by John Wyatt
The amphitheater was packed! Truth be told, attendance had been dropping as many of the Clanbits had grown tired of the same old music. The newness of Ball-ay was just what was needed to breathe life back into the amphitheater. Naturally, those who had built families in the suburbs around the rim complained about the high traffic, with Clanbits rolling and bouncing in from around the world.
The children looked out nervously as the seats filled.
“Mommy, I think I‘m getting scared!” little Barryon announced.
“That’s alright, dear.” Cusia soothed. “Everyone gets jittery before a performance. Everything will be just fine.”
“I’ll bet the Banned don’t get nervous!” Joulia remarked.
“Actually,” Cusia commented, “I heard an interview with them last period, and they said that they always get jittery before a performance. So see, it’s perfectly normal to get the jitters. Just relax and count slowly from 0 to F and back.”
“Ok. 0, 1, 3, 2 … oh … I jittered!” Barryon cried. “I’ll never get it right!”
“That’s alright, dear.” Cusia cooed. “You just jittered a bit too soon, that’s all. Everyone does that if they try to count in a hurry. Just focus on your body clock.”
“I’ll try. 1, 2, 3, 7, 4 …. Ack! I jittered another bit! Oh, mom, do I have to perform in front of so many Clanbits!”
“You’ll see ar… “ Just as Cusia started to speak, Quarkus whirled around.
“Chips, do you see who’s out there! The entire Banned is there! I bet they’re anxious to see just how great you are! Isn’t this exciting!”
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!” They all wailed in unison!
“Uh, is something wrong? Dear … sweetpole … what’s wrong with the chips?”
“Just you never mind.” Cusia chided, “Let me handle them. You go back to watching the audience.”
“Oh. Ok.” Quarkus spun about and started scanning the audience for other famous IPs.
“Now children, it’s perfectly normal to feel the jitters.”
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! The whole Banned is gonna see us! We’ll be awful!!!!”
Cusia sprayed some extra electrons at her thoughtless husband.
“OW!!! Hey, watch it, Cusia!”
“Oh, sorry. I must have sputtered – I’m just so excited.”
“Me too! I can’t wait to see how …”
Cusia sprayed another little shock. “Oh, you see, I’m just sputtering with excitement. Now please be quiet so I can talk to the children.”
Quarkus cooled. Cusia sure had an amazing habit of spraying free electrons at just the worst times! He went back to watching the audience as they filled the amphitheater to overflowing! This would be the biggest attended event in the history of entertainment!
“I’m late – sorry.” A stranger whirled into the preparation area. This was the same girl that had bothered Gradian at the smudge table on so many occasions! “I had such a hard time getting a ride here, and nobody told me how to find the performer’s area. Not to mention that none of you told me when the dance recital was going to be!”
“Who ARE you and why are you here?” Gradian screeched! “You’re not part of our group!”
“What? How can you say that after all the time we’ve danced together?”
“You’re just a nosy neighbor chip that gets in the way! You’re not one of us!” Gradian snorted indignantly.
“Oh yeah!?! We roll at the same table, play the same Ballyard games, and you have the nerve to say I’m not part of the group! Just for that, I’ve got a mind to roll out and leave you on your own!”
“YES! PLEASE! GO AWAY!” the chips all thundered! The new girl just whirled about.
“Luckily for you, I’m not that kind of girl. I won’t leave you without a lead dancer.”
“I’M the lead dancer!” Gradian shouted!
“Oh, surrrrre!” the new girl rolled her domains spinward.
“We don’t even know your NAME!” the others chorused.
“It’s Daniella – which you’d have known if you hadn’t been so busy ignoring my contribution to the team.”
“MOMMY!!!!!!” the other chips all cried! “Make her go away! Please!!?”
Cusia shook her domains calmly, ever the warm head.
“My dear sweetpoles, you’re ALL going to perform, and I’m not going to leave Daniella out just because she isn’t a chip off my own block. This show isn’t about my own family – it’s about Ball-ay. Now, please get into position – the show’s going to start in just a few counts.”
“MOM!!!???” Gradian whined. “Do we HAVE to take her?”
“Yes, sweetpole. This is for all children. Don’t worry, everything will be just fine. You’ll see.”
“Oh! There’s the starting spit!” Cusia instructed Quarkus to roll aside so that the chips could roll out onto the stage. Rockmaninov, the lead composer for the Banned, had agreed to hum the music and was already warming up the audience with his magnetic resonance.
