Kelvin hummed softly to himself as his tray of janitorial supplies clattered down the hallways of GIA Headquarters. He stopped in front of a set of double doors and placed his finger over a small panel adjacent to it. The panel whirred as it scanned his fingerprint, then beeped in approval. The doors slid open, allowing Kelvin and his cart to continue down the hall.

   They stopped in front of a navy blue door adorned with a small plastic sign reading "Editing Room". Kelvin pushed it open with his elbow and rolled his cart inside. He flipped on the light switch he knew was just to his left, snatched a mop off the cart, and started cleaning the small room's tiled floor.

   Lost in thought, Kelvin slowly mopped his way across the room. He had covered about half the floor when he heard a loud crash from outside, followed by a series of rapid footsteps. Kelvin's head jerked up as he tried to guess what had happened. Aside from the occasional news editor struggling to meet a deadline, he was usually the only person on board the satellite during the graveyard shift.

   A blaring alarm broke the silence, accompanied by the requisite flashing red light. "Intruder alert, intruder alert," a mechanical voice repeated over and over, until Kelvin silenced the intercom by smashing it with his mop.

   From outside the safety of the room came more rapid footsteps. Kelvin's first inclination was to flee, but then he forced himself to stop and think. You can't just run away, he remonstrated himself. This is one of those times when you've got to stop and ask yourself, "What would Officer McGruff do?"

   "Take a bite out of crime," Kelvin said aloud. Readying his mop as a crude weapon, he strode purposefully out into the hall and glanced around. The intruder, a short human figure clad in a green trenchcoat, was fleeing down the hall, with a bulky machine clutched under one arm. "Stop! Thief!" Kelvin shouted, just because it sounded cool.

   Not bothering to look back, the thief ran on. Kelvin gave chase. The two sprinted down the twisting hallways that comprised the satellite, neither gaining on the other. It soon became apparent that the thief was completely lost, and was vainly trying to find the exit out of pure luck. This put the intruder at a distinct disadvantage to Kelvin, who, in his long stint as janitor, had acquired a familiarity with the satellite's hallways that probably exceeded that of its creators'.

   "Surrender now!" Kelvin panted, though he didn't exactly know what he'd do with the thief in the off chance of an actual surrender. The thief ignored him and ducked through a door -- a door marked "Editing Room". Kelvin quickly stumbled to halt as the thief charged on inside, right onto the wet floor.

   After the thump and subsequent cursing had subsided, Kelvin looked inside the door. The thief was just picking himself up off the floor, and Kelvin caught the glimpse of his face -- he had blonde hair, and a rather large, roundish, head decorated with a exorbitant amount of pimples. His eyes were obscured by the large pair of sunglasses he wore. Any other features he had would remain unseen for now, as the thief quickly scrambled back to his feet and took off.

   Kelvin scurried after the thief. As a janitor, he wasn't really used to running for long periods, and his legs were beginning to fatigue. "Slow... down... so... I... can... catch... you..." he panted.

   The thief hurried down the steps into the loading area at the base of the satellite, with Kelvin hot on his heels. Kelvin skidded to a stop, however, as soon as he saw where the thief was bound: A rickety, rust-covered, spaceship that resembled something from a bad 1950s science fiction movie.

   Having conceded defeat, Kelvin watched as the thief climbed into his vehicle, tossed the stolen machine in the trunk, turned the ignition, and burst through the airlock. Then, as if nothing had ever happened, he picked his mop back up and returned to cleaning the floor.

*   *   *

   The insistent ringing of his phone awakened Kelvin at around 9:00 a.m. the following morning. He rolled out of bed and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?" he mumbled.

   "This is the Comissioner," a deep voice intoned. "I heard you were a witness in the theft last night."

   "I guess so," Kelvin said. "I didn't really do anything."

   "Come up to my office right now," the Comissioner ordered. "You're the only witness we have."

   Still half-asleep, Kelvin threw on his GIA uniform and descended to his basement, where his teleporter to the satellite lay protected by a secret door. Kelvin poked the eye of a plastic drinking bird that rested on his desk. Machinery rumbled, and a stucco panel on the wall slid aside, revealing Kelvin's teleporter. Kelvin hopped inside and perssed the activation switch.

   Seconds later, he was on the satellite, floating in geosynchronous orbit over Peoria, Illinois. "Ah, Mr...." the GIA aide waiting for him started, then stopped, looking puzzled. "Do you have a last name?"

