Chapter 36
by Warteen

**Warteen falls into the pit in despair. What will he do now?**


**He shuffles through his bag rapidly, looking for something, anything, that could possibly help him out of this situation. Then he comes across - you guessed it - the superstrong twine!!!**

Warteen: Yes!

**He quickly ties the twine into a shabby knot (yes, he does all this while he's still falling) and throws that end of it up toward the edge of the pit as hard as he possibly can, praying that it catches on something. Conveniently, it does. The twine catches on a metal rod that's sticking out of the floor next to the trap door for no good reason, and Warteen is safely held up by it. Of course, he's well aware that The Master will be at the top of the pit any second to slice the life-saving rope. He closes his eyes and holds his breath, waiting for that moment to come... but strangely, it never does.**

Warteen: (looking up) Huh? Did he leave?

**Warteen, seemingly safe for the moment, begins to scale the wall of the pit. After a lot of huffing and puffing, he finally makes it to the top and cautiously pokes his head out of the pit. Just as he thought, The Master is nowhere to be seen.**

Warteen: What in the world...

**He scans his surroundings. Everything seems to be in order; his companions (now only five of them) are still blissfully encased in their multi-colored crystals. Other than that, the room (if you could call it that) is empty. He walks over to the crystals, forgetting about The Master for the moment. He looks at the crystallized pieces of Erronius, still on the floor.**

Warteen: (nearly in tears) Guys... what am I supposed to do now?!

**He then notices that the portal is still open and glowing.**

Warteen: Maybe... the answer is in there. But... I just can't leave my friends! What am I going to do... *slumps to the floor in defeat*

**Just then, Josh Achatz, dressed as a soothsayer, pops out of mid-air. Warteen stares at him, wide-eyed.**

Josh: Hey, what's up?
Warteen: How'd you do that?!
Josh: I'm a soothsayer in this story, I can do whatever I want!
Warteen: (shaking off the awe) But you never did that while we were doing the play! And besides, the play's over! You're supposed to be in the land of overly self-referential inside jokes!
Josh: Look, that doesn't matter right now! You're in trouble, and I can help you!
Warteen: You can?
Josh: Of course I can! Didn't you see my nifty entrance?
Warteen: *gets up and looks at his friends* Just tell me what to do!
Josh: Not so fast. There's some bad news.
Warteen: What is it?!
Josh: The only way to do these things is by energy transfusion. That means that I can only free two of your friends, and even by doing that, I'd be making both of us very weak, possibly even dead.
Warteen: You'd be willing to do that to yourself?
Josh: Sure, why not? I don't even know that I'm in this story anyway.
Warteen: Wow.
Josh: There's more bad news, though.
Warteen: Oh, I hope it's good.
Josh: It's terrible! Even with the energy transfusion, you'd still have to break them out.
Warteen: But when the crystal breaks, the person dies!!
Josh: Right. So you have to be really careful. Use some kind of Exacto-Knife spell if you can.
Warteen: But I don't know any spells!
Josh: Uh, you'll just have to use that handy sword of yours then.
Warteen: That I can do.
Josh: All right, I'm going first, then. Who should I free?
Warteen: Um...
Josh: You should pick the person who you think will be the most useful in freeing the others.
Warteen: But wait a minute, you're the only one who knows how to do the energy transfusion! Are you sure there's not another way to do this?
Josh: There's not, unless...
Warteen: What?!
Josh: It's not important. C'mon, who do I free, time is short!
Warteen: What do you mean, time is short?!
Josh: *shouting* It just IS!!!
Warteen: You should free Queen Jaine first. She'll be able to figure something out.
Josh: You got it.

**Josh chants a brief, soothsayer-ish spell while he touches the crystal holding Queen Jaine. In almost no time, Warteen sees an inexplicably visible power ebb out of Josh and into the crystal. But it doesn't seem to be getting to Jaine.**

Warteen: I think something is wrong...
Josh: *breaks his hand away* Ahhh!

