(Mike, Dot, and the bots are in formal attire, seated in the theater.)
Servo: Thanks ladies, we'll take it from here. (clears his throat) And now, before we present the "best fanfic" awards, a look at some of the nominees.
Dot: Our first story tonight is Megan --
Crow: (interrupting) Meghan.
Dot: . . . That's what I said. Megan.
Crow: No, there's an H.
Dot: (considers a moment) Meghan Wilk's --
Crow: (interrupting) Wilk. There's no S.
Dot: (irritably) I said Wilk's, not Wilks!
Crow: Oh, sorry, sorry.
Dot: (a bit flustered) Meghan Wilk's "Gotcha!".
Mike: With no viruses to fight, the citizens of Mainframe get bored and decide to kill each other. Wackiness ensues.
Servo: In an interesting turn of events, not only is this story up for Best Single Story in its original version, but the MSTed version is up for Best Misting as well. Let's watch the carnage.
I am so bored. Matrix, sitting sideways on the bench, leaned his head back against the diner window. Wheres a game cube when you need one?
Mike: Matrix impatiently awaits Nintendo's next game console.
Oh, quit complaining. Bob had his head resting on the back of the opposite bench, staring up at the ceiling.
Dot: (Bob) Man, how does it get so filthy up there? It's not like we're throwing buckets of mud on the ceiling. . .
At least things are back to normal.
If you can call it that. Matrix looked over to where Enzo was lying on the bar, much to Cecils dismay. In the minutes since Mainframe had restarted, Matrix had grown to accept his young counterpart.
Crow: But he still won't accept American Express.
One might even say that he had gotten fond of him,
Servo: If one was drunk.
though not many would say that within the cadets range of hearing. While it was true that at first the little Sprite had served only to remind Matrix of how weak he had thought himself to be,
Servo: And annoying. Let's not forget annoying.
he had lately been thinking of him as a little brother,
Crow: And occasional punching bag.
and as a result had become pretty protective of him. The younger Enzo, for his part, just liked having someone else around to roughhouse with.
Dot: Ever since Frisket ran off with that poodle.
Right now, though, the normally hyper Sprite looked about as enthused as the other two men felt. All three let out a simultaneous sigh.
Mike: Hey, there's worse things than being bored. They could be reading about being bored.
What do you want to do? Bob asked.
I dont know. What do you want to do?
Mike: (Brain) The same thing we do every night, Pinky. . .
Enzo waved away an increasingly agitated Cecil. Please get down, the server pleaded. Zis looks terrible to zee customers!
Crow: (Cecil) Could you at least put some pants on?
Whats the matter, Cecil? Hes waiting at the bar, isnt he?
Mike: (Cecil) Yes, but. . . oooooooo. . . You've won this round, Guardian, but there will be others!
Bob had always enjoyed teasing Cecil. Unfortunately, even that wasnt enough to kill the current air of boredom.
Crow: (Bob) Let's go pick on Phong. That's always fun.
Cecil, instead of responding, fixed the Guardian with an icy stare.
Servo: (Cecil) Why I oughta. . . you're just lucky my chick's here!
Just you wait, he thought. Some cycle his opportunity would come, and then hed shut that know-it-all Guardian up but good.
Mike: Every restaurant worker's ultimate fantasy: senselessly slaughtering the customers.
Comforted by this thought, he resumed his pestering of the young Sprite.
Dot: Comforted by his link in the vicious cycle of hatred.
Enzo simply ignored him. Man, this is basic. Theres gotta be some way to have fun around here.
Servo: (Enzo) You wanna throw rocks at the hornet nest behind the garage?
Jetbowling? Bob suggested half-heartedly.
Nah, the two Enzos replied in unison.
Mike: (Bob) Donkey Mud Wrestling?
Crow: (Enzo) We did that last night. . .
Bob gazed absentmindedly toward the back of the diner. Didnt Dot say she needed someone to clean out the basement of this place?
Dot: (bitterly) Yeah, about thirty cycles ago. . .
Matrix raised his eyebrows. Youre kidding, right? The younger Enzo just stared in amazement.
Mike: (Enzo) Look, we're bored, not suicidal. . .
Hey, at least Im trying. I dont hear you two coming up with any ideas. Where are the girls, anyway?
Mike: (Matrix) Pro'ly all in the bathroom; how should I know?
AndrAIa said something about getting Dot away from her work for a while.
Servo: (Matrix) Then something about a leather clown suit.
Theyre probably having a lot more fun than we are. Just then the sound of female laughter floated in from outside. Matrix looked out the window;
Crow: (Matrix) Code red! We are experiencing a level 7 cootie alert, gentlemen! This is not a drill!
Dot, AndrAIa, and Mouse were headed for the diner. Right on cue, he murmured. Nanoseconds later, the doors banged open as Dot strode in, followed closely by Mouse and AndrAIa, the sources of the laughter.
Dot: Are you two still going on about the monobreast thing? It was a whole season ago; can't you let it lie?
That is the last time I play vectorball with you two, Dot said in mock anger, leaning back against the bar.
Oh, come off it, Dot. You were havin fun and you know it, retorted Mouse.
Yeah, I was having fun -- until you two ganged up on me!
Crow: (suddenly very attentive) Say. . .
Dot, you were kicking our bitmaps. We had to beat you somehow! AndrAIa said, trying in vain to plead their case.
Mike: (AndrAIa) And you never said we couldn't use switchblades.
It was supposed to be every man for himself!
Mouse leaned against the bar next to her friend. Sugah, Ahm gonna let you in on a little secret. After a brief dramatic pause, she said: we aint men,
Crow: (AndrAIa) What? Oh, uh, I mean yeah. . . right, right. . .
causing the other women to burst out laughing.
Thank the User for that, huh? said AndrAIa between giggles.
Servo: Yeah, well we can pee standing up!
Dot: Whatever. . .
Hi, guys! she called out cheerfully, finally taking notice of them.
Hi, the trio said rather monotonously, not even bothering to look up.
The women exchanged glances.
Servo: Personal gifts are more meaningful than expensive ones.
My, my, arent we energetic, Dot observed. Enzo, get off the bar. Enzo heaved
an overly dramatic sigh
All: Oh. . .
and slid to the floor. Cecil, seeing his precious bar was now free of obstruction, moved in with the Windex.
Mike: (Cecil, muttering) Germs. . . bacteria. . . plague. . . filthy sprites and their filthy germs. . . not clean, not clean. . .
AndrAIa and Dot slid into the booth next to their respective significant others, while Mouse elected to sit on the table itself, resting her feet on the bench next to AndrAIa.
Servo: (Matrix, uncomfortably) Uh. . . Mouse? Your butt is like. . . right there. Could you just scootch over?
So whats with you guys? AndrAIa
Nothing ever happens around here, whined Enzo from the floor. Anymore, I mean, he added as the group cast incredulous looks at him.
Servo: (Enzo) Look, I remember the "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" pagent, okay?
The kids got a point, said Matrix. I hate to say it, but ever since we got rid of Daemon, its like nothing is exciting anymore. Even games have gotten boring.
Dot: (Matrix) Killing multiple targets without a second thought just doesn't have the same zing to it anymore.
I wouldnt go that far, said Bob with a smile. But I know what you mean. After all we went through, we cant just pick up where we left off. Normal life is bound to be a bit dull.
Dot: (Bob) Horrible, scarring trauma -- that's what we need!
So yall want to shake things up, do ya? Mouse said. Ah think Ah know a way.
