The audience starts to settle down from the last presentation and the stage lights darken.  A spotlight is then shone on a figure standing at stage right.  The figure is clad in a long, black hooded robe and carrying a large scythe.  Slowly the figure makes its way across the stage to the podium.  In silence the hooded head turns slowly as if scanning the members of the audience.  The head stops and unseen eyes fall on the Rangers seated front row center.  The figure tilts the pointed end of his scythe toward the Rangers and in a guttural voice speaks.


Hooded Figure:  “You Rangers have escaped me time and time again….but no more.  Tonight…your time has come!  So consign yourselves to your fate!”


As the audience begins to stir nervously in their sets, a metal hand shakes itself free from beneath the robes, it pulls back the hood to reveal a middle-aged, bio-engineered bat.


NeoBat:  “And your fate is to sit there and so we can further honor you guys.”  Continues to shake himself out of the black robes.  “Sheesh!  Was it ever hot under there.  Hands the robes and scythe over to one of the stage helpers.  “Careful with that scythe.  I’ve got to get it back to Grim when this thing is over.”  Turns his attention back to the audience.  “Well, I’m back…again.  Despite a massive letter writing campaign to the contrary.”  Stares hard out at the assemblage. 


“Anyway, I’m here to introduce our next two presenters.  First, is a old friend returning for his third time here at the Golden Acorn Awards.  He’s known for uttering such line as, ‘I swear his spine was like that when I got here, Chip.’  And second is rookie to these proceedings.  He’s been mentioned in passing a couple of times but this is his first appearance on stage.  He’s been known to say such things as, ‘Um, I’m sorry I brought Twitch home late last night.’ And the ever popular, ‘Alex, put down the shotgun!’  Ladies and gentlemen make some noise for Alexander Fairmont and Drake Temeson!”


From the side veils at stage right, Alex appears adjusting the right cuff of his shirt.  The neo then smiles, waves and makes his way toward the podium at stage center.  At that same moment, Drake starts his trek from the opposite direction.  The black-furred mouse is wearing the same style and colored suit as Alex.  Upon reaching the podium they both look each other up and down.


Alex:  “Nice suit.”

Drake:  “The same right back at you.  Too bad they didn’t have it in your size.”

Alex:  “Now, Drake.   We both promised our ladies that we’d be nice up here.”

Drake:  “What?  I complimented you on your taste in suits.  Geeeze!”

Alex:  “Yeah, right.  A left handed compliment if ever there was one.  I’ll have you know that this suit was tailored to this bod.”  Shoots a quick glance at the smirking mouse and points a metallic finger in his face.  “And no cracks about ‘body by Chrysler’ outta you, mister.”
Drake:  “But I wasn’t….”

Alex:  “Suuuure you weren’t.  Let’s just get on with this, okay?”

Drake:  “Okay by me.”  Adjusts his shades.  “We are here to present the Golden Acorn Award in the category of Best Short Story.”

Alex:  Short story.”  Chuckles.  “That’s perfect for you, isn’t it, shrimpboat?”

Drake:  “As…I…was…saying.  The category is Best Short Story and the nominees are, The Do-Nutters by Stainless Steel Rat

Alex:  “On the Design of Rodent-Scale Pulse Drive Single-Stage-to-Orbit Vehicles by Stainless Steel Rat.  Now there’s a mouthful.”

Drake:  “Troublesome Trucks by Blackadder.”

Alex:  “Foxglove wa otaku desu by Stainless Steel Rat.”  Looks out into the audience.  “Hey!  What did you say about my sister?”

Drake:  “He didn’t say anything about Foxy, Alex.”

Alex:  “You sure?  I mean, this wa otaku desu doesn’t sound on the up n’ up to me.”

Drake:  “Take my word for it, you maniac.”

Alex:  “Okay….if you say so.  For a minute I thought it was time for the Stainless Steel Rat to meet with the Bio-Metal Bat.”

Drake:  “Can we please get on with this?”

Alex:  “Sure.”

Drake:  “Thank you!  Uhhhh, where was I?…Oh…Fragile September by Gwendolyn Katesche.”

Alex:  “Last Call at the Acorn Café by Ronnie Rabbit.”

Drake:  “Pinky’s Valentine by pupspals.”  Fumbles with the envelope.

Alex:  “Need some help there, junior?”

Drake:  “You’d be the last person I ask.”  Finally gets the envelope open.  “And the winner is…two of ‘em! Stainless Steel Rat and Ronnie Rabbit!”


