No one knew what the big plastic rectangles were when Andy stumbled into his room under their weight. All of his toys hailed from stores like Toys R Us and Kaybee. Those new boxes were stamped with the logos for a store named Best Buy, and the things inside were strange and faceless. One was a flat plastic box that Andy tucked carefully under his desk. The other was like a television, an object to which they could put a name, but he still left the room to watch movies and his favorite shows.
One day they heard Andy's mother ask if he liked his new computer. He did. When he wasn't at school or watching television, he spent all his time playing with it.
"I'm enforcing my parent privileges," she said one day as she leaned against the doorframe. "Stop what you're doing and go play outside for no less than...." She glanced at her watch. "Thirty minutes."
"But Mom," Andy whined to no avail. Slumping like a beaten animal, he slouched his way out of the room and down the stairs.
When the sound of feet vanished, Buzz Lightyear inched his careful way up the cords coming out of the back of those strange plastic boxes. A quick, purposeful survey later, he gestured for his companions to join him. "You can understand my confusion, of course," he laughed as he gestured to his wristguard. "I expect 'computers' to look like this, rather than some—"
"Box the size of the Grand Canyon," Jessie marveled. It towered above them like a monolith. "Hey, big boy," she risked asking. "You got a name?"
"I am Jim Raynor," it replied in clipped electronic tones that reminded Woody of Mr. Spell.
Resisting the urge to say that 'Jim Raynor' was a strange name for a couple of plastic boxes, Woody extended his hand on the off chance that the gesture would be appreciated. "Well howdy there, Mr. Raynor. That spaceman doll is Buzz Lightyear. She's Jessie. And I'm—"
"Sheriff Woody," Jessie cut in with a far more dramatic introduction than he would have chosen for himself. "The roughest, toughest, rootin' tootinest cowboy this side of the hallway!"
If he could, he would blush. "I'm sort of in charge around here," he said as modestly as he knew how. Buzz gave him that same flat look he did whenever his ego was at its peak; Woody ignored it. "And the three of us just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. Andy's a great kid. He's got this imagination like you've never seen—"
"But he's always very careful to use toys only within their suggested manufacturer's limits," Buzz added. "His sister Molly cuts her Barbies' hair." A look of stern disapproval crossed his face and he waggled his finger. "Andy knows better."
"But he still has fun!" Jessie said encouragingly, nodding at Buzz until he caught her drift and nodded along with her. "You couldn't ask for a better owner."
The sound of footsteps returned and Woody tugged them back. They dropped to the floor just in time to avoid being seen by Andy's mother. The imposed absence was a chance for her to pick up his laundry, and so the toys were left staring at Jim Raynor until Andy returned, took his place on the chair, and had his eyes once again filled with the images on that screen.
Fighting back the instinctive concern that flared whenever Andy showed interest in something new, Woody forced himself to be optimistic. They would be friends.
"Hey, Jim!" he said brightly the next day when Andy was once again kicked out of his room. Jim had been quiet and dark until Andy fired him up, and hadn't responded to their greetings that morning during breakfast. "Glad to see you finally woke up!"
"My designation is not Jim Raynor," the computer replied. "My designation is JC Denton."
"O...kay," Buzz said carefully. He leaned over to Jessie and stage-whispered, "Are we sure Andy only treats toys within specified limits? Because this shows every indication of forced personality overriding: brainwashing." He tapped his helmet knowingly. "I suffered through that in my missions to the Quendark Sector."
Both western toys looked at him flatly.
"I mean... the character. Oh, you know what I mean." Brushing off their expressions, Buzz climbed back on the desk to inspect Jim-né-JC more closely. "Toy! Have you been treated well?"
"UNATCO, working with the Illuminati, has deemed me a wanted man. It's not safe for you to be seen with me."
"Uh huh," Buzz said. Turning back to face his friends, he tapped his helmet again, made a sadly knowing face, and shook his head.
They learned in weeks to come that sometimes the computer thought he was "Jim Raynor," sometimes he thought he was "JC Denton," and sometimes he was one of a dozen other names. "They're games," Jessie realized. "They're like... board games and books all rolled into one! He thinks he's the characters in the books! ...Games! Whatever they are!"
"Ah," Woody and Buzz said, even though they didn't entirely understand.
"Well, shoot," Jessie laughed, though Woody didn't know how she could be so flippant about everything going on. Andy had been obsessed with his computer ever since he bought it. It was like the rest of them, the loyal playthings that he could actually hold in his hands and that stayed reliably as one single toy, didn't exist. Andy loved that computer and his smiles made Woody happy. He just wished that, like they used to, he could be the source of one. "When has Andy ever stuck with a board game or a book for longer'n it takes a rattler to shed its skin?"
"You're probably right," Buzz said.
The trio stared across the room at the blank face of the computer's monitor. Andy had carefully turned it off before going to school.
"He has an awful lot of those games," Woody said as they looked at the shelf above the desk.
"He's not sticking with 'em," Jessie said. Her tone turned almost harsh. "He's gonna be playing with us, okay?"
"Yeah," Woody said softly. "He's a great owner. Never does anything crazy."
"Yeah," Jessie said. She forced her hope so harshly that her voice almost cracked under it. "He ain't growing up and leaving us behind."
They looked again at the computer for a long while.
"He ain't growing up... yet," Jessie said in a broken whisper.
And Andy did take a while to grow up. That computer lasted him four years before he began to firmly press his mother for a new one, one that he could use for more than just gaming. He needed a computer for schoolwork. Eventually he would use it to research colleges before he left that home forever.
Somehow Jessie was migrated to a shelf in the closet while Buzz and Woody stayed next to each other in the main room. Even when the doors were closed it never stopped her from making a break for freedom during the day. It did mean, though, that she was closed away from their whispers made only loud enough to crest Andy's soft snores.
"She was lost, Buzz," Woody said. "When she talked about that girl growing up and leaving her behind... I'd never seen a toy look so sad."
"Andy's a good kid," Buzz insisted. "He dusts us—"
"We never used to have to worry about getting dusty."
The computer vanished the next day and for a few precious hours their hearts filled with hope. A new one replaced it, smaller and shinier than the first, and Andy happily settled in front of it. There was no nostalgia for his lost computer; every word was about how much better this one was, what a piece of garbage it had been, how he couldn't believe he'd waited this long to replace it.
A new CD slipped into the side, loading whatever personality would show up when the computer's monitor next glowed down on the abandoned toys.
"That's disposable," Buzz said fiercely the next night. "He didn't care about that old computer. He cares about us. We're permanent."
"Yeah. Yeah, we are," Woody said, plucking at the soft fabric of his legs.
The power light of the computer throbbed softly as it slept.
"And so we'll be waiting for Andy when he gets tired of these computers," Buzz said.
They would. Andy would play with them again. One day he would, of that Woody had to be certain. Andy was a great owner.