Servo: (Mouse) Ah gots an old paint mixer down in the ga-rage.
The others looked at each other, then back at Mouse. You want to explain that? Dot asked.
Dot: (Mouse, smugly) Not particularly.
Mouse smiled down at her friends. Yall want to restore some excitement to this system, right?
Crow: (Mouse) All it will cost is your immortal soul.
Sounds like what we need is a good old-fashioned
A what game? Enzo had risen from the floor and joined the others in the booth.
Gotcha. Bob, Ah know youve heard of it. They used to set up a game for all incoming cadets at the Academy.
Servo: It culls the weaker students from the herd.
Bob struggled to remember. You mean
Thats another name for it, yeah.
This doesnt sound like a very good game, Dot said.
Mike: Pfff. Here's Dot and her knee-jerk reaction to death sports.
Dot: Well, what?
Its harmless, sugah. Just causes a little widespread paranoia.
Servo: Good, clean, psychotic fun for the whole family!
How do you play? Matrix looked intrigued.
Crow: (Matrix, excited) Do you get to kill things? I like to kill things! Let's play right now!
Its simple. Everyone draws a name. Whoever ya draw is who ya have to kill --
Mike: (Mouse) Extra points if no one finds the body.
using a water pistol.
Dot: Drown them, beat them over the head with it, force it down their throats -- be creative!
Its completely anonymous -- your victim doesnt know whos after them until its too late. She looked around. Her friends were hanging on her every word.
Servo: Finally, the opportunity to be an anonymous killer!
Mouse smirked, clearly loving the attention,
Dot: Wow, we haven't been this excited since she suggested the greased pig contest.
and continued. There are a few safety zones set up, but otherwise youre vulnerable wherever ya go. The game goes on day cycle and night cycle. Last man standin wins.
Mike: Only the strongest survives to pass their superior genes on to the next generation.
There was silence in the diner as she finished her
explanation. Half a microsecond went by -- then Enzo broke the silence.
Dude, he exclaimed. We have to do that.
Dot: (Enzo) I've been waiting for minutes to have an opportunity to shoot Dot!
Dont we need more people? asked
Ahm sure we can scare up some more.
Servo: (Mouse) Mainframe supports the draft, right?
Rayll be back any cycle now, and Ah know hell want in on it.
Crow: (Mouse) Gotta do somethin' to slake the little darlin's bloodlust.
The surfer had been in a neighboring system for the past week, keeping its Net trade going by
Mike: Visiting their crappy duty-free shops.
stabilizing tears while the Command.com replaced
portal generators destroyed during the war with Daemon.
Hack and Slash will probably want to play, said Dot.
Dot: You know how they love their death games.
Oh, not those two, grumbled Matrix.
Dot: (Matrix) If they're here, we have to sit through miles and miles of their diologue.
Itll make them feel good to be included, Dot said diplomatically. Besides,
Mike: (Dot) There's a rule that says you can't have a wacky story without the comic relief guys.
whoever they draw is pretty much guaranteed to win. They couldnt hunt someone down if their lives depended on it.
Servo: Hack and Slash, listening from the shadows, vow revenge.
A few other names were mentioned -- Phong, Mr. Pearson (Yeah, right! Enzo had scoffed) -- then AndrAIa said, Hey, what about Hexadecimal?
Servo: Of course! We always forget the psychotic one!
I dont think shed be into this kind of thing, Dot said.
Crow: (Dot) You know how quiet and reserved she is.
Are you kidding? Its completely random. Shell love it! Bob exclaimed. Plus, itll make everyone really nervous, he added with a mischievous laugh.
Dot: (Bob) Maybe she'll go insane and kill everyone! It'll be great!
Yeah, being hunted by an anonymous assailant isnt nerve-wracking enough, Dot returned with a grin.
Mike: (Dot) Maybe we should get some Komodo dragons in on this too.
So were all in agreement, then? Were
gonna do this? Mouse asked. Everyone nodded. Mouse smirked. Perfect.
Get the word out, and tell everyone interested to meet here in two cycles
at 1200 to draw names.
Hey, Cecil, Bob called out to the server, looking to get a rise out of him.
(The guys clear their throats.)
Cecil froze with his back to the group momentarily.
Servo: Whoa boy. . .
Dot: Here it comes. . . twelve days of pent-up hostility. . .
Crow: (panicking) Hold me Mike! I'm scared!
Then he glided swiftly over to the booth, looked the Guardian right in the face, and said, Waste my time playing a zilly childrens game zimply because I cannot find an intelligent way to entertain myself?
Mike: (Cecil) I'd love to!
I dont zink zo! With that, he abruptly turned and sped away, leaving a very shocked Bob gaping after him and the rest of the booths occupants nearly dying of laughter.
Crow: *gasp* Air! *laughs* I need... air!
Mike: Next up, LadyBard's 80 volume classic, "The Daemon Conflict".
Servo: In a surprising turn of events, this hypothetical Season 4 piece revolves around a super virus named Daemon and her efforts to neutralize the threat that Bob and Matrix pose to her.
The place smelled of sickness and death.
Mike: See, that's why I don't eat at Denny's.
The tiny viral despised the dark surroundings.
Servo: She had asked for a nightlight for Christmas but Enzo had to go kill off Santa and all...
She knew it wasn't natural for it to be so, but it was the truth. She was benign, and for that,
Crow: (singing) You suck! Uh huuuuuuuuuuh. . .
her mother hated her.
The immense structure was not always a den of malevolence.
Mike: It used to be the master bedroom of malevolence, but we put up a wall, put some bookshelves in there. . .
It was once a place of power -
Mike: The fuse box?
well it was now, but now it held a dark power.
The Guardians no longer held the power in the Super Computer, and her mother had twisted and warped the Council Hall and Chambers to suit her own ends.
Dot: The striped apolstery just didn't fit in with the plaid shag carpet.
It was to the Chamber that the tiny viral had been
Several bugs passed by her, hugging the damp wall oozing with the inky poisonous secretions.
Servo: (Bug) Mmm, delicious secretions today!
They were a grotesque collection of obsidian-shelled, things, larger than any binome,
Dot: Which isn't saying much, really.
with razor-sharp pinchers, and mandibles oozing with poison, or scorpion-claws that could snap a sprite or binome in two without effort.
Crow: Hey, Infestation!
Despite her mother despising her, the bugs dare not accost her in any way. She was, after all, the daughter of their mistress.
Dot: Man, talk about spoiling your kids. . . Won't even let the bugs eat her. . .
When she came before the immense door, which was carved with the likeness of a bloated spider split down the middle, she halted before the two Guardians who stood at attention.
Mike: The wizard's not in!
The yellowish infection pulsed at their temples. Without a word to her, the brawny male Guardian opened the door.
Crow: (Guardian) Oh, let me just open the door for the princess then. . .
Before she could even step across the threshold,
her mother rasped, "Enter child. Don't stand there gawking."
She meekly stepped forward, "You sent for me, mother?"
Servo: (Daemon) Yes! Where's my pizza?
"Pathetic weakling! You are a true sign that our strain needs to be renewed."
Mike: (Daemon) Happy birthday, incidentally.
The tiny viral flinched at her mother's cruel words.
The darkly beautiful viral who sat at the circular Council table waved her inside with a clawed hand.
Servo: (Daemon) Come here, give mommy a hug.
The six insect-like legs that protruded from her
mother's back stretched out as though to embrace her, but the little viral
knew the damage the razor sharp appendages could cause. "Have you spoken
to the General Ashar?"
