(Mike and the bots enter. Bob's already there.)

Servo: Bob? You okay, honey?
Bob: Yeah, I'll be fine. . .

Part 6

Servo: We're into the home stretch, people!
(General celebratory commotion)

Hack and Slash swooped down out of the darkness, not through the narrow canyon separating the two enormous image planes,

Servo: So where did they swoop out of if it wasn't through the canyon?

down low over Bob and Dot, uncomfortably close to their heads.

Mike: For a close, uncomfortable shave.

Bob instinctively ducked. "What are you trying to do? he yelped.

Hack and Slash touched down on opposite sides of the strip.

Crow: Touchdown! The Packers win the Super Bowl!
(General cheesehead behavior)

Hack: "Will you look what we found!"

Bob: (Slash) Yeah we found it. . . what did we find?

Slash: "Bob and Dot!"

Crow: Sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

Hack: "And they're not looking very feisty, either!"

Mike: You're no prize yourself, Tin Man.

Slash: " So, what do you think the boss will say when we tell him we... bumped them off?"

Bob: (Megabyte) Good work. No spanking tonight.

"You don't know what you're doing," Bob blurted.

Crow: (Torgo) ThE mAsTeR wOuLd NoT aPpRoVe.

Hack and Slash winked at one another. "For once, I think we do!" Hack said proudly. "If we don't stop--"

Servo: (singing) -- thinkin' about tomorrow. . .
All: (joining in) Don't. . . stop. . . it'll soon be here. . .

"Hey, look at this," Slash interrupted,

Bob: (Slash) There's a blood spot here!

pointing up at Glitch, still in the form of a crowbar and straining to keep the image planes separated. He reached for it--

"No, don't!"

Servo: (Slash, offended) Geez, sorry, what crawled up your butt?

Bob yelled, trying to resist letting go of Dot to intervene. "Everything will be deleted if you remove it!"

Hack: "Deleted?"

Slash: "Us?"

Crow: Great idea! Go for it!

Hack: "Hah!"

Hack then promptly grabbed Glitch and yanked.

Crow: Right there? In front of everybody?
Mike: Listen, you've been pretty good up 'til now. The story's almost over, so don't blow it.
Crow: Sorry.

Bob clenched his eyes shut as a tremor swept through the space,

Servo: I don't think this is a case where "what you don't know can't hurt you" can be applied.

and with a horrid cackle from the user, the image planes resumed their closure. Bob pulled Dot tightly to his body and braced himself

Bob: Cause I couldn't afford the dentist's bills.

for--

A rumble and a low, grinding crunch echoed around them, followed by silence.

Servo: They died. The end.

(Everyone gets up)

Bob slowly opened his eyes to see Hack and Slash at his sides, their arms outstretched and holding the image planes apart.

Mike: Hold it. False alarm, guys.

(Everyone sits down again, muttering)

Hack: "Hmmm... I think I--"

Servo: (Hack) Shoulda worked out more!

Slash: "--see what you mean, Bob..."

While Glitch resumed its place on Bob's wrist, he took a tenuous breath and then frowned at them.

Bob: You freaked-out maniacs!

"Now what are you two going to do? The instant you let go, we'll all be--"

Mike: Forced to make guest appearances on game shows.

Bob was cut off by a growing, high-pitched screeching from overhead,

Crow: Which cut his head off.

and all cast their eyes up to see something descending rapidly along the gap, straight toward them.

Mike: Look! Here comes somebody who can help you!

All they could make out was a shape with four appendages extended, two to either side, sliding them along the image planes like friction brakes. With a jarring clang, a great, dark, shining figure landed in the middle of the group,

Servo: It's Batman!
Mike: (The Riddler) Your entrance was good. His was better.
Crow: Mike, what did I tell you about doing Jim Carrey?
Mike: Sorry, I couldn't help it.

and the strip was now getting quite crowded. Bob was so awe-struck that he could not utter a sound.

Bob: Wow! Batman!

"Quite a little mess you've gotten yourself into, here, Bob," Megabyte hummed.

Servo: To the tune of Greensleaves.

Bob could only shake his head slowly in wonder.

Mike: Because he couldn't think of a witty retort.

