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It's quiet in the cold of our own little orbit, starless and Bible black.

And as I look down on the big blue bead we would call home, I think it's so near, yet...

Oh, I wish on that star and I hope that in a little snow-covered house with a warm hearth and a loving family, maybe some kid is looking up tonight and wishing upon us.

Oh, and how I hope sweet Santa will fly by tonight because if he does I'm gonna reach right out and hug that big guy.

Oh, for the sound of hooves against the steel hull of the ship.

Oh, to see the rosy face of Santa in the portal offering me a Coke and a smile.

Of course, his face *would* be rosy because it’s a vacuum out there! I mean, Santa's heart would explode! But he wouldn't feel it because the capillaries in his brain would pop like little firecrackers due to the blood boiling away in his face like a pudding in a copper--OH THE HUMANITY! And his jolly old belly would start bubbling like a roasted marshmallow, eyes bulging and popping out... AND THE REINDEER! OH, THE REINDEER keep floating like holiday floats, in their turn exploding like a hail of blood and entrails! Prancer--BOOM! Dancer--BOOM--!


 


Part One: Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

"Mike... Mike..."

Mike grumbled and turned over on his pillow.

"Mike!"

"What...what... is it? Is that you, Santa?" He blinked his eyes and a black-robed figure came into focus. “I didn't know you started wearing black.”

"No, Mike, it's me, Frank.” The figure held up a glowing green disk. “Now I don't have much time before the others discover I still have a little bit of power left, so listen to me.”

"Hey, I know you. You're that guy that used to torture me with Dr. Forrester.”

“Mike!”

“What?”

“There's something coming for you – and you need to prepare. It's horrible. But help's on the way. You just have to hold out until it gets here. Now you'll be visited by three--”

“Wait, what's coming?”

“I can't tell you.”

“Why, is it too hideous for me to comprehend? Is it a Real Housewives spin-off? Please, tell me it's not that. Oh, God, it's Adam Sandler, isn't it?”

“No, no, no. I can't tell you because it violates the 'mysterious black-robed figure warning you of danger' clause. In order to give you this message, I had to sign an agreement that said I would be incredibly cryptic and non-helpful.”

“But--”

"Now I have to go, Mike. My crazy bread's here and I need to grab a bite before I hit the road."

As Frank faded into the distance, Mike could have sworn he heard him say, “Really? Eighteen years for one order of crazy bread?”

It was a pity the only thing Mike remembered about his dream was his craving for pizza.

Although one might say, in the end, his ignorance worked out for the best.

Or probably not. In fact, definitely not.


 

All throughout the day, Mike was filled with a looming dread. It followed him as he ate a slice of cold pizza in the morning.

It stayed with him as he watched and mocked Twilight with the bots. It didn't leave him even after he drank a couple of beers and watched Servo and Crow play Dog and Bear, with the usual consequences – robots crying, fur flying, at least something fragile Mike cherished broken.

It was only as they settled onto the couch later that evening that Mike realized the nagging feeling of doom was not from the pizza he had consumed, but possibly from some familiar sensation that the cosmos might be out to screw him again. He turned to Servo and Crow and asked, “So, did anyone have any strange dreams last night?”

The bots, engaged in the annual tradition of watching the heartwarming holiday classic, Die Hard, took a moment to respond.

“You mean like the one I had where Kim Cattrall asks me to write and direct the remake of Mannequin and then we fall in love on the set and have miniature Crows?” Crow looked dreamily off into the distance.

“No, something weirder. Like there was a guy in a black robe who wanted to tell me something.”

“Mike, you have to stop listening to those Gregorian chant albums,” Servo said. “I mean, yeah, they're soothing sometimes, but the next thing you know it's Ave Satana and Hail Lucifer and we just managed to get Crow's soul back.”

“Yeah, that was a pain,” Crow shook his head. “It's never gonna have that new smell again.”

“So that's why you're wearing about fifteen air fresheners right now.”

“I couldn't decide between cinnamon and pine.”

“No, guys, I'm serious. I think that someone was trying to warn me.” Mike frowned, trying to remember. “But it seemed like he was really vague about it.”

Crow said, “Well, how else are you going to build up some suspense? I mean it's right up there with--”

There was a loud knock at the door.

“Yeah, that's it!”

Mike stared at the door as if it was going to bite him, which considering what was going to happen a few minutes later, was probably the truth.

