Laser Tag Lair

Laser Tag Lair

Laser Tag Lair

Grand Opening of Laser Tag Lair – 1987

The Lyon Family Grocery was headed for bankruptcy. With the big box store opening down the street about a month before, there was just no way for the small time grocers to stay in business.

The dumpsters behind the building began to pile high with unsold, expired food. The store was becoming a money pit.

The three brothers who ran the store were pressed to come up with an idea to save the family business, and fast.

“What are we gonna do?” Bill Lyon, the oldest brother, asked his younger brothers, Joe and Dan.

“I just don’t know. If Pa’ were still alive, he’d know what to do,” Joe said. “We can’t compete with the Save-Mart’s prices. Shoot, if we did, we’d be losing money faster than if we are just tossing the stuff. I mean, Mr. Franklecheese loves it. He’s been getting all the tuna fish and milk he could ever dream of.”

(Mr. Franklecheese, the store cat, did seem to be enjoying the family’s lack of business. He got first dibs on anything that was about to be thrown away.)

“Maybe it’s time for the Lyon family to give up the grocery business,” Bill said. “I think the cat will survive.”

Mr. Franklecheese hissed and raised the hair on his back before he went back to his bowl of nearly expired milk.

“Give up?! Bill, this store has been in the family for over five generations. It’s a staple of the community. It’s the first building you see when you drive into town,” Joe said. “We can’t give it up.”

“I know, Joe, I know. But I think we should sell the property.”

“Sell it? We can’t do that. What would Mama say?”

“Well we can’t afford to keep it at this rate,” Bill said. “If we sell, at least we’d have enough to start over. Start something new. What are you thinking Dan?”

Dan Lyon, the youngest brother, hadn’t contributed much to the conversation. His head was down and he was fiddling with something on the table.

“Danny? You even care?” Bill said.

“I did it!” Danny said.

“Did what?”

“I made a laser. Watch this.”

Dan picked up his contraption – no larger than a matchbox – and aimed it at Bill.

“Pew – pew! Gotcha!” Dan said.

A little red light showed up on Bill’s shirt. Bill looked down, grabbing at it.

“What the hell is it?” Bill said.

“It’s a laser! I told you already.”

“That’s neat, Danny, but we’re trying to save the family business here,” Joe said.

“That’s just it, you guys. This is how we’re going to do it. With lasers,” Dan said.

“I don’t follow.”

“See, I read about this place in Texas. They’ve got a big building where people split into teams and run around wearing special sensors and shoot each other with these laser guns. Every time you get hit, the other team gets a point. It’s called laser tag. And people pay to do it. We’ve got the space for it and I just figured out the laser part. All I need now is to turn it into a gun and build some sort of sensor system to hook everything up and keep score.”

“What do we know about laser tag? How could we turn that into a business? Let alone go from selling groceries to selling…what? Laser tags?”

“Well, all I know is they charge 5 bucks a head over in Texas and over 10,000 people came to play on opening day. With the summer coming up and all the tourists and such, I think we’d be able to figure it out well enough.”

The Lyon brothers talked it over some more and finally all agreed to convert the family grocery store in a laser tag arena.

Using the empty shelves as obstacles and bunkers, the ex-grocery store was beginning to look like a true laser tag battlefield.

After some marketing in the local newspapers and radio stations, the word was spreading that a laser tag arena was coming to town. The Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair grand opening was only weeks away.

Dan Lyon was hard at work creating an arsenal of laser guns, senor vests, and a central system that would connect the equipment and keep score. He was no genius. He wasn’t really an engineer either. Dan was just patient and good with tinkering with stuff. His projects were never perfect, but they usually got the job done – mostly.

The boys built a simple ticket booth at the front doors and put the finishing touches on the rest of the front of the grocery store. A big electronic scoreboard and sensor tracker hung from the ceiling in the center of the building and connected to the complicated control and power system that Dan was building in the back room. It was a mishmash of old generators, washer machines, basketball scoring systems, rudimentary computers, calculators, remote control cars, Nintendos, and a bunch of rare gems. It was a result of Dan piecing things together until it sort of did what he wanted it to – kind of.