   "Er, no."

   The thin man grew suspicious. "Are you a suspicious personage? Is it possible that you're actually a Colombian drug smuggler? I can't trust you."

   "No, I'm the janitor; I work here," Kelvin said. "Look, I've got an ID card." Kelvin reached into his pocket and withdrew his GIA identification card.

   The thin aide examined it. "ID cards are easily forged," he declared. "I'm going to have to declare you a suspicious personage. You'll need to wear a badge of identification so we can track you." Before Kelvin could stop him, the aide slapped a Chiquita Banana sticker on Kelvin's forehead. "Now come this way. The Comissioner is waiting for you."

   Kelvin had visited the Comissioner's office many times before during his nightly patrols of the satellite, but never before while the Comissioner was actually present. He nervously followed his escort through the sliding double doors and into the green-carpeted room.

   The Comissioner was seated in a tall black chair, turned away from Kelvin. His right hand, the only part of his body visible from Kelvin's point of view, rested on a complex control panel from which he controlled the entire satellite. On the opposite side of the room, a woman clad in a navy blue trenchcoat and sunglasses reclined in a chair. A long blonde ponytail hung out from under the side of her pointy brown hat.

   "Do step in," the Comissioner said. "We have a lot to talk about."

   Kelvin sat down in a vacant recliner and waited for further instruction. The Comissioner's hand gestured towards the woman. "This is Agent Larissa," the Comissioner said. "She's the agent handling this case, and she'd like to ask you a few questions about what you saw last night."

   Larissa pulled a notepad and a pencil out of one of the pockets of her trenchcoat and opened to a blank page. "About what time did you first hear the thief enter the satellite?" Larissa asked.

   Kelvin shrugged. "About 1:00. I wasn't really paying attention."

   "Where did the thief enter the satellite?"

   "I don't know. I was cleaning the movie editing room."

   "Okay," Larissa said, jotting something down. "What did the thief look like?"

   "He was short, kinda skinny," Kelvin answered. "He had blonde hair, kind of a big head. I didn't get that good of a look at him. Oh, and he was wearing a green trenchcoat. And sunglasses."

   "Sounds like an enemy agent," Larissa mused.

   "Can I go now?" Kelvin asked impatiently.

   "I've just got a few more questions," Larissa said, scribbling furiously in her notepad. "Was the thief armed?"

   "Don't think so," Kelvin shook his head.

   "Did he speak at all? Can you describe his voice."

   "Didn't say a word."

   "All right, one more question," Larissa said. "If PBS doesn't do it, who will?"

   Kelvin shrugged. "Beats me."

   "All right, that's all," Larissa said. "You can go now."

   The Comissioner held up his hand. "Wait," he said. "Larissa, is that all the evidence you're going on? Do you think you can identify the suspect just from that? You weren't even there."


   "Take Kelvin with you," the Comissioner ordered. "You'll need him as a witness. I'm sure we can keep the satellite clean in the mean time."

   Larissa rose and saluted. "Yes, sir." She walked out of the room, leaving a bemused Kelvin to follow after her.

   "Where are we going?" Kelvin asked.

   Larissa paused and looked back at him. "GIAbot's in the field; he should be reporting back soon. In the mean time, you'd best go talk to Mr. Biggs in the armory and get yourself some equipment."

   Kelvin nodded and hurried off to the armory, buried deep within the lower floors of the satellite. After a couple of fingerprint scans, he was in. "Hey, Kel," Mr. Biggs greeted him. "What're you doing here 'round this time? And why do you have a Chiquita Banana sticker on your forehead?"

   "Oops," Kelvin said, pulling the decal off. "I'm supposed to get a weapon. I have to identify the thief that took the thumbnailing machine."

   Mr. Biggs pulled the cigar out of his mouth. "Sounds like you're going to be doing a bit more than identifying him," he joked. "What kinda weapon did you have in mind? You can take whatever you want."

   Kelvin surveyed the racks of machine guns, rocket launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, and hand grenades, looking for the weapon that would suit him best. "I think I'll take that sword in the corner," he said eventually, pointing to a ceremonial suit of armor.

   "Um, that's just for decoration," Biggs said. "You can't use that."

   Kelvin gave him an indignant glare. "You just said I could take whatever I wanted!"