“Uh, Mike, are you going to answer it?” Crow asked. “I mean we know you want to increase dramatic tensions for the viewers, but at some point, who's ever there is just going to--”

The knock came again, along with a muffled voice. “Hey, guys, you want to answer the door?”

It couldn't be, Mike thought. The last time he heard that voice was... well, back on the Satellite when all hell was breaking loose. But here? Now?

Oh, crap. He really should have paid attention to that dream.

Mike walked over to the door and unlocked it, opening it to reveal--
"Joel!" Tom Servo and Crow bounced up and down on the couch. “We missed you.”

"Hey guys! I missed you. Mike! How are you doing?”

Mike shut and locked the door in a daze. “Uh, fine. Look we would have called you, but uh...”

“No, it's all right. I've been sort of touch lately.”

In the background, Crow and Servo kept chanting “Joel, Joel, Joel!” Joel went over to the couch where they immediately started hugging him. Mike followed and perched on the edge, clearing off the newspapers, cardboard boxes, and inevitable broken glass that tended to collect on it.

“Did you come here for Christmas?” Mike asked. “Because I would have cleaned up the place a little more ... or at all if I'd known you were here. Really, it's not usually this bad. Well, it is, but...”

“Look, this may sound strange,” Joel said, “but did you have a dream in which TV's Frank came to you and told you something bad was about to happen but he couldn't say what?”

“I might have. I don't remember, but... oh, crap,” Mike's face paled as the dream slowly came back to him. The figure, the warning, the crazy bread... “I did. Is that why you're here?”

“Three nights ago, I had a dream that he came to me and told me you guys were in trouble but he couldn't say what it was and that I needed to get over here to help you.”

Mike swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I just had it last night.”

And that was when an axe came through the door.


 


Part Two: Zombie Nightmare


Mike screamed. He would later console himself by saying that it was a manly scream. Joel's reaction was perhaps, a bit less intense, as he and the bots threw themselves behind the couch, Mike quickly following.

The axe pulled away from the door, and through the hole made in it, one could hear the distinct sound of “BRAINS” being uttered.

“Please tell me that isn't what I think it is out there,” Mike said. “Because it sounded like zombies.”

“Well, let's ask Cambot?” Crow said, turning to the ceiling. “Hey, Cambot, zoom in on camera four.” On the television, a grainy image of the outside of Mike's apartment suddenly replaced the face of Bruce Willis. Outside, the unmistakable images of the undead shuffled around the door. One of them held an axe and was preparing to make another swing at the door.

“Yep, Mike. Looks like zombies. Thanks Cambot.” From the corner of the living room's ceiling, a gray sphere bleeped.

“Wait, how long has Cambot been here?”

“He's always been here, Mike,” Crow said. “Who else did you think that ball with a camera was?”

“I just thought it came with the apartment. Like a smoke detector.”

“I mean, I would have thought you would have figured it out once you saw the YouTube videos of you showering,” Servo said.

“Wait—what?”

“Relax, they're very tasteful and Cambot's a pro.” As Mike's brain temporarily blue-screened, Servo said, “So what do we now? Kick some zombie ass?”

“Aren't you curious about where they came from?” Crow asked.

“Not really.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

And the words that any rational human being should fear were spoken.

"All right, I think I have a plan."

These words have never led to anything good in anyone's experience, but for Mike and Servo listening to Joel and Crow utter them, it was all they would have.



“Okay, so once we're in the hallway, we'll have to make a break for the parking lot, grab some leftover fireworks out of my trunk from the last gig, and check out that mysterious tour bus across the street I saw while parking,” Joel said, crouching low while holding a frying pan.

Mike, holding another frying pan, peeked through the ever-growing hole in the door, as the zombies frustrated over the relative slowness of the axe, had taken to debating the best way to break down the door. Currently, there seemed to be a tie between “BRAINS” and “BRAINS!”

“There are a lot of them in the hall. I don't think we can both make it,” he said.

“So what – one person distracts, the other makes a break?” Joel said.

Mike closed his eyes. Of all the stupid things he had done in his life, he was fairly sure this was right up there with temping for the Forresters and blowing up at least one of the planets (not Bobo's). "It's okay, I'll distract them while you go for the car.”

Mike squared his shoulders back, and held the frying pan over his shoulder.

“Are you sure?” Joel asked.

