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January 10, 2013

A Very Hraet-y Non-Canon Holiday Special (4)

Beat 1-4: Yep, Nothing Canon Here

Trixie could only stare blankly at the two Hoigleheimers.  JP, with hands crammed in his front pockets, rapped a toe against the sidewalk; he locked eyes with her a few times, but more often than not looked up at his dad with a nasty scowl.  Not that Patton noticed; he just stood in front of the rec center’s door with arms folded, as if acting as its bouncer (though incidentally, those that tried to exit the Z couldn’t, and just scurried away at the sight of him).

And all the while, Mrs. Overdose stared at the lot of them, gnawing on her reed.  “What the hell are we supposed to be doin’?”

“Well, I was hopin’ for some answers, but…”  Trixie rubbed the back of her neck.  “The way things’re lookin’, I’m startin’ to think maybe I shouldn’t have asked.”

JP looked up at the sky.  “Makes no difference to me.  If you want to know, then I’ll --”

“No.  Not yet, son.”  Patton held a forearm that could stop a tiger in front of JP.  “It’s not time yet.  We have to wait till the time is right.”

“Fine.”  He tapped his heel against the concrete, and rustled his hands through his jacket’s pockets.  “So Lloyd --”

“Not yet.”

“But --”

“Not yet.”

JP groaned and glared at a few shrubs.  Trixie hummed a bit, as if she wanted to start talking -- but instead she just sniffled a bit and coughed.  Mrs. Overdose looked about ready to deck the next person that walked by.

“…Okay, that’s enough dramatic tension.  Now you can talk.”

“You’ve seriously been hanging around Lloyd for too long,” JP muttered.  Nevertheless, he turned back toward Trixie, just as his father lowered his arm.  “Listen.  Every year on the thirty-first, Lloyd goes to the High Tide Park and spends the whole day there.  I don’t know what he does, or why he does it, but I’m guessing he just goes there to meditate or something.  Maybe think over his life decisions.  I can’t say I blame him.”

“The High Tide Park…ya mean that place on the coast with the Ferris wheel and junk?”  Trixie’s eyebrows shot up.  “But it’s all a buncha scrap and water now, right?  What’s he doin’?  I’m damn sure he don’t know how to swim.” 

“Well, like I said, I don’t know what he does for sure, but I guess it’s not exactly my place to pry.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the answer, anyway, so I’ll leave him be and go about my day as planned.”  He glanced at the Z’s entrance.  “Or maybe not.”

“No.  We’ll just call it a day and head home,” said Patton (with a sigh of relief from the sidelined Mrs. Overdose).  “Best if we have the full set before we start your swimming lessons; we should all learn at the same pace so Lloyd won’t have to play catch-up.”

“So what, after all the work we went through to try and get here, ya wanna leave now?  Ya wanna try riskin’ another trip and another disaster?!” Trixie yelled -- but as soon as she remembered who she was talking to, she clasped her hands and started fidgeting.  “S-sir.”

“Mmmm…well, I guess if you could convince him to come back, then we could start today.  I don’t know if he’d be willing to leave, but if you’re in the mood to try, go right ahead.”  He gestured toward the front door.  “The three of us will wait inside.  Take as much time as you need; we’ll be rooting for you from here.”

“You don’t know me very well, do you?” JP grumbled.

But of course, Trixie and the others ignored him.  “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, Mr. Hoigleheimer, sir.  I’ll bring Lloyd back here lickety-split -- and before ya know it, all o’ y’all are gonna be some real swimmers.”  Even as she spoke she’d broken into a quick trot -- and with a wave and a smile, she turned her back on them and dashed through the streets.

“…You think she’ll be able to bring him back?”

Patton folded his arms and shrugged.  “She’s got moxie.  So I’d say she’s got a pretty good shot at it.”

“Moxie, huh?”  JP sighed.  “Yeah.  I guess so.”

“ Well, you two sure got gloomy quick.”

JP and Patton turned to Mrs. Overdose, who twisted her reed carelessly through her mouth.  “Then again, I can’t say I blame either of you.  ‘Cause by the sound of things, the kid’s got every reason to head to that park every year.  Am I right?”

