(Theater sequence. We see the silhouette of the virus curled up on Tom's dome.)
Tom: Will someone PLEASE
get him off?
Mike: Here let me-
(The virus starts to make a pathetic shrieking sound)
Mike: Poor little guy...you'll
just have to leave him on there for now.
Tom: I guess.
Disclaimer: All the characters in this fanfic other than the ones I've created are strictly the property of Mainframe Entertainment.
Bob: Try to sell them and Mainframe will hunt you down like the filthy dog you are.
I am not in any way trying to violate any copyright laws, I wrote this fanfic for enjoyment purposes, and to pass the time during stormy days.
Mike: She really needs more games for her N64.
1 nanosecond = 1 second
Bob: In the direct violation of the laws of space and time.
1 microsecond = 1 minute
1 millisecond = 1 hour
Crow: Of course, this is under the new metric system.
1 second = 1 day
Tom: Does anyone ever even
Mike: Well you have to admit that the show's time laws were pretty arbitrary.
1 cycle = 1 week
Tom: Yeah but personally
I always skip it. I usually take time in the context that it's mentioned
and it's generally worked for-
Virus: Squueeeee? (Wriggles around curiously at the strange noises around it.)
Tom: Oh great, now it's fidgeting!
1 minute = 1 month
Tom: Shh...there there...
1 hour = 1 year
Mike: Let me try. (Pats
the virus on the head and tries to speak softly) It's okay...the fic
can't hurt you...you can't read yet...
Virus: Groo...(settles down)
Tom: I think it went to sleep.
Mike: That's good.
Tom: It's also getting really getting heavy.
Tom: It'll probably start hurting after a while.
Mike: I'll bet.
Bob: Yes I DO know you're
reading this up there on the SOL. Have fun! (Evil
Crow: Don't even JOKE about that.
This is the sequel to Revenge, and has many flashbacks.
Crow: She isn't going to retell the whole story AGAIN, is she?
A flashback is indicated by a whole section in Italics.
Mike: (Author) Of course if you're not reading this in HTML or document form you'll just have to pretend they're there, okay?
This is a trial fanfic,
(Loud, pained groans)
so I'd appreciate receiving feedback on it.
Tom: Do we count as
Mike: I suppose.
Tom: So she appreciates this?
Mike: I guess.
I'm not sure how it will work out just yet.
Crow: But I'll judge it
on how much pain Bob Mike and the bots are in at the end.
Bob: Could we stop referring to ourselves being read by someone now? It feels really weird.
A New Life To Live
Tom: The Barbara Streisand story.
Crow: "Two houses, both alike in dignity. . ."
Dot had to admit
Mike: She didn't expect a sequel THIS soon.
that she was nervous.
Crow: First time Workaholics Anonymous meetings can be rough.
Getting married was not an event that was to be taken lightly.
Mike: Divorce was a different story.
She admired her reflection in the mirror, took a deep breath to calm herself, and stepped out into the aisle.
Crow: Tripping over her dress.
She could see everyone watching her,
Bob: (Guest) My God, doesn't she know that there's a HUGE coffee stain on her sleeve?
waiting for her to reach the front of the church.
Mike: (Guest) Will you hurry UP already? You'd think this day was dedicated to YOU or something.
But there was only one pair of eyes that mattered:
Tom: BSn'P was back and more picky than ever.
Bob's. As she gazed at him,
Mike: She suddenly realized she'd have to spend the rest of her life with HIM. What was she thinking?
he was smiling at her, looking happier than she had ever seen him.
Tom: He's still hammered from the bachelor party.
*Well, at least he's happy,* she thought to herself.
Crow: (Dot) I suppose that's one of us.
To her, the aisle had never
seemed so long.
She just wanted to get to the front of the church and get this thing over with.
Bob: Oh thanks.
After what had seemed like milliseconds, Dot finally reached the altar where Bob was waiting for her. As the bride, She had a right to be nervous, but this, she thought, was going to extremes.
Crow: (Dot) I mean, it's just a marriage. No biggie.
As soon as she started to wonder whether or not this feeling was healthy, her thoughts were interrupted as the priest began the ceremony.
Mike: (Priest) Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to mourn the loss of-whoops sorry, that's next ceremony.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see her bridesmaids, Mouse and AndrAIa, smiling as they watched this momentous occasion.
Crow: (Mouse) Phew. Glad it's not me up there.
She smiled inwardly
Mike: So she's doing outwardly then? Grimacing?
and prayed that this would soon be over.
Bob: You could be a LITTLE more happy about this.
Everything seemed to be going in slow motion, and was blurred and unfamiliar,
Tom: Just like in a nightmare.
not at all like the practice which had seemed so easy and relaxed.
Crow: Do people actually
practice their weddings?
Mike: Maybe. Sounds like a good idea.
Bob: 'Okay honey, just like in rehearsal but don't swear if you forget the words this time.'
This was the real thing. She was really going through with this.
Bob: Seeing myself married is so weird.
Before she knew it, the priest
was asking her, "Do you take this man to be your husband?"
She took a deep breath, and, without thinking, responded, "I do."
Mike: Hey, congratulations
Crow: You're a married man!
Bob: Thanks. I guess.
Bob: Hey, no more one-word chapter titles?
The alarm clock buzzed loudly, jarring Ariah from sleep.
Tom: Newly-made characters ahoy!
A child-like hand
Mike: Or the hand of a child.
emerged from beneath the covers in an attempt to shut it off.
Crow: If you could shut
off your covers that is.
Bob: Actually you can. See we use these energy sheets that are basically fields of-
Crow: Bob, is there anything in your world NOT made out of energy?
Bob: Uhm...not really.
Instead, it toppled off the nightstand and landed on the floor.
Ariah grumbled to herself and opened the blind,
Tom: (Ariah) How'd I ever get suckered into doing this fic?
letting in bright morning sunlight. She looked in the mirror and smiled at her reflection.
Mike: Which glared at her and stuck out its tongue.
She had her mother's smile and sparkling violet eyes,
and she had her father's black and silver streaked hair,
Crow: I think that's your
kid there, Bob.
Which shone in the increasing sunlight of this May morning.
Mike: Which was odd because of the fact there was no sun in Mainframe but she let it slide for now.
Her skin was a pale azure, a mixture between light blue and light green.
Bob: But...but I never planned on having kids.
She pulled her shoulder length hair into a ponytail, silver streaks never losing the gleam of the spring morning's light.
