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GX-342
or
The Raider-Bot...

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF SPACE….

“Come on now—Time to wake up.”

            Drake barely cracked open his eyes.  “Huh?”

            “You’ve been asleep long enough,” the voice said again.  “Stay like that much longer and it’ll be a real fight to get your limbs working again!”

            As Drake awakened, he realized that he had been sleeping in some kind of weird, metallic pod.  He sat up like a shot.  “What the—“

            “It’s okay,” the man next to him said reassuringly.  “All of our patients are a little jumpy when they first wake up from the freezing process.”

            “Freezing?”  Drake looked around, finding three other strange metal pods in the room.  He sighted Phil seated on the edge of the one on the farthest side of the room; he was rubbing his eyes and yawning.  “What’s all this talk about freezing?  Who ARE you?”

            The man chuckled and patted Drake on the back.  “I’m Dr. Roberts.  I was assigned to you and your friends roughly about ten years ago to make sure everything checked out when you were brought out of the sleep chambers.”

            “You have totally lost me there, fella,” Drake interrupted.  “I do NOT remember dozing off in this thing that looks like a rip-off from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, okay?  You mind explaining what’s going on here?”

            “We’ve been frozen the past who-knows-how-long,” Phil interjected.  “Apparently, when we signed that contract with Columbia, it literally was for life!”

            “Alright, so I missed a few little clauses at the bottom of the contract,” Paul grumbled from another of the opened chambers.  “I thought it said if we ever quit, they’d freeze our assets, not our—“

            “I think I get the idea there, Paul,” Drake cut in.  “How long have we been under?”

            “Since about 1977,” said Roberts.

            “That’s not so bad then.”

            “It’s 2577, Drake,” Phil added.

            “What?!?”

            “They sort of let us have it after the Bandstand Reunion,” said Paul.  “Told you we never should have broken up.”

            Phil grinned.  “Well, we could always have another Reunion show…and we still have our dashing good looks, right?”  His smile grew wider, showing off his trademark “fangs”.

            “Some things never change,” Mark said as he climbed out of his sleep chamber.  He smoothed his hair back into place.  “What have we missed?”

            Roberts thought a moment, then replied, “Hmmm…  You missed most of Disco, corporate pop, the invention of Velcro, Rubik’s Cubes, Def Leppard and the birth of the Information Super Highway…  But otherwise, things have been pretty boring the past couple hundred years.”

            “Whoa,” said Mark.  “That’s a lot of boring stuff to miss, though.”

            Paul’s eyes searched the room.  “That’s not all we’re missing—What happened to Smitty?”

            Roberts looked somewhat uneasy.  “Ah…well…  That’s an entirely different issue and department on the station.”

            “Station?”  Phil raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

            “As in ‘space station,’ Phillip,” said Roberts.

            Phil ran to a window and peered out, pressing his nose against the glass.  “Good grief—It’s like Star Trek here!”

            “Doc—Smitty?  Where is he?” Paul persisted.

            “He…didn’t quite make it through the process the same as the rest of you,” the doctor answered solemnly.  “Only a few years into the freezing, there were a few problems and….”  He paused.  “We had to terminate the process.”

            The other four Raiders were suddenly quiet.

            “You mean we lost Smitty?” Drake asked, his nerves already frayed.

            Before Roberts could give an answer, heavy footsteps could be heard running outside the cryo-lab’s door.  The door slid open and a figure rushed into the room so fast, he took a partial slide on the floor.

            “What…did I…miss?” he huffed, trying to catch his breath.

            “SMITTY!”  Phil grabbed him and hugged him as tight as he could.  “You’re okay!”

            “Of course I’m okay!  Why wouldn’t I be?”  Smitty shot a disapproving glance at the doctor.  “What did you tell them?”

            “I was just explaining why you weren’t in a cryo-chamber and—“

            “Now, we talked about this cos we knew this day was coming, right?”

            “Yeah, but I thought they needed to know just what happened…”

            Smitty rolled his eyes.  “Don’t worry ‘em with all the details—Geez!”  He examined the looks of disbelief on his friends’ faces.  “You’ve already scared the wits out of ‘em!”

            “He said they had to end the freezy thingy with you!” Paul exclaimed.

            “They did, but it’s nothing to panic about.”

            Mark thumbed at the doctor.  “He gave us the idea you were dead!  That’s not reason enough to panic?”

            “Whoa-whoa-whoa—Hang on.  Let me see if I can explain this at all,” Smitty demanded.  “Yes, they had to stop the freezing thing cos I was having some problems.  And yes, they kinda lost me there for a while.”

