} "The rodents of unusual size?" asked the Oracle casually, looking over
} the supplicant's shoulder into the fang-riddled maw of a gigantic rat.
} "I don't believe they exist."
} With impeccable timing the beast attacked. The Oracle sidestepped the
} assault easily - because he saw it coming, and because it was directed
} at the supplicant. Sating its ravenous hunger on the still-gurgling
} supplicant, the beast ignored the Oracle as he sauntered away.
} Emerging from the Princess Bride simulation, the Oracle studied the
} portal to the other games on the PS-Y demo CD-DVD-EIEIO-ROM. The
} full-immersion Leisure Suit Larry game sounded intriguing until he saw
} that bore a Teen rating. Had it been the full Adult-Only version, it
} would have been his first choice. "I'll have to order that as a
} tribute," he mumbled to himself.
} The other demos were the usual fare: something based on the latest
} Disney flick, a Star Wars shoot-em-up, DNA Tetris (The tagline read
} "Complete the Uber-Marmot and rule the world!"), Tiger Woods Golf
} XXVIII, and Sonic the Hedgehog.
} "Wha...?" The Oracle was confused - a situation he didn't encounter
} often. "Sonic? Jeez, that's gotta be 50 years old!" He clicked the
} Sonic icon and stepped into the portal. "This is going to be -so-
} What greeted the Oracle on the other side would be more accurately
} called pandemonium. Instead of the usual object-of-the-game blurb, the
} Oracle was nearly run down by what appeared to be a runaway buzz saw.
} The whirling teeth slowed, then coalesced into a spiny blue hulk that
} resembled Sonic about as much as a grizzly bear resembles a Beanie
} Baby. It glowered at the Oracle for a moment, then chuckled. "Sucker!"
} it grated. "You never could resist a retro reference!" Spinning up
} again, the creature dashed toward the Oracle, intent on shredding him
} where he stood.
} Instinctively the Oracle reached behind him to slap the Exit icon
} (having been fragged by campers in Quake Deathmatch too many times to
} admit) but his hand met only cold stone. The portal was gone, replaced
} by a stone wall many meters high. With the hedgehog bearing down on him
} and no time to scale the wall, the Oracle picked up a loose stone
} block, tossed it into the air, and sidestepped as the creature zipped
} by - right into the stone as it fell back to earth. The stone fractured
} into many fist-sized pieces, but the hedgehog stopped abruptly. The
} Oracle backpedalled away to get some room to maneuver, and summoned his
} Staff of Zot as the hedgehog turned to face him.
} "Not bad, primate," it grunted. "but it won't work a second time. By
} the way, your toy doesn't work in this game either."
} The Oracle gave the ring on his Staff a quick twist to "Full Choke" and
} snicked a half dozen spines from the hedgehog's right shoulder with a
} tight plasma beam before it could react. Twisting the ring back to
} "Watch Your Toes" and full power, he smiled at the beast. "Actually it
} does," he said. "Most of the game programmers come to me for advice
} sooner or later, and the tribute I always demand from them is to place
} a Staff of Zot and a summon spell in their game."
} "Whatever. You'll need more than that to escape this game.
} Reinforcements are on the way."
} "Well, until they get here, how about telling me what this is about?
} You're obviously not Sonic. He had better manners."
} The beast growled. "You'd have a foul attitude too - fouler than the
} one you already have - if you'd been the subject of genetic engineering
} The Oracle peered closely. "Sonic! It -is- you! What happened? You
} disappeared in the mid-1990s. We figured you'd gone underground with
} the game emulator folks!"
} "Hardly. Your wood-mother-chucking buddies approached me and offered me
} a job to take you out of action. I said no way, because you were one of
} the best players that ever played me - even if you did need the cheat
} codes now & then." The Oracle shifted on his feet uncomfortably. "But
} they wouldn't take no for an answer, and when I woke up I looked like
} this. They told me they'd reverse the DNA modifications once you were
} out of the way. I told them an old game like mine would lure you in for
} sure. And you fell for it. You might be omniscient, bud, but you're
} about as predictable as a Crichton novel."
} The Oracle thought for a moment. "So where's the Exit icon?" he asked
} "No way. It's you or me, and I'm not staying like this for the rest of
} my life."
