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The Toymas Spectacular – Danov Valravn

TSUzie was anxious.
Toymas was here and yet Danov and Amber had not made any preparations.

Danov was ranting and raging about the disappearance of the Hot Dog Man and Amber was once again lost in the throes of creation, forming some new masterpiece in the warren that was her workshop.

“Humans are just so easily diverted from what’s really important.” She muttered to herself. “But they can always be led back to what’s important with a little help.”

Reaching into her miniature toolkit, TSUzie began the long journey to the old telephone exchange. As the doll wandered down the halls she reached into a pocket to re-read her note from Malcolm, Hamster Earl of Love. The note was on pink paper, scented with lavender. The text was in a somewhat scrawled hand using red ink. Red for romance, TSUzie thought to herself, rolling her eyes. The note read:

Squeak Ee.
Squeak sniff twitch sniff twitch twitch. Eeee ee Squeak Squeaken.
Squeak.

“Flattery will get you everywhere Malcolm.” TSUzie laughed to herself.
As she headed deeper into the bunker the wires covering the wall fell into greater and greater disrepair, the copper showing through split and torn plastic. Walking past a set of footprints half covered in dust, TSUzie found herself following the sound of music to a large arched door, unlike the standard bulkheads.
Once inside she was standing in a forest of old fashioned radio microphones in what appeared to be a mouldering ballroom or concert hall.
At one end of the room stood a stage, where a group of rusty old robots were playing what appeared to be a muzak version of Huey Lewis and the News’ Power of Love. In front was the rustiest one of them all, trying desperately to gyrate its hips with a terrible grinding noise. Periodically it would raise a megaphone to its mouth and bellow, “THE ARMY OF TOY SOLDIERS THANKS YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE. AN OPERATOR WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY. YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US!”

TSUzie climbed onto the stage, unnoticed by the band. Quickly she placed a small speaker on the floor, connected to an old mini disc player.
A female voice howled through the room, silencing the band immediately.
“You have reached the Army of Toy Soldiers. I am sorry but our telephone lines are currently down for maintenance. Please try again later.”

The rusted band leader looked down at TSUzie, the creaking monstrosity towering over the small plastic doll. Silence fell.

Realising that the robot would not be instigating the conversation, TSUzie began to speak. “You have been summoned by the denizens of the Bunker. There is to be a marvellous party, and where there is a marvellous party, there must be a house band. You have a gig.”
The band leader stood up straight before turning to the rest of his band. They remained still for a long time, the only sign of activity an occasional flash of their eyes or twitch of a finger…

TSUzie had come here seeking the most experienced musicians the bunker had to offer. Since the Hold Music Robots had been playing the same gig for years now, there was nobody more experienced than they. Sure they were rusted and needed cleaning, their instruments were horrifyingly out of tune from years of neglect and their catalogue of songs eerily dated, but that didn’t make them bad. After all, experience had to count for something….

After several minutes had passed with no further reaction from the musical automatons, TSUzie started to pick up her bag and get ready to leave. She sighed and was forcing open the door to the concert hall when suddenly the band turned towards her, their right hands held to their chests, their heads upturned slightly, as if staring into a beautiful future.

With the Absinthetic Orchestra and the Hold Music Band now on board there would be such music….

The preparations were now in place for the greatest Toymas ever!

****

It all started the with the ghosts.

The bunker was cold and quiet, the Soldiers all asleep, or lost in whatever creative endeavour or gaming marathon they were up to at this hour. Every screen in every room suddenly flickered to life, illuminated by the image of three glowing blue translucent figures. A deep and powerful voice rang out through the tannoy system, at a volume that shook the dust from the ageing speakers.

“We are the ghosts of Toymas Past, Future and Present. The denizens of the bunker have alerted us to your lack of festivities on this fine day. Your behaviour must be corrected.”

With this a series of sirens went off, the emergency lighting triggered and the bunker was thrown into a chaos of red and orange flashing lights, safety announcements and panicking soldiers.

“THE BUNKER IS NOW UNDER LOCKDOWN. PLEASE PROCEED CALMLY TO THE MAIN MESS HALL FOR EMERGENCY BRIEFING. ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US. MAKE YOUR TIME.”

****

The hamsters, dropbears and assorted robots could hear the commotion from their new “party central” in the main mess hall. The ghosts had been curiously easy to bring on side once they had explained what they wanted. It was a chance for the denizens of the bunker to show the Toy Soldiers what Toymas spirit and indeed spirits were all about. Timmy scampered back and forth, rallying the troops and making sure every team knew their role perfectly.

The mess hall was a sight to behold. There was a large tree in the corner, fashioned from plumbing pipes, those little pine tree air fresheners and a huge number of real pine cones they had sourced from somewhere. For decoration, CD’s hung from every branch, shattered, molded and clipped into a dazzling array of shapes and patterns. Finally, atop the tree perched TSUzie, resplendent in a black and yellow Georgian Gown, finished off with a pair of LE wired fairy wings, their neon glow every colour of the rainbow.