            “You look fine, though.  Talk about a recovery,” Drake observed.

            “Uh yeah….”  It was Smitty’s turn to feel uncomfortable.  “That’s where it gets really weird….  They, uh…had to put me back together, so to speak.”

            “Huh?”

            “We had to reconfigure his entire system into a new interface, change rotor gears in a few places, re-download his history, upgrade his memory chips…” Roberts began.

            Smitty thwacked him on the back of the head.  “That was when the 2300 bug hit on New Year’s—I’m talking about when I started out like this!”

            “Rotor gears?”  Phil looked confused, as did the other musicians.

            Mark snickered.  “If you ask me, his memory’s always been chipped, so what’s your point?”

Smitty sighed in exasperation, throwing his hands on his waist.  “Mark, I’m an android.”

“Say what?”

            “ANNN-DROY-DUH!” Smitty insisted, enunciating each syllable carefully.  “Basically, I’m a glorified robot.”

Silence.

“What?  It’s not like I need batteries or anything.  I happen to be top-of-the-line quality, y’know.  I can go from zero to Keith Moon in under twenty seconds without stalling,” he beamed.

“You sound like a used car ad,” Drake pointed out.

“If you’re a robot, then where’s the real Smitty?” Mark asked with a sneer.

“I’m as real as it gets, Ponytail Boy,” the drummer replied sternly.

“While he’s without his original body, his essence is in the android interface and memory banks,” said Roberts.  “We had a mind, but were ultimately without a body, so we made one.”

Paul poked at Smitty’s back and arms.  “Wow.  If this isn’t the original, it’s the best copy I’ve ever seen.”  He closely studied the droid, even going as far as tugging on his sideburns.  “Are you sure you’re not just playing one of your weird little jokes on us?”

Smitty shook his head, then parted the hair in the back of his head.  “Here—Look.”  He revealed an opening beneath his curls.

“Oh crap,” Paul gasped.

            Suddenly, Phil, Drake and Mark also crowded around him, anxious to see some real proof.

“And what do you see back there?” Smitty asked, perturbed.  “Are you convinced yet?”

Phil’s eyes were agog.  “You’ve got more wires than my stereo!”

“Are you AC or DC?” Mark questioned.

“He’s a GX-342,” Roberts answered, “version 2.0.”

“GX?”

“Groovy X-ample,” Smitty chortled.

“What happened to version 1.0?” Drake asked.

“That was when we had that nasty bug in the system and had to do some serious repair work on him.  The technology used to build the original was outdated, so it was really all for the best to rebuild and upgrade him.  He’s the best one we’ve assembled so far.”

Smitty just grinned.

“You’d better cut that out, doc, or else you’ll have to build him a bigger head to fit his ego,” Mark complained.

“So….Smitty….” Phil asked awkwardly.  “What’cha’ been doing the past couple hundred years?”

“Hanging out.  Mostly waiting on you guys.”

“What now, then?  I mean, here we are—What next?”

“I smell a Reunion album,” Paul said with a smile.

 

It was amazing what had been salvaged from the 20th century that was aboard the space station.  Granted, the guitars needed a bit of tuning and the organ’s keys were a little stiff from neglect, but things still worked well.

So did the Raiders, who—strangely enough—were able to pick up right where they left off after the ’77 Reunion.

“I think I need a little more practice,” Phil commented.

“You’ve only been asleep about six hundred years, Fang-face,” Drake laughed.  “I don’t think we’re doing too bad after that long.”

“We could really go places now,” Paul said, excited.  “Talk about an incredible tour—Where’s Roger?”

“His head’s frozen in cryo-lab 77,” Smitty replied casually.  “They’re saving his brain for some special project.”

Drake shivered, as did Phil.  Mark looked nauseous.

Paul cringed.  “That’s just plain creepy.”

 

            MEANWHILE IN CRYO-LAB 77…

Wonder how long I’ll have to wait for a decent droid body? Roger thought.  Must outlast Dick Clark….. Must!

 

BACK WITH THE RAIDERS….

“What’s it feel like being an android?” asked Phil.

“Kinda boring, really.  Three days into it, I’d already hummed all the songs I know,” Smitty replied.

“Ohh…”

“So the scientists and techno weenies here didn’t give you any super powers or anything like that?” Mark asked.  “You’d think they’d make you have super strength or laser beam eyes or steel plated teeth or—“

“I get the point, Mark.”

