Viva la Holidays la Las Vegas

A Wild Splat Zone Chase

"...that sound means it's the end of our first round, and the score is three hundred fifty points for the orange team to three hundred points for the green team; looks like we've got a good match going here, ladies and gentlemen," Caloo announced to the audience, who let out a cheer. "And that means the orange team wins a Medallion of Valor," he produced one and handed it to the Reggorfs, "We'll be back after these messages to determine if the green team can come back and win a trip to the Splat Zone; don't go away."

"And that's a three minute break," the floor manager announced out loud. The stage crew rushed onto the set and started removing unessential set props. Kevin exhaled softly. "Not bad, guys," he told the rest of his team, "We're still in striking distance."

"I should have known that one about the colors on the Advent Wreath," Ethan lamented grimly.

"Don't beat yourself up, Ethan; I suspect half of them didn't know either," Kevin gestured at their opponents, who were swaggering confidently onto the center of the set, "Still, they are going to be challenging to beat."

"Helmets and pads on, teams," the contestant coordinator called from the wings. The green team quickly put the helmets and elbow and knee pads set up under their podium and joined the orange team in the middle of the set. "Good work so far," Kevin told the Reggorfs, all of whom were sizably taller than him, "May the better team win."

He extended a hand, but none of the Reggorfs took it. "We intend to win," Rodney told him smugly, "And we will win. We always win."

"Kind of cocky, aren't we?" Nate told him sarcastically.

"We're a lean, mean, winning machine," William bragged at him with a glare, "Our parents have trained us to be the best of best, and we're not going to lose this game. Especially against a bunch of runts like you who had to stoop to putting a girl on your team," his cold gaze turned contemptuously towards Sarah.

"Hey, that's a cheap shot!" Kevin shouted at him, "Sarah's just as good as any of you guys, and you just proved it by saying that."

"Oh, we're really scared," Paul said in mock fear, "Prepare to be destroyed, amateurs."

He and his brothers turned their backs to their opponents. Kevin rolled his eyes in disgust. "We've got to beat them," he told his teammates, "They need to be brought down several pegs."

"Don't worry, Kevin, no one talks to me like they did and gets away with it," Nate declared with his fists clenched. "Ah," he exclaimed to see the stage crew rolling several large metal spheres onto the stage, "Looks like we'll be doing some rolling, Kevin. I always like when they have this challenge."

"Places for the first challenge; we're on in thirty," the floor director declared. Kevin joined Nate by the spheres on the left side of the stage. "On in ten," came the count, "Aaaaaaaaaand, five, four, three, two, one..."

The audience cheered the return of the show to air. "Welcome back and merry Christmas again," Caloo announced into the camera, "The Ravishing Reggorfs won the first round of today's game; now they face the Shermer Strike Force in the physical segment. Each team will participate in three challenges, followed by the grand Chase for the Zone race. The first challenge will be worth one hundred points, as will the second, and the third will be worth two hundred points. The losers of each challenge will have to take a seat in our Penalty Pod," he gestured at the contraption that had been wheeled onto the stage during the break, a device with four seats, buckets filled with slime rigged over them, and mechanical arms set with pies in front of them. "Harley, tell them what the first challenge is."

"You know how it goes in Winter Wonderland: 'We'll have lots of fun with Mr. Snowman, until the other kiddies knock him down.' You're going to do the knocking down, teams," Harley told the contenders, "Each team has several snowmen set up behind you; your job is to protect your snowmen at all costs. When Kirk says go, roll your giant snowballs around and try to knock your opponents' snowmen over while keeping them from doing the same to yours. The first team to knock over all their opponents' snowmen, or the team furthest along when time runs out wins."

"All right; teams, to your snowballs," Caloo commanded. Kevin climbed into the nearest sphere. He grabbed hold of the front of the sphere once the door was locked into place behind him and stared at the four snowmen behind the spheres Ernest and Rodney were climbing into across from them. "Seems easy enough-if I can get the handle on this thing," he mused out loud. "How about we alternate, Nate?" he called to his friend next to him, "You attack, I'll defend, then we'll switch."

"Got it. Let's do it," Nate gently pushed on the front of his sphere, visibly eager for the challenge to start.

"Sixty seconds on the clock, please," Caloo called out, "Teams ready? On your mark, get set, go!"

Kevin started pushing on the front of his sphere, but found it responding rather sluggishly. "Come on, don't go dead on me!" he mumbled out loud, struggling to get enough traction. While he struggling in place, Rodney rolled over and easily knocked over one of the green team's snowmen. "Tough going, huh twerp?" he taunted Kevin.

"Shut up!" Kevin told him off. "Nate, switch!" he called to his friend, but Nate was too busy trying to get to the Reggorfs' snowmen-and being firmly blocked by Ernest.

