Chapter One: Annie’s Choice
Sprawled out on the front lawn at the boys’ house, JJ, Jamie, and Charli waited for Annie to arrive. They’d buzzed with excitement all morning. Which Minecraft map would Annie choose for them to visit? Would it work or would they end up back in the same map as last time?
JJ couldn’t imagine Annie would pick anything scary, not after their last adventure. Stuck and unable to return from the Nether had been terrifying. They’d been forced to duck fireballs, avoid zombie pigmen, and outrun wither skeletons. It was not something he wanted to experience again. It still amazed him that Annie had found the courage to help Jamie rescue himself, Charli, and their villager friend, Toby.
“What time is Annie supposed to be here?” Charli asked.
JJ checked his watch. “Any minute.”
“I can’t wait to find out which map she’s picked,” Jamie said.
“My guess is it will be a zoo,” Charli said. “She loves animals.”
JJ shook his head. “I don’t think so. If I know Annie it’ll be a map filled with hundreds of cakes.”
“Yep, I agree,” Jamie said. “Cakes are all she ever builds. They’re her specialty.”
“We’re about to find out.” Charli jumped to her feet as the front door of Annie’s house opened and Annie appeared. Excitement built as Annie crossed the road.
“Hi guys.” Annie grinned at the other members of the Crafters’ Club. “Ready?”
“We are, are you?” JJ asked. “Did you bring a map?”
Annie pulled a USB stick out of her pocket. “Yep, all ready to load.”
“Let’s go.” Jamie turned and hurried to the house. The others followed.
“So, do you want me to tell you what the map is?” Annie asked.
“No, let it be a surprise,” JJ said. “I just have to convert it for the Xbox. Won’t be long.” JJ put the USB into his laptop and began the process.
Jamie tapped his fingers on the coffee table. “I can’t wait to go back in.” “Me either,” Charli said. “Let’s hope nothing goes wrong this time.”
“Okay, all done.” JJ inserted the USB into the Xbox. He clicked through the options and selected the map named Annie’s Choice. He grinned at her. “Ready for the big reveal?”
Annie smiled. “Definitely. Open the map, JJ.”
The map opened and Annie’s selection for their next adventure was revealed. Jamie jumped up off the couch. “Awesome, this is so awesome. Check it out. Can you believe Annie chose this?” A theme park map had opened on the Xbox.
The other two grinned, their eyes fixed on the screen.
“Let me show you around.” Annie picked up a controller and took them on a tour of the map.
“I definitely want to ride the roller coaster,” Jamie said.
“I can’t wait to see the Ferris wheel,” Charli said. “It looks amazing on the screen.”
“I wonder if the fairground music will still play when we arrive,” Annie said. “It’s so festive.”
“We thought you would choose a food map,” JJ said. “This is heaps better.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Annie moved CakeGirl1 to another area, “we won’t be hungry.” She toured the food stalls. All offered a variety of cakes in different colors and sizes.
“As long as we can access them,” JJ said. “We should still prepare chests with other food, armor, weapons, and crafting materials.”
The other three nodded. They’d learned from their previous adventures that the more prepared they were, the better.
“Should we try out the rides on the Xbox?” Charli asked. “We don’t want any surprises when we go in.”
“I already have,” Annie said. “They all work perfectly. I’ve even added an emergency stop for the roller coaster.”
“Emergency stop?” JJ said. “Why do we need that? Do you think it’s too dangerous?”
Annie’s cheeks flushed as the others waited for her to answer. She shook her head. “No, it’s just…well I wasn’t sure if I’d get scared or not. If I do I want to be able to stop the ride and get off.”
“Good idea,” JJ said. “How do you stop it?”
“By turning off a powered rail. I’ve placed a button at one halfway through the ride. If you press it the minecart will slow when it travels over the rail and gradually stop.”
“So three of us need to stand by the button waiting while one of us is on the ride?” Jamie asked.
Annie nodded. “Yes. When you want to stop just wave your hands like crazy above your head, that can be the signal to push the button.”
“I didn’t know you knew how to use powered rails,” JJ said.
Annie laughed. “It was a good opportunity to learn.”
“What else should we check before we go back in?” Jamie asked.
“How to get back out,” Charli said. “We’ll be in a different map. We should build a portal before we go.”
JJ smiled. Everyone was thinking ahead.
“I’ve made sure to only open the map in creative mode,” Annie said. “We might arrive in creative this time.”
“Let’s hope so but if we don’t let’s be prepared for survival. Annie, did you want to fill some chests with food?” JJ said. “Charli, why don’t you build a new portal? Jamie and I can organize the armor and other inventory.”
Annie laughed. “I think you’ll find there’s enough food.”
“Let’s put some into the chests anyway,” JJ said. “Nothing’s gone to plan on our earlier visits so this time let’s make sure we’re over-prepared.” Silence fell on the family room as the four members of the Crafters’ Club got on with their jobs. Ten minutes later they were finished. A portal had been created near the small house Jamie had built at the edge of the theme park. The food and inventory had been placed in chests and stored inside.
“One of the chests is full of obsidian and flint and steel,” Jamie said. “We can easily build another portal if we come across any issues.”
“Good job.” JJ put his controller down on the table and turned to the others. “Ready?”
Three grinning faces nodded.
The four friends raced down the sloping back yard to the dense forest. It was amazing to think they’d discovered the portal only a week ago. The overgrown path was already trampled flat by their frequent trekking back and forth.
Charli led them into the forest. She ducked quickly around branches and fallen logs. Reaching the creek she picked her way across the exposed rocks before racing up the steep bank on the far side. She let out a breath as she rounded the last tree and stepped into the clearing. The bright light of the portal sparkled and danced in the morning sunlight. She turned and grinned at the others. “I was worried it might not be here.”
“Me too.” Jamie returned her grin. “But it is, so let’s go in. I’m dying to ride the roller coaster and try some of the amazing cakes Annie made.”
JJ turned to Charli and Annie. “What do you think? Ready?”
Charli’s heart rate quickened. “I’m with Jamie, let’s go.”
“Yes, let’s go.” Annie laughed at the three surprised faces in front of her. “I know I’m usually the one to chicken out but I’ve got a good feeling this time. It’s going to be fun. Come on.”
“Well, if Annie’s happy to go in, then I am too,” JJ said. “Lead the way, Charli.”
Charli approached the portal. She turned to check the others were behind her then squeezed her eyes shut and stepped into its bright, welcoming light.