"Phong can be surprisingly persuasive," Megabyte remarked as he casually glanced around, adding, "on occasion."

Crow: So that's why you're wearing a dress.

Bob permitted himself a tiny sense of relief at the mention of Phong's name. "So, what is it, exactly, that is causing so much consternation?"

Bob: I think it was all those burritos I had for lunch. . .

Bob glanced up at the now indecsernible image of the face, its flickering pixels catching on the gleaming finish of the virus' metal skin. With a nod he said, "Megabyte, meet a user."

Servo: (Megabyte) The User?
Mike: No, a User. They come in six-packs.

Megabyte followed Bob's glance

Crow: Off a cliff.

and tried in vain to grasp the image. "A user?"

Servo: (Megabyte) What's a User?

he uttered with somewhat uncharacteristic astonishment. "Indeed..."

"Mainframe is on the opposite side of this junction. When these two images join,

Bob: . . . forces, they become Captain Planet!
All: (dully) Go Planet.

the junction will close and he will destructively reformat Mainframe." A complex expression washed over Megabyte's visage.

Mike: It was one of happy grief.
Crow: Or hostile calm.
Servo: Or maybe it was polite rudeness.
Bob: No, it was unbridled restraint.
Crow: Yeah, that's it. . .

He realized that Phong was right, and that not only would he be deleted, but also everything he ever desired.

Crow: His Sea Monkeys, his decoder ring, everything.

Much as he loathed the concept,

Servo: He really needed a bath.

his only option was to help Bob, and as Hack and Slash began to groan,

Crow: Oh my God! Right there? Have they no decency?
Mike: That's it. Come on.
(Mike grabs Crow and carries him screaming out of the theater.)
Bob: (watching the commotion) Huh.

under the strain, he realized that he had no time to waste.

Bob caught the look, and seemed strangely comforted by it, if only a little--

Bob: Freaked out.

"All right," a great, grating voice gripped the air. "Tim to close the junction."

Servo: And Ken to lock it fast.

Hack and Slash suddenly cried out as the image planes shuddered tightly under their outstretched arms.

Servo: Shuddered. . . tightly. . .

"Reformat Mainframe? I don't think so!" Megabyte thundered

Bob: Hey, now he's stealing my lines!
Servo: I think you should get yourself a good lawyer.

as he turned to face the user and place his hands against the image plane. There was a brief burst of horrid laughter.

(Mike and Crow return)
Bob: Where were you guys?
Mike: We were just having a little ethical discussion.
Crow: (shuddering) So cold. . . so cold. . .

"And what are you?"

"Your... worst... nightmare!"

Mike: Ooo, I'm real scared! I think I'll start crying now. . .

Megabyte growled as he extended his razor claws and shoved them into the image plane. His jaw ground, his eyes pinched,

Bob: His stomach churned,
Crow: His knees gave,
Servo: His mind blew,
Mike: And he swallowed his tongue.

and his arms wrenched against the force of the advancing plane, and as he heaved his body against it, the very tips of his claws began to sink just slightly into the surface.

Servo: Wait! Hello!
Crow: No, this isn't happening.
Bob: Is he doing what I think he's doing?
Mike: Gentlemen, brace yourselves.

He let out a great howl of effort, and with a painful slowness they sank deeper into the surface, until his fingertips were just beginning to penetrate.

Servo: Oh my God, he's escaping from the computer!
(screams, breaking down into sobs)
Mike: It was bad enough when they started talking to the User, but now. . .

A burst of clattering clicks accompanied an astonished,

"No--this isn't possible!--"

Mike: (Face) The story's hit a new low!

Megabyte's eyes darkened under the strain as he pressed on,

Crow: I was wondering where all that strain had gone.

forcing the image plane back, bits of sweat flinging from his eyebrows and skull wing. With a sigh of relief, Hack and Slash were able to lower their arms, when--

Servo: --David suddenly got sick of typing in mid-sentence.

"Nnnnnoooooooooo!!!" The most supreme cry of anguish ever heard by any being--sprite or user--rang out and rattled the entire space.

Bob: Who said. . . oh, I don't care anymore.

Its impact caused Megabyte to suspend his efforts enough to twist his head around.

Crow: (Megabyte) Do you mind? I'm trying to save us all here!