“Look,” Barryon whispered as they rolled out, “there’s Ballyar! He’s the one who invented Ballyards! He’s in the front row!”
The already nervous children began quivering with stage fright.
“Let’s get Balling!” Daniella shouted as she rocketed into the group of stage-struck chips, scattering them in all directions! The chips sputtered and fought to regain control, as the lilting humming of Rockmaninov rolled over the audience in a sweet, electro-magnetic wave.
“Hey! Watch it!” Barryon cried, frantically trying to recover his balance. One by one, the other chips responded to Daniella’s spinning attacks. Gradian quickly recovered, and began murmuring commands to the other chips.
“B – spin over and ramp me!” Gradian called. Barryon hesitated, just long enough to get whacked by Joulia, who was rebounding from one of Daniella’s harder whacks. Gradian, incensed at Daniella’s brash actions, launched a spinning slide towards Barryon. She pulled up slightly just before collision, causing her to skip off of her brother and spin high into the air.
The audience gasped; never had anyone seen so daring a whack, or such a near miss! Joulia aimed herself at Gradian, sliding gracefully underneath as Gradian flew overhead. Slowly, the children regained their composure and fell into their after-smudge dance routine, including Daniella’s taunts and challenges.
It occurred to Cusia, as she watched the initial frenzy turn into graceful Ball-ay, that Daniella had made them forget their stage fright! Rather than thinking about the audience, the children were now focused on out-performing Daniella! Though she was not the smallest of the group, Daniella was clearly the most nimble and disciplined member of the group.
Meanwhile, Gradian had decided that Daniella had to go! She whirled about and made lunge after lunge at this dance-crasher. As Daniella dodged each attack, Gradian doubled her effort, focusing all her poles on the single task of knocking Daniella out of the amphitheater. But the cackling girl was too nimble to catch!
The audience was spellbound as they watched the dance-duel. Even the other dancers began to slow as they watched Gradian’s charges and Daniella’s deft dodges.
Gradian was glowing hot as she spun, her entire force of will bent to a single purpose – Daniella must GO! Daniella, realizing that this was no longer just a dance, focused her spin and drove straight towards Gradian. Daniella was no longer content to simply dodge. Gradian simultaneously launched straight at Daniella. The two girls crashed head to head at incredible speed!
Half a mile away, a small lizard sat atop a high rock, sunning himself in the noonday sun. He was thinking to himself, which he rarely did, that this was a very fine day to be out in the sun. As he repeated this thought again (being, after all, just a very small lizard and being quite content to repeat the same thought over and over again), the horizon flashed brightly! OH NO! the little lizard thought (another of his more common thoughts, being quite small). The sky is falling again! (This thought was a rather new one, since the sky had only fallen once before in his short lifetime.) The flash was very brief, and a minute later the lizard stopped thinking at all, since there was now a large, ragged hole where his brain had been. A dull BOOM followed. A high-velocity projectile flew onward with a faint whistling sound like “AAAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”.
High above the Earth, a secret spy satellite detected a sharp, brief burst of gamma radiation. The spy satellite was pointed at an equally secret Chinese nuclear test facility near the western edge of the Gobi desert. Expert CIA analysts quickly assessed the data and concluded that the Chinese were preparing nuclear weapons to enforce their claim on the movie rights. They informed the President, who immediately ordered nuclear submarines to patrol the western coast of the Gobi desert. Although there is no western coast to the Gobi desert, no one was willing to argue with the President during an election year, and the submarines were dispatched. Unfortunately, since nuclear submarines use inertial navigation and can be programmed secretly from the Pentagon, the hapless submarine commanders failed to realize where they were headed until they hit the Chinese mainland (literally). The crews were quickly captured by Chinese officials and were forced to help build the movie sets. With most of the Pacific submarine fleet now working for the Chinese, the President reopened the draft and inducted Hollywood into the Armed Forces. Great Britain supported the move by nationalizing the British Broadcasting System and sending newscasters to film the French reaction. The world was poised on the brink.
Meanwhile, in a classroom far, far away, a young physics student was hearing how to create nuclear fission by colliding two plutonium-rich disks together at high speed. He heard how, with enough pressure, even very tiny amounts of fissionable material could be driven super-critical for very brief periods of time. The instructor speculated that if the material were small enough, and the pressure just right, that the reaction would become sustained, rather than merely explosive, and produce a practical atomic rocket.
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