:: Shortly after the previous presenter and nominees leave the stage, deep-blue light fills the room along with the mighty sounds of "A Whale of a Tale" from the all-time Disney maritime classics. As the sounds grow louder a distinct humming can be heard. It grows closer and closer, accompanied by a clatter of lampshades. Everybody starts wondering whether they should run to the lifeboats but then the source of the noise reveals itself from behind the curtain. The audience gasps as one, recognizing the familiar shape of the 'Nautilus' and the Rescue Rangers brace themselves.
MONTY: Guys, looks like we've got trouble! Anchovy alarm!
DALE: Nah, he's long gone! I bet that's another sudden strike of Widget's! Right, Gadget?
GADGET: Wlachally while I can't say I know her all that well since we were brought up in totally different geographical and psychological environments, I think she would have used Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and the 'Albacore' respectfully instead of this entrance.
CHIP: My thoughts exactly. Foxglove! Can you use your echolation to see through the hull?
FOXGLOVE: Sorry, she's too thick even for my senses.
TAMMY: But not for your prominent mind, Chipper! I know you'll tell us who's inside that thing without even looking!
CHIP (with a mixture of ego and annoyance): Well, considering that the 'Wonder' doesn't have underwater docks I'd say this sub was loaded here in parts and assembled on board already. Then again, if you look closer at her size you'll notice that despite filling the whole stage she's far smaller than Fin's vessel. These two facts allow me to conclude that it's a purely theatrical showcase stylized accordingly to fit the common theme of the ceremony. Which thus means...
DALE (impatiently): So what's the big idea?
CHIP (gritting his teeth at his friend's lack of restraint): Which thus means that this is just the way for the next presenter to appear. Taking into account that it's time for the Best Russian Story presentation this should mean... Monty, do you have any idea who is this by chance? Another old acquaintance of yours, maybe?
MONTY: Well, this reminds me...
::At that very moment an eerie metallic sound fills the room as the top hatch of the submarine starts rotating anti-clockwise. Everybody holds their breath, preparing for anything--anything but the head of a really big and undoubtedly predatory fish.
CHIP (gasping): A pike...
MONTY (gasping): Schuka...
DALE: Mind your tongue, Monty! The ladies are here!
MONTY: No, Schuka's her name. She's one of the greatest magicians of the Russian land. If she finds you worthy of her attention, she'll come to you in an appropriate form. To a fisherman as a pike. To a hunter as a wolf and so on. Then she'll ask you in a Human voice to let her go and if you do so she'll give you her blessing and teach you a powerful spell to use in times of greatest need.
CHIP: Your familiarity with Russian folks is fascinating.
MONTY: No, I'm not acquainted with her, just heard of her...
::The fish in a tank turns her emerald eyes to him and Aussie stops short.
SCHUKA: Good things, I hope?
MONTY (gulping nervously): Sure!
SCHUKA: Good to hear that there are still people who remember the good service made for them. Rare case, indeed. Just like the good wishes, I must say. Too many people don't wish for something good for themselves but want something bad to happen to others, and I don't even remember when somebody wished anything at least remotely positive for someone else. The world is becoming too cruel and cynical these days. That's why I was relieved to hear that there are still heroes among us willing to sacrifice their health and lives on the altar of the common good. I've watched you closely since I first heard from you...
MONTY (to self): So that second time when I felt like I was seeing the periscope in the sink wasn't a hallucination neither... Looks like we need to do something with our sewer system to make it less, well, accessible...
SCHUKA: ...and you never failed my highest expectations. No matter how hard the case was or how many enemies you faced, you never gave up and always faced the dangers ahead of you without hesitation. That's a secret of any success, and I'm relieved to know that good has champions who not only preach but practice this maxim. And, which is no less important, the faithful chroniclers of your heroic deeds do so as well. The stories they weave let everyone follow your example and become better, at the same time preserving the good you've done for the benefit of the generations to come. You are truly alive only as long as you are remembered, don't forget about that.
::SCHUKA pauses for a while as the audience absorbs the words she spoken, then continues::
SCHUKA: And now, after the time of wisdom comes an hour of fun! We're here not for preaching only but also for awards, aren't we?
DALE: Yes, we are!
::The other Rangers hush him, but SCHUKA isn't offended at all::
SCHUKA: On to the awards, then!
::The fish dives back into the sub and after some time re-emerges wearing a pair of old-fashioned glasses and holding an ancient-looking scroll::
SCHUKA: And now, honorable audience, prepare to hear the names of the worthy competitors for this year's "Golden Acorn Award" for the Best Story in Russian! There names are:
“Glomar Explorer-6” by Silent Shadow
“Shadows and Dust” by Draco Lockhard
“Illusion of the Game” by Rescue
"Offensive Care” by Gyrotank
“Reflection” by Electronoff
::When the applause fades away, the fish continues::
SCHUKA: And now, By My Order And Our Wish, let the winner reveal himself! All hail Gyrotank, for “Offensive Care”!
:: The theme song from 'ER' television series is heard and GYROTANK drives out on the stage. This time his appearance creates even bigger commotion since he is painted white with for large red crosses drawn on his sides::
GYROTANK: Health and wealth, everyone! I know this color
scheme isn't commonly associated with pleasant things but I couldn't resist the
temptation of putting it on for this occasion. You see, the name of my story is
a word-play on "Intensive Care" and as you may now guess it has very
much to do with
:: The flasher on GYROTANK's roof suddenly starts blinking with blue and red light and the sound of siren shrieks through the hall ::
GYROTANK: Don't panic, just a little spoiler alert. Actually, I wasn't going to give away anything really important but looks like the Anti-Spoiler system developed by our favourite mouse inventor turns out too sensible, which reminds me of...
