:: There is a very long pause after the winners and
presenters leave the stage and the audience starts to worry. Then there's some
movement behind the curtain and everybody looks there, holding their breath,
but nothing follows. The low humming of
numerous quiet noises starts again. Nobody's saying it out loud but the
thoughts along the lines of '
:: Behind the curtain, three men in grey suits and black glasses stand, in turn digressing from the topic of a very nervous conversation to hear the next piece of news from the earphones::
Dahlstrom: Sorry, sir, no signs of either of them.
Branson: So we've got a problem...
Branson: ...stall the crowd while you put the building on quiet alert? Hmm, looks like it's becoming a tradition of sorts...
:: Branson enters the stage. The audience grows quiet watching him coming to the stand. Having approached the microphone, he clears the throat::
Branson: A-hem, uhm... Everything's alright folks - we just have a few mischievous... oh, I mean, logistics problems. Snowfall or turbulence, I guess... heh-heh... false alarm, that is...
Dahlstrom (offstage): He's never been too convincing...
Dahlstrom: Yeah. Five years' worth of experience does the trick!
:: Both men burst into chuckles interrupted by the buzzer signal in their earphones immediately followed by a series of bangs and booms. The two men turn to the door just in time to see three huge men entering the backstage area. They are wearing shiny chain mail and helmets, thick crude breeches and large heavy boots. The trio of warriors is accompanied by a guard who, despite being stately and broad-shouldered, seems rather small in comparison with them::
Guard: Mister Henderson! These men are...
Ilya Muromets (the eldest among the three, with thick wide black beard and grayish hair protruding from under his helmet): Yes, here we are! It was a long flight, but the ground brought many surprises. The men wearing grey and calling themselves 'customs' didn't want to let us in.
Dahlstrom (looking at the long sheathed swords at their belts): I can't imagine why. But you are here, and that means—
Guard: That we have a problem, for right now the police and SWAT teams are gathering around the building, apparently in pursuit of our dear guests...
:: On the stage Branson listens to his earphone and brightens at the good news. He points to his left and announces::
Branson: Well, ladies and gentlemen, enough of the warm-up, it's time for our headliners! Please, meet our guest-stars! From far-away and ancient Kievan Rus, the epic heroes, The Three Bogatyrs!
::The audience starts to applaud as the warriors appear from behind the curtain, simultaneously gasping in astonishment at their sheer size, impressive outfits and the sight of the aforementioned curtain almost torn out of its fastening in the process by Dobrynya Nikitich's enthusiastic move. While the trio is confidently striding to the podium, Branson rushes by them behind the curtain to meet Dahlstrom, Henderson and the guard::
Branson: So, what was the problem you were talking about?
Dahlstrom: Sir, maybe you should...
Branson: Okay, I got it. It's good I have a couple of phone numbers always with me...
::With all the turbulence of the moment left behind the curtains, the Three Bogatyrs come up to the stand and, having assumed the traditional formation with Dobrynya Nikitich to the left, Ilya Muromets in the center and Alyosha Popovich to the right, greet the audience::
Dobrynya, Ilya and Alyosha (in chorus): GREETINGS, FRIENDS!
::Their voices, magnified by the microphone, echo through the hall and make the walls and the roof shake. As the audience gasps in relief after the building stands the test, the Bogatyrs exchange glances::
Ilya (points at the podium): I don't think we'll need it
Dobrynya: I agree.
::He pushes the podium to the side with his left hand, making it fly over the stage and into the opposite wall::
::He looks at the stand stuck deep into the wall::
Dobrynya: Is it just me or everything here unearthly fragile?
Alyosha: I think its creators didn't know you as well as we do.
Ilya: Be that as it may, now it's time for the ceremonial part. We, the Three Bogatyrs, are very glad to be present here tonight on this truly amazing and important fest on behalf of the Russian-speaking and Russian-writing community. The stories about the epic heroes and their odds-defying fights against powerful villains have always played the major role in our culture and history, being a joy to read in times of peace and a source of inspiration in times of hardship.
Dobrynya: In due time the three of us served our land and people faithfully, battling the dark powers, the true scourges of peace and order. And it's a great honor for us to be here today and to have this opportunity to say the words of gratitude to our fellow Rescue Rangers, deeply loved and respected in our land. We are glad to see the just cause living and flourishing, and the ideas of selfless service for the sake of all good people and animals continuing to thrive.
Alesha: It's always good to know that you have worthy successors, who won't let your flag down. And so we salute you, the Rescue Rangers, or, as we say it in our land, Spasateli. Yes, you are small, but we know better than anyone else that if the heart is brave and just, you can help many, no matter what your size is. Though size helps, too!
::Alesha winks at Monterey Jack, who answers with a smile::
Ilya: And now the time has come for all of us to know the names of the authors, whose talent and dedication made them worthy competitors for this year's Golden Acorn Award for Best Story in Russian!