Dot: He says "hi".
she was terrified of her mother's chief advisor, who seemed to share the same hate for her as her mother did.
Mike: (Viral) Al's Wait 'N' Eat is under our complete control.
Dot: (Daemon) At last! AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
"Megabyte has been deleted." The Super-Virus Daemon screamed. One of her appendages lashed out shearing the nearest piece of furniture in two, "Who?"
Crow: (Melissa) Dot Matrix and Jo Ann Montgomery.
"The Mainframers," the small viral whispered.
"Guardian 452 and the renegade Matrix!" Daemon spat. "So our intelligence reports were true."
Dot: (Daemon) They are doing another season!
Servo: (Gumby) Y-y-yes mother. . .
"And what of your sister?"
"Well --," she knew this news would further throw her mother into a rage and she was reluctant to reveal it, "Apparently, she has betrayed us."
Mike: And they're such a close, loving family, too. . .
"Then you will destroy her."
Crow: (Daemon) No, the other simpering little benign nobody. Of course you!
"You are a viral are you not? However weak, you are the last of my line. I am loath you destroy your sister,
Servo: (Daemon) But my Bridge club is coming over and I don't have time.
but such traitorous actions will not go unpunished. It will not matter once we have Guardian 452 and the renegade. With them, our strain will flourish once again."
Dot: Ewww. . .
Her mother's mouth split into a malicious grin, one which made the young viral shudder.
Dot: (Melissa) Does she know how much brocolli she's got wedged in there?
"Mother, how will I destroy her?
Servo: (Daemon) With this. . . water pistol!
She is my sister!"
"Melissa," Daemon spat out her name as though it pained her to utter it, "You will go to Mainframe with the General and delete your sister.
Mike: (Daemon) And swing by the post office on the way back, I need a book of stamps.
She doesn't know you exist, so she will be taken by surprise. Your powers are in all respects similar to hers.
Crow: (Melissa) But I'm benign! The worst thing I could do
is play "Happy Birthday" every time she reboots!
Dot: (Daemon) Details, details. . .
It should be easy even for you, and it will prove your loyalty to me. Do you think I did not know you were processed benign? I did not delete you outright because I needed you."
Dot: (Daemon) Now get back in the kitchen and sit under the table leg so it stays level!
Daemon moved closer to her and again Melissa shuddered,
"But that can change, do you understand?"
"Yes mother," Melissa cowered.
Servo: Corporate management of the 90's.
"Dismissed," Daemon accentuated her command with a wave of her hand.
Mike: (Daemon) And remember, we're going over to Meghan's tonight, and I want you on your best behavior!
Melissa gladly fled.
Servo: (Melissa) Wheeee!
Her brother was deleted, and now her mother had commanded her to delete her sister.
Dot: A little early for a recap.
How could she? She had never even seen Hexadecimal
and now she was expected to delete her?
Melissa sighed and for the ninth time in all her days she wished that she were anywhere better than this,
Mike: Only nine?
Crow: Must be a nice place when you get used to it.
that someone would come and take her away from this horrid place and show her that there is a better life before it was too late.
Mike: The Daemon Conflict, won't you?
Dot: Last Year, Dan Green's "Abort, Retry, Fail" couldn't quite surpass the juggernaut that was "The Grid Run". Undaunted, he returns to the URAs this year with "Null and Void", a story which once again explores Matrix's relationship with little Enzo through lots and lots of words.
Crow: In this touching prologue scene, Enzo goes off to college and gives away the ending.
It was hard for me to look at the diner, even now.
Mike: (Enzo) The radiation kept melting my eyes.
Too much memory. System overload. Abort, Retry, Fail.
Dot: Dan Green plugs his other three stories.
I turned my head quickly and started walking towards
Kits, eyes cast straight down.
Every step felt like an inch,
Servo: "Then I realized I had a giant boulder strapped to my back."
my feet were so heavy. I knew Bob would be waiting, and I didn't want to be late, but it was so hard, making that walk for what would be the last time -
Crow: "Next time, I'd just use my zipboard."
at least for a long while.
How many times had I dreamed about this cycle -
Servo: Ummm. . . Three! No, four!
what it would mean to me? Sure, there were doubts, but it had always felt totally alphanumeric in my mind. It was supposed to be perfect - everything I'd dreamed about since I was a little sprite. I knew leaving Mainframe would be hard,
Dot: I mean, you've got to expect some trouble with the border patrol.
but I'd be back. And it was what I'd always wanted.
That was what I'd always thought, anyways. But now that it had all happened, it was totally basic. Low density.
Mike: D-U-M: dumb.
The Mainframe I was leaving wasn't the one I'd imagined leaving. I wasn't sure if I'd ever come back. If I ever _wanted_ to come back. Except for one reason.
Crow: They had cable.
Except for Bob.
I looked around me, at Baudway, back towards the Principal Office - the city was kinda quiet today.
Dot: Yeah, we don't put in the music until post-production.
I knew that wherever I went, anywhere in the net,
no place would ever be as beautiful to me as this. I could go to the
Supercomputer itself, but Mainframe would always be home.
But that wasn't really true, was it?
Dot: "Hold on, let me start over. Oh, this is live?"
Mainframe would always be home, in my mind - but not this Mainframe. The Mainframe I'd remember would be the other Mainframe -
Mike: (awkwardly) You know. . . that one. . . other. . . one. . .
before everything had happened.
Servo: (singing) Back when the world was young. . .
I'd file and sort it, back it up in my memory.
Crow: Distribute illegal ROMs on the Internet.
But it wouldn't be real. I couldn't ever go back to
a place that didn't exist any more. Maybe we Matrixes were destined to wander around the net forever - maybe it was part of our code...
Mike: (Enzo) I dunno. . . so anyway. . .
I was almost startled when I looked up and found myself outside our apartment in Kits. I'd made the walk so many times, I guess I could do it in my sleep - and I just about had. Bob was waiting for me. It was time.
Servo: (singing) From the day we arrive on the planet. . .
"Hey, Partner!" he grinned as I slowly walked through
the door. "Where've you been? It's almost 1200, you know!"
"Sorry Bob!" I said sheepishly, forcing a smile to my face. "I was over at the diner. I guess I... I guess I had to have a - you know..."
Mike: (Bob) It's okay. There's no shame in ordering a Happy Meal.
"I understand." Bob smiled sympathetically. "Enzo, I know this is kind of rough for you - but you know it's for the best.
Crow: (Bob) Now strip down and let me sand your skin off.
It's what you've always wanted, and you deserve
"Thanks." I nodded, even if I wasn't sure I agreed with him about the second part. "You've done a great job training me, Bob.
Dot: (Enzo) I'm gonna be the best prep cook ever!
There's no way I could ever go to the Academy if you hadn't helped me every nano along the way. There wouldn't even _be_ an Academy if it weren't for you, and Matrix, and AndrAIa. And..."
Crow: The financial support of viewers like you.
Thinking about them brought even more pain. "Bob,
"It was easy!" Bob grinned, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.
Mike: (Bob) Three guys up against the entire Guardian collective and the most powerful virus in the Net -- No problem!
I guess there had been kind of a distance between us for a while, but it was forgotten now. It seemed unimportant. "By the User, Enzo - I can hardly believe it!
Crow: (Bob) The whole Clan of the Cave Bear trilogy was right there at the Goodwill!
You're nearly as tall as me, now. It seems like only a few nanos since the reboot, and now you're almost fully compiled. Where do the cycles go?"
