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Literature / Micro Adventure

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As a certified member of ACT (the Adventure Connection Team), your job, as always, is to defend the cause of good against evil. It won't be easy because BRUTE (the Bureau of Random Unlawful Terror and Evil), an international organization bent on wreaking havoc throughout the world, will be fighting you every step of the way. Your computer expertise will be vital to this mission.

— Opening introduction
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Released in the 1980s by Scholastic's Parachute Press, Micro Adventure is a Young Adult espionage series with a twist - the story stars the reader and includes multiple BASIC programs for the reader to enter, run and modify at key points in the action. Each story is presented in a second-person point of view, similar to the then-popular Choose Your Own Adventure books, but since there are no choices to make, the effect is to immerse the reader in their role as ace computer programmer Orion of ACT, the Adventure Connection Team.

The BASIC programming language has long since become dated (as have some of the story references), but the programs aren't necessary to enjoy the stories, which portray cinematic good-vs-evil save-the-day spy missions without talking down to a young reader. In each one, a team of ACT agents must take on the evil forces of BRUTE (the Bureau of Random Unlawful Terror and Evil), often with the fate of the world at stake. Naturally, Orion's computer expertise is vital at each turn.

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A fan website has been created with the permission of Parachute Press that includes the text of several of the books and an emulator that allows the BASIC programs to be entered and run.


This series provides examples of:

  • Almost Out of Oxygen: An ACT agent's spacesuit is tampered with in Space Attack and the gauge is modified to make the tanks appear full. The astronaut doesn't die but goes into a bizarre low-oxygen hysteria (manifesting as aggressiveness and playfulness) that makes her difficult to rescue.
  • Badass Driver: ACT's transportation specialist, Hot Wheels. At one point, he manages a getaway from BRUTE agents while driving a garbage truck.
  • Benevolent Boss: In Space Attack, the space station commander breaks into ACT planning to remind the team how long it's been since they've eaten and then again later to note that it's been 24 hours since they slept. The latter temporarily delays a space walk until the agents can get some rest.
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  • Brought Down to Normal: Orion's handheld computer falls into a pool of acid while the team is trying to escape a BRUTE base in The Big Freeze. As a result, the agent's top-notch computer skills are temporarily useless and Orion has to rely on simple brainpower instead.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Macron of Space Attack is a genius linguist who knows 128 languages and can rapidly translate between all of them. He's also an Absent-Minded Professor who can't remember whether he's eaten lunch yet.
  • Chekhov's Skill: BASIC programming skills come in handy everywhere, even when trekking through the African jungle (Jungle Quest) or traveling to times that predate computers (Time Trap).
  • Circus Episode: Book #9, Dead Ringer, mostly takes place within a traveling circus because the president (who's the target of the latest enemy operation) is a huge circus fan.
  • Codename: Most ACT agents have a code name reflecting their speciality, such as Cat (highly agile bodyguard), Digger (archaeologist) and so on. Averted with the main character, since "Orion" doesn't have any overt ties to computing.
  • Decapitation Strike: In The Big Freeze, BRUTE weather control technology traps nearly the entire ACT leadership during a headquarters meeting at Tuttle Air Force Base.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: The diordna, a BRUTE android made to imitate and replace a specific person. In Space Attack, it's used to replace a member of the space station crew. BRUTE re-uses them eight books later in Dead Ringer to replace a number of government officials.
  • Earpiece Conversation: In Spellbound, Orion meets the daughter of the man who built BRUTE's local headquarters, and is prompted on what to ask her through a hidden microphone in an ACT-issued sweatband.
  • Enemy Mine: In Time Trap, the ACT team has to work with the director of BRUTE, because he's the only one who can identify the rogue scientist who stole BRUTE's time machine.
    • Also happens briefly in Doom Stalker when the ACT and BRUTE teams have to work together to escape a mystical Himalayan trap. Unlike the previous instance, the teamwork doesn't last.
  • Eskimo Land: Averted during an Alaskan expedition in The Big Freeze. Anchorage Annie mentions how beautiful the grasses and flowers of the tundra would normally be if BRUTE wasn't manipulating the weather, and she mocks Sunspot for expecting to see igloos.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Literally - in Spellbound, Orion discovers that a seemingly harmless friend from back home is actually a BRUTE agent.
  • Fauxreigner: In Dead Ringer, "Countess Esmeralda" puts on an exotic pseudo-Eastern European schtick so that people will take her psychic abilities seriously, since no one would believe that plain Myrtle Schwartz of New Jersey could read the future. And both identities cover up the fact that she's an undercover FBI agent.
  • Fool's Map: A non-treasure hunting variant occurs in Dead Ringer, when the President's driver is given edited directions that will place him in danger.
  • Fortune Teller: Countess Esmeralda, an ACT ally in Dead Ringer, is a fortune-teller with a traveling circus who appears to have genuine precognitive and aura-sensing abilities.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Both ACT and BRUTE qualify.
  • Heroic BSoD: When acid destroys Orion's computer in The Big Freeze, it results in a brief period of "Why should I bother trying to survive now that I'm useless to the team" thoughts.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: A supposed witch doctor is using voodoo-looking magic to render athletes helpless in Spellbound, but an ACT agent (Skull) notes that the practice isn't anything like real voodoo and suspects a hoax. And he's absolutely right - the curses are a biochemical agent covered by pop-culture voodoo fakery and reinforced by the victim's own psychology.
  • Invisible Parents: Orion's parents are never shown and are apparently unaware that their child is regularly traveling internationally or even into Earth orbit.
  • Latex Perfection: In Robot Race, BRUTE sends an agent disguised as Hot Wheels to pick up Orion. Despite having traveled with Hot Wheels multiple times, Orion has no idea of the switch until the driver removes his latex mask.
  • Law of Conservation of Normality: Despite living in a world where magic, aliens, superscience, and psychic powers are real, Orion still leads the life of an ordinary 1980s adolescent in between missions, including worries about schoolwork and goofing off in the arcade.
  • Master of Disguise: The Chameleon, an ACT agent who is the world's greatest actor, first appears in book #3,Million Dollar Gamble, and occasionally resurfaces to join the latest mission.
  • Mugged for Disguise: While escaping an Alaskan BRUTE base in The Big Freeze, Orion, Sunspot and Ancorhage Annie hold up three enemy agents for their uniforms. Since the three leave their superior ACT cold-weather gear behind to keep their victims from freezing to death, the BRUTE agents actually get the better part of the bargain.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: BRUTE, of course.
  • Never Win the Lottery: A $25,000 winning lottery ticket blows Orion's cover when the supermarket hosting the drawing turns out to be a BRUTE front.
  • Performer Guise: In Dead Ringer, Orion's driver is among the clowns in a circus parade. Which means that Orion gets bopped with a prop mallet, quietly asked for today's password, and then loaded into a clown ambulance which drives off to the latest ACT mission.
  • Plot-Induced Illness: As a result of events in ''Space Attack'', Orion has since developed a sensitivity to a combination of rare elements known as the Devorim Force, which can be potentially lethal at high levels or over long periods of exposure. This is first revealed to the reader in Jungle Quest, when it turns out that the African temple they're seeking emits the Devorim Force, putting Orion in danger the closer they get and the longer the mission goes on.
  • Public Secret Message: To find the latest message decrypt, Orion applies a special transparency to the most recent issue of X-Men Comics.
  • Returning Big Bad: Dead Ringer sees the return of Dr. Arsene, last seen six books earlier in Million Dollar Gamble as well as the diordnas, originally encountered in the very first book, Space Attack.
  • Robot Dog: The sled dogs in The Big Freeze and especially the smart and adorable Mukluk. Spoofing the usual convention, their human creator is the one codenamed "Agent K-9."
  • Samus Is a Girl: Midway through Million Dollar Gamble, Orion discovers that longtime BBS friend Robin is actually a 12-year-old girl.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: In Spellfall, Skull suspects that a BRUTE ally's "voodoo magic" is nothing but trickery, especially since it bears no resemblace to real voodoo. He turns out to be absolutely right.
  • Script Swap: In Dead Ringer, a hacker's been interfering with the president's private network, including replacing portions of his speeches to either make no sense or give away state secrets.
  • Shapeshifting: The Chameleon's amazing disguise abilities begin to reach this level near the end of Million Dollar Gamble when he tries to change identities from a well-padded millionaire to an already-met rail-thin villain in order to fit under a stuck portcullis. It works with nothing more than mental effort.
  • Shoot the Dog: Almost literally. In order to save the world in The Big Freeze, Orion has to dismantle the robot dog that the team has come to love so that they can rig up the computer that's needed.
  • Shout-Out: Near the end of Robot Race, robotics expert Spock is preparing to walk into a nuclear reactor that's near meltdown, knowing he probably won't survive. He gets a better ending than his namesake.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Countess Esmeralda in Dead Ringer has a habit of quickly shifting from Russian-accented melodramatic declarations {"You've been poking around into Countess Esmeralda's private life? How dare you!") into plain U.S. street talk ("Found out I was a red-hot mama, didn't you?") with barely a pause in between. Her true name is Myrtle Schwartz of New Jersey.
  • Spy Speak: ACT protocol calls for a code phrase and response before accepting a ride to the latest mission. (Example: "There's a full moon tonight." "Tomorrow night, too." Forgetting this nearly gets Orion kidnapped once.
  • Stout Strength: Countess Esmeralda in Dead Ringer.
    "The fat lady, I'm not. The strong lady, I am."
  • Teen Superspy: Like the reader, Orion is assumed to be a kid/adolescent.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Anchorage Annie and Sunspot have just a little bit of trouble working together in the early stages of The Big Freeze. They gradually work it out.
  • The Spock: ACT's robotics expert in book #6, Robot Race, not only has all the characteristics, he even has Spock as a code name.
  • Time Travel: Book #4, Time Trap, sees the agents travel back to the American Revolution to prevent a mad scientist from detonating a nuclear bomb.
  • Underwater Base: A heroic example with the "squid dome" in The Big Freeze, a reserve ACT command post at the bottom of the sea.
  • Universal Driver's License: If it can move, Hot Wheels can drive it. This has even included time machines and a sea vessel made to look like a shark.
  • Weather Manipulation: BRUTE's latest big plan in The Big Freeze.
  • World of Weirdness: Depending on the writer, ACT's latest adventure might involve magic, psychics, time travel, mysterious aliens ... or just an enemy agency with access to human-impersonating robots, weather-modifying satellites and similar sorts of James Bond villain tech. The only one with a relatively normal setting was Million-Dollar Gamble, which merely involved BRUTE hacking lottery computers and attempting to destroy the economy of a small European nation.
  • Young and in Charge: In The Big Freeze, Orion (the kid protagonist) is the only experienced agent on the team - the two adults working with him are both on their first mission for ACT.
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