they happen.”

“I make
things happen,” Zero shot back, delivering a punishing overhead blow to Link’s
shield. Link grinned and proceeded to let Zero force him down onto one knee. His
shield was raised, holding back Zero’s sword as the reploid struggled to force
his way through Link’s defense.

“That’s when
you leave yourself open!” Link cried. He shifted his weight slightly, causing
Zero’s sword to scrape off his shield and slam in to the floor. At the same
moment, Link spun in a fierce circle. His practice blade slammed into the back
of Zero’s ankles. Off-balance from the sudden maneuver the Maverick Hunter was
caught unprepared. Zero’s feet shot out from under him. He crashed to the ground
heavily.

“You could
have a point,” Zero conceded.

“So, why do
you keep asking for these practice bouts if you’re not learning anything?” Link
quipped.

“I am
learning,” Zero replied with a grin. “And you’re one of the best swordsmen out
there. You’ve got more experience than almost anyone else.” The reploid climbed
to his feet before continuing. “I just think that fighting with these toy swords
is a waste. If I had my Z-saber you wouldn’t have won so easily. With the Sigma
Blade you’d be in serious trouble.”

“Sure,” Link
agreed. “So why don’t you get one of those, I’ll get the Master Sword and my bag
of tricks,” the Hylian laughed. He leaned back and rested his hand on his hip
where his magic pouch usually hung.

“Uh, let’s
save that for later,” Zero said quickly. “I want to be in top form tomorrow, so
no nicks or dings.”

“What is
tomorrow?” Conan demanded. The other two swordsmen started at the sudden
interruption.

“I’m
sparring with X,” Zero replied after a moment.

“Oh, now the
truth comes out,” Link teased.

“And this is
the victory you train so hard for?” Conan asked.

“Well, yes.
He’s my biggest rival. Winning a sparring match with him means I can tease him
for weeks!”

“Bah, that
is not victory,” the Cimmerian laughed as Zero and Link began putting their
sparring gear away.

“Are you
sure it isn’t so you can look good in front of the other Maverick Hunters? Or
maybe you just want to impress Layer,” Link said slyly.

“You should
talk,” Zero laughed. He reached into Link’s gym bag, ignoring the other hero’s
yelp of protest, and extracted a single twig of mistletoe. “Think no one will
notice this going missing from the dojo? Or do you not have any mistletoe handy
at home?”

Link blushed
furiously. “It’s not what it looks like!”

Conan shook
his head. “I’m still not convinced you children know what real victory is.”

“Victory is
getting to the Maverick before X,” Zero replied quickly. “The Mavericks these
days just aren’t much of a challenge,” he concluded with a sigh.

Zero turned
to Link. The young Hylian shrugged, “Victory is beating the bad guy and going
home to see Zelda.”

Conan
laughed. “Victory is to crush your enemies, drive their developers before you
and hear the lamentations of the stockholders.”

Link stared
at the much larger swordsman for a long moment. “You need to lighten up, Conan.
It’s the Christmas season!”

“What more
would you ask of me? I have been decorating with the rest of you, singing
Christmas carols with that girl, Alex, and her friend who never says anything …“

“Orange
suit, goatee, and glasses?” Zero interrupted. When Conan nodded he grinned.
“That’s Gordon. He never says much.”

“… I have
sung Christmas carols, and I have given presents.” Conan crossed his arms across
his chest and glowered down at the smaller swordsmen.

“Looks like
someone needs to watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ again,” Link said to
Zero with a perfectly straight face. The mirth dancing in his eyes belied the
calm, even tone he used.

Whatever
Zero tried to say in response was cut off by the sound of the dojo doors being
flung open as if struck by a battering ram. The wooden panels bounced off the
walls with a heavy boom before wobbling closed. Sitting in the entryway was a
small golden ball of light. “I’ve been looking all over for you, Link!” Navi
practically yelled. “What have you been doing here? There’s an emergency going
on!”