} "That's what I mean. To flesh out the demo disk they needed some extra
} games, and I think one of them might be their DNA lab. I think we can
} put you back together without them."
} Sonic seemed confused. "You think that's possible?"
} "If they weren't lying to you from the start - if they really CAN put
} you back - then the answer is in another game." The sound of heavy,
} fleshy bodies tossing logs through the underbrush came to their ears.
} "There's not a lot of time to think about this, Sonic. You're quick -
} answer now!"
} "ALL RIGHT!" shouted the hedgehog. "Come on!" Gathering the Oracle in
} his muscular arms, Sonic spun up and dashed for an alcove in the wall
} that wasn't visible from their original position. Before the Oracle
} could hit the Exit icon they were though the portal and Sonic was
} spinning down on the other side. "How long will it take?" Sonic asked.
} "They'll figure out that we came this way."
} "I'm way ahead of you..." began the Oracle.
} "That's a first." smirked Sonic.
} "Ahem. Help me twist the portal into a Mobius shape."
} "You're not going to put it in a shredder, are you?" smirked Sonic
} The Oracle smacked Sonic on the side of his head, then immediately
} regretted it as blood began to ooze from a dozen quill pricks. "When
} they come through they'll immediately be transferred into another game.
} Ah, this one will keep them busy!"
} At that moment the portal sprang open and a squad of woodchuck
} stormtroopers came pouring though. As soon as the last one was out, the
} Oracle slapped the Leisure Suit Larry icon and they were all sucked
} away to the Land of the Lounge Lizards. "When they realize where they
} are they'll spend a few hours trying to pick up women, then they'll get
} bored and come looking for us. We should be long gone by then. Now help
} me straighten this thing out again."
} With the portal restored, the Oracle selected DNA Tetris and they both
} entered. The Tetris screen was huge - over a hundred meters high - and
} the block fragments tumbling down it were no bigger than a pixel.
} "Aw, no!" whined Sonic. "How will we ever get it in the right
} "Ahem. I'm the Oracle, remember? I know where they all go." He pointed
} to a small chamber next to the screen. "Now hop in. We don't have a lot
} of time."
} As soon as the chamber door slid shut, the game began. Tiny blocks
} began tumbling down the screen, each representing the building blocks
} of the DNA molecules that would make up Sonic's genes. One by one the
} Oracle flicked them into place - slip left, slip right, rotate, rotate,
} rotate, DROP! And then again. And again. and again. Hundreds, millions,
} billions - each in its proper place. Higher and higher grew the stack,
} more and more complete grew Sonic's restoration.
} But then... what was that? A huge sequence of blocks, already linked,
} was approaching the top of the stack. There was little room left to
} maneuver, and the sequence - apparently the part responsible for
} Sonic's mutation, since it was very similar to that found in rodents of
} unusual size - would soon be attached to his DNA forever. More blocks -
} the proper ones - were visible above, but they couldn't get past the
} mutant sequence. What to do? He couldn't dodge, he couldn't block it -
} what could he do?
} The Oracle looked around wildly. A thud from the portal let him know
} the woodchucks were on to them. Torn between saving Sonic's DNA and
} saving both their lives, he took up his Staff of Zot and turned it....
} ...toward the screen. A twist of the choke, a squeeze of the trigger,
} and SNAP! The mutant sequence was gone, vaporized. The remaining
} molecules dropped into place, and Sonic the Hedgehog burst out of the
} machine. "YOU DID IT!" he cried. "Way to go!"
} Just then the door burst open and the woodchucks rushed in, only to
} stop short as they saw Sonic - back to normal and furious - and the
} Oracle - still normal and also furious.
} "Um, uh.... sorry!" squeaked the lead woodchuck. "Wrong number!" The
} woodchucks fled, hastened by a few dozen well-placed warning quills.
} After the sound of their retreat faded to silence, Sonic turned to the
} "Predictable as a Chrichton novel," chuckled Sonic.
} "What are you talking about? I put the smack down on you, evaded the
} woodchucks, and fixed your DNA. And you call me predicable?"
} "I would have been disappointed in you if you'd done anything less. I
} knew you were the only one that could pull off a plan like this. You
} didn't think I was actually dumb enough to try to kill you, did you?"
} The Oracle paused for a long time. "Of course not," he mumbled quickly.
} "I knew that.... I'm omniscient."
} "Uh-huh. Predictable."