"Can't catch me!" Rodney was rolling around Kevin. Kevin rushed to the other side of the sphere and tried to reverse course, but only succeeded in falling flat on his face when he pushed too hard. In the meantime, Rodney took out another snowman. Nate finally came back to try and block him. Kevin shook himself off and tried pushing towards the Reggorfs' side of the stage. One of the snowmen was directly in his path, but Ernest quickly blocked him. "Brick wall, shrimp, I'm a brick wall," he sneered, pushing back so hard that Kevin's sphere was sent rolling backwards, and sent him tumbling head over heels inside it. With a low thump, his sphere took out one of his team's remaining snowmen. Perhaps mercifully, the bell sounded at this point. "That's it, you can stop the snowballs now," Caloo announced, "Let's tally up the totals: that's three snowmen knocked over for the orange team, and none for the green team, so that's another one hundred points to the Ravishing Reggorfs. And that means, it's Penalty Pod time for the green team."

Kevin's head was still spinning as his sphere was opened back up and a hand guided him out and into the seat next to Nate in the Penalty Pod. Moments later, the slime was dumped on his head, followed by the pie slapping into his face. "Lovely," he mused, stumbling out of the Pod blindly, "This is going to be harder than I thought."

"You had to push with more effort, Kevin," Nate upbraided him.

"I tried, Nate, believe me, I tried," Kevin took a towel off a stagehand and wiped himself off, "Rolling that thing was harder than it looked. Let's hope Sarah and Ethan have better luck with the next one."

He turned towards the center of the stage as Harley explained the next stunt: "Tomorrow night, of course, Santa will make his present deliveries all over the world. Today, you're going to get your chance to do it. When the clock starts, swing your partner around on the cantilever and maneuver them so they can grab a present from the stack. Then move them into place so they can drop the present down the chimney behind you. The team with the most presents at the end of sixty seconds wins."

"Teams all set?" Caloo asked the teams, who were in place. Sarah looked a bit nervous on the end of her cantilever, Kevin thought, as did Ethan at the base. "Good luck; we're probably going to need it," he wished in his mind. "Sixty seconds on the clock," Caloo declared, "On your mark, get set, go!"

"Go, go, go!" Nate shouted to his teammates. Ethan strained with the weight of the long pole, and as such, Sarah sailed past the presents the first time around without be able to get one. "Down, lower, Ethan!" Kevin called out a command. Ethan adjusted the next time around, and Sarah was able to snatch one this time. Looking a bit seasick, she nonetheless managed to drop the present into her chimney. "Good, good, keep that up!" Kevin yelled at them, "Keep the rhythm!"

Ethan struggled to keep the rhythm, and fortunately seemed to do it well enough for Sarah to grab and deposit several more packages before the clock ran out. "You can stop right there. Let's take a look at the final tally," Caloo approached the chimneys, "Green team, two, three, four...five presents. Orange team, two, three...four presents; that's one hundred points to the green team."

"YES!" Kevin pumped his fist in delight. "How's that for a girl's capabilities, huh?" he taunted William and Paul as they were led to the Penalty Pod.

"It's total war after this!" William shouted back before he and his brother got slimed and pied themselves. "OK, that makes the score four hundred fifty to four hundred in favor of the orange team," Caloo announced the current scores, "The final challenge is worth two hundred points and will involve all four team members..."

"Can't believe ya lost him," Harry muttered to Marv at the Luxor's bar.

"I lost him!? You was the who ran in here after him!" Marv protested. He took a swig of whiskey from his glass. "Oh well, if we're in here, might as well knock off a few of the slots," he said, glancing around greedily at the machines buzzing all around them.

"Only if we can do it quietly, Marv; I don't wanna risk losin' tomorrow's big job," Harry advised him, downing a shot of his beer.

"Harry," came the call from across the room. The rest of the Wet Bandits Gang were approaching. "Hiya boys," Harry greeted them, "Any word from the big guy yet?"

"Nothing from them. We did check into the Paris, though, great room," Lenny told him, "How about you?"

"The kid we hate's here. We kinda lost him, but we're glad we got the chance to try and rip him apart," Marv told them.

"That kid again?" Fingers was amazed, "How do you keep running into him everywhere?"

"I don't know. Now we just have to figure out where he went so we can..."

"Hold it, Marv," Harry interrupted, staring intently at the TV behind the bar. "Not looking for, found," he grinned darkly, for Splat Zone was playing on the TV, and Kevin was clearly visible on it. "Wow," Marv exclaimed, staring at it, "I didn't know he was a TV star..."

"Hey, pops," Harry yelled at the bartender, "Where're they tapin' that!?"

He pointed at the TV. "Oh, that's over at the Walley World Resort; they do Splat Zone live there," the bartender told him.

"We got him now, boys!" Harry bellowed, leaping to his feet, "Come on, let's go get him!"

"Hold it, Harry, hold it," Fingers jumped into his path, "Are you just going to run onto a live TV show to try and kill the kid you hate?"