**The crystal begins to rock back and forth. Josh lays on the ground in front of it, dazed and powerless. Warteen sees the crystal holding Queen Jaine tip forward and tries to stand it back up by throwing himself at it, but there's nothing he can do because it's far too heavy for him. It falls forward, right on top of Josh. It crushes the bottom 75% of Josh's body.**

Warteen: NOOOOOO!!!
Josh: Ouch... Uh... Uhh....
Warteen: *ducks down next to Josh's ear* What is it?! Speak to me!
Josh: The other way to... find...someone... psychic.. powers...

**Josh's eyes close. Warteen stares in horror and disbelief. Josh's body then disappears, Yoda style. His soothsayer outfit prevents the crystal from being scratched on the stone floor.**

Warteen: (now in an even worse emotional state than before, and no better off) *screams in rage and despair* WHAT DO I DO NOW?!

**After a moment, Warteen realizes that he needs to keep his head clear. He hasn't lost his friends yet, and they're counting on him.**

Warteen: Josh said psychic powers. The Master said I have psychic powers. Granted, they're not the same kind, but maybe, just maybe... *walks over to the crystal containing Monkey* Here goes nothing... *places both his hands on the crystal*


**Warteen suddenly finds himself on an island with nothing but banana trees full of monkeys.**

Warteen: Huh?

**Banana trees full of female monkeys.**

Warteen: *grinning for the first time in a while* This must be the place. Monkey! MONKEY!!!

**Suddenly, the sea of monkey hormones parts to reveal Monkey in the middle of one of the trees.**

Warteen: Monkey!
Monkey: (dreamily) Ook...
Warteen: MONKEY!
Monkey: (snapping out of it) Ook! Ooh ooh!

**Monkey jumps out of the tree and lands in front of Warteen. Warteen holds him arms out to Monkey. Monkey hesitates. He glances back to the tree filled with bananas and beckoning female monkeys. But then he faces forward and leaps into Warteen's arms. Suddenly, the whole world goes black.**


**Warteen finds himself back in the dark chamber belonging to The Master. Only this time, there are only four crystals in front of him (including the one on the floor). And at his side is Monkey. Warteen looks down at him and gives him a big hug.**

Warteen: (euphorically) I've never been so glad to see you, Monkey!
Monkey: (happily as he can be while the life is being squeezed out of him) Ook ook!
Warteen: Oh, sorry. But this is so great! Do you know what this means?
Monkey: (puzzled) Ook?
Warteen: No, it means that all I have to do is go into everybody's perfect world and get them out of it! Wait here, Monkey. I'll be right back.

**Warteen steps back to the facedown crystal that contains Queen Jaine. He places his hands on it.**

Warteen: .....

**Nothing happens. Monkey looks at Warteen with a mocking grin.**

Warteen: (making contorted faces) Woaaah! Aaargh! Gwuhhhhh!!! ...ok, I swear, this worked before.
Monkey: (gleefully) Ee ee ee!
Warteen: This is just crazy. Why isn't it working?! This is IMPORTANT! Maybe... Maybe I need to touch the front of it? *tries to push the crystal so the front is facing up, to no avail* Grrr... I hope that's the problem. I really do. Jaine, you'll have to wait for now, until I can get more help.

**Warteen turns back to the other three crystals, still upright and undisturbed.**

Warteen: Eenie, meenie, mynie... Oh, forget it. Bob's a ninja, he has a trained mind, right? He shouldn't be too hard to save, should he? *making up his mind* Right. I hope this works...

**Warteen tentatively places his hands on Bob's crystal. Then he disappears.**

Monkey: Ook?


**Warteen finds himself in a janitor's closet. Puzzled, he looks around. He then hears a loud, barking voice shouting in the next room.**

Warteen: Is this right?

