Fan Fiction

To Bring Joy… it’s a Wonderful Thing
by Nate Brown

Premature Climax

I never thought it would burn so brightly. It just didn't stop, and the light. Wow. If it wasn't for the screams - parents, children still caught inside, ride operators, concessions workers, the list goes on... The local holo-bite of the week was a rescue worker wailing towards the sky while cradling the still smoldering ashes of what once was a little girl dead. Her skin, what was left of it, completely black. Not like dark, I mean, obsidian. Staring into the holo meant you just didn't see part of it. The heat was so intense it burned the very existence away from the picture. Black black. On that day, everyone screamed. Oh, and the smell. There's something about roasting flesh flash burned that saying churns the stomach makes you look like a third-rate hack. There's no word for the revulsion you feel inhaling that smoky death. ... Er, right... if it wasn't for all that... it would have been so very... beautiful. For hours after the incident the Ayata-Sphere light up the night sky brighter than dawn. Flaring now and again when another level crumbled inward and send a shower of sparks and still brightly burning insulation into the sky. If you had described the sight to me a month before, I would have asked when we were getting a budget to pull of something like that. If you asked me now... well let's say that trying to duplicate it isn't high on my To-Do list. Oh, and during, if you're wondering, I sobbed. Like a baby. I just couldn't stop. I knew some of those kids, a few of the yearly-passers. The rest... I loved.

Given my passion for igniting that which shouldn't burn, blowing things up that rightfully should stay in one piece, and making the things that do explode do so more magnificently, if someone had told me in my childhood my defining moment would be the colossal devastation of the Ayata-Sphere, I wouldn't have been surprised. Of course, in my childhood, it was just being built, and I certainly wouldn't have known the circumstances. Excepting for what you might think of as the stereotypical image of the psychotic Pyro - which I wasn't, by the way - I was a really swell kid growing up. I was a really nice adult too, regardless of everyone thought after. People used to ask me how I did it. How I always kept so chipper. Well, it was no secret to it! You've just got to focus on what's important, like entertaining people, and look past life's minor annoyances. That's what I used to say. The fact we all lived under the thumb of an insane dictator was a minor annoyance. There were just bigger things out there. Smiles to light up - eyes that were dim - needing just a bit of a flash to get them going. I always had just the right spark in my bag of tricks.

I suppose you already know this, it's common knowledge now, but it was quite the shocker for me at the time. Not much surprises me now, but well, that's something that living on the streets will do to you. Really knocks the naivety out of a man - makes him harder to shock. Way back then though, it was the cruelest sort of joke that just had to be some sort of sick attempt at humor, because, really, who would have accused me of setting off the sphere like that? With the children still inside? But, none the less, I received a call from Ms. Tawny. She always so good to me; was always looking out for me. She wasn't sure this time. When I talked to her, I was still crying, and she was yelling at me. She wanted to know if I did it. I didn't know what she was talking about. She told me that if she lied to the police to cover a murderer, saved him just a few seconds of time, that she's hunting me down personally. It took me quite a while, as I've said, I just didn't get it back then. When it finally hit me, well, I had to sit for a spell. How could she joke about something like that? How could someone be so insensitive? The grand gag was on me. Always had been, I was just too blind and stupidly happy to see it.

When an amusement part goes up in a blast of flame that burns for hours, exploding dramatically, who do you think the police are going to thumb as their likely candidate? The expert pyrotechnician that just lost his job, had the means, had the skill, and maybe just snapped enough to take down the whole Ayata-Sphere with him? Sure sure. It couldn't have been a hard day to finger me as the prime suspect. Only one problem: I didn't do, couldn't have done that to those children. But, heh, who would have listened to me? After Ms. Tawny slapped some sense into me, I finally grasped what she had done for me. She had snuck her neck out under a swarm of Hammers just to give me a half hour head start. It was a brave thing to do. I wouldn't do that today, for anyone. I can't imagine why anyone would have done it for me. She was still half certain that I did do it. Heck, after all this time, I'm half certain I did it. After all, who else could have?

Witty Title

"Dammit. No."

"Common, Boss-man. Let me just have one half hour with the kids and I'll work the next ten years of Tool Day parties free. You know how hard it is to find a good light man the day with the most anticipated fireworks shows on the planet."