Patton’s hair bristled, while JP tossed up his arms.  “So this is what it’s like to be around someone smart for once…can’t say it’s too pleasant.”

“It’s not about bein’ smart.  Dogs do all their work by sniffin’ piss and butts; it’s all about findin’ a smell and followin’ through -- and you Hoigleheimer jokers have been leavin’ some pretty foul odors since day one.”  She furrowed her brow and glanced aside.  “Or whatever day it is.”

“So what’re you gonna do about it?” Patton asked.

“Nothin’.  Just thought I’d let you two know that I’m in on what’s goin’ on.”  She twiddled with the reed and looked at a passing cloud.  “Look.  I ain’t about to go pryin’ into matters that don’t concern me, and I’m pretty friggin’ sure I won’t like what I hear anyway.  But just ‘cause you can hide things from Scarlett O’Hara doesn’t mean you can hide ‘em from me.”

She turned to the Hoigleheimers.  “The kid’s my servant.  And if you can’t fix him, then I sure as hell will.”

Patton stared down Mrs. Overdose, who stared right back up at him.  But after a full minute, he relaxed a few hairs and hummed.  “Suit yourself, ma’am.”

“Yeah, I plan to.  I ain’t in the mood to have a servant that’s any more whacked in the head than he already is.”  She pointed toward the door.  “So can we go inside now, please?  I’m about to freeze my legs off over here -- and I dunno if you noticed, but I kinda need those.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll get you nice and warm again -- and you won’t even have to use your legs.”  And without another word, Patton scooped her up and flung her onto his shoulder -- and held her in place as if strutting through the streets with a boom box.  “Come on.  I bet there’s a spa you can use in there.”

“You sasquatch-looking son of a bitch!  I don’t wanna get in any water!” Mrs. Overdose snapped.  But with little success; Patton just carried her into the Z, unfazed by her rapid thrashing.

“Go easy on those old bones of hers, Dad,” said JP, following behind with a muted chuckle.


The ocean waves splashed against the coast, eagerly cleaning the sands of unwanted snow.  And they did so with neither complaint nor admiration; the street that looked over the coast had long since cleared, without a single patron greeting its long-closed -- and occasionally boarded-up -- shops.  An unsurprising turn, given the shoddy view: the wreckage of High Tide Park, its broken planks and warped steel, jutted out from the waters like a crumpled sheet of paper.  The most attention it had received was some cursory construction work -- striped barricades and machines surrounded it, but foul weather or not they hardly looked to have gotten much use.

Trixie walked through the street while rubbing the back of her neck.  Between the cold, the quiet, the wintry grayness, and the wreckage, she wouldn’t have blamed someone for getting a little melancholy.  But of course, in spite of that she caught a glimpse of Lloyd sitting on a bench, acting as sentry -- and smiling as always.  “So yer folks were right.  This is where ya ran off to, pal.”

Lloyd nodded slowly, hands clasped and body leaning forward.  “You can consider it a ritual of mine, Miss Walters.  Though I should probably apologize for making you come so far in the cold just for me.”  He turned toward her.  “Why are you here, exactly?”

“To teach ya how to swim.”

“Oh.  Well, I don’t suppose there’s a chance we can delay until tomorrow, is there?  I’m afraid I may be busy here for a while yet.”

“Busy?  All yer doin’ is sittin’ here and starin’ into space!”

“Not true.  I’m also smiling.”

Trixie pressed a palm to her forehead. 

“But of course, I’m here for other reasons,” Lloyd said with a quick laugh.  He turned back to the ocean.  “I was hoping that I could give my regards to the park.  A sort of…how should I put this?  Giving it good news, and better feelings.”   

“So ya were talkin’ to the park?”

“Not talking, per se.  Thinking is more appropriate.  I think.  Think.  Heh heh, wordplay.”  He shook his head and wore a wistful smile.  “Honestly?  I have a certain belief in mind: if one focuses hard enough, and devotes themselves to the task, then it may very well be possible to transmit one’s feelings across impassable borders -- and all of it, without a word spoken.”