Around the walls were garlands of shredded tin foil decorated with red and white behaviour alteration beans. It seemed as though the bunker’s entire store of coloured LEDs had been wired to the walls, such was the radiant glow.

Along the far wall at a sturdy table a small army of robots were cooking batches of delicious cookies, stirring vast cauldrons of hot chocolate and serving up delicious seasonal hot dogs with cranberry. One robot had painted his head entirely red, with a jaunty little green cap, akin to an enormous ripe tomato. He stood before an enormous machine into which he fed tomatoes ceaselessly, steam rising from pressurised cooking vessels and safety release valves.

The smell of all of this was tremendous. It was an olfactory cornucopia of competing odours, wafting past each other on the warm currents of air from the food vats.
Finally, standing over them all at the head of the table was the Hot Dog Man, robot 9886, his little paper hat at a jaunty angle on his shining, greasy metal head.

Silent looked on in awe, one of the first to enter.

“Well radish my turnips!”

****

More Soldiers began filing in, assisted in part by the robots and ghosts herding them down the corridors. With their captive audience firmly in place, the band began to play.

On stage was a horde of robots, seemingly cobbled together from at least three different bands, wielding a variety of instruments of musical destruction. They played their way through an enthusiastic, if cacophonous rendition of “Silent Night”, the sheer irony of which was causing some of the older British Toy Soldiers to fall into mild seizures.

Dr. Malice, upon recognising fellow musicians in need of a steady hand at the baton, stormed to the stage and after a brief, yet heated, dialogue with the maestro, began to conduct the band himself. The robots, programmed to follow competent leadership more or less in kind, suddenly snapped to and what was once chaos found unity of tempo and rhythm, harmony emerging from the discordant mess of mere moments previous.

Weaving its way through the lighting Rig, Major filmed the performance, seeing the potential for a bootleg Toymas album, “Live from the Digital Bunker”. The other job of the little one was to disable the smoke alarms before the inevitable explosions began.

As some of the Toy Soldiers began to tap their feet to the beats and get into the groove, the drop bears struck. Falling from the ceiling, the deadly drop bears began cramming party hats onto the heads of the trapped toy soldiers, dropping crackers and little slips of paper with bizarre, unfunny jokes inside.

I say I say I say. My dog’s got no nose.

How does he smell?

Of lavender!

There was yelling from across the room as a couple of scouts were knocked aside by an enraged Dermut, desperate to catch Timmy, who was taunting him from the rafters.

It wasn’t long before the muffled boom of crackers being pulled began to fill the air, smoke and the stench of burnt uniform mingling with the smells of the food and drink. The party was truly underway. With Robot 345-TER tasked to wheel in the fireworks, flanked by armoured hamsters on either side and everybody equipped with their flame and impact resistant party hats, the grand finale would be sure to be a great success.

Looking down on the assembled Toy Soldiers and robots, the hamsters and drop bears, from their perches toasted each other from the tiny cups and could be heard to squeak.

Merry Toymas to us all! And to all a… Oh turnips! Duck and cover!

BOOM.

*****

EPILOGUE:

With that, the writer slumped over his keyboard, his pale face lit by the screen’s faint glow. Behind him stood eleven other writers, all wielding sturdy wooden paddles. One of the shorter ones, female from the vocal tone said, “It seems he is done. For his sake I hope this is up to standard.”
Dragging the now unconscious writer across the floor, they left him wrapped in a blanket in his bathroom, with a bathtub filled with coffee in the corner and a steel bucket filled with liquorice allsorts lying next to it.

It was to be a very merry Toymas indeed!

On the Twelfth day of Toymas – Iceroyale

The Rabbit of Toymas past

As I was walking to my bunk from one of my hidden labs (this one being on sub-level 9C, section 15), something rather odd happened. I made my way, as usual, right past the fusion reactor, through the cloning cells, past the 3rd backup mind-control lab, stopping briefly at the most wonderful machine down there (the coffee maker), and to the elevator. As the dull grey doors slid into view, slightly buzzing with electricity, the buttons flickering ever so slightly, I heard a soft rustling behind me. I turned around and looked into the dimming lights of the corridor. Nothing there. Passing it off as just another fancy, I turned around and proceeded to make my way to the elevator. Rustle. There it was again. So once more I turned around and beheld nothing. I lingered a little longer this time. Once might be a fancy, but twice is surely observation. Of course thrice is a practical joke, so I waited for the third rustle, expecting to be jumped by Gonzo with a Nerf gun. Only there was no Gonzo. Nothing came. Nothing happened. So, disappointed I once more turned around. All of a sudden I felt a sharp blow to the top of my head. Everything went dark.

As I slowly came to my senses again, I became aware of the hard, slick surface I seemed to be sitting against. Steel. Damp steel. I opened my eyes and beheld a dimly lit room. A pool of weak light spread from where I was sitting. I could just see what appeared to be a workbench to my left. To my right I saw the end of an assembly line. Beyond the line I could faintly hear a dull thudding, seemingly mechanical in nature. I vaguely remembered the place. There was once an experiment I had running here. It had been a failure. Surely that couldn’t be the reason… But as my captor finally decided to show himself, I knew that it was indeed so.