The rat with the metal handshake has been sitting at one of the tables, sipping a tall cold juice. He's been joined by a version of Foxglove who’s half hidden behind an appropriately sized laptop and is wearing an over the ear wireless headset, clearly custom designed. At the mention of his name, he looks up shocked.

Foxy pats him on the shoulder, and says something. He nods and she gets up to walk on stage. Tapping something on her computer and then putting it away in pocket space. The speakers crackle and play an upbeat j-pop version of the CDRR theme, which fades out as she reaches the award podium.


She gives a big grin and a wave, ignoring the stand microphone and speaking into her headset. “Hi everyone! I’m otaku Foxglove and I’m here to collect the award for best short story on behalf of Stainless Steel Rat. I’ve been helping out over at RRRPG. Aren’t alternate dimensions and dimension traveling _cool_?”


::She nods to the other Foxgloves in the audience::


“I’m really excited that his story about me was considered so good. It was originally more of a character study than anything else, fleshing out a history for me for follow on stories from ‘The Do-Nutters’ After all, all the other Rangers have masses of canon background, but the _meanies_ at Disney only ever put me in one episode. So I’m the mysterious girl bat, beloved of Dale and even more vice versa, fighting for love and justice and lots of snuggling, ” She strikes and Sailor Moon pose, one wing tip on hip, the other making a horizontal V in front of her eyes, “and that means Dale!” A crescent Moon backdrop appears behind her, then rolls up.


“So it gives me great pleasure to accept this award. People seem to like the idea of a Foxglove who’s an artist and computer nut. I will certainly try abnd persuade him to get on with ‘Wingnut’. Who knows, if Stainless gets my dimension hooked up to the Acorn Café maybe I can enter in the art category next year!”


She walks over, collects the award off Alex and Drake, gives him a friendly hug, and then heads back off stage, waving to the crowd and holding the award high.




Ronnie has managed to make it back to his seat by now, possessively cradling his awards, but now he blinks again.  He juggles them desperately, not wanting to leave them at his seat, but a man sipping a cup of coffee offers to watch them, and he reluctantly trots up without them. As he goes, a Gadget plushie pops its head up out of the man's pocket, and eyes the awards greedily.


"I always wanted to meet you!" he murmurs to the presenter, pumping their hand gleefully.  (He's been doing the same thing all night to everyone else he's run into.) He hops over to the podium with his new award.


"As thanks for this award, I'm going to reveal one of the deepest secrets of the Cafe... yes, this story IS about Gadget!" he says dramatically.  He pauses as the audience laughs, then says wryly, "I had to look this story up on the Cafe to make sure I hadn't actually mentioned her name in it.  Would have totally blown the joke."


He fiddles with the award sheepishly. "I never thought this story would... connect with a bunch of people, I really didn't.  I was so sure this, if anything, was just me venting, indulging myself.  Not only aren't there any Rangers in it, they're not even mentioned. There's just this rabbit, and all he does is sit in a chair, you know?"


"I know you're not all Gadgephiles... but I guess there's something we all want in that world, after all.  If not her, some other character... Foxglove. Chip. Tammy... or the world itself, someplace a little simpler, maybe, where you can fly with a bleach bottle and save the world no matter how small you are."


"And this is the night... more than any other one, when all of us work together to be as close to that world as we'll ever be, outside of our dreams.  Or silly little stories."  He smiles out over an audience full of people who will never meet in real life... and full of the characters who brought them there.  Already he's hoping to run into more of them later, thinking of who he hopes to meet given this one special chance.


He gives his customary bow.  "Thank you all so much.  Please, while you're here tonight, don't pass up this time we've given each other.  There's someone here tonight, waiting for the chance to shake your hand."


He walks off under his own power this time, giving the audience one last lingering glance.  Just like the woman in the story was no real mystery, it's no mystery where his eyes are at that moment.


Alex:  “Well, how’d you like your first time as a presenter, rookie?”

Drake:  “It was kinda fun.  Once I got over the butterflies in my stomach, that is.  Well, let’s go.”

Alex:  “Go?  Oh, you’re not going anywhere.”

Drake:  “Huh?  What are you talking about?  We’re done here, Alex.”

Alex:  “I’m done here, junior.  You’ve got another co-presenter to work with.”

Drake:  “But…”

Alex:  “Ciao, my good rodent.”