Link looked
at his sometimes traveling companion in confusion. “What could possibly be
wrong? Even Ganon takes time off for Christmas.”

“You mean
you don’t know?” Navi screeched. “That’s it – the three of you are coming with
me right this minute!”

“Now just
hold on …“ Zero began. His voice was cut off with a sudden popping sound as the
tiny fairy’s teleportation spell whisked the four of them away.

_ _ _

The familiar
walls of the dojo vanished and were replaced by what seemed like smoke made from
lights. It was as if they had stepped into a vacuum and had no contact
with solid objects. Traveling on the wind, with a peculiar scent of sulfur,
lavender and even a whisk of perfume. Link merely closed his eyes and a smile
beamed as he “enjoyed the ride,” leaning closer to Navi, as he knew the most
secure position was closest to the source of the spell. His friends looked far
less at ease and seemed to be grasping for something solid to steady themselves,
but such an effort was futile within the churning vapors of a horizontal
freefall. What seemed to take an eternity was actually over within seconds of
its beginning, and they were once again on solid ground, without the lightest
remnant of the chaos that had just ensued.

They were
now standing on firm, dusty ground with nothing but distant rust-orange
mountains jutting towards the sky in the horizon. They stood there regaining
their bearings and trying to comprehend what had just happened, but the silence
was short-lived.

“What… the…
?” Zero began slowly, but was cut off by the sound of the iconic Cimmerian
dropping to one knee and trying his best to contain a choking cough that seemed
to be on the verge of becoming something more … solid. Though they
couldn’t help but stare in whimsical wonder, they all felt compassion at the
sight of the great warrior being brought to the verge of sickness from their
quick celestial journey.

“I think,”
said Navi, “The question is not ‘What,’ but rather ‘Where?”

Link, being
far less disoriented than the others, quickly interjected “Ok, Where are
we? why are we here? and I suggest you get right to it as our friend here is not
used to ‘porting’ and is likely to be in a very poor mood rather quickly,”
gesturing with an open hand to the slowly rising Conan.

As if
answering, the hulking barbarian managed a mumbled “Crom …” before bending
forward again in discomfort. Though knowing well enough to not actually make
contact, Zero reached out a hand to help steady Conan, should he sway too far
one way and start to topple.

Navi, again
oblivious to such matters, put away a fistful of charms he had been holding,
then patted his chest as if checking inventory of something hidden beneath his
garb.

“Yes, well,
we are here, and here is a place called Sierra. The exact time is not as
important as it is to know that we are here because if we were not, then
tomorrow would have little meaning to thousands of champions all over Earth. In
Sierra time is everywhere. One step over there and you are in yesterday, the
same amount of steps in this direction will take you back to when we arrived,”
Navi said with confidence, as he pointed to various positions around them.

What little
of Zero’s patience existed was now gone. He turned to Link and accusingly asked
him if any of this made sense to him.

“I think,”
Link began, “if I understand you correctly, that this is a dimension that allows
us to slip in and out of time, instead of teleporting?” Just the word
“teleporting” caused the now vertical Conan to tense up in a challenging “I
dare you
” kind of posture.

“OK, so
we’re in a shifting dimension in the middle of nowhere. I get that. Now tell us
the ‘why’ part?” Zero said with annoyance.

“I don’t
know how you have all missed out on what’s been going on, but there’s a serious
crisis going on, and the folks at the North Pole need our help.” started Navi,
“Santa is not going to be able to deliver any of the newest games this season.
They seem to have gone ‘missing,’ and no one knows where they are. They are
trying to find them, but unless they do so before midnight, the big guy will be
unable to deliver valuable games to old and young players all over the planet.
If you knew him like we do, you’d know how distraught he is right now”.

Conan, now
fully alert, towering and impatient, asserted “Santa. Ha! What good is this man?
We did not need him, and we certainly did not need pitiful games to play
with! We played with our weapons and made-pretend war and how to crush our
enemies! Toys?!”