“So what, it’s like…I dunno, telepathy or somethin’?”

“Well, I’m not much in the way of science, but it’s entirely possible.  Especially now.”  Lloyd looked down at his mitten-shrouded hands.  “I’ve awakened to a marvelous gift -- the power to touch one’s heart, and affect it for the better.  So it follows that if I focus intently, I should be able to create some unique effects even without physical contact.  A mere theory, of course, but I suspect that it’s one that holds water.”  He snickered a little.  “Water.  And look where we are; my, oh my, I am on quite the roll today!”

“Uh, sure.”  She scratched at her cheek.  “But I guess it’s possible for ya, ain’t it?  Ya got those weird powers now, so maybe ya can do it.  Ya got a much better shot at it than I do, at least.”

But Lloyd shook his head.  “You misunderstand me, Miss Walters.  My power is a conduit, or an aid -- not the deciding factor.  Anyone can do what I aim to do, so long as they focus their heart and mind on the task.  It’s less a matter of psychic ability and more of human potential.  A basic ability, as it were.”

“Ya think so, huh?”

“Of course.  Think about it: hasn’t there ever been a time when you wanted someone to know how you feel?  A desire so earnest and desperate, it overpowers you?  So fierce and heated, it nearly brings you to your knees?”

“Uh…well…I dunno if I’d go that far, but…”  Trixie looked over her shoulder; somewhere in the distance stood the rec center -- and with it, her students-to-be.    “I was hopin’ I could get this thing done sooner instead o’ later, ya know?  I mean, ya took me into yer home and treated me like family; it just ain’t right for me to let all this time pass and not do a thing to repay ya.  I mean…well, I…”

“You want us to know how you feel, yes?  JP especially?”

“Yeah, that’s -- wait, what?!”

Lloyd turned to her with eyes wide.  “Oh, haven’t I told you?  I honestly believe that you and JP would make a fantastic pair of lovers.”

Trixie turned a shade of red that was once thought theoretical.  “A-are ya kiddin’ me, pal?  I’m about ten years older than him!  And two feet taller!  And I’m pretty damn sure he hates me -- and everyone, while we’re at it!”

“Hmmm.  That’s true, I suppose.  But still, one can’t help but wonder; love works in mysterious ways, as they say.”

“Lloyd, ya know there are laws against what yer talkin’ about, right?”

Lloyd chuckled to himself and shrugged, and stared at the ocean once more.  “Do you mind if I do a bit of proselytizing, Miss Walters?  I have a theory of sorts -- one that I’ve been aiming to prove for years with these yearly visits.”

“Go ahead.”

“I believe -- I really, truly believe -- that a strong heart can transcend all borders.  To spread and release emotions that can change the world…to relay messages rife with passion and fervor…to shake one’s soul, one’s ideals, and one’s world with a single pulsation…in the end, that is what I strive to prove.  I want it to become the truth we all live by, and the means by which we connect from here on.”

“A world of love.”

Lloyd nodded.  “A lofty goal, to be sure.  And growing ever loftier.  Because if I can’t prove it to myself, how can I even begin to prove it to others?”

“Lloyd…”  Trixie lowered her eyes, and pressed her lips together.  She would have figured that at this point, Lloyd -- in all his insanity and zeal -- would have become predictable.  Easy to peg, and even easier to dismiss.  But by the day, he seemed more and more incomprehensible.  The holidays had proven that, but left dozens of doors open all the same.  How much work had gone into giving his friends and family those gifts?  How much had he sacrificed to see smiles on their faces?  How long had he gone on like this, from his blaring passion to his soft humility?  And worst of all…

She took a seat next to him, and stared at the ocean.  “Lloyd…are ya really tryin’ to tell the park how ya feel?  Or is it someone out there?”

Lloyd gave a curt laugh and hung his head.  “Five years.  I’ve come here and spent a full winter day here for five years, yet you’re the first who’s actually asked me that.” 

“Look, I --”

“I have a few rules I’ve chosen to live by, Miss Walters -- and well among them is a simple order.  Never lie.”  He turned toward her, his smile -- and his eyes, in turn -- growing weary.  “If you want the truth, then I would gladly tell you.”