He wasn't, but it didn't matter. “Yeah. It'll be all right.”

Mike flung open the door, Joel cautiously following behind him, shutting and locking the door. The zombies turned to look at them. Behind him, Joel tensed, prepared to run.

Really, there was only one thing he could say.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” he screamed and charged the zombies, madly swinging the frying pan back and forth, and occasionally managing to hit one of them.

The zombies, preoccupied as they were with a vicious, pan-wielding maniac, barely paid Joel any attention as he ran down the hallway. Mike, too, barely saw him, as crazed as he was zombie bloodlust.

For him, it was a shame that he didn't notice the zombies on the other side of him until it was far too late.



"Servo?”

“Yes, Crow?”

“How are we exactly crawling through these air ducts?”

“Well, Mike and Joel hoisted us up, because you said it was part of your plan, and now, we're trying to sneak across the ceiling to spy on the zombies and somehow learn their secrets.”

“No, I meant, how are we physically crawling?”

Silence.

“Hey, Crow?”

“Yes, Servo?”

“Do I want to know why you're wearing that?”

“It's all part of the plan.”

“Why do all your plans involve costumes?”

“Because I like to look pretty.”

Silence.

And then Crow fell through the ceiling tile. Down below, you could hear him say, “Hey—I mean, brains. Brains!”

Servo shook his head. Time to move on to Plan B

A few seconds later, Servo jumped through the ceiling tile.

It looked like it was all up to him.



Joel burst out the front door and hit the street only seconds later. Hopefully, Mike would be able to hold out for several minutes against the zombie horde, but as he heard the screaming down the street, he knew he couldn't leave him alone for long.

As he suspected, when he got to his car, the tires were flat. Tooth marks in the rubber told him all he needed to know. He opened his trunk, pulled out the fireworks, and shut it again. This was all the help his car could give him, which left only one thing – the tour bus, dark and silent across the street.

Sprinting across the strangely deserted pavement, he reached the bus. One light illuminated the driver's side window and a figure in it, slumped low in the seat with a hat pulled over its face.

Joel tried the door to the bus. It was locked. He knocked on the door and called out, “Look, buddy, we could really use your help, so if you could unlock this door, we might be able to radio for help.”

There was no answer. Joel tried again.

“You don't have to worry about the zombies. We'll take care of them if you can just get us on board.”

“I'm SoRrY. I hAvE tO wAiT uNtIl tHe MaStEr GeTs BaCk. I lOoK aFtEr ThE bUs WhIlE hE's AwAy.” The figure sat up, pushing the hat back over its head.

And as Joel backed away in growing horror, he realized that things were far worse than anyone had expected.



The zombies shuffled closer. "BRAINS," one moaned hopefully.

Mike shut his eyes. Be a man, he thought. Be a man. Don't go out pleading and crying and wetting your pants. He opened them again and saw the nightmarish faces, the dead flesh, and the general B-movie horror atmosphere.

Too late, he thought. Too late.

A cold zombie hand reached towards him.

"BRAINS?" The zombie sounded confused. It turned to its fellow zombie and asked the other one "BRAINS?"
The other zombie peered closely at Mike. With one cold finger, it poked at Mike's head. "BRAINS?" it asked. Then it rapped against the side of his head.

"BRAINS?

It rapped again and Mike winced.

"BRAINS," it concluded sadly and shuffled away. The other zombies followed, muttering various dejected pleas of "brains" and "BRAINS." The zombies turned back in the direction of the apartment.

The shuffling faded away in the distance. There was silence.

Then the sound of running feet echoed down the hallway. Mike slumped against the wall.

"Mike," Joel cried, rushing over. "Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Mike said, allowing Joel to help him to his feet and out the front door. “But I think I need to change my pants. So how’s it looking getting out of here?”

Joel shuddered.



"Crow?"

"Quiet," Crow hissed, flapping what appeared to be a metal claw covered in ripped dish towels. There might have been blood on it. More likely it was ketchup. Then in a louder voice, he said "BRAINS! BRAINS, BRAINS BRAINS. BRAINS BRAINS... BRAINS!"

The zombies nodded in agreement. "BRAINS," one said, clapping a companionable hand on Crow's shoulder. It stuck to Crow's frame. The zombie ambled away and began chatting with the rest of his companions.

Servo leaned over to Crow and whispered, "Do you have a plan beyond this?”