He opened his eyes and rerouted just enough energy to reactivate them--

Servo: Much more important to see what Bob's yelling about than to save them all.

Bob stood beside him, holding Dot in his arms, her lifeless body hanging limp, a thin trail of glowing green bits dripping from her side onto the strip at Megabyte's feet.

Mike: (intercom voice) Cleanup on aisle 6.

"If this is an example of how users think and behave," Bob heaved

Bob: Eww!
Crow: Cut it out! I mean it!

under his breath, working up ti a cry of disgust, his voice cracking, "Then you can ALL GO TO HELL!"

Mike: (shocked) Bob! Where did you ever hear such language!
Servo: As soon as your father comes home, you're going to get a strict talking-to, young man!

So struck was Megabyte by the emotional outburst that he allowed the image plane to regain some distance,

Mike: That's so touching, I think I'll let us all get smashed to death.

and he scrambled to force it to a stop. The effort to speak made it very difficult to prevent its further progress. Eyes closed, he spoke with an eerily calm, controlled, even tone. "Hack. Slash. Take Bob and Dot to the surface."

Servo: And kill them.
Crow: Wait wait wait. . . so Mr. Big Evil Virus suddenly wants to help his mortal enemies? Why?

Hack and slash could only hesitate for an instant, for they could tell that Megabyte's deadly seriousness was not to be questioned.

Crow: (nearly sobbing) I mean, he had the perfect opportunity to just leave them for dead. . .
Mike: (patting his shoulder) There there. It's almost over.

Without a sound, they deployed their rockets,

Bob: Wow. Quiet rockets.

Grasped Bob and Dot together from either side, and ascended up and out of Megabyte's sight.

***

the echo of a noise that sent shudders through every sprite still hung in the air.

Servo: Whew! Someone light a match!

"That sounded like... like... Megabyte,"

Mike: Like, totally tubular, man.

Number One uttered to Phong as they stood at the base of the swirling game cube.

"Yes..." Phong replied uneasily. "It did."

"It sounds like he was being deleted."

Crow: (Phong) I'll get the mop.

Phong slowly turned away from the game cube. "You may be right, Number One.

Servo: (singing) You may be wrong, for all I know, but you may be right. . .

It may have been to much even for a virus."

Bob: (Phong) He tampered in God's domain.

A flash of movement caused Number One to glance up from Phong. "Who's that?"

Mike: The pizza guy's finally here!

Phong spotted the pair of figures swiftly approaching on zip pads. "That," Phong said, brightening just a little, "may be our very last hope."

Enzo

Bob: Enzo's our last hope?!
Servo: Kiss Mainframe good-bye.

and Mouse

Bob: Oh.

touched down in front of Phong.

Mike: Touchdown, Mainframe! Oops, looks like there's a flag on the play. . .

"I found her!" Enzo called proudly.

Servo: (Enzo) "Can I keep her?"

"Enzo here says y'all got a problem on your hands," Mouse remarked with crossed arms, eyeing the unusually active surface of the game cube.

Servo: We were eating waffles, and now our hands are all sticky.

"You could say that," Number One replied with a slightly uneasy edge.

Crow: You could state the obvious, but we'd prefer it if you'd help us!

"We must decouple this game cube

Mike: Get out the fire hoses!

before a dangerous junction is formed," Phong announced with a raised finger.

Servo: This is a kids' show?

"You want me to hack a game cube, honey?" Phong nodded.

Bob: Umm. . .
Crow: Just let it slide.

"Well, that's not a problem, except--"

Mike: (Mouse) I've kind of got things to do.

"Except what?" Number One demanded.

"What's in it for me?"

Servo: Umm, spirit?

"You'd save the lives of Bob and Dot and dozens of other sprites trapped in there!" Enzo cried, arms flailing.

(collective chuckle)
Bob: Yep. Dave's got Enzo down pat.
Servo: Might as well get someone's character right.
Mike: I don't know. He did a pretty mean Hack and Slash.

Phong looked up at Enzo gravely, and Enzo and Mouse stared back at him with descending jaws

Servo: They descended on him, ravaging him mercilessly with their jaws, and thus the old and the weak are culled from the herd.
Mike: Okay, no more National Geographic for you.

and sinking hopes.