   "I didn't mean that you could take the sword; it's not available for use."

   "I trusted you, Biggs. I thought you were my friend."

   Biggs sighed patiently. "Look, Kel, you can't take the sword, so just pick something else, okay? How about an uzi, or some plastic explosives?" Desperately, he grabbed a long-barreled gun off a rack and waved it in Kelvin's face. "This baby is a genuine Binney & Smith & Wesson crayon gun... a .45 mauve. It shoots crayons up to 400 miles per hour. Puts a hole through a brick wall from the other side of the room."

   Kelvin finally found a weapon that interested him more than the sword. "Really?" he said. "Cool, can I see it?" Without waiting for a reply, he pulled the crayon gun out of Mr. Biggs's hands and held it up to take a closer look at it. "A crayon gun..." he repeated. "Never seen anything like this before. How does it work? Lesse... this thing here -" Kelvin's fingers closed around the trigger. With a loud bang, the gun fired off a mauve crayon, which was promptly followed by a sharp cry.

   Kelvin looked down at Mr. Biggs's body. A mauve crayon protruded out from the dead man's forehead at a painful-looking angle. "Oops," Kelvin said. "My bad."

*   *   *

   Larissa tapped her fingers on her desk impatiently. Had Kelvin gotten lost or what? For lack of anything else to do, she rotated the top of her desk drawer, thus causing a news ticker to slide out of the woodwork -- GIA regulations mandated that all electronic equipment be cleverly concealed in order to enhance the secret agent motif. Larissa read off the headlines, looking for something newsworthy. "Prolonged Exposure To Dual Heroes Causes Cancer In Boy, 8... Chrono Trigger 2 Announced For Sega Avatar, Demo To Be Packed With Star Wars RPG... PaRappa Admits Having Affair With Lammy... ah, this is all garbage." Larissa switched the news ticker off and looked around for something else to do.

   The sound of buzzing and beeping alerted Larissa to the presence of GIAbot. Sure enough, the two-foot-tall robot rolled into the room on his tripod of wheels a few seconds later, humming to himself. GIAbot's head spun around and he made a brief clunking sound, indicating that he was switching language circuits -- GIAbot was capable of speaking every language in the world, just none of them very well. He had originally been built to keep track of the GIA's busy schedule, but such a task was soon deemed impossible, and GIAbot was converted to other functions.

   "Reporting back from mission," GIAbot said in a halting voice. "1 of 1 talgets achieved."

   "Report," Larissa said, enunciating so that GIAbot could understand her.

   "I left the satellite and headed for the ground. This job is a gift from God. I got a good feeling! This job required a lot of strength. But, I tried my best! As a result, I was able to locate it. So, this job's a success! This's the way!"

   "Really? Where is it?"

   GIAbot whirred again. "SEARCH caused an invalid page fault in module KERNEL32.DLL at 0137:bff9a07c. Registers: EAX=07bdfd18 CS=0137 EIP=bff9a07c EFLGS=00000246 EBX=07e20024 SS=013f ESP=07bdfd14 EBP=07bdfd68 ECX=07e20024 DS=013f ESI=00000000 FS=2ab7 EDX=815d6a28 ES=013f EDI=07e20024 GS=0000." With those words, he fell onto his back and lay silent.

   Crud, not again, Larissa thought as she bent to examine the broken robot. Poor little guy's crashed again. I'd better get him fixed before the Comissioner finds out.

   Larissa gently lifted up GIAbot in both arms and started towards the door, just as Kelvin came clanking in. Appearing almost as metallic as GIAbot, he was dressed in a full suit of plate armor and carried a heavy sword. "I'm ready for action," Kelvin declared.

   Larissa stared at him. "What are you doing with that armor on?"

   Kelvin appeared hurt. "It's for defense!" he said indignantly. "You never know when things might get rough."

   "This isn't the Crusades, Kelvin," Larissa said. "And where the hell did you get that from, anyway? You didn't just take the ceremonial armor out of the armory, did you?"


   Larissa sighed. This mission was certainly not getting off on the right foot. "Go take that back to the armory and get a real weapon."

   "Um, I think it might be better if I didn't go back there," Kelvin said. When Larissa looked at him questioningly, he quickly amended, "It's a long story."

   "Fine, then," Larissa said, growing angry. "Take the armor. See if I care. We're not going anywhere until we get GIAbot fixed, anyways."