"Hmm," Harry mused for a moment, "Yeah, I am. Marv, let's...Marv!" he snapped, dragging his partner away from the passing showgirl he was grinning at. "Can't this wait until after I get to meet her, Harry!?" Marv protested.

"Sex comes later, Marv; now it's time to kill...!"

"There is no greater holiday tradition than decorating the family Christmas tree," Harley described the final regular challenge, "And now our teams are going to decorate their own trees here. When the clock starts, the two selected players will bounce up and place the balls on the tree, three in a row. Once each row is fully in place, they can go for the star and place that at the top of the tree. If an ornament falls off, they'll have to start over and put it back on. The first team to complete the decorating of their tree, or the one furthest along in sixty seconds wins."

"All right, this could give the orange team a commanding lead, or the green team a reasonably good lead of their own," Caloo announced to the audience, "Are the jumpers secured on their harnesses?"

There were cheers from Nate and Sarah on Kevin's team and from Rodney and Paul on the Reggorfs' team. "All right, sixty seconds on the clock; let's see who has the lead after this one," the host stated, "On your mark, get set, go!"

"Here," Kevin tossed Nate one of the large rubber faux Christmas balls piled up at his and Ethan's feet. His friend bounced up on his harness and slipped it onto the designated hook, as did Sarah on the right side of the tree. "Next one," Kevin tossed another one to Nate, who bounced to the right, but just missed the hook he was aiming for there. "Never mind, here's the next one," Kevin flung him another one. He glanced to the left to take note of the Reggorfs' progress; they had the first row of balls hooked on and were starting on the second of the three rows. "Speed it up guys, speed it up," he mentally urged his team.

"Next one, Kevin," Nate called to him, the first row now complete. Kevin tossed another one to him, which Nate bounced up and hooked onto the second row...

...but no sooner had he landed back on the floor than it suddenly fell off with a soft thud. "Huh? Never mind, put another one on," Kevin delivered yet another one to his teammate, which Nate also hooked into place...but that one abruptly fell off as well. Kevin frowned. Something wasn't right here. He threw Nate another one and turned to watched the Reggorfs-and thought for a moment he saw a bright blue flash of some kind streaking from William's hand, right before the latest ball he'd given Nate fell down yet again. Before Kevin turned to alert the judges, but the bell rang before he could. "That's it, let's take a look. Orange team made it to the third level, green team only to the second, so that's two hundred points to the Ravishing Reggorfs," he announced.

"Wait, I think they were cheating...!" Kevin tried to protest, but he was drowned out by the cheer of the crowd, and the stage crew immediately started wheeling the oversized Christmas trees away, taking any likely evidence of the apparent cheat with them. Kevin's face darkened. Now he REALLY wanted to win to show the Reggorfs up-without stooping to their level...

"Penalty Pod, please," a stagehand whispered in his ear. Reluctantly, Kevin took the walk over with the rest of his teammates and took the sliming and pie-throwing again. The four of them then, after wiping themselves off, hustled over to the green-colored sleigh that was set up at the white start/finish line of the race track that encircled the set completely. "And now, this is it, Splat Zone fans; the Chase for the Zone!" Caloo declared, gesturing the Reggorfs to the orange-colored sleigh next to the green one, "Orange team leads six hundred fifty to four hundred, but this race is worth five hundred points. Our teams will complete three laps of the course with their sleighs, and will try not to let the descending slime, water, and other impediments stop them. At each crossing of the finish line, the pushers and the riders will switch positions. Orange team, since you have the lead, you have the inside track and with it the advantage. First team to cross the finish line gets the five hundred points and the right to enter the Splat Zone. Take your initial positions please."

"Who's going where?" Ethan asked the rest of his teammates.

"I want the anchor role, and I want Sarah with me," Kevin said firmly, grabbing hold of the bar on the back of the sleigh and gesturing Sarah next to him.

"Figures you'd want a girl to show how weak you are," William snickered next to him.

"I know you were cheating just now," Kevin pointed an accusing finger at him, "You're all going down. And don't try anything here."

He gripped the handlebars hard, staring up the track. "Everyone ready?" Caloo asked the participants, hefting a green flag, "On your mark, get set, GO!"

"Push hard," Kevin shoved for all it was worth. His sleigh lurched down the track, just slightly behind the Reggorfs'.

"This is heavy," Sarah protested, pushing as hard as she could.

"You're doing good, let's just stay with them," Kevin angled the sleigh around the audience turn. Seeing a large gak container over the track directly ahead of them, he squinted his eyes shut seconds before it was dropped all over them, prompting groans from Nate and Ethan in the sleigh's seat. "Oil slicks ahead, guys," the former called out a warning. A slick substance was being sprayed on the track right ahead. Kevin slipped and slid, but kept his balance. And they remained half a length behind the Reggorfs as they approached the starting line again. "Quick switch, quick switch!" Kevin braked to a stop and dove for the sleigh's seat. Sarah joined him seconds later, and Nate and Ethan started pushing from behind. "Whipped cream guns in place to the right," Sarah's warning came a split second too late; Ethan yelped as he was sprayed with the whipped cream, and their sleigh inched to a stop. "Shake it off; we've got to keep going!" Nate upbraided him.