Bob: F-5.
Crow: You sunk my hope!

"Megabyte intercepted an emergence message

Mike: That's a message that emerged, for those playing at home.

that Dot sent from inside the cube several million cycles ago.

Bob: Back when Commodores ruled the Earth.

At that time... she and Bob were the only survivors."

Mike: Well, there goes our one bargaining item.

Phong took a deep breath and adjusted his specs. "Just before you arrived, we sent Megabyte into the game cube--"

Servo: (Phong) Wackiness ensued.

"Aw, what did you go and send old Megabutt in there for?" Enzo spat with disgust.

Crow: There's that rapier wit again.

"We were not certain when you would return with Mouse. I also felt that a virus might have had a good chance of infecting the program from within before it would come out."

Bob: (Phong) But, I was having one of my episodes, so. . .

"Might have had...?" Mouse drawled.

Phong lowered his head a little. "It would appear that... I may have miscalculated..."

Servo: (Phong) I've done it before, those are the breaks. . . well I think you have a good chance of survival, unless I screwed up again.

"If Megabyte couldn't stop that thang," she snapped, "what hope do y'all have for me of succeedin'?"

Mike: Slim and none. So! Let's get started.

"I would only ask that you attempt to break the junction from outside the game cube.

Bob: Oh, is that all?

Hopefully this will force the program to terminate and exit."

"Yeah, exit with a bang," she shot back with an upward swing of her arm.

Servo: Ooooo! I think that's the most action we've had so far in this story.

"The explosion from a forced game cube break would take out every adjacent sector."

"Can't you do it by remote?" Enzo offered with a hopeful shrug. Secretly chiding herself for not thinking of that, Mouse smiled faintly at Enzo and nodded, and Phong placed his fingertips together with some sense of satisfaction.

Crow: But it'll still destroy the adjacent sectors! Are they crazy?

"We have already evacuated all of the surrounding sectors," Number One reported crisply,

Servo: Mmm, crispy, delicious reports!

adding after a nervous pause, "But what about the sprites inside when it goes off?"

Everyone went grimly silent.

Mike: Sorta defeats the purpose if the people you're trying to rescue get killed.

***

Bob's head hung heavily as he knelt over Dot's body.

Servo: So he's a necrophiliac all of a sudden?

Her head was turned to one side, her arm draped over the edge of the crumbling sidewalk where it met the stairwell, her legs bent in a slightly unnatural position.

Hack and Slash hovered nervously nearby, mute with worry.

Crow: Enjoy it while it lasts.

A cluster of transparent bits broke free from Bob's cheek

Bob: (Wicked Witch of the West) I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world, what a world. . .

and splashed lightly on Dot's stained torso, creating a tiny rainbow ripple through the fading bits still seeping from the surface of the bandage.

Mike: That's really more revolting than it is touching.

A profound loss, the likes of which he had never known,

Bob: I lost my contact lens! Nobody step!

left him stranded in an emotional purgatory somewhere between an inescapable desire for self-deletion, and a raging fury that Megabyte could never hope to match.

Servo: I'd be upset too. Imagine being stuck in a fanfic like this one.

It was not until the feet were practically under his nose that he finally noticed the form that had approached. Slowly raising his eyes, then his body, he faced Hexadecimal with clenched fists.

Servo: What the -- ?
Mike: Geez, people are just breaking into the Game left and right. I thought it was really hard. . .

Her brother failed. What hope was there for her?

Bob: Who thought that?

he did not need to say this to be understood...

Crow: Cause Hexidecimal's a mindreader?

Hex's mask was virtually blank, unreadable.

Servo: (computer monotone) Mask unreadable. Abort Retry Fail.

"Here," she said softly with such tenderness that Bob was struck dumb,

Mike: That's a stretch. . .

"Let me help." She slowly knelt beside Dot and placed her hands on the lifeless sprite's head and torso. Hex's mask dissolved to one of concentration, eyes and mouth closed with resolve.

Bob: So now Hexidecimal, the most destructive and unpredictable virus in the Net, is going out of her way to help us?
Crow: Think David ever even watched the show?

Suddenly, with a brief flash of light, Hex's mask switched to one of surprise, and she looked down.

Servo: (Hexidecimal) Oh, is that my puddle?