“Well?  Why didn’t they do that?”

“Just what would I use it for?”

“I dunno….. Stuff….  Just to say that you could do it?”

Smitty rolled his eyes.  “Brother…”

“You’re a little more energetic—I’ve noticed that much,” said Drake.

“I’m not programmed to get tired.”

“Really?”

Smitty shook his head.  “Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Cos I’m always the only one still awake at 3:00 AM!”

“So it’s pretty much the same as being a regular human, right?” Mark continued.

The droid nodded in agreement.

Mark yawned.  “Ho-hum….”

“I didn’t tell you about what special little thing they DID put in me,” Smitty grinned.

“If it’s not laser beam eyes, I’m not interested,” Mark continued rudely.

“How about this, then?”  Smitty rushed to dim the lights slightly, then his eyes changed to solid black.  A light flickered from them, projecting holographic images in the middle of the room.

“That’s not a laser beam!” Mark argued.

Drake smacked him against the ear.  “You shlub, that’s US!”

The holograms were crystal clear images from the old footage of Where The Action Is.  For years, decent copies of the show were impossible to find, the originals having been locked away in Dick Clark’s vaults.  Dick had no intention of ever releasing them to the public again.

Paul was in shock.  “How did you…?  I mean…  Those are…”

“I thought Dick didn’t let those out,” said Phil.

“He didn’t.”  Smitty squinted, then blinked, ending the projection.  As he switched the lights back on, he continued.  “Seems we have a few new century Raider fans on staff here and they…..  Well, let’s say they’re really devoted to their cause.”

“That’s stolen footage, isn’t it?” Drake said bluntly.

“Yeah.”  Smitty took his seat behind the drums again.  “The original tapes and films were rotting away, so DC Productions put them all on videodisc—some old thing called a DVD.  Those are like collectors’ items now, since most everyone has gone to the videochip.  Well, the folks who got the DVDs from Dick transferred everything onto videochip and then installed it in me.”  He blushed.  “It was kind of a present, really….”

“Have you got everything on there?” Phil inquired.

“I’m a complete library,” Smitty answered.  “I’m actually the only complete one left.”

“Didn’t they make other copies onto videochips?”

“They did, but the DC people found them and had them destroyed.  Same with the old DVDs.”

“That just makes me sick,” Phil grumbled disapprovingly.

“I know,” Smitty sighed.  “They don’t know that everything that’s left is riding around inside my head.”

“Is Dick even still around?”

“It’s 2577, Revere,” Mark scoffed.  “If he’s still alive, he’s gotta be at least 2000 years old or more!”

“Let’s just try to be careful about this stuff, guys,” Smitty warned.  “I like having it, but I’m always afraid he’s gonna find it.  I don’t relish the idea of ending up in the scrap heap.”

“We won’t tell a soul,” Phil reassured him.  “You’ve got my word.”

“And mine,” Drake added.

“And mine,” said Paul.

All eyes centered on Mark, who sat quietly, pondering the footage.

“Well?” Paul insisted.

“I’m thinking!  I’m thinking!”

 

Over the next few weeks, the guys put on a few impromptu shows for the people on the space station.  While the current musical trends had continually changed over the years, there were still those who remained devoted to the classics.  The Raiders never failed to pack the place.

During one rehearsal, however…

“Ah-choo!”  Smitty sneezed so hard, he fell off the drum stool.

“A little dust on the skins back there, Smits?” Drake chided.

Smitty, though disoriented, climbed back on the stool.  “That’s the first time I’ve sneezed since….”  He paused, thinking.  “Since the last Reunion.”

“Maybe there’s some dust in your circuits?” Phil suggested.  “Some kind of cyber-allergies maybe?”

“I don’t get allergies,” Smitty replied.  “And they made my system self-cleaning, so I don’t know….what the….ah…ah….CHOO!”  He fell off the stool again.

“Something’s not right with you, little man,” said Paul.  “ I think they overdid it when they programmed the sneezes.”

“Oh hey—There’s a super power!” Mark shouted.  “Super human sneezing!”  He jumped on top of Phil’s amp, throwing out his chest like a comic book hero.  “With the ability to paralyze my enemies with the strength of my sneezes, I am…. Ah-chooie Man!”

Phil swung his bass at Mark’s feet.  “Get outta here…”

“I’m not supposed to sneeze, though,” said Smitty.  He sounded like he was already getting a stuffy nose.  “I hope I’m not getting a cold.”

“I thought androids couldn’t catch cold,” Drake commented.