Three days before the scheduled grand opening, Dan Lyon called out to his brothers from the back room.

“Are you guys ready to see some magic!? I’m going to power this baby up,” Dan said.

He flicked the power switch – along with a few other switches – to the proper position. The jerry rigged control system popped and shook as it booted up. The building rumbled and the overhead lights flickered. A constant electronic hum buzzed throughout the building.

Dan came running out towards his brothers wearing a sensor vest and holding a laser gun with a big smile on his face. Bill and Joe remained a bit skeptical. They weren’t convinced laser tag was going to save the business or if Dan’s contraption was even going to work.

“Who wants to do the honors of taking the first shot?” Dan said. “It’ll go down in history as the first recorded hit in the system. It’s a big deal.”

“Give it here, Danny. I’ll do it,” Joe said.

“Alrighty, I’ll tell you when to shoot. It’s got to be semi-challenging so it’ll be memorable.”

Dan handed his brother the laser gun and walked towards the other side of the building about fifty yards away.

“You sure this thing can reach that far?” Joe yelled to Dan.

“Oh yeah it can! Ready when you are,” Dan said.

Joe raised the laser gun and looked down the sights towards the sensor on Dan’s vest across the room. He took a deep breath in and squeezed the trigger. Mr. Franklecheese jump down from one of the bunkers and ran across the room. He’d been on edge since the central control machine turned on.

Nothing.

“Damnit, cat! Get out of the way!” Joe said.

“You missed! Give Bill a shot,” Dan said.

Bill took the gun from his brother’s hands. He looked across the room towards the sensor spot on Dan’s vest. The electric hum still radiated throughout the building. Joe stood by scratching his head. He didn’t think he missed. Bill raised the laser gun and aimed.

PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAP

The electric hum grew silent and the lights in the building went dark for a moment as a flash of light engulfed the entire room. The scoreboard dinged overhead and registered a score. The lights flickered a bit and came back on. Across the room, where Dan was standing a moment ago, were nothing but an empty vest and his shoes on the ground.

“What? Where’d he go?” Joe said.

“Come on out Danny! Bet you didn’t think I’d get you on my first try, did ya?” Bill said.

Bill and Joe made their way across the room, peeking behind bunkers and into hiding spots expecting Dan to jump out and scare them. He didn’t. Joe picked up the empty vest. Mr. Franklechees ran by and hissed at the empty shoes.

“What the hell you think he’s up to?” Joe said.

“You know Dan, he’s messing with us. Always playing tricks,” Bill said. “Probably working up a plan to scare us when we least expect it. We know what you’re up to Danny! Best give it up!”

The brothers searched around for a while longer until they were certain they’d investigated the entire building. There was no way their brother could still be hiding. They’d checked every possible spot.

“You don’t think he’s…” Joe said.

“No, no. He’s just screwing with us, I’m sure of it,” Bill said.

“What about the lights and that big flash? What if it zapped him? Like vaporized him or something?”

“Vaporized him? Come on man, don’t be ridiculous,” Bill said. “If he’s not playing a prank, I bet he’s just taken an early vacation or something. Pre-sale tickets for the grand opening are looking good. This is probably Danny just rubbing his good idea in our faces.”

“But we don’t even know how to work the thing.”

“Power on. Power off. Here’s a gun. Here’s a vest. How hard can it be?”

By the morning of the grand opening Dan still hadn’t returned. The brothers sold enough pre-sale tickets to book up games for the entire first day. Still, a line of eager customers wrapped around the block and then some.

Just like Bill had guessed, it seemed as simple as powering up the machine in the morning and shutting it down at night. The first day was so busy that the Lyon brothers didn’t even get a chance to take a lunch. They ran the arena from open to close – cycling in groups of 14 every ten minutes or so.

The second day was just as good as the first. People kept lining up to play laser tag. If the games were sold out, they’d preorder tickets for the next day. Bill powered up the central control system in the morning, powered down at lunch, and back up again for the rest of the afternoon until close. Without even finalizing the books, it was clear that the Lyon family business was in the clear. Laser tag had saved them, just like Dan Lyon said it would. Things seemed to be running perfectly, even without their little brother looking after his invention.