   Kelvin's gaze shifted to the robot resting in Larissa's arms. "What's wrong with the little guy?"

   Larissa shrugged. "Another general protection fault. I knew we shouldn't have installed that beta OS on him."

   "Let me take a look at him," Kelvin said. "I had a mechanics class once in high school." Before Larissa could stop him, he grabbed GIAbot and carried him off to his office in the basement of the satellite.

   Upon arriving at his office, Kelvin set GIAbot down on a table for closer examination. He was just about to unscrew the panel covering the robot's motherboard when Larissa came running into the room. "What do you think you're doing?" she demanded.

   "I'm just going to see if I can see what's wrong with the poor little fellow," Kelvin said. Ignoring Larissa's protests, he removed the tiny screws securing the panel and lifted it away.

   "Flashlight?" Kelvin requested, holding an empty hand up.

   "Flashlight," Larissa said, handing Kelvin a flashlight.

   Kelvin flicked on the flashlight and peered into GIAbot's circuity. "This don't look good," he reported. "Scalpel?"

   "Scalpel." Kelvin took the proferred scalpel and cut away some of the wires inside GIAbot. He lifted out the robot's motherboard, half of which appeared somewhat charred. "I think we've lost him. The whole motherboard's fried," Kelvin said. "We're gonna need a new one."

   "Yes, but where could we possibly find a spare robot motherboard?" Larissa countered. "These are special parts. Wait! I know! We gotta believe!" She picked up GIAbot and peered at the robot's feet closely. "Made in Japan," she read.

   Larissa set GIAbot back down. "Better get packed, Kelvin. We're going to Japan."

*   *   *

   After the brief disorienting sensation that always came with teleporting, Kelvin and Larissa materialized on a mountain road presumably located somewhere in Japan. The road spiraled up the jagged sides of the mountain towards an unknown destination, while its other end wound down towards a small town.

   "Well, here we are in Japan," Larissa said. "Described without reference material, apparently."

   "Now where do we go?"

   Larissa stared down the mountain. "This is where our Japanese contact, Yuro Mama, lives. She should be able to fill us in on where we can buy some robot parts."

   "Righto," Kelvin agreed. The pair slowly descended towards the village, taking in the scenery around them. Birds circled overhead in the clear blue sky, singing their songs to the world, while below them, a slight breeze rustled the verdant fields of grass.

   Larissa stopped. "This is starting to sound like a nature film," she declared. "TAXI!" A garishly-painted taxi roared by, spewing out plumes of exhaust, and screeched to a stop in front of Kelvin and Larissa. "That's better," Larissa said as she and Kelvin and climbed in.

   The taxi stopped in front of Yuro Mama's house, and Larissa and Kelvin hopped out. Larissa knocked on the door several times, giving the secret GIA knock, and waited. A few seconds later, the door swung upon, and a Japanese girl stepped out, carrying what appeared to be a partially-chewed jewel case.

   "Larissa!" the girl exclaimed enthusiastically. "My hero!"

   "Kelvin, this is Yuro Mama," Larissa introduced the GIA's Japanese contact. "Yuro, this is Kelvin; he's helping me with a case."

   Without warning, Yuro's mood shifted to outright anger. "You're an impostor, aren't you?" she demanded of Kelvin. "You're not from the GIA."

   "Uh, I'm the janitor," Kelvin explained lamely. "I saw this guy ripping off the screenshot thumbnailing machine, so I came along to ID him." First that aide and now this... why don't I ever get to be around normal people?

   "I don't believe you, you dirty spy."

   Kelvin frowned. "I PREFER the term 'secret agent.'"

   "Ha! Semantic nonsense!"

   Larissa sighed and rolled her eyes. "Look, we're on a important mission here," she said sharply. "Somebody ripped off our thumbnailer, and only GIAbot knows where it is, but he broke down. Know where we could find a replacement motherboard?"

   "Sure, there's a robot part scrapyard just down the street," Yuro offered. "You can probably find the goodies you need there."

   "Wow, let's hear it for plot contrivances," Kelvin cut in.

   "Shut up, Kelvin."

   Yuro checked her watch. "I'm not busy, I'd be happy to take you there," she offered.

   Larissa nodded. "That'd be great."

