This is a fanfiction. The characters and world of the Mario universe belong to Nintendo. This story is also thematically based on the Zero Escape series by Aksys Games.
Reader discretion is advised. This story is rated M for Mature due to graphic violence.
The hallway was full of activity as Mario passed through the now-open doorway. All of the doors into the central dome had opened, their frames ringed with flashing lights beckoning everyone inside. Wario, Waluigi, and Daisy were all heading inside already. Luigi, Peach, Toad, and E Gadd were all waiting for Mario. He walked over to them, still in something of a daze after reading his captor’s letter.
The letter that told him he’d had at least three chances to escape, but missed them all. The letter that blamed Mario for all the deaths that were to come. He tried to put it out of his mind and gave the others a halfhearted smile.
“I’m glad you’re all alright,” he said. Peach grimaced and grabbed his right hand, the one he’d burned on the treasure chest puzzle.
“How did you do this?” she questioned. Mario frowned.
“Whoever put us here is smart,” he sighed. “These traps are more complicated than anything I’ve ever seen before. We’re not dealing with a prankster. This guy is a mastermind.”
E Gadd got huffy. “You’re not accusing me again, I hope.” The others looked at each other, their eyes darting from person to person. They were silently arguing over who would tell E Gadd that no one thought of him as a mastermind.
“What all did you guys find in your rooms?” Luigi asked. “Were there papers? I found this thing.”
He handed them a single typed page. The top read: Party Game Rules. Peach proceeded to read them out loud, her voice smooth and confident as her eyes scanned the page.
“Hello, sweetie! I thought this would be a good time to tell you a few more rules,” she read. “The party game is just as mandatory as rolling the DICE and following all of the other rules. If you don’t enter the competition dome by the time the game timer hits 00:00, you’ll face the consequences. Once you’re inside, participation is not mandatory, although you might live longer if you do decide to play. After the game has ended, all winners will be rewarded with 10 COINS as they cross the threshold of the competition dome back outside. You’ll then have a short time before the turn timer begins again.”
Mario pressed the left and right buttons on his DICE. The game timer turned on and read 00:05. They still had five minutes to get into the competition dome.
“This must be what Ztar meant,” the Captain said, “when she told us she’d revealed all the rules we needed to know ‘for now.’ Here’s the paper that I found in my safe.”
He held it out. Luigi took this one, clearing his throat and beginning to read.
“Did you know there are two ways to end the game? The first way is to have the most STARs after ten turns of play. However, there are also two mercy rules. For the first one, if any player exceeds the STAR count of all other players by three, that player will be allowed to escape before the allotted ten turns. For the second rule, if only one person remains in the game because all of the other competitors have died, then that person will be allowed to escape as if they had won the game traditionally. Finally, you should know that there is no punishment for interfering with others participants in the party.”
Everyone was silent for a few moments. The thought that they could expedite things by killing each other…it was a lot to stomach.
“I think we can agree,” E Gadd said, taking the paper from Luigi and folding it up, “that Wario and Waluigi don’t need to hear about this. We are going to find a way to get everyone out of here alive, alright? So until then, let’s not go about killing one another just to get a leg up.”
One by one, everyone else nodded their agreement. Luigi pressed the left and right buttons on his DICE, prompting everyone else to do the same. They gasped as they saw the time before the party game began: 00:01. They only had one minute! Everyone scrambled towards the door, Mario bringing up the rear. He passed the threshold of the door just as it slammed shut behind him.
The players found themselves in a large chamber with four clocks on the floor. Each clock was positioned with a green hour hand on the 6 and a red minute hand on the 12. On the wall beside each massive analog clock was a smaller digital clock, all of which were currently set to 06:00. So the clocks on the floor matched the ones on the wall. With everyone now inside, a large projection of Ztar appeared in the center of the room.
“Welcome back, everyone!” she said, smiling. Mario heard some of the others in the room groaning. “It’s time for our very first party game! This game is going to be played in pairs. But who is your partner? Well let’s take a look at the DICE!” Everyone complied, looking at the device on their left wrists.
“Anyone who was already in a pair – Peach and Daisy, Wario and Waluigi – all got the same color. Peach and Daisy are a red pair, while Wario and Waluigi are a blue pair. So those will be our first two teams. The rest of you went into rooms by yourself, but what colors did you get? Luigi got a blue room, E Gadd got a red room, and both Captain Toad and Mario had green rooms. Our two green roomers will be randomly shifted to either blue or red. Whichever color you get will decide who you partner with!”