It was strange hearing Bob talk this way - but then, everything seemed strange to me now.
Dot: (Enzo) I thought the mushrooms in that omelette looked a little funny. . .
I blushed a little. "I'm still a little sprite and
you know it. Those cadets at the academy are gonna tear me to data bits..."
"Spam!" Bob chuckled. "You're a Matrix - and we all know how tough Matrixes are."
Mike: Especially when they have three axes and they're in base twelve. Oooh, those are killers!
"Yeah..." I whispered, all the memories flooding back to me. I could hardly believe that we'd ever fought, ever been mad at each other. It made me feel totally low-density.
Servo: (Enzo) How could I ever have questioned the wisdom that is Bob?
Bob and I were all we had, now. That thought made today seem even worse to me. I was shocked to feel a tear on my cheek.
Mike: (Enzo) Whoops. Portal's opening on my face.
See, I hadn't cried in a while. Since - since the last time.
Crow: So the last time he cried was the last time he cried.
I promised myself that I never would again - I wouldn't let anything hurt me that much again.
Dot: (Enzo) But I could still hear the lambs screaming at night. . .
Maybe that's why Bob and I hadn't talked much, for
a while, even though we lived in the same apartment. It seemed easier. But
now, it all came crashing down.
"Come on, now." Bob said softly. "She'd be proud of you, you know.
Servo: (Bob) Your dead sister, I mean.
She _is_ proud of you.
Servo: (Bob) Up in Heaven and all. . .
"It's not that!" I sobbed, ashamed of my crying but unable to stop.
"What is it?" Bob frowned.
Servo: (Bob) If it isn't the death of your sister, what could
Mike: Hey, are you giving away the ending?
Servo: I dunno.
I shook my head angrily, trying to rattle the tears
out. "I just keep thinking about you, and Mainframe... And about how - how
lonely you - it'll be! Bob, I-"
"Crash that!" he smiled, tousling my hair like he used to when I was a little sprite.
Dot: (Bob) When are you going to grow up and stop worrying about the feelings of others?
"I'm a Guardian, Enzo - and so are you. Defending Mainframe is a full time job. Besides, we'll be seeing plenty of each other. Don't you worry about me. Just go to the Academy and make me proud."
Servo: Just wait. When those uppers wear off, Bob's going to crawl into his sock drawer and cry himself to sleep.
"You've always made me proud - why should it be any different now?"
I stared at him for a nano, startled to realize that we _were_ almost eye to eye. How was that possible?
Crow: Oh no! Bob's shrinking!
"Thanks!" I whispered, sniffling. I tried to keep control of myself, but I couldn't.
Mike: Whoops, his Torret's is kicking in.
I guess I was still a little sprite, when everything was filed and sorted. I buried my face in his shoulder. "Bob... I - I..."
"I know." he said softly, patting my back.
Mike: (Bob) There there, little tiny baby man. . .
"I know, Enzo. Me too. Come on, now - you don't want to be late on your first cycle, do you? Did you get everything uploaded all right?"
Dot: (Bob) Did you go to the bathroom?
Crow: (Bob) Everything downloaded all right?
"Yes." I whispered, lifting my head and forcing a weak smile. "All set."
"Need anything from your room?"
Crow: (Bob) Before we burn it?
"No - I finished uploading my stuff last night." I sighed. I didn't want to see my room now - I didn't need any more memory downloads pushing me over the edge.
Servo: (Bob) Hey, Enzo, remember that delivery service you
Mike: (Enzo, freaking out) No! Shut up! Stay away from me!
More than anything, I wished a game cube would drop - just so I wouldn't have to go through with it. Anything to delay things.
Dot: (Enzo) Anything to pad out my soliloquy. Make it longer. Stretch it out.
But the games never seemed to come when I wanted them to,
Mike: (Enzo) Still, I had power over the birds, so. . .
and now was no exception. "Say good-bye to Phong for me, OK?"
Servo: (singing) Say goodbye my baby. . .
"Thanks..." I sighed, looking around the apartment one last time.
Crow: (Enzo) Man. . . we are never getting the deposit back for this place. . .
"I guess that's it, then." Bob grinned, clapping me on the shoulder. "Just be yourself, Enzo, and everything will be fine. Remember everything I taught you.
Servo: (Bob) Never spit in the wind, and always tip 15%.
And make me proud."
"I will. I promise." I croaked, unable to muster my voice above a whisper. "Thanks - thanks for everything, Bob. I - thanks..."
"You're welcome." he said softly. He looked down at his wrist. "Copeland - portal!"
Servo: (muttering) Foreshadowing.
A shimmering sphere opened in the air in front of us, hovering in place. I took one last look at Bob, who smiled and nodded. "Stay frosty!" he mouthed. I nodded back, closed my eyes and stepped towards the portal.
Mike, Crow, Tom: Renew! Renew! Renew!
Servo: Our last nominee for Best Single Story is Viroid Mary. The first part of the Daemon Blast series, this story was also nominated in last year's URAs, but just couldn't beat out Jerry the Cow.
Crow: Here, the ever-popular Pong scene.
The old sprite tracked down the corridor as briskly as his trackball would carry him.
Servo: (Typewritter) Nooneenooneenooneenoo. . .
He had had all that he could take from Hexadecimal.
Mike: Three magazine subscriptions and a box of thin mints was enough!
That Virus seemed determined to wreak as much havoc as she could, no matter whose side she was on! Why had he given in to Bob and registered her?!
Dot: Then he remembered the blackmail pictures.
He entered the game field to find that she had somehow activated the game court. Force walls shimmered around her, and smaller fields encased her hands and feet.
Crow: When Playgrounds Attack.
Bewildered, she was trying to fight against the
fields. He called out, "Pause!" The walls became transparent. He wheeled
through and shouted, "What are you doing?!"
She turned a red-eyed glare on him. "What IS this place?!" she snarled down at him.
Dot: (Phong) The virus-annoying room.
"It is the puck oriented non-linear game court!" He wrapped thin digits around her wrist. "You must go back into quarantine!"
Servo: Mr. Flibbles will be very cross.
Her eyes flicked green. "Oh, a game room!" she exclaimed with delight as Phong pulled ineffectually at her wrist. "How do you play?"
Dot: (Phong) You go back into quarantine, that's how. Now move!
He looked back up at her in disbelief. "I will show
you later. Now, you have to go back into quarantine or you will infect all
"It's boring in there.
Crow: (Hex) I wanna watch cartoons!
Show me how to play. I've never been in a game before."
She smiled, blue-eyed. "Please?"
He started to reply angrily, then caught himself. It would keep her occupied for a time, and keep her from wandering off and spreading the bug any further.
Servo: Besides, she was growing up so fast; one day she just wouldn't be there to have these moments with him. . .
And... it had been a long time since he had played
against another opponent. He released her wrist and said, "Very well,"
"Oh, goody!' She clapped her hands together.
Servo: Wait'll she finds out it's just Pong.
Crow: Yeah. . .
He wheeled to the other end of the court and called out, "Reset, practice mode." The walls and the force shields on Hexadecimal's hands and feet disappeared briefly, then reappeared at full strength. Similar fields appeared on Phong's hands and below his body.
Dot: The infamous "setting up to play Pong" scene. . .
He took a pair of small, rectangular objects out of the drawer in his front and put one above his eyes. Lights played across its surface. He held the other out to Hexadecimal. She looked at it,
Servo: (Hex) Duhhhh. . .
then at him,
Servo: (Hex) Hmmm. . . duhhhhh. . .
then put it on her forehead.