As Joe was about to lock up for the night, a woman came running across the parking lot waving her arms frantically.

“Excuse me! Excuse me! Please, please wait,” the woman said.

“Uh, certainly ma’am,” Joe said. “What’s the matter?”

“My son! Lester. Have you seen him?” The woman held up a picture of her son and shoved it in front of Joe’s face. “Well? He came and played lazy tag or something here today. He hasn’t come home. He knows he’s supposed to be home before dark. Is he still here? Is he still playing? Have you SEEN him?

“Ma’am, please. I’m sure you’re son’s all right. I’ve got to be honest, we had a lot of people through here this weekend. I can’t say I recognize your boy. Do you want to leave your name and number or anything? If he comes back here I can call ya?”

The woman huffed, scowled at Joe Lyon, and hurried back to her car. Joe proceeded to close up the store.

Joe finished locking the doors and headed towards the back room where his older brother Bill was going over the books. Bill was smiling as he was adding up the ticket sales from their opening weekend. The cat was sitting on the table purring.

“Franklecheese was freaking out all day. He’s finally calm?” Joe said.

“He seems pretty happy. Ever since I switched the machine off. Weird cat,” Bill said. “We did good, brother. We did real good.”

“Yeah, I coulda guessed,” Joe said. “Weird thing happened as I was closing up though?”

“What’s that?”

“This lady comes running up all hysterical. Apparently her son hasn’t come home and she said he was playing laser tag here today. I don’t know, just got a strange feeling from her, ya know? Like does it got something to do with Danny or the like. I don’t know?”

“Sure it’s nothing. Kids being kids. Anyway, like I said. We’re looking good. Danny was right, this laser tag stuff saved the family business,” Bill said.

Bill Lyon pet the cat and closed the books. Joe went to fridge to grab some beers for the brothers to celebrate.

“Cheers, brother,” Joe said.

“Cheers,” Bill said and clinked bottles. “Just wish Danny was here to celebrate with us.”

As the Lyon brothers raised their bottles to their lips, hard knocks echoes from the front of the store.

Closure & Police Investigation into Laser Tag Lair Missing Persons – 1987

“Hello, officer,” Bill said.

A police officer stood at the front door. He peered inside when Bill opened the door and greeted him. Another officer was shining his flashlight around the empty parking lot.

“Mr. Lyon. I’m Officer Thompson. That’s my partner, Officer Moony. We’re investigating some missing persons cases. Mind if we ask you a few questions?” Officer Thompson said.

“No, not at all. Happy to help,” Bill said. “I’ll get my brother out here too, he said a woman came by looking for her son.”

“There’s three Lyon brother, correct,” Officer Thompson said.

“That’s right,” Bill said.

Joe came to the front door. Officer Thompson began writing something down on his notepad. Officer Moony finished his search of the parking lot and made his way to the front door.

“Listen, boys, I’m going to make this real simple. We’ve got three missing persons cases. All of them were reported missing this weekend. Two males, one female. Their last known whereabouts were right here,” Officer Moony said. “The more you cooperate, the easier this will be for everyone.”

“Like I said, we’re happy to help, Officers,” Bill said.

“Yeah, one boy’s mother. She came by earlier. Lester was his name. He one of the missing persons?” Joe said.

“He is. Along with Julia Stone and Bernard Bendleson. Stone is a classmate of Lester’s, both 14. Bendleson is 45, he’s a mailman at the local post office,” Officer Thompson said. “So where’s your youngest brother? Daniel, right?”

“Yeah, Danny. He’s actually disa…” Joe started.

“Danny took a vacation,” Bill said. “Just me and Joe running the place this weekend.”

“I see. Well, do you remember seeing any of these people this weekend?” Officer Thompson said and held up pictures of Lester, Julia, and Bernard. “Julia went missing on Saturday. Lester and Bernard, today.”

“There were an awful lot of people here this weekend, Officers,” Bill said.

“Like I told the lady, I can’t say I recognize any of them,” Joe said.

“Very well. Mind if we have a quick look around?” Officer Moony said.

The Lyon brothers agreed and the officers entered the building.

After about an hour, Officer Thompson exited the building and went back to the police car parked outside. He called something in on the radio.