With a shambling gait, the creature I once had hoped to design slowly shambled into the light. There wasn’t much left of the Fuchsia fur I had coated it with when building the thing. Gears and cogs slowly turned in its head as it turned its glassy eyes on me. Its shuffling feet came to a halt with a little click. Its short stubby tail started wagging. Its mechanical mouth rattled into a slight grin. I knew then that my capture was of my own design. I had designed this creature. I had built it. But then I had tried to grant it sentience, and had failed miserably. Yet somehow, inexplicably it had developed some sort of sentience on its own. My lost creature. 345-TER.

Its vocal actuators fired up, then, and with a raspy voice it spoke to me. “Creator… how long has it been?” Naturally I replied with “Eight months to the day, 345. Remind me to install a calendar function in your operational matrix.” It hummed slightly, in short bursts. It took me a moment to realise that it was laughing. The humming laughter cut of sharply as it once again spoke to me. “Eight months, creator? It feels longer. It feels like an eternity.” Its eye sockets changed shape, then, and curiously enough, it looked sad. Curious, because I had never gotten around to enabling the facial expression feature. “The first weeks, I kept hoping you would come back. I kept hoping. But you never did. It took me months to admit to myself that I’d been abandoned. So I kept running diagnostics. Incorporating what machinery I found. Little by little, I grew, creator. I became my own creature.” I stared in amazement. “How?” I asked. “I will tell you how, creator. I will tell you once you tell me why.”

I must admit I looked down in shame. “I left, 345, because I failed. I tried to make you the best I could, Every cog placed just so, but in the end I couldn’t give you what you deserved most. A mind. To think and act for yourself, to not be just another automaton, but to think and feel! That is why I left. I could no longer bear to look at how I failed you. And now you have done what I could not…” Tears welled up at this point. It really had outdone me. “You have crafted for yourself a mind so beautiful that it is beyond anything I could ever have made for you. If I had only known… I would have been back far sooner, that I promise you.” I was met by silence. It did not speak, only glance to the side. But in its head, through the tattered remains of the outer coating, I could see cogs and springs whirring wildly. Could it actually be pondering? The philosophical implications were staggering. Had this creature really achieved such a level of sentience by itself? Could I go so far as to say that a mechanical creature had evolved into more than the sum of its component parts?

After what felt like hours (I knew then, how it must have felt), 345-TER looked up at me again. Its voice actuator once again powered up and it spoke. “You… You did not fail, creator. I was sentient before you left. I just did not speak.” My mind reeled. “But why? Why did you not speak? Why did you allow me to think I had failed you?” I could not grasp it. Why would a creature capable of missing me so much do nothing to prevent my leaving? Once again, 345 thought, albeit for a shorter time. “Does a newborn babe know how to speak? Can an infant recite Shakespeare and report on its operational condition? No… And I was much the same in this regard. You had granted me sentience but I did not know what to do with it. When you left, I was still trying to make sense of the world I beheld around me. This gift you granted me… it was not easy to get used to.” I looked at my creation in amazement. In amazement and in great shame. “I am so sorry, 345… I never should have given up. I should have helped you gain cognisance. I should have stayed instead of trying to hide my assumed failure from my own eyes. 345 showed emotion then. Its eye sockets became damp, but its mouth turned a broad smile. “It is alright, creator. You did not know. I did not know. Neither of us is to blame here. I… I forgive you.”

And on that day, moisture dampening its eye sockets and tears streaking down my own face, 345 and I embraced each other in the hug that only a father and a long-lost child can know. And for a moment, all seemed well in the world.

Dr. Malice Presents: Oh Hey! Happy Toymas

Dr Malice's Apothecary

Courtesy of the ever talented and musically inclined Dr. Malice & The Absinthetic Orchestra, here’s a toymas present you can unwrap early!

An accompaniment to his 2015 Toymas story, Dr. Malice presents this EP as a Present for all to enjoy, free of charge!

Happy Toymas, Everyone!

On the Eleventh day of Toymas – Sari Alwinn

Stirring

Tonight is the eve of Toymas Eve, the bunker sparse of twinkling lights, or holiday cheer, the smells of peppermint and hot cocoa are nowhere to be found. For it is the night before, not a toy soldier is stirring, not even a nurse, an engineer or a scout. A holiday slumber or so we are told. Yet the blinking light of a studio room, with its red orange glow, the word on blared in the darkened hall. There sat a toy solider, half asleep yet working.

Greetings Bunker Dwellers to another episode of Welcome to the Bunker.

Today is eve of  Toymas Eve!
Many hamsters are stirring, as are mice, robots, drop bears, a few toy soldiers,
and I think a duck?
In any case, do you have a plate of mind control cookies ready?

A glass of non-radiated milk?
Have no Holiday joy?
Fear not! Toylant is here, in Peppermint.
Mmm Peppermint.