Bob: This is impossible.
I never wanted to be a father!
Tom: Join the club.
Tomorrow would be her tenth birthday, but she wasn't thinking about that;
Tom: Of course. Presents and cake have no allure for a typical ten-year old child now do they?
she had to get ready for school.
Crow: Servo's right-this
isn't normal. What kind of kid wakes up and thinks "I must prepare for school
Mike: The ones that get into obscure sciences and make checks with five or six zeros per week when they're out of college?
Bob: So my kids are going to be rich? That's good.
She yawned and dragged herself to the bathroom,
Mike: Either it's really early in the morning or she's favoring a wound.
almost knocking over Corin,
Tom: (Ariah) Hey! I don't care if you're a prince of Narnia, watch where you're going!
her little brother, in the process. Corin was six and looked a lot like his sister, as siblings often do.
Crow: Being related and all.
The only difference was that his eyes were brown instead of violet.
Mike: Wouldn't it make
more sense for them to be a muddy mix of the two?
Tom: Not...really, Mike.
In short, he looked more like his father, while Ariah bore more of a resemblance to her mother.
Bob: Two kids? I hope there's not a set of triplets lying around...
The siblings got along pretty well, only fighting occasionally, which was surprising for little kids.
Mike: Until their parents realized they avoided each other as much as possible.
Today, unfortunately, was one of those days.
Tom: So in GENERAL they're
well behaved kids but the author makes them fight right away to portray them
in the typical squabbling-sibling scenario.
Mike: That's around the gist of it.
"Would you watch where you're going?" Ariah exclaimed.
"You almost knocked me over!" Corin pouted, his lower lip trembling.
Mike: I wouldn't get too attached if I were you. Some plot point's just going to get one of them captured or hurt later.
Bob: Well it might...not...(sigh) Who am I kidding?
"If you would have moved, that wouldn't have happened!"
Crow: If you think about it that actually covers a lot of situations.
"I didn't see you!"
Mike: It's certainly the dialogue of virtually every child-filled household, I'll give her that.
The fighting abruptly stopped as the forms of their parents appeared in the doorway.
Crow: Buhm buhm bum!
Bob stepped forward.
"Ariah, Corin," he said calmly,
Bob: You're grounded.
"I know it's Monday morning and neither of you want to go to school,
Tom: (Bob) But daddy wants to go to work without a headache today, okay?
but can you at least keep
Ariah and Corin exchanged glances and looked back toward their parents.
All: (Kids) Are you nuts?!
"We're sorry," Corin
Dot smiled and knelt before her son. "We know," she said, "Mondays are hard for everyone."
Mike: (Dot) Just ask Garfield.
She stood up and added, "Now you two had better get ready for school."
Crow: Hmmm...I think it's
a landscape view of guiding lights on an airplane tower?
Tom: No no, it's far more spiritual than that. I'd say it's the crown of thorns worn by Christ.
Bob: Perhaps it's meant to be abstract, using negative space to portray loneliness and isolation of a cluster of beings lost in the void.
(Tom and Crow make thoughtful 'yes yes, of course' noises.)
Mike: Maybe it's just a few stars to break up chunks of the story.
(Bob and the bots glare)
Mike: What? They are!
After their kids had left for school, Bob joined Dot at the breakfast table.
Bob: Glad they're finally gone.
"We make great parents, don't we?" he remarked, taking her hand.
Crow: (Dot) Well the Child Safety people sure didn't think so.
"I have to agree with you there," she said, mopping up the milk Corin had spilt earlier. She suddenly felt a wet muzzle in her lap
Crow: That was such
a nice little domestic scene until that part...
Crow: (continuing) I mean someone just drops the muzzle of a gun in her lap? What kind of house do they live in?
Mike: (Non-pulsed) Uh...yeah.
Mike: I just expected you to carry that joke off differently.
and she grinned as she gave the Labrador Retriever an affectionate scratch behind the ear.
Crow: (Bob) Is this a good time to mention that the dog needs a rabies shot this afternoon?
"No, Ember, we haven't forgotten about you."
Tom: Oh look, they have
a little puppy. How sweet. (angrily) I HATE that
Mike: It's so cute!
Tom: What? But it's such a banal, annoying add on. How can you stand it?
Ember wagged his tail and licked Dot's hand.
Crow: Hey look, it's wagging it's little tail! Who's a good puppy then?
(Everyone but Tom makes 'aww' sounds.)
Tom: (fuming) I warn you, this is just trying to appeal to dog lovers.
Bob, finished his breakfast, stood up and put his dishes in the dishwasher.
Crow: (Dot) Bob honey? The dishwasher's next to the sink, not inside the fridge.
Ember stalked over to him and rubbed up against him, seeking attention.
Bob: How can I resist that?
What a nice dog.
Tom: (Sharply) I hope it gets run over by a dump-truck.
Mike: Servo! It's just a dog.
Tom: But we've seen this sort of thing so many times! The happy family gets a new adorable pet that everyone instantly loves! The dog is always the ones saved in movies! I'm sick of re-using the same old idea over again in EVERY post-whatever season fic we see!
Mike: But you have to admit it's a really cute dog.
Tom: No, I - (Pauses) Well...aw, yeah.
Soon enough, both man and dog were roughhousing and rolling around on the floor.
Bob: (Himself) Ha ha! You're such a cute poochie-hey-hey let go. Let go! OW! Stop biting! OW! OWW!
Dot, in turn, put her dishes in the dishwasher and laughed as she watched Bob and the dog play.
Crow: (Dot) Try not to bleed over the linoleum this time.
"Not at all like Frisket, is he Bob?" Dot said, still laughing.
Bob: Thank the Net.
Bob shuddered involuntarily.
"Not at all."
He stood up, brushing dog hair off his clothes.
Bob: Huh? His hair
Tom: Animal and human hairs come out in this world.
Bob: Really? So you mean if I pulled like this-(leans over towards Mike)
Bob: (Holding up a hair) Weird.
He stepped closer to Dot and enfolded her in his arms, kissing her.
Crow: (Dot) You didn't brush your teeth this morning, did you?
He took her chin in his palm and said, "It's our daughter's birthday tomorrow."
Tom: (Bob) Hope she likes one of those stuffed guardian dolls. We have a ton of those to get rid of.
"I know," Dot said, remembering
the day Ariah was born. "That day was something else."