Dot's eyes flickered open, she gazed up at Hex and Bob. "Wha--"

Bob immediately dropped down to her, placing his hand under his head, choking on words of utter astonishment. "Dot...!" He glanced up at Hex and exclaimed, "I don't know how to thank--"

Mike: (Bob) Since I don't feel any gratitude.

Hex was slowly rising to her feet, creeping back away from him, her mask now one of confusion. "I didn't do this..."

Bob: (Hexidecimal) I didn't do it! It was the one-armed man!

she murmured strangely. "I don't think I--" Then she looked up, her mask switched to one of shock.

Bob swung around in time to see Megabyte limping toward them.

Servo: (Megabyte) Ha ha! Now I've got you right <cough cough> where I want you <cough cough>. Could you give me a hand here?

His face was drawn,

Mike: This fanfic was so cheap they couldn't afford the computer effects.

his color pale, his entire body dithering with a strange hint of translucency. He stumbled, catching himself on the rusty handrail at the bottom of the steps--

Bob: (Megabyte, drunkenly) Yeah, I had a couple. . . I'm not pished. . .

"Megabyte!" Hex gasped, extending her arms toward him in an instinctive clutching gesture.

Crow: Toward his throat.

"You don't look so good," Bob said. "What happened?"

"I... I..." Megabyte stammered, halting in his tracks to regain enough energy to speak. "I allowed the user to... make a copy of myself... in exchange for... a permanent patch for Dot."

Servo: Oh, I can see why, that's a very good -- WHAT??
Mike: Why does he want to save Dot? So she can continue pursuing his destruction? Did David give this any thought?

Mouth agape in speechlessness, Bob looked down at Dot, and together they stared in awe at her torso,

Crow: Oh wow!
Mike: Crow. . .
Crow: What, I was commenting on the healing. Did a good job.

at what was once a fatal injury, at what was now just a fading scar. They blinked at one another.

"How is this possible...?" Dot murmured.

Servo: Anything's possible. . .
All: With radar!

"I suspect..." Megabyte nearly whispered between deep breaths, still light-headed, "that a user is capable of... nearly anything."

Bob: Except emotion.
Servo: And intelligence.
Mike: And killing these idiots.

"But what about the game cube, brother,?"

Bob: As if Hex is ever that friendly with Megabyte!

Hex asked quietly with trepidation--just as the walls of purple hurled skyward and disappeared into a collapsing vortex.

Servo: Rendering her question instantly moot.

Nearby they spotted Mouse crouched on the ground, unused remote utility tool at the ready in one hand, scratching her head in bewilderment with the other.

Crow: Even though she didn't figure into the final scene, I'm glad they forced Mouse to be a part of this fiasco.
Mike: You really have a thing against Mouse, don't you?
Crow: You have no idea.

***

"You mean..." Mouse said in near disbelief, "Megabyte bargained with the user for our lives?"

Bob: Yeah. Contrived and uncharacteristic, isn't it?

Bob and Dot shifted uneasily in the Diner seat. They were a little uncomfortable under the incredulous, expectant stares of Enzo, Mouse, Phong, and Cecil, who had all crowded around the table.

Crow: Oh, and they brought Cecil in, too.
Mike: All we need now is Frisket and AndrAIa.
Bob: No, I think this is before AndrAIa came on.
Servo: How about Mike the TV?
Mike: I thought he was in this one. . .
Servo: No, that was just a disembodied catch phrase echoing through the halls of the ship.
Mike: Oh, I see. . .

"It looks that way," Dot shrugged. "I know it sounds incredible, but..."

Servo: (Dot) . . . hey, we needed to end the story.

"Well, I suppose it was that, or lose everything he ever wanted," Mouse remarked casually. Immediately she could sense that, although it may have been the truth, it was not appreciated.

Mike: Mouse is always such a bring-down.

Bob took the nanosecond of silence to think to himself, I always wondered if users input games for pleasure.

Servo: (Bob) Now I know it's all just a business.

Now I know that some of them have other things on their minds.

Mike: Not a word, Crow.

And I'll never look at games the same way again...

Bob: From now on, I'll only look at them through a mirror.

"I am curious," Phong asked, hoping to change the mood, "what did the user look like?"