Mario watched as his DICE began to shift colors wildly, the digital readout of STARs and COINS looping through a rainbow of colors before finally settling on blue. He looked up at his brother and smiled.
“Looks like it’ll be Mario and Luigi on the third team, and E Gadd and the Captain on the fourth,” Ztar announced. “With that, will everyone please move to their designated team area?”
Suddenly, holographic projections of their faces appeared above the different clocks. Each one featured two people – the pairs that Ztar had just announced. Mario and Luigi were at the clock in the southeast corner of the room, so they headed there.
“So what are the rules?” Wario shouted. Even with all the players separated his voice was still quite easy to hear.
Ztar answered him swiftly. “Well hon, you have to make your analog clock match the time on the digital clock. A time will pop up on all four digital clocks, and the first team to match the time will get a point. The first team to two points will win the game, and both participants will receive ten COINS.”
Ten COINS…that would put Mario at enough for a second STAR. He’d have to check everyone else’s STAR count after the game, but it seemed that he would have an early lead. Assuming he and Luigi could win this game.
“I hope you sweethearts are ready,” Ztar said. “It’s time to begin the game!”
The analog clocks quickly cycled through a series of times and landed on 09:20. Easy enough. Mario and Luigi each took one hand, the older brother taking the red minute hand while the younger moved to the green hour hand. With a grunt, the plumbers began pushing the hands. Their large size made them quite heavy. Mario and Luigi were strong, though, both in their prime and a healthy size to push the handles. They managed to get the handles around to the correct positions, and a large star symbol beneath their feet lit up.
The digital clock changed again, this time settling on 13:10. Mario groaned to himself. That meant he’d have to push the minute hand nearly the whole way around. He immediately began pushing, grunting with effort as he slowly moved the hand past the 5, the 6, the 7 – and suddenly a sound indicated that someone had gotten the clock set already. Mario turned to see E Gadd and the Captain celebrating.
“How in the world did you two do that?” he questioned. He didn’t want to be rude, but both of them were small and a lot weaker than him. How had they pushed the hands farther in a shorter time?
“We simply turned back time,” E Gadd said, winking. Turned back time…did that mean that the hands could be pushed counterclockwise? That certainly would explain how the smallest players in the game had just outpaced everyone else.
The clock began shifting once again, finally settling on 17: 25. That mean that the fastest path to each number would require Mario and Luigi to move towards one another. They began pushing immediately, the older brother’s hand quickly locking into place. He then leapt over to Luigi, hurdling each hand one at a time and then helping his brother push the hour hand the rest of the way. A second star lit up under them, and a siren blared to announce the end of the game. Ztar reappeared above them and smiled brightly.
“It looks like Mario and Luigi have won our first party game! Congratulations, boys. The two of you will win 10 COINS. I’ll see all of you again after the second turn to play another game. Have fun!”
With that, the doors out of the competition dome opened. Everyone went out and regrouped in the lobby.
“I want to see everyone’s STARs,” Wario declared. A few folks looked hesitant.
“Let’s just show him,” Daisy said. She held out her DICE, and slowly the rest of the group complied. Peach and Daisy each had zero across the board, as did E Gadd. Wario and Waluigi each had 1 STAR, but zero COINS, while Luigi and Toad had 1 STAR and 10 COINS. That put Mario in the lead with 2 STARs, zero COINS.
“Mr. Hero is in the lead,” Waluigi noted, giving Mario a glare. “Am I the only one who’s still suspicious of him? This whole damn thing is called a Mario party!”
“To be fair, Mario is only really in the lead by 10 COINS,” Peach countered. “Luigi and the Captain here are a blue room away from catching up.”
“And we’re all going to find a way out together,” Mario added, “so it doesn’t matter who is in the lead.”
“That’s an easy thing to say when you’re in the lead,” Wario muttered.
Toad interrupted the argument. “Guys, we don’t have time for this. That rest period we’re supposed to have after the party game is pretty short.” He held up his DICE to reveal a number – 00:58.
“The turn timer is already going?” Luigi asked. “I thought it couldn’t start until we rolled the DICE?”
“I think Ztar is just flying by the seat of her pants, so to speak,” E Gadd said. “Regardless, Toad is correct. We need to get moving immediately.”
Everyone rolled their DICE to see where they needed to head next. E Gadd rolled a 9, Captain Toad a 5, Peach a 7, Daisy a 1, Luigi a 6, Mario a 3, and Wario a 3, and Waluigi a 2. Of course, they all were moving from different rooms this time, so this meant that some pairs were being separated while others might be formed.