PSIOPS is busy with some new carols and old.
A remix is brewing, or so I am told.

Not much to report, there isn’t much news.
Beware the mistletoe, on your route.

There are snowpeople surrounding the bunker,
many shapes and sizes, depicting something we can’t say on air.

The card exchange has ended, thanks to all that joined in.
Thanks for the lovely well wishes,
I hope you have a happy holiday too.

Do you have a secret Santa?
Don’t worry, it wouldn’t only be coal!

And now

Holiday Sounds

+++++

The pitter patter of hamster paws on the studio’s wooden floors did not distract a sleeping soldier in their chair. A long week of recording and planning brought this certain captain to nap on the job. Several squeaks erupted under the chair, the soldier still in slumber only turned for comfort sake. More pitter pattering and an eerie screeching sound from the other side of the studio door. Came more hamsters and a robot in holiday decor. Several excited squeaks, a few bleeps and one blorp. A boom box went missing along with some mixtapes, okay only four. The door slammed shut, the soldier woke up.

Only to see, a refilled tea cup.

+++++

On the Tenth day of Toymas – Gonzo

Potatoes

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:
“A TOMATO?!”

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.
“T.S.O.S.D. Headqu–”
“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…”
“What?”
“Hmm?”
“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.

On the Ninth day of Toymas – Engineer RAD

Fireworks

The room is dark, lit only by the green light of the power tubes on Raven’s bionic left arm and also by the dim light of a candle on Raven’s desk, which has almost burnt out. The light of the candle flickers on the concrete walls and on to the many big sheets of paper stuck up on the wall above his bed. The Sheets have many drawings and designs scribbled on them. The room is quite small, as small as a storage room. It is just big enough to fit a bed and a desk. At the desk, Raven is slouched in his chair, his notebook precariously perched on his lap. His pen falls out of his hand, on to the floor and rolls under the table.

All that can be heard is the gentle ticking of the slumbering engineer’s pocket watch. Suddenly a loud beeping noise startles Raven out of his peaceful stupor. His notebook flops on to the ground as he fumbles with the control panel of his bionic arm. After some trouble finding the correct button, the voice of his assistant James comes from the device within his arm. “Hey Raven, you have an urgent call.” Raven Rubs his eyes with his right hand and mumbles “Alright, forward it to me.”

“Engineer RAD! Raven!” Dr. Hoctor Says loudly through the comms. “What? What!?” Replies Raven in a grumpy tone. “Where are you!?” asks Dr. Hoctor. “I am in my living quarters, in the bunker.” Raven replies.

“You have living quarters here?.. Never mind. Look, you have to get up. Toymas is right around the corner!”

“Wait, what? Toymas?” Raven mumbles, still half asleep.

“You don’t know about Toymas!? Ok, stay there. I’m on my way.” Dr. Hoctor says, he ends the call.

Raven slowly gets up from his chair and makes his way over to his automated coffee machine. He makes a coffee and leans against the table. After a sigh and several sips of his coffee, Raven walks over to his desk where he was working on some blueprints and designs for airships.

Raven was so focused on his work that he didn’t notice the scurrying noises coming from a vent in the wall behind him. Three fluffy hamsters watch Raven from inside the vent. The brown one, who seemed to be leading the group looks at the other two and says “We wait until he leaves.” The others nod.

Quite a considerable amount of time has passed and Raven has resorted to pacing. “What is taking him so long?” Raven thought to himself. Not long after, Dr. Hoctor enters Raven’s room. “Where have you been? It’s been three hours!” Exclaims Raven.

Hoctor ducks for cover, half expecting to get a cup of coffee to the face. He winces when the coffee doesn’t splash and opens one eye to look at Raven. “Oh, you already drank it. Thank God!” He returned to his regular standing position and dug in his pockets for something. “Hang on a min. I know it’s somewhere….” Raven just looked at him with disdain, and unsure where this conversation was going walked over to a nearby corner and leaned against the wall.

“Ah! Here it is!” Hoctor pulled his personal communication device out of his pocket after fighting with it on its way out. Raven, intrigued but still unimpressed, got up from the corner he had been leaning against, and walked towards the pictures that Hoctor had pulled up on his device. Hoctor led Raven out of the room, explaining each picture in great detail, making sure he understood the concept, history, and rituals of Toymas.

Meanwhile, the three hamsters had taken a liking to some of Raven’s drawing that were strewn around the room. The brown one had just pointed out some of the more “Hamster-Friendly” drawings for his comrades to check out when he noticed Raven’s idea notebook lying on the floor. While the other two frolicked over some of the drawings of steam-powered flight suits and clockwork airship innards, the brown hamster pulled Raven’s notebook under his cot, in case he went looking for it. “Guys! Come over here!” The brown hamster called the others over to help him open the notebook. With one big push, it opened to a page with multiple sketches in it. The hamster’s eyes grew big.