"Remember how happy we were?
Crow: (Dot) Not through all the agony.
And how nervous?"
"How could I forget?"
Bob: Well you DID take an awful lot of pain killers.
Bob hugged Dot as he remembered that moment.
Mike: He's already hugging
her isn't he?
Tom: Maybe he just gave her a tighter squeeze or something.
"I don't think I had ever been happier or more proud of you."
Crow: (Bob) Oh wait, we had that second kid too didn't we?
Dot smiled, remembering how she had felt as she held her newborn daughter. "That was a day to remember, I must say."
Crow: (Dot) I thought I'd scream when you dropped the baby.
Bob smiled lovingly at her then gasped with a sudden realization.
Mike: (Bob) I'm missing "Wheel Of Fortune" right now!
"Uh, Dot? Didn't you have to give a presentation this morning?"
Tom: (Dot) Presentation-work. WORK! I MUST FLEE! LoveyoubuysomepresentsforAriahfrommeokaybye...
Dot's eyes widened and she looked at the clock. It was 8:45 and her presentation was at 9:00. "Oh NO! I'm late!
Mike: How can you be late
when the whole system is so small? I can't see it taking more than ten minutes
to get to the Principle Office.
Crow: Maybe she wanted to get there before all the good donuts were taken.
I gotta go! See you later!" She stole a kiss,
Bob: Hey! Give that back!
grabbed her notes, and dashed out the door.
Tom: Upon later reflection she wished she'd opened it first.
Bob sat down with a contented sigh.
Bob: Alone at last.
Marrying Dot was the best thing that had ever happened to him. In his opinion, she was perfect.
Crow: Except for that 16 hour a day job she insisted on.
Dot still didn't look a day older than she had the day she and Bob had gotten married.
Crow: Being a main character and thus immortal.
Even after giving birth to two kids, she had always managed, somewhat miraculously, to keep the same slim figure she had had the day Bob had come back from the Web.
Mike: Apparently Dot is made out of some sort of stretchable plastic.
Bob hadn't changed either.
Crow: Except for the getting older thing.
He still had that freelancing, playful air about him,
Tom: The mark of a socialite playboy never left him, did it?
and he never lost his loyalty towards his family.
Bob: Why would I in the FIRST place? You think I'd get bored and just leave?
He stayed by Dot's side night and day
Crow: Although the people at her workplace were starting to complain.
and, even though they had their occasional arguments or TIFFs, he loved her as much, if not more, as he had on their wedding day.
Tom: "And they say that
beauty fades, you're more beautiful than ever...and if this scene is too
long, soon I'm going to go off and be ill.."
Crow: Taking a little liberty with that song, aren't we?
Tom: Don't push me. I'm still upset about the dog.
When they did argue, Bob and Dot couldn't stay angry at each other for more than a few microseconds.
Mike: Which made most of their arguments terribly inefficient since they kept stopping after the first minute and never discussed anything controversial.
In fact, their arguments seemed to heighten their love, rendering it more powerful than ever.
Tom: My God...I feel like I'm in a Sailormoon fic again.
Bob snapped out of his reverie as a big wet tongue licked his hand.
Crow: See? The dog stopped the sappy thoughts. It's a GOOD dog.
With a sigh, he got up and let Ember out to play.
Mike: One thing you can say about Mainframe, unless the dog can fly there's little chance of it being hit by traffic.
A few micros later, he let the dog back in and made his way, slowly but surely, to the Principal Office.
Mike: I guess he packed Dot lunch.
As the data-train left the station, two Guardians-in-training stepped off the platform into the warm sunshine.
Tom: (Guardian 1)
Remind me how that sun thing got there again?
Crow: (Guardian 2) No clue.
As friends from childhood, Ram and Aptiva went to the Guardian Academy and were assigned to do a trial period in Mainframe, where two other Guardians already were.
Crow: So...there's two
ALREADY in the system and they toss out two just for the heck of it? How
expendable are guardians?
Bob: (Sighing) Dime a dozen.
The day was warm enough for the end of spring and the water sparkled in the bright sunshine.
Bob: Erasing everything in its path since water is HIGHLY lethal to circuitry.
Nothing but pleasant sights surrounded the pair.
Crow: (Guardian 1) Hey, look at the stream of water killing the natives.
Ram looked skyward and shielded his dark blue eyes from the sun, his cool violet skin and brown hair shining. He yawned and stretched, admiring what he could see of the city.
Mike: (Ram) Great airport you've got here.
"Looks like a nice place to live," he remarked.
Aptiva followed his example by looking up also.
Crow: (Apitva) So-what are we looking at exactly?
Her green eyes sparkled as she broke into a tired but happy smile. She tossed her waist-length silvery hair over her shoulder. You know Ram," she said,
Tom: "The problems of two sprites don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world..."
"for once in your life, you
might just be right."
She promptly ignored the looked he gave her.
Mike: Hate coupled with disgust?
As if to punctuate her statement, a red rubber ball whizzed past her head, narrowly missing giving her a bad haircut.
Crow: Yes, never underestimate the cutting power of rubber!
"Look out!" a little kid shouted.
Mike: About ten seconds too late.
Aptiva managed to grab the girl in mid-stride
Crow: (Aptiva) It took me MONTHS to get it to that length!
as another girl, probably her sister, ran up and waved a small fist not ten centimeters away from her face.
Crow: That's actually kind of cute. Of course now that I've said that within a few paragraphs they're probably going to turn into brats.
Ram took the kid's arm and pulled her over to his other side.
"Who are you?"
Tom: (Falsetto) I am Deleen.
he asked, looking the girl in the eye.
"My name's Ani, and if you don't let us go you'll be really, really sorry," the girl replied defiantly, hands on hips.
Mike: (Ani) We'll force you to play with us!
"How old are ya, kid?"
Bob: (Ani) Mommy says she can't remember.
"I'm ten an' if you don't lemme go--"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever.
Crow: (Ram) And I joined up with the guardians to get AWAY from family life.
Who's she?" he asked motioning to the girl Aptiva was still gripping by the shoulders.
Bob: (Ani) Beats me. Don't you know?
"I'm Midi an' I'm twelve. An' my sister wasn't lying.
Crow: (Midi) For most of it.
Out dad's tough an' if he finds out about this..."
Bob: He'll apologize for how he brought up his kids.
her voice trailed off.
Tom: Hey, someone hit the 'mute' button.