:: At this very moment Dahlstrom and Henderson emerge from behind the scene, carrying a large silver chest with gold edging. While not very large, it's very heavy—the strained faces and slow walking of the two men prove that unquestionably. Not waiting for them to come up, Alesha goes to help them and lifts the chest by the handle on top of its lid with his right hand and carries it to the middle of the stage with no effort at all, winning another round of audience's applause. Having put it on the ground, he unlocks the chest and fetches large parchment scroll out of it, which he then unfolds and begins reading::
Alesha: So, dear audience, I'm honored to name the nominees! They are:
Wonders of Science by Junker
Chip's Adventure of the Final Problem by
'Tomorrow' is for 'Never' (Russian version) by Gyrotank
Malf-Life by Gyrotank
:: When Alesha finishes reading, Ilya steps up to the chest and takes another scroll out of it. It's smaller then the previous one and made of much better, almost white parchment. Having broken a big seal pinning together the ends of the lace tied around the scroll, Ilya reads::
Ilya: And now the most crucial and glorious moment. We, the Three Bogatyrs, hereby announce that the winner is...Gyrotank for 'Tomorrow' is for 'Never'!!!
::As the voices of the trio echo through the hall, the steel cross-beam under the roof running right over the gangway shakes. Its part facing the stage starts moving down slowly, touching the floor right against the stage and forming a diagonal bridge from the stage to the upper tier of the building. Loud howling is heard from above and the shadow of a massive armored vehicle rapidly descends on the stage. Having entered the illuminated area, Gyrotank abruptly brakes, makes a u-turn and stops still. The hair dryer is stopped and when its hum extinguishes completely, the vehicle speaks::
Gyrotank: Greetings, fellow Rangerphiles!
Alesha (whispers to Ilya): It speaks...
Gyrotank: Yes, I speak. I can sound amazing at times, even for me myself, but with such a talented mouse engineer being my creator it's not that big a surprise actually. And that's why my first heartfelt gratitude is to beautiful Gadget Hackwrench, who didn't forget me despite having used me on one occasion only, and all this time did her best to keep me in pace with progress. She put some sophisticated features in me, which I haven't got used to myself yet, the top of which is the Voice Synthesizer built similar to KITT's. And that's why my second heartfelt gratitude is to RR-Crusader who arranged the historical meeting of the car and the mouse.
:: Gyrotank switches modes and, by filling his front air tanks with the pressurized air and then releasing it, bows twice in the direction of Gadget and RR-Crusader. Then he switches back and speaks again.::
Gyrotank: How can I describe my current emotions except with 'WOW!' and its numerous synonyms? It will be difficult, but I'll try. Despite being built quite a long time ago, I came to the Rangerdom just last autumn. And having read many prominent and sometimes purely sleep-denying works felt the urge to write something of my own.
My first story, Malf-Life, got a response warm enough to make me feel like continuing my work. And that's why my third, but at the same time the biggest heartfelt gratitude is to all members of CDRRHQ community, who found time and patience to read it and comment on it.
Thank you all, for without your encouraging comments there would be no "'Tomorrow' is for 'Never'", which turned out to quite an experience, both physical (it takes some effort to type so many words, you know!) and emotional, and I hope the end result was worth it. It's worth it all, to the last single word and the last single day. And thank you all for this Award, for without you I wouldn't have been standing here today and wouldn't have been saying all this. It's always good to know that your written work is read and appreciated. Thank you all for this opportunity and the honor to join the proud ranks of Golden Acorn winners. It means so much for me.
::Ilya steps up to the chest and takes out the Golden Acorn from it. He pauses for a second, thinking about the best way to give it to the winner, but the winner comes up with the idea faster. The Gyrotank's hairdryer rotates to point straight up, mating with a new gasket on the roof of the vehicle, and goes into top speed, drawing air in through the ring of plungers, thus turning them into a set of powerful vacuums. Their effect was quickly felt as the spectators in the first rows had to clasp onto the handles of their chairs with all their might. The Bogatyrs remained unmoved, with only their fluttering beards indicating the powerful stream of air. The Golden Acorn flies from Ilya's hand and gets promptly sucked up onto one of the Gyrotank's plungers::
Ilya: Hmm, reminds me of my fight with Solovey-Razboynik, though at that time the wind blew in my face.
Gyrotank: And special thanks to Stainless Steel Rat who suggested this modification, without which it would have taken some time and non-trivial maneuvers. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!
::Having said that, Gyrotank drives along the same metal cross-beam and disappears in the darkness of the upper tiers. The cross-beam is slowly lifted back into the air, freeing the gangway, and is promptly secured in its rightful place under the ceiling::
Dobrynya: It's always sad to bid farewell, but even the longest journey, the biggest adventure and the warmest meeting has its end. It's time for us to leave.
Alesha: But that doesn't mean the end of the story, for the fight against the forces of evil is truly eternal, and as long as there are heroes, the hope remains for the eventual victory of good. We say 'goodbye', but we all know that the parting won't last long and we will be meeting with you, our dear Rescue Rangers and Rangerphiles, for many more times.
Ilya: Good luck on your endless quest, Spasateli. Countless years of adventures and happiness! Mnogaya leta!
:: Dobrynya brings the podium he pulled out of the wall back to its rightful place and the Three Bogatyrs leave the stage, their departure accompanied by loud applause::