::Gertie had changed her clothes and gone back to work, not without giving Hawnurra a few more hugs and comforting words and completely unnecessary thanks for her moment in the spotlight and use of his dressing room. He sighed as he carefully hung up his tuxedo jacket, wishing more people were like her. "Foolish thought" he muttered out loud, with a sudden grin, "what sort of jobs would there be for fan-fic villains if everybody was nice?" He never could stay depressed very long

The knock at his dressing room door wasn't unexpected though, certainly somebody would have something to say about his less-than-sparkling performance. Probably the Awards Committee...
He opened the door, wearing that professionally calm expression that had become his trademark, to a slightly overweight bloodhound.


Hawnurra: I suppose you're from the Awards Committee? You show an impressive turn of speed.

Security: Thanks. Local security force. Whatcha know about a bomb?

Hawnurra: I'm afraid I have no idea –

Security: Try again. This place is going nuts 'cause you said there was a bomb. Is there one?

Hawnurra: I... I...


::Hawnurra stumbled back against a chair and fell into it::


Hawnurra: I truly don't.. wait, that might be it. I did very poorly on stage - that's why I was expecting a visit - and I might have said something about how badly I bombed out there.

Security: Hmmm. Tell ya what, get up and walk out here.

Hawnurra: Certainly. I'll co-operate with -ow!

Security: Yeah, you will.

Hawnurra: That grip really hurts!

Security: I won't break anything unless I hafta. Let's go.

::They slowly made their way through the crowd of stagehands and security staff searching the stage area, back and forth until Hawnurra realized what was happening::


Hawnurra: You're using me as a bomb detector, aren't you?

Security: Yeah. You never tensed up once. Either you're a good actor or there's no bomb here. Just to make sure, sit down on this box here while I ask a few questions.

Hawnurra: Ask away, and thanks for not breaking anything.

Security: I didn't hafta.

::The questions were simple, direct, and repetitive. This guy was a pro at this, Hawnurra realized. There was no time to ponder that thought, though, there were more questions, worded differently but the same questions, to answer. After what felt like hours of thinking in circles, he heard enough::


Security: Okay, I'm convinced. You're clean.


:: He stumbled, trying to answer this new attack::


Hawnurra: What?

Security: I said, I think you're innocent. There's no bomb. You're just a guy what said something stupid at the wrong time. It happens.

Hawnurra: You do a very thorough job, Mr..?

Security: Bausier. Thanks. You can go. Our time's almost up anyway.

Hawnurra: Time?


::Hawnurra looked around. The entire incident had taken less than half an hour! The audience had been treated to a rescheduled intermission show and were returning to their seats as the stage crew finished setting up for the next show segment. It was astonishing::


Hawnurra: Yes, I'd best get back to my dressing room now.

Bausier: You do that.

::A stagehand removed the box the moment Hawnurra stood::

Stagehand (annoyed): We're on in 30.

Hawnurra: Break a leg. Wxit - stage left!


::And he did just that::



::Maltese and his cronies returned to their place in the rafters, finding it a lot safer than the line for the snack bar::


Maltese: The price they want for milk duds these days, <i>incroyable</i>! Ratatouille, do you have the items secured?


Ratatouille: <i>Mais oui</i>, but I beg of you, monsieur, let us simply enjoy the show and go. I will not be invited back if we are stealing their best award, and an artists needs an audience!


::Maltese turned on his right-hand rat sharply::

Maltese: Do you think I am going to waste the money I spent on that computer programmer, hacking into their system to get you on the presenters’ list?


Ratatouille: You mean…I was not the invited presenter after all?


Maltese: Of course not! I arranged it to provide the perfect cover for us! Now, we must plan our move. I have watched the videos from the last two awards—they always wheel in the big Lifetime Achievement award trophy. After the award is given, they wheel it off and leave it aside. That will be the time to strike!


Ratatouille: Oh, I feel so betrayed…


::The bohemian mouse, above them on a rafter, philosophizes again::


Bohemian: Betrayal, it is a sense of nothingness wrapped in nothingness. The eternal hole in the wall, where one looks for what one expects, but finds nothing!


Maltese: If they had an award for being annoying, he would never be unseated!



::Dale and Mepps come out of the green room, several people complimenting them and slapping their backs::


Dale: I hope you weren’t mad when I thought I was Elvis, Mepps.


Mepps: No, that’s okay. I think I’m Elvis a lot of times, but I guess it’s just better being me, pretending to be Elvis.


::Dale munches on a piece of apple, talking on::

Dale: Yeah, I can see that. After all, there’s times when I tried to be someone I wasn’t, like the Red Badger. That sure got me in trouble.


Mepps: The Red Badger? Oh, I love his show! I was an official member of his Badger Brigade!


::Dale looked at the dressed-up feline, surprised::

Dale: Really? So was I! Hey, we seem to have a lot in common. Maybe that’s why we make a good team.


::Mepps was about to reply when a sharp hissing noise from the nearby shadows caught their attention::

Dale: Somebody’s bicycle tire spring a leak?


Voice: Come closer…


::Mepps and Dale shrugged and did so. Soon there were enveloped in the darkness::