Authors: George Ivanoff
George Ivanoff is an author and stay at-home dad residing in Melbourne, Australia. He has written over 50 books for children and teenagers. His teen science fiction novel,
won a 2010 Chronos Award for speculative fiction. He has books on both the Victorian Premier’s and the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists. George eats too much chocolate and drinks too much coffee. He has one wife and two children. Check out George’s website at:
The Official Garners’ Quest website for stories, music and videos is at:
For my good friend, H. Gibbens, and my favourite brother-in-law, Marc Valko. Many thanks for the awesome visuals and music
First published by Ford Street Publishing, an imprint of
Hybrid Publishers, PO Box 52, Ormond VIC 3204
Melbourne Victoria Australia
©George Ivanoff 2011
This publication is copyrighl. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1 968, no partmay be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction should be addressed to
Ford Street Publishing Pty Ltd
2 Ford Street, Clifton Hill
Ford Street website:
First published 2011
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Author: Ivanoff, George 1968-
Title: Gamers’ Challenge
ISBN: 9781921665516 (pbk.) Target audience: For secondary school age Dewey Number: A823.3
Cover art: © Les Petersen
Cover design: © Grant Gittus Graphics
In-house editor: Beau Hillier
Printed in China by Tingleman Pty Ltd
10: Legend of the Ultimate Gamer
26: Battle in the Light Grid Chimaera vs Knight
28: Battle in the Light Grid - Dragon vs Unicorn
30: Battle in the Light Grid - Static Man vs Fat Man
32: Battle in the Light Grid- Endgame
It all started with a kiss.
Or was it that everything stayed the same except them?
Zyra took aim, almost saying a prayer to the Designers out of habit, and pulled the trigger. She watched the crossbow bolt slice through the air, pinning all her hopes on it as it made its way to its target. Could this bolt be different? Could the fact that it belonged to the monks from the Temple of Paths be the deciding factor?
But just like every other weapon Zyra had tried, the bolt did not do its job. It froze as it met its target. Pixel by pixel, it was deconstructed and absorbed into the grey, sizzling nothingness.
Zyra pulled the second trigger to fire the auxiliary bolt, more out of frustration than any real hope of it working. It too was taken apart and removed from the World.
‘Blast!’ Zyra tossed the useless crossbow to one side.
The writhing mass of static shot towards her. Zyra flung herself to the ground and rolled, her shoulder crunching painfully over the rubble, then sprang to her feet and ran. The vaguely spherical conglomeration of static streaked after her.
Zyra knew she couldn’t outrun it - but she could stay ahead of it, at least for a little while. She’d had lots of practice recently, as each weapon she’d tested inevitably failed.
Sprinting along the cracked and crumbling roads of the City, her worn red leather coat flapping about her legs, she felt sweat prickling her brow. She skirted the ruins of a large building, almost losing her footing in the rubble, but managing to retain her balance. She didn’t need to look behind to know that in the second it took to stop herself from falling, the inexplicable ball of static would have gained ground. One more misplaced step, the slightest mistake, and she’d be dead -deconstructed, pulled apart, molecule by molecule. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, the fear rising up inside her, the sweat now dripping from her face.
Zyra rounded another corner in a spray of graveland ran into the graveyard that backed onto the Temple of Paths. She had concealed another loaded crossbow in the shrubbery that grew amongst the multitude of dilapidated headstones, but saw little reason in using it now. She’d be dead before she could pick up the crossbow and even if she could fire it, it would have no effect. She had only one hope. Her eyes locked onto the vestry at the end of the graveyard, a ramshackle stone room tacked on to one side at the back of the Temple of Paths. The static was right behind her. The second it took to open the door would mean the end of her.
Lungs burning, heart pounding, Zyra vaulted a headstone and made for the little window beside the vestry door, the glass long ago shattered and never replaced. A good couple of strides before reaching the window, she leapt into the air. Arms outstretched, she dived through the glassless frame. Relief washed over her as she thudded onto the thin mattress.
Winded, she took a moment to catch her breath and pull the hair back from her eyes, and then rolled off the mattress, slowly getting to her feet. As she turned and looked at the window frame, she could see the static hovering outside. Zyra stepped over to the window and leant in close, until her face was centimetres from the basketball-sized conglomeration of simmering menace. She ran her fingers along the growing stubble that surrounded her red Mohawk.
‘Can’t gets me in ‘ere.’
The static rolled and writhed and bubbled, like a starving animal separated from its prey. Questions floated through Zyra’s mind. What were these things? How did they maintain their shape? After all, they had no real substance. They were just static, like what you would see on an un-tuned television set, or in that unreal place between game environments. And why were they after her?
Zyra stared into its fathomless depths, watching the grey nothingness. She felt like it would be so easy to just give in; to reach out a hand, touch it, and let it consume her.
Something formed, bared its fangs, and then the static - and whatever it was within its cold depths - was no longer there.
Zyra staggered backwards, tripping and landing hard on the stone floor, her bones jarring.
‘Imagination,’ she told herself, tugging at one of the studs that pierced her lower lip. just imagination.’ She rose slowly, wincing with pain, and yawned.
In addition to the homicidal static and her and Tark’s inability to interact with the game, something else had changed. Ever since their rebellious, rule breaking kiss, both Zyra and Tark seemed to have become more susceptible to aches and pains and fatigue. It used to be that, when injured, Zyra would bounce back quickly, all residual effects disappearing. But not anymore. Gone were the days when bruises never formed, falls were barely noticed and near asphyxiation could be shaken off within minutes. Gone were the days when she only slept between adventures. She rubbed at her aching shoulder, stretched her jarred back and yawned again.
She and Tark had broken the Designers’ rules.
She knew that... and she accepted that there would be consequences. She could live with the aches and pains; she could deal with having to sleep regularly; she didn’t especially care that they were no longer part of the game that continued to unfold around them. Even the pimples that had started to pop out on her face were endurable. But deadly static appearing out of nowhere and trying to kill her? That was another matter.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the static was after Tark as well. But these random manifestations had singled her out. It wasn’t that they didn’t attack Tark when they came across him. They did. But it was her they wanted. Within minutes of leaving the Temple of Paths, at least one of the blasted things would be upon her. Tark, meanwhile, seemed to be able to roam around, so long as he was careful and she wasn’t present. She hated that!
Not for the first time, Zyra wondered if they had made a mistake. Their lives had been a lot simpler when they had been playing the game. If they hadn’t kissed, they would still be playing.
Zyra shook the thought from her mind and looked around the vestry. She supposed that she should feel grateful that she was safe in here, even though she didn’t know why. It was little more than a small room added onto the back of the Temple. None of the monks ever seemed to use it. Apart from an old table and a pile of robes, it had been empty when she and Tark had found it. Now it contained a couple of old straw-stuffed mattresses, some worn blankets and a small stash of food. They had also accumulated a reasonable batch of weapons, poorly concealed under the robes. Every so often, Tark would go out and scavenge anything of use that he could find.
Zyra wandered over to the pile of robes and lifted them back. Guns, knives, throwing stars, a sword and some nunchucks. There had been two crossbows earlier on, before she had decided to try them out. She had thought they might work. After all, the Temple of Paths kept the static at bay. It was logical to assume that the weapons of the monks within might have some effect. But no.
A stray bit of hair flopped in front of her eyes and she swept it back roughly. She missed that her hair used to just stay in place, nice and spiky, instead of draping all over the place.
In the distance, Zyra could hear the monks chanting.
‘Don’t they eva stop?’ Then she yelled,
A strand of hair dropped down in front of her eyes agam.