Officer Moony returned to the front of the store with an armful of shoes – three pairs. He stopped and stared at the Lyon brothers.

“I told you fuckers to cooperate. You both are in for a world of hurt,” Officer Moony said.

In the distance, a symphony of sirens could be heard closing in on the store. The parking lot and the interior of the building flashed with blue and red as a squad of police car pulled in and surrounded the entrance. A group of uniformed officers and plain-clothes detectives entered the building.

Officer Thompson returned from his car.

“Mr. Lyon. Mr. Lyon. I’m placing you both under arrest for the kidnapping and possible homicide of Lester Jones, Julia Stone, and Bernard Bendleson. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand the rights that have been read to you?”

Brief Grand Re-Opening of Laser Tag Lair – 1988

Nearly one year after the grand opening of the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair and subsequent arrest of Bill and Joe Lyon, the missing persons investigations had turned up nothing but empty shoes and empty leads. The missing people had definitely been at the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair, but there was no indication that Bill or Joe had anything to do with their disappearance. Dan Lyon was still nowhere to be found. With a cold investigation, the Lyon brothers were released and charges were dropped.

When Bill and Joe returned to their laser tag arena, they were greeted with hisses from a mangy Mr. Franklecheese, who’d had to resort to becoming a street cat hunting rats and fighting with other street cats while the brothers were away.

But aside from the angry cat and some dust, the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair was just as they left it.

“We can’t just open back up, Bill,” Joe said. “Those missing people. Danny. It’s just too weird. This place is cursed. It’s gotta be.”

“Come on, Joe. We had a good thing going,” Bill said. “I don’t know what Danny’s up to. And the disappearances and the shoes… yeah it’s strange. But I’m looking at this ledger from opening weekend, and shit Joey, we killed it. If we do this right, we’re set. For life I mean.”

“It just don’t feel right. There’s something weird goin’ on here, brother. With Danny, and the shoes. I don’t know. I haven’t heard about anything like this happening in Texas.”

“Well, stranger things have happened. Right? People disappear. It’s sad, but it happens. We’re not to blame here. We’ve got to open back up. We’d be stupid not to.”

“I don’t know.”

“We’ll do it right this time. We’ll keep a sign-in list. Everyone who comes in and out,” Bill said. “I know people aren’t disappearing from Danny’s laser tag game. That’s ridiculous.”

The brothers planned to open back up that weekend, but with better records this time around. Joe would keep a sign-in list at the ticket booth and Bill would record a sign-out list as games finished and people left.

Due to the events of the last year, the Lyon brothers expected a far smaller turnout than the first grand opening, but when the doors opened that weekend, the line was even bigger than the year before. There was the standard crowd of people eager to get their hands on a laser gun, but there were also paranormal enthusiasts seeking a ghost story, true crime fanatics searching for clues, and journalist looking to get the eyewitness scoop. The brothers flipped on the control system and hoped for the best.

Things seemed to be going great. Joe was keeping records at the door, Bill at the exit. People were excited to enter and left with smiles. At the end of the day, the brothers shut down the system, closed up, and compared notes.

“Alright, I’ve got an even 500 on my sign-in,” Joe said.

Bill started flipping through the pages of his notebook.

“Shit. Shit. Shit,” Bill said.

“What?”

“499. I’ve only got 499,” Bill said.

“Well, could you’ve made a mistake? Missed someone?” Joe said.

“No, no. I don’t know. Let me see yours.”

Joe handed Bill his notes. Bill didn’t even have to flip pages to spot the difference. It was the first name.

Danger! Lasers! and the Grand Re-Re-Opening of Laser Tag Lair – 1989

Hard knocks resonated from the front of the building and a familiar feeling overcame the Lyon brothers.

Bill and Joe sulked to the front door as slowly as possible.

With his head down in disbelief that this could really be happening again, Bill opened the door.

“Hello, Officer. I – I really don’t know what to say,” Bill said.

“You can call me Kevin. Or Doctor Kevin VonPretzleburg if you prefer,” the scrawny man wearing thick eyeglasses and a white lab coat said.

“Sorry, Doc. We’re closing up shop. Probably for good,” Bill said.