Servo: (Hex) Duhhh. . . Like this?
Mike: (Phong) Good girl. You get a cookie.
Phong backed to one side of the room, where an oblate object was hovering before him at chest height.
Crow: (shouting) Are you ready for some PONG?
"The object of the game is to get the puck past me." He tapped the puck back and forth between his hands, then sent it skimming across the court toward Hexadecimal.
(Servo makes a Pong sound.)
She gestured, and the puck reversed direction and flew back toward Phong. He caught it with one extended limb and dribbled it between his hands. "No, you must not use anything but your hands."
Dot: (Hex) Yeah, that's what I did.
"It is a game of skill. It may seem simple, but appearances are deceptive. It takes minutes to master." He slapped the puck back to her. She extended a hand, but the puck swept past, striking the force wall to her left.
Servo: Umm, you gotta hit it.
A soft buzz acknowledged Phong's point.
As the puck returned to Phong she said, "That's what I'm trying to do, eh?"
Dot: (Phong) No, you're supposed to hit it.
"That is correct," the Sprite said, readying himself
for another serve.
A predatory smile spread across her face.
Mike: (Hex) I'm gonna Pong the hell outta you.
"Let's try that again." She poised, ready for his
Phong paused, suddenly realizing the situation he had put himself in.
Servo: (Jim Backus) Oh Magoo, you've done it again!
What was he doing, playing a game with a Virus who could destroy the Principle Office on a whim? Oh, dear. But he recalled an old readme file which said, "When you have a tiger by the tail,
Servo: Hold on, Tiger Shark.
don't let go."
He gathered his nerve and hit the puck.
(Back to the front view.)
Servo: And now, the winner of this year's URA for Best Single Story. . . Mike, the envelope, please?
(Mike shrugs and inserts the envelope in one of Servo's doll hands. Servo looks uncomfortable for a moment.)
Servo: Uh. . . could you open it too?
Mike: Oh, sure.
(He takes the envelope back and opens it.)
Mike: And the winner is. . . Meghan Wilk, for "Gotcha!"
Crow: And once again, the power of Super Soakers makes itself known.
Mike: Yep! Congratulations, Meghan! What's next?
Dot: This year's URAs feature a separate category for Best Series.
Servo: In this exciting new style of writing, several discrete units of prose, or "stories", are joined together by a similar theme or timeline. If read sequentially, a "series" presents the reader with a single coherent storyline, usually supported by the storylines of the individual stories.
Mike: Our first nominee is "The Adventures of Boot", a series that uses ReBoot characters largely as a vehicle to make jokes about restaurants.
Crow: In this whimsical, light-hearted scene, Bob and Slash explore the bowels of hell.
(Cut to a shot of a heckish underworld type place --
the Recycle Bin.
It looks like a rather bleak amusement park, with demons operating the rides and concession stands.
Mike: So. . . like an amusement park then.
Carnival music plays in the background. Pan across
the wasteland to the entrance, where Bob and Slash are standing. The Grim
Reaper is there.)
Grim Reaper: Please have your hand stamped so you may return to the land of the living. Thank you for coming to the Recycle Bin. We hope you enjoy your stay.
Crow: (Reaper) Enjoy our rigged carnival games and visit our over-priced gift shops!
(Bob and Slash have their hands stamped and walk
through the turnstile. The camera follows them as they walk through the Recycle
Slash: I wanna go on a ride! Can we go on a ride?
Slash: Look, the Python! I wanna go on that! Can we go on that?
Slash: How about the ferris wheel? Can we ride the ferris wheel?
Bob: (becoming agitated) No.
Servo: (Slash) I gotta go potty! It hurts!
Mike: (Bob) No.
Servo: (Slash) Please! You haven't fed me for three days!
Mike: (Bob) No.
Slash: Please? Just one ride? Can we go on the River
Styx? I wanna go on the River Styx!
Bob: Fine! All right! If it'll shut you up, we'll go on one ride!
Crow: Cue punchline. . .
15 rides later. . .
Crow: Punchline away!
(Cut to a scene where Bob and Slash are in a boat, with a demon acting as the ferryman. The boat is floating very incredibly slowly down the river.
All: (singing) Purgatory, here we come! So long Satan, devils glum!
Slash is unable to contain his excitement and Bob
is terribly bored.)
Bob: (to the demon) Is this all this ride does?
Dot: (Bob) I mean, I've been on it fourteen times already, but I just want to make sure.
Demon: I could punch you in the face if you want.
Mike: If Six Flags attendants had their way.
Bob: No thanks.
(The demon punches Bob in the face.)
Bob: You know, that wasn't that bad. Could you do it again?
Demon: First one's free; the next'll cost you.
(Bob starts digging in his pocket for some credits. Cut to the end of the ride, where Bob and Slash are exiting the boat.)
Bob: There. Have you finally had enough?
Servo: (Slash) No, I wanna see the Ded Bob Sho!
Crow: (Slash) Can we get our pictures taken with Hades?
Bob: Good. Now maybe we can finally go on a ride that I want to go on.
(Cut to the Recycle Bin's entrance. Slash has an all-day lollipop and Bob's got a balloon.)
Slash: This was the best second ever! Can we come back next second?
Bob: Well, we'll have to wait and see. You know, maybe Enzo would like to. . .
(Bob looks like he's just remembered something and slaps himself in the forehead.
Dot: (Bob) Oh yeah. There's a story we're supposed to be doing.
Cut to a room crowded with binomes and other files.
Enzo's also there. The door opens and Bob pokes his head in.)
Bob: C'mon Enzo.
Servo: I bet characters like it when the author runs out of ideas.
(Cut back to the Recycle Bin entrance. Bob, Slash,
and Enzo approach the exit. The Grim Reaper calls to them.)
Grim Reaper: We hope you enjoyed your stay! Come back soon!
Crow: All mortals were born to suffer! Goodbye now!
Bob: We will!
(Suddenly, the Grim Reaper appears in front of Bob, Slash, and Enzo.)
Grim Reaper: Hold on! (points to Enzo) That file is marked for deletion.
Mike: (Reaper) But you can win him back with the ancient game of Minesweeper. Care to go first?
No one but the User may let him leave.
Bob: Oh. Okay.
(Cut to a scene where Bob and Slash are flying away from the Recycle Bin.)
Bob: Too bad about Enzo.
Slash: I'll say.
Servo: Huh. Up next, Kim "Absolute Lord of All Things ReBoot" McFarland's "West Sector Story".
Dot: This story stands out not only because it's the most well-accepted story of Mainframe and the Sister City prior to Season 1, but also because of its unusual portrayal of Kilobyte as a benevolent leader and a loving father.
Mike: In this scene, everything you wanted to know about Megabyte's mom, but were afraid to ask.
There were a number of restaurants near the Blaine Research Institute; it was in the middle of a well populated business sector. The two women ended up in their usual place, a small diner that served competent food
Dot: You know, I'm sick of all this food that can't run a government. I want some competent food.
reasonably quickly. It was nothing special, which
is why it was not crowded.
Melissa led Peg to a booth by the glass window wall. Peg tapped an icon on the table and looked at the menu that popped up in a VidWindow.
Mike: (Peg) Hmmm. . . What's a "Russell Dog"?
Melissa didn't bother; she knew what she wanted.
"Which system did you come from?" Peg asked when
she closed the menu window. "You've never said anything about it."