"And you should know your act stinks. I said no. That's final. You're a good pyrotechnician, heck, one of the best Pyros I've seen in managing this dump for forty years, but that's the end of it. You work in the entertainment business, but you are no funny man.

"... but."

"BUT NOTHING!" Harks Vimmerskim roared, "The day I give you an act in the grand ballroom of MY sphere will be the day that Governor-General Thomas Didymus Tool XXVIII's ass wart ascends to the stars as a minor deity and a new golden age of humanitarianism and children literacy programs will be upon us all. Now, then. Getoutofmyoffice!"

And that, as they say, was that. At least, for the day, it was. I held no delusions that our little aspiring children's show actor would just curl up and die. If that was the case, he would have gone-for-broke long ago. I've seen men who just extinguish themselves before. They walk up to some Ticks and just hurl themselves at the tax collectors. I can't imagine that it's even a surprise for them anymore. It had become something of a global suicide technique. But this man, the one I could hear walking towards my door now, wasn't done yet. I gave him a week before he would be right back in Vimmerskim's office, begging away. I sighed as I watched him open the door and slump past me. After having his dreams dashed, he still managed to tip his hat to me, and offer a cheerful smile. The man was inexorable, nothing knocked him over and nothing kept him down when he tripped. I couldn't help sighing again, just a bit, as he hid his pain - it's the eyes, you can just feel the pain dripping from his eyes. If he just didn't wear that little goofy bow-tie he might be cute. It's not like I'm stuck up, or anything. I'm just a secretary, but then Vimmerskim is just a tool of Tool. We all are. Some more than others. The ass wart comment should make for a dicey bit of a report. Of course, as a loyal servant of Tool, I monitor every word said in every room of the theme park, it just so happens that in my secondary, and more public, capacity as the private secretary to Harks Vimmerskim, I can overhear his little treasons personally just because the blasted doors is too thin. I swear sometimes, I can hear the fat bastard breathing heavily, just for hours at a time.

The door to the Vestibule opens. It's him, again. OK, a week may have been too optimistic.

"It's OK, Ms. Tawny. I just had one more idea I wanted to pass by the Boss-man."

"I don't think he wants to see..." was all I could manage to get out before the door to Vimmerskim's office was open, followed by a series of most deviate words I have ever heard strung together... today, followed by one paperweight missing the head of the antagonizing figure in Vimmerskim's doorway by just a centimeter or two.

"Well. I guess you are a little busy, Boss-man. I'll come by next week to tell you all about it." More curses. And that enchanting little tip of the hat. What a gentleman.

The Vestibule was soon in relative peace again. Vimmerskim had a board meeting to waddle off to, and I was left alone; to open mail, read mail, file, read reports, write reports, file, and sit in my thoughts. These days, my thoughts turned more and more to my little gentleman with the goofy bow-tie. It's such an interesting story. Well. Maybe it's not. But when you're cooped up in the Vestibule all day, it becomes more and more interesting just by wallowing in your own air waste.

A New Golden Age

I don't suppose there's anyway to tell the story without starting with Tool. He is, as far as our little corner of Yridia II is concerned, the Alpha and the Omega. All things begin with Tool. A good many things - too many - tend to get wiped out early by one of Tool's Hammer Platoons. The rest eventually end with Tool anyway. Even if you escape the myriad pitfalls, the tricks and traps along the way, you're rewarded with nothing more than a short trip to the recycling wells: the ultimate roach motel. He's our private little godling. Oh, he's insane too. Don't know if you caught onto that or not. Not that I'd ever commit such to words, unlike the idiot Vimmerskim; Tool hasn't come up with a way to read our minds yet. So as long as all this is just my thoughts, I'm not dead. Vimmerskim... Mmm, well, we'll weigh whether he's wiped or winds up in a Well another day.

In the days before Tool, there were many immigrants every day to Yridia II. It was our little corner of space. Nothing particularly drew them. A mild sense of adventure by living as close to the real frontier while still having the luxuries of the core, I'm not sure why they came. I suppose it didn't help that a pair of neighboring worlds were in outright total war, and were chucking refugees around like a badminton shuttle. Nevertheless, every day at least several thousand would arrive. The population was booming. The economy, however, was in a slump. Too much influx, not enough time to fix itself, it's one of those basic math things you see repeating itself again and again. Everyone should know it's going to hit, but no one does anything about it. By the time Tool appeared, Yridia was in full blown planetary depression. And regardless of anything that was done, it only got worse. Then came Tool.