Aptiva and Ram let the kids go.
Crow: (Ram) Eh, neither of them has candy, we'll let them off.
Both of the girls had had deep blue eyes very pale green skin.
Mike: Three guesses as to whose kids these are.
Ani had black hair while Midi's was aquamarine.
Tom: You think Matrix and
"Who are you?" Ani asked, glaring at the newcomers.
"I'm Aptiva and he's Ram. We're training to become Guardians."
Bob: Our standards have dropped so low.
"Dad told us about you," Midi said.
"Who's your dad?"
Crow: (Ani) Mom can't remember that either.
"Enzo Matrix," Midi replied
Bob: I'm surprised the kids didn't just bowl them over, then.
simply with no threatening gestures for once, surprisingly. Ram smiled knowingly.
Crow: (Ram) Now I know why they're brats!
Now I know where the little brats get their tempers, he thought to himself.
Crow: Huh. Great minds
Tom: I wouldn't call him great.
"I know him and so does Aptiva," he said out loud.
Mike: (Ram) He owes the academy money. We're the loansharks.
"We should get going," Ani said suddenly, "Lunch is almost over. Nice talking with ya!"
Bob: (Ani) And don't mind my threats!
"Bye lover boy!" Midi said to Ram.
Tom: How old is she again?
"Nice talking with ya?" Aptiva said, incredulous.
"Lover boy?" Ram asked, suddenly feeling queasy.
Mike: "They're snot nosed twerps?" Mike suggested.
Aptiva shook her head and shrugged as the pair headed for the Principal Office.
Later that day, everyone assembled at the Principal Office to meet the trainees.
Crow: Leaving the system
wide open for a random attack from the Web. They all died.
Bob: The end.
As the newcomers entered, they were stunned to see at least twelve Sprites, grown and small, two dogs, and a handful of binomes.
Mike: (Ram) THAT'S the whole system population?
An old Sprite, at least sixty hours old, approached the pair and held out a skeletal hand as an attempted sign of welcome.
Bob: Somehow that makes Phong sound like some creepy omen of death.
"Greetings," he said cheerfully, "Welcome to Mainframe."
Crow: (Phong) We don't have an invasion, game cube or viral menace scheduled to wreck havoc for a few days so make yourself at home.
Aptiva smiled and smiled pleasantly--or at least tried to.
Mike: You know, I keep getting this vague feeling that she hates life.
Thank you, mister..."
"Just Phong, my child."
Bob: He hates not being able to do that "Bond, James Bond" joke with his name.
Aptiva shook her head and
shrugged off the "my child" part.
"Right. Anyway, I'm--"
Phong cut her off, "Aptiva." At her blank and confused look, he decided, wisely, to elaborate.
Crow: (Phong) I'm psychic.
"The Academy has been gracious enough to supply us with your names."
Bob: And phone numbers, home addresses, past offenses and credit card numbers. There are some really helpful people over at the Academy.
(insert wise Phong music here)
Tom: What the-
(They look around for the source of the music, confused.)
He motioned towards Ram. "And you're Ram I presume?"
Mike: (Ram) Well my colleagues like to call me Dr. Livingstone.
"The same," Ram said uncertainly, eyeing Phong suspiciously.
Bob: He and Modem should get along nicely.
To break the tension, Phong
Crow: Brought out some chips and popcorn.
introduced the newcomers to everyone assembled. First to Bob, Dot, Ariah and Corin, stating Bob to be a skilled and well-reputed Guardian.
Mike: Except for that one frat party. Man, did everyone ever remember THAT graduation.
The latter looked towards the floor in embarrassment as he turned a light shade of violet.
Phong moved on to Ray and Mouse, including eight-year-old Lance, and three-year-old Celica, who clung to Ray's neck and waved shyly.
Mike: Not them
Bob: "Season Four-the Parental Years."
Matrix and AndrAIa were next, but when Ani and Midi were referred to, Ram politely said, "We've met".
Crow: (Ram) Unfortunately.
At this Ani scowled and moved closer to AndrAIa.
After touring the room, Ariah and Midi were selected to give Ram and Aptiva the grand tour of the system.
Bob: Okay that's G-Prime, that's Baudway, that's the Diner, there's Floating Park and we're right here at the Principal Office. Tour's done.
Suddenly Aptiva yelped in alarm as Frisket started to sniff at her. "Get that... thing... away from me!" she exclaimed.
Mike: (Bob) We call them dogs.
"I'm terrified of those horrible creatures!"
Crow: I smell a 'soon to be cured through untapped wells of personal strength' phobia.
Frisket whined sadly and licked her hand
Bob: THAT should comfort her.
while she cowered and hid behind Ram (which didn't do much good). AndrAIa sighed and called Frisket over.
Mike: (AndrAIa) Why can't you ever make friends?
The dog whined again and reluctantly trotted back to his master's side, curling up on the floor at her feet.
Crow: For such a 'ferocious'
dog she's sure got him whipped.
Tom: That's it, my neck is being shoved down through my shoulders by this thing...(Shakes his head)
Virus: (Sleepily) Grwooo?
Aptiva was visibly trembling as Ram tried to console her.
Mike: Here, let me take him.
(Mike tries to pry off the virus who screeches and clings closer to "daddy".)
"She had a bad experience with dogs as a small sprite," he explained.
Mike: Sorry, I don't think
I can tear him off.
Crow: Well what do we do now?
(They're silent for a moment then Servo clears his throat and wails plaintively.)
Crow: Ah, of course.
He then rolled up Aptiva's sleeve to reveal a nasty-looking scar on her right forearm.
(Gypsy pops in)
Mike: Could you take care of Tom's "baby" for a while? We would but-
Gypsy: Aww. The poor little guy...after what happened to Tom's Sea Monkeys how could I leave it here?
(Gypsy somehow manages to lever it off of Tom's head and carries it in her coils. She then goes off to monitor the ship again.)
Crow: How many times do
you think that makes that she's averted minor crisis' for us
Tom: Somewhere in the early three-hundreds I think.
"She was attacked by a Rottweiler a while back. I still hope that she'll get over her fear soon enough but..."
Bob: (Aptiva) Excuse me but I'm still here.
His eyes gained a pained look,
Mike: (Ram) God, my contacts burn.
but they quickly returned to normal.