“A man went missing today, didn’t he?” Dr. VonPretzleburg said.

“What do you know about that?” Bill said.

“That man was my colleague. He obviously drew the short straw, but after observing the events of last year, it was clear that you were surely experimenting with rifts in the space time continuum and the application of lasers for teleportation.”

“Excuse me?”

“Please, you really don’t have to hide from me. I’m a man of science as well. I’d just like to know where your machine sends people. I’m dying to hear back from my colleague. The government is always so quiet about their secretly funded tests. We’ve been experimenting with the metaphysical applications of laser beam technology for the past decade. We’ve made some pretty incredible breakthroughs, but admittedly nothing of this magnitude. Maybe I could take a look around and make some notes of my own?”

“Dr. VonPringleson, I’ve got to be honest with you. Our brother built this whole laser tag machine thing. He went missing. Ever since, some strange stuff has been going on around here. We don’t know what to do,” Bill said.

“No. No. No, no, no. This is far worse than I could have imagined. And it’s Dr. VonPretzleburg for future reference,” VonPretzleburg said. “So you’re telling me you’re operating a device capable of such a magnitude of power and you don’t even know how it works!? Why on earth would your brother build this not knowing?”

“Our brother Dan heard about the laser tag shop in Texas, thought it would save the family business,” Joe said.

“The top-secret laser human testing facility?! My god! He really didn’t know what he was doing, did he!?” VonPretzleburg said. “Step aside, I’m your only hope at fixing any of this. Let alone understanding it.”

VonPretzleburg rushed passed the Lyon brothers and began inspecting every inch of the building. He took notes of his observations in a large notepad he was carrying.

He held up his colleague’s empty sneakers and inspected them.

“Interesting,” he said. “Why just the shoes?”

He made several laps back around the building, checking new observations against old ones.

After about two hours had passed, VonPretzleburg let out a loud, “Ah-ha!”

The Lyon brothers and their cat had all fallen asleep on the table in the back room. They were all startled awake.

“I’m on to something. I’ll require both of your assistance for a few tests momentarily,” VonPretzleburg said.

“What’d you find?”

“I doubt your simple minds would understand. Let’s not waste any more time than you already have. The scientific principles at work here are far greater that most average people could ever dream of having the tiniest bit of understanding. Given my hypothesis that the both of you may be of a below average intelligence, I’d prefer you keep your questions to a minimum. Really if you could keep your speech to a minimum while I work, that’d be appreciated. Now, bring me a laser gun a chest sensor and a banana. And one of you turn on the machine.”

Not knowing whether they should feel offended or confused, the Lyon brothers roused themselves from the table and did as VonPretzleburg asked. Joe gathered the laser gun, vest, and the banana and Bill switched on the machine.

The familiar ominous hum filled the building. At VonPretzleburg’s instruction, Joe placed the banana in the center of the vest on the opposite side of the room and handed the Doctor the laser gun.

VonPretzleburg raised the laser gun and looked down the sights towards the sensor on the vest resting above the banana across the room. He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Nothing.

“You’ve gotta hit it,” Joe said. “That big round thing in the middle.”

“Shhhhhh,” VonPretzleburg said.

He aimed again and pulled the trigger.

DING!

The scoreboard above their heads registered a hit. They made their way across the room to the vest.

“Damn, we’ll have to try something else,” VonPretzleburg said picking up the banana and tossing it aside. “Shut it down.”

“What are you trying to do here?” Joe said.

“Please, like I said. Do either of you have a dog I could borrow?” VonPretzleburg said.

“There’s a cat,” Joe said and called to Mr. Franklecheese. “What do you need Mr. Franklecheese for?”

“Again, with your questions. Please. Just get me the cat and turn the machine back on.”

Joe grabbed Mr. Franklecheese, who was hissing and scratching at him as he placed him in the vest. He set down a bowl of milk to help calm him down.

VonPretzleburg raised the laser gun and aimed towards the cat.

“Meow,” Mr. Franklecheese said.

“Hey Doc, what are you doing? That’s not cool, man,” Joe said. “He’s just a cat.”

“Shhhhhhh!” VonPretzleburg said and pulled the trigger.