"Not much to say about it, really. It was a small, quiet system."
"Why'd you leave, then?"
Dot: (Melissa, darkly) Lousy shopping malls.
"I guess I just stopped liking it there."
Servo: (Melissa, nervously) I'm not a virus!
Melissa was saved from having to elaborate her evasion into a lie by a female one binome with a beehive hairdo
Mike: Hey, the Marge Simpson binome!
and an order pad. "What can I getcha?" she asked.
"Number 0000000110 combo for me," Melissa answered.
"Your usual." She looked over at Peg. "For you?"
"Um... A Nybble Plate. And a diet energy shake."
Servo: (Bob) So, you drink that health crap?
The waitress left. Peg snapped at Melissa in mock indignation, "Stop grinning at me, I just like the diet ones better, okay?"
Servo: (Peg) They taste just like water with a little flavouring! Who could ask for more?
"Okay, okay." But she did not stop smiling.
Peg was grinning too. "You know, you've seemed a lot happier these past few milliseconds. Before, it was, I don't know, like you had something on your mind."
Dot: (Peg) I mean, do you like thinking or something?
"I guess I'm finally fitting in," Melissa replied.
"I'd think it was something more than that." Peg looked mischievous. "You seem a little too cheerful just for that."
Crow: (Peg) You got a high score on Bejeweled, didn't you?
"Oh, do I?"
"Yeah. Like maybe... anything you want to tell me about? I promise not to say anything to anyone."
Melissa shook her head, still smiling. "There's nothing to tell."
Dot: (Melissa) And I'm not a virus.
"If I didn't know better, I'd guess that there was
something nice going on in your evenings..."
"Oh, really?" Melissa laughed.
Servo: (Peg) Like maybe you're doing a jigsaw puzzle? Hmmm?
Dot: (Melissa) Oh, Peg. . .
Servo: (Peg) C'mon now. . .
Peg lowered her voice. "I mean, I never see you
in the evenings... I'm thinking, maybe you're busy with someone?"
Melissa shook her head. "Peg, you have a one-track mind. Who would I be seeing? You know it's not you-know-who."
Mike: (Melissa) You know I'm not seeing Kiloby-- I mean, Jay.
"I know." She leaned close, an earnest expression
on her face. "I was thinking... maybe you're seeing someone, and you're keeping
quiet about it?"
Melissa stopped smiling.
Servo: (Melissa, nervously) I'm not a virus!
"What are you talking about?"
"Maybe it's none of my business.
Crow: (Melissa, nervous) You're right, it's not! Shut up!
But, suppose you were dating someone,
Servo: (Melissa, flustered) He's not a virus either!
and you didn't want to say anything because maybe he's a she...
(The guys are stunned.)
well, if it were something like that, you wouldn't
have to keep it a secret from me. I just wanted to tell you that."
Melissa drew back, startled.
Dot: (Melissa) Well, this scene went in a really weird direction all of a sudden.
Quickly Peg added, "I don't mean that I'm saying I think you are, but if you were, it'd be okay with me, that's all."
Crow: Oh, why don't you just kiss her and get it over with?
Melissa covered her mouth with her hand as she began laughing. Peg had had her worried for a moment there.
Mike: She thought she was coming on to her for a minute there.
Relieved, Peg asked, "You're not mad, are you?"
"No," Melissa managed to gasp out. When she got herself under control again she said, "I'm not mad. If that's the worst thing anyone calls me in this system, I won't complain!
Dot: (Peg) What if I said your nose was too big?
Servo: (Melissa) That's it. The gloves are off.
But, no, I'm not dating a woman. I'm not dating
"What about binomes, then?"
That made them both laugh.
Servo: Binomes are too hideous to be loved!
"Or numerals," Melissa added.
Mike: Not that there's anything wrong with that. . .
"That pretty well covers it." Peg said.
Crow: No it doesn't. I mean, there's a whole animal kingdom that --
Mike: Okay, stop.
Crow: What? I'm just saying, there's so many possibilities when you --
Melissa, still grinning, said, "Believe it or not, Peg, a woman can be interested in men and still not be attracted to Jay Matrix.
Dot: Heck, they go hand-in-hand.
He's just not my type. That's all there is to it."
Servo: (Peg) So you're not a lesbian. Fine.
Melissa was still grinning. Peg said, "What?"
"I wonder what he would do if he thought I was seeing a woman.
Crow: Act like he was in an episode of Three's Company?
It might get me off the hook."
"You wouldn't! ... Would you?"
Melissa shook her head. "Nah, I wouldn't. But it's fun to think about."
Crow: (Melissa) 'Cause I'm not a virus.
Servo: Up next, The Infernal Jynk presents "The Trojan Chronicles", which tells the dark, sad tale of Matrix's mind being scrambled by a virus, and his subsequent spiral into homicidal blood lust.
(The others give him a questioning look.)
Servo: More so than usual, I mean.
(The others nod their comprehension.)
Dot: Here, he's paired up with the hard-nosed detective who dies in the next scene.
"My son, this is Detective Commadore.
Crow: Agent 64.
He's in charge of the Packard murder investigation," Phong explained, motioning to the one bionome in the trench coat standing behind him. "You're welcome to accompany them on the investigation of your sister's apartment."
Mike: (Phong) Let me just sign your hall pass.
"Great," Matrix replied flatly, shaking his head. "Look, I don't believe my sister would erase an innocent bionome like this.
Dot: (Matrix) She's usually much more discrete.
I'd like the chance to see the crime scene for myself.
Servo: (Matrix) I just think they're neat, is all.
I may be able to find evidence that your men perhaps
"Are you saying my men are incompetent?" the detective asked gruffly.
Mike: (Commadore) I'll have you know they only eat competent food!
His eye narrowed as he sized Matrix up. "What qualifies you for a murder investigation?"
Crow: (Matrix) I've seen every episode of 'Murder She Wrote'.
"I'm a Guardian," Matrix answered simply.
Mike: (Commadore, hurt) Yeah, well. . . I've got a convertible.
"Some Guardian. I remember you, boy. You weren't much of a Guardian then, and you don't seem to have changed much," Detective Commadore gruffed.
Crow: (Commadore) I mean, sure, you're huge and there's the eye thing, but. . .
Matrix frowned and leaned down to look the bionome
in the eye.
"Listen, you short piece of slag," Matrix growled. AndrAIa grabbed Matrix's arm.
Crow: (Matrix) Um... could I have that back?
"Enzo!" she yelled. Matrix glared at her, but slowly relaxed. "You two shouldn't be fighting, you should be working together to solve this mystery."
Mike: (AndrAIa) Now you and Scooby go look in the cavern for clues.
"Always the voice of reason, AndrAIa," Matrix sneered.
Servo: (Matrix, muttering) You'll get yours. . .
"Fine, I'll deal with Commadore, but one more insult
and I'll beat him within a bit of deletion."
"Enzo, what's gotten into you?" AndrAIa asked,
Crow: (AndrAIa) Beatings aren't your style. Whatever happened to Gun?
smacking Matrix lightly on the arm. Matrix looked
back at her.
"I'm sorry. I think the stress is getting to me," he sighed, then looked at Detective Commadore. "Let's go. I just want to get this investigation over with
Mike: (Matrix) I've got a tee time at twelve.
and prove my sister's innocence."
"No way, Matrix," Commadore said harshly. "I'velearned long ago not to take loose cannons on investigations."
"She's my sister!" Matrix shouted.