But before Lloyd could say another word, Trixie shook her head.  “Don’t matter to me,” she explained, wearing her own gentle smile.  “Look.  I ain’t about to pry into yer past, and I ain’t about to get in too deep askin’ ya why ya do what ya do.  ‘Cause ya know what?  I’m startin’ to think that it’s not all that important.”


“Yeah.  Sometimes it’s not about why ya do somethin’, but what ya do.  And what yer doin’ -- all that yer plannin’ on doin’ -- is what’s important.  Ya got a goal in mind, and yer goin’ for it with all yer heart.  And yer doin’ it just so ya can make lotsa people happy.  If that’s not somethin’ to be proud of, then I dunno what is.”  She patted a hand against Lloyd’s shoulder.  “Ya say that ‘a strong heart transcends all borders’, right?  Well, ya got more than enough proof already.  ‘Cause ya been touchin’ my heart, day after day.”

“Miss Walters…”

A part of her expected Lloyd to break into the usual histrionics.  Part of her figured he’d start doing a little dance, and break into song soon after.  And of course, she couldn’t shake the thought of him going for a hug, and burying his face in her chest.  But she’d forgotten the realization she’d come to just minutes ago.

Lloyd was unpredictable.

He leaned back in the bench and stared at the sky, wearing a slight but content smile on his face.  And as he did, a tear rolled down his cheek.  “Thank you.  Thank you so, so much.”

Trixie reeled in shock, but only for a moment.  “Anytime, Lloyd.”

They stayed in place for a moment and looked out to the ocean; its sloshing motions soothed them, and very nearly lulled them to sleep.  Because of those frothy splashes, it took Lloyd a full minute to realize the tears on his face -- and just how cold they got in the winter.  “Oh.  This is a bit unsightly of me,” he said as he rubbed his cheeks dry.  “It’s hardly befitting of a man to show his emotions -- at least, if most movies are to be believed.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Lotsa girls like it when guys’re sensitive.”

“Is that so?  I see…so are you one of them?”

“…Well, I guess I should be gettin’ outta here.  I know ya got a lotta thinkin’ to do, so I’ll give ya some space.”  She stood up and rubbed the back of her neck.  “Kinda sucks that we’re losin’ another day o’ swimmin’ lessons, but that’s all right.  ‘Sides, I should probably round ‘em up ‘fore they do anythin’ too crazy…again.”   

“No need for that.”

Lloyd and Trixie looked to the right -- and sure enough, JP, Patton, and Mrs. Overdose stood in the street.  “We got tired of waiting, so we decided to check on you,” JP explained.  “You know.  Just to make sure Lloyd didn’t drown or anything.  Isn’t that right?”

Patton folded his arms.  “Mmmm…no, that’s not it at all.  You wanted to come see Lloyd and Trixie again, right?”

“No!  Wrong!  All wrong!” JP stamped against the ground.  “We discussed this already, remember?  Grandma, back me up here!”

Mrs. Overdose twiddled her reed.  “Yeah.  JP here got all worried and lonely, so he wanted to see you two troublemakers.  He just couldn’t do without you, even for a little while.  It’s almost kinda cute”

“Damn it, that’s not what we --”

“We’re all right with not learnin’ how to swim today -- or any day for that matter, but that’s just me.  Still…”  She looked coolly at Patton and JP, and Trixie and Lloyd.  “No matter where we are, we shouldn’t be happy till we’ve got the full set.”

Patton nodded in agreement, while JP grumbled and shifted his hands around his pockets.  “I’m surrounded by idiots,” he grumbled.  “But if I didn’t have idiots to look after, then who would I have left?  Friends?  Please.”

“Hope you don’t mind, Lloyd,” said Patton.  “But it looks like this year, you got a few guests to entertain.”

Lloyd laughed to himself.  “Not at all.  Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  So I’m more than willing to make a few changes to tradition -- especially one as beneficial as this.”  He spread out his arms.  “Gather round, all.  Let’s make this eve a merry one.”