**He throws the door open to see a sight that would almost be amusing if the situation weren't so dire: Bob the Ninja engaged in hand-to-hand combat with none other than Spider-Man. The noise Warteen had heard was one J. Jonah Jamison standing off to the side, yelling advice and taunts to the combatants.**

J.J.: No! Duck! There you go! Come on! You call that a punch?! Kill that wall-crawling freak!!!
Warteen: Excuse me...
J.J.: Where did you come from?!
Warteen: Uh, that closet over there... *points*
J.J.: Well, what do you want?
Warteen: I'd like you to shut up so I could talk to Bob.
J.J.: You've got some nerve on you, kid. Nobody talks like that to J. Jonah Jamison!

**Warteen, deciding that the time for subtlety is long over, pulls out his rapier and hits J.J. on the head with its hilt. The moustached man collapses to the ground. This, of course, gets the fighters' attention. The battle screeches to a halt.**

Bob: (happily) Greetings. Are you here to watch the battle?
Spider-Man: Oh, great. TWO heavily armed psychos.
Warteen: (ignoring Spider-Man) Bob, come with me.
Bob: Where? And why?
Warteen: Out of here, and because we need to defeat The Master. Don't you remember?
Bob: (calmly) Ah yes, The Master. But, as you can see, I'm needed here, to fight this warrior.
Spider-Man: Yeah, so if you could please just wait your turn, I'll happily send you to the police when I'm good and ready.
Warteen: (getting frustrated) Bob, this isn't real!!!
Bob & Spider-Man: Of course it is!
Warteen: Haven't you noticed that you're not getting hurt?!
Bob: (defensively) That's just because I'm so agile!
Warteen: No, it's because this is your idea of the perfect world! Now come on! We have to get out of here!
Bob: But...
Warteen: No excuses!
Spider-Man: Now just a minute. You two aren't going anywhere!
Bob: I hadn't intended to! *squares off to restart the fight*
Warteen: (trying a different approach) Peter, would you get out of here?
Spider-Man: What'd you call me? ...Peter, who's that?
Warteen: Nice try. Hey, I think Aunt May is in trouble.
Spider-Man: Aunt May! I'll deal with you later! You stay here! *fires a blast of web each at Bob and Warteen, sticking them both to the wall behind them, then leaps out a window*
Warteen: (stuck) Urk! Bob!
Bob: (also stuck) It's all right.

**Bob reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a cannister of sulfuric acid, dissolving the web-like solution. He then walks calmly over to Warteen and spreads some of the liquid on the sticky substance holding him to the wall, which also dissolves.**

Warteen: Bob! We've got to get out of here.
Bob: Agreed! Let's go after that fiend!
Warteen: Yes!
Bob: The Spider Clan will regret the day they crossed Bob the Ninja...
Warteen: No!
Bob: Oh, yes! Now, off we go! *starts to run toward the window*
Warteen: Bob! The Master killed Erronius!
Bob: *immediately stops in his tracks and turns around slowly* What?

**Warteen can only hang his head at the terrible memory of Erronius's death. Bob, more slowly than usual, walks over to Warteen and places his hand on his shoulder. Then, the whole world goes black.**


**Warteen finds himself back in the familiar chamber once again, and this time there are only three crystals. Bob sits on the floor cross-legged, with Monkey looking up at Warteen.**

Warteen: Success!
Bob: What do you mean? Erronius, he has... he has been...
Warteen: Bob, I can't explain right now. I need you to just stay here and wait for me. I'm really sorry. *surveys the three remaining crystals* Bartender, I guess you're next.
Bob: The Master will pay dearly for this.