"Couldn't help it, sorry!" Ethan started pushing again. The delay had cost them some time, but they were able to make it up when a load of cotton candy was dumped from above the track on the Reggorfs, slowing them down a bit. "Go, go, go!" Kevin could hear Julian cheering them on in the front row. Even Danielle was watching the race with some interest, he saw when they passed by-although she looked away when she saw him looking towards her. "Go get them, go get them!" Sidney was into the race as well, his face lit up like a Christmas tree. Kevin grinned at the big child inside the bellboy...

...when his train of though was broken by the sound of Ethan and Nate yelping and falling down again. They had slipped and wiped out on the chocolate oil slicks. Their sleigh veered halfway off the track. ""Get up, quick!" Sarah begged them.

"Sorry," the other boys, now covered completely in chocolate, leaped back up and started pushing again. But they'd fallen well behind now, and the Reggorfs had completed their last switch and were starting the final lap. "We're not going to lose like this," Kevin thought firmly. He leaped over the back of the sleigh when they reached the starting line again and grabbed the bar in a flash. "Let's do it," he told Sarah. She nodded with a firm expression. The two of them pushed off as hard as they could. And slowly but surely, they started narrowing the gap with their opponents. And so, as they passed the audience for the final time, they were neck and neck with the Reggorfs again. "How are you still here!?" Ernest was amazed that they were still hanging with he and his brothers.

"You chose to mock the wrong team. Have a nice day," Kevin told them sternly. He reached deep down for an extra burst of speed, as did Sarah. Stunned, the Reggorfs did the same. Side by side, the two teams streaked back towards the finish line, where Caloo stood with a checkered flag. "Here we come; this looks like a photo finish, aaaaaaaaand..." he swooped the flag down the instant both teams crossed the finish line, "...and I think this is a photo finish; this is a first!" he exclaimed, "Judges, could we have the video in slow motion on the monitors please?"

"Please have made it, please have made it!" Nate begged out loud, jumping off the sleigh and zeroing his gaze on the nearest monitor. Kevin glanced worriedly at it as well, hoping his and Sarah's last bursts had been enough. The video appeared on the screen, both sleighs inching towards the finish line, and as they reached it...

"YES!" he shrieked, leaping into Sarah's arms and jumping up and down in delight; the image on the screen showed conclusively the front edge of their sled had crossed the finish line a split second before the Reggorfs' had. "WE DID IT! WE DID IT!" Nate was equally ecstatic, jumping on top of Kevin as well, "Take that, you cheating Neanderthals!" he taunted the stunned Reggorfs.

"But...but...but...!" Ernest stammered weakly, "We can't have lost...!"

"Sorry, Ravishing Reggorfs, but a very good effort by you nonetheless," Caloo consoled them, "Final score, Shermer Strike Force nine hundred, Ravishing Reggorfs six fifty. And that means you get the ultimate experience in the Penalty Pod as a parting gift."

"But...but...but...!" Ernest continued stammering, but it did him no good, for he and his brothers were led back to the Penalty Pod, where they were once more slimed and pied, and then had eggs dropped on their heads and whipped cream squirted in their faces. "We have some nice parting gifts for the orange team and thank them for playing today. But green team, the day belongs to you," Caloo turned to Kevin and his teammates, leading them to cheer again, "In a few minutes, you'll have the chance to undertake the ultimate experience on television, the run through the Splat Zone, so everyone stay right here and don't miss it."

"And, we're out," the floor director announced again. "We are the champions!" Ethan half-sang, lifting Kevin and Sarah up onto his shoulder with much effort.

"We did earn it-so feel good," Kevin high-fived Sarah.

"I do," she was smiling happily, "I just hope my Mom got to see it somehow..."

"That's my Sarah, that's my Sarah!" an ecstatic Mrs. Tafton was in fact standing and applauding the television screen back at O'Hare. "I didn't know she had that in her," she happily told Kate next to her.

"Well, she certainly did good; they all did good," Kate was also beaming with pride at Kevin's role in the win, "It's times like this that..."

"OK, Mrs. McCallister, everyone, your plane to Las Vegas is ready," a gate attendant called from across the concourse, "It's now boarding over here at Gate Seventy-Seven."

"Thank you. OK everyone, let's go get them and bring them home," Kate declared to everyone, starting towards the gate...

"Well forget it; I'm not going," a sharp voice rang out from the back of the pack. Kate spun. "What did you say!?" she asked her oldest child, stunned.