“I'm kind of winging it. But I have to say, being a zombie's pretty comfortable.”

“Crow.”

“I mean, you get to make friends, the costume's not hard to make, and who doesn't like brains?”

“CROW!”

At that, one of the zombies looked up and shuffled over. It glared down. “BRAINS?”

“BRAINS. BRAINS... BRAINS BRAINS, BRAINS!” Crow frantically explained.

The zombie turned to Servo. “BRAINS?”

Crow gave him a pleading look.

Servo cleared his throat, and in his most commanding tone, he said, “BRAINS!"

The zombie looked thoughtful for a moment. Crow relaxed.

And then the zombie ripped Servo's head off.



Mike and Joel huddled behind a bush. In front of them, a group of zombies milled around, listless and bored. As Mike watched them, he thought they could have passed for some of the IT workers he temped for, if not for the revolting smell, incomprehensible speech, and violent tendencies... wait...

“Joel, are we sure they're not just here to get fix someone's server?”

“Listen, Mike, when I throw the fireworks at them, we're only going to have a couple of minutes for them to be stunned. So we'll only be buying a bit of time to get back to your apartment and figure out what to do next,” Joel whispered. “So get ready to run when I give the signal.”

“And then what? Zombies eat our... well, your brains.” Mike said. “And rip the rest of our limbs apart and break what hasn't already broken by the bots into pieces and if we're lucky, Cambot will film it all and turn it into a Paranormal Activity sequel, which will still suck, but make slightly more sense.”

“Mike, are you sure the zombies didn't hurt you?”

Mike sighed. “I can't do this anymore.”

“Look, Mike, I know it's tough, but I think if we just hold out a little bit longer, we'll be able to get back and regroup. I'm sure--”

“No, it's not that. It's just... this is probably the most excitement I've had since the Satellite crashed, and you know what? It's all I've got going on in my life right now.”

“Mike...”

“No, I mean it. I mean, I love the bots, but what else do I have? I'm still a temp, my references are a mad scientist and an ape, and when I told my brother I was back, he asked if they were still hiring. I mean, you got a life. You've got a job, you've toured with a band, and you haven't had footage of you singing in the shower uploaded to YouTube for everyone to laugh at.”

“Well, I found that song about the janitor fairly moving.”

“And that's the point.”

“What is?”

“I can't get away from the Satellite. Every time I want to start over, it's like it keeps me here.” Mike stopped, drooping his head. “You know what gives me the most joy? When the bots and I sit in front of a really bad movie and make fun of it. I I'm doing it and I'm not even forced to anymore. It's a sickness. It's—”

“Something I do as well,” Joel said, putting a hand on Mike's shoulder.

“What?” Mike looked up in confusion.

“Mike, I tried to escape from it too. I told myself I didn't need to do it. I tried to escape it through hot fish, through pyrotechnics, through guest appearances on cult TV shows. But in the end, I do it, too.”

“But your shop--”

“Closed down. The band only comes together once in a while, and cult TV shows get cancelled. But bad movies live on in both of our hearts, and you know what? I don't think it's so bad if you're having fun with it. Dr. Forrester wanted us to suffer. But it's what brought me and the bots together, and it's what brought you and them together, and ultimately, it's what we love.”

Mike could feel a good cry coming on. Hold it in, Nelson. Hold it in. “So if I ever invited you over to riff on a movie with me?”

“I would love to.” Joel smiled. “Now how about we run for our lives now.”

“I just have one question,” Mike said, steadying his feet and wiping a tear he definitely didn't have from his eye.

“What's that?”

“Where's the swelling orchestral music coming from?”

Joel grinned. “I try not to ask. I just repeat myself, well, it's just a show and I should really try to relax.”

“What?”

Joel lit the pot and threw it towards the center of the zombie mass. “RUN!”



Cambot assessed the situation. Mike and Joel running for their lives, Tom Servo apparently dead, Crow.. well, being Crow. Zombies outside the apartment. Zombies down the hall. Zombies on the street.

In short, it was not a situation anyone in the apartment could handle. But he knew someone who could.

He made the call.

The phone picked up. “I'm on my way.”

Cambot hung up. Finally, he thought. They had a chance.



“Servo!” Crow yelled, as the red body crumpled to the ground. “You bastards! You killed Servo!”

“BRAINS?”