   "Okay, let's go." Yuro Mama brushed past Kelvin and Larissa and walked to the white car parked in the driveway. She fished some keys out of her pocket and unlocked the car doors. The three climbed in, and soon they were off.

*   *   *


   "So, those fools think they can stop my plans," an evil mastermind said, poring over his plans for world domaination. "They're probably right. Damn them."

*   *   *

   "This is a nice car you've got here," Larissa remarked as she examined the interior of Yuro Mama's car.

   "Thanks," Yuro said. "It reminds me of my father's car. Oh, wait, this is my father's car."

   "Got anything to eat in here?" Kelvin asked. "I'm starved."

   Yuro held up a jewel case. "Want one of these yum-yums?"

   "Er, no thank you," Kelvin said quickly. "I don't eat plastic."

   "How about some Tostitos, then?" Yuro offered. She tossed a small bag of Tostitos into the back seat, and Kelvin caught it. "Oh, wait, here we are."

   The car pulled up outside of the junk shop, a decrepit metal building that appeared on the verge of collapse. "This is place is a bit expensive," she advised as the trio disembarked. Kelvin stuffed the bag of Tostitos in his pocket for later use.

   "Well, now you tell us," Larissa sighed.

   "Don't worry; I've got a plan," Kelvin said. Confidently leading the way, he strode into the building and approached the counter. Nobody greeted him, so Kelvin located a small copper bell and rung it. A few seconds later, the fat, chain-smoking, owner waddled in from the back room and shot Kelvin an inquiring glare. "I'd like to sell this Hyperion Bazooka," Kelvin said, making no move to offer any item for sale.

   The owner nodded curtly. "Go on in," he said.

   "What the hell was that?" Larissa whispered as the three waded into the heap of discarded parts and other trash. Kelvin held up a finger to his lips for silence, and did not respond.

   The three GIA employees began the long and arduous task of locating a working motherboard that could resuscitate GIAbot. Larissa found a board that seemed about the right size and affixed it where the burnt-out motherboard previously resided inside GIAbot. Praying for success, she closed GIAbot back up and hit the on switch.

   Nothing happened. "Here, try this tidbit," Yuro offered, handing Larissa another motherboard. Larissa popped it in and tried the on switch again. GIAbot immediately sprung from her hands and spun around in circles, buzzing and whirring.

   "Your robot is fighting fit!" GIAbot declared happily. "I like shorts! They're comfortable and easy to wear! Thank you! I am happy to be a hostage! I Mr. Saturn! Here, we all Mr. Saturn! Boing!"

   "He's back to normal, all right," Larissa nodded.

   "GIAbot, do you know where our thumbnailing machine is?" Kelvin inquired.

   "Off course!" GIAbot replied. "In island Nanumea from these Tuvalu are it! Mmmmm, a SPECTACLE. Elf needs food. Badly!"

   Yuro scratched her head. "What's he saying?"

   "I think he's trying to say that the machine's on an island called Nanumea in Tuvalu," Larissa translated. "Good work, GIAbot."

   "Master using this and you can have it. I feel asleep. No rubbish, or Ayla, head go boom!" GIAbot babbled before Kelvin shook him into silence.

   Kelvin, Larissa, and Yuro carefully stepped out of the heap of junk and left the store, with their robotic friend trailing along behind them. The sudden blast of light that came as they exited the dim store forced them to blink several times before they could see properly. When they regained their vision, they became acutely aware that several machine-gun carrying thugs had surrounded Yuro's car, and were now staring at Kelvin and Larissa.

   "This doesn't look like a good tidbit," Yuro mused. "Enemy agents."

   "Maybe they're just a quaint, harmless gang of gun-toting street toughs," Kelvin shrugged.

   "In rural Japan?"

   "Oh, you do have a point there," Kelvin said. He drew his sword and leapt towards the thugs. "Super Ultimate Hyper Sun Dragon Spinning Wheel Rising Cherry Blossom Slash!" Kelvin lashed out with his sword and unleashed a delightful array of special effects that tore all the thugs into pieces, except one quick-thinking one who ducked behind the car.

   Larissa raised her hands. "Earth Goddess' Wonderous Holy Power Hyper Thunder!" she exclaimed. Lightning, under the guise of thunder, streamed down from the sky and electrocuted the remaining thug.

   Kelvin dusted off his mailed hands. "Well, that was no big deal," he said. "I guess it's off to Nanumea or whatever."