"You heard what I said; I'm not going," Buzz told her curtly, folding his arms across his chest, "I'm tired of the little stain ruining every Christmas we have, and I refuse to stick my neck out for him any further..."

"Buzz Leland McCallister, you will not talk about your brother that way!" Kate roared, taking ominous steps towards him.

"Yeah, and there's my point; it's all about him anymore, isn't it!?" Buzz remained unrepentant, "Kevin this, Kevin that, even though all he's done the last few years is make a complete fool of himself and life miserable for us. I mean, I'm glad he didn't burn the house down when we first left him behind, but I..."

"That's enough, young man," Peter stepped forward, furious himself now, "If you can only think of yourself when your brother's alone in a major city...!"

"So what else is new!? Go save your precious kid if you want, but I want no part of it," Buzz turned away from them, "I'm tired of him taking all the limelight in this family anymore..."

"And we're tired of you acting like king of the family, Buzz!" Megan shouted in his face, "Come to think of it, I think you set Kevin up each time he got sent to the attic the last two years! So technically, we can say everything that happened to him was YOUR fault...!"

"So what if I did!? I have no reason to be sorry for anything I did when he's..."

"What was that!? You weren't sorry for what happened at the concert last year!?" Peter glared furiously in Buzz's face, making him shrink down a little, "You know, I think Megan's right, Buzz; you have been getting away with too much lately!"

"So do I," Kate was livid herself, "So once we do get Kevin back home safely, mister," she fixed Buzz with a murderous expression, "consider yourself grounded to the attic until Easter!"

"Easter!? That's a violation of my constitutional rights!" Buzz protested, "I can sue and win, you know...!"

"MEMORIAL DAY!" Kate roared in carnal rage right in his face, making Buzz shrink down in terror, "And if you say anything like you just did about your brother on this flight, we'll extend it to the rest of the summer! Now let's go!" she started dragging him forcibly by the arm towards the gate and down the gangway, "You're going to apologize to Kevin when we find him for everything you've done to him, and you're going to mean every word of it, buster!"

"Come on, you guys, I'm not the bad guy, here! Somebody back me up!" Buzz desperately protested to the rest of his family.

"Sorry, Buzz, but what goes around comes around," Fuller told him firmly. Everyone else nodded in agreement and brushed past Buzz onto the plane without looking at him. "Sit here, and don't make any trouble!" Kate ordered her eldest son, all but pushing him down into the last seat in the back of the plane. She stomped up to the front of the plane and plopped down in the seat closest to the cockpit on the starboard side. "I'm sorry, Kevin, I should have known," she said to the stars outside the window, "I should have known it wasn't you that instigated everything. We're going to make it right when we get there. Just hold on a little longer..."

"One minute to air," the floor director announced. Kevin nodded at the man from the front row of the audience. "OK, then, who gets to run the Zone?" he asked the rest of his teammates.

"I think it should really be you, Kevin," Julian told him, "Since you were the catalyst behind the big push at the end, it should really be your honor."

"Well, it was a group effort with Sarah," Kevin admitted modestly.

"But he's right, it should be you," Sarah told him. The rest of the Shermer Strike Force nodded in unison. "OK, I guess it'll be me, then," Kevin acceded. "Nate, you're the most athletic of the rest of us; you want to be the alternate in case I get taken out by the monsters?" he asked his friend.

"Guess I can live with that," Nate nodded, looking excited to have the honor.

"Thirty seconds," came the announcement. Kevin trotted with Nate over to where Caloo was now standing by the iron doors to the Splat Zone. "Congratulations," he told them, "Will you two be the ones to attempt the run?"

"That's what we've decided, Kirk," Kevin told him.

"All right, here's the Medallion of Valor you earned, then," Caloo handed one to him, "Use it well. And we're back with the victorious Shermer Strike Force," the host announced once they were back on the air, "And now, they get the honor to navigate the Splat Zone." He glanced down at Kevin and Nate, "Who's going first?"

"I will," Kevin raised his hand.

"All right then, let's see what configuration the Splat Zone has taken today. Open the doors!" Caloo gestured his hand grandly, signaling the iron doors to slid open, followed later by the wall itself sliding apart to reveal the multi-storied Splat Zone in all its glory. And atop Mount St. Splat Zone on the far left, Kevin could make out the trophy in its vestibule on the top of the peak. Now the problem would be getting to it and getting out of the Zone within the time limit, he knew; only one contender had successfully done so thus far this season. "Well, it looks like there's quite a trip you're going to have today, Kevin," Caloo exclaimed, "Harley, tell him the exact path he's going to have to take."