Dot: (Matrix) That makes me the law!
"And I'll not have you tampering with evidence,"
Commadore countered. Bob walked over to the two sprites and the bionome.
"I don't think he'd tamper with evidence, Detective. Matrix isn't like that. He just wants to help," Bob said calmly. "But he doesn't need the insults."
Servo: (Commadore, startled) Really? You mean, all this time. . . well, I feel pretty stupid right now. . .
"Bob, you're a good Guardian and we all trust you," Commadore began. "But Matrix is not the boy we all knew.
Crow: Fred Savage?
Look at him! He's more read to delete something than learn more about it."
Servo: (Commadore) We need to capture Godzilla so we can study him!
"I'd like to delete you," Matrix growled softly.
Dot: (Matrix) But I ran out of doe tags.
"But you're not worth the wasted bullet. Now, show
methe crime scene!"
"Sure, right this way," Commadore gruffed, then muttered under his breath, "You psycho."
Mike: (Matrix) Call me a psycho again and I'll kill you!
Matrix followed the bionome out to the CPU transport and got in. Commadore got in on the driver's side and set a course for Dot's apartment. Both sprite and bionome were silent on the way to the crime scene.
Crow: Some first date this is turning out to be.
Finally, Commadore broke the silence, and rather rudely at that.
"Look, boy, you stay out of my way, got it? You're already walking a thin line with this investigation," the bionome said.
Servo: Hey, Pauly Shore!
(Everyone looks at him.)
(Mike and Crow groan.)
Crow: Can we kill him?
Mike: Later. . .
"Delete the slag, Detective. We both know Dot didn't do anything," Matrix replied harshly. "But we have to work together to catch the real criminal.
Crow: Like OJ.
That means letting me do my job as a Guardian, got
"Yeah, alright, but one screw up and you'll be joining your sister in the lock-up," Commadore answered. "I don't like you, boy, and I don't trust you, either."
"Like I care," Matrix said, looking back out the window.
Dot: (Commadore) Takes one to know one!
Servo: (Matrix) I know you are, but what am I?
Crow: (Commadore) I'm rubber and you're glue!
The detective brought the transport in for landing outside the apartment building. Matrix got out and looking up at the building,
Mike: (Matrix) Man, I bet it'd hurt if someone threw pennies at you from the top of that.
then followed the detective inside. They soon arrived
at Dot's apartment. Matrix looked around from the doorway, not really seeing
much change in the place.
"Don't touch anything," Commadore ordered.
Mike: (Commadore) I just dusted.
Matrix glared at the bionome.
"How'm I suppose to do my job if I can't look for clues?" Matrix sneered.
Dot: (Commadore) Play pretend.
"Excuse me, boy, but you're job her is to observe,"
the detective replied.
"Almost sounds like you want Dot to go down for this murder," Matrix muttered. Detective Commadore turned to look at him.
Dot: (Commadore) That was supposed to be as surprise! Who told you?
"I respect your sister, boy, she's a good woman. She held her own when the chips were down," Commadore answered. "Unlike some who just ran away."
Crow: (Matrix) That was directed at me, wasn't it?
Matrix ignored the jibe and walked away from the detective. He looked about the apartment, but still couldn't find anything incrimintating.
Servo: (Matrix) Bloody glove. . . DNA evidence. . . nah, there's nothing here.
Then, he walked into the bathroom and saw the dismanteled body of Belle Packard in the bathtub.
Mike: (grimly) We fear it was the Mac rebellion force. . .
He turned away in disgust, trying to keep his dinner
"Not a pretty sight, hm?" Commadore asked, walking up to Matrix. "Your sister sure did a number on Ms. Packard."
Servo: (Commadore) Reminds me of my fraternity days. . .
"Shut-up, Detective, and have some respect for the deleted," Matrix growled. He walked over and examined the body.
Dot: That shouldn't have been there if it actually was deleted.
"How in the Net did she end up like this?"
"Seems your sister likes the taste of bionomes," Commadore answered, grimacing.
Servo: (menacingly) Hello Clarice...
"You meant the person who set Dot up, don't you?"
Matrix asked, glaring at the detective.
"Whatever," the bionome replied.
Servo: (Commadore) Just as long as I get to fry someone.
Matrix knelt down to the body to get a closer look.
Crow: (Matrix) Hmmm. . . fava beans. . . and a nice chilled chiante. . .
"What was the cause of death, Detective?" he asked,
looking up at Commadore.
"You're looking at it," Commadore replied.
Dot: Bathed in the prime of her life.
Matrix nodded and got up, then walked back into the livingroom of the apartment. He sighed softly and leaned against the far wall, closing his eyes. There was no way his sister could have done something like that, she simply didn't have it in her.
Mike: What, did they pump her stomach?
As for the body being partially consumed, who was
sick enough to do that? Certainly not Dot. He stood back up and walked over
to one of the CPUs.
"Can I help you?" the CPU asked.
"Yeah, tell Detective Commadore I'm leaving. I've seen enough here," Matrix answered.
Mike: (Matrix) I'm gonna go glower some more.
The zero bionome just nodded in reply as Matrix made his way back out of the building. Once outside, he walked towards the Principle Office, wanting some time to think over the questions forming in his mind.
Mike: Our final nominee tonight is RoeBoot's Bug Series, which spans "Infestation", "Hunters & Prey" --
Crow: Wait, wait, wait. . . Infestation is up for Best Fanfic?
Mike: Yeah, with the rest of the Bug stories.
Crow: Infestation. The one with the bugs.
Crow: (getting up) I. . . I think I'm going to take a walk. . . I need to clear my head.
Mike: Crow, you can't just. . . ah, go on then.
Dot: Well, the Bug series picks up in Season 4 and details Mainframe's fight against Daemon, bounty hunters, and really big bugs. Here, Matrix and AndrAIa recall their first encounter with the series' sleezy villain, Avar.
Matrix, AndrAIa and Frisket were escorted to a shuttle craft which flew to the front of the ship. The cargo bay opened like the jaws of a shark admitting its prey
Servo: Hey, it's Sherman!
and giving Matrix an additional reason to be uneasy. As they walked along the catwalks of the bay, Matrix examined everything he saw using his cyborg eye's unique scanners. He saw through cargo containers.
Dot: He saw through lamps. He saw through windows.
They were full of food, energy, raw materials and some weaponry. The ship itself had a network of air shafts and tubes beneath gradings in the floor. Several small jet fighters served as the ships defenses or perhaps a means of attacking innocent systems.
Mike: Or maybe they were just for the air show. Who knows?
Matrix saw only the drone troopers. No binomes or
sprites so far. It seemed the virus used the mechanical creatures as his
only means of serving the Net transport.
As the drones lead them to a corridor he asked. "What's the name of this ship?"
Servo: (Drone) Bert.
"The Tyrant," came the emotionless response.
He glanced at AndrAIa and Frisket. Not a good name.
Mike: Nothing like 'Ship'.
They walked into hallways decorated in red carpets and marbled flooring, a display a civility for a virus. They approached a large pair of golden doors.
Servo: (growling) Touch nothing but the lamp!
The lead trooper knocked. They opened from within. The sprites and there cyberdog walked into a room arrayed in various displayed weapons.
Mike: (Minnewegian) Oh, goodness Emily, look at the lovely
crossbow exhibit this year.
Servo: (Minnewegian) Oh, I know, they always do such a nice job.
They were also a table of different foods and vases
of flowers, a feminine touch for a virus. Avar sat on a throne on the far
end flanked by guards.