“That’s what’s got me worried….  Ah-CHOO!”  He fell down again.

In a matter of hours, Smitty had come down with all the symptoms of influenza.  He was buried beneath a thick blanket and armed with a box of tissues.

“I feel awfoo,” he sniffed.  “I can’d breed droo my doze.”

Mark leaned near Paul, whispering.  “You think he’s contagious?”

“He’s a robot—We don’t even know how he caught this bug!”

“I can’d smell ennyding!” Smitty whined.  “My doze is sore!”

“We’d better get him to the infirmary,” Phil suggested.

“Either that or have his lips welded shut,” Mark muttered.

 

When they reached the infirmary, they were greeted by Dr. Baffrox, one of the space station’s main physicians.  She couldn’t help laughing a little when she caught sight of them—Phil and Drake were helping to lead Smitty into the room…and every time he sneezed, he pulled them all down with him.

“It’s the space flu, isn’t it?” Baffrox asked right away.  “I’d recognize those symptoms anywhere.”

“Just one problem, doc,” said Paul.  “He’s a Raider-bot.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“What he means is that Smitty here is one sick little android,” Phil explained.  “Can you give him a flu shot or something?”

Baffrox’s eyes boggled.  “Android?”

“Do I habf to sbell id for you?” Smitty sniffled from beneath his bundled blanket, “cos I don’d feel like sbelleenk.”

The doctor led him to an examination table, instructing him to sit down.  One sneeze and he was flat on his back instead.

“That’ll work,” said Baffrox.

She lifted his shirt and attached two wide, flat cables to his side.  A monitor behind him flashed up numbers, program windows and files at lightning speed.

“What’s that?” asked Paul, pointing to the screen.

“Virus scan,” replied the doctor.

“The flu IS a virus, isn’t it?”  Drake crossed his arms indignantly.  “I don’t think you need to scan for it when he’s already got the full-blown thing.”

“Anytime a mechanism on this space station suffers a malfunction, it’s standard procedure to perform a virus scan,” Baffrox said, matching Drake’s angry tone.  “Something could be corrupted in his database.”

“I wanda go home,” Smitty whimpered.  He blew his nose, which was already bright red.  “I don’d feel good.”

Something appeared on the monitor, alarming the doctor.  “Uh oh.  I see your problem.”

“Whad?  Whad’ve I god?  Flu?  Code?”

“Computer virus.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Mark argued.  “Computers can’t get viruses!”

“Oh, but they can,” Baffrox persisted.  She punched in a few codes on a keyboard, revealing a file listing on the screen.  “It’s some kind of Worm.”

“Oh gread.  Now I’be god wormbs, too?”

“It’s slowly going after the files in his database,” Baffrox continued.  “Right now, it only looks like it’s eating your temporary files, but once it’s through with those, it’ll start on your memory banks.”

“Can’t you program in some kind of cure?” Phil asked.

The doctor shook her head.  “It’s a new one.  Nothing’s been developed for this one yet.”

The monitor flashed suddenly, then went black.  A logo slowly faded into view:  “DC Productions”

“Hi there!  I’m Dick Clark,” a voice chattered from the monitor, “and you’ve just been infected with the Blooper Worm Virus!  From now on, any expletives that you attempt to say will be automatically censored…”

“Well, sh—BLEEP!”  Smitty threw both hands over his mouth.  “Dat was weird.”

“Oh, and I forgot to mention that as an extra surprise, your hard drive is slowly being destroyed,” Dick went on with a laugh.  “It seems that you have some specific information embedded in your head…  Information that rightfully belongs to me.  You stole it.”

The Raiders locked glances with one other, concerned.

Dick continued:  “Unless the information is returned to me, the Blooper Worm will delete it, as well as all the files in your system.  This means that you will later be used as parts on the Intergalactic Family Prize Patrol module.  Isn’t that right, Ed?”

“YESSSS!  HAHAHAHA!!!”

“It’s a fate worse than death,” Drake gasped.  “It’s Ed McMahon!”

“I don’d wanda be a BLEEP—ing Blooper!” Smitty protested.  “Is dere an oberride buddon ond me sombwhere?”  He searched over his chest for an “off” switch.

Baffrox shook her head.  “Self-sufficient, remember?”

“BLEEP.”

“Now, if I were you, I’d return that information as soon as possible,” Dick blathered in a happily demanding tone.  “After all, you wouldn’t want to be branded as a thief, would you?”  He chuckled.  “I’m willing to negotiate with you, GX-342.  Let me have the videochip and I’ll give you the code to stop the Blooper Worm.  However, if you don’t surrender the chip….  There will be dire consequences.”