"All right, Kevin, here's how it's going to work for you today," Harley began, "When Kirk says go, you're going to follow the red arrows through the Splat Zone on your way to the top of Mount St. Splat Zone. You'll start by going through the gate and running up the treadmill to the first level. From there, you'll go up the Banana Split Slide and down into today's tasty concoction. You'll follow that up by crossing the dreaded spinning bridge over the Pudding Pit; be careful, or you'll lose your balance and precious time climbing back up. From there, you'll dive through the Chompers and down the Digestive Tract into the Stomach. From there, you'll move on into the Heart. Crawl through the veins and slid down into the Sewer, where you'll have to pull the cord and get yourself gakked in order to find the key to escape. Your next stop will be the Swamp, where the next key is buried. Be careful; the trees might be inhabited by dangerous spirits. Escape from the Swamp, and you'll enter the Well. Jump in the bucket and take a ride up into the Snow Globe. Another key is buried under the snow inside the globe, and you'll have to find it in the middle of a sudden snowstorm, so to speak. Once you manage to escape the Snow Globe, navigate the Suspension Bridge, and you'll be ready to begin your ascent of Mount St. Splat Zone. But be alert, for the volcano will begin to erupt the moment you start to climb it, and there'll be dangerous avalanches, fog, and snowstorms to contend with. Grab the Victor's Trophy, and take the zip line down into the Balloon Lagoon, where you'll have to climb some walls and navigate the Ball Room. Next stop is our Cargo Net, which leads to a steep climb to the top of the Ice Caverns. Maneuver your way down through them and start on the home stretch. Rush down the Assembly Line, through the Car Wash, and then the Shower Room, and choose the right wall to swing through. Only one will not be guarded by a monster. You'll have three minutes to complete this task; good luck."

"Indeed, the best of luck to you, Kevin," Caloo added to him, "Now remember that several of these chambers in the Splat Zone may be guarded by the Zone Monsters. You have one Medallion of Valor to use to ensure you can continue on, but if you run into a Zone Monster and don't have one, you'll be removed from the Splat Zone, and Nate will enter and try to complete the run before time runs out, or before he runs into a Zone Monster himself. The Zone Monsters guarding the exits will not count towards this. If either of you successfully brings the Victor's Trophy out of the Splat Zone before the three minutes are up, Harley, tell them what they're going to win!"

"It's an all-expenses paid trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama!" Harley declared, "Your whole team and their families will be flown round trip first class for two weeks of space training. It's a prize package worth $6,824!"

"A trip well worth it. It's difficult to beat the Splat Zone, but it has on occasion been done before. Take your place, Kevin, and let's get ready to rock," Caloo told him. Kevin inserted his mouthpiece and took his place at the starting line, his adrenaline pumping. "Open the gate to the Splat Zone!" Caloo commanded, prompting the gate to slide downward into the stage floor. "Let's put three minutes on the clock. Audience, let's cheer the Shermer Strike Force on..."

"THERE HE IS, HARRY!" came an unwelcome voice from the other side of the stage. Kevin turned and gasped to see the burglars charging across the stage towards him, blind fury on their faces. "On your mark, get set, go!" he shouted into Caloo's microphone, and took off running into the Splat Zone before Caloo realized what was happening. "One side, pal!" Harry bellowed, shoving Caloo aside. "Cover the exits, boys; make sure he don't get out before we get him!" he shouted back over his shoulder. Kevin turned and gulped to see three additional men, two with guns and one with a switchblade, charging up to the gate and blocking it. The Bad Guys had brought reinforcements, he realized, and it stood to reason these men probably weren't as dumb as his longtime foes. But he'd worry about them later, for the burglars were right behind him-and he was on the clock now anyway...

He huffed and puffed to run up the treadmill, hitting the deck as another shot rang out behind him. He scrambled back to his feet and weaved from side to side, trying to avoid the follow up shots. "Hold still, ya little rat!" Harry roared, firing another shot that just missed Kevin's shoulder. Kevin took a leap and just managed to grab hold of the platform at the top of the treadmill. He pulled himself up and raced for the chocolate covered ramp to the top of the Banana Split Slide. There came a loud yell from behind him, however, and he felt hands grab his ankles. "I gotcha! I got him, Harry!" Marv shouted in delight, straining to hold on tight, "Just give up, kid, you ain't got...!"

Kevin quickly scooped up a handful of chocolate from the ramp and rubbed it in Marv's face, distracting him enough to break away. Marv followed him up the ramp, his legs slipping and sliding all over the place from the chocolate. Kevin reached the top and slid down the slide towards the whipped cream banana split set up in the tray at the bottom...

...gasping when Harry leaped into his path at the bottom of the slide and took dead aim at him again. Thinking quickly, Kevin stood up and leaped under Harry's legs. Harry turned around and watched him go by in amazement-then turned back and cried out right before Marv, coming down the slide himself, crashed into Harry, sending them both falling over backwards into the faux banana split. Kevin came to a brief stop at the rotating cylinder that provided passage over the Pudding Pit. This part almost always threw guests off, as maintaining balance always proved difficult. Still, he really had no choice but to try.