:: The Spoiler Alert activates again and GYROTANK has to fell silent again to turn it off ::
GYROTANK: Just what I said. But enough of these spoilers and teasers, time for thanks and acknowledgements. First of all I want to thank all other Russian writers whose works allow Russian-speaking Rangerphiles like me and numerous others to meet our cherished heroes again and again. I want to thank Alex Electronoff and Rescue for their original works.
I want to thank Silent Shadow for his epic science fiction story which competed this year, his older stories which really deserve being translated into other languages to get bigger audience, attention and, I'm sure of it, numerous fans. Finally I want to thank Draco Lockhard both for his more than positive feedback on my story "'Tomorrow' is for 'Never'" and for his scorching (literally) review on the first edition of "Offensive Care" which prompted me to make significantly changes to the storyline and produce two more editions of it which, as later comments suggest, improved it tangibly.
I know many people avoid writing negative reviews not wanting to hurt the author's feelings, not to mention that writing badly of someone's work is unpleasant. That's why I salute Draco's efforts and appreciate his attention to my story. Being a professional fiction writer, he's a very good critic whose remarks aren't disheartening but insightful. It's a fairly rare case, and I'm proud my stories caught his attention. He's also a good CDRR fan-fiction author and I sincerely wish him time and inspiration to create new stories which, just like "Shadows and Dust", will undoubtedly be enjoyed for years to come.
:: At these words SCHUKA raises her forward fin and her eyes glow with green light for a moment ::
SCHUKA: By My Order And Your Wish, it is granted.
GYROTANK: Really? Oh, that's nice to hear! Can I have another one? Can you do the same for all CDRR authors?
:: She casts another spell, and a large number of people in the hall jump up with shining eyes and either fetch notebooks from their pockets or run to their staterooms to note down the fresh ideas::
SCHUKA (mumbles): Note to self - in the future cast Mass Inspiration with suspend only... (aloud) And now, By My Order And Our Wish, let GYROTANK get his Golden Acorn!
:: The flash of light illuminates the hall and the Golden Acorn materializes attached to GYROTANK's front plunger. He switches to gyromobile mode, bows to SCHUKA and the audience, then drives away ::
::As soon as the winner leaves, SCHUKA removes her spectacles and speaks::
SCHUKA: The winner received his share of honors and it's time for me to go, for my presence is demanded in different parts of the world now. But I wouldn't forgive myself if I left without a gift to the true heroes of the occasion, to the Rescue Rangers. As a token of my--and not only my--gratitude, I grant each one of you a wish. Just say "By Schuka's Order And My Wish, I want ...", and your wish will be fulfilled the very next moment. But be careful what you wish for, and choose wisely. Good-bye!
::SCHUKA disappears in the hatch and the submarine rolls away. The thunderous roar subsides in the distance, but the Rangers, TAMMY and FOXGLOVE sit still afraid to move, totally unable to say anything. MONTY is the first to regain his senses::
MONTY: Well, friends, what do you think of it?
GADGET (ecstatically): Golly that's fantastic! If what she said is true, our abilities are beyond imagination!
DALE (looking at Gadget adorably): Why beyond? As for me, my wish is quite simple...
CHIP: Don't even think about that!
DALE: Did you say magic words?
DALE: Then I'll go on thinking if you please...
CHIP (whispers): Foxglove, I think it's about time for you to make your wish. If you know what I mean...
FOXGLOVE: Well, I'd love to, but...
CHIP: Don't hesitate! Time is of the essence! Don't you see you are losing him?!
FOXGLOVE: WHO? MY CUTIE?!
DALE: NO, FOXY, STOP! IT'S UNFAIR!!!
CHIP: Go on, Foxy! It's your only chance...
TAMMY: Thanks for reminding, Chipper! By Schuka's Order And-
CHIP: NO! PLEASE! STOP!
MONTY: CALM DOWN, EVERYONE! We're not alone!
:: The Rangers look around noticing that the audience is watching them in complete silence. The Rangers giggle nervously and turn back to the stage, wishing to vanish into thin air on the spot. Monty clears his throat::
MONTY: Well, me senses and experience tells me that it's not the right time to use our wishes. After all, we've got only one each and should use them wisely.
CHIP: You're right. Schuka bestowed this gift upon us because she considered us worthy of it and because she knew we won't spend them on some trifles...
DALE: Trifles?! How dare you call Gadget...?
GADGET (coming out of her usual inventive trance deepened by the power of a wish): What?
CHIP: Erm, nothing! We just...
MONTY: Hold it, Chip! Cool down, Dale! As long as, erm, the Debate is concerned, you've nothing to worry about!
RANGERS & TAMMY & FOXGLOVE: WHAT??!!
MONTY: Remember the faithful chroniclers Schuka was talking about? Some of them didn't just retell the events of our lives but presented their views of our future! And believe me, they covered all the options!
CHIP: So, in the future me and Gadget...
DALE: So, in the future me and Gadget...
FOXGLOVE: So, in the future me and Dale...
TAMMY: So, in the future me and Chip...
ZIPPER: <squeaks something fast and barely recognizable even by the seasoned Aussie>
MONTY: 'YES' on all the accounts.
GADGET (dumbfounded): Wait, I don't get it...
MONTY: You will, lass, in due time.
CHIP: But can it be possible?
MONTY: Nothing is impossible! Heh, even me and Desiree sometimes...
MONTY: Well, that's rather extreme example, but... Crickey! The next presentation is starting!
::The Rangers brace up and look on stage. The audience follows suit, nodding and smiling understandingly ::