The group shuffled toward Lloyd, and took their positions around the bench.  Patton leaned against a wall with arms folded, acting as sentry once more; JP took a seat next to Lloyd on the bench, reddening a bit as Trixie plopped down next to him; Mrs. Overdose leaned against the bench’s flank, staring at the sea without a care in the world…though for nanoseconds at a time, it looked as if she had a smile on her face.

“…It’s cold out here,” said JP.

“Mmmm.  But you’ve gotta brave it, son -- it’s a surefire way to make you a man.”

“Can’t I become a man by becoming a CEO or something?”

“Maybe.  But only of your company makes something delicious.”

Mrs. Overdose raised an eyebrow.  “Sooooooooooo…what’re we doin’ here, exactly?”

“Thinkin’,” Trixie answered.  “Send yer good feelings out to sea.  Let the park know that ya got a beatin’ heart inside ya.”

“Wow.  This sounds like a fantastic way to spend a holiday.  Then again, it beats swimmin’, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.”  Her lips tightened.  “But damn it, when this is over, I want my friggin’ foot rub.”

“And you’ll receive it -- that, I promise you,” said Lloyd.  “But for the moment, it’s best to focus your mind.  Speak with your heart.  Tell the park, the sea, and the world exactly what you want to.”  He grinned, and looked back at his friends.  “And who knows?  Maybe those feelings won’t just stay with the park.  Maybe those feelings will keep on going -- and they’ll reach the heart of someone far, far away.”

“You think so, huh?”

“I do, milady.”  Lloyd stared at the sea’s horizon.  “All it takes is a bit of passion.”

“Passion, huh…?” Mrs. Overdose followed Lloyd’s gaze.  As did Patton.  As did Trixie.  As did JP.

And they didn’t say another word.  They just stared at the sea.

January 1st

Lloyd rubbed his hands together and grinned.  “And now, the time has finally arrived!  Mermen of the deep, you’d best stow your daughters -- Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer will soon be at your doorstep!”

“Mmmm,” Patton hummed as he steered across soaked roads.  “Careful, though; fish have a lot of tiny bones you can choke on.”

With his arms folded (and furious yet again that he’d lost the window seat), JP tapped against the floor.  “I hate to break it to you, but we’re not exactly in The Little Mermaid here.  Don’t expect to find anything but some nasty creatures.  And crushing pressure.  I’m also kind of curious to hear how exactly you plan on getting that far out to sea.”

“Hey, come on.  Isn’t it obvious?  Lloyd’ll be able to swim there -- ‘specially after I’m done with him.”  Trixie laughed a bit.  “Course, I ain’t about to tell him to go swimmin’ cross the ocean, but ya get the idea.”

“Who the hell would want to try that, anyway?” Mrs. Overdose asked.  “A normal pool is bad enough; you’d have to be packin’ boulders in your shorts to try and go past the coast.”

“Would you accept rocks in the skull?” JP asked.

“Guess it could go both ways.”

Lloyd stroked his chin.  “So the key to courage is to substitute an organ for some manner of stone -- preferably of prodigious size.  Duly noted.”

“If you need me to lift some big rocks, I’d be glad to lend a hand, son.”

“Ah, I can always count on you, father dear!  Now then, who among you will perform the surgery?  Someone with a delicate hand would be much-preferred!”

JP groaned.  “This conversation has gone on for way too long.”

“Pay me enough, and I’ll do it,” said Mrs. Overdose.  “All I need are a bunch of knives, some rubber gloves, and a lot of paper towels.”

“Don’t encourage him!”

“What?  I’m not allowed to tell a joke?”

“You don’t know what this moron is capable of!  He might actually do it, you know!”

“Ya ain’t gotta worry about Lloyd gettin’ any surgery, pal.”  Trixie pointed out the window; the Z stood before them, and Patton brought the van to a halt with a parking job to die for.  “All he needs is trainin’ and skill -- and I’m gonna give him both.  That goes for all o’ ya.  I’ll be glad to show ya how we do things down in Rockwood.”

Mrs. Overdose swished her reed around.  “Does it involve banjos and inbreeding?”