DING!

The overhead scoreboard registered a hit.

“Meow,” Mr. Franklecheese said from across the room.

“Damnit, I thought that’d work,” VonPretzleburg said examining his notebook. “I think I’m confident in my revised hypothesis, however. We need to open this place back up as soon as possible.”

“No way. This thing is too dangerous. I don’t what you were doing with the banana and the cat, but clearly you don’t know how to fix this,” Bill said.

“Silence! I’m a man a science. I know damn well what I’m doing, you idiots! If you want to get this under control, you’ll listen to me and do what I say,” VonPretzleburg said. “We need to open it back up to the public so I can continue my tests and refine my theory.”

“First of all, we can’t have anymore people disappear. Second, me and my brother don’t plan on going to jail for any of this again. Third, we’ve got to get this place cleaned up to sell,” Bill said.

“Idiots! Idiots! Idiots! I can’t stand it. Why do you think you know anything about any of this? Now, let me waste my breath and explain to you what I’m doing. Maybe then you’ll listen to me and allow me to find out where your brother, my colleague, and all the other missing people have gone. Try to follow along, I’ll try to put it all as simply as I can,” VonPretzleburg said. “My colleague went missing during the last public game, right? Right. He also happened to be the first person shot during the first game of the day. How do I know this? Because we planned that he’d shoot his own sensor. During your grand opening a year ago, three people went missing. One on the first day and two on the second. I’m guessing the first day was so exciting, the machine was never shut down for you both to take a break. The second day, you likely took a break. And I’m also guessing that each of the missing people were the first ones shot during the first games after the system reboot. And finally your brother. You shot him after he turned on the machine for the very first time. Are you seeing the similarities here? Do you understand what I’m getting at?”

“Umm, I think so,” Joe said.

“Yeah, I guess,” Bill said.

“The first person – and yes I hypothesize it must be a human person based on my banana-cat tests – shot during the first game after the system is powered on is teleported through space and time to and unknown – for now – destination.”

“Okay, so what good will opening back up do?” Bill said.

“We need to keep running the tests. Sending humans through the teleportation matrix, so that I can deduce how exactly the system operates and begin to understand where it may be sending them. It’s the only way any of this gets fixed.”

Solution #1: The Ol’ Switch-a-roo-ski

The Lyon brothers reluctantly agreed to allow Doctor VonPretzleburg to continue his tests. However, they made him promise that he’d find a way to do it without drawing attention to the disappearances in any way. VonPretzleburg said he had just the thing.

The next morning, which was slated as the unofficial grand re-reopening, VonPretzleburg raced through the parking lot and skidded to a stop in a large passenger van.

Inside the van were twenty kids, ranging from about 7 to 17 years old. The older kids got to work installing a video camera in the front of the building that would hook up to monitors in the back control room.

“What the hell’s going on? What’s with all these kids?” Bill said. “And cameras?”

“Their my kids. We’ll not MY kids. I’m a foster parent,” VonPretzleburg said. “And today these kids are getting new homes. Along with new names and identities, but that’s a small price to pay.”

“Excuse me?”

“I became a foster parent so that I’d have easier access to participants for human trials of my experiments. The amount of red tape they make you go through otherwise is horrendous. Much easier this way.”

“Wo, wo. We’re not shooting these kids and sending them to who knows where. I can’t allow it.”

“Of course not! You’re sick, Bill Lyon, to even think that.”

“What then?”

“Simple really. One of you will be in the front here with a walkie-talkie. The other will be in the backroom with another walkie-talkie. The one in the back will be watching the cameras. The one in front will ensure that the first game after powering up the system is full of kids, preferably kids who look like some of the ones I brought. The more similar in appearance the better. You’ll then keep track of the kid who gets shot first and as the group exits, relay the information to your brother in back and you’ll slip in one of my foster kids in their place. Easy as that.”

“Jesus. Well, guess it’s too late to do anything else. We’ve already got a line of customers,” Bill said. “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

It wasn’t too hard to explain to folks that the first game was to be played by all kids. It was a little harder to explain why a certain kid got pulled out of line for just not ‘looking right.’

Regardless of the odd start, customers were still lining up and eager to play laser tag.