He is, in the literal sense, an immigrant. But Tool didn't come from anywhere. I looked it up one day. It turns out that immigrating from somewhere isn't a requirement to the equation. But by the time the depression had hit full swing the governments had already put a stop to the daily deluges. No more immigrants. And yet, there he was. Just... there one day, wasn't the day before. You would think that in a world of billions, no one would have noticed one more immigrant. You'd be wrong. The thing that made this Thomas Tool different, beyond materializing out of thin air, proclaiming himself a messiah, and having the ego the size of a small moon was this: he wasn't one of us. There are thousands of species in the galaxy. Some are rare, yes. Some you may only see once in a lifetime. Tool wasn't one you see once in a lifetime. He was once. The end. There are no more Tools. Anywhere.

The stranger in a strange land offers us paradise. Gosh. What a situation. No one had any idea how he got into a quarantine planet, and after the intellectuals were silenced, no one cared. Cults built up around Tool over night. These were no happy-go-lucky suicidal fruit cocktail cults. These were the kind that burned down entire communities if one person in them spoke against the word of the faith. Roaming mobs would police the streets at night, winning cities for Tool without him having to lift a finger. Obey Tool. Yridia II had just had too much, it would take anything new. Tool showed up at the right time, had all the answers, and won the prize: a worthless little planet on the edge of the universe. Lucky him.

Once Tool had control he went one step more, totalitarianism. It has been attempted before, and I hear it worked fairly well here and there. In the end, it never really does anything permanently impressive - bright spark, no lifespan. Regardless, few despots have the charisma to sucker us in, the resources to keep it running, and the sheer willpower to make it work, all wrapped in a soulless monstrosity willing to doom subjects to be nothing more than slaves. Tool, it appears, was the winning combination.

I Don't Think I'd Have it Any Other Way

Tool wasn't satisfied with controlling the lives of every living soul on Yridia II. He wanted more. He wanted us to be like him. So, that was decided. From then on, what Tool thought should be was the way. This isn't exactly a new idea. Most dictators with the absolutism mindset go around changing the way the basic universe works. If they fancy themselves a scientist, then suddenly any theories, even flat out laws they can't comprehend are fake. Such idealists have sent a planet's scientific community scurrying back hundreds of years to fix so-called errors. Tool, you have to remember, while brilliant, was also insane. Or, at least, he became so soon after assuming control. He didn't just decide that henceforth all knitting would be double-stitch or speeders should always drive on the left side of the road. He changed everything. He was, after all, an alien in the purest sense.

As I said, everything was changed. But let's stick with the relevant. Entertainment, it was decided was the most desirable of all professions. He thought that since we were so funny to him, that our entire planet had a skill. The most famous of all people became actors - OK, perhaps that's nothing new, but to derail a fledgling doctor's career, even in mid-surgery, because she was chosen to be an actress is a step further. Well, it took some getting used to. People got used to it fast. It was that or face the Hammers. Entertainment was king. Make a child laugh, and you were the chosen of Tool. Children, after all, were the future. They were most in need of entertainment. Not to say that all entertainment was geared to younger audiences. Today, Tool: the Musical remains the highest grossing stage performance of all time. It still runs in over thirty cities nightly. Citizens are required to attend at least once a year.

People are survivors. Always have been, always will be. In this brave new world, there were many who were quick to adapt, fall in line, salute and be ready for the next spin of the wheel. A lot of people got into the entertainment business early. People who had no love for it suddenly were trying to pretend they had always been there. It made it difficult for someone with no resume who just wanted to make people happy enter the business.

This is where our pyrotechnician comes in. He actually just loved making children smile. He wasn't in it for the fame, the money, the glory, the protection from Tool's Random Acts of Violence (publicly broadcast starting every Saturday night at dusk - Tool demands your attention). He just wanted to see them smile. That's why I always felt sad when he was shot down. It's impossible to get into this business off the street. You have to be a conman to do it with a foot in the door. He had his foot wedged in Vimmerskim's door for almost twelve years, working as a fire and lights man. I saw some of his shows. They were amazing. Every night, the reflecting lake in front of the Ayata-sphere was lit up with a dazzling show. The kids did love his shows, but never had a face to attach to it. He never got to be there for it. He never got to see the smile in person.