“Well” Link
started as he snuck a quick glance at the posturing Conan, “that explains a lot.
Navi, am I to understand that we are supposed to go looking for games that
someone misplaced? I’m going out on a limb, here, but I kind of side with big
boy, here. There are other things besides games. Why not deliver some extra
candy, instead?”

Navi was now
impatient and agitated. “This is more than that, and no — we are not looking for
the missing games. We have Carmen SanDiego, Lara Croft, the Prince of Persia and
some others working on that mission. Heck, when Sonic heard they went missing,
he was rolling out the door before I could even teleport him,” recalling that
event made Navi, for a moment, break a smile. “For these players, the games may
be the only thing they wanted. Some people need them to help them develop
their thinking or coordination abilities.”

That made
Zero pause for a moment. He recalled the lonely hours on recon missions when
there was nothing to do but wait. He wanted to keep his mind sharp and alert. In
those times, he would dig into his tactical bag and pull out his handheld chess
game to while away the hours. That seemed to break the ice in his heart, and he
understood the gravity of the situation.

“So”, Zero
started “if we are not the ones looking for the games, why are we here?”

Knowing he
had Zero’s attention, and Link would be onboard no matter what the mission, Navi
elaborated, “Games of all kinds have been envisioned, created and played for
centuries on Earth. There are thousands that are still out there,” gesturing to
the plains of Sierra. “We hope that the Recovery Team can find the new games,
but we need to have a backup plan in case they run out of time. We’re here to
find the games from yesterday. I will bring more of your peers here to assist,
but we must get going immediately. Traversing Sierra will enable you to slip in
and out of the cracks of time. Everything ever created is here. The only problem
with this portal is that there is no known map. You will have to follow clues
and ask those you find along the way”.

This
surprised Conan. “There are people here? They live here?”

Not wishing
to insult the massive Cimmerian, Navi only said “This place is a large rip of
the Universe’s fabric. Not just people, but other things slip in and out —
constantly. Some stay, while others only pop in for a brief look and return to
their own time or place”. Navi waited for Conan to get angry and push for more
answers, but thankfully, he seemed content to let it go for now. Perhaps there
was something in the warrior’s heart that knew how important this mission is.

“You said
‘other things’. What the heck does that mean?” Zero seemed tense again. “You
know, we aren’t exactly packing a lot of punch, here” he said as he presented
the wooden sword as if for inspection.

This also
made Link painfully aware of his missing bag and silly-looking shield. With that
realization, he took off the neon pink padding. “At least I have … this. I’ve
done pretty well with it in the past”.

Navi started
to say something else, but suddenly grabbed his garb — which covered the article
beneath it. He reached in and pulled out a stone attached to a leather string.
The crude necklace was glowing bright green. “I have to go. I have found another
hero. Get started. Find as many gifts as you can.” He handed a small bag to
Link. “Drop one of these markers wherever you find something. That will enable
someone to locate it later — and pick it up for delivery”.

Link looked
in the bag, which seemed to contain hundreds of tiny orange pebbles. He knows
not to question magical articles, and just closed the bag before tucking it
away, safely. No map, unfamiliar terrain and anything could be out there — to
help or hinder — their mission. Sounds like another day looking for Zelda.

Navi seemed
to collect himself and stepped away from the others. Softening a bit, he turned to
Conan and just said “Sorry about all that. I guess I have to work on my
barbarian skills.” Conan just nodded at the pseudo-apology and stepped farther
back than the others were standing.

“Good luck.
Link can reach me if I am needed. I will get you more help. Christmas needs you.
Be safe.” His eyes closed, silent words poured from his lips and in a flash, he
was gone.

Link, Zero
and Conan stood for a moment, absorbing the situation. Link was the first to
speak, “Well, which way should we go?”

The words
were barely out of his mouth when Conan started walking off briskly. “This way.
Crom will protect me and we will complete our mission”.

Weaponless,
Zero knew you don’t argue with the big man. He and Link stepped quickly to catch
up.


Check back tomorrow for Chapter 2 of the
Christmas for Heroes