“ARGH,” Crow screamed, charging at the zombie, who stared quizzically down at him, before Crow bounced off the zombie's legs. He righted himself, and prepared to charge again.

“Crow, stop. I got it under control.”

Crow turned around in amazement. Next to him, in all his red-bodied short glory stood Servo, bearing his usual smirk.

Crow looked at the ground. Servo lay in pieces at his feet.

“But... how...” his voice trailed off as a suspicion grew. “Servo, are you a zombie? Because you have to tell me if you are.”

“Nah, I'm all right,” Servo said. “Takes more than losing my head to finish Tom Servo off.”

“But if you're not dead, then who's in pieces on the ground?”

“That was Servo, too. I kept a bunch of the extra Servos around in case I needed them. Turns out there were still a few of those crafty bastards hanging around. So I switched off in the air ducts and contacted the other Servos while you distracted them.”

“You could have told me.” Crow refused to acknowledge that what he felt was overwhelming relief, but it was there, all the same.

“And spoiled my awesome plan? No way. All right, Servos, let them have it!”

At once, a mass of tiny furious red robots poured out of the ceiling ducts and hurled themselves at the zombie mass. They swarmed over the bodies and if you listened closely, you could make out the words, “Ha, ha, take that!” and “That's what you get for messing with the Servo.”

“So exactly, how are we going to get back into the ducts, then?

Servo smirked. “I have a plan for that. Servos, assemble!”

At once, Crow and Servo were hoisted in the air by a pyramid of more Servos, who lifted them up to the ceiling. Amidst the sounds of zombie crushing and “BRAINS,” if you listened closely, you could make out...

“WHEE!”


As Mike and Joel burst back into the room, they started ramming a bookshelf, chair, and anything not broken by robot games gone wrong against the door. They were up to about four layers of furniture, when the ceiling tiles creaked above them.

“Hey, we could use a hand here, guys,” Crow called out. Mike and Joel pulled them out of the ceiling before the group huddled together.

“So, how'd it go on your end?” Mike asked.

“Well, we infiltrated the zombies,” Crow said, “but I didn't learn much about their plans. Only that they like brains and their dislikes are not-brains and that if they could be anyone in the world, they would be things that eat brains. Oh, and Servo died. But not really.”

“Yeah, I'm pretty hard to kill,” Servo said. “But I'm not so sure about the other me's. How did you guys do?”

“I managed to get some fireworks, while Mike distracted the zombies, but we're out of luck as far as getting out of here. They got to my tires.”

Mike looked puzzled. “But I thought you said you saw a tour bus out there? Was something wrong with it?”

Joel steeled himself. If what he had pieced together was true... it would be painful for them all. “I recognized the driver.” He paused, mostly for dramatic impact. “It was Torgo.”

“Torgo?” Mike thought about it. “The guy who didn't like my Urkel?”

“That guy?” Crow said. “What's he doing here? Delivering pizza?”

“Actually, I think it was the zombies. I'd been wondering how they got here and when I got a look at the bus, it pretty much reeked of them,” Joel said.

Servo frowned. "But who would get a bunch of zombies on a bus and send them directly to us?"

A zombie in a white labcoat crashed through the window, scattering glass in its wake. He looked directly at the huddled group. Behind him, a mysterious black robed figure raised his hand and waved at them.

“TV's Frank?”

“BRAINS,” the zombie said.

“Dr. Forrester?”


 


Part Three: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies

Five months ago in a secret laboratory deep under the ground on an inexplicably stormy night...

"Pearl, I don't mean to question you---"

"Then don't." A drill turned on and somewhere in the distance, lightning began rumbling overhead.

"But are you sure we should be doing this? I mean, tampering in God's domain, messing in things man was not supposed to know about? Don't you have other commitments?"

"Listen, peabrain, Qatar can take care of itself for a while. And if it can't, I can always brutally oppress it again. But a chance to bring my beloved son back from the dead? That only happens once every 15 years or so."

"We don't know if it will work.”

“I do.”

Lightning crashed and the entire room lit up. Machines whirred, strange liquids pumped through tubes, and a general feeling of mad science permeated the room. A shriek might have been let out, but Brain Guy would never cop to it.

Then silence.

An opening of eyes. A groaning deep within a throat unused to speech for quite some time.

"Clayton, speak to me. Say something. It's your beloved mother.”

"BRAINS."

"I think he wants to talk to you, Brain Guy."