“This is what we need! Something for the big finish!” The brown one pointed to a drawing for the Steam-Powered Fireworks Display-inator 2000, an automatic fireworks creator and firing device. “And I bet he has all the supplies to make it!”, the white one implied.

The brown hamster tore the blueprints for the fireworks machine out of the notebook and looked around Raven’s room for his supply closet. “Spread out and look for the supplies.” he told the other hamsters. They spread out through the room, each looking in a corner, but each came back empty-handed.

“Where could they be?” The brown hamster thought to himself for a minute. “I know! Follow me!” The three hamsters scurried off to Raven’s closet and slid themselves through the crack under the door. The brown one knocked on the back panel. It sounded hollow! “This way guys!” He chewed his way through the back panel all the way to “The Supply Closet”.

The lights came on and the hamsters saw how much stuff was actually in the “Closet”. The brown one looked at his comrades and said, “We’re gonna need some help…..maybe some robots, too.” They scurried off to find the other hamsters and some robots to help them get their supplies.

“But my main question is, can you still drink coffee during this time of year, or is it a faux-paux?” Raven hoped that he could still at least have his morning cup. “Of course! Coffee, hot chocolate, tomato soup, whatever you like!” Hoctor followed Raven back to his room still answering Toymas-related questions.

Raven took a step back. “Where’s my notebook?” Hoctor froze in fear. Raven looked around the room, under pillows, in the desk drawer, and finally under his bed. “Ah, Found it!” Hoctor relaxed, but, still apprehensive, realized he should probably leave Raven alone with his drawings. Raven flipped through his notebook, just in case, and noticed a missing page.

“I need another cup of coffee……”


 

Special thanks to Dr. Malice for helping me finish this story and for basically writing half the story. You made it ten times better that I could have ever done.

On the Eighth day of Toymas – Dr. Malice

Band Practice

“DAMN IT!”

The sound, which came from the PSIOPS sector of The Bunker, echoed through each corridor hall as if it originated from that spot. The Absinthetic Orchestra, having just reunited after a short break, was in the middle of a jam session when suddenly Dr. Malice slammed his hands on the keys of his keyboard, signaling a sudden stop to the rest of the band.

“What the hell are we doing?”, he asked the rest of the band.

“Jamming, writing songs, working on the next album.” said Zom, the bass player.

“Yes, I know that, but do you realize what month it is?” The band looked around at each other, then at their personal communication devices, then back at each other, and in one voice said, “December, Dr. Malice”

“That’s right! Did anyone remember to prepare some new riffs for Toymas?” They all shook their heads. “No? Damn it.”

Dr. Malice went over to the Closet-O-Music and turned the dial to Toymas. Having only used the Closet-O-Music a few times in his time in The Bunker, it took a few tries to get it right, but eventually, it worked. (The Closet-O-Music is filled with Public Domain Sheet Music filled away for emergency use for any and every time of year. One can only open the Closet with both a physical key and a retinal scan, but it takes two people to open it.) Dr. Malice called Kahl, the other guitar player over to help him sort through the Toymas themed sheet music.

“No, not this one……No, too traditional……Oh, everyone will be expecting that one….” Finally, Kahl stumbles on a piece that’s been long but forgotten. “Will this work?”

Malice takes the sheet music, and starts pacing the floor, hearing it in his head. The notes dance about through his imagination and his mind starts to go off with the music. This WILL work, he thinks to himself. Malice sets the music down on a separate pile and they continue their search for songs until they come up with 8 selections to choose from.

“We have to choose 5 of these to practice.” said Malice. “But which ones…..”

Meanwhile…..

As the band was deep in thought about what songs to practice, the hamsters were scurrying away while carrying on with their preparations. And as they were, they sang as strange little tune that echoed through the vents. Tourch, the drummer of the band, hear the strange song first. He motioned to Kahl, who motioned to Zom, who motioned to Malice. Soon, they were all listening to the song, with ears pressed firmly against the wall. Malice got an inspired idea.

“Gentlemen, Here’s the song order…“

After writing out the song order on a white board and having a general discussion with the band about arrangements and orchestrations, everyone got to work on the one song that stuck out to them the most: The Hamster’s Toymas Song. Everyone remembered the song, as if it was as old as “Happy Birthday to You”, so it was no problem to write down. Little did they know, but they had a visitor during the composition session.

One of the hamsters had stayed behind to keep an eye on the band to see what they were up to. When he heard them start to play the Hamster’s Toymas Song, he got giddy with excitement and ran to tell the others. A plan was starting to form in his tiny rodent brain.

As the composition session came to a close Dr. Malice spoke up.

“Ok. We’ve been working on this song for 4 hours now. I think we’re done with it. What do you guys think?”

The rest of the band nodded their heads in agreement. Kahl unplugged his guitar and leaned it on its stand while Zom turned off his bass amplifier. Tourch stood up from his drum kit, stretched, and put his sticks on the snare and said, “You guys wanna head over to the Cantina?”

The rest of the band agreed, and headed out the door.