   Larissa waved to Yuro. "We'll be off now. Thanks for your help," she said.

   Yuro shrugged. "No problem; glad to help you find the goodies you were looking for. But don't bring that impostor along next time."

*   *   *

   Kelvin and Larissa -- the latter carrying GIAbot -- parachuted down onto the island of Nanumea. The pair landed smoothly on the outskirts of a thick jungle and ran a quick check of their equipment. Everything was in order. "Okay, let's find that despicable thief and get out of here," Larissa said. "I've got a dentist's appointment at 4."

   "Don't ever say 'despicable' again," Kelvin advised as they trudged through the jungle.

   Meanwhile, GIAbot had roamed off and was presently trying to bury himself in a termite mound. "Come on, GIAbot," Larissa said, picking up the small robot and setting off a calvacade of beeping. "It's time for you to devote your debatable talents to civilized society. Can you tell us where you saw the thumbnailing machine?"

   "I saw the machine of nailsmith of inch in the fortress," GIAbot answered. "Hee hee, thank you! This is a game! You should always carry a secret weapon!"

   Larissa set GIAbot down, and he promptly resumed trying to bury himself. "Well, Kelvin, this island can't be that big; there's only going to be one fortress here... it shouldn't be too hard to find.

*   *   *

The next day...

   "Okay, okay, so I was wrong," Larissa said, five hours later. "So sue me."

   "If we ever get off this island, I will," Kelvin grumbled.

   "Anergy empty!" GIAbot cried. "You all over! The sword is to be used to kill enemies."

   Larissa sat down against a large tree and sighed. "I guess we might as well make camp for the night," she said. "Kelvin, you brought the tents, didn't you?"


   "I'm taking this as a no. Is that correct?"

   Kelvin set down his backpack and unzipped it. "I brought a Parcheesi game, though, in case we got bored," he offered helpfully. "Want to play?"

   Larissa clenched her fists and tried to restrain herself from grabbing Kelvin's Parcheesi game and smashing him over the head with it. "Well, that's just wonderful," she said. "I guess we can sit here all night out in the open and play Parcheesi. Good thinking, Kelvin."

   "Sorry," Kelvin said meekly. He appeared downcast for a moment, then brightened. "I still have these Tostitos, if you want them." Kelvin yanked an extremely wrinkled bag out of his pocket and offered it to Kelvin.

   Larissa shook her head. "No thanks." She sighed and sat down, leaning against a tree. "GIAbot, you keep watch, and wake us if something happens, okay?" she asked.

   "Okay!" GIAbot said happily. "Ability is a skill learned with job training!"

   While Kelvin and Larissa slept, GIAbot buzzed around, bouncing off trees and humming "Yankee Doodle". He continued to do so for two hours, and would have done so for the entire night had he not been interrupted by loud noise. A truck slowly navigated through the tress, approaching the makeshift campsite.

   "Hey! An Event Item comes!" GIAbot said to himself. "Uh oh! The truck have started to move! I don't need verbal abuse from someone suspended in midair."

   The truck stopped and several paramilitary soldiers hopped out, all armed with AK-47s. Beeping with fear, GIAbot abandoned his masters and hid behind a tree. The soldiers crept up on the still-sleeping Kelvin and Larissa, bound them, and tossed the pair into the back of their truck.

*   *   *

   When Kelvin awoke, he found himself lying on a cot in a stone prison cell. "Huh? Where am I?" He sat up and examined his surroundings. Aside from a continual draft of cold air, the only other item in his cell was a spartan wood bench. "Larissa? GIAbot?"

   "I'm over here," Larissa called from a neighboring cell. "We seem to have found that fortress, all right."

   "Can you get us out of here? Where's GIAbot?"

   Larissa paused to consider this. Surely something in her secret agent training must have prepared for escaping from the dungeon of an evil mastermind's fortress. "Hold on, I'm thinking," she told Kelvin.

   GIAbot announced his entrance with his trademark series of beeps, then came rolling down the prison hallway a moment later. He stopped in front of Larissa's cell and pressed up against the bars. Larissa noticed he had a set of keys hanging from his head and quickly removed them. "Good work, GIAbot," she said as she unlocked her cell door. She freed Kelvin, and then the pair headed for the elevator.

   "Where to?" Kelvin asked as they stepped into the small compartment.