"Ah, Pearl, I rather think something might have gone wrong."

"BRAINS!"

"Nonsense. He just wants to give you a hug. He's clingy like that. I remember when he was a little boy and he would come crying to me wanting one and I would have to loose the hounds on him to make him stop."

"Pearl!"

"BRAINS! BRAINS!"

“Oh, god, the pain, the pain!”

"I swear to all that is holy that if you hurt my little boy before I get the chance, I will make you regret the day you were ever spawned in this universe."

“BRAINS! BRAINS! BRAINS!”

A slurping sound then the sound of a body hitting the floor.

"Well, poopie.”

 


The group sat in the middle of the room. Outside the apartment, they could hear muffled banging at the door.

“Then Pearl decided she'd need to fix it somehow, so she put out a call for some temps to experiment on.” Frank said, patting Zombie Dr. Forrester's head. He had taken to gnawing on Frank's arm, which he patiently put up with. “But she couldn't fix it and after about a hundred or so, she gave up and went back to Qatar to put down an uprising while she figured out what to do next.”

“And nobody missed a bunch of people going missing,” Joel asked.

“Well, they were temps.”

“BRAINS,” Zombie Dr. Forrester agreed.

“Then I got a message from another SoulTaker that a zombie in a labcoat had hijacked a tour bus with the help of a bunch of guys in orange jumpsuits with dazed expressions. I tracked Dr. F to Minneapolis, and well... now, he's here.”

“So why'd he come here? Revenge?” Servo added, “Because that's a motive I can completely get behind.”

“Oh, no. He just needed your brains to help figure out how to reverse the zombie effect. Since he doesn't have any of his own, he was hoping he could use yours.”

“By eating them.”

“Well, once you get a taste of them, I guess you can't stop eating them.”

“BRAINS. BRAINS BRAINS BRAINS.”

“Well, even if he wasn't trying to kill all of us, there's a bunch of angry zombie temps out there that want to destroy us – even the ones of us without brains.

“BRAINS.”

“Hey!” Mike said.

The scratching noises grew louder at the door.

“So, what are you doing here?” Joel asked. “Last time I saw you, you had a pretty steady job as a SoulTaker.”

“Oh, I got fired,” Frank said. “And then I got kicked back down here by the big guy upstairs.”

“God?”

An ominous creaking came from the furniture in front of the door.

“No, Robert Z'Dar. He was pretty angry at me about my job performance.”

“Did you help us out too much?”

“Oh, he didn't care if I helped you guys.”

“But then why'd they fire you.”

“Well, I was making soul count just fine, but I was way behind on my peeping in bathrooms and lurking in hospitals quota.”

The door to the apartment exploded off the hinges. Behind it, a horde of zombies rushed into the room.


 

“Joel, I just wanted to say that I always thought you were really cool. And I'm glad that you're here at the end. Even if you're probably not.” Mike took cover behind the couch as a zombie arm swung at him.

“It's all right, Mike. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. Well, somewhere not with zombies, but if I had to fight them, I'm glad you're here, too.” Joel threw another firecracker at them and dove to join Mike in huddling behind the couch.

“Servo? You've always been a great guy, and I'm glad at least one of you survived. Even if I'm not sure which one of you did.” Crow hid under Mike's arm, the last of the dish cloths ripping away.

“Crow.” Servo peeked over the edge of the couch, only to duck back down as a zombie limb came flying at him.

“Aren't you going to say anything else?”

“I'm thinking.” The sounds of zombie mayhem grew louder. “Your new voice wasn't that bad.”

“That's it?”

“Well, you're pretty shiny, too.”

Frank grabbed Zombie Dr. Forrester and joined Mike, Joel, and the bots behind the couch.

“Dr. F. I want to let you know that I miss working for you. I mean, I died a lot, but it wasn't all bad. We had some good times.”

“BRAINS.”

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot to me.”

“I'm all out of firecrackers,” Joel said. “Cambot?”

Cambot beeped.

“If we don't make it, just make sure you let everyone know that we went out as big damn heroes.”

There was a great screeching noise outside and they could hear a large mass hitting the ground.

“How many temps did she experiment on anyway?” Mike asked.

“I don't think those are zombies,” Joel said, as the pounding grew louder. “I think it's one of ours.”