Crow: An ungroomed Meatloaf.

Bob and Dot turned to face one another--sharing, for a nanosecond, a shudder of horror, a flash of special feelings, a remarkable closeness,

Mike: The same set of underware. . .

and a sense that they might have liked to learn more about the user's universe--and then they quickly scrunched up their faces and turned back to Phong.

"Let's put it this way--" Dot began.

Servo: (Dot) I'll never complain about Bob's hair ever again.

"We were not impressed," Bob finished for her.

Mike: (Dot) That's not what I was going to say.

There was a brief collective chuckle from the group, although most of them did not understand the sentiment.

Crow: (Phong) Heh heh. . . I don't get it. . .
Mike: Dozens of sprites died horrible deaths. . . and it's funny!

Enzo, who had been studying the way Bob and Dot were looking at one another,

Servo: Like the peeper he is.

could contain himself no longer. "So, when are you two finally getting linked?"

Crow: Hey! Whoa!
Mike: That is late-night!
Bob: He means "married"!
Servo: Who taught that kid to talk like that?
Crow: Gonna have to hose you two off. . .

(Everyone leaves)

THE END

@.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6..

(Back on the SOL. Bob is already at the table, looking somewhat disgruntled. Mike and the bots enter, unintelligibly discussing something that we can't understand.)

Bob: Boy, am I ever steamed at that David Smith guy.

(Mike and the bots quiet down)

Bob: He made me look like a bumbling idiot! He made me sit around, completely helpless, while Megabyte saved us! I mean, come on! How could he think that that was even remotely possible?

(Mike and the bots look at each other, uncomfortably quiet)

Bob: Come on! Vent with me. Let it all out.

Mike: . . . Well, actually, we kinda liked it.

Bob: (incredulous) What? All you did the whole time we were in the theater was complain about the characters and the story and, and the ReBoot time-lapse thing, and stuff like that!

Crow: Well,. . . yeah. That's just what we do.

Servo: It doesn't mean we can't see past all that.

Mike: It's not like we're totally shallow. We can suspend our disbelief a bit if the author has an important point to make.

Crow: Yeah, I mean, think about it: what if God came down in all His glory and He turned out to be a pathetic, weasly geek who doesn't even know we exist?

Servo: It'd explain a lot, let me tell you.

Bob: AAAAAAAAUGH!!! (Bob storms off)

Mike: Huh. Well, guys, for a RAM chip, what was good about this story?

Crow: Ooo! Ooo! I know! Enzo didn't say "Alphanumeric" at all.

Mike: Good! (He throws Crow a chip)

(Bob comes back. He's standing behind everyone; we can tell he's there, but we can't tell what he's doing. There's the sound of a can of spray paint being shaken.)

Servo: Oh, umm, there weren't any action sequences.

Mike: And how is that good?

Servo: David couldn't screw them up.

Mike: Right! (He throws Servo a chip)

(Sound of spray paint being sprayed)

Mike: Anything else?

Crow: Oh, David had the courage to show what really goes on between Hack and Slash.

Mike: Mister, you're headed for a time-out.

Crow: Oh. Sorry.

(Spray sound ends. Bob runs off.)

Crow: Hey! What the --

(They turn around. Bob's spray-painted "Mike and the bots are poopie heads" on the door to the theater.)

Mike: Ha ha. . . very mature, Bob.

(Red light flashes)

Mike: Oh, and now a rebuttal from Regis and Kathie Lee.

(Hits the alarm)

(On the Widowmaker. Pearl is driving, and Megabyte's riding shotgun. He looks a bit incapacitated, and she's covered in little furry things.)

Pearl: Hey dimboids. Yeah, tribbles got into the cookies, and now we're buried in the stupid things. Seeing as how they're your cookies, I'm holding you personally responsible, and don't think I won't have my revenge, Nelson.

Megabyte: (pained) Bob.

Pearl: One day, when you least expect it, you'll be galavanting around the universe, when suddenly you'll be --

Megabyte: (moaning) Ohhh. . . this stretch of space is too bumpy. . . my head. . . oooohhhh. . .

Pearl: (disgusted) I can't stand a man who can't hold his gasahol. Well, until next time, lemonheads. . .

Credits Roll...