Another year, another set of challenges. And then we’re going to have a New Year’s Party using one of Doraemon’s gadgets to make what amounts as a Room of Requirement, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Easy Challenge: The Nine Faces of Dotchan

 You have been selected to host a visiting scientist.  You are to pick her and her invention up after the Science Convention being hosted in your town (or nearby “big” town if you feel your town is not sufficient enough to host a Science Convention), and when you show up at the convention, there’s still several hours left before she and her latest breakthrough are done showing off.  You decide to stroll around the  convention, where you come across a somewhat familiar sight.  A variation of the device used to summon the characters for the New Year’s Challenges is wired into a audio/visual helmet on a restraining chair.  Curiosity gets the better of you, and you volunteer for a  demonstration of this “greatest advance in Virtual Reality.”

After sitting in the chair, wearing the hat, and choosing your teammates, the ones you planned on using this year, you find yourself in a truly stupendous world.  The helmet is replacing the stimuli to your brain, as you and your team are interacting as if this was the real world.  However, like every cliched sci-fi show, something’s bound to go wrong.  You receive a cryptic message, and the world starts to crumble around you and you black out.  As you come to, the device operator tells you the system unexpectedly crashed.  As you start to get up out of the chair, you black out again.  When you come to this time, security has you restrained, telling you to calm down.  It seems one of your teammates’s personality was in your body while you blacked out.

You must deal with this, as you host Professor Shinonome, and her teenage-looking robot Nano for a week.

“Don’t taze me, bro,” I deadpanned as I regarded the convention staff in my spiffy new straitjacket (verdict: color’s nice, but too tight at the shoulders). I was, of course, ignored in favor of the head of the group, an intimidating Man in Black type who was conversing over the phone with someone. Being impatient as always, it seemed like forever before he hung up and gave the others a wordless nod—and just like that, I wasn’t a candidate for the next available padded room. “Okay, so somebody going to explain what that was about?”

One expository scene later, I already had a vague idea of how to proceed. Since I’m told that I will have no idea what my team is doing while they’re in my body, I’ll be attempting to keep in contact with them via notes, though I think at least Sakura, Doraemon, Xelloss, and Legato would be able to communicate via telepathy or equivalent. I’ll also be sharing with the security staff ways to take me down in case one of my less cooperative team members decides that mass genocide is the best solution (though I doubted the methods could be effective, they could maybe do the job if they were quick enough).

(Team Sugar)
Sakura of course gets along with our guests in a fabulous manner. Kirby is adorable, and though his appetite may prove to be somewhat problematic the note I leave with him should at least give the guests an idea of how to deal with him. L has horrible people skills, but he and the professor can at least talk Science at each other the whole time.

(Team Unfair Advantage)
After 20+ years of playing babysitter to a kid who never seems to make it past 4th grade, I’m sure Doraemon would be ecstatic about having a prodigy around. In a similar manner, Kongming would also have the intellect to entertain our guests. Soujirou? Well, at least he’s cute and has boundless energy.

(Team Pyrrhic Victory)
Um. Not sure if the world can survive having Legato out without Xelloss holding the proverbial leash, but maybe Mad Science has a way. Xelloss himself is mostly harmless, if a bit annoying. Flonne will be endlessly pestering the Professor to be making her a life-size [Blank]zilla animatronic robot.

Medium Challenge: Why Did It Have to be Nude Singing?

The challenge device is beeping frantically for you to input your team choices, while no apparent challenge is ready.  After confirming your team members, you find yourself being drawn into a strange wormhole.   When you arrive at the other end of the wormhole, you find yourself back stage at some game show along with your team members.  Joe Rogan meets with your team and lets you know that with the return of his show Fear Factor, interdimensional sponsors have demanded the return of Anime Fear Factor as well.  Your team will break up and tackle a task individually, then if everyone passes, one final challenge as a team, with you helping on the final challenge as well.

You may help prep your teammates for their individual tasks, however they must complete it by themselves.  They may tackle whichever of the tasks they wish, it is not determined by their order of being picked for your team.

Task 1 – Eat a seven course meal prepared by Akane Tendo, from Season one of Ranma 1/2.
Task 2 – Lay in a tub and be covered with snakes or hissing cockroaches for 15 minutes, whichever the one taking the task is more disgusted by.
Task 3 – Lay in a coffin and be buried alive for 15 minutes.

Once all three tasks are done, you and your teammates will perform live karaoke in a stadium, in the buff.  That’s right fear of singing in public, combined with fear of public nudity.  The karaoke machine is from 2050, with songs from the beginning of time to whenever you write the fic.