By the end of the day, two kids disappeared and two foster kids went home with new families, new shoes, and new names.

After 10 days, they were out of foster kids and needed a new plan.
“Well, I’m not slated for a new shipment of kids for at least another month,” VonPretzleburg said. “We’ll need to think of something else and quickly. I’m nearing a breakthrough. I can feel it. We’re close.”

“That’s good news. Because I can’t really stomach anymore innocent people getting zapped away like this,” Joe said.

“That’s it! Good idea, Joe. Maybe you’re not a dumb as I’d surmised after all.”

VonPretzleburg rushed out of the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair and told the brothers he’d be back in the morning.

Solution #2: Capital Punishment

The next morning, VonPretzleburg came zooming into the parking lot driving a big white bus that said “State Correctional Facility” on the side.

The doors opened and VonPretzleburg led a group of twenty tough looking men wearing orange prison jumpsuits to the back room. Their hands and ankles were chained and cuffed.

“Definitely not foster kids this time,” Bill said.

“These are some of the sickest sons of bitches imaginable. They were all serving life or on death row for nasty crimes,” VonPretzleburg said. “My connections at the prison let me, uh, borrow some of them for our experiments.”

“Okay. Whatever. So how’s it going to work?”

“Simple, for every first game, we just shoot one of these guys before we let people start playing. Simple as that. We’ll need to make sure to do it in the main arena room. We don’t want to introduce any new variables to our testing.”

While the execution of the second plan was a little easier to stomach than the first, the explanation was far more difficult.

It was more than just a little weird that at the start of the first games one of the brothers had to ask the crowd to wait while they escorted an orange jumpsuit clad and handcuffed criminal into the arena wearing a vest sensor. It was also peculiar why customers would trip on shoes that were lying around the arena. The tripping hazard was quickly taken care of only to create a possible stranger situation of a large bin of empty shoes in the back corner of the building. But laser tag was still exciting, and people were still eager to play. Maybe those guys in orange were there to add to the feeling of the whole experience?

After ten more days, the group exhausted their supply of inmates.

“So, that was our last guy,” Joe said. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t think I can get my hands on another big group again. I thought for certain the foster kids and the inmates would have given me enough time to figure it out,” VonPretzleburg said.

“I don’t like the idea of disappearing people on purpose anyway,” Joe said. “I’m sorry, Doc, I think we’ve got to shut it down for good. Once and for all.”

“No! We can’t just abandon all this work. I’m very close to finding the answer,” VonPretzleburg said.

“I just don’t see how we keep it up,” Joe said. “Especially without drawing attention.”

“Joe, come here a sec,” Bill said. “I want to show you something.”

Joe’s eyes grew wide as he looked at the ledger Bill handed him. It was the revenue numbers from the past month. In one month, the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair exceeded the best annual profits the Lyon’s Family Grocery Store ever saw.

The Lyon brothers decided to let the Doctor continue. They figured he was bound to find an answer eventually, and in the meantime, why shouldn’t they be getting rich while they waited.

However, they still needed to divert any unwanted attention.

Solution #3: Epic-lepsy & Techno

“It’s simple! So simple!” VonPretzleburg yelled after flipping through a binder of documents. “How did I not think of this from the start?”

“Do what you got to do, Doc,” Joe said.

“Yup, whatever you need. We’ll be in the back,” Bill said.

In the backroom, the Lyon brothers had a hot tub, big screen T.V., and mini bar installed. They bought a deluxe cat bed and mounds of catnip for Mr. Franklecheese.

“I’ll need to install some special light fixtures and speakers around the building. Yes! This will do the trick,” VonPretzleburg said.

After a few hours of work, the entire main room was set up with different colored strobe lights and surrounded by giant speakers.

VonPretzleburg turned the system on to test it.

Strange, loud, electronic sounds emanated from the speakers while strobe lights flashed on and off, creating a dizzying stop-motion effect throughout the building.

The Lyon brothers were ripped right out of their relaxation and came out of the hot tub covering their ears.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” Bill yelled.

“THIS IS WHAT’S GOING TO SAVE US FROM ANY UNWANTED ATTENTION!” VonPretzleburg said.