“Adding these numbers to our earlier rolls,” E Gadd said, quickly running through the calculations in his head, “means that Peach and Waluigi, Wario and Luigi, and Mario and myself will all share rooms. Daisy and Toad are the only ones who will be alone.”
“Time to get moving,” Mario said. Everyone split off and headed to their respective doors. The plumber headed three doors ahead of his old position, the new door reading: 12. Odd, since this was actually the tenth door in the order. It took only a moment for Mario to realize that this was his roll added together with E Gadd’s. The two of them lifted their hands to the scanner panel outside of the door. The metal door slid open and the new partners stepped inside.
As before, something scanned their DICE as they stepped beyond the threshold, and the door slammed behind them as soon as they got inside safely. Mario immediately noticed a few features that looked familiar. On his left was a small metal safe, colored yellow with a white question mark on the front. A keypad sat at the top with a number of different buttons. As before, Mario recognized a number of the symbols.
Of course, plenty of this room’s features stood out as unique. In Mario’s first room, he had been in a sort of central lobby surrounded by other rooms. Here they were in a long, tall hallway. At each end of the hallway was a pair of doors – one at ground level and one upside-down door that looked as if one would have to be walking on the ceiling to reach it.
“Four rooms,” E Gadd noted. “Just like the first room I opened. And I imagine yours was similar?”
“Yes,” Mario nodded. “Though they weren’t like this. I wonder how we reach the ones on the ceiling.”
As if in answer, the color of the walls in the hallway changed drastically. The lower half of the wall turned blue, and arrows of a lighter blue color pointed down towards the floor. The upper half of the wall turned red, with pink arrows pointing upwards towards the ceiling. Suddenly remembering something, Mario took a quick look at his DICE. The numbers and letters on the display were blue.
“Looks like we got a blue room,” he told E Gadd. “Ten more COINS for us.”
“I’m not particularly concerned with that,” the scientist replied with a wave of his hand. “I believe that these markings on the walls indicate changes in gravitational pull.”
Mario took a second look at the walls. The designs did look quite familiar, and suddenly he remembered seeing this same phenomenon before. When Bowser had used the power of the stars to take over entire galaxies, the plumber had encountered places where gravity was altered or even constantly shifting.
“You’re right,” Mario nodded. “If we jump up in the red gravity zone, it’ll make the ceiling our floor and we can go through the door there.”
“I’m going to leave that to you,” E Gadd said, holding up his hands in mock surrender. “I’m certainly not making that jump. I’ll stay in the blue where the gravity is normal.”
The plumber did not give the old scientist an answer. Instead, he simply took a running start and leapt up into the air. Once his body ended up in the red gravity zone, he turned in midair and pointed his feet towards the ceiling. He felt himself being pulled upward, his feet hitting the ceiling as he “landed.” Now firmly planted on the ceiling, he looked down towards E Gadd, who gave him a quick wave.
“Let’s go through our doors and try to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing,” the scientist suggested. Mario nodded and moved to the door. He opened it and stepped through, E Gadd doing the same thing.
Their doors led into the same room, a massive chamber with the top and bottom halves completely parallel to one another. Looking forward, there was a staircase leading down to a maze. Looking down on the maze, Mario could see a series of red doors and blue switches. He gave a quick look up and could see E Gadd, his blue maze littered with red switches and blue doors.
“You’re upside down!” Mario smiled, looking up at the scientist.
“Actually, from our original perspective from the center of the facility, you’re the one who is upside down. Although I believe relativity is a sort of running theme in this elaborate game.”
The plumber just smiled and nodded, not wanting to listen to a long lecture. “So it looks like I have to press switches to open your doors, and you have to press them to open mine. We have to help each other get through our mazes.”
“Yes, that is somewhat straightforward, is it not?” E Gadd chuckled. “Well we can talk while we’re working.” Mario groaned to himself and started making his way down the stairs. He encountered a door right away, so he had to wait for the scientist to reach his first switch.
“What do you know about the theory of relatitivity?” E Gadd questioned. “Are you familiar at all with special relativity, time dilation, any of that?”
“Is that e=mc squared or whatever?” Mario asked. The scientist sighed, putting his weight onto the first pressure plate. The plumber’s door opened, and he walked through to begin looking for his switch.
