Orbital Sciences Director Gonzo returned to his office after a long but constructive meeting with Deputy Director Geoff and other members of the TSOSD staff. 2016 was going to be an interesting year. With plans to get TS Timmy to the edge of space by high-altitude balloon on the agenda, together with a range of new training routines for the Hamstronauts and the first tests of equipment to be used on Rocketship one. Gonzo didn’t notice a few hamsters of the hamstronaut program scurrying out of his office with some of his desk decorations when he opened the door.
The console on the desk was flashing a warning message. “Not again…“ Gonzo sighed, while he scrolled through the error report. He grabbed a tomato from the desk and took a bite. “Hmmm, not bad,” he mumbled while looking through the information on the screen. According to the debug report, the secondary cooling interface, cooling the main GPU was unresponsive. “Text mode sucks,” the engineer sighed and grabbed the necessary tools to open up his console.
“What in the name of turnips?” The secondary coolant system was completely missing, or well… It was replaced…
Gonzo looked at the hardware of his console and screamed:
Gonzo looked at the remains of the tomato he just ate and was utterly confused. He had seen many shenanigans in his time in the army of Toy Soldiers. However, he had never seen a coolant system replaced with a tomato.
Suddenly, the phone rang.
“Gonzo, QUICK! Come to my office at once!” Sgt. Dutch sounded agitated and in a panic. “What is goi–” *beeep*
“Ugh,” Gonzo mumbled some Dutch swearing words under his breath and went up to the Administrator’s office.
When Gonzo arrived, Sgt. Dutch was going over security footage, mumbling about tomatoes. “You called?”
“Indeed. Gonzo, can you explain this?” Gonzo looked at the portable console with a flattened tomato placed where the harddrive was supposed to sit.
“Uhh nope, but the same thing happened with my cooling system. Anything on footage?”
“Not really just this large tomato box that appears seemingly out of nowhere, and disappears after 5 minutes. Take a look here,” Dutch pointed at the screen, “Nothing visible until suddenly…” Both Dutch and Gonzo were looking at the screen when a tomato box appeared.
“Right, let’s do a frame-by-frame,” Gonzo said. They were watching the display carefully while skipping through frames when Silent Addle had silently entered the room, as he does.
“GUYS!” He said loudly, both Dutch and Gonzo jumped up.
“You ass,” Dutch said.
“No, Mister Donkey is my friendly neighbour,” Silent replied, “I came here for this:” Silent dropped a motherboard of a console in front of us, wired up with… You guessed it: Tomatoes.
After seeing the security footage, Silent rigged the security system to give us an alarm whenever a tomato box was spotted. But the alarm kept quiet. Meanwhile, more and more people reported to the Administrator’s office with complaints about tomatoes replacing their hardware.
Suddenly someone gasped and pointed at Dutch’s desk. Out of nothing, there it was, a tomato box. It was not filled with potatoes at all, because potatoes have nothing to do with this story, but there were no tomatoes either. It was completely empty, no hidden compartments, just a plain, empty, cardboard tomato box.
“It makes no sense…” Silent mumbled, while Dutch got all the other Toy Soldiers out of his now very crowded office and issuing a bunker-wide alert for tomato boxes.
Gonzo had occupied one of the monitors to rewatch some security footage of his own office. “Guys, there is something here,” he said, “look closely at these 5 frames and look at this part of the screen.”
Dutch, Gonzo and Silent were watching the screen intensely, there it was, some kind of electrical discharge? There was a 3 frame short blue streak visible at the center where the box appeared, but that was it.
The lights suddenly flickered, and the box vanished. In the distance a portable console could be heard booting up. Dutch got up to get his equipment, while Silent and Gonzo were both looking at their hands. Each of them was holding a tomato in their left hand. Silent shrugged and took a bite of the tomato: “At least it’s fresh,” he commented.
Gonzo put the tomato on Dutch’s desk. “I don’t get it, why tomatoes?” Gonzo asked. “I dunno,” Dutch returned with his portable console, “but there is no tomato in here anymore, my harddrive is back in my console.”
Suddenly the lights flickered again and the tomato box was back. This time actually filled with tomatoes and a note. Dutch picked up the note and read:
I am the Tomato Man,
Fear not, because I’m a big fan!
I’m sorry if I’ve caused you inconvenience,
But my box decided to experiment with science.
I’ve made sure every replaced object has been restored.
I’ll find other activities for my box when we get bored.
Please accept my gift of apology,
Signed: Tomato Man.
“Ugh, one of those rhyming types…” Gonzo muttered.
“So what do we do with all these?” Dutch asked, gesturing at the tomatoes. “I may know just the guy,” Gonzo said while he texted someone. Within seconds, his phone rang, Gonzo answered in Dutch and was apparently discussing something important.
“So again, I ask: What do we do with these tomatoes?” Dutch said slightly louder. Silent looked up, “Hmmm? Hmmm…” and said nothing else.
Gonzo hung up the phone call; “So how many tomatoes do we have here? Sokamin wants to know.” “Uhh, a lot?” Dutch replied, “Why does he want to know?”
“Well, there is this thing I totally forgot about…”
“Toymas… I forgot Toymas, Sokamin just reminded me of that. He wants to have the tomatoes, and make them into soup for our festive dinner.”
“Festive dinner?” Dutch asked, “It’s been a while… Yes, let’s do it! Let’s make this party happen, Sokamin can have those damned tomatoes, I’ve seen enough of those for a week or two. Next time I see them, they better be mashed and cooked into soup.”
“Fair enough,” Gonzo replied and called one of the robots to bring the box with tomatoes to Sokamin.
“If everything is done here for now, I’ll go back to TSOSD HQ and file those long overdue infiltration reports.”
Silent looked at Sgt. Dutch and said: “Tomato soup, it’s something. It could be delicious! It could be poisoned too… Good night!” With those words Silent picked up his device without tomatoes this time and left the Administrator’s office.