He had worked hard to be where he was. The sphere predated Tool as a children only amusement park. It was thought to be a ridiculous idea when it was built. The owners were set for life in the freak luck that was Tool. As the oldest such park, it was the most prestigious. Of course, today it's not even a sphere anymore. It's been added to so many times over the years it resembles the rest of the post Tool city-scape: twisted confusing architecture that is birthed in madness. Corridors, complete with doors, that open into blank walls. Ladders that are uselessly mounted horizontally to the floor. Windows that double as doors. Like most things Tool designs personally, it is insanity. I've heard stories of people getting lost in some of the newest buildings. They just aren't ever found again.

Regardless of his dedication to his employment, he was, like everyone else, forced to work there. You don't really choose your profession, it's assigned. You can try and get a position that fits you, but in the end, it's just the spin o' fate. Some people get too attached to what they want to do with their life and forget it's not their choice. It's hardest for those. If you just Obey Tool, it works much easier for society as a whole to function. Know thy place, young cog. I could usually keep my chin up. I never wanted to be a spy of Tool, and certainly never a servant to slime like Vimmerskim, but that's how the pieces fell. I shouldn't complain. Nevertheless, even spies are depressed now and again. I was in one of those moods when I set my lunch down next to him in the employee cafeteria, and I asked him. How he, he of all people who wanted so much to entertain and always denied, was still always smiling. Without missing a beat, he told me that he thinks of the good things. The shows... our purpose. He kept that blasted smile on his face while telling me that to bring joy is a wonderful thing. Even if we hadn't been forced into this profession, he wouldn't have had it any other way.

This upbeat attitude... was he already entertaining, or was it for a show yet to come?

This Story's Gonna Have a Happy Ending if it Kills Me!!

It's 12:01 in the evening. Time was I would be chatting up with my crew down in Events. We'd be packing up the gear from the night's fireworks and I would be congratulating everyone on another good show. I guess none of them really liked me all that much, but they were good workers and put up with me. Heck, I wouldn't put up with me anymore. Five minutes into one of my little tirades, I'd just punch myself in the face. That'd be great to see. I miss the crew though. Being dead and all, it really puts a crimp in your social life. I tried to keep in touch for a little bit, but heck, all of them were still half way sure I did it. No one wants to talk to someone with that on their hands. I hear Ed's doing well in Tintown. Nice to know some of us have managed to persevere. Rudy got a job as a tax collector. I don't really blame him, he has to eat. Oh, and Ms. Tawny, can't forget about her. I see her every now and then at the shelter where she works. I wish it was always just a social call.

Me...? My name's Sam. At least, that's what I go by now. Although I am officially dead, you'd be surprised how little that matters. I got to watch my own execution, you know? That was a treat. Yea, it was on Tool's Planned Acts of Violence (publicly broadcast starting every Saturday morning at dawn - Tool demands your attention). I guess they just executed some schmoe. They have to kill someone, right? In the one instance in a million that isn't Tool's hand at work, a random nobody has to be the sacrificial lamb to take the blame. Might as well have been him. I kind of wish I went in person to watch, you know? But, I was too worried some one would notice me. Recognize the face of the mad bomber. I guess I don't worry much anymore. It's not all that big a deal. People die all the time. Don't know why I used to fuss over such things. It's just the way the world works.

Um, right. So, my name's Sam. I already did that part. Um. I don't think as well as I used to, you'll have to forgive me. Alcohol clouds the mind, and such. Ah, forget it. I wanted to say something poignant, you know? Some melodramatic trash about how a man's profession, what he pours his heart and soul into, is his life, is the man. Some yuppie garbage about how if you take it all away... Well, you get the picture, I'm sure. It just doesn't sound real anymore. Nothing does. It's just me, the bottle, and the street. Guess who wins in the end?