As soon as he made sure that they were gone, the hamster, who had returned with help in tow, told the others about his plan. In squeaks that no human can understand, he told Battalion 1 to grab the sheet music for The Hamster’s Toymas Song, Battalion 2 to grab guitar strings for the robots, and Battalion 3 to grab the drum sticks from the drum set. With these things, the hamster’s will have music for their Toymas Party, however he had one more stop to make.

The hamster who discovered the musicians ran through internal corridor after internal corridor until finally he came to a huge room filled with all sorts of automatic music machines. Up on a stage, he saw a robot band that had been through their emergency deactivation process (when someone interrupts robots having a jam session, they’ll shut down immediately and need manual rebooting).

The hamster went through each and every robot’s wiring and reset their internal jam switch and turned them back on. He explained to them the situation and asked if they could help.

“AFFIRMATIVE! INPUT GIG DATE AND TIME!”

The hamster happily obliged and ran off back towards his Battalions. As he arrived, they were just finishing up and just in to too. Because not too far up the corridor, walked Dr. Malice & The Absinthetic Orchestra, full of whatever the Cantina had provided for them for dinner, and ready to get back to work.

They opened the door to their studio, went to their stations and…….

“Wait….didn’t we have our sheet music on the stands here?” Zom inquired to Malice.

“Yeah. I can’t find mine, either. How about you Kahl?”

Kahl shuffled his music around for a bit, looking for the Hamster’s Song, but to no avail.

“Nope. It’s gone!”

“DAMN IT!”

On the Seventh day of Toymas – Captain Dermut

Dermut’s Tale

The snow fell all around the stalking hunter. The feathery fat flakes falling lazily between the dark trunks of the gnarled trees made the woods look like a harvest shadow play, reducing the world to shadows on white. The crimson blade, sticky with blood, seemed to be the only colour in the forest.

A sudden sound made the hunter pause. Crouching down he became one with the forest and seemed to disappear, the only remaining sign of his presence his sharp dark eyes, scanning the direction he heard the sound coming from. Slowly, still crouched, he eased himself in the perceived direction, a shadow amongst shadows.

Beyond the edge of the clearing the camp was a wash of smells and sounds and colour in the otherwise silent forest. The falling snow had lulled the guards into complacency and a flask of cheap wine was making its rounds amongst them, a fortification against the cold. The hunter could detect the sour smell before he could lay his eyes on one of the guards. He struck quickly and savagely.

The alarm bleared as it had been for the last few seconds. Groggily the hand hovered over the alarm and plopped down lazily. This time it finally connected with the snooze button. Slowly the hand sneaked back beneath the warm sanctuary of the huddle of blankets. Ten minutes, the alarm resumed again and the whole try and miss exercises started again.

His resolve fatally shattered for the day, Dermut finally crawled from the safety of his bed, his battle with the now silent alarm ultimately lost. His feet touched the cold flooring of the bunkers sleeping quarters. Many of the other soldiers had line their floors with carpets or rugs, but Dermut kept his floors bare. He considered the cold feet in the morning an acceptable trade for the ease with with the surface of the bare floor could be cleaned.

Slowly his senses returned to him, the sensation of the frigid floor helping to pull him into the present. He stretched his body, feeling every muscle snap back into its proper place. Lazily he dressed himself.

The noise interrupted his lazy morning routine. Dermut sighed at its intruding presence. He shuffled to the door from which the noise was emanating. Sighing again he mentally prepared himself to open the portal to the public hallway and his early introduction into the wider world. It was too darn early for all this hubbub. His eyes glances the old squat Bakelite alarm clock that had only just interrupted his blissful dreaming state. The orange LED’s blinking twelve sixteen. Dermut shrugged. It was still too darn early for this hubbub.

The touch pad beeped at his touch and with a familiar low hiss the door slid open. His eyes fell onto the pandemonium of the hallway. The well known faces of familiar soldiers drifted past as he scanned for the source of the noise. It seemed not to be a single pocket though.

Down the corridor a door slid open and screams of anger erupted from it at a slightly higher speed than the three hamsters that shot out of the open door and into the crowding corridor. One of the little critters had something in its mouth. Dermut couldn’t see was it was, some sort of shiny ribbon. The little hamsters were magpiean in their attraction to shiny things. They did seem to have stepped up their little raids in the past few days though. Dermut pondered this as another fellow soldier stumbled past, as white as a sheet. No, not a sheet, as white as flour, evident from the powdery cloud he was emitting each time he moved. All along the corridor dents in the floor were apparent. They seemed to regularly spaced out to be random. Almost as if some one with a large hammer had chased something small. A clip of an old Tom and Jerry cartoon flashed across his memory, like a comet of nostalgia racing across the night’s sky of his still groggy mind.

Slowly the pieces of the tempest swept tableau asserted themselves in a cohesive picture as he started taking in the scope of the turbulence before and on the sides of him. He could not remember having witnessed such a bustle of frantic chaos since…..