“What the hell kinda place d’ya think Rockwood is?”

“…A place where you can marry your cousins?”

“She’s got you there, Tex,” JP chimed in.

“Well, let her talk.  ‘Cause pretty soon, all y’all non-swimmers are gonna have a LOT more respect for Rockwood.”  The group slid out of the van and started for the front door.  “Hope y’all are ready.  After today, yer lives’re never gonna be the same again.”

“I should think so,” said Lloyd.  “There are mermaids that I’m eager to meet.”

“And sharks that I’m eager to eat,” Patton added.  “You don’t think mermaids care about that kind of thing, do you?”

“I would have assumed that sharks are to the ocean what criminals are to the land.  Of course, undersea law is a subject I’m remarkably unfamiliar with.”

It just keeps goin’ and goin’, Trixie thought as Lloyd pondered the existence of a seahorse constitution.  Even so, she couldn’t help but smile.  It’s all right with me, though.  These guys’re always gonna make life more interestin’. 

And I’ll be sure to do the same for them.

The group walked into the Z, ready to start their training.  They stepped through the lobby, hoping to get changed and begin in earnest.  That is, until…

“Hey, this health drink is pretty good!  What’s in it?”

“Oh, you didn’t know?  It’s made with all-natural artichokes.”

Patton swiveled his head around and started twitching.  “Artichokes…?”

Ten minutes later, the rec center collapsed.

“And so, after weeks of traversing the harsh wilderness without so much as a peep from the outside world, we emerged from the forest at last,” said Chet, propping his feet up on the news desk.  “We were weary, weathered, and forever doomed to carry a piece of that forest within us.  But in spite of that, the moment we could see the sun again I turned toward her, got down on one knee, and said, ‘Baby…we’re through.  It’s not me, it’s you.  It could never be me.  Now, I know you might be a little confused, and maybe a little bitter because for the first week you had to carry me on your back like a majestic wolverine caring for its children -- probably -- but one day I’ll look back on this little experience and laugh.  I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I guess I’ll never find out.  See ya, toots.’  Ah, what a great winter that was.”

“He does know we’re on the air, right?” the cameraman whispered.

The intern could only nod.  “He said he wanted to ‘show his real self’ to his ‘adoring’ ‘fans’.” 

“And that’ll just about close the book on one of Chet’s Chapters.  Now let’s have a look at that news.”  He rolled his legs off the desk and assumed a more professional posture…only to start stroking his hair.  “Well, there’s not much to say, is there?  The rec center fell apart, five people are missing, and that’s all there is to it.  So without further ado, let’s have another look at the fascinating life of your one and only Chet Levitin.”

“He is derailing hard,” said the intern.  “Should we cut to commercial?”

“Can we do that?  I mean…wait, do you hear something?”

“Now that you mention it, it sounds like there’s something rumbling.  But what do you think it --”


The entire back wall of the set exploded, sending Chet flying ten feet -- and then skidding across the floor face-first.  Planks and wires and lights dangled from the ceiling over the wreckage; it was just a miracle that a fire didn’t start from all the sparks that sprayed about.  And the cause of the chaos?  A beat-up van, half-lodged in the wall at an acute angle.

And of course, Patton came crawling out first.  “Keep the camera rolling,” he ordered.

Any intention of helping Chet recover vanished; the cameraman snapped back into position, and the intern couldn’t bring herself to even flinch.

JP slid out of the van.  “You know, I’m pretty sure this is the complete opposite of ‘laying low for a while’.  But you know what?  It’s cool.  It’s fine.  I was just thinking to myself, ‘Gee, I’d sure love to get arrested today!’”      

“What’s done is done, son.  Besides, we can’t leave Porbeagle without doing the right thing.”

Mrs. Overdose climbed out next, scratching absentmindedly at her crown.  “I still don’t think I follow what we’re supposed to be doin’.  So what, we just do our thing and leave?  How do we do that?”

“Exit strategies are not this family’s forte,” said JP.