He gestured to them. "Come in! Come in! No need to be shy!"
Mike: (Avar) Welcome to the Holiday Inn!
Frisket kept on growling as the trio crept closer.
"Easy fella," AndrAIa patted the dog's nozzle.
Dot: (AndrAIa) Don't eat him. You don't know where he's been.
"My! My!" the virus poured on charm. "I never expected
to find such loveliness so far off the Net ports. What is your name my dear?"
"I'm AndrAIa. This is Matrix. And Frisket."
Servo: (AndrAIa) We are the knights who say, 'Ni!'.
Servo: (Frisket) I'm the dog.
"An intriguing creature. Very protective."
"Frisket always is."
"I was referring to the green fellow."
Mike: Oh, see, it's 'cause he was -- huh?
Matrix sneered. "I'm only here because AndrAIa wanted
to see you."
"Really? This is good."
AndrAIa spoke. "We're travelers new to this place the same way you are. We hoped to get access to leave the system."
Servo: For gypsies do not like to stay; they only come to go away.
"You came here by ship?"
"No we travel in a more crude fashion. It's called game hopping."
"My way is a bit crude as well.
Dot: (Avar) This whole ship is run on a gerbil running in a hamster wheel.
Tear and portal generators but low speed code feeds for the program. The person I hired to install the equipment never finished the job properly.
Mike: (Avar) Basically, this whole place is a time bomb waiting to blow. Would you like to spend the night?
A pure violation of her contract but I have been
looking for some new help. Would you be interested?"
"You're different then other sprites."
Mike: (Avar) Doesn't your race believe in sleeves?
"I'm a game sprite."
"Oh yes you said something about game hopping. Care to explain?"
Dot: (AndrAIa) No.
Matrix began. "Well we-"
"I was talking to the young lady!" Avar corrected. "I'm sure she can tell me!" Matrix snorted and crossed his arms.
Dot: (Matrix) Well, I never!
He only half listened to AndrAIa speaking about their unusual travel method.
Mike: (Matrix) Blah blah blah. . . man, does she ever stop talking? I wish I had my Game Boy. . .
As he glanced around the room, he switched his cyborg eye over to see through the row of curtains behind the virus.
Servo: (Matrix) Hey, look, they're doing a production of "Cabaret"!
"How very sad," Avar turned up the pity. "Lost and
so far from your home. If you tell me where your from I'm sure I can-"
Dot: (Matrix) Mainframe! We're from Mainframe, okay?
"Gun! Command line! Multiple target acquisition!"
A red targeting sensor locked onto every drone in the room. Avar rolled his eyes up to stare at the one attached to his forehead. AndrAIa automatically unfolded her trident and Frisket barked.
Servo: (Frisket) I'm the dog.
"This is a fine way to treat your host!" Avar
complained. "My troopers can shoot you right where you are!"
"And if I pull this trigger you'll be the first one deleted!"
AndrAIa said in an annoyed state. "Matrix!
Dot: (AndrAIa) Come on! You're embarassing me in front of the villain!
"Check through those curtains and see! And find out if the ladies care to leave!"
AndrAIa approached the curtains and used her trident to peel them to one side. Three harem girls screamed and ran to hide.
Dot: (AndrAIa) Oops, sorry, wrong room. . .
A fourth, an auburn haired sprite having bright
golden eyes and ivory colored skin, grabbed for a whip on the wall.
"Get out of here!" she warned.
AndrAIa was shocked. "But you can't stay! You don't belong to him!"
Servo: (Avar) But I've got the receipt!
"Leave!" the sprite unraveled the whip and looked
ready to use it.
AndrAIa gave up and back out of the harem.
Mike: (AndrAIa) Pfff. Forget you.
She returned to Matrix's side. Frisket had taken
several steps closer, ready to leap at the virus if he needed.
"They're not coming," she said.
"My girls are trained very well my dear AndrAIa," Avar boasted.
Servo: (Avar) Want to see one balance a treat on her nose?
"So will you be!"
Angry, AndrAIa told Frisket. "Get the doors boy! We're leaving!"
Dot: (Matrix) Aren't we going to stay for pie?
Frisket charged to doors at the end of the room.
The guards were smart enough to move out of the way. The cyberdog knocked
the golden doors off their hinges. Matrix kept his trigger ready as he and
AndrAIa backed out of the room.
"You won't escape from me!" Avar called.
Servo: And they escape.
Dot: And the winner of the URA for Best Series goes to. . .
(Servo does a drumroll as Dot opens the envelope.)
Dot: (to Servo) Do you mind?
Servo: Oh, sorry.
Dot: Okay, and the winner is. . . Kim McFarland, for "West Sector Story"!
Servo: I guess I saw that coming.
Mike: Yeah, well, congratulations Kim! Now, next up on the agenda. . .
(The screen starts getting fuzzy all of a sudden.)
Servo: What the. . . ?
Mike: Cambot? What's --
(The screen is awash in static for a moment. Suddenly, a huge eye fills the screen. It backs off a bit until we recognize Bob, somewhere in the depths of the Silicon Tor. He and Megabyte are formally attired.)
Bob: Okay, we're on.
Megabyte: Thank you Mike, Dot; we'll handle the proceedings from here.
Bob: First up, we've got Best Author. Our first nominee is Dan Green, for such stories as --
Megabyte: (dismissively) Yes, yes, we've seen the clips. The other nominees were Meghan Wilk, CPFace, and RoeBoot. Get on with it.
Bob: (surprised) Well, umm. . . (he fumbles around a bit before he finds the envelope) Uh, the winner is Meghan Wilk! Congratulations!
Megabyte: (clapping unenthusiastically) Yes, fine. Now. . . (he grins proudly) On to Best Misting.
Bob: Misting, the act of writing humorous comments all over a piece of text, was made popular by --
Megabyte: (impatiently) Yes, we all know what a misting is. (stepping forward) This year, I'm pleased to say that two of my most horrific experiments ever, "Day of the Decimal" and "Buffy the Virus Slayer", were nominated for Best Misting. I'd just like to take a moment to thank those people who provide me with the unending supply of hideously misconceived stories that I need to drive Dot and, indeed, the entire Internet to complete madness. (chuckles)
Bob: Ummm. . . Yeah. The other nominees were Hanako and Claire for "Guardian Lust" --
Megabyte: (impatiently) Hanako and Silver Tiger for "Megabyte Returns", and Jareth for "Gotcha!" We know.
Bob: . . . Okay. Umm. . .
(Bob reaches for the envelope. Megabyte snatches it away from him and opens it.)
Megabyte: And the winner is. . . me!
(He tosses the envelope aside and grabs the Best Misting graphic.)
Megabyte: (cradling the graphic) Oh. . . how long I've dreamed of this moment. . . a URA of my very own. . .
Bob: (picking up the card and reading it) Wait a nano. . . This says Hanako and Claire won for "Guardian Lust".
Megabyte: (dismissively) Obviously a misprint.
Bob: (approaching Megabyte) C'mon, we have to give them their --
(Megabyte extends his claws.)
Megabyte: (coldly) You can have this URA when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.
(Bob considers Megabyte with a scowl.)
Bob: (angrily) Keep Hanako and Claire from getting their little graphic thingy? (sudden close-up) I don't think so.
(Bob lunges, and soon he and Megabyte are fighting over the Best Misting graphic. Suddenly, Bob is flung free of the brawl, and he hits the camera. The screen is awash in static.)