Upon that remark, Smitty felt a miserable lump in his throat.

“Thanks and have a great day!  I’m Dick Clark, signing off from Intergalactic Bandstand!”

The logo vanished from the screen, replaced by the android diagnostic codes that had been displayed earlier.

“I’mb dund for, aren’d I?” Smitty asked quietly.

“How did you get that thing, anyway?”  Phil poked at the cables in his friend’s back.  “I haven’t seen you hooked up to anything until now.”

Smitty cowered.  “I sneeged a downdload lass nide,” he peeped.

“That must be where it came from,” Drake surmised.  “Can’t we just delete the file that has the virus?”

Baffrox shook her head.  “Even if you did, the Worm is already loose.  It wouldn’t do any good.”  She glared at Smitty.  “Haven’t they told you anything about illegal downloads?  I thought we had the main access blocked.”

“I’mb smard.  I learn fasd.”  He stopped to blow his nose again.  “Yecch…”

“If he’s a robot, then how come he’s got a runny nose?” Mark asked.  “Is there such a thing as bot snot?”

“It’s some of the main fluids used to keep the bionics running properly,” replied the doctor.  “That virus has triggered some kind of leak.”  She felt his forehead.  “Amazing how it’s adapted itself to his human characteristics—If he were a drone instead, the response would be totally different.”

Paul nudged the drummer in the side.  “Be thankful that you only have to worry about a runny nose.  Could be worse, y’know.”

“Eeeewwww….”

“What can we do in the meantime?”

Baffrox thought a moment.  “Well, I could see about blocking off the fluid leakage.”

“Can you weld my doze closed?” Smitty pleaded.  “Please?”

“Nothing that severe,” the doctor laughed.  “I can reprogram part of your biocontrol systems, but only temporarily.”

“Just a quick fix, eh?” said Drake.  “What about the long run?”

“You’ll either have to keep bringing him back for maintenance a few times a week,” she explained, “or you’ll have to cooperate with Mr. Clark and give him what he wants.”

“NEBBER!” Smitty shouted defiantly.  “Id’s MY chip.  I’mb keepink id.”

“You’d better get ready to see a lot of me then,” replied the doctor.  She pulled a tiny screwdriver from her labcoat pocket.  “Open the hatch and let me see what I can do.”

            Smitty leaned over and lifted the flap in the back of his head.  Baffrox began picking through the myriad of wires and microchips.

“I will never get used to that,” Paul groaned.

“Think we could drop a Gene Krupa chip in there when he’s not looking?”

“MARK!!!”

“It was just a suggestion!”

 

“Smits, your nose is still kinda red.”

“Thanks for noticing, Levin.”  Smitty was seated on the edge of a dining hall table, brooding.  “I have to go back again in two days for another maintenance check.”

“That’s your own fault,” Mark argued.  “There’s no cure and you won’t give up the chip, so what are we supposed to do?”

“If you’re ever in a position where they offer to put your brains in a computerized body, flat out refuse!”  The little droid crossed his arms and turned away.

Mark snickered in amazement.  “They really did a good job on him, y’know?  I’m convinced!”

“Gaaaaaaah!!!”  Smitty hopped off the table and left.

Drake smacked Mark on the ear.  Phil did the same on the opposite ear.

“You sure are hitting me a lot lately!” Mark griped.

“Like you said earlier, some things never change,” said Phil.

“So…What do we do?” asked Paul.

“It’s either slow down for repair work or give the chip up to Dick.”  Drake leaned back in his chair.  “Not a lot to choose from.”

“We could always sneak in and disable the Clark-bot,” Phil joked.

“That’s it!” Drake shouted.  “Phil, you’re a genius!”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Levin.”

“No, I’m serious!  Any idea where DC Productions is now?”  Drake became frantic.  “We can give the guy a taste of his own medicine!”

“I think we just created a vigilante,” Paul observed.  “Not a bad idea, though.”

“Payback time, huh?”  Mark sneered wickedly.

“It’s about time we got a little credit for what we did for him back then!”

 

Drake found Smitty sulking in the hallway.  He had a couple of available data transfer cables stuffed in his ears.  Drake promptly yanked them out.

“Hey! I was listening to that!”

“We’ve got a plan,” said Drake.  “Get your butt in gear and come on.”

“What?”

“You’ll see.”

 

The transport pod zipped from the deck of the space station.