I was definitely Not Amused at what we had to do. But at least the live audience would be too far away to see anything incriminating and the TV replay be censored by the FCC. As for the tasks, most of my teammates were willing to accept my assignments, though some of them would need a little bit of convincing…

(Team Sugar)
Sakura’s not getting any of the tasks if I can help it—I don’t care that she’s a magical girl who’s tackled way tougher things than this, I wasn’t going to subject her to any of it. (And if the host is going to give me grief about this, I’m going to point out how much bad press he’d get for making Sakura cry on live TV.) The other tasks get divided thus: Kirby eats through the meals without any problem (though even he might make some faces or act like he ate Curry from his game series and spew fire from his mouth), L endures creepy crawlies with stoic indifference (though he does stick me with a “bill” of enough sweets to run a candy shop afterwards), and I let myself be buried with only slight trauma afterwards (I’m not too claustophobic, but if I don’t have a watch with me my inability to tell how much time has passed will probably freak me out a little bit). For the karaoke section I pick Weird Al’s “Smells Like Nirvana”, arm myself and L (and Sakura, if she can’t be exempted) earplugs, and enjoy a nice dose of schadenfreude as Kirby unleashes its singing “skills” on the unwitting audience.

(Team Unfair Advantage)
I’m less picky about team distribution with this group, since I’m confident any of them could take on any of the tasks without too much trouble (unless task 2 gets switched to being crawled on by mice, in which case somebody other than Doraemon would have to do it). We’re definitely relying on Doraemon’s gadgets to let us sing in the nude without flashing anybody. As for the song, I was thinking maybe Confucius’ Analects adapted into rap (yes, such a thing exists). Or Doraemon busts out his inspirational microphone again…

(Team Pyrrhic Victory)
Xelloss definitely gets task one—as Slayers Try proved, it’s possible that he would consider Akane’s cooking a delicacy. Flonne gets first pick of tasks 2 and 3, with Legato getting the leftover (or, more likely, he forces me to do it via telekenesis). We sing the theme from Gamera in the finale, and afterwards I let Legato terrorize the host because I’m feeling grouchy about being naked.

Hard Challenge: Worth a Thousand Words

Since the Mayan Calendar is set to end its main cycle, and start anew this year, you and your team are tasked with finding within the period of one week, enough photos to be put in digital form in a time capsule to be placed and buried on the moon.

You must obtain the following photos:
1) You and your teammates holding a current copy of the New York Times
2) One of your team flashing the victory sign with Kim Jong Il’s corpse in the background
3) One of your team with the current Pope
4) One of your team with President Barack Obama
5) One of your team at each of the Seven Wonders of the World
6) One of your team in one of the zero gravity drops on the “Vomit Comet,” the plane used to train astronauts.
7) One of your team with a ticket to a Broadway show.

After assembling all the photos, you get the capsule to the shuttle launch, where something goes wrong and technical difficulties prevent the shuttle from launching, which means you must find a way, on your own, to get the time capsule to the moon for burial.

I wonder, for a moment, if Bill would be fooled by Photoshop. Probably not, but it might be worth it to do that as a backup plan in case something goes awry. I applied for a new credit card and began making phone calls, brainstorming how I was going to pull off getting the actual pictures with each of my team members.

(Team Sugar)
Buying a copy of the Times was trivial, as was a ticket to a Broadway show (and as I wasn’t feeling cheeky, I took this literally and didn’t pick some obscure off-off-off Broadway production) and a trip on the Vomit Comet (though I had to abstain due to my severe motion sickness), and traveling to the locations that I felt were worthy of being called a “Wonder” just a matter of using my credit card. Given that we’ve saved the world several times over, an audience with His Holiness and Mister President shouldn’t be too difficult, but I was sure L could arrange something otherwise. Going to North Korea without causing an international incident took both L’s work and Sakura’s cards, but we pulled it off. (Extra addendum: I know people who know people who are in NASA, but if the capsule can’t get to the moon via that method I’m sure Sakura could use her cards to turn Kirby into a rocket.)

(Team Unfair Advantage)
Doraemon’s Anywhere Door meant I could save some money on travel, while Kongming was my front man for any negotiations. Being that other than myself, Doraemon was the only one who knew how to work a camera, that left Soujirou and/or Kongming to pose for most of the pictures. Doraemon’s gamut of other tools made getting all of the photos a breeze—though, for a moment, I had to fight the temptation of making myself North Korea’s next Great Leader. (Extra addendum: And Doraemon’s gadgets make the moon trip a breeze—with one of them being a ray gun that acclimates me to any environment, I could even do it myself and take pictures!)

(Team Pyrrhic Victory)
We get the pictures, all right. We also start World War Three. Well, mission accomplished, at least… (Extra addendum: Xelloss can use subspace to travel. He does it because it’s another debt he can call on me for unspecified later favors.)