In the window, highlighted by the burning flames of pyrotechnics on the lawn, looking generally badass, was a large purple shape holding a fairly large, black cannon. It spoke, and even the zombies stopped to stare in awe.

"I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I am all out of bubblegum."

"Gypsy!"

“Hey, guys!” She raised the cannon towards the invading zombie horde and yelled at them, “Eat it!”

“Duck,” screamed Mike, and as the two of them grabbed a bot, and hit the carpet, they could hear the sound of a very loud buzzing coming directly towards them.

Everything blew up in a brilliant burst of white.


 


Epilogue: The Magic Christmas Tree

"Well, they're not completely cured. I mean, they'll always be Jersey Shore fans, but there's only so much you can do."

Mike, Joel, Dr. Forrester, and Frank sat at the kitchen table drinking hot cocoa that had appeared from... well, let's not worry about that. On the couch, perched atop zombie gore and bits of the walls, all four bots sat in rapt awe as Patrick Swayze kicked yet another person's ass.

"So they're completely normal?" Mike asked.

"As normal as people who used to be craving sweet, sweet brains, can be,” Dr. Forrester answered. “I mean, they were temps before they started, so they weren't going to be rocket scientists before mother got a hold of them. Just look at you, Mike.”

“Hey!”

Behind him, the bots segued into a rousing rendition of “She's Like The Wind.”

“But how did Gypsy know we needed help?”

“Cambot friended her on Facebook a while ago. He sent her a message saying, “Help, zombies attacking. Please send some sort of super anti-zombie weapon to stop them.” Joel looked over at Gypsy, who had begun singing “Hungry Eyes” to the television screen. “She used one of my old inventions.”

“You invented an anti-zombie weapon.”

“Well, it passed the time.”

“How exactly did it work, anyhow? I mean, everyone's still alive, the door's back to normal, and I'm pretty sure I didn't have cable before this.”

Joel shrugged. “I wouldn't think about it too hard. All that matters is that it did, right?”

“Yeah, it did. It was pretty amazing. It just happened really fast. Like it was one of those shorts.”

"Well, I just wish this didn't all happen off camera in some sort of deus ex machina," Joel said.

"Yeah," Mike agreed. "It's a bit of a cop-out. I mean, it could have ended with a really great action sequence."

"I know Cambot was looking forward to it." Cambot beeped, his camera lens blinking sadly. “He really wanted to have a clip to send to Michael Bay for his Transformers 4 pitch.”

“Well, as delightful as your inane banter is,” Dr. Forrester muttered, “I really must be going. And by me, I mean I'm taking Frank with me.” He rose to his feet, and Frank followed him.

Mike and Joel glanced warily at each other, communicating non-verbally in that special way that only two people who have been forced to watch horrible movies by the same mad scientist can share.

“Relax. I'm not going to experiment on you any time soon. I know I owe you a debt, which I will repay.” He made his way to the door.

“Well, that's surprisingly... decent of you,” Joel said.

“Let's just say, after being a dumb, blithering idiot for so long, I now begin to comprehend how hard it must be to be Mike and how much I owe the two of you for saving me from that fate.”

“Thanks... hey, wait a minute--”

“Goodbye, Joel. Goodbye, Mike. I'm sure I'll see you again if I'm very unlucky.”

Frank waved. “Bye, guys.”

“Goodbye, Dr. F. Goodbye TV's Frank,” Mike and Joel chorused together.

The door slammed behind them.

“You know I can't help having an uneasy feeling about all of this,” Mike said.

“I'm sure it'll all be okay,” Joel said. “And if not, what's the worst that could happen?”


Meanwhile, in a secret laboratory deep under the ground on an actually quite pleasant clear night...

"So it turns out that I'm in the market for a new assistant for some mad sciencing," Pearl Forrester said over her clipboard, “as apparently my son's back to plotting, my former subjects have formed some sort of alliance, and my previous aides are recovering from, respectively, bite marks to the brain and an overdose of banana daiquiris.”

The applicant in front her nodded.

'What makes you the most ideal candidate for the job?” she said, taking out a pencil and tapping on the clipboard, attempting to drown out the sound of moaning ape and well, not-ape.

“Well, I've taken some courses in Super Villainy, I'm a current member of the Fraternal Order of Mad Science, and if you check my resume, you'll see I have unique experiences which make me ideally qualified to assist you in whatever nefarious schemes you may devise.”