He ran full tilt onto the rotating cylinder...and almost immediately lost his balance and fell with a splat into the several pounds of green and blue pudding below. "Aha, he messed up!" came Marv's shout from above. The taller crook let out an ear-splitting Tarzan-style yell and dove down towards Kevin...and missed him completely, face-planting into the pudding. Above him, Harry, rolling his eyes at his partner's stupidity, tried crossing the cylinder to try and cut Kevin off, but lost his footing and also fell into the pit. Kevin, meanwhile, frantically waded his way through the pudding and started climbing up the foot holds along the way. He dodged another shot from an enraged Harry and stole a glance at the clock on the overhead monitors: two minutes and thirty-eight seconds left to complete the run successfully, if he could manage it.

The climb to the top seemed to take an eternity, but he did put some distance between himself and the burglars, who had just started climbing by the time he reached the top. Next ahead of him was the Chompers, a menacing robot-liked head with a jaw of sharp-looking teeth that moved up and down. Kevin waited until it had opened all the way before rushing forward and diving head first down the pea soup-covered Digestive Tract into the Stomach, today filled with more disgusting-looking pea soup and some oversized fake spaghetti and meatballs. Kevin swam through the mess, but it was thick enough to slow him down somewhat. And behind him, Marv's voice rang out, "Bombs away!" and he could hear the crook sliding down the chute after him. He quickly grabbed hold of one of the oversized faux meatballs and hurled it at Marv when he came into view, bonking the burglar on the head. Groaning, Marv rose to his feet, clutching his head-and was run into by a sliding Harry, sending them toppling head first into the pea soup mix, Kevin swam to the edge, climbed out, and hit an actuator on the wall to open the trapdoor to the Heart. He crawled hard through knee-deep red whipped cream on the floor of the tunnel, which twisted around in circles in the Heart structure, before leading to another slide that led down into the stone-walled Sewer. He ran for the rope that would drop the key...

...and gasped as an ominous-looking minotaur leaped out from behind a hidden door, its hands extended menacingly. Kevin quickly dug through his pockets. "Here, take it!" he pressed his Medallion of Valor into the minotaur's hand, making the minotaur turn and leave. He hoped he wouldn't run into another monster along the way, or he'd really be on his own.

"Aha, got the drop on ya, kid!" Harry and Marv unexpectedly leaped out from around the front of the Sewer. They had to have skipped the Heart to save time, Kevin realized. His fear quickly subsided, however, when he realized he still had an ace in this room. He waited until the burglars were just about to grab him, then pulled the rope in his hands. Immediately, a shower of slime drenched the two men. "DOOOOOOOOH, FATCHA RATCHA CRIPPIJA FRIVIT ROKE...!" Harry muttered out loud in disgust, stumbling around blindly into an equally blind Marv. Kevin saw the key on the floor amid the slime, grabbed it, and jammed it into the keyhole on the wall, popping the door to the Swamp open. He caught another glimpse of the clock outside: a minute fifty-nine now. Hopefully the next room would be easy to get through.

He found lots of water, shrubbery, and a line of inflatable alligators waiting for him on the other side. Realizing he could save time, he jumped from alligator to alligator, but fell into the water just before he reached the other end. "There he is!" Harry yelled, diving out of the tunnel into the water, followed by Marv. Kevin frantically swam the rest of the way to the wall, ducked under the grasping hands of a tree that tried to grab him and eliminate him, then plowed through the breakaway stones into the Well. He leaped into the bucket and threw the switch on the wall that sent it rising slowly up-but the burglars grabbed hold of the bottom of the bucket before it could rise out of their reach. "Ya ain't gettin' away from us that easy, kid!" Harry roared, straining to climb up, "There ain't nowhere to run now!"

Kevin rocked hard from side to side, slamming the burglars hard into the walls repeatedly until they finally let go in a daze and fell to the floor below. The bucket reached the top of the shaft. He hit the nearest button and climbed into the Snow Globe, but no sooner did he bend down to look for the key than a blizzard of mashed potato snow rose up around him. He shoveled the "snow" aside, desperate to find the key before the burglars reached the Snow Globe-but with furious huffing, they now did. "I can't see a thing in here, Harry," Marv, however, made it clear he couldn't see him through the faux blizzard.

"He's gotta be in here; root around for him, Marv."

"Never mind, I got him, Harry!" Marv exclaimed excitedly, holding on tight to something shaking.

"That's my leg, ya moron!" Harry roared at him, followed by the sound of a crowbar hitting a skull. It was at this moment Kevin found the key in the potato snow. He crawled towards the escape hatch, jammed the key in, and pushed it open. Mount St. Splat Zone loomed in front of him now. The clock now read a minute twenty-four. He was still reasonably on time if he didn't take too long getting up the mountain or ran into a monster at the wrong time.

