"Area? Time?" questioned Laura, glancing toward the other three players. "Anyone have a preference?"

    Phillip leaned over to examine the screen--only the hosts got a view of the world map, apparently. Laura tried to ignore the feeling of his body against hers, but found herself filled with lust no matter how hard she tried to fend it off. For a moment she had the fleeting wish that Jenna and Ryan weren't present.. Snap out of it, Laura! Concentrate on the game! She glanced at the top screen, which showed that Phillip had chosen a lifeless wasteland known as "Cullandia" during the 1400's. Cullandia... The name struck a bell, but Laura wasn't entirely sure why. Phyllip eased back to look at his own DS, and Laura let out an inward sigh.

    "Cullandia," sniffed Jenna, "It's obvious the game creator came up with that name off of the top of his head. So medieval-fantasy..."

    "Oh, so you're the game reviewer extraordinaire now, are you?" teased Phillip, going over the settings on the two screens. "Well, looks like this is medieval-fantasy, so it's just right!"

    "Not quite," corrected Laura, "I could choose any time from the B.C.'s to after year 3000, actually,"

    "Wow," Jenna looked impressed rather than cynical at this new revelation, "I wonder what effect that has on gameplay?"

    "Well, are we going to see, or are we going to keep yapping?" replied Ryan. Then, in an over-dramatic, announcer-style voice: "Shall the blood-bath begin?"

    "Aye!" cried Jenna and Phillip cheerfully, thrusting their styluses into the air in mock cheer. Laura tapped the "Begin" command accordingly, wondering what sort of game they would end up playing.

    All four friends fell silent and huddled over their respective DSes, styluses at the ready. Another CGI video began to play, this time fleshing out a simple man-versus-supernatural story to explain the action.

    "A collective call-to-arms..." snarled an electronic voice as small snippets of epic battles began to play across the screen: an armored figure wielding only a lance felling a hairy humanoid beast; a robed witch sending out waves of flame, toasting all of her oncoming attackers; a human child transforming into a fanged reptilian monster.

    "Wow..." breathed Ryan, eyes wide. This game really took it to the limit.

    "A terrifying howl..." continued the disembodied voice. Another humanoid figure like the one killed by the soldier with the lance appeared, this time in black armor. Its mouth opened to reveal rows of sharp teeth, and it let out a deafening roar. All four players quickly turned down the volume for fear of waking Phillip's parents.

    "A war between the living and the dead!" The view panned out until hundreds upon thousands of soldiers could be seen rushing to battle.

   " Very Lord of the Rings..." remarked Jenna, scratching her head as another choice appeared on the screen: "Choose your race and class!"

    Outside Phillip's home, a sparrow fell from the sky, an arrow lodged in its chest.

    Jenna became a changeling archer, Ryan a ghostly ax-fighter, Laura an elven mage, and Phillip a human medic. "Pacifist!" hissed Ryan jokingly. The fifth player became a phantom warrior.

    "Start the Battle!" announced the same electronic voice, and Jenna found herself pitted against a transparent man with a huge sword at his side. Realistically, Ryan's character was standing next to her. "Andrew" read the name of their opponent. It must be an NPC... figured Jenna, though she found it scary nonetheless.

    "Mm, a turned-based RPG. Just like I like 'em!" cried Phillip triumphantly, as if he had already won his battle. Jenna didn't bother asking Phillip and Laura who they were up against.

    Jenna's opponent slashed at Ryan with his sword, and Ryan countered by throwing his ax at the phantom in what was apparently a special move known as "Boomerang-Ax." Next came Jenna's turn.

    She frowned at the myriad of menus opened up to her. She could initiate a normal attack, unleash magic, use a special move, or change shape: apparently that was a race-exclusive ability. Curious, she chose the latter. Both screens went black, and Jenna started, afraid she had turned the DS off by accident. But she wasn't that unlucky: on the top screen, a 3-D view of her current appearance was shown. On the bottom however, something very strange appeared...

The End

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