Midi approached Aptiva and took her hand reproachingly as a sign of reconciliation. Aptiva jumped,
Crow: (Aptiva) Ahh! Dog! DOG! Oh wait-it's you. Sorry.
startled that Midi would show her an act of such kindness. Ariah approached and the girls led the Guardians-in-training out the door and into the vast city of Mainframe.
Bob: Vast? They come from the Supercomputer. This should be like...a suburb to them.
As darkness fell, the others returned home, the two selected guides returning after the tour to their homes, back to their parents.
In a dark alley in the lower levels of Mainframe, evil lurked in the shadows.
Tom: Evil needs to get out more.
A strong feeling of contempt hung in the air as a pair of orb-like eyes glowed.
Mike: (Unnamed enemy) What a dump.
A deep throaty growl emanated from the depths of an enormous being.
Tom: Web-changed Megabyte
or new enemy?
Crow: Megabyte was deleted in this, remember?
Tom: So he can't come back and go on a killing spree where all the kids are slaughtered?
Mike: Servo that's it, you've been really dark all day. I think you need a nap. C'mere.
Tom: No! I'm not tired!
Mike: Aww come on. (reaches over and picks him up.)
Tom: No! No! I don't wanna! I...(gradually stops half-sobbing and quiets down in Mike's lap) Wake me later, mommy.
Mike: (patting Servo's dome) Okay.
This being held an unbelievable grudge against sprites and binomes alike.
Bob: Their range of friends must be severely limited.
(Tom starts to snore gently)
Sniffing the air, she nudged a dark mass beside her.
Mike: (Unnamed enemy) Mmm, garbage.
The other beast grunted and raised its head, his big yellow eyes glowing.
Crow: Well, their eyes are glowing and they're lurking in the shadows. Must be the antagonists.
The female stood, her long talons scratching into the pavement as she did so.
Mike: And let the public property destruction begin!
She stepped into the dim light of a street light, white pearly scales shining. A forked tongue slid out of her great maw, testing the night air.
Bob: (Unnamed enemy) Hmm...there's some fog, a 50% chance of thunder showers...
Seemingly satisfied, she gestured for her companion to follow.
Crow: He had all the luggage.
An identical, yet ink-black, creature padded out of the darkness, eyes darting around suspiciously.
Mike: Is it just me or
is paranoia becoming a main theme in this?
Crow: Uh, it's just you Mike.
These creatures were viral, cold-blooded wyrms, more commonly referred to as dragons,
Tom: (waking) Hey,
this fic has dragons! That's good.
Tom: Well unless she makes them the standard, cookie cutter all-dragons-are-evil kind of-
with evil intentions.
Mike: At least they're not all-powerful, benign dragons with enchanted elves and telepathic unicorns as friends.
These wyrms happened upon the city of Mainframe by chance,
Bob: Of course. TOTAL coincidence.
seeking revenge for their dead queen. The minions were servants of Daemon,
Mike: Wait...so they came
to Mainframe by chance but still purposefully to avenge Daemon's
Bob: It doesn't make much more sense to me either.
brainwashed by the lust for power.
Crow: No that would be
really a self-created corruption, not a-
Tom: (yawning) I'm trying to sleep.
Crow: Hey Mike, can I sit in your lap too?
Mike: I'm kind of full. Go sit with Bob.
Bob & Crow: No.
They had been pure of heart before their conversion, but they emerged from the conversion as evil as their viral creator.
Bob: So...her whole theory
is that before the dragons were the good-hearted, pure kind and now they're
dripping with vileness and contempt. Is there no middle ground at
Mike: This IS a fanfic.
All they needed now was a lair from which to execute their plans.
Tom: To steal all the gold in the Kingdom and vanquish any knights that came around.
Crash, the male,
Mike: What, no computer
looked into the starless sky and grinned a toothy grin. "A perfect night for flight,
Bob: (Crash) Although we can't see a thing.
don't you agree, my love?"
he growled softly as he admired the black expanse.
Random chuckled and exhaled a freezing cold blast of icy breath into the cool spring air.
Crow: New! Dragon with anti-freeze!
"Indeed," she said, her green eyes sparkling.
Crow: Second time the author's
used that description. Ever notice if someone has green eyes in literature
they're always sparkling? Do green eyes in real life actually DO
Mike: What about Megabyte's? He has green eyes.
(They consider this)
Bob: Glow malevolently, yes. Sparkle, no.
As one, the two dragons took wing into the night sky.
Bob: To be shot down by
the Mainframe's NRA division.
Tom: (Gunman) We thought they were geese! We swear!
They soared over the city
and lay eyes upon an abandoned island once
inhabited by an infamous virus.
Mike: Hey, "Melissa" used to live in Mainframe.
It was Lost Angles. It was said that Hexadecimal's ghost still haunted the peaceful and strange island.
Crow: Ten to one it's only Emidecimal wandering around, lost.
Crash exhaled a large gout of flame, searing the ground enough to form a grotto.
Bob: Oh, Hex's lair was still there. You could have just walked in.
"Oh, this will do nicely," he purred, admiring his work.
Tom: "Whoooahhoah...I'm a pyro...gonna burn it up!"
He and his companion glided silently into the mouth,
Bob: Jerking back as they realized it was still searing hot.
claiming their territory with a triumphant roar.
Crow: Alerting anyone who didn't need a hearing aid to their presence.
Both Aptiva and Ram knew that entering a junkyard at night was dangerous,
Mike: But they needed an excuse for the plot point to develop so did it anyhow.
but they pressed on, heedless of the signs warning them of the dangers lurking within.
Tom: Such as, "Warning-electric
Crow: "Warning-live Puma on guard."
Mike: "Warning-area land mined."
They had to find that file.
Mike: You'd think they could just wait until "Sim City 3000" comes out commercially.
Ram caught a glimpse of it and smiled as he grabbed it, his smile soon turning into a look of alarm and fear.
Crow: (Ram) THIS isn't Diablo II! It's "Extreme Paintball"! Oh, YUCK!
In a corner of the junkyard, which was shrouded in shadow, he saw gleaming eyes and white, sharp teeth.
Mike: Ram sort of wished he'd turned on the lights beforehand so he could see it was.
The rottweiler growled angrily, eyeing the intruders menacingly.
Tom: (Dog) Scooby snacks?
Ram screamed for Aptiva to run as he forced his legs to move. Behind him he heard a clatter, then a scream as Aptiva tripped over something and fell,
Mike: Precisely at the right moment for the dog to maul her too.
the hound gaining on her. Ram gasped and turned back, planning on grabbing the girl's arm and pulling her out of the way.