Time was I would be in the events department right about now. I'd be standing - always stood everywhere, just had too much energy back then to sit down. Right, I'd be in there pacing around planning a new twist on the fireworks display for tomorrow night. I would be hitting up some changes with my supervisor, and he'd just be sitting there looking bored. I'd throw him some corny line that the show has to keep changing, has to keep fresh. He would just nod at me, and continue to be bored. I guess I was a pretty annoying guy. Full of ideas that didn't add up to anything, and just had to share them. Had to think I was amounting to something. But, heh, you know what it all boiled down to. I was fired. That's the big reward I get. Pyrotechnics division budget was removed. Everyone goes home to look for a new assignment. That's all old news now. How I snapped after that, and just had to have my revenge. So I snuck back into the sphere and set it to go off precisely when the fireworks display used to reach their epic peak. The grand finale. Right. Didn't happen that way. But then, you've probably heard me deny the whole thing too. Can't blame you not believing me. It is a pretty good story, compared to my weepy version anyway.

I want to tell you something great. I wanted this story to have a happy end so bad. I wanted it down to the tips of my fingers. I would have died for a happy ending. But, you know what? Not every story ends well. Tool will die one day. He'll go onto some afterlife that involves burning pitchforks and lightless flames, and all right and justice will be returned to the universe. But it will not be this day. And if my hunch is correct, he'll outlive us all. Isn't that a shame?

I want to tell you how the people of Yridia II rose up against him. How we marched on the streets and threw him down. That didn't happen either. We were all too tired, too old, by the time we caught on. Hammer patrols were already too entrenched. You don't argue with something that can level a city. You just keep walking and hope you don't trip. Keep your head out of trouble, and hope that the tax collectors aren't there to wipe your nose when it starts running. It's never a social call with a Tick.

There's a lot I wish I could tell you. But not every story is going to be an epic. We just aren't strong enough. We are a people that end in whimpers, not bangs. And in the closing stages, you end up in society's toilet. That's life. That's what one being did to us. Obey Tool. I lived on the streets. I lived what it did to us. You'd look into your fellow's eye. The neighbor you knew since before the time of Tool. And you knew those eyes were broken. Tool's life chewed these people up and spit them out. It's a life with sharp teeth. It made us... old. Old, dead people... old friends.

In the end I wasn't strong enough. I ran instead. I couldn't be the man with one new idea every day anymore. Story logic demands that no man may have two climaxes, and mine was the Ayata-sphere. It's all denouements & goodbyes for me now. What else can a man do who lost his sense of identity, of purpose? I can stay where I am, jumping from crumbletown to crumbletown; drinking the nights away because I can't do what I love... loved. Or I can run. Fighting doesn't exist. I never did. Just an illusion we thought we had and gambled away for a miracle. Tool doesn't believe in miracles. They don't exist. Obey Tool.

People tell me that it's never too late for a change. But they're wrong. The color of the world isn't changing, day-by-day. You can run, but it's the same everywhere. I can't go back to who I was. That guy's gone. The way I see it, my problem was that I didn't think I could be anyone else. It never was really me - just a mold waiting to crack. I hope you can accept that, maybe someday; accept me for who I am now. Soon as I figure it out myself. Frankly, I don't really see the rush for all this self-actualization crap. It doesn't really matter who I am, does it?

Pencils Down

So. I ran. I ran until I couldn't run anymore. I always thought the stories about it being impossible to get off that rot-world were true. I was so sure of it, everyone was, that no one really tried. I guess it is pretty hard, but I surprised myself. I had one last hurrah left in me after all. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't clean, and I won't lie, some people got hurt, but I made it off.

I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say that the holos never do escape justice. Getting crammed into a tiny box hurts, having your bones broken in so many places to fit hurts a little more, hoping that there'll be a doctor waiting on the other side to patch you up. Well, that's more of a worry than an actual hurt. It's hell. But really, after living under Tool, it wasn't all that bad. And nothing I could say would really be more impressive than one of the grand escape scenes, just more dirty; so I won't even try. I made it off, end of story.

And now what? Our little band of refugees has gone our own way. Thanked our personal saviors beyond breaking us, and putting us back together, they did so with a smile on their faces. Although, I guess the smile could have been from the money we gave them. You'd be surprised what you can get away with when you know you're already dead and you won't be on the planet in morning. I don't want to say that I killed anyone getting that money, but I don't really want to lie to you either. Let's leave what is lying fallow rest and just say that I wouldn't have wanted to run into any Ticks on my last night.

As for now, what can I say? I was already homeless on my world. I had already abandoned my people. I think I can find a new home. A family. My name's Sam.