Trixie patted a hand against JP’s shoulder and smiled.  “If ya keep worryin’ all the time, yer gonna miss out on a lotta the finer stuff in life, pal.  Just deal with it -- as long as yer hangin’ out with the rest o’ us, yer life’s never gonna make any sense.”  She glanced aside.  “I sure figured that out fast.”

“Like I need a greenhorn like you telling me that.”

“Variety’s the spice of life,” said Patton.  “Isn’t that right, Lloyd?”

Lloyd made his entrance at last, and stepped to the front and center of the group.  “Indeed it is, Dad.  Indeed it is.  And that is why I stand before you today, citizens of Porbeagle!  And to all of you watching this broadcast from however you may happen upon it!”  He nodded to the others.  “Just like we practiced, everyone!”

“We didn’t practice a thing,” said Mrs. Overdose.

“Oh.  Well then…just improvise!”

“I need to start carrying my bat at all times,” JP muttered.  Nevertheless, he turned toward the camera.  “All right, all you normal people out there.  Enjoy your lives while you can -- and let the good times roll.”

“A whole new year’s startin’, so make the most of it,” said Trixie.  “Spread the love, all day, every day.”

Patton nodded.  “Man or woman, be as strong as you can be.  Move the world with your own two hands.”

“But don’t be afraid to lay back and enjoy the ride,” said Mrs. Overdose.

“Live by the heart -- and give all you can the chance to do the same!” Lloyd declared.  “But most important of all, you must live by one simple act…”  With a smile as wide as the busted van they rode in, Lloyd looked to his friends in turn -- and in turn, each of them nodded in agreement.  And all at once, they spoke.

“Merry Christmas -- and a Happy New Year!”

“Even though it’s mid-January or somethin',” Mrs. Overdose added.

Patton folded his arms.  “Mmmm.  That went well.  So, who’s up for some steaks to celebrate?  I can’t think of a better way to ring in a new year than steaks.”

“That’s your go-to meal for everything,” said JP.  “But I guess I could use a meal…or at the very least the chance to forget I did something so corny.”  He gestured toward the van.  “Come on, guys.  Let’s bail for now.”

But Trixie held out a hand.  “Hey, wait a sec -- we’re forgettin’ somethin’ right?  Somethin’ kinda important?”

“What, you wanna nurse that news anchor back to good health?” Mrs. Overdose asked.  “If you’re plannin’ on stickin’ around, be my guest.  Less steaks for you.”

“What?  No, I’m…I’m okay with him gettin’ laid out.  But where’d Lloyd go?  He was right here a second ago.”

“I’m over here, everyone!”

The group looked to the sidelines.  Sure enough, Lloyd waved back at them with a smile, standing before a buzzing computer.  “I’ve never been inside a news station before; it seemed like a wasted opportunity to leave without conducting a quick investigation!  So many files and papers…it’s simply exquisite!”

“We could be here for a while,” said JP.  He turned back toward the van.  “So I guess we should work on getting our escape vehicle out of the wall, huh?  It’ll take some serious manpower to manage that.”

“Don’t ya mean person-power, pal?”

“I don’t see any ladies here.  Just my dad, a sasquatch, and a penguin.”

“I ain’t a penguin,” Mrs. Overdose snapped.  “I hate the water.”

The banter went on for a while, and the van stayed lodged in the wall.  Meanwhile, Lloyd stroked his chin and stared at the computer, its glow bouncing off both his eyes and lenses.  “I wonder what sorts of treasure troves of information may be stocked here?” he wondered aloud, stroking his chin.  “I am a bit eager to learn some history about Porbeagle.  Perhaps if I press this key…”

He pressed a finger against the Enter key.  He didn’t know what to expect, but he certainly got a response.

“My!  That’s quite the maelstrom of static -- I didn’t happen to break the machine, did I?”

But to his surprise, the screen cleared up mere seconds later.  And better yet, it displayed a rather peculiar site.

“’Cross-Up’?  What on earth...?”


  1. That Random Game bloggerJanuary 10, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    So he hit the enter key so hard that it broke the fourth wall?

  2. So to speak. For now, let's just say Lloyd's about to have his own excellent adventure soon enough...