“’You’ll see’ he says…” Smitty grumbled.  “Very reassuring, Drake…”

“How else was I supposed to get you to agree to do this?”

“You could have offered me cookies.”

“Would you have said yes?”

“Nope.”

Phil was fumbling with a galaxy map.  He had a pencil and was marking coordinates as they flew through deep space.  “According to this, there is a DC Station on the other side of Jupiter.”

“Think that might be ol’ Dickie?” asked Paul.

“Couldn’t hurt to check it out.  We’re not that far away.”

“How ya makin’ it back there, Smitty?” Mark called.

“Will we be back in time for my next tune-up?”

 

Phil and Paul continued navigating the route to DC Station.  Mark kept a lookout, noting when they had reached a particular “landmark”.  Drake had his hands full keeping Smitty calm; he was afraid he might short circuit from the stress before they even arrived at their destination.

WHOOSH!

Another spaceship whizzed past the Raiders.  Paul fought to keep the ship steady in its wake.

“What was that?”  Smitty was thrown from his seat by the jolt the ship received.  He noticed that he wasn’t the only one who had been tossed in the floor—Drake and Mark were both tangled in their unfastened seatbelts.

“Get your foot off my head!”

“Get your fingers outta my face!”

“Get over it, you two and get back in your seats!” Paul reprimanded.  He looked at Phil.  “You didn’t happen to get their license plate number, did you?  How do ya roll the window down on this thing?  I’d give that guy a piece of my mind…”

“Maybe they’re just out for a drive?” Smitty suggested.

Phil shook his head.  “That was no leisurely cruising speed, that’s for sure.”

“Can we establish contact with them?” Drake asked.  “Maybe they can help us.”

Paul flipped a switch and the small transmission screen flickered to life.  “Have at it, Levin.  Call ‘em.”

“This is Revolutionary One—Do you read?  Come in.”

The screen was filled with static, but the sound came through clearly.

“Revolutionary One—What is your purpose?” a deep, angry voice answered.

“Whoa, man—You got ‘em!” Smitty cheered.

Drake cleared his throat and again spoke to the other ship.  “We’re looking for some help in finding someone.”

“I am not so sure we should get too close,” the first, deeper voice cautioned.  “I will not be taken prisoner again!”

“Easy there, D’Argo,” another male voice said calmly.  “It’s just a transport pod…”

The picture on the screen finally cleared up, revealing what looked like two humans, a bald blue woman, a monochromatic girl with a pixie haircut, a towering man with tentacles on his face and something that resembled a toad.

“I think we got the wrong ship,” Mark stammered.

 

After the confusion settled, the Raiders found themselves near Jupiter.

Mark bolted from his seat, pointing out the front screen.  “Look-look-look!”

A monstrous space station crept into view.  On the side was the familiar DC Productions logo.

“That’s it,” Phil gasped.  “That’s the place!  We’re here!”

Cheers went up from the small crew of the transport.  They had found DC Station.

 

“Alright, what’s the plan?” Phil whispered as the group sneaked through the corridors of DC Station.

“Find Dick and get the code for the Blooper Worm antidote,” Drake answered.  “Then we get outta here.”

Smitty was confused.  “What about the videochip?  That’s what he wants.  How do we get the code without giving him the chip?”

“Easy.  You give him a chip.”

“Are you nuts?  That’s MY chip and I’m not giving it to him!”

“I said A chip, Smitty, not THE chip.  Bait and switch!”

“I’ll have to see if I’ve got a chip to spare—There isn’t much that I’m not using.”

FIND something,” Drake said firmly.  “We can always get you a replacement, alright?”

“Alright already…”

They crept down the halls, which were unusually dark and deserted.  On the walls were pictures of the old American Bandstand set, the set from TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes and of course, framed artistic renditions of Dick Clark himself.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Mark said, shivering.  “Where is everybody else?”

“Dunno.  Maybe they’ve got the day off?” Paul pondered.

“There’s not even a janitor around,” said Phil.  “Who’s running things?”

They found a sign on the wall that displayed the office numbers—They were only a couple of hallways down from Dick’s main office.  The halls seemed to get darker as they neared it.

 

Smitty lagged behind the rest of the group, looking around cautiously.  His paranoia was off the meter.

“Psst…”

“Huh?”

“Psst—Over here…”

Smitty glanced up and down the hall, finding no one.  Paul, Mark, Drake and Phil had gone further ahead, but otherwise, he was alone.

Or so he thought.

“Over here, little guy…”

Smitty peered around a corner into a dark room.  “Hello?”