Bob: Dragging her body
over broken bottles, needles and some unidentifiable refuse.
Crow: But then common sense took over and he left.
Just as he was about to reach her, he slipped in a puddle of oil and fell.
Bob: Tripping at the right moment again! What are the odds?
The dog bared its fangs and
leapt at Aptiva, clenching her arm in its
Mike: Now that's the kind of dog that believes in making its own chew toy.
Ram recovered from the fall, kicked the hound several times, and dragged a hysterical Aptiva out of the junkyard.
Mike: Uhm...how wholesome.
His friend was hurt and in shock. Her arm was jaggedly split open: the dog's personal signature,
Crow: Hey, he monogrammed
her arm. That was...nice...
Mike: Now even you know that was tasteless.
Crow: And the 'chew toy' comment was well thought out I suppose?
and she was shaking out of fear.
Tom: Yes, nothing warms the hearts of readers like the touching mauling of small children.
(They sit in silence for a while)
Bob: Do you get the feeling
that we've become desensitized to this sort of thing?
He tore a piece of material from his shirt and fashioned a makeshift tourniquet for Aptiva's arm. He didn't want to leave her alone, but he had to call for an ambulance.
Bob: Completely forgetting he could have vid-windowed for help instead.
He told her where he was going, then left for a telephone at a sprint.
Crow: (Ram) Well now I'm sure I'll be fine-(trip) Ow!
As he ran back to her after having called 9-1-1,
Mike: Amazing how international distress numbers still work inside a computer.
he comforted her and calmed
her hysteria until the ambulance showed
Aptiva screamed and sat bolt upright in bed.
Crow: Maybe the hospital shouldn't have cut back on sedatives.
Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she stared into the dark of her room.
Mike: Guess her "My Little Pony" Nightlight burnt out.
Ram ran into the room and almost literally flew to her side. "Are you alright?" he asked, studying her face.
Bob: (Ram) Maybe this would work better if I turned on the light.
She buried her head into his shoulder, trembling, unable to speak.
"You had that dream again, didn't you?"
Tom: (Ram) The one with the celery and the red polkadoted frogs?
Ram asked, holding onto her, stroking her tangled hair. The only answer he received was sobbing. "It's okay, Aptiva. It's alright. I'm here.
Mike: Like she's supposed to take comfort from that.
Shhh. It's all over. You're not in danger anymore."
Bob: At least not from the dog.
He rocked her back and forth until her crying stopped. As all this took place, Ram had a dawning awareness.
Crow: He was wearing his Star Wars PJ's.
He loved Aptiva; he had always loved her.
Mike: Violins, please.
Aptiva, however, voiced his thoughts before he had the chance to do so.
Tom: (Ram) Look, Bobba Fett is cool, okay?
In response, he answered her with his exact thoughts and kissed her gently, comforting her still.
Tom: Yes yes, that's so sweet and all. But seriously, if she'd never been traumatized by the dog and needed comfort do you think she'd EVER go for this guy?
Her trembling ceased, and soon she had fallen asleep once more. Ram slowly laid her back down on her pillow so as not to wake her, and got up carefully, smiling to himself at the irony,
Bob: Which only he can see, apparently.
and crept out of her room.
Mike: (Ram) Good-night, moon.
At the dragons' lair, there was a strange, malevolent feeling in the air.
Crow: (Male dragon) Uh oh. Squirrel's stuck in the vents again honey.
It was the kind of feeling
that you couldn't quite put your
finger on, but you would know for sure that this feeling meant something decidedly evil was going on.
Tom: Calvin Klein was busy trying to bottle and sell it as a cologne.
Nobody would want to stick around long enough to find out.
Mike: The dragons, however, still have no idea why people seem to be so reluctant to visit.
A pungent stench of decay hung in the chill air, the kind that plays around your nostrils until you start to feel queasy.
Bob: (Male dragon) Blech. It's probably dead. Where are the garbage bags?
The source was a discarded carcass of a mangled and partially eaten binome lying on the floor of the lair.
Mike: The final, tragic resting place of Al's waiter.
Crash paced the lair's floor irritably, openly displaying his hatred and anger at the Guardians and this city.
Bob: (Crash) God I hate this place! Remind me why we moved here again?
Random was coolly lying down
a considerable distance away so as not to get trampled. She knew better than
to stay in the black's way when his
temper got fiery.
Tom: Was that just a lame
pun that went by?
Mike: Hard to tell. Let's give the author the benefit of the doubt and say no.
"We'll get our revenge on these pathetic beings soon enough, my love," she purred.
Crash snorted. "Why is it that only Sprites get in our way? They are always the most difficult to deal with. So stubborn." He flopped down ungraciously beside Random.
"Binomes are too panicky to want to even come close to virals, dear.
Bob: They're very intelligent that way.
Besides," she added in a more velvety tone, "I thought you liked a challenge." A reptilian smile crossed her lips as her orb-like eyes glowed.
Tom: So does she see the back of her eyelids when she closes her eyes?
"You know," Crash started, "we could get a little help on this takeover operation..."
"Oh? Do go on."
Mike: (Crash) But I thought Coke was our sponsor.
"I love it when you talk like that."
Tom: "Quoting lines from episodes!"
"Now for a plan..."
"An evil plan --
Crow: This sounds like
the dialogue off of something like "Captain Power and the Planeteers" or
Bob: How would YOU know?
kidnapping, treachery, torture, death threats, capture, takeover, infection
Mike: It's just another typical day in Congress.
-- take your pick."
Bob: Death threats.
Crow: I'd have to go with...kidnapping.
Mike: Good choice.
Crow: Well, there you go.
listening to loved ones whine,
Crow: You ENJOY
Bob: Our villains are masochists.
"Perfect. Who shall we target?"
Tom: Now we can only hope that Brittany Spears is somewhere in Mainframe.
Crash scanned visuals of who was currently in Mainframe and picked one. "That one," he said. His taloned finger pointed to Aptiva.
Bob: At least he didn't pick one of the kids.
Morning finally came to Mainframe with a bright golden sun and dozens of chirping floppies.
Bob: Yeah. I miss hearing those. Especially in the morning.
The sun shone into Aptiva's bedroom window as she awoke, reveling in memories of the night before. He loves me, she thought to herself, He really does love me.