“That is such a tiny part of it,” E Gadd sighed. “Let me see here…okay, so are you familiar at all with postmodernism? The idea that there is no absolute truth and that everything is relative to the person perceiving it?” Again, Mario had to say no. “Okay. Take a look at this room. Right now, I am standing on a pressure plate. My weight is pressing down onto the plate, pushing me into the floor. But that’s from my perspective. From yours, I am on the ceiling, and reverse gravity is pulling me upward into the pressure plate. The opposite is true concerning you. To yourself, you appear to be rightside up, but to me you look upside down. Our situation is completely dependent on our perspective. Can we agree to that?”
“I guess so,” Mario said. Having now found his own pressure plate, he stepped on it and opened up E Gadd’s way through.
“Alright then. When we speak of perspective in this case, we are of course speaking on our perspective on space. By space I mean the three-dimensional space around us: length, width, and depth. Depending on how we look at it, that space looks different. The theory of relativity argues that space is not the only thing that works this way. It considers time as a fourth dimension, and says that time is relative to individual points just as space is.”
Mario sighed. “And the point of this is?”
“When I opened my safe,” E Gadd began, “the one in my first room, there was a single sheet of paper that posed one question. ‘When is this?’ At first I supposed it literally referred to the current date, but now I believe there is more to it. We just played a party game wherein everyone was expected to manipulate time. During that game, I pointed out to you that there was no rule against going counterclockwise, that you could literally turn back the clock to go faster. And now, we’re in a room with alterations in gravity, which of course to a person of my education and philosophical background would bring to mind the idea of time dilation. All of this has led me to two conclusions.”
Mario watched as his next door opened. He stepped through it to look for his next switch. It was odd, having this conversation with a man hanging upside down above him. E Gadd didn’t seem to notice any of this and just kept talking.
“My first conclusion is that our captor is incredibly intelligent and organized. Our DICE are not assigning our locations at random. We were put into specific rooms for specific reasons. My rooms and the first game all work together to put me in the mind of the theory of relativity and the B theory of time. That isn’t a coincidence. If anyone other than me had been in my first room, and then in this one, it wouldn’t mean anything to them. Our captor chose me to go to these specific places because he or she wants me to be thinking about this, though I cannot say for sure why.”
“That leads me to my second conclusion. The concept of relativity is somehow significant to these events. I don’t know how that is yet. But the fact that our captor specifically wanted me to be thinking about time and the nature of time, and now here you are in this room with me…that too is intentional. I feel this very deeply. The party is about you, Mario, and the part of the party directed at me has prompted me to think about these things. Ergo, assuming our captor is organized and intentional, which I believe he or she is, then the only logical assumption is that you need this information for some later part of the game.”
None of this was making any sense to Mario. Why would he need to know about relativity? He posed the question out loud.
“Oh, I have no idea,” E Gadd said, shrugging. “This is all speculation, of course. But I believe it to be accurate speculation. The answers will not be clear until we complete the game. But in the meantime, because it is my role to explain the theory, I will do so.”
“I thought you already explained the theory,” Mario countered.
“Only the tiniest fraction,” E Gadd replied. “I believe the next logical step is to talk about why this specific room helped to remind me. That, of course, is the concept of time dilation. This is the idea that things such as velocity and gravity can actually alter the flow of time at a specific point.”
Mario frowned at that. “You mean perception of time. You said the actual flow.”
“What I said was what I meant.” Mario furrowed his brow as the scientist continued. “There is scientific evidence that these things happen. Take, for example, a group of people who spend one year in space. Scientifically speaking, they actually do age at a slower rate than the rest of the world. This is recordable. Of course, the change is so miniscule that it makes no visible effect on them. But if our technology were ever to advance to the point that we could travel at more significant velocities, or live in more distinct fields of gravity, then two people could actually experience the same length of time in very different ways, one aging significantly faster than another. Right now it’s science fiction, but that is only because it is currently not realistic to achieve those sorts of velocities or travel to those sorts of places.”
“If the changes are so small,” Mario began, “then why does it matter?”
“It matters because of how it relates to the entire theory as a whole,” E Gadd answered. “There is scientific proof that time, just like space, is relative. So think of the broader impact. What does it mean if time functions based on perspective?”
“I guess that would mean that time is different for each person,” Mario shrugged.
E Gadd smiled. “Precisely. Imagine a sheet of paper with three numbers written on it: a one at the bottom, two in the middle, and three at the top. Then take your pencil and place it horizontally on the bottom of the paper. If you run that pencil up, you’ll hit the numbers in the order one, two, three. But now, imagine that someone flips the paper upside down. Start the pencil at the new bottom and run it up, and suddenly you’re hitting the numbers in the order three, two, one. Turn the paper on its side, and you’ll hit all three numbers at the same time. Past, present, future…the order of those events is subjective based on the angle from which you look at time.”