   Larissa stared at the buttons. "Let's try the fifth floor," she said, touching the button for the highest floor. "We can apprehend the leader of these guys, and then hunt for the thumbnailing machine."

   Cheesy elevator music played for a few seconds as the elevator rose to the top story. The doors then slid open, and Kelvin and Larissa hopped out. They were immediately accosted by a uniformed security guard, whose name tag identified him as Wedge. "What are you doing up here?" he demanded.

   "We're here to see the boss," Larissa explained.

   Wedge consulted a blank slip of paper. "I don't have you on my list," he said.

   "How about I put you on my list?" Kelvin asked as he drew his sword. "...of people I'm going to kill today! Starlight Omen Mega Ethereal Deluxe Cross Champion Fire Blade!" Kelvin slashed his foe, enveloping the helpless guard in a plume of fire.

   "I SEEM TO BE ON FIRE!" Wedge exclaimed as he collapsed in flames.

   Kelvin and Larissa charged through the double doors behind the incinerated guard and burst into the control room. A cloaked figure immediately darted in front of them and pointed a gun at Kelvin's head. "I've been waiting for you," the figure said. "Kelvin and Larissa, how DARE you kill these precious men whom I've trained?"

   "Well, Mr. Evil Dictator, you haven't done a very good job of TRAINING them," Kelvin retorted.

   "I should have expected that from you GIA spies," the stranger said coolly.

   "Hey! Call me a secret agent or I'll rip your lungs out!" Kelvin protested.

   "Remember me?" the mysterious figure continued. He threw back his hood, revealing the same face Kelvin had seen a few nights ago on the satellite.

   "That's him! The guy who stole the thumbnailer!" Kelvin exclaimed.

   "It's 1337 h4X0r m4n!" Larissa said at the same time.

   Kelvin turned to look at his comrade. "Who?"

   "1337 h4X0r m4n," Larissa repeated. "He was supposed to be a boss in a MegaMan game, but we found out about him and started ridiculing him on the site, so Capcom canned him."

   "7H47'5 r1G|-|7, d00d!!!!" 1337 h4X0r m4n laughed. "4n|} n0w 1 \/\/1|_|_ g37 /\/\y r3\/3ng3 4t l457!!!! h4 h4 h4!!!! w4n7 50|\/|3 w4r3z!?!?!"

   "I don't have time for this; I'm missing my dental appointment." Larissa pointed at 1337 h4X0r m4n. "Neo Reverse Mega Motion Eternal Shadow Rosario Flare!" she exclaimed. A huge fireball sprung from her fingers, but bounced harmlessly off 1337 h4X0r m4n.

   "h4 h4 h4!!!! u c4n7 |-|uR7 m3!!! 3y3 4m 2 k3w|_ 4 u!!!!!"

   "I never thought I would see something like this, while still in my thirties," GIAbot babbled. "Dance... or DIE!! Dakota!"

   "Well, Mr. Leet Haxor," Kelvin's tongue stumbled over the foreign words, "let's see if you're 'leet' enough to defeat me... in Parcheesi!"

   "3y3 4m 4 |-|3|_|_4 1337 p4rK33z1 p|_4y3r! u k4n7 8347 m3!!!!!"

   Kelvin gave GIAbot a light kick to get his attention. "What's he saying?" Kelvin whispered.

   GIAbot changed language circuits to translate. "I am a player of Parcheesi of hella elite. You cannot beat me!" he explained.

   "Thanks, little buddy," Kelvin said. He turned to face 1337 h4X0r m4n again. "All right, chump, you're on." Kelvin dropped his backpack on the ground and withdrew the Parcheesi game he had included. "I told you this would come in handy," he whispered to Larissa. She responded with silence.

   Kelvin knelt down and set up the Parcheesi board on the floor. "I'm warning you, I was president of the All-Night Parcheesi Club in high school," he threatened.

   "5K00|_ sUx d00d!!!" 1337 h4X0r m4n said.

   Larissa and GIAbot watched in tense anticipation as Kelvin and 1337 h4X0r m4n began their Parcheesi duel -- or, at least, Larissa watched in tense anticipation. GIAbot was off making small talk with 1337 h4X0r m4n's security camera.

   Much to Kelvin's surprise, h4X0r m4n soon gained the upper edge -- but Kelvin had an ace up his sleeve. He reached for the dice, but then paused and gazed at the board, his brow furrowed in mock concentration. "I think I win," he declared, knowing full that he hadn't.