Mike: No Little Orphan Annie jokes, please.
With a groan she managed to drag herself out of bed and over to the window. She smiled as she saw clear blue skies, blooming prism-blossoms, and bees humming over the sweet nectar to be found within these flowers.
Tom: Doesn't it ever rain in fanfics?
She then had a dawning realization:
Crow: Hack was the RED one.
"I'm going to be a guardian".
Oooh-I'm a guardian and I'm okay, I sleep all night an' I play games all
Bob: I've been watching "Monty Python" lately! No!
She had never really thought about it before,
Tom: Which made the fact that she passed all her training rather puzzling.
but only then was she fully
able to appreciate the
value and meaning of what she was one day going to become.
Mike: (Aptiva) Maybe it's still not too late to get a job at 'Wendy's'.
"I'm going to become a legend,"
she said to herself, "almost like
Bob and Matrix.
Crow: Assuming she doesn't suck as a guardian and isn't shoveled into some bureaucratically near-abandoned out post somewhere, sure.
For once in my life I'm going to be respected!" Aptiva then smiled a radiant smile and flung the window open to breathe in the sweet scents of the morning.
Tom: Sucking in a lungfull of fumes from the alley outside her window.
Taking one last glance at
the beautiful sight outside, she headed to the kitchen to have her
Upon reaching the kitchen,
Mike: She realized what a futile lie her life was and curled up sobbing on the floor.
Aptiva saw that Ram was already seated at the table in front of a monstrous bowl of beta-bits and a very large glass of orange juice.
Bob: Mmm...beta-bits. I loved those.
She smiled inwardly as she slowly and quietly made her way to the table and stationed herself behind him.
Tom: Unfortunately not seeing him finish his cereal and shoving back his chair in time.
Wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders, she kissed his cheek lightly. "Morning, sleepy-head," she said.
Bob: (Ram) Wha-zzz...
Ram jumped and turned slowly around to face Aptiva. "Oh, yeah.... whatever,"
Mike: (Ram) Wait, didn't we declare out love or something yesterday?
was his garbled and tired-sounding reply.
Crow: (Ram) Don't expect any conversation until some sort of coffee is sorted out.
Aptiva giggled and said, "You never were a morning person, were you, Ram?"
Tom: (Ram) Go stuff
it up your *BEEP*.
Mike: Guess not.
At this, Ram merely shook his head and went back to eating his cereal.
"I love you..." Aptiva said, her voice trailing off.
Crow: (Aptiva) Do you love me? Maybe we can be a happy family.
This (finally) got Ram's attention
Mike: (Ram) Oh yeah, the love thing. Guess I'd better respond somehow.
and he got up, walked the short distance between him and Aptiva, and put his arms affectionately around her tiny waist.
Tom: (Ram) Whoops! Heh-sorry, looks like I broke something there...
"I love you too," he said, with the most feeling she had heard from him all morning.
Mike: It was topped shortly later when she started cooking by "Hey, is that BACON?"
He then managed to drag the corners of his mouth upwards to form a very small smile.
Crow: VERY small.
This seemed to satisfy Aptiva, who stole a quick kiss, and wrestled herself out of his grip to go get her own breakfast.
Mike: (Ram) I'm going to go back to sleep now.
As soon as she was about to pour her orange juice a vidwindow popped up in front of her, nearly scaring the bits out of her.
Bob: We appreciate the effort.
What was AndrAIa doing calling her so early in the morning?
Mike: Why, it was only 11 am at the most.
"Hi, Aptiva. Look, I need
a favour from you.
You're the only person avaliable this morning."
Crow: (AndrAIa) Excluding the thousands of binomes that surround us that I've known for longer than you.
"It depends on what it is, " Aptiva countered.
Crow: (AndrAIa) I need you to stabilize this tear into a portal-wait, sorry, that's been done.
AndrAIa grinned knowingly. "I know Ram might not be too thrilled, but could you watch Midi and Ani today?"
Bob: I can just hear that ominous background music now.
Mike: What is DOING that?
Before Aptiva could answer, she heard Ram cough and choke on his cereal.
Crow: His motto is "death before baby-sitting".
"Just a nano," she said to
AndrAIa and ran off to
help Ram. "You okay?" she asked him.
Bob: (Ram) Hold...on...as soon as I finish...choking...I'll tell you.
At his nod and deep breath
of air, she rushed back to the vidwindow.
"Sure, AndrAIa, we'll watch them today." A loud thud was heard from the other end of the kitchen.
Mike: (Ram) Damn you!
AndrAIa laughed and thanked Aptiva before closing the connection.
Aptiva rushed back to Ram again. "You idiot!" she exclaimed.
Mike: (Ram) Hey, YOU'RE the one who agreed to baby-sit them!
"If you don't want to look
after them you don't have to make a fool of yourself!"
Mike: (Aptiva) Ahh!
Tom: (Ram) Oops.
"You can look after them by yourself. I'm going to the Diner. Do what you want. It's your funeral."
"Ram, Ram wait!!" But it was too late. Ram was already out the door.
Crow: And thus, their love life shattered.
As soon as Ram reached the Diner, he felt guilty.
Tom: Fortunately it wore off a few moments later and he was free to enjoy the rest of the day.
He knew he shouldn't have blown up at Aptiva like that, but he really didn't like those kids.
Crow: We hear you.
Too much like their old man. In his eyes, one Matrix was enough, but three...
no. Absolutely not.
Crow: Despite the lack of capitals, wise words.
Still... he felt storming out on Aptiva like he had done was the wrong thing to do. Oh well, he thought to himself, I can always apologize later.
Mike: So naturally she'll be kidnapped by the dragons before he can apologize and we're supposed to savor the dramatic irony.
He entered the Diner with a somewhat cheerful smile on his face and was greeted by a full house. Bob, Dot, Ray, Mouse, Matrix, AndrAIa, and even Frisket
Tom: Although HE was snacking on a passer-by.
were present on this sunny Saturday morning.
Bob: Wow. Look at all the people who "weren't available" sitting around.
He grabbed a chair and dragged it over to where his friends were sitting.
Mike: But he's going to be all alone then!
"G'day, mate," Ray said, "Good to see ya this mornin'. How goes tha lady today?" he asked politely.
Tom: "Don't ask Murgen,
just don't ask."
Mike: The Glen Cook reference, ladies and gentlemen.
"Oh... she's alright..." Ram
said, his voice trailing off.