“So you could go backwards if you had a way to travel through the dimension of time the way we can travel through the dimension of space,” Mario guessed.
“Right on the nose,” E Gadd said. “But now, here’s a question: is point number 1 really the same point both times?”
Mario answered immediately. He realized he’d been standing still for quite some time, so he made a point of moving as he spoke. “Of course. You’re looking at it from different sides, sure, but it’s still the same thing. Like how you and I are in the same room but seeing it in different ways.”
“Fair enough,” the scientist began, “but let’s think about this a little. Say you pass through point one the traditional way, in the order one, two, three. Now you’re at the other side, and you are looking at the points from a different perspective. You go back to where you started by going through three, then two, and then one. When you reach point one that second time, is it the same as it was the first time?”
“Still yes,” Mario answered.
E Gadd sighed. “Let’s change the illustration. Imagine that those three points are three stepping stones submerged into a river. You can use the stones to cross the river. So say you cross those stones in the order one, two, three. You spend a few minutes on the other side of the river, and then you hop back in the order three, two, one. Is the point one you started on the same point one you came back to? Or to put it a better way: are you still in the same water?”
That one gave Mario pause. He stood on his pressure plate and thought as E Gadd moved ahead. “I guess…I guess it isn’t in the same water. The water you stepped in the first time has flowed down the river.”
The scientist nodded. “There you go. So it’s the same with time. Even if you were to theoretically return to a point of time you’ve been to before, it won’t be the same. You’re a different person, with different knowledge and different experiences than you were the first time. You can go back to same spot in the river, but it won’t be the same river. In this way, all points of time are completely unique. They all exist simultaneously, and there is not past, present, and future – just whatever happened before, and what’s going to happen after. And all of that is relative to each person’s unique perspective.”
Mario didn’t say anything for a bit. He’d reached the end of the maze and was standing on the final pressure plate. When E Gadd stepped on his as well, an image appeared on the wall.
“I’ve got a koopa shell,” the plumber called out. “What do you have?”
“It’s a power star,” E Gadd answered.
Having completed the challenge on this side, the two headed back through the maze and returned to the front hallway. Mario leapt down off of the ceiling, returning to E Gadd’s perspective for a few moments. He wanted to speak to the man directly for his next question.
“So tell me this, Gadd – why does it matter? This may all be scientifically proven, or some of it proven, or whatever. But you said that none of this time travel stuff is possible at our current level of technology. So why is any of this important to the game?”
E Gadd gave Mario a sort of coy smile. “Well Mario, my boy, only you can answer that question.” He leaned back against the wall. “Tell me something. What did you find in your safe? And I don’t mean the main compartment. I mean the second compartment you figured out.”
Mario’s brow furrowed. “How do you-?”
“You may not be a scientist, but you certainly aren’t stupid,” E Gadd replied. “I found the paper that said ‘when is it’ in a second, secret compartment of my safe. I imagine you found something similar.”
The plumber nodded. “It was a letter to me, from whoever captured us. They said that I always just play games, that I’m missing the bigger picture because of it.”
“I see,” the scientist said. “So then, for me it’s about time and relativity, for you it’s about games. Since this whole ordeal is called a Mario Party, let’s assume that you are the focus of this whole exercise. You are the reason our captor is doing this. That makes you the main character of the game, which means that I am a questgiver of sorts. An NPC that has crucial information you need to succeed at your mission. You need what I know to win the game. So the mastermind behind everything planted the thought of time relativity into my mind, then paired me with you so we would talk about it.”
“I don’t know why you need to know these things, Mario. But I believe we can safely assume that if you don’t, you won’t make it out of this game alive.”
Okay, so this is pretty much the latest a post has ever posted. I’m sorry, adventurers. As I’ve explained throughout the week, travel has really cut into my time to write. On top of that, I have a son to take care of, family to visit with in all the places we have been visiting…add my external circumstances to the fact that this chapter is full of dense scientific theories that I had to try and break down into layman’s terms (when I’m a layman and only have a basic understanding of most of them myself), and it just added up into this post taking a crazy long time for me to write. I will do my best to have the posts for the next couple of days ready on time, but as I am still out of town, I can’t make any promises. Thank you all again for your patience and I hope you are enjoying this fanfic.