“WHY’S IT SO LOUD!” Bill said. “YOU MADE ME SPILL MY DRINK INTO THE HOT TUB!”

Joe Lyon hit the off switch. Everyone’s ears were ringing.

“It’s called, Techno. It pretty much just repeats synthesizer noises over and over again. The government has been running secret tests in Detroit to examine techno’s effect on people in combination with various drugs. So far, it has been observed to cause short-term memory loss and sensory overload. The strobe lights should serve to heighten the effect,” VonPretlzeburg said.

“What about the people disappearing?” Bill said.

“Doesn’t matter,” VonPretzleburg said. “No one will remember it!”

VonPretzleburg started into a fit of evil laughter followed by a crippling coughing attack.

When he regained his composure, they were ready to open the doors of the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair back up for business.

The techno and strobe lights were accepted by customers as elements of the futuristic atmosphere of the laser tag arena. While it was extremely annoying, most customers just accepted the fact that it was the future and they just didn’t quite understand it yet.

People were still disappearing, but the police were having a very difficult time conducting any sort of investigation. People couldn’t seem to remember whether the missing person had been playing laser tag with them or not. With such unreliable eyewitnesses, the police had nothing to go on to arrest the Lyons. Though, it did seem something strange was going on.

Homecoming

A few weeks had passed. People were still coming to play laser tag. People were still disappearing. The Lyon’s were still making tons of money. Doctor VonPretzleburg still hadn’t found an answer.

As Joe was turning on the central control system one morning, he dropped the bagel he was eating and it bounced and rolled behind the machine.

Joe bent down and crawled after his breakfast.

On the underside of the machine, there was a control panel that he hadn’t seen before.

It read: SPACE TIME CONTINUUM FLUX. There was a handwritten note taped near it in Dan Lyon’s handwriting that read: “This should probably be set to off.”

The SPACE TIME CONTINUUM FLUX switch was in the ON position, despite Dan’s own instructions.

“Hey Doc, come here a minute,” Joe said. “Have you seen this?”

“What!? What is it?” VonPretzleburg said.

He inspected the switch panel Joe was talking about.

“I- I must have missed this in my initial inspection,” VonPretzleburg said.

“I’m going to switch it off,” Joe said.

“No, no. I’ve got to study it before you do.”

“Nah, I’m going to switch it off.”

Joe flipped the SPACE TIME CONTINUUM FLUX to the OFF position. The lights in the building went out. The hum of the central control machine grew louder and louder. It began to shake the entire building. Lightning-like flashes of lights bursts throughout the building.

PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAP

The central control system stopped shaking. The constant hum went silent. The lights came back on.

In the center of the building underneath the scoreboard overhead stood a large group of barefoot people. It was all the people who had disappeared. Everyone who’d gone missing the past month. The twenty inmates – still shackled at the hands and ankles. The twenty kids who had been replaced by similar looking foster kids. Dr. VonPretzleburg’s colleague. The first three missing persons – Lester, Julia, and Bernard. And finally, stood Dan Lyon himself.

“Well that was a fucking trip!” Dan said looking around the room.

Rumors spread quickly as cuffed inmates took to the streets, kids returned home to find similar looking kids in their places, and missing people just started reappearing.

Officers Thompson and Moony showed up at the Lyon’s Laser Tag Lair shortly after reports started coming in.

“Well boys, I knew something strange was going on here. I knew it was just a matter of time,” Officer Thompson said. “Though, unfortunately, due to the unexplained nature of all of this I can’t simply arrest you for the reappearance of all these people. We’re here for something else.”

“Kevin VonPretzleburg. We’ve got you on multiple counts of Social Services Fraud, illegal human trials for unauthorized experiments, and the kidnapping/aiding in the escape of twenty maximum-security prisoners. You’re going away for a long, long time,” Officer Moony said.

“But, but! It was all for science!” VonPretzleburg said. “I’m innocent! It’s the Lyons you want! Not me! Nooooooo!”

“Book ‘em, Moony,” Officer Thompson said. “As for you Lyon brothers, either get this shit under control or shut it down. You won’t be so lucky next time around, you can be sure of that. We’ll see you boys… laser.”