   1337 h4X0r m4n studied the board for a brief few seconds, then his attention span caught him up with him. "kUr53z! f01L3|) @641|\|!!! u sUk d00d!!!!" 1337 h4X0r m4n shouted as he stood up and kicked the board aside. "u w1|\| t|-|15 71|\/|3, g14 f00lz, bu7 1|_|_ 83 84k!!!!" With that, 1337 h4X0r m4n ran to the window, jumped out onto the fire escape, and fled.

   "Victoly!" GIAbot exclaimed. "That was a bit scarY. next, I must save   the USA."

   "GIAbot, what was he saying?" Kelvin asked. "And what are you saying?"

   "He said that you suck, and that we won this time, but he'll be back," Larissa cut in.

   "Wow, you're fluent in Haxorspeek?" Kelvin said, surprised.

   Larissa nodded. "We get all sorts of training at the Academy." She walked to examine 1337 h4X0r m4n's vast array of pilfered electronic gadgets. Tucked in between one of the numerous CD burners and a futuristic-looking toaster rested the GIA's screenshot thumbnailing machine. "Well, lookee here," Larissa said.

   "Hey, you found it," Kelvin observed.

   "Really?" Larissa said sarcastically. "Thanks for letting me know, I might not have noticed. Now let's get going; I have to reschedule my dentist's appointment."

*   *   *

   The insistent ringing of his phone awakened Kelvin at around 9:00 a.m. the following morning. He rolled out of bed and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?" he mumbled. What's going on? he wondered. Was it all a dream?

   "This is the Comissioner," a deep voice intoned. "I heard you helped recover our stolen screenshot thumbnailing machine from 1337 h4X0r m4n."

   "Yeah, I guess I did," Kelvin said. "I beat him in Parcheesi."

   "Come up to my office right now," the Comissioner ordered. "I'd like to talk to you."

   What is this all about? Am I in trouble? Kelvin wondered as he descended to his basement, poked his drinking bird in the eye, and hopped into the teleporter. Seconds later, he was back on board the GIA satellite, floating in geosynchronous orbit over Peoria, Illinois. "Aren't you a suspiscious personage?" the GIA aide waiting for him stated. It was the same one who had met him last time. "And where's your identification badge?"

   "I, uh, lost it," Kelvin said.

   "I'd better give you a new one, then," the thin man said. He slapped a second Chiquita Banana sticker on Kelvin's forehead. "You could be one of those commie spies from the U.N. Now come this way," the aide continued. "The Comissioner is waiting for you."

   Kelvin followed the escort back to the Comissioner's office and once again stepped into the green-carpeted room. As before, the Comissioner was seated in a tall black chair, turned away from Kelvin. His right hand, the only part of his body visible from Kelvin's point of view, rested on a complex control panel from which he controlled the entire satellite. Larissa was present as well, waiting in one of the recliners.

   "Do step in," the Comissioner said. "We have a lot to talk about."

   Kelvin sat down in a vacant recliner and waited for further instruction. "We were impressed by your work on the h4X0r m4n case," Larissa explained. "We've decided to give you a promotion."

   "A promotion?"

   "Yes," the Comissioner said. "To a full-fledged secret agent."

   Kelvin scratched his head. "Uh, that's a good thing, right?"

   "Yes, Kelvin," Larissa said patiently. "Secret agent is a higher position than janitor."

   Kelvin was dumbstruck. "Uh, gee, thanks," he said. He'd been happy as a janitor, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. "What do I need to do? Do I need to change my name to, like, Dirk Shadowwood, Private Eye or something?"

   "Uh, no, Kelvin," Larissa said.

   "We'll let you know when you're assigned a case," the Comissioner explained.

   "So I get a vacation?" Kelvin asked hopefully.

   Larissa sighed. "Of course not, Kelvin," she said. "If we're succesful, you can expect a whole flood of crassly mass-marketed sequels and merchandising spin-offs and..." Larissa's voice trailed off as her gaze shifted to Kelvin's forehead. "What is your problem? Is this some kind of Chiquita Banana fetish?"

   GIAbot rolled into the room. "THANK YOU FOR PLAYING!" he exclaimed. "Game over, yeahhhh!"

Feature by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
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