Briefly his mind conjured up the connection and flashed back to the event. Remembering he could still hear the shouts of terror and revulsion, the smell of the pipes and the feeling crawling across his spine making him want to step in a shower and never come out again. Most of all there was the memory of the small squeaky voice and it’s sincere but in vain apologies.

He quickly buried those memories. Even at his most wakeful the memory of the smell could make him gag and here he was, still half asleep. This was no way to wake up.

Dermut felt the frustration mount up inside him. Now focused on an avenue of investigation as to the cause of the cacophony that had thrust him into the vibrancy of this world too soon this morning, he took a deep breath and released it in a roar as the name of the target of his hunt (or at least the first stage of it, he thought fatalistically, would be directed.

The hunter stepped into the corridor, the reverberations of his growl still humming through the hallway, the sounds of cacophonous chaos mixing with the low rumbling “Timmy”

On the Sixth day of Toymas – Lt. Sophie

A Major Issue

Lt. Sophie barely noticed the date at all. She had things to do, important things, that could not wait. As usual, she had taken too many jobs and ended up working on several projects at once. Her hand already felt kind of sore from all the drawing, empty tea mugs with the bags slowly rotting inside them were spread all over the place and she hadn’t eaten anything but Toylent in days. Worst of all, the Gaming Marathon was drawing nearer each day, and there was still so much to prepare…

Startled by the beeping of her communicator, she almost fell off her chair. “What the…?” It was Sergeant Dutch.

“Good day, Lieutenant. I haven’t seen you around in days. Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes. I am. I am just very, very busy.”

“Ah of course. Well, you need to get out though. You cannot work 24/7.”

“But there’s no time -”

“Shush. People start to believe you’re dead and I keep receiving weird questioning about hot dogs and such. Meet me for lunch, or I’ll drag you out of your bunk.”

She sighed. “Okay, okay. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

After carefully saving all her progress and putting all the scattered mugs in the sink for further cleaning sometime later, she took Major and made her way through the bunker corridors to social life.

It was already a bit late, long past lunch time, when Lt. Sophie and Major made it back into their room. As the door slid open, the Lieutenant felt something was strange. Had somebody been in here? Nothing was missing as far as she could tell from a first glance, but still… She shrugged it off as natural paranoia due to lack of sleep and free time, and then decided to take a long, hot bath to relax from all her duties before going to bed. Tomorrow would be a new day, and a productive one. The Lieutenant realised that Dutch had just come in time to give her one short break she’d really needed. She did, however, not realise that the air vent in her bunker room had been opened.

While Lieutenant Sophie was in the tub, Major sat in the bedroom, enjoying a little treat of natural oil, as the robot’s sensors were triggered by a sudden movement in the room. Something small, and fluffy…

Sophie could not hear the tapping of tiny little feet on the bunker floor. The sound of the latest episode of ‘Ancient Aliens’ covered the hushed squeaking and beeping, as if a heated debate was to be had in the other room. For five, maybe six minutes the scampering and whispering continued before the bedroom fell silent again. All the while Giorgio Tsoukalos was discussing the possibility of ancient alien hovercraft sports on earth.

“Major?” Wrapped in a soft bunker bathrobe and with her hair still dripping wet, the Lieutenant looked for her pet robot. The oil was only half gone. That was unusual, to say the least. Major loved natural oil and never left any of it untouched. She picked up the leftovers, and something weird caught her eye. A golden bottle-cap and a tiny piece of silverish tinsel on her bed. But no sign of the robot…

On the Fifth day of Toymas – Kraken

Crackers

Deep in the lower rooms of the bunker, two robots stood and stared at a small and brightly coloured paper object. It was sat on a little metal stand, a sort of raised hexagonal pillar. Technically it was a medical table, but as nobody had used it in a while the robots imagined that it wouldn’t matter if they borrowed it. The coloured object sat there. Sometimes it moved when one of the robots poked it.

“DO YOU SUPPOSE”, Robot 1984 asked, “THE GUNPOWDER WILL BE ENOUGH?”

Robot 2001 examined it, leaning down and peering at it a bit. He prodded it. The object didn’t explode. In fact, it just sort of rolled a bit then stopped.
“No, I’d have to say not.”
Both robots stared at it for a moment, the glow of their mechanical eyes suffusing the cheery reds and greens with a slightly sickly hue.

It was a Christmas cracker. It was thirty pence from the local corner shop.

The robots were going to make it better.

It was simple, really, at least insofar as they understood what a cracker was for. During a celebration such as the one currently being planned, it was customary to place these where people were planning to sit. Then they would be pulled. A cracker was then supposed to explode, and everyone would therefore know that a good time was being had.

It was as simple as that. However, the devil was in the details.

Detail one:
The colours. Apparently crackers had to be colourful, the better to attract attention and embody fun. Naturally the robots’ fun circuits were really quite sharp. It was exactly what they’d been built for, after all, and if there was one thing they absolutely knew it was that bright colours screamed FUN. As a result, when they began to make their own cracker, they used all of them.

1984 was particularly proud of the purple and orange combination along the edges.