The voice came again.  “Whatever you do, look out for the Clark-bot.”

“Why do you say that?” Smitty asked nervously.

“Because he has the Blooper Worm—The Worm is BAD!  BAD WORM!”  A form emerged from the darkness, staggering into the hall.  It was an early model android, its human features ragged and torn and its rusty metal shell showing through.  “I have the Worm—BAD WORM!  BAD WORM!”  It lunged for the other droid.

 

“You guys hear something?” asked Phil.

“Sounds kinda like Smitty,” said Drake.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”  Smitty was shrieking at the top of his lungs, terrified, as he ran down the hall.  He sped past his friends, not even clear about where he was going.

“Yep, that was Smitty alright,” Paul sighed in frustration.  “Wonder what got into him?”

“Probably has his rubber band wound too tight,” Mark chided.

 

Smitty kept tearing down the hall until he finally crashed through a doorway into a dimly lit room.  He stumbled onto the floor, sliding on the marble.  He stayed perfectly still until he got his bearings straight.

“Well, hello there!  So glad you could be here…”

“Oh great,” Smitty growled lowly.

Behind a lumbering mahogany desk sat Dick Clark, looking just the same as he did during the mid-20th century.

“I see you decided to take me up on my offer,” Dick beamed from behind his desk.  “How’s your ‘flu’ bug these days?”

“Better, no thanks to you,” said Smitty.  “What’s the idea of giving me a Worm virus?”

            “What’s the idea of stealing my property?” Dick retorted.  “You have no right to that videochip.  Now, hand it over and I’ll give you the antidote code for the Worm.”

“Not so fast—How do I know I can trust you?”

Dick grinned, displaying his perfect teeth.  “Michael….Mike….Smitty…  You can trust me—I’m Dick Clark!”

Smitty eyed him carefully.  “You were never even real back then, were you?”

            “You catch on quick, don’t you?”  Dick stood and made his way around the desk, heading towards the other droid.  “How else could I stay so young for so long?”

“Centuries of Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and TV’s Bloopers  You ARE diabolical.”

 “And let’s not forget about the Ed-bot.  Ed?”

“HAHA!!  YESSSS!!!”  An android Ed McMahon was seated on a couch on the other side of the room.

“Now that’s just plain evil!” Smitty protested.

“HAHA!!!  YOU ARE CORRECT SIRRRR!!!”

“Ed,” said Dick.  “Shut up.”

“YESSS!!!”

Dick rolled his eyes.  “Nevermind him.  He’s been like that since he was put together in 1982.  Now…  About that chip…”

“Give me the antidote,” Smitty demanded.

“I want to see that chip first, GX-342.”

Smitty growled beneath his breath.  He despised being called by his model number.

“If you insist,” he relented.  He again opened the flap in the back of his head.  He knew which chip he was looking for; it was just locating it.  He locked his fingers around it and yanked as hard as he could.  “OW!”

“Stings, doesn’t it?” the Clark-bot scoffed.

“Here.”  Smitty held out a tiny microchip.  “That’s the one.”

Dick examined it closely, then snatched it away.  He opened a flap in the back of his own head and installed the chip.

Smitty could only glare at him.  “But you said…”

“And you would believe another android?  They didn’t program you efficiently enough, did they?”

“I want that code!”

“And I’d love to give it to you, but…”  Dick shrugged his shoulders.  “It’s not on a chip I can get to.  That information is stored in my personal database.  Thanks for playing the Pyramid  Sorry—You don’t even get a consolation prize!”

Smitty continued staring angrily at Dick, then he started to chuckle lowly.

“I’m glad to see that you find this predicament amusing, especially given your situation,” said Dick.  “Mind if I ask why?”

“Give it about five more seconds and you’ll understand,” the little droid warned.  He retrieved a data transfer cable from his pocket and attached it to his side.

Dick raised an eyebrow.  “What’s that for?”

“Three…..two….one….and….now!”

Dick’s eyes widened and he grabbed his ears.  “This isn’t the videochip!  You tricked me!”  He crouched on the floor; the noise playing in his head was almost too loud to bear.

            Smitty quickly attached the other end of the cable to the Clark-bot’s side port.  While Dick was writhing from the effects of the bogus chip, he quickly sorted through the files on the Clark-bot database until he found the cure code.  One quick download later, he yanked the cable away and began to make his getaway.

            “How do I turn it off?” Dick pleaded.  “I can only listen to Muzak for so long!”  He held his ears again, this time even tighter.  “No, not ‘MacArthur Park’!  NO!!!”