"You're not too upset about her looking after Midi and Ani, are ya?" Matrix asked with a grin.
Mike: (Ram) Worried? About your hell-spawn?
"No... no. I'm not. I'm just tired. I didn't sleep too well last night."
"New places do that to you sometimes," Bob said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, I guess."
"You okay, sugah?" Mouse asked, "Ya look like ya did sumthin' awful. What's up?"
Tom: (Ram) I robbed a bank.
"Aw, I just got a little annoyed with Aptiva this morning. Nothing too drastic. I'm just feeling kinda guilty, that's all."
Crow: (Ram) And until the drugs kick in, well, I'll have to talk it out I guess.
"These things happen," Dot said, eyeing Bob. "It's perfectly normal to have the occasional TIFF."
Mike: (Bob) No it
Crow: (Dot) Yes it is.
Mike: (Bob) No, it isn't!
Crow: (Dot) Yes it IS, Bob.
Mike: (Bob) Well you can say so but it isn't really.
Crow: (Dot) WHY do you always have to do this in public?
Mike: (Bob) ME? I'm not the one who started it!
Crow: (Dot) Oh yes you WERE!
A long bout of silence followed Dot's statement and everyone pretty much stared into space for the next few microseconds.
Tom: (AndrAIa) So. Anyone see any movies lately? No?
The silence was then broken by Mike, who ran into the Diner and hopped up onto the table.
Tom: Make him show the
new Weird Al video!
Bob: I want the news.
Crow: Change it to Cartoon Network!
"Hey everybody! This is Mike
the TV reporting to bring you a special broadcast straight from Lost
"But, Mike, you're here," Bob pointed out.
Crow: (Mike) Freedom of the press, Bob.
"Shh. You're not supposed to know that! Anyhow, at oh-four hundred hours this morning a really mysterious thing happened to Lost Angles today. Wait! What are you doing? MMmmmmfh!!"
Crow: (Mike) Censorship! BSn'P wannabees! Augh!
"Shh. I wanna hear this. Let him talk!" AndrAIa protested.
Mike: She was immediately stoned.
Ray took the duct tape off Mike's mouth.
Mike: Duct tape. Not a
Tom: Where'd he keep it anyway?
"--and inhabited Hex's old lair! What's going to happen to Mainframe now? Tune in to the next 'True Stories of Mainframe' to find out!"
Bob: Even though it hasn't happened yet.
"What inhabited Hex's old lair?" Dot asked.
"Don't you people listen to
Two viruses, people! Two huge, horrible, terrifying, dragon viruses!"
Bob: That "Dracocosm" bug is working up again.
At this statement, the Diner went silent and all the binomes looked up. All eyes were on Mike.
(Bob and the bots all turn and stare at Mike.)
Mike: Stop that.
Everything was silent for a few nanoseconds, and then chaos erupted in the Diner.
Crow: (Mike) God, how I love my job.
Binomes were screaming and running amok all over the place, then, finally, they all ran screaming into the streets.
Crow: Are they EVER good for anything else?
"Way to go, Mike. You just got rid of all my customers," Dot protested.
"Well you asked me to tell you what happened, didn't you?"
Tom: Ba-dum bum, ching!
Mike was then, quite literally, kicked out of the Diner.
Crow: Is it break time
Mike: Now sounds good.
(The bridge of the SOL. Tom is talking on a phone)
Okay...okay...perfect...that's great! Fine. Thanks. Thank you.
Crow: What was that all about?
Tom: Well I decided to give up my virus for adoption.
Bob: You what?
Tom: Adoption. Got the paperwork all signed and sorted out. I'm just waiting for the new parents to show up.
Bob: You're giving away a VIRUS to someone? Do you know how DANGEROUS that is?!
Mike: I have to admit Tom, even for you that IS pretty irresponsible.
Tom: Oh please, as if I'd overlook that. He's going to this nice viral couple I was just chatting with.
Bob: (Relieved) Ahh. That's fine.
Tom: In fact they should be here any time now-
Bob: (Suddenly panicky) Viral couple?
(The Hexfield opens and on it appear two large dragons.)
Crow: Hey! You're the dragons from the fic!
Random: Oh yeah, hey. We're the new parents who're - oh, you've seen our work?
Mike: You could say that.
Crash: How nice! What fic was it?
Bob: You've done more than one?
Random: Oh yes. Dragons
are surprisingly popular even in non traditional fantasy stories. You'd be
amazed at the amount of crossovers we do.
Crash: We've also modeled for novel covers, posters, airbrush art...my cousin was even the stunt double for Draco in "Dragonheart".
Tom: Neat. Hey, have you ever done anything for Anne McCaffery?
Crash: (Snorting) Are you
kidding? They put you on a five month waiting list just to CONSIDER an audition.
You have to have staring film credits to even be in the background
on those, I swear...
Random: It's so elitist. Plus our look was "too scaly" according to them. They wanted that smooth-skin look that's so popular these days. Especially with Wyrms. (Shakes her head) I don't know, whatever happened to decent armor?
Crash: At least "Dragonlance" always has calendar work.
(SOL. The Baby virus lifts it's head up.)
Virus: Cooo? (Peeks up at Crash and Random in interest)
Crash: Aww...is that
Random: He's adorable! Hi there Sweetie! We'll open the portal right away.
Tom: Well I don't think
we have much time but-thanks. I appreciate this.
Crow: Better hurry it up Servo.
Tom: Okay...it's time to go...see you later...Mike, Bob, could you get him off my head?
(The portal opens up and Mike and Bob tug on the squalling virus so they can fit him in.)
Tom: (Jerking with each
tug) Aww...bye bye honey...I'll miss you...guys...maybe we should think
Bob: It's...(tug) kind of... (tug) LATE for that now.
(With a final jerk Mike gets the whimpering virus off and places it gently into the portal where Crash and Random nuzzle it. It settles down and starts to make happy noises.)
Random: He's such a CUTE baby...
Tom: Yeah. . . he is, isn't he?
Crash: Well, we'd stay and chat but there's a rumor they're auditioning for the next Harry Potter movie. See you.
(They wave as the Hexfield closes)
Tom: Make sure you send
pictures! And tell me when he learns to talk!
Crow: Well it looks like your virus will at least have a career in theater Servo.
Tom: There is that.
(SOL. The lights start flashing.)
Mike: Come on, it's back to work for us.