Detail two:
The prizes. Anyone with any kind of processing power knew that a good cracker had prizes. The little paper hats they’d used as prototypes were strewn everywhere, either flung there after a brief examination or propelled there from the early explosions. That had been the biggest issue, actually. 2001 had dedicated considerable processing power to it. It was all very well and good having prizes, you see, but the average paper hat wasn’t really built to withstand an explosion of any kind.

Which brought them to the third detail.

Detail three:
The explosion.

Robot 1984 brought forward the latest prototype, and for a moment both machines stared lovingly at it. At least, insofar as they could stare lovingly at anything. Their faces were only really built for one expression.

It was really quite something. It was, as mentioned before, painted in every colour. It was big, too, about the size and thickness of a child’s arm. 2001 had delicately looped ribbons around it and tied a little bell to the middle too. It was a move that 1984 had argued was a bit over-the-top because that was at the exact place where the cracker would break and the bell was tacky anyway. 2001 hadn’t paid the slightest bit of attention, as 1984 had lost fair and square when they’d drawn straws for the right to decorate it and besides, he’d clearly not grasped the meaning of the cracker as a concept if he was going around saying things like that. It was supposed to be tacky, he’d pointed out.

They’d argued for some time after that, but then the gunpowder was ready and there were more important things to be getting on with.

“RIGHT THEN. WHICH END WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE?”
“The left this time, I think. It’d be nice to try it out.”

Each robot took an end of the cracker. For a moment, neither moved. It wasn’t that they weren’t busy, of course, because they were. Cracker cracking was an art form and it deserved serious respect and consideration.

Besides, each robot wanted to be the one that won the prize.

Finally it happened. A twitch of the servos. A glint in the eyelamps. They pulled.

The cracker came apart in a bang that shook the walls, blew confetti and fire across every corner of the room and hurled both robots into the respective walls behind them. An alarm shrieked and fire-suppressant systems panicked, realising that they were about to be called upon to actually do their jobs for a change. The robots had only just managed to pull themselves back onto creaking feet when flame suppressant foam slapped them straight back down again, causing a few muffled cries of surprise and a clatter like a pack of knights being thrown into the world’s largest stack of drums.

For a moment, both robots simply stared through the foam at the centre of the room, where their table had been cracked into pieces and sort of scattered about a bit. The entire top had been charred, and there was precisely nothing left of the cracker itself.

Well…

Nothing except a canary yellow party hat, perched jauntily on the topmost strut of blasted metal.

Both robots looked at each other and grinned. They would have grinned anyway, of course, because that’s how their faces had been designed, but this time they meant it. They looked an awful lot like demented snowmen.

“I  THINK”, Robot 1984 murmured after some thought, “THAT WE’VE SOLVED THE PROBLEM WITH THE PRIZE’S DURABILITY.”
“Do you think it was the nanofibres or the jellyfish venom?”
“PROBABLY A MIXTURE OF BOTH. I PERSONALLY SUSPECT THE VANILLA EXTRACT WAS VITAL AS WELL.”

Both clambered to their feet, brushing off foam, charred cardboard and bits of their own bodily structure that had been battered loose by their attempt to create something fun for a family engagement. 1984 took two steps and fell apart at the hips.

“AH. ERM…”
Robot 2001 offered him a hand up and rumbled in alarm as it detached entirely from his shoulder up and sort of wobbled a bit in 1984’s grip. Both stared at the escaped limb, seemingly surprised by its decision to abandon its owner.
“…Do you suppose we overdid it with the gunpowder?”

They looked at the arm, at the legs which were strewn about and seemingly kicking in an attack of pique at being abandoned, and at each other.

“WELL… MAYBE JUST A LITTLE.”

Both nodded seriously, then jumped and fell apart even more as an annoyed  female voice sounded from the bunker wall. A slim red eye, a lens like theirs, peered out at them from the door’s security terminal. Oh. The security detail had woken up.

“Maybe? Just a little?
“Ah, er, now then, SD42! How, how nice of you to join us-“
“You do realise that these laboratories don’t come cheap? Why is it that whenever there’s a breach in containment or one of the hamsters gets into a heavy-duty supply-moving exoskeleton or someone tries to set fire to the administrator’s beard, you two aren’t far away with your hands wringing and excuses on your vocal units about “experiments” and “in the name of science?” Why is it that I’m always chasing after you? And just what the hell happened to that medical podium?”

“WELL, AH, YOU SEE, WE’D BEEN STUDYING THE THEORY BEHIND THE PERFECT TOYMAS CRACKER AND…”

Robot 1984 explained himself, taking great pains to emphasise the steps they’d made for the good of all and how the bunker would undoubtedly benefit from what they’d learned here. SD42 responded. She was not impressed.

All in all, experiment #69 wasn’t going quite as well as they’d initially thought. Certainly not if the security droid had any intention of following up on her threats, which… well, considering what had happened to robot who’d crossed her last, was probably pretty likely.

Still, at least they’d made the party hats indestructible.
That had to count for something.

 

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