            “Sorry, you’re not a winner on the Pyramid,” Smitty chimed mockingly.  He patted the Clark-bot on the head.

            Just as he was heading to the door, Smitty caught sight of the Ed-bot on the other side of the room.  He paused, his gaze moving from the Ed-bot to the writhing Clark-bot.

            “Hey, Ed…”

            “YESSSS!!!”

            “C’mere a minute, would you?”

            “YESSSS!!!  HAHAHAHAAAAA!!!”

            As soon as the Ed-bot was close enough, Smitty plugged the data transfer cable into his side.  He connected the other end of it to the Clark-bot.

            “Have fun, you two!”  Smitty ran out the door and met with his band mates.

            “Smitty!  What happened?  Where have you been?” Phil asked, somewhat frantic.

            “No time for talk—We’d better blow this place before Dick and Ed completely malfunction,” Smitty hurriedly explained as he rushed by.

            “What did you do?” asked Mark, following behind him.

            “I wound their rubberbands too tight.”

 

            Back at the space station, the Raiders had a small party.  There was more than one reason to celebrate: They were back together; Smitty had survived the terror of the Blooper Worm Virus AND the Clark-bot; the Where The Action Is footage was safe and sound…and there were a few videochip companies discussing distribution opportunities with the Raiders as well.  They were finally getting their due.

            The guys and several of their friends on the station had all gathered in the main recreation hall of level three.  There had been music and dancing earlier, but now everyone had settled back to watch the much-talked-about footage.  There were a few quips about the black and white film being “primitive,” as well as some of the clothes.  Regardless of the shows’ age, everyone still enjoyed watching them.

            “Can we watch the pilot episode again?” Dr. Roberts asked.

            Mark threw popcorn at him.  “It’s not our fault that you were in the bathroom when Smitty started the reel!”

            “Guys, my eyes are getting a little tired by now,” Smitty sighed.  “Can I take a break before my servos go out?”

            “Your servos won’t go out, Raider-bot,” Drake teased.  “You’re not programmed for things like that, remember?”

            Smitty’s brows knitted together, perturbed.  “There’s a such thing as locked gears, you know.”

            “Oh yeah…”

            After a small argument, it was finally agreed to let Smitty take a rest from his duties as “projector”.  Relieved, he turned on the main rec hall TV.

            On the screen, a blazing, starry logo flashed across the screen, along with dreadfully cheesy theme music.

            “What’s that?” asked Paul.

            Intergalactic Star Search,” replied Baffrox.  “It’s been on for years.  Only problem is, the host is an idiot.”

            “Who’s the host?”

            About that time, Ed McMahon appeared on the screen.

            “Nevermind.”

            “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Intergalactic Star Search!” Ed chuckled happily.

            The spectators in the room were speechless.

            “I don’t believe it—He made a complete sentence!  He used more than two words!” Phil gasped.

            “Joining me tonight as my co-host,” Ed continued, “is my good friend, Dick Clark!”

The camera panned over to Dick, who sat perfectly straight-backed on a couch that was conveniently placed just behind Ed.  Dick kept twitching and shaking somewhat spastically.

“Why don’t you say hello to the folks here and at home, Dick?” Ed requested.

“HAHA!!  YESSSS!!!” Dick barked, still twitching.  “YOU ARE CORRECT SIRRRRR!!!  And I’ll never have that recipe again—Oh NOOOOOOOOOO…….”  Dick had burst into song.

By now, Smitty had rolled over onto his side, laughing so hard, tears were streaming from his eyes.

“Look out—I think he’s got another leak there,” Paul warned.

Drake raised an eyebrow.  “Just what’s so funny to you, Smith?”  He glanced at the TV a moment, then back at Smitty.  “This doesn’t have anything to do with that chip, does it?”

Smitty grinned like a Cheshire cat.  “Remember that file I was downloading before we left for DC Station?”

“Yeah…”

“I knew it’d come in handy someday!”

“Ingenious little machine, isn’t he?” Mark laughed.  “Kinda makes me wish I could do something like that.”

“Don’t worry,” Roberts reassured him.  “You’ll get your chance.”

“What do you mean?”

“He means you’re all set to go through the android process in the next few days,” said Baffrox.  “Since GX-342 was so successful, we’re expanding on the self-sufficient android program.”

“WHAT???” the other Raiders all chorused at once.

Again, Smitty fell over laughing.

And they say robots have no sense of humor.

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