“Yes, I see you worked at Gizmonic Institute for quite some time before leaving. May I ask as to the reason for your departure?”

“An unfortunate mishap with a giant spider placed me on disability for a while, but I believe I've fully recovered and am ready to rejoin the work force again.”

“I must say, as soon as I saw your application, I was very impressed. Especially since you listed your statement of intent as 'Getting revenge on that Forrester moron who left me to die in pools of spider venom.'” At that Pearl looked and smiled. It was not a pleasant sight. “Now I'd like to offer you this position, but I must make one thing absolutely clear. The only one allowed to kill Clayton is me. Beyond that...”

“That's not a dealbreaker. I can live with torment.”

“Then you're hired, Dr. Ernhardt.”

The curly-haired man giggled. “Please call me Larry.”


After the apartment had been cleaned up as best as a zombie-destroyed apartment could, after the watching f time honored Christmas classic movies had been concluded, and after Gypsy had promised to come back the next day as soon as she took the weapon back to the lab (prompting a chorus of sighs from Crow and Servo), Mike and Joel collapsed onto the mostly clean sofa, a bot nestling on either side of them. Above, Cambot had shuttered his eye for the evening.

“So Joel.”

“Yeah, Mike?”

“You know, I have a couch here that's mostly free of zombie guts and I know the bots would love you to stay, and there are probably some pretty bad movies on the SyFy channel.”

“Are you asking me to stay?”

Mike looked sheepish. “Well, only if you want to. I mean, if you have somewhere you need to be.”

The bots looked up hopefully. “Please Joel,” Crow said. “I think they're going to show Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus. I heard it's really bad.”

“Yeah, Joel,” Servo chimed in. “There's still some things Mike hasn't blown up in the neighborhood that I know he wants to for New Year's.”

Mike just looked expectant, hiding back a grin.

“Well, I don't have to get back anytime soon,” Joel said, and everyone whooped in joy.

And if in the next hour, everyone fell asleep on the couch and missed the sounds of Santa Claus and Pitch engaged in another battle over a neighborhood kid's soul out on their lawn, well, it's better that they got their rest given what awaited them next.



"So how long are you going to give them, sir, before you try another experiment on them," Frank asked Dr. Forrester as they began the walk out of Mike's apartment building.

"I'll be nice. They'll have a day."

"You are the soul of generosity, sir."

"Well, maybe a couple of days. I still need to get a lab up and running, my mother still has all my credit cards, and I could do with a shower."

"I wasn't about to mention it."

"Yes, well..." Dr. Forrester trailed off, as they watched as a confused mass of what were temps, then zombies, and now unemployed ex-zombies, shuffled across the street. They clambered onto the surprisingly intact tour bus, and looked dazedly out the window. In the driver's seat up front, Torgo leaned on the horn, which pealed into the night.

The light turned red and they paused at the corner. Dr. Forrester coughed a few times.

"I know I didn't always tell you this, but Frank--"

"Sir, you don't have to say anything. I already know."

“No, I really should say this.”

“All right, sir.”

A long moment passed. Torgo leaned on the horn again. At the point when Frank thought he might as well give him a break again, Dr. Forrester leaned down and in a muffled voice, said, “I might have missed killing you.”
Frank looked up, surprised. Dr. Forrester's face turned red and he looked away, pretending to listen to Torgo's rendition of the Godzilla theme on the horn.

“Sir...”

“Not that I couldn't kill anyone else if I wanted to. Which I could have. Easily. It's just... mother happened and then I died... and... there wasn't enough time.” He trailed off again.

“I understand, sir. I would never think it would only be me you could kill.”

Dr. Forrester hmphed. They stood in companionable silence for a few more minutes, save for the dulcet horn-strains of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ringing in the night.

“Frank?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Are you ready to accompany me on yet another diabolical plan, which will most certainly involve tormenting Joel, Mike, those robots, and probably you?"

Frank stared out at the crosswalk light. On the one hand, this was a chance for a brand new life, one in which he wasn't the butt monkey of a mad scientist named Forrester. He had the chance to be his own man, to learn something new, to... well, not be TV's Frank. And maybe one in which he didn't die quite so much.

On the other hand, he really didn't want to look for a new job now that there was even more competition on the job market. Mad science assisting was really a limited field. And Dr. F... well, you got used to him.

There really was no choice. "By your side, Dr. F."

"Then push the button, Frank and let's get going."