He raced across the Suspension Bridge and started up the trail. The mountain was rumbling; it was going to erupt any minute now, he knew. Blasts of rain and snow were also starting to erupt from hidden locations on the mountain all around him. He shielded his eyes from the maelstrom, hoping there would be at least one moment where he could take a breather. But the sound of gunshots shattering the Snow Globe, which sent the snowstorm of mashed potatoes blowing up onto the pathway, and the angry shouts of the mashed potato-covered crooks rushing across the bridge and up the mountain after him, made it clear that he was not going to get a breather. He ducked an avalanche of foam boulders-which fortunately crashed into the burglars and knocked them off their feet below-and then a shower of slime lava from the now erupting volcano. It seemed like the whole mountain was trying to impede his progress now, he felt.

Nonetheless, he made steady progress up the trail, and finally reached the top of the mountain. He grabbed the Victor's Trophy, then seized the nearby zip line and zoomed down off the mountain into the Balloon Lagoon, sending dozens of balloons skyward. Kevin scrambled out of the lagoon, huffing heavily now. He had to strain to get over the Wall into the Ball Room with the trophy; exhaustion was starting to set in. But he couldn't stop, for the burglars were now sliding down the zip line after him. Marv, with another loud yell, leaped sideways off the line towards him, but fortunately only managed to slam face-first into the wall and topple backwards with a loud groan into the Balloon Lagoon. Kevin slogged his way through the Ball Room, and up the Cargo Net. His muscles couldn't take much more, and he was feeling short of breath. Another shot from Harry that winged by his face, however, was more than enough of a prompt to keep going. The clock was down to thirty-seven seconds now, he saw upon reaching the entrance to the Ice Caverns. He could still win if he hurried...

He pulled himself through the narrow ledges of the Ice Caverns, past the dangling icicles and hanging bats decorating the walls. Finally, he had to stop for a moment at the bottom from sheer exhaustion. "No, don't stop!" he warned himself, "You're not safe till you get out of here!"

"But I can't go any further!" his mind also argued, "This is just too exhausting...!"

"Aha!" to his horror, Harry, who'd apparently climbed around the bottom of the ice caverns as he'd done before with the Heart, jumped out in front of him and grabbed him by the collar, "Couldn't run from us forever, could ya?"

Kevin pulled off Harry's glove and sank his teeth into the shorter crook's hand, making him yowl and release him. With the last ditch burst of energy he had left, he ran down the Assembly Line, ducking under stomping mechanical feet and pounding hammers. He gasped as a werewolf jumped out of the wall and ran towards him to capture him and end his run. "Oh no ya don't he's mine!" Harry tackled the Zone Monster, saving Kevin from elimination.

"Don't worry, Harry, I'll save ya!" Marv, having wasted time crawling down the Ice Caverns, and thus now covered in white whipped cream on top of everything else, rushed over to help his partner.

"Forget this guy; get the kid before he gets outta here!" Harry shoved the werewolf to the floor. He and Marv raced through the Car Wash and Showers. "We got ya now, kid!" he bellowed, taking a flying leap at Kevin, who was grabbing hold of the rope to swing through the exit wall.

"That what you think!" Kevin ducked, and Harry sailed over his head, crashing through the leftmost segment of the exit wall and bowling over the man with the switchblade. "Please pick the right one!" Kevin begged in his mind, hoping the wall he was going through would be unguarded either by Zone Monsters or the Bad Guys' cohorts. Clutching the Victor's Trophy tight, he swung hard and plowed through the wall...

...which was indeed undefended and clear. To his right, the two other men with guns turned towards him, but were promptly knocked off their feet as Marv, inexplicably not choosing to go through an open wall passage, plowed through the one they were standing behind, sending them all tumbling to the floor. Kevin crawled forward with the trophy and crossed the red finish line seconds before the clock ran out with a loud buzz. "You did it, you did it!" Caloo hefted him to his feet, "I don't know what all this other bit was with these other guys, but you did it! How does it feel!?"

"Exhausting, very exhausting," Kevin glanced nervously at the crooks stumbling around trying to get to their feet; the quicker they got out of there, the better.

"WE DID IT!" an ecstatic Nate leaped into his arms, followed by the rest of his team, plus Julian and Danielle (although Julian had dragged her over), "That was incredible, Kev! We're going to Space Camp!"

"Good, now let's get going!" Kevin gulped to see the burglars back on their feet. "Thanks for everything, Kirk!" he told the host in parting before breaking into a run towards the studio door, his friends in tow. "Move it again!" Harry once more pushed Caloo aside to continue his pursuit of Kevin, his colleagues right behind him. "Um, well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not quite sure who these gentlemen are, or what they're doing here, but nonetheless, that was an amazing run by the Shermer Strike Force," a confused Caloo told the home audience, "Which just goes to show you that anything is possible within the confines of the Splat Zone. Take care everyone, and we'll see you again after the holidays..."

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