**Warteen places his hands on the front of the Bartender's crystal. Bob and Monkey watch him disappear.**


**Warteen finds himself in what is definitely is a bar - not too surprising. He looks for the Bartender in the well-lit room and spots him almost right away, dressed in a mailcarrier's outfit and sitting in the middle of a group of patrons who are hanging on his every word. He's about to approach him, when...**

Patron #1: Hey there, Warteen!
Patron #2: How's the adventure coming along?
Warteen: What? Do I know you people?
Patron #1: Of course! This is the place where everyone knows your name!
Patron #2: That's right!
Warteen: (to himself) Where everybody knows your... Oh, give me a break. What is it with perfection involving pop culture? Well, let's see. I didn't actually watch the show much, but I believe Bartender is dressed up as Cliff, the mail carrier. So, this might be a really easy job for me. All I have to do is wait for the real Cliff to walk in, and then approach Bartender and take him out of here before this manufactured reality can justify itself.... Man, my head hurts.

**The two patrons, who've been listening to Warteen's little diatribe, look appropriately baffled. They take their drinks elsewhere. Then, just as Warteen had hoped, a man dressed as a mailcarrier walks through the bar's front door.**

Warteen: Ha! This is my chance! *starts to approach Bartender*
Everyone in bar: BERNIE!!!
Warteen: *stops* What?!

**The mailman approaches the counter and sits down next to Bartender. They're dressed exactly alike, but nobody seems to notice. However, Bartender is looking at the man kind of strangely.**

Warteen: (recovering from shock) Bartender!

**Warteen receives an answer from both Bartender and the man standing behind the counter, who looks strangely like Ted Danson.**

Bartender & Ted: Yes?

**The two men look at each other for a moment, then Bartender gets up and walks over to Warteen.**

Bartender: What is it, lad?
Warteen: Bartender, I have to get you out of here! This world is a fake!
Bartender: What? That's ridiculous.

**Warteen gives a pointed look at "Bernie".**

Bartender: Okay, maybe you've got something there.
Warteen: C'mon, we have to get out of here! The Master must be stopped!
Bartender: (after a long pause) ...okay, kid. Lead the way.
Warteen: Well, I guess you just have to touch me.
Bartender: Fine.

**The Bartender places his hand on Warteen's shoulder. Nothing happens.**

Bartender: Uh, am I not touching you in the right place?
Warteen: Ha ha, very funny. I don't understand it. Unless...
Bartender: What?
Warteen: Maybe you really have to mean it. Maybe we can't go until you're really ready to go.
Bartender: Well, I am ready.
Warteen: (sarcastically) Oh yeah, I really believe that.
Bartender: (pleading) Well come on! Would you really want to leave this?! A place with friends everywhere, where everyone knows your name and cares about you? Would you be so eager to leave that, to go back to a world where there's nothing but evil and hatred and pain?!
Warteen: (in a low voice) Bartender, it's not REAL.
Bartender: You know what? I disagree. I think it's as real as anything I've ever known.
Warteen: (now angry) This is not about YOU! This is about our friends, and everyone in the world! If The Master isn't stopped, who knows how many people will be hurt or killed?! And we're the only ones who can do that!!!
Bartender: .....
Warteen: Are you honestly going to sit back and tell me with your actions that you're selfish enough to let those people die when you can do something about it?! Who could be that selfish?!
Bartender: .....
Warteen: Anyway, I'm leaving. This is your one chance to come with me. If you say that you're not coming, I won't stop you. You'll be the one who has to live with yourself.
Bartender: Get out of here.
Warteen: (furious) WHAT?!
Bartender: Just kidding. Let's go.

**The Bartender puts his hand back on Warteen's shoulder, and this time, the world goes black as before.**


**Thankfully, there are no unpleasant surprises. Warteen is back in the chamber, with only two crystals remaining: Queen Jaine (on the floor) and The Great Chad. The Bartender is standing off to the side, and Bob and Monkey wait for further instructions on the floor.**

Warteen: So far, so good. I'll do Jaine next, if we can move this crystal. Guys, could you help me here?

**The crystal is insanely heavy, but with the combined strength of Warteen, Bob, Bartender, and Monkey, it is turned right side up.**

Warteen: God, please be with me.

**Warteen places his hands on the front of Queen Jaine's crystal.**

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